In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Can’t Drive 55.”
I have chosen Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, most people probably just think of them doing Freebird but the words to Simple Man are just so right.
“Be a simple kind of man, Oh be something you love and understand.
Forget your lust for rich man’s gold. All that you need is in your soul.”
I think those two lines say it all for me and over the years it has become one of my favourite songs of all time. It is as the title says, Simple Man, we all crave for something which we may not be able to obtain so just go for the simple things in life, love, sunsets, the beauty of our planet and all the wildliffe, enjoy it all. Yes some of these things may just be brief moments but cherish them all the same, who knows how long they will last for?
The weather forecast looked good and so on the 1st October 2015 I decided to go to Southend after all it would only cost me £5 which as a friend of mine said, “It’s about the price of two coffees.” It’s a deal they do for over 65s (Of which I am one) provided they have a freedom pass or an Oyster card up to Zone 6.
I wore shorts, plimsolls with short socks, a T-shirt and as I knew I would be out late took with me a denim shirt which I tied around my waist.
Arriving at Fenchurch Street station I purchased my ticket and noticed a train would be leaving for Shoeburyness at 1pm, ‘Good ,’ I thought, ‘I’ll be able to buy a roll and coffee for the journey.’
Thus armed I walked onto the platform looking for a carriage which had a table; I found a seat by a table near to the front of the train. I sat eating my roll and drinking coffee looking out of the window onto the ancient brick wall, high up there was a branch sprouting and I wondered ‘how old the wall was.’
As the train pulled out of the station I could see not too far away, the Tower of London and that is over a 1000 years old and still standing. The train passed modern buildings some of which looked as if their exteriors were made of plastic, whereas many of the tall buildings seem to be made from metal and glass with a bit of concrete.
It wasn’t until we’d past Upminster that we were in the Essex countryside, alongside the railway line were trees, some of which were beginning to turn from green to yellow, yes autumn was arriving.
Along the route the trees on either side of the line vanished, I noticed how the woods in the distance had highlights from the sun as it appeared from behind a cloud. At Benfleet there was water in the tributaries and then I knew the tide would be in at Southend, but I had decided to stay on the train and get out at Thorpe Bay.
At last the train arrived at Thorpe Bay I left the carriage threw my coffee cup and bag in the bin, left the station and walked over the bridge to the southern side of the line and down onto the main road to the sea.
I saw a bakers which had home made in its wording and I could see bread pudding on display and so bought a piece and ate it as I walked past the large detached houses to the sea front and the bread pudding was delicious.
At the seafront I crossed the road to the side nearest to the sea and looking down on to the beach I saw beach huts, some were in very good condition whereas others looked in dire need of a coat of paint. These huts are owned by people so that when they arrive on the beach they have somewhere to change, have something to eat and relax until they decide to go home. Also there was sand on the beach, okay so beaches do have sand, but at Southend the beach consists of mainly mud. Also I was correct as the tide was in.
I started walking towards Southend looking for a pub that I had used many years ago in my youth, there were a few small hotels and seeing a Toby Inn wondered if it was the pub I had visited all those years ago, but then I caught sight of a pub called the Castle further along the seafront, something told me that was the pub I’d used long ago.
I entered it but did not like what I saw and promptly left the pub, at last the Kursaal came in sight, this was long ago a funfair but now, goodness only knows what is in there, plus it also used to host bands and it is where the band, The Kursaal Flyers, got their name from.
I looked along to the pier and could see two trains on it, the last time I’d been on the pier, only one train was working and yet the seafront did not appear to be that busy with people.
I entered a pub on the seafront bought a pint of Old Speckled Hen and sat outside on a metal chair catching the sun’s rays. A portly chap was seated behind me drinking a lager, he said to me, “Do you know where The Foresters, is?”
“Sorry I’ve no idea.”
“What happens if I walk along there, will it take me back into town?”
“No, you need to walk back towards the pier and up the slope that will take you into town. Going the other way will take you to the Kursaal and an old pub which hardly has anyone in it these days.”
“Thanks, I thought last time I was here the road led down to the sea.”
“No, it never has, I used to live here many years ago.”
“Do you know a pub which does karaoke?”
“No, as you go back into town see what the pubs along the seafront are doing, although it’s mainly of a weekend.”
He finished his lager and wandered off, I sat there enjoying the weather and the quietness of it all. The pub was so quite that the barmaid was sat outside with her friend drinking wine. Upon leaving I returned my glass to the bar and decided to walk along and see what the pub was called which may in time be pulled down, it was called The Foresters, but nowadays it is devoid of customers. It used to be a good place for day trippers to visit.
I walked a little way along the seafront and entered a pub called The Chinnery, they have wooden benches and tables and an area screened off for metal tables and chairs, I bought a pint of Ghost which looked very cloudy to me, but last time I complained about the beer, I got no joy.
Once again I sat in the sun and looked at a few men who were chatting and drinking and one of them had a dark cloudy beer and so I made a note not to visit the pub out of season as it was probably mainly lager drinkers.
