From the journal of Alistair Byrne

Deben Market, situated on the coast in East Anglia, England, is a town like any other, or is it?

It was under a dark and dangerous looking sky, six months ago, that I arrived. I swept down into the town via a steep hill with a small Norman church, surrounded by council housing on my left and large grand houses to my right. The high street had all the old world charm of a medieval town entering the twenty first century. The long main street, unpredictably called High Street, was deserted of living souls. I found my temporary home above the local florist, my car the only one to be parked in the long wide road. Ancient street lamps, cast a warm yellow light, so much more welcoming than the harsh LED lighting I was used to in London. The emptiness, old school illumination and dark thundery sky made me think God had sent a personal message ‘STRANGER BEWARE’.

The businesses are small family run affairs, with the odd scattering of larger brand shops and banks.

It’s a town I have come to admire, even though my first week or so was unpredictable and eye-opening. There is something about the town that has awakened a more sensitive side to my nature. It –  I  mean Deben Market – has, I think, something dark at its centre, way back in its past. Something mystical, powerful and mysterious. No I’m not being fanciful, I truly believe it because of the things I have experienced and the new nature in me those experiences have brought about.

Some of the residents I have come to know might think differently, then again they might not. Gilbert White, of White’s Family Bakers would say it’s a beautiful town, especially in the morning with the sun rising over the sea and the mist curling from the cars. Gilbert told me once he met an old friend on one of those early mornings he so loves. A friend who had been dead a long time. And I believe him.

The Pargeter’s, a family of power and influence, might describe it as the centre of their business world, although old man Pargeter, Francis, would call it his country retreat. Their money separates them from the ordinary people of the town, they have much to learn about the realities of life and death.

Monty, the old Etonian who runs Bacchus wine bar would say, “The town is so old fashioned it’s not like stepping into a picture postcard but an old masters daub coming to life.” Adding, because he is a businessman first and foremost, “Don’t forget our Sunday specials with Jazz trio Miles Nation playing third Sunday of every month in the summer.”

Moony Moore, the most interesting and outspoken resident I have met, might say “int’ like used ta be boy. Town folk used ta live here, workin’ folk, not London folk wi’ more money n sense. Is a dead town now boy. Come back n see it Winter when not a soul venture out. Not one a them lot wants best for this town, they wan’ change n not for the best neither, ya ask me.”

That’s Moony for you, straight talking salt of the earth fisherman that he is. Lived a long hard life, the best way he could. Loved a lot of people, and damaged a few that hurt the ones he cared for.

The newly arrived Catholic priest, Father Lucius, would tell you the town, and his congregation in particular, is made of a mixed bunch. Lords, ladies both rich and poor. The unemployable and the business minded. The phrase melting pot would spring to his mind. He might make a comparison Jesus’s disciples, for weren’t they taken from every layer of society? He is trying hard to be a good replacement for the priest before him who left under such a strange shadow, and is not much focused beyond the difficulties of being a religious leader in the modern world.

Lizzy, Moonys ex-wife. I wonder what she might say of this place. Good things I expect, as she came and stayed even after the marriage ended, forever to be labelled an incomer by the locals.

To return to the beginning of this entry: I can tell you from personal experience this town is not exactly haunted, but embodied or possessed. Things, small things admittedly, change or alter. People’s memories seem out of kilter. A person might pass you on the street as if you and they hadn’t been setting the world to rights the night before, over a few drinks, at the bar of the town’s most amenable drinking establishment – The Nelson.

Here is a town with a hint of other worldliness, a place out of time, and an underlying feeling of being watched, not by the buildings or the people, but by something else.

It’s difficult to put into words.

I am just a visitor, and yet I’m compelled to stay.



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