The Great British Seaside. Tacky arcades, rain, faded grandeur, rain, boarded-up buildings, ice creams and rain. Is there more to the seaside town than that? In this charming journey through places such as Cleethorpes, Skegness, Southwold, Clacton-on-Sea, Margate, Barry Island and Blackpool, 30-something writer John Osborne finds positive things to say about all of them. It’s partly a nostalgia trip because he remembered happy holidays by the sea and wanted to recapture the romance of the traditional seaside. The result is a fun, easy to read book which builds a fascinating and somewhat eccentric picture of today’s seaside towns. His generally positive outlook means that this isn’t one of those ‘grumpy old men’ or ‘crap holidays’ type books. It’s a blend of journalism, memoir and travel writing.
There are also chapters on the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (which reminded me of The Light Keeper), a Punch and Judy convention and the Isle of Wight’s Donald McGill saucy postcard museum. The book also explores how seaside towns are trying to recover from setbacks such as the economic downturn, the changes in society and the dominance of cheap air travel. I found an air of sadness, despite the enjoyable content, because so much of our seaside heritage is gone. Buildings demolished, lidos closed, hotels and holiday camps closed down, the comedians and entertainers are figures of the past. Yet the memories remain.
First published in 2013 by AA Books.