Heaven & Hell: Sylvia Knights

Sylvia Knights

Sylvia Knights - Credit: Contributed

Sylvia moved to the region in 2004 and has immersed herself in the community and culture. A director of Suffolk Libraries since its creation in 2012, she is passionate about the value of books and learning, and the past year has been spent setting up the new Castle East School in Bungay for pupils with special communication and interaction needs, which officially opened this week.  

What’s the impact of Covid-19 been on you and how are you adapting? 

Covid-19 has created challenges for us all, but Teams and Zoom have enabled us to find new ways to work, and managing to setup Castle East School over the past year, despite all the challenges, feels like a huge achievement. With state of the art facilities, and an amazing team, I believe it will become a flagship school for East Anglian Schools Trust, and a beacon of excellence for special educational needs pupils. Though we had to close our library buildings, all of our staff at Suffolk Libraries have been amazing throughout the pandemic, finding and developing new initiatives to connect with and support so many in their local communities, especially those known to be alone or vulnerable.  

What is your connection to East Anglia? 

My husband was born and brought up in Bungay, though we met at University in Manchester. I began visiting in the 60s and over the years grew to love it. On leaving Manchester we spent 30 years living in London, both travelling the world for business, but spending as much leisure time as possible in East Anglia. In 2004 the lure of its peace and relative tranquillity persuaded us to sell up and move here permanently.  

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

 I love the special beauty and wildness of North Norfolk. It is though the amazing big skies that I love most, and never tire of watching the incredible sunsets from my lounge window. The people too are rather special!   

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What is your East Anglian Hell?

Trying to get to meetings on time via the A140 or A143, especially at harvest time. 

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark? 

Sorry, I can’t just choose one! Bungay Buttercross has figured large in my life since moving here, but Southwold Pier and Burnham Overy Staithe are also special to me. 

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year? 

We have so much to celebrate, Bungay Street Markets, Aldeburgh Food Festival, the Norfolk and Suffolk Shows and , of course, Latitude; all highlight so much that is great about this part of East Anglia. 

What is your favourite restaurant? 

Benedicts in Norwich. We first met Richard Bainbridge when he was working for Galton Blackiston at Morston Hall, and were delighted when he and Katja opened Benedicts. The Olive Tree at Ellingham, just down the road, has been special venue for us ever since Gail and Rafe opened it, what must be nearly 20 years ago.  

What your specialist Mastermind subject? 

Gosh, I’m not sure I have one, but do have a fairly broad general knowledge. I do watch Mastermind and University Challenge if I get a chance to keep the brain cells active, and am currently addicted to Richard Osman’s House of Games! 

What is always in your fridge? 

Cheese, yogurt, herbs and sparkling water. 

What’s your simple philosophy of life? 

Try to do your best every day and be kind. 

What’s your favourite film? 

There are two, The Railway Children and Now Voyager. 

What was your first job? 

Working for the Royal Mail at Christmas. 

What is your most treasured possession? 

The last picture I took of my beloved Border Collie, Coll. 

Who do you admire most? 

Anyone who is kind, compassionate, does their best and tries to ‘give something back’. 

What is your biggest indulgence? 

Flowers, though not always for myself, and my monthly manicure and facial! How vain is that?!   

What do you like about yourself most? 

If I agree to do something I fully commit. I'm hard-working, and I hope kind. 

What’s your worst character trait? 

I am impatient, I don’t suffer fools gladly and I have difficulty not showing my feelings – not great on Teams and Zoom!

Where is your favourite holiday destination? 

Austria, where we have some very dear friends, with whom we have spent many wonderful holidays. 

Best day of your life? 

January 1, 2000. We went to Lowestoft Ness, the most easterly point, to watch the sunrise on the new millennium. The atmosphere was lovely, there were fireworks too, and it was magical. 

What’s your favourite breakfast? 

Scrambled egg and smoked salmon. 

What’s your favourite tipple? 

Rose wine. 

What’s your hidden talent? 

I can milk a goat. I had a goat when I was a child, and milked her in the afternoon. My brother and I then had strained goat milk on our breakfast cereal. 

What’s your earliest memory?  

Sitting on my grandfather’s bed, when I was aged about three, watching in fascination while my father gave grandad a wet shave.  

Tell us something people don’t know about you? 

I have raced The Derby course at Epsom, on foot. 

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you? 

It was the vet when he said “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do, we’ll have to put Coll to sleep”. 

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else? 

We live half a mile from the Norfolk/Suffolk border and from what was the Cottage Hospital where my husband was born. With the wonderful City of Norwich 30 minutes in one direction, the coast within easy reach and North Norfolk an easy journey, why would we want to live anywhere else?  

What do you want to tell our readers about most? 

We have 44 libraries across Suffolk, all run by Suffolk Libraries, each one the hub of their community. Offering a safe space, support, a friendly face, masses of activities and facilities for all ages, in addition to an unrivalled catalogue of books, both physical and virtual.  Books and learning can and do change lives. If you’re not familiar with your local library already, please go and visit it, you won’t regret it.

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