“You are entering” the sign informed me boldly, “a designated public place”. I had driven past an out-of-town supermarket and a sign telling me I was now in Ipswich (a University Town) so I had no doubt that I was within the official city limits.
‘A designated public place’, I thought to myself. ‘How kind’. How welcoming. How Suffolk.
You see, I will never be truly Suffolk no matter how estuary my accent becomes and it is true to say that it is beyond the mud flats at times. Perhaps my great-great-grandchildren will belong, but I am certain people can tell I wasn’t born here and that I did not attend play-group with my peers. You cannot be Suffolkated in one generation.
Or can you? I walk through town counting the languages I hear at times (a game I used to play exclusively in London on days out) and sometimes don’t count English until reaching for my wallet at some checkout. The town is growing in a positive and colourful way and there are many cultures docking here and moving inland. No longer can Suffolk belong exclusively to the families of the South Folk. And so we are a Designated Public Place.
‘But what’ I thought to myself, on entering aforementioned public place ‘does this mean?’
No matter that I was travelling on the Queen’s Highway, which I was fairly certain was designated for the licensed public to drive on even before reaching the sign.
No matter that I had spent the previous fraction of my day in places where the public have always been welcome. (A church and a do-it-yourself store, for the record).
No matter either that using simple internet searches I can browse not just the streets, but the insides of ‘More than 100‘ properties within the University Town, and many more on the outskirts and beyond.
No matter that, in my humble and entrepreneurial opinion, you don’t need to own land to enjoy beautiful scenery; you just have to learn to see well and get outside enough.
Maybe we have fewer designated private places in 2008. Maybe we want to appear welcoming to all, despite county reservations about new folk. Maybe Ipswich is open to everyone, and nobody told me. Am I to expect roamers to demand rights across our land (somewhat foolishly)?
And why do we need a sign to tell us this?