Suffolk churches 95: St Edmundsbury Cathedral (September 2018)

St James’, Bury St Edmunds
It was the autumn equinox, and in some ways felt like the end of the year: my recital in St Edmundsbury Cathedral was the culmination of a season’s concerts, and a season’s cello practice. It was the end of a busy summer of B&B guests, and a few days after the recital I would go on holiday.

I had performed the first and last pieces of the programme before; but the other two – by Debussy and Martinu – turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Not technically or in terms of stamina – unlike the programme I had chosen last year when I started my church tour – but mathematically. Learning the notes and how the music went was the easy part, relatively speaking. Putting the pieces together with piano was much, much harder.

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Autumn treasure 6: Dark nights

13/11/18 My choice of subject – after two weeks’ procrastination, changing my mind several times about what subject to choose – might seem strange, especially as a little over six months ago I was writing about precisely the opposite. But perhaps this is the glory of the seasons: without the contrasts, we would start to take spring and summer for granted, and life would be much duller. I experienced this first hand when I spent a year in the tropics: much as I love the rainforest and the tropical climate, I struggled with the lack of variation in day length, and the lack of seasons.

I am appreciating dark nights for a variety of reasons. The first is simply because it provides an opportunity to slow down my pace a little: to eat supper earlier, have more time to relax in the evening (with my indoor animals), and go to bed earlier. I spend most of spring and summer in a flurry of activity, and while there’s daylight and sunshine – of which we have had a lot this year – I find it hard to go indoors or sit down for any length of time. As a consequence, I eat later and go to bed later, barely stopping long enough in the evening to wind down before flopping into bed. Autumn and winter seem to be the seasons of the year to build up one’s energy reserves for the next year.

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Suffolk churches 94: Stansfield, Wickhambrook and Stradishall (September 2018)

All Saints’, Stansfield
Outdoor temperature: 21.9˚C; indoor temperature: 20.4˚C, humidity 68%
Logistics had to play a part in my outing today: I was soon going on holiday and realised that there would be no further convenient opportunities to get to the farm supplies shop in Lavenham to stock up on animal food and bedding. Most churches in the southern part of west Suffolk are reached from my house through Lavenham, and so my destination was decided.

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Suffolk churches 93: Langham, Stanton St John and Walsham le Willows (September 2018)

St Mary’s, Langham
Outdoor temperature: 19.4˚C; indoor temperature: 18.9˚C, humidity: 62%
I knew that Langham church was in the middle of a field, and I was fairly sure it was kept locked. I had wanted to visit for a while, but was putting off the inconvenience of trying to get in. Finally the perfect opportunity arose: I had an evening concert in Wattisfield church on the day of the Suffolk Historic Churches bike ride. I emailed the vicar to ask if it was acceptable for me to turn up at Langham with my cello (not realising he was the same vicar I’d meet later in the day at Wattisfield), and, given the go ahead, turned up at the field gate later than I intended but still with twenty minutes before ‘closing time’ at 5pm. The people at the gate knew to expect me and directed me across the fields, kindly allowing me to take my car.

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Autumn treasure 5: The smell of quinces

Quinces30/10/18 If I had to choose one thing that for me could represent – even conjure up – autumn, it would be the smell of quinces.

There is something about smells. They seem to possess a power that sights, and possibly even sounds, don’t. They can transport me instantly to a different time and place; conjure up feelings, scenes and situations vividly and sometimes unexpectedly.

Luckily there are few smells that do this in an unpleasant way – as dreams usually do, I find. Mostly smells bring good memories, or at worst nostalgic or curious ones. The smell of quinces not only represents for me childhood autumns in Suffolk, but is in itself intoxicating and addictive. I could put my nose to a quince and inhale over and over, all day long.

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Suffolk churches 92: West Stow and Culford (September 2018)

St Mary’s, West Stow
Indoor temperature: 18.5˚C, humidity: 63%
West Stow
I might have gone weeks thinking I visited Culford church, if I hadn’t met a lady there who, when we got chatting, asked me if I was from West Stow. After some bafflement on my part, eventually the penny dropped. What my friend Penny (unrelated to the previous) had told me a few days before about Culford church being within the school grounds finally made sense. She must have been even more confused than me when I said it wasn’t. I’d been there the previous week and found it locked.

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Autumn treasure 4: Leaves

25/10/2018 I tend to suffer from maple envy in autumn when I look above the ugly, half-bare conifer hedge towards my neighbours’ garden, and see the top of their bright red maple tree, which was yellow not long ago. This year it got me thinking. My dad and my brother planted plenty of maple trees in my garden, so where are all the autumn colours?

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Suffolk churches 91: Lackford, Flempton and Fornham St Martin (September 2018)

St Lawrence’s, Lackford
I had once been to Lackford Lakes, and once to West Stow Anglo-Saxon village and country park, but that was the extent of my knowledge of this area north of Bury St Edmunds. When I was asked to give a concert in Lackford church by a member of the audience at Dalham, I was even more delighted than usual by the prospect: in the afterglow of that wonderful occasion, I felt I could never have enough of them.

LackfordArriving at Lackford church was hardly less exciting than arriving at Dalham: turning off the main road and driving through a modern housing estate didn’t raise my hopes, but I soon emerged into open countryside with pretty views, and a perfect location in which to enjoy the late summer sunset.

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Suffolk churches 90: Great Bricett (August 2018)

St Mary’s and St Lawrence’s, Great Bricett
Outdoor temperature: 22.6˚C; indoor temperature: 19.2˚C, humidity: 68%
August had been sadly short on church visits, and I wanted a change of scene for my cello practice, so at the end of the month I headed for Great Bricett. It was one of few churches remaining for me to visit fairly close to home, and I had been told it was open all the time.

I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of my outing, but I did wonder what I would find. Would Great Bricett church surprise me as much as the likes of Ringshall, Battisford, Nedging and Naughton, to name just a few? They were all local villages that I rarely had reason to visit, and my acquaintance with them was barely more than driving through on my way elsewhere. I thought they possessed little beauty until I met their churches, and now I think of them quite differently.

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Suffolk churches 89: Bromeswell, Eyke and Ramsholt (August 2018)

St Edmund’s, Bromeswell
I had been asked to play at a wedding in Ramsholt church on a Saturday in mid-August, and having no other commitments that day, I was able to make the most of my outing to the Deben estuary. My well-ticked church map showed a significant gap in that area, and I had a lunch invitation from a friend in nearby Butley, so I planned my itinerary accordingly. Bromeswell, just beyond Woodbridge, was my first calling point.

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