Some folk Suffolk

Continuing the exploration of the British Isles, this year for our anniversary I took my lovely wife to the equally lovely Hadleigh in Suffolk. To get there we travelled south from Northamptonshire, anti-clockwise around the M25 and across the bottom of Essex towards Clacton-by-Sea before heading north towards Walton-on-the-Naze before heading Northwest to Hadleigh. We also visited Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Clacton-by-Sea out of season is, as should be expected, quiet. A typical British seaside resort town with formal gardens, a pier, amusements and former guest houses and hotels along the promenade and a once grand, now deteriorating due to lack of investment, town inland. The pier was undergoing refurbishment so access was only permitted into the large newly regenerated pier amusement hall but one can see how the area once was very popular with seaside visitors from London who now gentrify places like Southwold to the north or further afield like Cornwall.

Being by the seaside is enough to make anyone hungry and the urge to binge on Fish and Chips at the seaside is akin to the urge to binge on chocolate at Easter. Sadly, with it being out of season and not being Yorkshire, most of the good fish and chip restaurants were either closed for the winter or just in hiding. So after failing to find a recommended fish and chip restaurant in Frinton-on-Sea, we headed futher up the coast towards Walton-on-the-Naze. We stopped at Yates’ Fish and Chips in Walton-on-the-Naze who do a splendid fish and chip dinner (I highly reccomend them)

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Medium Cod and Chips @ Yates’ Walton-on-the-Naze

Walton is a polar opposite to Clacton. Yes, like Clacton, it is run down but there is less of a seaside feel to the place despite having the finest collection of beach huts and the second longest pier I’ve ever seen.

Again, being out of season meant that few people were around and the fairground rides that were in operation on the pier played their hauntingly merry jingles to the ghosts of former holiday makers and anyone who would listen. Aside from this, the pier was eerie. The sea was uncannily still, the light unusual for the time of year. The afternoon sun making vivid colours of blue, orange and purple in the cloud base and far away the echos of shipping and road traffic almost inperceptable.

Hadleigh is a gem of an English town. It is a former coaching, market and strip town, as in it is laid along a long High Street and, at some point in its history, provided a welcome overnight stop off for horse-drawn coaches bound for other destinations like Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds or Lavenham or much further afield. Moreover, it provided an ideal location for a market place for Lavenham wool merchants, Ipswich traders and other travelling mendicants to vend their wares.

Indeed, casual reference sources claim that Hadleigh once was home to well over twenty inns, evidence of which is clear from the architecture and names of houses along the High Street. Furthermore, the wealth generated from the coaching inns, the market and the local industry is clear from the surviving buildings in the area, a selection of which you can view below.

 

 

Of course, Hadleigh is a small town and despite having a great selection of eateries, there is little to entertain for a sustained period of a long weekend, so we also explored a few local places too.

Ipswich was the first. Taking advantage of the park and ride we soon found ourselves on the bustling streets of Ipswich. A delightful port town in which the keen eye can distinguish the signs of a seafaring history. From the locations where there would have been huge warehouses along the harbour side, to the numerous hidden churches and chapels and buildings that scream wealthy merchants lived here, Ipswich is a lovely place.

After stopping at Casablanca, a Morroccan restaurant, for a splendid lunch and headed  to Felixstowe for our third seaside fix of the weekend.

Felixstowe is not, in my mind, one of the first places that come to mind when someone says “Seaside” to me, however if you said “container port” I’d probably think immediately of Felixstowe. However, the suffolk tourist board are obviously trying to do a service to Felixstowe and get people to disregard the militaristic and logistical past and re-embrace the seaside there once more.

First point of call was the former fort at Landguard Point. Former MOD land  littered with the remains of concrete gun placements, bunkers and radar points. From there one can watch the huge container ships enter and depart the neighbouring port of Felixstowe. For a logistics nerd its kind of interesting watching the huge cranes pick up a container like one might pick up a matchbox and drop it on a precarious looking stack of containers on board a ship.  For a history nerd, it is equally interesting seeing how much value the port held for Britain through history and why it was so well protected from Napoleon and Hitler.

