We Do Love To Be Beside The Seaside
The British coastal resort is a unique (and often uniquely revolting) institution. Not for us the glamour of the Riviera or even the Costa Del Sol – British holiday venues can often be more Costa Del Arsehole, with their revolting rock shops, unamusing amusements and festering chip stalls.
When the now-sadly-deranged Morrissey wrote ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ he was describing these awful towns, but could they be returning to fashion? Certainly the far South (Devon & Cornwall) has successfully reinvented itself, but much of the Victorian charm of such destinations has been tainted by inept and corrupt town councils. Only 55 seaside piers are now left, after a spectacular and suspicious number of fires have destroyed the best.
When the Weston-Super-Mare Grand pier burned down, a new one was quickly built and drew awards and visitors. When Brighton’s West Pier was finally destroyed after years of neglect, the useless council did nothing. My mother was born in Brighton and used to swim between the two piers. When I was a kid, a man wrapped in chains and a sack used to throw himself into a burning patch of sea in the middle of the West Pier every Sunday morning for loose change. Health & Safety wouldn’t allow that now, of course, and yet Brighton somehow managed to let its best pier burn down.
I wrote the novel ‘Calabash’ (about which I must say Amazon readers have been fantastically kind) and the short story ‘Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside’ because of my once-fond memories of Brighton, and its odd connection to Middle-Eastern architecture.
But then, Brighton is an example of all that could go wrong with a seaside town. Mercifully, its plans to augment the town’s lousy modern architecture with an ugly observation tower appear to have fallen through, but Brighton is still a shadow of its former glory and best avoided.
To see how beautiful a rebuilt pier could look, check this out. It won’t happen, of course, but it’s a lovely dream.