Monday, 3 September 2012

Pilgrimage



Nearly fourteen years ago the Mr and I began 'stepping out', as my Gran used to say. Before one of our earliest dates we broke out a map of East Anglia, peered at the coast, chose a town that we'd never visited before and drove there. It was Southwold. 

The seaside itself is lovely enough, regardless of the surroundings, but good grief! We realised that quite by accident we had hit the seaside jackpot.



This town is wonderful. It has one of the finest breweries known to humankind, a truly lovely beach, a high street filled with independent shops and cafes, and, deep breath, rows and rows of beach huts.

In 1998 I had never seen a beach hut before. It took me a while to get my head around the concept: a prettily painted shed, sitting on a promenade a stone's throw from the beach, usually filled with buckets and spades, sometimes with jauntily striped curtains and a teapot. Oh.


Video postcard from our holiday 2009

This was an attack of the wanties the like of which I had never experienced. 

Fast forward eight years to 2006 and Eldest was six months old. I had hatched a plan. We would make our own beach hut in the garden. It would be the Mr's 'working at home' shed. It would have broadband and I would put pebbles in front of it. I could visit him with cups of tea and pretend I was at the seaside. 


We ordered it from Lugarde. I remember the day the flatpack was delivered. I had a baby on my hip and very scary hair. Something went awry with a fork lift truck and a hole appeared in the front lawn, but there it was: a shed, with potential. Somewhere at the back of my mind I thought I might claim a corner for myself to make things in.

Sometimes the Mr worked in the hut but mostly he didn't. He liked to work in the cottage. In 2008 I had left my scientific career to keep a closer eye on eldest and her tendency to have very high fevers (and sometimes febrile fits). I'd begun to make jewellery in earnest, started a blog and had a second baby. The thought that I might use the shed grew stronger. In April 2009 the beach hut appeared on my blog for the first time, a day or two after eldest had been in hospital (see above). In the autumn of that year I finally plucked up the courage to apply to participate in Cambridge Open Studios, having visited them since I was a student. I was absolutely thrilled when I was accepted and decided to turn the shed into a tiny exhibition and workspace.


Eldest's drawing 

Our shed is, I suppose, a kind of shrine to a Southwold beach hut. Despite this I had never been inside one. This year we had decided to hire a hut as a treat but quite by chance we bumped into a friend down the pub and she offered us the chance to borrow hers. Oh my giddy aunt.


Spookily, the beach hut we borrowed was decorated in a very similar style to ours, with pebble collections and beautiful handmade cushions. It was lovely. Rather foolishly I forgot my camera card, so snapped the view using my iPhone. Much as I love the pea wigwams, raspberry bushes and snoozing dog visible from my studio, this view was hard to beat. The little ones wanted to draw it, so they did, and then set about making sandcastles. 


Littlest's drawing

At one point I sat in the hut reading 'All my eggs in one basket' and eating flapjack whilst the girls pottered on the sand. To be truthful, if I'd been given the choice between sitting there reading and looking out at the beach or sitting in Tuscany (my other favourite place) with a vase of Chianti and pile of delicious pasta, there  would have been no contest (even if there had been fireflies as part of the deal). I couldn't have been more thrilled if Colin Firth himself had walked into my kitchen. Sitting in the real thing was, as I had imagined it would be, absolute bliss.

35 comments:

just Gai said...

Some dreams really do come true!

alice c said...

*Deep Sigh*

You are living my dream but I am not envious - I am just thrilled for you.

saffa said...

Wow Emma, I can see why you feel in love with this beach hut and it beach view, so beautiful :) thank you for transporting me to the seaside, there is something about the sea, it's magical...thank you I loved reading this post, safxxx

Karen said...

Southwold is such a lovely place but I haven't been there for years. I think your garden beach hut is perfect and makes a lovely studio. Love the Pebbles drawings. Karen x

greenrabbitdesigns said...

Awe Emma, that all sounds so lovely. :)
Vivienne x

Naturally Carol said...

"Littlest's" stick house is wonderful! Sometimes when things go just right we think we're the luckiest people on earth don't we..I love that you got to experience this for real!

Didyoumakethat said...

What a gorgeous story, and beautifully written.

dragonfly said...

What a tale to wake up to. So wonderful.

I have a deeply half hidden childhood memory of a beach hut. I must ask my mum about it when I next see her.

Tangled Sweetpea said...

What a beautiful part of the world!
Victoria xx

VintageVicki said...