The seaside though, not what I had in mind. Much flatter than Clacton and, obviously as a result, much more weather beaten, the seafront at Felixstowe is more akin to Rhyl than Scarborough on the Seaside scale. The buildings and seafront goings on set further back from the beach than at Clacton and the pier looking a little more practical than its cousin at Walton-on-the-Naze.

Sunday came and we began our return journey, stopping at Lavenham along the way. Lavenham was once a bustling town of wool merchants but later reduced to village status as fortunes leaked elsewhere. But that is not to say wealth did not leave Lavenham.  Evidence of a market place, a guildhall and coaching inns show that before bus loads of tourists were the norm, the village was very prosperous throughout the following centuries. Indeed, it appears that many of the old wooden framed houses are now holiday lets aimed at those foreign tourists who think all villages across the whole of the UK look like Lavenham.

Finally our route home took us through Bury St Edmunds. Redevelopment has given the town a Milton Keynes feel but once past the modern eyesore of the Debenhams district, one can find the more picturesque and traditional sights.

In the heart of Bury St Edmunds lies the ruins of a priory.  The scale of the priory ruins just show how wealthy the church had become before Henry VIII had his hissy fit and formed his own. Moreover,  it appears that there are houses built into the walls of the ruins and indeed, to me at least, the walls themselves look quite old, almost Roman in places.

Its when you see history like this juxtaposed against the history of other places you begin to form a different appreciation of events. Over Christmas, Mrs Gnomepants and I went to  Cartegena in Columbia where we visited the Inquisition Palace and learned about what was going on elsewhere in the world just before good old Henry threw his toys out of his pram.  In both the New and Old World, Inquisitors were torturing those who didn’t agree with Papal policy. I’d not really connected the dots before but now think that maybe our jolly polyamorous monarch had other reasons for forming his own church than those taught to us by historians.

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Christmas Poem

Who’s is that?
It’s not mine
Who’s is this
That’ll do fine
Presents are passed
Around the room
The defrosted turkey
Senses its doom
The family sat round
All festive with cheer
Our Chris got five pound!
All I got was beer

And in the kitchen
Mother doth toil
The Christmas dinner
She hopes not to spoil
With cabbage and carrots
And potatoes to cook
While in the front room
I get a new book

After dinner we sit
All stuffed to the gills
A flurry of snow
Gathers on the (window) sills
Our trousers are bursting
With our bellies girth
And father relates
A story of mirth

Then on with the telly
At three o’clock
The Queens festive speech
Live from Albert Dock
“Good Season my subjects”
“History and Math”
“I lost my virginity”
“To Lord Bath”

A thankyou

Autumn – a poem by Stegzy Gnomepants aged 41 5/6ths

picture courtesy of google images

Autumn is here

The leaves leave 

The nursery of branches aloft

Free at last

Falling gracefully to the earth

There to become part of history

Or swept and burnt

To become free again

Airbourne in spirit

Their fragrance warming

Making memories

Their brothers forming

Mountains to walk through

Kicking skyward feebly

Fruit abundant falling

Feeding dying wasps

Crushed under foot

Or gathered by the wise

Kitchen bound 

As nights grow darker

Embers glow brighter

Warming and scenting the air

Autumn is here!

Crap Poetry – Cup of Tea

The Cup of Tea by Stegzy Gnomepants

Oh tea
rosy-lea
Tea
You hot brown liquid of contentment
You that taunt me with your fiery heat
You that doth callest me to imbibe
To savour your sweetened juice

Oh tea
Mock not me with your heat of denial
I should leave you to cool
But then a fool you would make of me
For thou wouldst be too cold
And dull
And sickly

Oh tea
Ravish me! Burn my gullet and gut
I cannot resist
I raise my wrist
And swallow you whole
Yea you doth give me bliss
Serenity

Oh tea

Music Project – Looking for contributors

I’m always keen to have guest writers on my blogs, Stegzy’s Music Project especially. As many of you might already know, I’m off getting married soon, so I am keen to have someone take care of the postings while I’m away.

If you would like to review any of the albums listed below, please message me (either in comments, email or DM) with the album you’d like to review or comment on and I’ll set you up as a contributor.

