Sunday, 12 May 2013


Lowestoft is a poor and crumbling town, much poorer and more crumbling that it was in the early 1980s when I owned my house there. It has some industry. You possibly did not know that most if not all of the fish fingers that form the staple of your diet are made in Lowestoft, there's a sizeable Birds Eye factory there that employs about 700 people. The headquarters of an offshore wind turbine company is located there, there's the fisheries research centre, and the docks are active, I'm not sure what is being docked but boats go in and out, and something large is being welded together in the shipyard.
With all of those things Lowestoft in any other country might be thought quite well-endowed, but the high street is shabby, large numbers of people show all the indications of fitting the description of deprived. I guess that there's not enough work for all the population, and much of the work that there is is low-paid, though that is purely speculation, I really don't know why it should look so downmarket.
In Lowestoft I detected that a woman selling bric-a-brac in the - are you ready for this? Benjamin Britten Shopping Centre (he the well-known retail and commerce magnate - you've heard of him I'm sure, Britten was born in Lowestoft)   - I detected from her accent that the woman was Polish so I thought I'd like to know more about her. How did she find herself to be in Lowestoft, blond and smilingly attractive as she was? though I omitted the judgemental part for reasons of shyness. She said she had a British friend whom she came to visit and this friend happened to live in Lowestoft. She was staying with her friend and could find no work in Lowestoft so started up this second-hand junk business. It doesn't make her much money - I'm sure it doesn't - but it gives her something to do - and indeed from my perspective greatly brightens up the rather dreary shopping mall. I didn't want to pry into the nature of her relationship with her friend as that would be nosey, instead I found out that she - the bric-a-brac seller - comes from the south of Poland, near Krakow and Zakopane somewhere, and there isn't much for her there, which unless she were to work in Krakow is no doubt right. I did not feel bold enough to take her email address in order to find out more - probably wisely - but I would still love to know more.
I spoke to another attractive and friendly young woman in Lowestoft - it was worth the trip, obviously - this one dark-haired and English, she was standing outside a shop that sells marginally trendy knick-knacks and on the fascia board there was a sign that said 'Supporting Abstinence Recovery'. Aha! A dreaded gerund slogan for my collection. I was even more pleased I came. It's that word 'supporting', if they hadn't been seduced by that they would probably have made a slogan that makes sense.
The young woman was dressed strikingly in white and drinking a cup of coffee and, to the detriment of both her personal image and that of her organisation, smoking a cigarette. 'Does anyone need to recover from abstinence?' I asked her. She did not get the point of my question and explained that upstairs there was a centre where people come to deal with their drug and alcohol problems and this shop supports that. We had a jolly chat and I said that I must take a photo of the front of the shop, with that slogan that I found so amusing. 'I don't want to be in it?', she laughed. 'Oh why not? Your charm and good sense will be a lovely counter to the shop sign.' One can do this sort of thing so much less self-consciously I find, with grey hair and creases, than when younger, though perhaps that is just me, maybe some have been able to switch it on from adolescence. I expect there are some who could.

Anyway, with the sun in the position it was a picture would have been no good at the time so I told the young woman that she wasn't going to be famous today after all, and I was sorry about that, and I thanked her for the moments and went on my way.  I returned to photograph the shop in the evening, which was better than nothing but not as good as it could have been.