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.