Saturday, 12 March 2011

My kind of town....

I am going to tell you a bit about my town. It has nothing to recommend it, either culturally, aesthetically or geographically. No one famous lives or has ever lived here [in the sixties the parents of  Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits ran a pub here though he was never seen .]

I have just remembered that IN 1963 a film was made here in the The Bay entitled French Dressing and, I have discovered, on the wonderful 'knowitall' that is Google, that it was Ken Russell's directorial d├ębut.
Local people were used as extras. Sadly the film has never been  shown on TV nor is it available on DVD

There is a lovely short video of our, 'Pier that was' with the star of the film, James Booth, cycling the length of it to deliver a ticket to a deck chair user. AND LOOK! SAZZIE HAS INSERTED IT HERE FOR ME. YIPPEE!
. .



When I first came here in 1946 to holiday with a friend of my mother, it was a slightly decaying Edwardian town with the second longest pier in England, plate glass was a dubious joy to come and the Street lights were the original and real Mcoys. There were shops selling meat and shops selling baked goods and Greengrocers and two Fishmongers, a coffee bar, Hardware Stores, fifteen pubs, eight churches/chapels/and one Masonic Temple. Charity shops had not been invented nor did we boast a Super Market.  Our friendly grocers weighed our bacon and sugar and tea, patted our butter and biscuits were taken from brown cardboard boxes, weighed into paper bags which were then swung by the edges over and over in a movement that fascinated me, to the extent that I thought I had found my calling. The man with the striped apron tied high under his arms would  pat  moist butter into neat squares, slice the cheese with a wire cutter, turn the handle on the bacon slicer and watch the slices drop neatly onto greaseproof...all this in an atmosphere that was scented with sugar and salt and cheese. Heaven!

It seemed to me then that I knew everyone-our postman cycled through rain and snow, ice or blazing sun, always the same man. He knew us and we knew him, he shared our relief when a letter from Mexico contained a cheque. George was  his name was and his son Terry was a one-time boyfriend. The man who emptied the gas meter was named Fred, he knew us so well that he counted the  French francs we had used when the shillings ran out before pay day, and accepted the equivalent straight out of the pay packet.  We knew our coal-man, his face and arms blackened with coal dust, an empty sack open at one seam thrown over his head and back to give him some protection as he lumped the sacks into our bunker. 

We knew all our neighbours and  their joys and sorrows, sharing, to halve them.

Then, as England began to pull herself up out of post-war gloom businesses boomed and progress stripped The Bay of it's tiny bit of uniqueness. Councillors allowed Jerry building; destruction of  the old and quaint  for concrete blocks which would last only a quarter of the time. Most of the Pier blew down in a storm and the powers that be twiddled their thumbs until it grew too expensive to rebuild it back to it's original glory, putting up only the Pier head or Pavilion in a style reminiscent of a factory.

As the decades passed we would return from some exotic location to find the town dying more and more, shops closed leaving gaps in the High Street until it looked like a row of decaying teeth. Only the seafront came alive, in the summer months as those without the means to enjoy the delights of the new 'Package Holidays' to Spain, would spend their two weeks in B&Bs and their days sheltering behind groynes on our pebbled beaches.

Now there is a new burst of hope for our town as City Dwellers, searching for an affordable second home, and working their way down the coast. have found their way to us. They are buying up and refurbishing and need the boutiques and Bistros and coffee shops. Things are looking up-but so are the prices. But that is a small price to pay [excuse the pun] if we are ever to see The Bay return to its original Edwardian Splendour.

I rarely see a face I know, and Charity shops abound [though a bargain is hard to find these days-no longer are the shops musty, fusty and dusty but smell of strong air-fresheners and display Fair-trade goods which one would not buy in the country of origin as too naff.]

So what is it exactly about this town that brought as back here time and time again?
Well, it is perhaps its very unpretentiousness. It is what it is, a slightly run-down seaside town, where the air is bracing, the sea [now clean] is cold, the shingle is hard on the feet, the penny arcades still attract when the wind is too cold and the shops are, little by little, returning. As petrol prices brings tears to the eyes and Super-markets revel in their monopolizing profiteering, small businesses are starting to emerge again, giving   the personal service we thought lost forever.

And...I can see memories around every corner.

25 comments:

  1. It is a town steeped in history. Sounds like it is similar to many seaside towns all around the country.
    It is the kind of town I like and I love looking through charity shops for a bargain, though the prices are far from cheap these days.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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  2. I had imagined that you lived where you live for family reasons but mostly because of the proximity to France...........but no....'memories around every corner...' that is just right isn't it? good or bad the place we live in is ours and feels like home....

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  3. There is something about old seaside towns that lures us in. Glad you shared your town's story, M.

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  4. So lovely to hear about your town. I loved reading about it through your nostalgic view. Small businesses are too few and far between these days.

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  5. great post Ma.....

    Queen Mary used to come foe weekends, their house was the (joiner) house on the Downs, remember....

    the huge homes on the Beltinge road where rich and the good people were sent to convalesce from TB etc....

    the AIR is soooo good in the Bay...cant wait to fill my lungs in a few weeks time...

