Sunday, 22 March 2009
We visited Aldeburgh twice - once to have some of the best fish and chips in England at The Fish and Chip Shop in the high street on Friday evening and then again on Sunday lunchtime when we wandered along the shingle, throwing stones into a calm sea before having lunch and continuing on to Lavenham and then home to Cambridge.
Of course, M R James followed us here too. This is a photograph of the shingle beach, looking south towards the martello tower. It was along this stretch of beach that Paxton fled at the end of A Warning to the Curious:
The notion of Paxton running after - after anything like this, and supposing it to be the friends he was looking for, was dreadful to us. You can guess what we fancied: how the thing he was following might stop suddenly and turn round on him, and what sort of face it would show, half seen at first in the mist. . .
M R James' Seaburgh is a thinly disguised Aldeburgh:
A long sea-front and a street: behind that a spacious church of flint, with a solid western tower and a peal of six bells.
Seaburgh/Aldburgh is such a jolly, English seaside town, with it's brightly coloured houses and holiday-makers. And yet M R James was on to something using this place as a location. It was a holiday destination in his day too. But there is something about the light here - intense somehow even when overcast, the constant growl of the shingle, the way your feet struggle to find purchase on the stones, the wide horizon and huge sky above.
M R James understood that open spaces are potentially just as scary as confined spaces. On a beach there is nowhere to hide. He used the same sort of device in Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad (though the setting for that is Felixstowe). That story was filmed by Jonathan Miller in the sixties with Michael Horden. It's great.
This is a modern take on the story, influenced by the Jonathan Miller film.