The EA Hairy Biker ride is a 9 day cycle through East Anglia and the venues Eastern Angles have played as well as the places the plays have been about. To support the ride please visit https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/thehairybiker?currentPage=1&update=new#donationSummary
After a two day break in the office I have to admit I was rather worried about how I would feel first thing on Friday morning, at the start of day 5. There is however always a solution – full English breakfast (this time provided by the Woodbridge station cafe). There is a reason why the office have dubbed this ride ‘EAhairybiker’ and not ‘healthybiker’. One of my donors has already pledged a bag of doughhuts on my return!
First stop was the Sutton Hoo burial site ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-hoo/), the inspiration behind two Eastern Angles plays. The Sutton Hoo mob (1994 – http://www.easternangles.co.uk/show/TSHMK/description.html) tells the dramatic story of the discovery of the burial ships and the subsequent very British fuss that followed (all very Ealing). The Wuffings (1997) told the story of the Wuffing dynasty the seventh century rulers of East Anglia whose family burial ground Sutton Hoo is believed to be ( http://www.easternangles.co.uk/show/TWU/description.html).
Whilst on site I listened in on a talk about the Kings helmet, found within mound 1 and only 1 of 4 similar helmets known in the world. The whole thing was fascinating but two things stood out for me. First put the helmet on (or rather one of the replicas) and speak and your voice takes on regal qualities. An early example of vocal enhancement!!! Then theres the question of the eyes. One of the eyes has its jewels set so they will sparkle in the light, one set against a dark background so they will not be seen. The effect – one eye that twinkes, one eye remains dark – a reminder of Raedwald’s genealogy, which goes back to the great one eyed warrior god Wotan. Up shot clearly – beware the king with one sparkling eye!
Theres no time to properly explore though as I’m back on the bike. Heading through Hasketon and Bradfield (both EA venues) and onto Charlsfield – the inspiration behind Akenfield (the Ronald Blythe book revisited in Return to Akenfield by Craig Taylor). It was the latter book which provided the inspiration behind Eastern Angles 2009 show ( http://www.easternangles.co.uk/show/RTA/description.html).
Whilst Taylor had spent months in and around Charsfield I only had time for a quick cup of tea in the village pub (where I was mistaken for the unexpected electrician – just think what damage I could have done) and a stop off at the local church.
Then the schedule pushed me on. And here it was my map skills deserted me. For a full hour I seemed to be always 2 miles away from Framlingham, ending up in Earl Soham ( home of a very fine brewery by the way). It turned out I’d spent an hour circling the place as the rain really began to fall. Next time you need a navigator I suggest you dont ask me!
After a brief stop at Framlingham College (another EA venue) I literally had to put my foot down and head to Parham where I was expected at the Airfield Museum which includes the Museum of the British Resistance. There I caught up with Mr Percy Kindred. It was great to be back at the museum which had hosted the final performances of Private Resistance and after the rain the cup of tea and mars bar were very very welcome! By the way the museum is a hidden gem and is well worth a visit, run by genuine enthusiasts, more details here ( http://www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk/index.html).
Through incessant rain and increasingly grey skies (by now Im in a high vis and hardly heeding the Suffolk scenery) I headed on through Hacheston (another venue) and onto Campsea Ash (using the station as a shelter to have my sandwhich). Then it was onto another airfield – Bentwaters Parks.
The hush house ( http://www.bentwatersparks.com/tv-and-film-location/hush-house) at Bentwaters makes an extraordinary performance space, one we used most recently for the 2012 revival of Margaret Catchpole. Today though in the pouring rain I can only just bring myself to stop and take a picture.
I’m so wet now I just want to keep going. Weirdly you’re not aware quite how wet you are when you’re moving! So its onto Blaxhall the setting for one of the very early Eastern Angles show, Marsh Fever ( http://www.easternangles.co.uk/show/MF/description.html) . I dont dare stay for long.
And then I’m onto the final leg, a race against my self to get into the dry as quick as I possibly can. At around 6pm I sweep past the Aldeburgh town sign and drop down to the sea front, relieved to find the first pub I spot is The Mill Inn where I’m staying tonight.
Last time I was in Aldeburgh was so so different. On a still, dry night I’d witnessed Grimes on the Beach (I’m afraid the video does not do justice to what was an extraordinary experience).
Tonight could not be any more different. As I write this in the snug of The Mill the rain is pelting at the windows, the beach is literally yards away but is shrouded in grey. In the pub itself (which I love as it has a bath with radox) the bar has been visited by both the Salvation Army and a Johnny Depp inspired pirate – its certainly helping me understand the world of the Borough (the pseudonym used for Aldeburgh in Grimes).
As last orders sounds out the juke box plays ‘why does it always rain on me’.
It was a question I spent most of today asking myself.
Tomorrow I plan to spend a little time exploring Aldeburgh (setting for No Name, Warning to the Curious and Up out of the Sea) before heading to Leiston (Three sisters), then onto Westleton, Dunwich (setting for our Christmas show this year), Walberswick (crabs), Southwold (Gag), Beccles and Lowestoft (When the boats come in and Ferry cross the Waveney). I might even – if the weather is set fair – push onto Great Yarmouth….but we’ll see.
If you can please do visit my sponsorship page ( https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/thehairybiker?currentPage=1&update=new#donationSummary) and donate or like. Feel free too, to share and comment on the blogs – and please come back for future updates!