Friday, July 30, 2010


The Taygetos, above Mystra

I like mountains – great big craggy ones that you can climb up if you have the energy, but can also just stare at in awe. Unlike most people it was the mountains in Greece that first attracted me to the country, specifically the Taygetos Mountains of the Peloponnese. These look as if they belong in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and always stir something in me when I look at them.

I’m not alone in this. Nikos Kazanzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek, wrote that the Taygetos make you realise how utterly meaningless your own petty concerns are. You are humbled before them. I agree with this, and bobbing in the sea off the coast of the Mani and staring back into the mountains is as close as I get to a religious experience.

Which is why it’s puzzling that I seem to be living in possibly the flattest region of the UK. Even small hillocks can provide paroxysms of excitement in Suffolk, and village church spires stand out for miles around. Looking out of my window into the great metropolis of Ipswich I can see the county’s highest point, a new tower block that is the pride of the town’s waterfront development. Unfortunately it’s not much bigger than your average Croydon office block.

Water Tower, Southwold
I don’t want to be too down on Suffolk though, it's just that I miss my mountains. And I’m also learning to discover the county’s more subtle charms. Last weekend we went camping in Southwold, an attractive coastal town that is now getting known for hosting the Latitude Festival. We missed Latitude by a week (on purpose) and were there to have my daughter’s b’day party on the beach. The campsite is council run, and not particularly great, but what it lacks in character it more than makes up for in location (right on the beach) and views.

My favourite thing, however, was not the beach, or the gentle countryside, or even the pubs serving locally brewed Adnams beer. No, I liked the water tower.  I becoming a bit of a connoisseur of these structures, and in the flatlands of Suffolk there’s a lot of them about, but the one in Southwold is surely the most impressive.  Who knew that a water tank on legs could look so cool? My only guess is that the architect was a big fan of the BBC series The Tripods from the 80s. I’m still half expecting another one to come marching over the horizon to claim Ipswich for its alien masters.

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