Seaside Originals

We meet the kind of characters living in Southwold, Aldeburgh, Felixstowe, Walberswick and Lowestoft

With tongue firmly in cheek Peter Sampson envisages the kind of characters who live in our coastal resorts. Illustrations by Bev Baddeley


Southwold residents think Frinton is oik-y, even though Southwold itself reeks permanently of   ibeer. Residents frequently dress in the Dickensian costumes they retained after working as extras on one of the nine versions of ‘David Copperfield’ that have been filmed in the town. It has the only chic pier in the country. This holds farmers’ markets, sells food and has a lifestyle shop making it all rather charming. Southwold estate agents allow nobody to buy property in the town unless they are also able to pay �50,000 for a 9’ x 10’ shed on the beach. Every Southwoldian claims to have met Judi Dench.There is a reading room for impoverished sailors, now frequented by former City traders who have had to sell their shed on the beach at a substantial loss.


Everybody in Aldeburgh plays the cello. Each resident belongs to one of the several gangs of middle-class hoodies in the town who spend their time intriguing fiercely against each other.  Collectively, gang members are known as the raffia mafia. The usual causes of gang rumbles are the merits, or otherwise, of the music of Benjamin Britten, the merits, or otherwise, of Maggi Hambling's beach sculpture and the pecking order among members of the Festival committee. The traditional weapons are rolled-up copies of the Guardian's Saturday book review section and graffiti such as 'Early Byzantine church music rules OK' in the public lavatories.The gang godfathers, many of whom are former members of MI6, live in closely guarded seclusion close to the local hospital, but meet regularly for secret negotiations in the Jubilee Hall disguised as Persian carpet salesmen.


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Conversation with a local resident in either The Bell or The Queen's Head quickly reveals that each of them has done at least one of the following: written a chick-lit novel, appeared in a comedy series on BBC4, worked as an ITV producer and been friendly with a Freud.Sadly, it is often quite difficult to make contact with local residents, since half the houses in the village are occupied only for a short time during the summer, when the meejuh crowd move temporarily from NW1 to their secluded Walberswick enclave and take a short break from writing, filming, acting, directing, producing and backing into the limelight. Walberswick people really have met Judi Dench. And Tim and Prue West, as well.


Some years ago, when the writers of ‘Coronation Street’ wanted to exile one of their characters to the furthest, most remote back of beyond, they invented a rather thin excuse and sent him firmly to Lowestoft.Lowestoft man has never met Judi Dench and doesn't care who knows it. Instead, he's quite content to take his family to the Marina Theatre to watch the New Seekers 40th Anniversary Show.His grandfather, along with hundreds of other Lowestoft men, earned a dangerous and precarious living with the Lowestoft drifter fleet catching herring. They were so good at it that there aren't any herring left and Lowestoft man now makes potato waffles for Birds Eye.


Felixstowe man has a permanently haunted look. This is because the only way he can escape from the place is by dicing with death among the hurtling container lorries on the A14. To make matters worse, Felixstowe man is unable to decide whether he lives in the largest and busiest container port in the UK, in an atmosphere of industrial toil, tears and sweat against a horizon of bobbing cranes, or in a pleasant and enjoyably frivolous seaside resort of ice-creams and Punch-and-Judy shows and tearooms called Ye Olde Copper Kettle.Felixstowe was once popular with minor German royalty and Mrs Wallis Simpson, for reasons that are no longer understood.Finally, Felixstowe man has to live with the embarrassment of knowing that he lives in one of the few places in England to have been bombed by the Italian air force.

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