For a few years in the middle of this decade, Juliet Blaxland lived in the Easternmost House of the Easternmost village in England. And very possibly she’s still there, but not for long…
The house ‘sits’ on a crumbling clifftop in Suffolk, a soft landscape that is tumbling down into the sea at a rate of around one metre a year. The church was taken in the 1600s and two seaward cottages, and a couple of outbuildings were lost in the past ten years, leaving their home now just 25 paces from the edge.
For a year she details the highlights of village life – the courgettes as sleek and plump as dachshunds; the umpire at the local cricket match wearing a white coat on loan from the poultry farmer; the driftwood camp fire made aromatic by the addition of rosemary and tamarind branches; and the chemists that all ‘runned out’ [as they say in Suffolk] of citric acid during the elderflower-cordial making crisis/season.
Behind the rural cycles lie the local wisdoms that kept the villagers safe for centuries – swimming in the north sea is for those who don’t maintain their boats properly, say the fishermen. Leaving your babies forearms unwashed boosts their immunity, say the farmers.
But nothing can keep the water at bay. The North Sea won’t stop until it hits the Pennines writes Blaxland towards the end of the book when the tone turns more contemplative and musing. In a couple of hundred years most of Suffolk and Norfolk will be underwater.
But for now, she’s pressed pause on the gargantuan forces of nature and we are momentarily with her in a Radio 4-filled cottage on an eroding clifftop with a sleeping greyhound curled up on the floor and a candle-yellow light beaming out onto the unnoticing night.
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