I’m happy to make the music available to you too if you haven’t got it already. I find that the project has meant I’m often listening to things I’ve never heard before and it’s fun writing musings about things as you hear them for the first time.

There are a small number of albums that I’d like to do myself (marked with an asterisk) but I’m happy to have guests review them too if they want. As long as you can commit to submit before or on publication date (in brackets) that’s fine. I don’t usually post on weekends but if I get significant interest, then I’ll fudge the dates accordingly.

So, coming up is:

Car Wheels on a gravel road – Lucinda Williams (9/2/15)
Caravanseri – Carlos Santana (10/2/15)
Carnival of Souls – Miranda Sex Garden (11/2/15)
Carry on up the charts – Beautiful South (12/2/15)
Cassette – Fields of the Nephilim* (a compilation given to me years ago) (13/2/15)
Casanova – Divine Comedy (16/2/15)
Casino Classics: The Remix Album – St Etienne (17/2/15)
Castlefest 2011 – Various artists (18/2/15)
The Cataclysm – David Galas* (my favourite album of 2009) 19/2/15)
Cats and Mice – Kirstin Hersh (20/2/15)
Celestine Prophecy – Christoper Franke (23/2/15)
Century Child – Nightwish (24/2/15)
Ceromonies: Ad Mortem – Fields of the nephilim (25/2/15)
Change we must – Jon Anderson (26/2/15)
Changes in Mind – Golden Dawn (27/2/15)
Changesbowie – David Bowie (28/2/15)
Charlie and the chocolate factory – Danny Elfman
Chestnut Mare – Byrds
Chicago Demos – Blood Ruby
Chicken Skin Music – Ry Cooder
Lethargy

New you

Worn out? Tired? Miserable?

Don’t worry! Help is at hand from the stegzy Gnomepants S plan life changer!

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The S Plan Life Changer

Gaming

In my life I have owned or had the use of:-

Grandstand Games Unit
Commodore Vic20
Commodore 64
Amiga 1200
3 or 4 Windows PCs
2 or 3 laptops
and 2 Playstations

During that time I’ve played all manner of games from Pong to my current addiction World of Warcraft. Recently events got me thinking about all the other games I’ve enjoyed playing over the years.

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Wacky WaitersWacky Waiters was a game for the Commodore Vic 20. By today’s standards it was shit. But for a 10 year old it was a fantastic bit of escapism. Basically you had to serve drinks to customers in this weird bar which the tables were reached via lifts. Hours of fun.

blitzBlitz – Of course the Vic20 was shit and there were only a handful of decent games for it the other classic I enjoyed was Blitz. This game involved levelling a city with bombs in order that your plane might land and the pilot can get out and wave at you. My dad and I got rather good at it and we really weren’t bothered by the crappy blocky graphics.

Thunderbirds – With the arrival of my Commodore 64 one Christmas my middle brother Chris and I went forth to Bits and Bytes in Liverpools Central Station (now a cheap leather coat shop) and City Software on Lime Street (which, I found out long after it was closed, was owned by my good drinking buddy and former HSE Cell mate Nick’s relative (dad??)). Anyway during this post Christmas shopping excursion we picked up a copy of Thunderbirds by Firebird software. The premise of which was using Thunderbirds 1 & 2 you had to navigate a maze of tunnels and push coloured blocks out of the way so that the craft could reach their destination. Sadly I have not been able to find screenshots of the game but you can download it here for your C64 emulator. I promise you, gaming does not get any more intensive than Thunderbirds!

Cauldron – On the same shopping trip I also obtained Cauldon. In this game you were a witch that had to collect various ingredients for a potion. You flew round on a broomstick shooting bats and things then did a bit of platform jumping in mazes. It was bloody hard! Furthermore, it was down right impossible to complete because there was no save facility. I remember leaving my C64 and this game running one night and all through the school day because I’d gotten so far into it I didn’t want to lose my place. Within minutes of getting back to play it I was killed out right by a frigging pumpkin! I wasnt happy! A sequel came out a few years later entitled Cauldron II this was equally as hard. You can play it online here

Big Mac – The previous two games were a pricey £5 each. Your pound tended to go a lot further in the 80’s. Probably because the world was in meltdown. Fortunately in the new Sainsbury’s supermarket complex in Woolton somebody had thoughtfully included a news agents. This newsagents sold Mastertronic £1.99 games. Of course £1.99 was a lot of money then but never the less I managed to get at least 1 new game a month by saving my 70p pocket money and foraging under the cushions on the sofa. The one of the best finds was Big Mac . A simple platform romp where the player guides Mac (a poor Mario clone) from platform to platform flipping switches. Delightful!

