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.

9 comments on “We Do Love To Be Beside The Seaside”

  1. Lucy says:

    Unbelievable that Calabash is still unavailable. It’s been one of my favourites since it came out, but I can’t buy it for people any more… Are there any plans for reissuing it?

  2. Steve Beat says:

    I have to say that it’s not just seaside piers that run the risk of ‘spontanious combustion’ (wink, wink!)…

    Here in Scarborough our lovely old Grand Opera House ‘mysteriously’ burnt down after laying unused for some time (it was – supiciously – a listed building). And would you believe it but a casino was built on the – now vacant – lot!

    The beautiful old Victorian music hall has been replaced by a concrete and neon monstrosity. 🙁

    …And now our other main theatre – the Floral Hall – is being allowed to deteriorate into an abysmal state — Can anyone smell petrol?

    (‘Why councillor, what ARE you doing with those matches?’) 😉

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    Ahhhh, Calabash!

  4. Ford says:

    I lived in Brighton when the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel. I’ve always thought that they should have blown up the Pier – much safer; and, Mad Maggie would have had rebuilt in a trice!

  5. Lisa Q says:

    Looking forward to reading it! So funny- another reference to Queen! 🙂

  6. admin says:

    Calabash is still shamefully neglected by my old publisher – petition them!

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Why can’t you have a lovely pier like that? It costs a lot of money? It wouldn’t bring enough money to make the expense worth it? Why is it that only booze, gambling and prostitution bring in lots of money? A city like Scarborough needs a big theatre. How could they let two of them go? Are these questions impossible to answer in any comprehensible way? The Floral Hall. A building named that has to be rehabilitated somehow. Get a citizen’s action committee going, a group with an emphasis on action.

  8. Julie says:

    “British holiday venues can often be more Costa Del Arsehole, with their revolting rock shops, unamusing amusements and festering chip stalls”.

    You mean Blackpool, don’t you! Though personally I’ve always had a soft spot for Blackpool. The resort is rather like a plain middle-aged woman on the game to feed her kids. No apologies, just gets on with what needs to be done. Anywhere that survives by selling itself to tourists usually deeply resents them and tries to pretend it isn’t dependent on them really, Blackpool just gets on with it, flogging it’s wares like they’re a low cut top and tarty shoes.
    You kind of have to admire that.

  9. admin says:

    No, I’m thinking more of South Coast towns like Herne Bay (which stood in for Cole Bay in Calabash) where they let the pier fall down and destroyed much that was good there.

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