I have reached the North Sea, after three or four days walking along river banks, disused railway lines and sea walls. Occasionally there is no choice but to use a main road, but I keep it to a minimum. The landscape is so broad and flat and the sun so bright in the sky that after an hour or two there is a danger of falling into a sort of metronomic trance; this afternoon I ambled in a daze three miles beyond the tiny village of Wrangle before I realized that I had overshot my destination; back I trudged, having walked six miles further than I had expected when I set out after breakfast.
Leaving March last Thursday I passed by Her Majesty's prison at Whitemoor where, according to the generous landlord of the King William pub (he gave me free lodging as a donation to the walk), several hundred very hard case criminals are serving life terms without parole. As I stared at this grim, stupendously guarded institution a jet aircraft flew high overhead, its vapour trail scarring the blue sky. I wondered whether some of the prisoners were watching it too, and if so, what a devastating loss of hope they must be suffering at that moment. In some ways I think that hopelessness must be one of the hardest things to bear; certainly the poor in cities like Manila must occasionally look up at passing aircraft and think: "I will never, ever have a chance to travel in one of those". Unlike the inmates of Whitemoor, however, such deprivation of opportunity is through no fault of their own.
Among the many things that will remain in my mind about this broad and pastoral eastern part of England, here are three: one, the numbers of huge wind turbines, waving their great arms silently over the fields like giant scarecrows; two, the puzzling numbers of east Europeans who have settled here (when I entered Boston yesterday not one of the three people I asked for directions could speak a word of English); and three, the weight and breadth of East Anglian bottoms, both male and female. The cruelly precise American phrase "lard-butt" often comes to mind. My landlady of yesterday -- herself a petite Liverpudlian -- told me the reason for this was the Germanic farming stock from which the locals are descended. I am fairly sure, however, that the bonfire-sized portions of chips which come with every meal must have something to do with it.