You can't beat Southwold as a place to visit. I'm lucky we live not far away and visit as much as we can - all year round. Its lovely to walk along the Prom on a blustery winters day - ending up at the cafe on the Pier for hot chocolate :)

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

Sounds heavenly! I too love Southwold, I too would love a beach hut (in the garden would be just fine!) one day.....you have a lovely space to make your delicious creations! Ada :)

marigold jam said...

So happy for you that you finally got to be in a proper beach hut. Sixty years ago I lived at Reydon Hall just a couple of miles from Southwold so it was a regular place to visit - thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Su said...

I've often walked past the Southwold beach huts, but never been in one. Lucky you!

Anonymous said...

I believe that the beach huts at Southwold cost more than a large house elsewhere :-). How nice to have the chance to spend time in one! and what a view you had. How ever did you manage to leave? Lovely post, thank you. Jill

noknittedknickers said...

Oh, how lovely! Such a great tale. Made me want to jump up and down thinking, I live near there. Still getting used to all the lovely spots around here. C.x

Julie said...

What a lovely post Emma, you brought everything to life. I'm with you on beach huts, they are fascinating. I've only been in a real one once I think, at West Mersea. I can still sense the atmosphere and smells. Your daughters both take after their Mum and have excellent drawing skills. I love both drawings but eldest's is so detailed with the beach in front. Super! It would make a wonderful textile piece.

Sue said...

I have never been in a beach hut. Ever :(

Floss said...

OK, you distracted me with the Tuscany/Colin Firth sentence, but I'm going to try to put that out of my mind and get back to beach huts! I really enjoyed reading your story (dare I say it, but you told it better than CL did). I've never been in a beach hut either, and I'm really glad you had your dream day in one this summer.

dottycookie said...

Sigh. And sigh again.

By the way, I rather suspect that if Colin firth walked into your kitchen you would be rather less relaxed and composed than you were at the beach.

You do realise that everyone who walked past thought you owned the hut, don't you?

Rachel said...

Good to know the reality was just as good as the dream!

Magic Cochin said...

Heaven! What a super dooper holiday treat!!!
I remember the excitement of my childhood holidays in Uncle Harold and Auntie Winnie's beach hut at Felixstowe - playing on the beach and eating Suffolk rusks!
There is something so very English about sitting in a shed and looking at the view :-)

Celia
xx
xx

driftwood said...

both beach huts sounds heavenly to me, both the one at the beach and the one in your garden xxx

Mrs. Micawber said...

Oh, lucky you! A dream come doubly true. I had never seen beach huts until we visited Lyme Regis a few years ago, and fell instantly in love with them - a row of rainbow-candy-coloured tiny little things along the parade.

Happy stepping-out anniversary to you and the Mr. :)

emma freud said...

BERNARD!!!!!!! i am soooooooooooo proud. and love being the 'friend down the pub'. wish we had seen more of you. xxxxx

jane said...

Lovely. Southwold is without a doubt my favourite place x

Christy said...

It's so funny that you should mention Southwold as I happened to visit there with my sister and family just a few weeks ago and it has been my Blog banner ever since I got back to the States.

A friend told me about Southwold so we decided to visit it's just about a two hour drive from where my sister lives in Suffolk.

We were not disappointed and spent a lovely day there.

So I can visualize your beach hut and it may very well be one in my banner.

Haven't had time to Blog about my trip as it was a sad occasion. But thank you for your post.

Christy
Lil Bit Brit

Thrifty Household said...

Found some funny photos of my Dad (in a woolly swimming cossie) in a beach hut at Southwold back in the 1940s...will share!!!

menopausalmusing said...

I have loved this post and loved the comments............ thank you Emma.x

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

I adore Southwold, and all the other little places along the Suffolk coast with beach huts. Even a shed at Walberswick would do for me. Just to be beside the sea! Thrilled for you that you got to live your dream for a day.

Locket Pocket said...

How exciting to get a real life beach hut to play in - at the seaside too! I've never been to Southwold - or even Suffolk as far as I'm aware - something I should remedy! Lucy xx

Trudy said...

Seriously ... Colin Firth walking into your kitchen, you'd rather be in a beach hut?? Okay, I'll wait in your kitchen just in case he does and you have a lovely day at the beach!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post. Beach huts are so quintessentially English. Who's the artist on your first postcard photo, it's so sweet? Alice Auperin

The Coffee Lady said...

Oh, bless your little cotton socks.

Phoenix Jayy said...

Brilliant post and lovely pictures!

Rachel Lamb said...

After a challenging week, your post has made me smile, thanks :)