James Marston: Scrubbing for fun at Ickworth House and people watching at Landguard Fort

James Marston at Ickworth House

James Marston at Ickworth House - Credit: Archant

I’ve always thought I should have been an aristocrat. I would have liked a few servants to keep on top of the dusting and do me a nice veg patch.

But life always works out differently, doesn’t it?

And this week I found myself washing up at Ickworth House. Of course, there was no aristocrat to wash up for. The Herveys – a family that combined huge wealth with some eccentricity – have long gone but they did have a lovely big kitchen even if it was in a basement and had no microwave.

During my visit this week, and hasn’t the weather been lovely, I learnt that before the house opens they have a lot of work to do uncovering dust sheets, polishing, cleaning, dusting those high ceilings, and rearranging furniture. Let alone keeping on top of all those hedges in the Italianate garden. In the basement we came across a chap who was even cleaning coal. Imagine!

Of course everyone loves a snoop round someone else’s house don’t they?

Over in Felixstowe, where I have a small flat with sea views (distant), the turn in the weather has brought out all sorts of people and on Sunday, down at the Landguard Point viewing platform there were ever so many cars looking out to Harwich.

I took my parents down – Sue and Duncan – as we have now got to the stage where they like an early lunch and an afternoon ride out in the motor if someone else is driving and the heat is on.

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And in the west of the county, where I spent the halcyon days of my boyhood, the ladies of the ancient church of St James are getting ready for the next instalment of the Icklingham Flower Club which is going in leaps and bounds.

My sister Claire, who hopes to marry a farmer – ideally one with 4,000 acres and a weak heart – informs me there are now 16 members who have been doing things with pussy willow – I thought she was talking about a Bond girl but it’s something horticultural apparently.

Talking of church it is, of course, the season of Lent.

My plain-speaking-photographer-friend Lucy has given up chocolate for 40 days and 40 nights. In one of our conversations in the car as we explored the Suffolk countryside, I proffered the view that it might be possible to give up going to church for Lent but it would play havoc with my organ.

Lucy said I was almost as eccentric as the Herveys were in days gone by – if only I had the title and money to go with it.