It’s the festival season. Not only have Norwich City reached the heights in the Championship, but tonight a man is walking on a high wire across the market place in Norwich, and yesterday I spoke to quite a large number of Swaffham mothers about the Paston family. All kinds of strange things happen in the festival season.
As a sort of prelude to it all, a few days ago I found myself in Orford, which is in Suffolk, beyond the magical Snape. Orford happens to be one of my favourite places, and I would visit it more often if it were not so far away. As Corey Ford said, “I would go away if it wasn’t so far.” Not many people know that.
My excuse on this occasion was a concert by the Prometheus Orchestra, which I had not heard of but was excellent. It featured a gorgeous Fantasia by Vaughan Williams; a flute concerto played brilliantly by a remarkable woman in a shiny gold dress; and a beautiful symphony by Mendelssohn. By chance we got on the front row, among some very upper class accents and only a few feet from a stunning sculpture of Noah.
I felt very much at home, which is surprising, because my home is nothing like that.
Afterwards the sun came out unexpectedly, and we found ourselves parked on the quay, gazing out toward Orford Ness, past a boat called Regardless, which apparently does river trips when the tide is in. I felt it should carry on.
Anyway, back to the Swaffham mothers. It was the Mothers’ Union, actually, and I felt that I might have some difficulty interesting them in the Pastons, given that the village of Paston is about 50 miles away, and the family had little impact on the town.
But something interesting happened. The faceless audience that I had imagined (or failed to imagine) transformed itself into a series of distinctive and intelligent individuals who were not only interested but had things to say.
I guess this happens all the time. In our blindness we put people into bland blocks and attribute predictable attitudes and opinions to them, when in fact everyone is different and for the most part fascinating. Even without the tightrope.