I don’t spend very much time looking back; the past is foreign country. Yet on the rare occasions I return to UEA, my impressions, initially, are always clouded by my teen-aged self and the shock of the new. Raw concrete under a leaden sky. Ladsun’s ziggurats slicing into sloping green. It all looks much softer today; climbers and tall trees blur the cutting edges, but the architectural puritan in me disapproves.
We’re visiting the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, taking the opportunity to catch up with some favourite pieces in the Sainsbury Collection whilst we’re in this part of the world. The best paintings, for me, are the ones that evoke an almost visceral response; a resonance like the hum of a tuning fork. Francis Bacon does it for me every time and there are some truly stunning examples here. Henry Moore’s touching images of sleeping shelterers move me too. Antonio Saura’s, Hiroshima, Mon Amour. It’s wonderful to see them again.
From Norwich it’s off to Cromer in search of another favourite image – the cover of Turning the Tide! Oh course, I’d have to go out to sea to capture it exactly and there are no rocks at Cromer for Harry to sit on - although maybe there are some at Little Spitmarsh, the sleepy seaside town in my book - but I can see enough to get that tingly feeling. Cromer and Little Spitmarsh both have a pier jutting out into the same sea, but they are not the same place. Little Spitmarsh is an amalgam of all the faded seaside towns that I love, but which are faced with uncertain futures caught between the need to modernise and the risk of losing all that makes them unique.
That dilemma’s at the forefront of my mind when Tom and I escape the rain and dive into a seafront café for fish and chips. The place is tired, feels as if it hasn’t been decorated since the ‘seventies and, despite being almost empty, no one is eating. So whilst we wait for food we sit and drink tea and enjoy the most fabulous panoramic view of the coast. Part of me wonders what someone like Rick Stein could do with a restaurant in a spot like this – the other half wonders, like my heroine, Harry, in Turning the Tide, if I could still afford to sit here if he did.