Phantoms of the asteroid – Another seemingly endless game. You played an astronaut navigating a maze within an asteroid. You had to collect a series of blocks and often had to top up your fuel, oxygen and energy levels. Kamikazi ghosties would appear out of nowhere and bash into you draining your energy. I managed to collect all the blocks but I’d used all the fuel and oxygen dumps up so I could never get to the bit where you finished the game. A great loss and waste of time 😉

Mercenary – I obtained Mercenary as a copy from Ronnie Cham at school. Ronnie was the only other kid in my year to have a Commodore 64 and he was into copying games in a big way. Often I would lend him my games to copy in exchange for copies of games from him. Mercenary was one of the best he gave me (there was another game I got from him which involved landing on a planet to pick up an stranded pilot but you didn’t know if the pilot was a nasty alien or a genuine human. I liked that too but can’t remember for the life of me what it was called) . Mercenary was a primitive vector graphic game where you flew round a city helping out in order to buy a spaceship. There was an easter egg within were you could pilot a piece of cheese about the place. Hours of fun 🙂

Jet Set Willy – I cannot forget Jet Set Willy can I? Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy and Jet Set Willy II were games I would often play for hours on end. Again I never knew anyone that finished these game. A simple platform romp where you guided Willy through his untidy house collecting bottles and stuff. Unfortunatley they didn’t have a save feature where you could return to where you were and I would often get bored and send Willy down the toilet into Hades. Timeless fun.

Frontier: Elite II I picked up my Amiga 1200 from the bargain bucket of the Dixons shop that used to be in Central Station in Liverpool. With it I got Frontier. A space/flight sim again in vector graphics. Looking at the screen shots now one would scoff at their simplicity but you have to remember that when the game came out these where cutting edge! Frontier allowed the player to explore the galaxy, trade and fight pirates. Fantastic stuff. I’ve only ever seen 2 slightly similar games of late Freelancer which was a bit restrictive but seemed to once hold promise of expansion (of course this never surfaced) and the online MMPORG Eve Online which I found too cliquey to actually get anywhere in.

liberationCaptive II – Along with Elite, Captive II helped while away my time on the dole. I would often spend days and days playing this and other Amiga games instead of looking for work. The graphics were crap but the intro movie was stunning and so was the music! It was a type of one player roleplaying game where you guided 4 robots around some cyberpunk futuristic city trying to find out who grassed you up to the coppers and gathering evidence that there were people wrongly imprisoned. You could upgrade the robots with all manner of gubbins and the play went on for hours and hours and hours. I don’t think it actually had an ending but I suppose it taught the player about the futility and mundanity of life.

Civilization – My eldest brother introduced me to Sid Meier’s Civilization. A turn based strategy game about building a civilization. Since that first play of Civ I have bought every version released (though not the add-on packs). Again crap graphics to begin with but like those iconic games before them, cutting edge at the time. One unemployed day I played Civ on my Amiga from 6am to 6am the next day and built a fantastic empire stretching across the globe. Three times. Because I could. A shocking waste of time. But bloody good fun.

UFO:Enemy UnknownUFO was another game for the Amiga that was also available on PC. I was deeply fond of UFO and like Civ, Theme Park, Captive II and EliteII I would dedicate entire days during my unemployed period to trying to complete the game. I managed to complete it on nearly every level of difficulty apart from the super human one. I’d developed strategies and all manner of tricks and tactics to help me win. Unfortunately I should really have been looking for work rather than playing games. But meh! what can you do about it now eh?

