It was Wednesday the 10th January 2015 and looking out of my window the sky was blue with hardly a cloud in sight and yet I’d decided to go and see an exhibition of paintings by Rembrandt. I’d seen them once but thought I’d see them again before they were returned to their owners.
My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of some letters one of which I was pleased about as it was about my Freedom pass. I’d written to inform them that I’d moved and so I promptly did what the letter asked registered my details with Harrow Council, and made up my mind to go forgo the Rembrandt exhibition and have a day at the seaside.
I grabbed my senior railcard noting that it ended in a week or so and headed off to Fenchurch Street station. Prior to boarding the train I purchased a roll and coffee made my way to the train and found a seat with half a table and I was ready for my journey to Southend on sea.
A few stops on a young girl boarded the train; she wore a black furry hat over her shoulder length auburn hair, black leather jacket, grey jogging pants and trainers. Even though it was a ‘Quiet Zone’ carriage she was chatting on her mobile and said, “No I am going to bed when I get to Essex and sleep until tomorrow, I’m two stops away. We went to a place called ‘The Keys’.
How odd I thought doesn’t she go to work or college or doesn’t that count anymore? At Laindon, she left the train.
Travelling on the train was now in the country and perched up in the naked branches of the trees were pigeons which looked larger than normal, presumably they’d fluffed up their feathers to keep themselves warm.
Further along I saw mud exposed glistening in the sun where the sea should be and so it appeared that the tide was out but the odd strips of water glimmered in the sunlight.
Finally I arrived at Southend departed from the train and station and walked down to the sea front, I paused at Greggs because they had black and white pictures of Southend on the walls, I made a note to return and look at the pictures.
Further on down the street I saw a sign for a shop selling used records and buying and repairing record players so out of curiosity I walked into the alley and passed a building that had its windows blacked out, one of which on the upper floor was broken. I turned right and found the record shop, a man stood inside behind racks of records and outside there were even more records. Then turning right once more I could see the high street but I was by a place that had blacked out windows called ‘The Basement,’ and next to it was a place called ‘Shades.’ The memories flooded back was this the same place which had once been along the seafront where I saw the Paramounts? (They later became Procul Harem) I decided to look it up when I got home. Having done that I discovered that it is a club which has DJs and live bands, but there is nothing about where the name came from.
At the end of the street I noticed the large hotel was now closed, I crossed the road and walked down to the pier, stopped at the box and said to the lady, “Are the trains running today?”
“I wondered as there seems to be something going on in this building.” I pointed to the building behind me.
“They’re building an amusement place.”
“If I remember correctly there used to be a pub at the end of the pier, before they had the fire. Right, I’ll walk there and train back please.”
“That’ll be two pounds.”
“Thanks,” I said taking my ticket and walked onto the wooden pier. Looking down I could see the sea beneath the wooden decking and noticed that some of the decking had been replaced and it appeared that the old bolts were somewhat superior to the new ones. The old ones had been countersunk, whereas the new ones looked less sturdy and some were even protruding from the decking.
Some way along the pier there was an old type of television aerial and about halfway along there was the usual seating shelter but in this one was housed a coca cola machine and another had chocolate bars plus there were a few bars of Aero in the machine but, I walked on.
Just before the 2/3 marker there was another old type of television aerial and a short distance from it was a ladder leading to below the pier and being cordoned off I wondered if anyone lived below the pier. Ok so every now and again the train would rumble along but at night there would be no noisy neighbours, no smelly food being cooked, just the gentle lapping of the sea upon the pier. Not bad and of course a good view, yes could possibly be a nice place to live.
A few people passed me along the pier going back to the seafront and they were well wrapped up against the cold. Towards the end of the pier I could see toilets which had the door open, it was the ladies and so I went into the other end for gents and oh how warm it was. I emerged and could see over Kent large clouds looming and yet over Southend it was still sunny. I passed a small cafe which was closed and supposedly belongs to Jamie Oliver but it is hardly ever open and he apparently uses it merely for filming. Arriving at the end of the pier I walked round the cafe and noticed a colourful bird walking along on its own, the sign I’d passed back along the pier told me that it was a turnstone.
Looking back towards the land I could see the train approaching and so I thought I’d go back on it. I boarded the train and watched as another train arrived this was a small red single train with 1835 written upon its side and had an iron bar hanging out of the rear window. I presumed this small train is used by the workers because when the pier was first built it was made of wood and was not as long as it is now.
The train departed and near to the shore I could see two fishing boats which earlier had been leaning out to sea, but now they were upright, therefore I deduced that the tide was coming in. Prior to entering the terminus I caught site of a dinghy moored by a jetty, perhaps the fishermen used this to ferry themselves to and from their boats.
Departing from the train I handed my ticket to the lady, left the building crossed the road and walked along the seafront, it was desolate. A lot of the amusement arcades and cafes were closed and the few cafes that were open weren’t doing much trade. Just before arriving at the Kursaal I noticed there was work being carried out on an amusement arcade.
I went in and said to a man “Excuse me, but what is being done here?”
He turned to me and replied, “We’re building a Baskin Robbins also a Subway,” He mentioned a few other food outlets so I thanked him and he went back to work. I passed a gap where there had once stood a pub I believe was called The New Ship but then next to it still stood the forlorn looking Foresters pub and round the corner and across the road, was the Kursaal and low and behold in the rear of it, is a Tescos.
I walked back along the seafront looking into the windows of the pubs and there were only a few people in them. I ambled up the slope into town thinking I’d get a bite to eat and headed for Greggs as I wanted to have a look at the black and white pictures hanging on the walls. Entering the shop I looked at the photographs of Southend in probably a bygone era.
I noticed that Greggs was doing a deal in that I could buy a pie and coffee for £2. I said to the lady when she arrived, “I’d like a pie and medium latte please,” and pointed to the pie.
She replied, “That’ll be £2 and it’s a very good deal.”
“Thanks, may I eat in?”
“That’ll be another 20p and it’s still a good deal.”
“I know,” I said handing over the money. I sat down and took my time eating the pie and swilling the coffee which although it was described as medium, was plenty for me and warmed me up.
It was getting dark and having finished I left Greggs and headed off for the station where I didn’t have to wait long for a train to Fenchurch Street. Approaching the station I could see Docklands and there was a green searchlight circling the sky above a building, then I caught site of a building which resembled a dog’s phallus. Walking round to the underground I realised the phallus looking building was, the Shard.
I caught the tube and was amused at what people were wearing. Two young men boarded the tube and I looked at the feet of one of them thinking, ‘Wow, he’s actually tied up his shoelaces,’ but smiled as I saw the zip up the side of his boots. As for his colleague he wore jeans which had a few buttons undone, I wondered if I should tell him, but thought better of it as he was engrossed in conversion with his friend about work.
Then I espied seated across the carriage a man reading a thick book wearing dark trousers, black socks and oh dear, brown shoes! Even those had the laces undone, perhaps he should’ve worn a pair of slippers?
I alighted from the tube at Wembley Park and boarded the tube for Stanmore thinking doesn’t anybody care how they dress these days? At Stanmore I emerged from the station into rain and thought it had been an interesting day.