Visiting Ipswich, I’m struck by the difference in poverty between here and Scotland. The burg itself is about the size of Kirkcaldy, the architecture reminiscent of Chatham in Kent. Long curved streets made of Victorian-era terraced houses leading to the central explosion of consumerama. I spotted an HMV and a Maplin, neither of which exist in Fife. There’s also a pedestrian precinct, implying there’s enough car ownership in the area to have to legislate against carbon monoxide and accidents.
When I think about south East England, I always imagine the black hole that absorbs Scotland’s oil revenue, but counting the empty shops like black and missing teeth, this place hasn’t seen a bawbee of it. Everybody I pass seems worn down, stressed, as if surviving itself is killing them. Colours are dark and dull like they’re waiting for a funeral to turn up and happen to them.
In the café, I’m served by Eastern European girls, thin and serious-faced. Outside the window, the rain comes down grey and diagonal, like cross-hatching in a Howard Chaykin comic.
In the HMV, another surprise. As I enter, I’m walking through full price CDs and DVDs, not bargains as would happen in Scotland. The shop is deserted. I don’t have to say “excuse me” once in the twenty minutes or so I browse. I drift back out into the rain, which has reverted to vertical.
When the skies clear, I explore some of the pubs, accompanied by natives. Southwold Broadside is a particular winner and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hobgoblin on draught before. I’m told the next night that the deserted pub we play pool in is Dani Filth’s local.
The more I examine Ipswich, the more I notice the bizarre juxtaposition of old and new buildings, as if, when cash injections arrive, old buildings are pushed aside by up-to-the-minute prefabs. The railway station is a prime example. A 50s/60s frame, dotted with the same identikit micro-shops that infest every other station in the UK.

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