I met her on a house party in Norfolk.
Very flat, Norfolk.
There's no need to be unpleasant.
That was no reflection on her, unless of course she made it flatter.
I took both Urn Burial and When Marnie Was There with me on my overnight trip to Norfolk this weekend - my first ever foray into that county. I turns out that they are set in pretty much the same place on the north Norfolk coast, and it was quite interesting to overlay Browne's 17th century meditations on death and memorialising with Joan G. Robinson's twentieth century ones. It was Marnie that was the main pull, though. Having recently both reread the book and rewatched the Ghibli film (albeit that's relocated to Hokkaido, where I also hope to go at some point) I realised I would have visit the spot, to shake hands with its genius loci and to take my own photographs at the minimum 300dpi required by the publisher.
Haruka came to keep me company, and the night before we stayed in King's Lynn, about 25 miles away (i.e. 90 minutes by bus). I had little idea what to expect of King's Lynn, but it was an interesting place in itself, with plenty of history from its time in the Hanseatic League and earlier, though also a degree of barely papered-over poverty. We took a ferry across the River Great Ouse and got this rather lovely view in exchange:
Perhaps the most striking things, though, were the great Seahenge inverted oak (now in the Lynn Museum next to the bus station) - which I'd entirely forgotten was there - and the illuminations at night, which seem to be in aid of nothing but fun. For example, the central tower of the old Greyfriars monastery church is a ruin by day, but by night becomes a retro video game than can be played via pedals in the adjoining park...
Yesterday morning we went to Burnham Overy Staithe, where we found the original of Marnie's Marsh House and windmill. I hope you'll agree that comparing them with the Marsh House and silo of the film is instructive:
Of course, the missing link between these pairs of pictures is Robinson's prose, which does at least some of the transformative work.
After, we walked to Burnham Overy Town and Burnham Market - nor did we by any means thereby exhaust the store of local Burnhams. There were many farms called Marsh Farm, too, and as many pubs devoted to the memory of Nelson, a local lad - all rather dizzying. Burnham Market I particularly recommend for a visit, if you're round those parts - it's really quite lovely. Nowhere, though, could we find anyone who had heard of Marnie - whether in the pub, or the second-hand bookshop, or any other shop, or in the taxi back to King's Lynn. The one exception was the man who lives in Marnie's house, but he definitely didn't want to talk about her. I feel somehow that this is as it should be, though.
Afterwards we went back to London and ate a bao bun in the spectacular Coal Drops Yard, which has mushroomed up since I was last in the King's Cross area.
Did I made Norfolk flatter? I hope not... but perhaps I flatter myself.