Touching the hand of Thomas Wolsey

Farewell Christmas, goodbye 2012. Lynne Mortimer reflects on a happy chicken and a cheery cardinal.

On January 1, 2013, I walked past the statue of Thomas Wolsey in St Peter’s Street and touched the hand of the Cardinal.

It has become a small ritual of mine to always touch his extended right hand as I pass and I’m guessing by its shininess I am not the only one who feels moved to acknowledge Ipswich’s most famous son with a small show of affection.

As he looks out towards the river that once brought Ipswich its wealth as a centre of trade he evokes the echoes of those Tudor times and his plans for a great college at the waterfront, plans which came to nought when he fell from the King’s grace – as did so many of Henry VIII’s advisers. As an Ipswich person, the least I can do, is share a little kindred Ipswichness when our paths cross.

This year, our Christmas bird was, I trust, a happy chicken before it arrived on our festive table.

It came from the Suffolk Food Hall, an emporium of local produce just under the Orwell Bridge on the Strand at Wherstead.

A label on my chicken’s leg said it had been allowed to scratch about outside, as chickens should.

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For us, chicken at Christmas is a return to tradition. We always used to have chicken when I was young and then I was seduced by the idea of a turkey; that outrageously flamboyant bird that, let’s face it, is unlikely to ever win a bird beauty contest unless all the entrants are turkeys.

It is now just a couple or maybe three days before Twelfth Night (it depends who you believe as to whether it falls on the 5th or 6th) and we are bequeathing our Christmas debris to the corporation. As traditional as Christmas is queuing for the giant skips at the household waste site. There we are, dozens of conspicuous consumers with bags full of non-recyclable glossy wrapping paper feeling a bit sheepish but very British. We do so love a queue.

If there’s no queue, Brits tend to worry they’ve turned up somewhere no one else wants to be. The best queue is the one you join when you’re about fifth or sixth in line but, when you leave, it has stretched to about 30 people.

Then you can be smug and reflect how lucky you were to have arrived when you did.

Anyhow, it only took a minute or so to jettison our two bags of wrapping paper and then we drove out carefully through the large puddle, deposited by courtesy of the wettest Christmas I can remember.

And so to New Year’s Eve. I miss the sound of the big ships moored at Ipswich docks who used to sound their horns at midnight. We would toast the new year and then stand on the doorstep and listen to the cacophony from the busy port.

Nowadays it’s fireworks that fill the air.