How long I’d sat in the two pubs for I had no idea of but having finished the awful beer I left and started my walk to Leigh on sea. It is a walk that I have done many times and each time I find something new.
This time as I passed the pier I could see an old ship with two red funnels and possibly a paddle wheel on the side, was it the Waverly, after all people had said that it did sail up the Thames.
There were a few people sat on the beach it was probably about 5pm and most people were still at work or least on their way home. I was amazed as the cable car which takes people from the beach to the higher up street level was working, this was a rare sight indeed as I have seldom seen it in use, in fact I thought it was now defunct as so much now seems to be.
Once there had been a floral clock near to Westcliffe but now, it has long since vanished, in fact one piece of land looks very forlorn, and all that was upon it was a tent. Was someone sleeping rough, who knows?
Further along were trees and above them was a long seat which has a roof over it. Then I came across the gambling place, I am not sure what it is called but again many years ago it used to be an open air swimming pool and I have fond memories of it.
There was at one time a covered place where people could sit and enjoy the view but now, it has become a bar/diner and the land either side of it is being dug up, are the owners expanding? Time will tell.
Further along past the Cliffs Pavilion where concerts are held, there are some cafes which have been there for many years. I looked out to sea and across to Kent and the sea was so calm, earlier on I had seen small waves but now, nothing just a gentle ripple on the surface.
Arriving at a slope I walked past it and stopped by the steps, the lower ones were wet, had the tide really risen that far? Perhaps the quietness of the sea depicted the turning of the tide and it was now about to go out.
Now along the higher road were houses and flats which had balconies but there were very few people sat upon them admiring the view although many of the places seemed to have no curtains and it was possible to look into their rooms, which is not something I would want people to do for my home, but we are all different.
There were people walking dogs along the seafront and fortunately not many cyclists, although I did spot a huge Triumph motorcycle which had three large exhausts and was shaft driven, I looked it up and discovered it is a 2294cc motorcycle, which is like having the engine of a small car beneath your legs.
I arrived at Chalkwell station and here the path runs adjacent to the railway line and I had to walk on a narrow concrete path which took me past various yachting clubs and the narrow rigging could be heard rattling on the metal masts, whereas out at sea birds had started to gather on what would later be the familiar mud flats. Now the boats moored off shore were showing their hulls.
There was a lady sat on a bench and we chatted for a while she said, “That is awful, to put tar onto those stones surely they could have done something else.”
I looked down and what had been large stones was now covered with tar and I pointed to the high weeds growing near to us saying, “Yes but nature is fighting back look at that and there are odd bits of grass sprouting up through the tar.”
“Have you walked far?”
“Well I set off from Thorpe Bay, stopped for a beer or two and then walked from Southend to here.”
“How far is that?”
“Well, if we suppose there is a mile between each railway station I have probably walked five or six miles.”
“I can’t walk that far.”
The sun shone through the clouds and lit up the pier and the buildings along from us and the sky was gradually becoming darker, whilst on the Kent side, the odd light was coming on. I pointed it out to the lady and said, “It would make a brilliant painting.”
“Have you ever been here in winter? There is a cafe in Leigh called The Oasis run by the church and it has paintings for sale of the sights here.”
“I did come here in January this year and went home early, but this year I will come back again and visit the cafe.”
We chatted a little longer and then I headed off for Leigh and looked up at the road above the railway line and just before I entered what is known as Old Leigh I saw a very old forlorn white wooden house which was flanked by brick houses and would not have looked out of place in a Dickens story.
Ahead of me was a woman with a small dog and a little girl who was trying to use a scooter but she wasn’t very good at it, perhaps she was too young.
I was going to enter the Lobster Smack but the doors wouldn’t open and so I wandered along to the Peterboat went up to the bar and said, “I would like a beer but I am not certain what to have.”
The young bearded barman said, “This is very popular,”
“I don’t know it has grapefruit in it.”
“Try it, it is very popular, try them all if you like.”
I tried two and to be honest they were both the best beer I had tried all day but I plumped for the second beer adding, “I’d like to order some food.”
“You will have to order down there,” He said as he handed me my pint.
I went down and ordered a steak and ale pie, veg and mash and chose to sit outside as I wanted to see the sunset, I would add that by now I had put on the denim shirt. As for the meal it was a bit pricey the veg and mash was luke warm the pie was very good but there was something odd in it, so in future I will eat in the Lobster Smack, also it’s a bit cheaper.
I looked at the sun it was just above the horizon and was now an orange ball, whereas the sky to the west had grey clouds tinged with orange it really was quite spectacular. In fact the young woman who brought out my food stopped to take a picture of it. I noticed now that the tide had gone out and the birds had also flown off. Over on the Kent coast lights were now gleaming through the darkening sky.
Having finished my food I sat sipping my ale and then wandered off to the railway station where I only had a few minutes to wait for the train to Fenchurch Street. Yes it had been yet another enjoyable day out in Essex at the seaside.