To Bury St Edmunds today, as I simply had to go to Wibbling Wools to get some yarn for some TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects). And, since Bury St Edmunds must surely have the highest gift shop:population ratio of anywhere on the planet, I also planned to succeed at Christmas Shopping. (NB, most of said shops are a touch too frou-frou for my liking but some of them are brilliant). None of this screamed "take the camera!" at me, so I didn't...
Mistake! Within seconds of leaving the bus, I heard the words "Red Hat Society", looked up and, sure enough, there was a sea of elderly ladies dressed in purple, with red hats.. They were moving towards a veritable landmass of similarly-dressed ladies. I remember being utterly stunned when I first saw them congregating in Cambridge earlier this year!
Red Hat ladies at Queen's College, Cambridge, Spring 2008
Oh well. Photo opportunity missed but, what the heck, on with the shopping. I began at the council-run Art Gallery, always a good bet for an interesting exhibition, as well as fabulous gifts and cards. I scored a direct hit (oh, yes), not only finding something that a gallery in Cambridge had promised (and failed) to find me, but also finding it for less money. Result!
Buoyed-up, I headed down the hill to Wibbling Wools, pausing only to be astonished by the enormous crowds of shoppers. Think December Saturdays in Oxford Street and you'll get the idea. Weird. Getting closer to Wibbling Wools, the crowds grew thicker and I could hear jazz over a PA system. Then I caught sight of stalls and carousels on Angel Hill. A Christmas Market, I'd found a Christmas Market. (If any of you have ever heard me squealing with excitement, do, please, insert relevant sound effects here).
But first, there were TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects) to be attended to, though I did stop to look at the "genuine Victorian" Galloping Horses roundabout where I was rather amused to note horses with positively 20th/21st century names like "Kelly" and "Dionne-Lauren" as well as the more traditional "Elsie" and "Joan". I was very, very tempted to take a spin but then realised that it just wouldn't be the same when you've nobody to wave to as you whizz round. Resolve strenghtened, I entered Wibbling Wools and realised that, truly, I had found Paradise. Purchasing materials for the TSKPs was a positive delight.
Off, then, to view the Christmas Fair. It wasn't quite up to the standard of those I saw in Vienna last year; here the range of things on sale reminded me very much of the sort of stalls that you get at County Shows, etc, but many stallholders were in Victorian dress and, despite the cold drizzle, spirits were high. (I could see rather a lot of mulled wine being quaffed). There was a French market where, somehow, I resisted the many delicacies on offer. There were stalls in the Abbey Gardens and the jazz trio I'd heard earlier turned out to be playing in the Abbey Gateway. Back to Angel Hill and walking further along towards the Cathedral I found some craft stalls, where several purchases were effected. And then I saw the highlight: the "Living Nativity" near the entrance to the Cathedral Refectory. No more Victorian dress, here were kings and shepherds with sheep (real) and donkeys (real) leading us to a stable (recreated) populated with more donkeys (real) and llamas (real). It was breathtaking. Why, oh why, didn't I have my camera*?
After all this excitement I needed food and cider, so headed to the Mason's Arms (which Liz and I discovered a few months ago). Yum (and hic!). (Eavesdropping on the many Christmas Fair-goers I gathered that many of them had come by coach from all over East Anglia). After lunch, on to the the Corn Exchange for more Christmas stalls and a recital of carols--some in sign language-- from a local school.
Finally I thought I'd better go and pay Rendell's Yarns a visit. Oh dear. Regia 6-ply in Kaffe Fasset colours, calling out to be another TSKP (one I wasn't even planning). This purchase necessitated a return trip to Wibbling Wools (what a shame) for a set of Britanny 3.5mm dpns followed by a determined I-will-not-buy-anything-else march to the bus station.
The bus journey was long (70 minutes) and slow, but how I wish I'd had my camera. As we left Newmarket the sky was ablaze. No painting could have captured this sunset, though maybe some dichroic glass might have captured the scintillation.
All in all: a most productive trip.
* and why didn't I have my camera? The batteries are flat and Mrs Meanie (aka me) has been too mean to replace them. That'll learn me (as we Norfolkians say).