    Milou will be knackered again for days....

    luv ya xxxx

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  6. Thank you for the memories of your town. They set me roving through the small towns of my childhood and thoughts of driving down main street to get to Aunt Carrie and Uncle Ab's house - near the water tower landmark.

    When we had to move for health reasons, my husband and I chose a small town for our new home. I told him it would grow. He didn't believe me, but I was right. We still retain the charm of downtown but now drive out to shop at a big-box store.

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  7. I too have lived in our small town since I was born, and although it really hasn't much to commend it, I've never wanted to move anywhere else. Everyone knows one another, its a close knit community, but just like your seaside town, has changed beyond recognition. The memories are priceless though

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  8. That was some bicycle ride!

    Great post - and I agree, it's sad when they let the old seaside towns fall apart. Here on Long Island, they've perfected the art of keeping them up, because it's such a draw for tourists that the added income (and the high property taxes from those who live there) make it worth the effort.

    If you'd like to see some of our old seaside towns, google "Northport, NY" and "Port Jefferson, NY".

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  9. You started out as if your town had nothing to offer and yet it was so romantic and you have so many details to share. You are lucky to have lived here such a long time and see the changes. Most of us move away and return home to the home that is gone.

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  10. Ah, the nostalgia just seeps from between the lines of this post! So much to remember, and I'm younger than you. Still ... when we moved out of London, there were two traditional grocers' shops in the village, and between them they had the butter pats, the bacon slicer and the open boxes of biscuits and raisins and sugar, waiting to be weighed out into those twisty paper bags! They stocked things that the supermarkets didn't have room for.

    Loved the snippet of film - a really British bit of comedy! - and your description of The Bay. I've never been there, but seaside towns all over Britain have suffered the same fate, haven't they? *Sigh*

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  11. Brava! I love this, Moannie. I've used this comment in other places (maybe here before, for that matter) but it fits, so I'll use it again. You make me yearn nostalgically for a place I have never been. Well done.

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  12. Gosh I am here from reading your comment on Jane Gaston's blog and thought I'd say hello. sandie

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  13. I would love to visit your town. Despite the changes, it holds many memories for you. A lovely post.

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  14. I wish there was a dvd of French Dressing....it looks funny! I blogged about my town in April of 2008....titled Where Have All the Mom and Pop Shops Gone....I think I actually cried when I wrote it. So sad to think how everyone knew your name back in the day, and now, we are all just a number. Don't you wish we had a time machine that could take us back just for a day to visit the way it was?

    I have only seen the ocean from the car window when I was ten. You are lucky to be able to look out of your window and view it's magnificence! I have never seen a real mountain, either...just a huge hill....it looked like a mountain to me! lol

    I read your comment about the nursing homes on my blog. My mom put my dad in one after he had gone through chemotherapy for lung cancer. They gave him a drug that caused him to lose the feeling in his legs and because he was too proud to tell us, fell and broke his hip. Because he couldn't get to the potty on his own, my mom put him in there til he could get up and go on his own. She went everyday to see him, and I went every other day, but he begged to go home every single day. I was furious at my mom when he died of a heart attack in there because they gave him insulin for his diabetes, but he didn't use insulin. I had a hard time forgiving her for placing him there....it took a couple of months to get over her sticking him in that horrible place.

    I know what you mean when you said that people just give up the will to live when their loved ones don't come back like they promise. We saw so many that were neglected, just begging someone to stop and show some interest in them so they would feel valuable again.

    And don't you ever feel bad about writing more than a sentence on my blog....I write an entire blog on yours!!! I wish there was a way to leave you my email address without telling the whole world what it is. You are a very special lady!!! Thanks for taking the time to come by my meager little blog. I am humbled. truly

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  15. What a great description--not to forget a great video to accompany it.

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  16. That is so beautifully written, I feel as if this could be my town too, if only in my dreams.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts about your town. It confirms my belief that when we learn to create places in our hearts first, the town will build around it.

    Warm hugs, Moannie,
    Merisi

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  17. Moannie,
    the film clip is hilarious!
    I wonder if it could be put on a DVD, if a certain number of people would ask for it? I would love to buy a copy!

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  18. Similar to where I live, it hasn't had anything replaced so it slowly dissolves away.

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  19. I love the description of your town and what makes you love it.

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  20. I admire your writing. You have a way of making me feel like I am seeing it with my own eyes. Fabulous!

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  21. What a strange co-incidence! I just wrote about a similar theme, although much shorter, and the point of my post was somewhat less positive! I loved reading this, it brought back many memories of a time when things were more homely. I wonder how I can try to emulate your positive attitude. Is it something one is born with, or does one learn it over time?

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  22. this was a mini-vacation for a girl in Montreal.

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  23. and this is the way i wish to travel. i'm not about some packaged tour with a bunch of tackily clad tourists. let a local take me by the hand and show me what she loves most about home and what makes it home. you took me there. and for that i thank you.

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