Last resorts . . .

Great Yarmouth, January 1993

I ONCE spent a sad couple of days walking the streets of Great Yarmouth in the middle of January; sad days because the weather was wretched and the seaside attractions boarded up for the season – not sad in the sense some people regard seaside resorts sad in general. My memory tells me it was about 1993 and the country was in the claws of that deep recession everyone has forgotten – the one where the chancellor, Norman Lamont, insisted green shoots of recovery were bursting out everywhere. Only they weren’t – it was moss and lichen establishing brave new colonies . . .

I’m quite fond of seaside resorts, although I find Blackpool a bit brash and off the scale. It’s like saying you’re partial to a jar of cockles before being suddenly presented with one of those three-tier shellfish banquets so popular in Brittany. The smaller places are delightful: Morecambe, Southwold, Saltburn, Skegness, Cromer. They possess that quintessential Englishness, glimpses of which can be gleaned from postcards and railway posters. But, in common with Yarmouth, they look pretty bleak when January squalls swirl through the streets off a disagreeable sea.

Today I’m in La Herradura, a tiny resort on the Costa Tropical set in its own secluded bay, though sandwiched between the larger and more up-front holiday destinations of Nerja and Almuñécar. It’s a charming place, and despite being buttoned up for the winter there remains an ember of activity blushing on the seafront and in the cafes.

The sun is shining but the sea’s too cold for a dip. Too cold for me anyway. There is a breed of Brit who might take the plunge after a pint and a plate of chips, and those scary Scandinavians who cut holes in the ice for morning ablutions, but they are welcome to it so far as I am concerned.

Me, I sit in the shingle while dark clouds settle on the mountains above the town and dream of tea in Sherringham. Then I go for a coffee in the nearest bar, which is the next best thing. No jars of cockles, though.

 

17 thoughts on “Last resorts . . .

  1. Hi Alen, like you I find these kinds of places depressing and dreary in off-season. It kind of reminds me of my first three months in Spain. In a place called Platja de Bellreguard;a small village near Gandia which only really came alive in April/May. When I was there most houses were empty, the persianas were all down, the one bar that was still open was a depressing place and barely a shop was operating. It started coming slowly to life in March and in high season was chaotic. Not the best place to have to live year-round one suspects…

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    1. Hi Iain. Good to hear from you. No, a chap could get lonely and turn to drink in a place like that. I once set off on a three-day walk through the wilds of the Norfolk Broads with the intention of camping the first night outside a pub called the Berney Arms – which is so remote there are no roads to it, only paths, the river and a distant railway halt. I got there as darkness fell to discover it had closed for the winter a couple of days previous. Still, we can put these things down to experience. We are probably better people for seeing this side of life!
      All the best, Alen

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  2. Al

    Well, ‘a sad couple of days in Great Yarmouth’. I’ve just spent the last thirteen years teaching in the dump. No matter what the season, when driving along that Acle Straight- more of a dog leg in reality- I feel my mood changing to one of utter gloom and desolation – still the chips are nice.

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    1. Hi George. Thanks for the laugh. I needed cheering up. It’s like that Les Dawson one-liner: “I spent a week in Barrow one night.” Certainly upset the council.
      All the best, Alen

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  3. That took me back to the winter of 1988/89 spending most weekends with rolls of HP5 photographing East Anglian seaside towns. I *adored* them! Somewhere I’ll have books and books of negatives of wind-basted piers, old cinemas that had tuned into bingo halls and were then boarded up and surrounded in barbed wire, all with posters peeling away from the walls!
    The winter is the very best time to take photographs of British seaside towns!

    Wonderful post, Alen.

    (And I’m dreadfully sorry I’ve missed so much of your fabulous blog)

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    1. Hi Alan. Good to hear from you. Curiously, the photo I had in mind for this post was an old cinema in Yarmouth that was indeed boarded up, but I couldn’t find it. Must have got lost in the move. But I do love old photos like that. You should consider publishing a book.
      All the best, Alen

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  4. I’ve got to admit that I’ve never visited any of the seaside resorts you mention, Alen, although I have no idea how I managed that! 🙂 But I well remember Llandudno out of season, and I’m sure the out-of-season feel was just the same, as if all the places on the promenade were holding their breath and waiting for Easter. There seems to be plenty of colour in your local resorts, even in quiet times!

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    1. Hiya Jo. Llandudno is probably one of the few I’ve never visited. And I’ve just realised I left a couple of crackers from my list: South Shields and Whitley Bay. I expect there are some jewels up your way, in fact I remember going by train to Inverness and passing through a place full of guest-houses and seaside attractions just north of Edinburgh, but the name escapes me. I adore places like that because you can always get a good cup of tea.
      Cheers, Alen

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      1. Queensferry perhaps? It would be on that rail route! Yes, a good cup of tea is a rare thing! Oban is a similar case, although there’s a lot to keep Oban going through all the seasons, with the ferry services to the islands. Whitley Bay – reminds me of Mark Knopfler’s songs – another place I’ve not been!

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