Greetings from the U.K.!
After a hectic few days of giving my apartment a good scrubbing in preparation for the house-sitter and trying on all of my clothes in order to figure out what to pack, I flew to London.
My luggage containing all the clothes I’ll need for the changeable weather of the U.K. and enough accessories to keep me from getting bored for two months.
The day after I arrived and before I really knew where I was, my boyfriend A. whisked me off to Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast for a silent film festival. As I’ve reported in previous posts, A. is quite a silent film buff and I’m learning to be one too.
The cinema there was built in 1919, screening many a silent film in its first decade.
We saw quintessentially English, sea-side themed films based on the early 20th-century stories by W.W. Jacobs. Of course, they were accompanied by live music.
The highlight of the weekend was a screening of the American film, Beggars of Life (1928), “a rollicking saga of hobos on the lam” starring the captivating Louise Brooks. In keeping with the era and location, the music was provided by silent film accompanist par excellence Neil Brand and the U.K. skiffle band, The Dodge Brothers (which includes Mark Kermode, a film critic and TV presenter). I had doubts about Americana music played by a group of Brits (although one member is an American now living in the U.K.), but their performance was amazing and their music ranged from soulful to exciting (to accompany the chase and train crash scenes). If you haven’t seen silent films -- the musicians pretty much make up the score as they watch the film. So Brandt’s piano playing set the tone and The Dodge Brothers had to follow along.
After the screening A. and I -- being the only attendees who had specially come to Aldeburgh for the festival -- were invited to a small after-party for the band and festival organizers.
Aldeburgh is best known as the home of the composer Benjamin Britten and it hosts numerous music festivals, including one founded by Britten himself. Other than the festival, it didn't seem like there’s a lot going on there, which it turns out is its appeal for those with holiday homes. It’s also incredibly expensive and does not have a train station, which helps keep the riff-raff out. On Sundays and bank holidays, we found out that there isn’t even bus service in or out of the town, so we ended up having to take a taxi to the nearest train station, then changing three times to get back to London.
We did enjoy the picturesque views and the laid-back atmosphere. Our B & B was on the top floor of a 19th c. former convent. We took a walk along a footpath that led us through a churchyard and cemetery. Other than the films and the after party, a high point was getting to a car boot sale on Sunday morning (the charity shops in town were crazy-expensive), where I scored 1965 and 1969 issues of Queen magazine.
I spent the weekend looking out-of-place amidst all the tourists in their t-shirts, shorts and sandals. Yeah, it was sunny but there was a nippy breeze. My boyfriend commented that I looked like I had an aversion to the sun. My one concession to summer was the straw hat and sunglasses. It’s not like I was following the tradition of older women wearing street clothes at the seaside, I just feel cold more than others. And we spent four or more hours each day inside a dark theater and not romping on the beach.
You can watch The Dodge Brothers and Neil Brand do a sound check for Beggars of Life.
After the film, The Dodge Brothers played this song, "No. 9." Here they perform it at The Royal Albert Hall.
Do go see Beggars of Life if the opportunity arises.