Harmonicas Round my Hat (2017) / Come in at Random in any Key you like (2018) by Sue Thompson

Review by Simon Haines

Local Suffolk author Sue Thompson has written and published two books about her life in Suffolk since she and her husband Pete moved into our area from Southend in 2013. In addition to general observations about life in Suffolk, Sue frequently focuses endearingly on the local amateur folk scene that many of us know and love.

Harmonicas Round my Hat documents Sue and her husband’s life in Hollesley. The first few chapters include jolly subjects such as making friends, getting involved in local arts and crafts, the Campsey Ashe auction rooms, playing pétanque (aka boules), music nights at the Sorrel Horse, Shottisham and The Blaxall Ship. Then half-way through the book, we are brought back down to earth when Sue recounts the 38-day-period starting with her husband’s cardiac arrest and ending with his eventual recovery. Thank goodness, their lives returned to normal and Sue and Pete continue to enjoy their life in Suffolk.

Come in at Random in any Key you like continues in similar vein with chapters featuring goings-on at the Alderton Swan and the Sweffling White Horse, where the furniture and fittings reminded Sue of those of the flat she and Pete moved into in Southend when they were first married in 1970. There’s a whole chapter about music at The Sorrel Horse and the temptation to join in or not to join with songs that no one knows. It’s hilarious. Sue is full of praise for The Columbines, an all-female trio she saw at this Shottisham pub and whose song, “Silver Gilt Strings” about the piano left for people to play on the beach at Harwich during the 2013 Arts festival. The chapter “Sunshine and Sadness” moves onto the more serious subject of politics with mentions of Brexit, Trump, the murder of Jo Cox, the Manchester bombing, the Westminster Bridge atrocity and Grenfell. Subsequent chapters focus on Doris (the singing barmaid) and The Desperadoes; the town of Leiston; food and folk music at The Froize. The final chapter celebrates the re-opening, after several years of Butley Oyster. Once again musicians congregate and play there once a month.

These are fascinating books are full of interesting personal anecdotes, insights and opinions and are easy to read. It’s good to know that people from another part of the country have been able to make a new and enjoyable life for themselves in Suffolk.  

Below there are two short extracts which give a flavour of the writing.

From Harmonicas Around my Hat

From Come in at Random in any Key you like


Both books can be bought from the Butley Oyster, the Sweffling White Horse or directly from the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
If all else fails, they can also be bought from Amazon.