I cycled down to Iken church at the weekend. The main reason for going was to visit the Aldeburgh food and drink festival at Snape. Why it’s called the Aldeburgh food and drink festival when it’s at Snape I don’t know – what’s wrong with calling it the Snape food and drink festival? I’m sure it would avoid confusion and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been to wrong place by mistake – but that was a long time ago…
Anyway, it’s been an annual pilgrimage for the past few years but I think this year will be my last. I used to enjoy visiting the stands and sampling local produce but this year my heart wasn’t in it.
The visit didn’t get off to the best of starts. The girl who took my money was rude and £8 seemed an extortionate amount of money to pay just to get in. Perhaps it was me but the whole event felt like an exercise in separating the gullible middle-classes from their wealth.
At one stall I sampled a ‘healthy’ snack. Tiny balls of nuts and oats glued together with honey. The stall holder explained that it was all natural and sweetened with honey rather than sugar. I didn’t like to point out that sweetness in honey comes from the massive amounts of sugar that it contains. I didn’t want to get into an argument, so I smiled and moved on.
I grabbed a portion of pasta (tasty enough) and stood watching the world go by. I thought I’d found a good place to stand – in the middle of nowhere with bags of empty space around me, but I was amazed at the number of people who felt it necessary to brush past my shoulder as though they were squeezing into a lift. What’s wrong with people these days, can they only walk in straight lines?
After spending a few moments watching a group of people learning how to make pizza (it was strangely entertaining) and making a half-hearted attempt to find a cookery demonstration interesting, I was bored to tears. Cookery has become trendy in the past few years and I’m sick to the back teeth of the endless stream of chefs, minor celebrities and wannabe bakers parading their poncey food on my TV screen. Yes, I can flip channels and I do, only to be greeted by somebody flogging some old tat at an auction or a middle-aged couple viewing a house that they obviously can’t afford. After that, there’s only one option – turn the darn thing off.
You may be wondering, then, why I bothered going to the food and drink festival at all. The answer is simple: to keep my wife company. Not that she needs me to keep her company. She is quite to happy to wander around on her own. Happier, perhaps, because she doesn’t have to put up with me wittering away. So I left her to it and pedalled off to Iken.
Look out across the mud flats and you can just about see the tower of Iken church, even though it is partially hidden by trees. The way the river bends makes the church looks like it’s on an island, which gives it a mystical quality. Suffolk’s answer to Glastonbury, perhaps.
Thankfully, there are no new age gift shops in Iken, only a roadside stall selling homemade jam and bottled water. At the entrance to the graveyard there’s a sign saying ‘Saint Botolph’s Church Welcomes Pilgrims’. Did that mean me? I’m not sure cycling from Snape counts, but maybe distance isn’t important.
I was hoping for a magical experience but the little thatched church is more friendly than mystical. Inside it’s quite plain, but in a good way. A pleasant place for quiet contemplation and prayer, should you be that way inclined. I was enjoying the tranquillity when another cyclist came along. I said hello but that was all. Miserable git that I am, I wanted to be on my own and I wasn’t in the mood for small talk.
Coming back the road was surprisingly busy so I veered off at Iken Cliffs and pushed the bike back to Snape. The sky was grey, threatening to rain but thankfully it held off. I packed the bike into the car collected my wife and headed home.