The Grand Old Duke of York, a public house, just a few hundred yards from my home has been my refuge, my go-to fun place for the last 2 years.
Sadly it's closing this week.
When my husband Steve died we had his wake at the Duke, his coffin propped up in one corner of the bar. The landlady, Debbie was so cool. She let me serve Steve’s whiskey to everyone. I clearly remember at midday, the air was thick with the smell of single malt whiskeys from around the world. We gave him a good send off at the Duke.
I have so many other memories too, like the talk I gave about my trip to Macchu Picchu. The pub was packed with people keen to hear my story. St Elizabeth’s Hospice also benefited from the donations people made.
At midnight, the very start of 2019 I was at the Duke, dancing and singing along to Matt White and his Emulsions, a fabulous local band. Such fun memories.
Just 18 months ago Steve Pipe became the new pub landlord. He was keen make sure the Duke became the #1 venue for live music in Ipswich. Most weekends he had bands playing, sometimes we were even treated to lazy Sunday afternoon acoustic sets. I particularly liked Martin McNeil’s performance.
I've loved every gig and have videoed many of the artists. I’ve even promoted the Duke on my Preloved Chica Time Capsule Show but sadly the punters just haven't shown up in the numbers required to make the venue sustainable.
Over the last 18 months I’ve watched some great artists play there, Jose Ramirez, a Costa Rican Jazz Blues guitarist on his European tour, members of the band Nine Below Zero and so many talented local stars.
But all this is about to end.
As usual, when I arrived at the pub Steve reached for my special glass ready to pour my favourite drink, pink gin and tonic. I’ve never had my own glass behind the bar before.
That’s not the only thing behind the bar, If you've ever been to the Duke, you'll know that at a certain time in the evening Steve brings out his tambourine. With the music in full swing the tambourine is passed from person to person. I remember one night when I was measuring my Fitbit steps, I clocked up an extra 10,000 steps just from shaking that tambourine.
I’ve had so many happy times there, I've made new friends and enjoyed random conversations with strangers and all the time feeling part of a tight knit community.
On this last night, a card was presented to Steve, he gave a short speech and said he hoped we would all stay in touch. This was the point when I could feel the tears welling up and yes, I cried. I saw the familiar walls, the stage, the bar, the dance floor and I wept. I was so sad I couldn't even say a proper goodbye to people.
Now it's the following day, I can reflect back on the inevitability of change and practice the art of letting go.
I’m so grateful for everything this place has given me.
I hope I'll find a new place but those rock and roll rhythms and blues riffs at the Grand Old Duke of York will always remain in my heart.