A few weeks ago ARTICLE magazine hosted a gathering at the Globe-Trotter store in Mayfair, London. It was one of those lovely London evenings when one can go without a jacket, and the warm air lingers long after the sun has set. Such evenings have a holiday atmosphere, and it perfectly suited the toasting of the magazine’s latest issue, which includes a feature written by my good self on my love of the British seaside. The accompanying photographs for the story were taken by Stephen J Morgan.
Below is an edited extract from the feature but if you would like to read more, the magazine can be ordered direct from ARTICLE’s website.
Twilight on Brighton Pier — and above the haze of neon signs and spotlights, flocks of starlings swarm against the teal blue sky. Their wings pull together in one direction, then sharplyturn in another, mimicking the rise and fall of the waves below. This meeting of natural theatre with the mechanical magic of arcades and funfair rides is the reason I fell in love with the British seaside as a child.
My mother, a cabaret singer, focused her lung power on winning talent competitions, where the prize was often a week in a seaside caravan or chalet: and her rendition of Memories provided us with holidays in Clacton-on-Sea, Rhyl and Paignton. So each year, we were packed off to spend several days together in a confined space. It was possibly a case of Stockholm syndrome, but I did look forward to those days spent wandering around local shops; places selling ornaments made from shells which had the town’s name painted on them — but with Made in China stamped on their porcelain bottoms.
And the seaside landscape was so much more vibrant than my normal daily view, of the dual carriageway yards from our house. It was like switching on a colour television, after weeks of watching black-and-white: the Turkish Delight pink of a sunset, the metallic reds and greens of dodgem cars, the pastels of a giant ice cream cone. Even the randomness of the street furniture was inspiring — municipal flower beds with sailing boats rising out of them, and Art Deco benches upon which to eat chips, with the tang of vinegar mixing with the smell of the body oil we applied to turn our skin the colour of toffee.
That’s why I’ve continued to take breaks in seaside towns, long after being released from the obligation of family vacations. The seaside has not only been a source of joy, but also of comfort. Whenever I’ve been heartbroken I’ve found refuge in wandering along beaches, from the Victorian splendour of Broadstairs to the Gothic romance of Whitby. When I returned from travelling, it was to a friend’s house in Margate — where the stretches of golden beaches helped acclimatise me to being back in the UK. Every morning I ran barefoot along Palm Bay, easing my longing for the islands I’d lived on for months.
The seaside is not a place for seriousness. It will always be where anyone can truly believe their marksmanship skills are good enough to win an inflatable dolphin — and where adults and children alike can eat ice cream for breakfast.