Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Southwold, Suffolk

Summer days, 2

This bit of seaside domestic architecture made me pause, and took me back. It’s years since I saw the film Mary Poppins (in fact, I was a child when I saw it), but I seem to recall that near the beginning there’s an old telescope-wielding sea captain watching the clouds from a balcony high on the roof of his house. ‘The wind is changing,’ he says, and the wind soon brings to our eyes Mary Poppins herself, floating on her umbrella, to create enjoyable disruption to the ordered life of the Banks family. An old sea captain who liked watching the clouds of the ships could do a lot worse than a balcony like this.

It sits atop a house near the sea at Southwold, and would be ideal for such a character. I’ve no idea how it got there – whether it was a perch for a ship-owner or merchant of days gone by who needed to keep an eye on the traffic out at sea, or a watchman’s post, or simply a modern jeu d’esprit, a place to sit out or admire the view. However it got there, it’s a diverting bit of seaside architecture that sums up the way in which coastal houses often celebrate the meeting of indoors and outdoors. Balconies, verandas, terraces, look-out points, big windows or French windows from which you step straight out of your living room into the garden or even on to the sea front – all these things abound at the seaside. If spas like Cheltenham are the places for cast-iron balconies, seaside towns are the place for wooden railings, painted white or in pastel shades, whether simply designed like the ones here or with more complex timberwork.

There’s a sense, in making ornate railings or in having a balcony at all in a place where, as here, you need a special staircase to reach it, that builders and owners have made that extra effort to make the place really special. And that life is lived partly on show – we can see you up there, almost as clearly as you can see us – so the building at least is good to look at. Oh yes: people go to the seaside for the sun, the sea, the fresh fish, for sailing (even for crazy golf). But also for things like this.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Southwold should certainly go on the itinerary when/if I manage to get to East Anglia again. Full marks to whoever thought up such a structure and brought it to completion!