What makes a true Suffolk person?
PUBLISHED: 11:33 14 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:37 14 July 2020
At a time when being a Suffolk girl has never been more important to me, or pertinent, exactly how Suffolk am I? | Words: Lynne Mortimer
The question arose because of a book (sent to me unsolicited a few years back) written by Paul Sinha – one of the boffins on ITV show The Chase – called Real British Citizenship Test.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek guide to national character. He says, for example, that if you have an English accent, you should never read Robert Burns’ poems out loud.
It’s a good point. Even if I read to myself, it is with an English accent, except in the case of the Jo Nesbo crime thrillers. In Norwegian, I imagine I’m reading of Harry Hoerler rather than, as written, Harry Hole.
Sinha even tiptoes through the minefield of football allegiance, asking: “Man United or Man City? Which of these is the real Manchester Club?” As if I were mad enough to answer that.
Applying the same principles to my beloved home county, it occurs to me that this sort of potentially explosive soccer dilemma doesn’t really arise. except among passionate parents on the touchline during their kids’ weekend matches.
No, what we cherish in Suffolk is a sort of behaviour in which we burn with inquisitiveness but are unwilling to have our curiosity assuaged in case we draw attention to ourselves. Here are some points to ponder, after which you may or may not feel able to assert your Suffolkness.
Imagine you spot a celebrity in the street (try Aldeburgh or Southwold). Do you: a) Ignore them. They’re no better than they ought to be.
b) Follow them at a safe distance to see if they do ordinary things.
Or c) Bound over and ask them to autograph the back of your supermarket receipt (preferable to a slightly-used tissue). Then tell them who they are and how you saw them in a TV drama you didn’t like much.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lot of famous people live here, among them Griff Rhys Jones, Game of Thrones star Kit Harington and actors Ian Lavender and Diana Quick. I have seen a couple of them out and about and have always opted for (a).
Generally, ignoring them is the typical Suffolk response, although if you find yourself sitting next to one in the theatre, you might wish to offer them an in-depth critique of their career and a fruit gum.
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I am conscious that this sort of approach could mean you have some rogue Norfolk genes. I am one-quarter Norfolk which may account for occasional bouts of pre-lockdown over-friendliness.
By the way, I left Ed Sheeran off my list.
This is because he went to school in Suffolk and still lives here, putting him in a separate category. In his case, Suffolkness trumps celebrity and it’s okay to have him round for a cup of tea and a home-made cheese scone, ask if he’s eating properly and why his guitar is unusually small, and tell him your life story. This is the quid pro quo to nurturing our own global superstars.
An endearing feature of Suffolk people is helpfulness to strangers. When we see someone looking lost, instinctively we help.
“I’m trying to find the museum” leads to a welter of minutely detailed directions including names of pubs, shops, locations of pelican crossings and landmarks.
Candour is also characteristic of Suffolk. In my newspaper reporter days, it was always a joy to meet a proper Suffolk type. They would look me up and down and announce something along the lines of: “You look like a girl who enjoys a suet pudding.” Yes.
Finally, I should add that Suffolk people are not averse to venturing out of county (except now obviously).
They think nothing of spontaneously – with two months’ notice to get cheaper train tickets – heading to London for a day out, taking in the British Museum (which has pretty much all Suffolk’s treasure hoards), a meal out and the theatre.
But it’s always good to get back home.
So, how Suffolk am I? I don’t know. But I suspect you will.