The development of the internet, and with it, the unrelenting progress of social media, has given us a completely new vocabulary to learn and use. Some of the new words and expressions are delightful: take podcast for example. Some are just plain ugly. Two of my least favourite would be blog and bucket list. The first is a contraction of web log, and originally used to describe someone’s progression through a sequence of websites; now, it is more specifically used as meaning a series of observational or informational articles presented in reverse chronological order. Lately the term has expanded to include music and the broadcast spoken word, a podcast. Bucket list derives from a film starring Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman, playing characters with terminal illnesses who devise a list of things to do before they “kick the bucket”; hardly a happy association.
Imagine my dismay when Miriam asked me to write a blog of my own bucket list.
Can we instead say that I’ll compose an article describing the things I most enjoy doing in Bury St Edmunds throughout the year? Thank you.
Stroll among the daffodils in Nowton Park in April. Not just daffs but narcissi as well. If you walk to the top of the avenue, there is a terrific photo to be taken looking back.
Attend Evensong in the Cathedral at dusk. Not by chance are Anglican Churches aligned east to west (but not Presbyterian ones; an aversion to symbolism). The setting sun lights up the west window, filling the cathedral church with life and warmth. I defy even those of a secular persuasion not to be moved by the words of the Book of Common Prayer which have been spoken here since 1662: “We, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness”; “By thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night.”
Take an autumn walk in Ickworth Park. You will be thrilled by the colours of the trees and the crunch of the fallen leaves beneath your feet. You might even smell wood smoke. With luck, the kiosk won’t be manned and you won’t have to pay £3.50 to get in, although it is worth it.
Go to a concert in the Abbey Gardens during the Bury Festival. Live music and fresh air, with beer. And without having to go to Latitude or Glastonbury.
Go market shopping on any Saturday, good and early, while the stall holders are still setting up. Wednesday is just as good, but in any case we are extremely lucky to have a thriving open air market. I make a point of shopping there for fruit, vegetables, and fresh fish. There is a particular atmosphere first thing, with the clatter of metal poles and the rush of tarpaulin as the traders set up their stalls.
Have a long lunch at Maison Bleue; perfectly decadent to be able to spend time (and quite a lot of money) on seafood and to be able to take as long as you want over it. So as to emphasise their use of fresh produce, they don’t open on a Monday, traditionally a day when fish markets don’t operate. They also observe French holidays in January and August.
Stand under the cherry blossom in Crown Street on St George’s day; the passing of the seasons are marked for me by certain events. So, the Guineas Festival at Newmarket takes place when the horse chestnuts are in flower, in early May; the blossom in Crown Street appears, only very briefly, around St George’s day, the 23rd April.
Watch the parade on Angel Hill on Armistice Sunday; servicemen from all the Armed Forces, American as well as British, together with Scouts, Guides, Brownies, the Boy’s Brigade and others, parade before 11:00 and form up on Angel Hill. The Army Air Corps have performed a fly-past in recent years.
Visit the Hidden Gardens of Bury in June; this really is a treat, and I make sure never to be away from Bury on this weekend in mid-June. The town is busy with people wearing yellow badges, purchased with proceeds going to the hospice, granting admission to gardens throughout the town. They invite curiosity and inspire ideas for one’s own. In Church Walks you can buy plants, listen to music, and have a lemonade.
Go on a tour of the Theatre Royal, and be amazed that you can hear someone whisper on stage while you are seated in the Gods; a delightful man named Ambrose, recently departed, used to do exactly this, demonstrating the perfect acoustics.
Visit the Greene King Museum and take the tour, and enjoy the view of the town from the roof; enjoy the samples, too. The guides are charming and informative, and delighted to answer questions.
Sit in the brewery gardens with a beer during the Food and Drink Festival; listen to the live music and buy cheese, chilies, curry, jam, chutney, and have an ice cream. Have your face painted, if you must.
Watch cricket in the sun at the Victory Ground. Bury has an excellent and very friendly cricket club running five XIs. Occasionally, Essex CCC has played here. Their new pavilion, of which they are justifiably very proud, has views over both pitches.
Take your lover to bed in the afternoon. You don’t have to be in Bury to do this, of course; anywhere will do. (Well, not the frozen food section at Waitrose. But you take my point). Best time of the day. The Starlight Vocal Band was ahead of their time when, in 1976, they sang:
Gonna grab some afternoon delight
My motto's always been; when it's right, it's right
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night
When everything's a little clearer in the light of day
And we know the night is always gonna be there any way
What better way to celebrate this great town we live in. I never tire of saying that, if I didn’t live here, I would come here on holiday. Enjoy.
Member since: 1st February 2013
Born in the baby boomer years, John Urquhart was educated in London and Scotland including a year as a schoolmaster before studying Medicine at St Thomas' Hospital. This took him back to London and Surrey...