Day 1:Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Ipswich, very tired. Aside from the usual jet lag, I had also developed stomach 'flu on the plane journey. And things were so different! On every other visit since 1991, we had arrived to the loving welcome of my parents, or in recent years, of Mum. Now we had to face that empty space. How would we feel? Our Airbnb hosts, Gertrude, Steve and little Angelina, are from Malawi, and offered the kind of warmth and welcome I associate with East African culture. Their genuine human kindness and friendliness went a long way to assuage the initial grief. They made certain that our needs were met and then took off for London, leaving us our own space, peace and quiet.
We had chosen our location carefully, to be in the part of Ipswich where I grew up. In recent years Mum had moved from Ipswich proper to a retirement community in Kesgrave. Now we are back in the old haunts of the family. The bells peal from the churches, thrushes and blackbirds sing and seagulls cry, just as they did when I was a girl. Two minutes from the house where we are staying, we found Bolton Stores. Now part of a chain, the store was started in I973 by a Ugandan Asian, after Idi Amin expelled the Asians. Dad loved to pop over to Bolton Stores for sundry items and chat with the proprietor, who in Uganda had been a philosophy professor. The two men had a natural kinship and Dad spoke enthusiastically about his visits to the store. Another minute away and you get to The Woolpack, Dad's 'local' where he liked to go for 'a swift half' before lunch.
Cross the street and you're in Christchurch Park. I was so blessed to grow up right by this beautiful park, which was like an extension of our own back yard. Here are the lawns where Magnus, my parents' beloved Sheltie, used to romp, the pond where little Nick used to feed the ducks (an activity strictly forbidden in these more ecologically enlightened times), the gently-sloping path where I used to go roller skating, the mighty oaks which Dad portrayed in a powerful and unsettling expressionistic style. Today I saw that my parent's death did not have to mean the loss to me of Ipswich and Suffolk--and that in ways great and small, Ipswich contains my parents and always will. There is a sweet and cherished memory on every corner. In the magic of place, I find my parents still.