I was brought up next to a seaside resort. New Brighton once boasted a tower, a pier, two fairs and a host of other holiday resort type things. Unfortunately it became run down as the attractions closed one-by-one.
Only recently has some life returned, due to the opening of national chains on the sea front. But like the local retail parks; while it brings focus and some much needed work to the area, some of it’s character has been sucked away.
So I love a sea-side resort. Over the last ten years, some resorts have become associated with economic depression and shed loads of scroungers spending their days and their benefits on junk food, cheap cider and fags; or a cocktail of other less legal drugs.
The transition from jolly tack to crack has been seamless. Did it happen overnight?
Margate too has a similar association. If there was an OFSTED for seaside resorts; SEASTED, for example it would probably rate it as “needs improvement”. But I am here to praise Margate, not bury it.
You can’t beat the pure thrill of seeing the sea for the first time after a couple of hours in the car. I was always excited by it as a child and I still am now. On a bright and blustery Thursday afternoon, Margate opened out in front of me. Grand old Victorian and Edwardian terraces lined our majestic entrance.
Earlier I had been marvelling at the size of Thanet Earth. How many tomatoes does it grow? It was all sort of square and high tech.
Margate on the other hand, still has its old elegance. There it sat staring out to sea, bravely facing a rasping wind and restless waves. Behind me in the car, Jane and Martin were reminiscing about child hood family holidays with parents and grandparents.
But I was a Margate virgin. Two months ago, I went to Deal to find a gentle old bird bathing in the calmness of the warming sun and rippling sea. It looked trim and well kept. In contrast, Margate is more of a party animal.
Over the years I’ve followed the fate of Dreamland. I have sat watching South-East Today, willing it to open. Now I’m willing it to stay open. It is a unique piece of history.
Yesterday, my destination was the Turner Gallery. In stark contrast to the historic facades all around it, the Turner sits proud, shiny and angular. It’s Margate’s new baby.
And it’s currently holding an actual Turner exhibition. I wanted to see more of this man’s work. It was worth it. I found the whole thing magical. Some of the biblical and mythological works were both a surprise and a delight.
Less magical was the disabled toilet. It’s a modern building. Why is the heavy door sprung? Do I try to get in on my own,risking decapitation or do I wait, legs crossed hoping for a kindly soul to open it for me? Then the toilet itself; in a wheelchair, there’s always a lot of stretching to do to reach things. The support bar took an age to drop down. Again, I had to have the strength of Man-mountain Benny to lift it up. Oh and trying to flush the thing. The flush buttons could only be reached with a stretch as they were flush with the cistern. Did you like the way I used the word flush in two ways. Well the damn buttons were mechanical and needed the pressure of a steam hammer.
“Doctor doctor, I have a back strain.”
“How did you do that?”
“Flushing the toilet.” The patient has to wait a few moments whilst the good doctor tries to compose himself.
Coming out of the building I was able to take in the glorious view across the curvaceous sea-front. The mid afternoon light bathed the old rock chick in the faint glow of a fading spotlight. The wind bullied my hairline as I took a deep breath of sea air.
I hope that those with the power can replace the spotlight and bring the old girl back to glory, as she sits smiling at the dark clouds and chill breeze, heralding the inevitable approach of winter. Thanks to my mate Steve for the day trip and thank-you for reading.