16 Oct 2011, 4:32pm

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  • Lazy day in Southwold

    Southwold is one of our favourite local haunts, and today it was the pier that called us. The pier strikes a good balance between child-centric amusements and places for a wider clientele. The Clockhouse tea shop does an excellent tea and cakes; in my case coffee and cakes because I don’t do tea before 5pm…

    Southwold from the pier

    Looks like today is the last day of sunshine before a cold spell, just the sort of bright sunshine with the hint of a nip in the air that Southwold pier is made for. Lunch was local Blythburgh sausages for me, we had passed the pigs on the way up from Ipswich, and Mrs Ermine went for the more adventurous option. I was kind of relieved that you don’t get to eat the heads…

    Prawns and white wine

    The amusements are at the start of the pier and the rest of it is dedicated to a classier, if somewhat twee and rinky-dink retail therapy. There are the quirky madcap Tim Hunkin’s Under the Pier Show  amusements halfway along that seem to work for adults and school-age kids alike. Halfway along the pier his water clock draws a decent crowd on the hour and half hour, as the repressed British middle-class psyche gets to idulge in a little toilet humour while watching Hunkin’s figurines pissing in the pots to start the mechanical action ringing in the hours and half-hours.

    Crowd assembling to watch Tim Hunkin's water clock strike the hour

    We normally manage to get out of the crafts and knick-knack shop without getting tapped but today was our day to be big spenders and get a wine bottle stopper for £4.25. It’s a dirty job supporting the British economy but somebody has to do it 🙂

    Crafts and knick-knack shop at the end of the pier

     Some of the knicks-knacks, while probably being arty-crafty enough to avoid being tacky, are National Trust gift shop twee beyond belief, like this clam-shell heart

    You can take twee that little bit too far, guys

    Southwold is a rarity in UK piers where you don’t have to be under five to get enjoyment out of it, and not a saucy postcard or plastic bucket and spade in sight. We heard a lot of London accents there, so it must be somewhere in a guidebook to London’s backyard somewhere. Presumably they come by car, as Southwold doesn’t have a railway station that I know of.

    visitors looking out over the sea

    Southwold’s other attraction is of course the Adnams brewery and hostelries, Adnams really does seem to taste better the closer you get to the source, though it isn’t bad at the Fat Cat pub in Ipswich, it’s better in the town, and the Swan Hotel owned by Adnams does an excellent pint, as well as a pretty upmarket lunch at a good price.

    The key to getting the balance between cutting costs on needs and on wants is to get the quality of the decadence up and the frequency down. Frugality is about minimising regular costs rather than all costs. This is, of course, the opposite of what advertising tries to do – it reduces the headline cost but tries to raise the frequency of the cost, hence 36 month mobile phone subscriptions and the like, which integrates the high cost of the handset over three years to reduce sticker shock while keeping total revenue high.

    In future I want dividend income to cover the entertainment budget. It is elective spending, and well suited to adjusting to take out whether it has been a good dividend year or not.

    I love Tim Hunkin’s amazing arcade machines and I was lucky enough to see them at Southwold pier some years ago.

    Tim’s ability to mix engineering with art and humour is awe inspiring!


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