Posted on June 17, 2014
As widely predicted, I visited Ipswich today for the first time in my 46 years on this planet, an experience that whilst not unpleasant, it won’t sit long in the memory bank.
After arriving at a run down car park in Upper Barclay Street I meandered down towards the marina in hope rather than expectation and on my way I came across a pub called the Spread Eagle and as is often the case with me, I thought “Why not?”
However, once inside, I discovered that not only were there no customers, there was, apparently no staff on duty either; a classic chicken an egg situation where without staff, your chances of custom are as bleak as the grey clouds that were rolling off the North Sea.
Refusing to let despondency take hold, I marched onwards towards the marina past the classic example of an ugly building in the form of a huge Premier Inn. One assumes that the architect who was hired to design these grey and bland buildings was asked to allow the facade to reflect the comedic ability of Lenny Henry, the star of their aggressive but piss poor advertising campaign.
On arriving at the marina, I was moderately impressed. There was a hive of activity as the sun tried to push through the clouds and the host of flats overlooking the marina looked quite impressive, even if this will probably not be the case in 2024.
By now, I felt like I needed a pint, so I stopped in the Lord Isaac, a confusing place that offered “Authentic food in an authentic atmosphere” but seemed to be divided up in to a coffee shop and a pub.
However, I was delighted to see that they were serving Adnams Broadside, well I was until they gave it to me in a plastic pint pot, presumably to stop me inexplicably smashing a glass on someone’s head, something that I can assure you, was not on my agenda.
I then browsed through the menu and decided to smash down my own barriers of sanity by breaking all the rules and ordering cod and chips, an error of judgement that I must have carried out a thousand times in the past without ever learning my lesson.
Sadly, I have a love hate relationship with fish and chips; I love them and they hate me, they always have done. I may as well walk into a pub and say “Good afternoon madam, may I have a pint of your finest ale and a tub of ready mixed concrete please?”
Anyway, I finished them, causing me to develop a middle aged waddle as I headed towards the crushingly disappointing town centre. Ipswich could be any other provincial town…Costa Coffee, Next, M&S, Gap, Burton, Starbucks, BHS…They were all there, staring blandly at me just like they do in Basingstoke, Southampton, or Woking.
There is nothing original about most British towns, they have been stripped bare of any independence they may have once boasted.
The only real sense of originality was in Carr Street, however, it was a depressing sense of originality in the form of independent cheque cashing shops, 99p stores, loan sharks and a department store that was choking on it’s last breath before the administrators put it out of it’s miserable existence.
I don’t want to do Ipswich down because it is no different to multitudes of other British town centres that are dying a slow death and at least a brave regeneration of the marina has given it some much needed life; the optimist in me hopes for a better future for the town. Who knows?
For some reason, on my way out, I drove to Portman Road, the home of the Tractor Boys but there was nothing to see really except the stand adorning the name of Sir Bobby Robson and a statue of Sir Alf Ramsey, two of the great names in English football that the folk of Ipswich have every right to be proud of.
Tomorrow, Stuart has a day off and he is, as a treat, taking me out for a day that will include a tour of the Adnams brewery in Southwold.
Hopefully I will get a pint in a glass, not a beaker.