The first time that I spent proper time with Ben’s parents, Paul and Gillian, was on the 29 December in 2004. Ben and I had only recently started ‘dating’ and I had travelled up to Suffolk on the train to spend New Year with him.
We drove to Thorpeness and parked the car, ready for a lovely walk down the beach to Aldeburgh where we saw a pint of Adnam’s and fish and chips in our future . . .
The day was cold and breezy and walking into the wind was a bit of a challenge at times! It was on this walk that I got to talk to Paul and find out more about him. I knew already that Paul was a skilled artist and portrait painter, but found out that he also had a deep love and knowledge of classical music. With Aldeburgh in view, Paul told me about Benjamin Britten and his work – in particular the opera Peter Grimes.
Paul loved this work and told me the story about the fated fisherman and the haunting nature of the music – the Sea Interludes. “You really must listen to it” he said.
Since 2004, when talking about music, Peter Grimes was mentioned often and Paul would always ask me “have you listened to it yet?” Despite my good intentions, I never did.
At the start of 2014 I found out the English National Opera (ENO) were doing their first ‘live’ transmission from London via cinema - and the opera was no less than Peter Grimes. I booked a ticket immediately and finally got to see it today.
The ENO show was outstanding and the music, as promised by Paul was both beautiful and haunting and evoked the spirit of Aldeburgh for me. It also made me cry.
I had been so looking forward to being able to tell Paul when I next visited Suffolk that I had finally seen Peter Grimes - but that is not now to be.
Instead I decided to commemorate this special memory of Paul and a piece of music he loved in a picture. The silhouetted figure next to Maggi Hambling’s scallop shell is an image of Paul taken on that very first walk on Aldeburgh beach back in 2004.
Thank you for introducing me to Benjamin Britten and Peter Grimes. I’m sorry I never got to tell you in person.