There have been tiny steps made towards some kind of a return to normality, and I took the opportunity to take the family away for a few days, back to the coast in my old hometown. Naturally, life managed to find a way to throw a couple of spanners into the works, but somehow, by hook or by crook, we made the best of it.
I was incredibly fortunate to grow up by the sea, in a lovely little town that I will always be hugely fond of. Growing up in Lowestoft means that it wasn’t until I left the place that I began to fully appreciate the many positives of the town, though maybe that same distance means that some of the negatives are easily skated over. Like many similar towns, Lowestoft has its struggles – it sometimes feels like it is at the end of a very long road, and somewhat isolated, and this has caused the town to find itself struggling to come to terms with its identity. Industries have either moved on or downsized, and the town is having to cope with that change.
But, coming home – and it will always be home – gives me a really good opportunity to appreciate the many, many good things about the town, and the nearby area. My family love to visit, and we spend many a happy hour messing about on the beach, or going to visit some of nearby attractions, where I am always comforted to find that really not much has changed with them since I was the same age as my kids.
This trip, I took the family just down the coast a little way to the little seaside village of Walberswick. It’s a chocolate box collection of fisherman’s cottages and thatched rooves; almost like a window to a different time completely. But the reason we were going was to park up the car, walk a few hundred yards, and stake out our pitch so we could go crabbing. A wooden bridge over a sea inlet, and just enough room to swing your legs over the dark waters (although the bridge was closed this time – social distancing).
Thankfully, I can always rely on my mum to have the right gear, because crabbing is not to be taken lightly – this is a serious business, you know. You need to be prepared, and make sure you have everything in order before you get started. Now, there are various theories about the perfect combination of equipment, but, for the sake of argument, the Dawson method is as follows: a ball of twine, a large safety pin, a pack of bacon, a net with a long handle, and a rock with a hole in it. The rock is the weight, the safety pin secures the bacon, and the twine is tied to the old wooden bridge that I sat on some several decades before when my parents would take my brother and I down here for exactly the same reason. The rock splashes into the water, and then, ever-so-gently, you pull it out and hope that a determined crab has locked pincer onto the bacon. If you have a bite (a nip?) you have to quickly scoop the crab into the net before it disengages, flicking v’s as it returns to the murk, and get it into a bucket of water with, hopefully, a clattering gang of its pals.
Hours pass. The kids should, hopefully, be transfixed. The bucket fills. Eventually, hours later, after you shake yourself from your meditative concentration of pull, scoop, splash, repeat, you might just find yourself with a full bucket. Then the “slow” of the day finishes with the hurly-burly of a tipped bucket and the quick head-count of the scurrying crabs as they head back to the water, no doubt wondering what the fuss was all about, and where all that bacon disappeared to.
A few precious hours to focus on a net, a rock, some dark water and good times with the family. We’ll be back, and I’m certain finding a spot on that bridge will be a challenge for many, many years to come.