A few days away by the sea with family and friends. Intended as a complete break rather than anything else – but scope for the odd excursion. Investigation at the town bus-stop (and friendly assistance from those awaiting expectantly there) produced the sparing but hopeful information that there might be an occasional bus to Beccles (although no-one appeared to have any direct experience of it). But – hey presto, eventually one turned up. A slow cross-country route down narrow lanes. Just a handful of passengers joined en route – and not one of them young enough to have pay for a ticket. Average age seemed to be about ninety-three. Those that could, touched themselves on board with their electronic passes – while the driver cheerfully helped out those that didn’t know how or could no longer manage.
And at last we arrive in the very pleasant and slightly sleepy Suffolk market town of Beccles. And the sun comes out. Time enough for a late-ish breakfast and then I wander along to Besleys Books in Blyburgate.
Piers and Stephen Besley both on parade – and delighted to see me making good on a promise to get round the country. A proper shop – four rooms of books – general antiquarian, gardening and natural history, illustrated books, the arts and a smattering of most other things besides. Nothing overpriced. Swoop immediately on such a pretty set of James Sargant Storer’s Antiquarian Itinerary (1815-1818). Have a cup of coffee and a chat with
Stephen on his earlier career as a computer programmer – not such an out-of-the-way preparation for running a bookshop these days. Also the economics of book-fairs. Leave him to some customers and wander around from room to room – the pile grows. Delighted with the former Ipswich Public Library copy of the first edition of Trollope’s The Duke’s Children (1880) – not a prepossessing copy, to be sure – but this was just how Ipswich read it, just how it was meant to be read, misbound section notwithstanding – and it’s one of his best. A Michael Arlen (unjustly neglected these days) in a fabulous twenties dust-jacket. Just as happy when the parcel arrived a few days later. Thank you both for an enjoyable hour.
Back to the pretty Old Market Place to find a bus back to the coast. Perfect timing – they appear to be precisely the same passengers on the trip back (or perhaps some of them never got off). Manage to link up with family and some very old friends for a jolly evening. A splendid day.