It’s probably fair to say we’ve met a few interesting locals in Dennington, our Suffolk village. I don’t think there’s one that stands out, worthy of an entire blog post. But there’s certainly been a few that merit an honorable mention.
So, here they are
Sheila is 96 (“I’m the same age as the Queen, I’ll have you know”). She lives in a little house next to the pub. She’s a widow, a proud mother and grandmother, and a former postmistress. Here’s a picture of her post office as it was in 1914. It’s a bit before her time, but I’m sure it looked much the same when she was in charge in the 50s.
When we first met, I asked her how long she has lived in Dennington.
“I moved here when I was 27,” she said.
“Wow, you must know everyone in the village!”
“Heavens no, dear,” she replied. “But I know everyone in the graveyard.”
We call in on Sheila every now and again when we’re heading to our local supermarket to see if there’s anything we can pick up for her (“I can’t drive. They took my car away. It was the worst day of my life.”)
“No, thank you, dear,” she said the last time I asked. “My son took me to the Co-op yesterday. If I die in the next 6 months my larder will still be full.”
Trevor the Chippy
They don’t call them chippies in England. They’re joiners. And Trevor is an old-school artisan who sticks a pencil behind his ear, measures in feet and inches, and delivers a masterpiece every time. I found him through an ad in the Dennington News. He and his wife live up around the corner from the old post office.
The first time I used his services, I had no idea if he was going to be any good. The fact that he only had three and a half fingers on his right hand made me slightly nervous.
If truth be told, I had no idea if he was going to build what I actually wanted. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: We need a new back gate. The old one’s falling off its hinges and we can’t close it.
Trevor: Righto. (At this point he pulls out his trusty tape measure and pencil, and starts scribbling figures on a scrap of paper, as he asks me rapid-fire questions about Australia). Is it always hot in Australia? Is the outback full of nothing but snakes? Is it cheaper in Australia?
Me: No. No. Somewhat.
Trevor: That’ll be £160 for the gate. I’ll get to it next week.
I had no idea what the gate was going to look like, whether it would have a lock, or what sort of hardware he was going to use. Did the quote even include hardware? It sounded like a very reasonable price for a new garden gate, so I nodded in agreement and said nothing.
He didn’t get to it the next week. I got a text from him which said: ‘Can’t come next week, but maybe the week after. I may be a bit slow as recovering from cutting my thumb down again. Having first dressing changed this weekend.’
Trevor now has three and a quarter fingers on his right hand. And we have the most magnificent gate, including the hardware.
He’s also built a workstation in the corner of our dining room, a bespoke outdoor table for our newly renovated courtyard, and next week he’s going to build a timber serving hatch leading from the kitchen to our tiny corner of lawn.
I just hope he doesn’t lose any more fingers before he gets to it.
Malcolm the Font of all Knowledge
I want to call him Malcolm the Barfly because we only ever see him in the pub. But, in fairness to Malcolm, the reason we see him in the pub is because we’re there too, and I can’t vouch for his movements when we’re not. For all I know, we prop up the bar more often than him.
That aside, Malcolm is our go-to man for any questions we have about the local area. And he’s a walking encyclopedia on UK pubs and breweries.
Maybe he is a bit of a barfly.
We met him in The Dennington Queen during our first week in the village. He was sitting on the corner stool at the bar, doing a crossword. He sits on the same stool each time, drinks Guinness, and does the crossword. Unless we come in. Then he sits on the corner stool, drinks Guinness, and chats with us. And shares our nuts.
It always gladdens our hearts when we walk in and see Malcolm on his stool.
Ed the Singer
We met Ed in the local pub as well. He and his family live a few doors up from us in the village, but I think he was brought up in Framlingham, a couple of miles away.
He’s an unassuming, young man, with a mop of red hair. He told me he’s a singer.
“So’s Russell!” I exclaimed. “Are you in a choir too?”
“Er, no,” he said.
Turns out singing is his actual day job. Didn’t I feel foolish! A choir – sheesh!
I then asked if he’d had any good gigs recently and he said he’d been playing at Wembley.
“You must be pleased all the music venues have opened up again after COVID. Which pubs in Wembley have you been playing?” I asked.
I’m not sure why he laughed. Maybe I’m not in tune with the Suffolk sense of humour yet.
Oh yes, there’s all sorts in our village.