SyndicateSyndicate was another cross platform classic. You controlled an army of subversive androids which you used to take over and heavily tax the world. I’d managed most of the levels in this game but the last level was always the hardest when the enemy just kept on coming relentlessly. Still I gave it a bloody good go. They don’t make games as good as this any more. Again the graphics were crap by todays standards but made people ooze with excitement at the time.

Tomb Raider – During my unemployed era, the fuckwit known as Shitbag lent me his Playstation while he went on a “journey of self discovery” somewhere (Butlins with his mam). Bundled with his Playstation came Tomb Raider. If you don’t know Tomb Raider you’ve probably been living in a convent somewhere but basically the player guides sultry proactive archaeologist Lara Croft about mysterious temples around the globe. I absolutely loved this game. In fact I was so smitten with it I broke my two year unemployment status so that I could save and go and buy a Playstation of my own. I completed Tomb Raiders I & II just in time for Tomb Raider III to hit the shelves. But then came the ginger monster Dawn. Girlfriends and computer games do not mix and my Sunday evenings gaming with Chris Herbert soon faded away like the clouds of cigarette smoke that filled Chris’ flat every Sunday night. Dawn suggested I took out a loan and bought a PC so that she could do job applications so in an effort to raise funds the first Playstation went the way of the C64 and was sold through the classifieds section of the Liverpool Echo.

Dungeon Keeper – Ha!! As if that was going to stop me! With the new PC came all manner of new gaming opportunites. One such classic was Dungeon Keeper. In dungeon keeper you were a devil and you had minions. Your minions would help construct a base from which you emitted evil. However the goodie goodie humans would come and try and kill you and it was up to you and your minions to try and prevent this from happening. Hours of gaming fun though not as many as spent on the Amiga games. Still I was impressed enough to fork out on the expasion pack when that came out and also the sequel.

The Sims – I know a lot of you guys like playing the Sims. I did too once until it got a bit too samey and dull. Yeah I too sat there watching my sim go to work, feed, reproduce and get into all kinds of scrapes but it was too close to reality for me and getting up to go to work in order to clothe and feed myself was what I longed to escape from. Still I got an good average of 6 months play out of the entire series (and expansion packs) before my sadistic side came out and I was building disastrous households and bricking up entire families just so that I could laugh demonically at their ghosts causing the new occupants abject terror.

rctRollercoaster Tycoon – Jamie-who-wanks-on-webcams introduced me to RCT. RCT involves designing and managing a virtual theme park on the scale of Alton Towers or Busch Gardens. Cue hours of wholesome fun spent with Mrs Gnomepants building vast theme parks containing all manner of physics defying rollercoasters. My favorite design was one called the “Spinny Spinny Sick Sick”, a corkscrew type coaster with spinning cars, the passengers of which all left the coaster with green faces but they kept on coming back for more! Heh.

This is by no means a definitive list of my favorite games. That would need indepth consideration and I know I’ve missed ton of other games I’ve enjoyed. However you should see this list as a kind of “Best of best of” or a “Games which I have spent more time on than anything else”. More recently I have been tied up with other ground breaking games but nothing as monumental as those listed above. However World of Warcraft has been the only game I’ve played this year and it doesn’t seem like it is going to end (but it will in September when my subscription runs out!).

So what games did/do you like?

EDIT – that game I couldnt remember was called Rescue on Fractalus

Heat

Dry as a bone
Comfortable as a throne
Made of stone

Humid and sweaty
But cold I am not
The weather has become
Unbearably hot

Plants are wilting
The cat is tilting
As it lounges about in
the heat

My shirt is all damp
I smell like a tramp
And the heat haze shimmers
on the road

But it wont last forever
Because heat waves
They never
Go on for too long over here

But lo! What’s the matter?
A crash
A flash
A patter
Of rain
On the conservatory roof

The rain it rushes
Through the gutter it gushes
And gone in an instant
The heat

Music Project – Shameless plug

Those longer term readers may recall I started a project where I would listen to every album in my MP3 collection and post about it on my various blogs. They might even remember why they then stopped reading the Compostual Existentialist. Or they might have wondered what happened to the music project. Well, it’s moved. And has done since May.

So if you’re missing a daily post about an album in my record collection, then you should nip over to my other site, with some of your friends.