Friday, May 09, 2008

Martello Beach Resort

We had a cold stay of it, mid-April, at a caravan site in Clacton - myself, son and two grandchildren. At least the Martello Tower inspired me to write a short story. Years ago I visited one famous in literary annals: the Martello Tower on the coast near Dublin. That was wildly romantic, with steep rocks and a pool where James Joyce swam in his youth.

My son brought an 'Essex 2008' brochure, mainly stuffed with notices of Summer events. I read that 103 of these Martello towers were built between 1805 and 1812 in case Napoleon invaded. Essex was thought to be so vulnerable that two were built within a mile or so of one another. I can see the attraction of landing on those flat shingly beaches. The towers themselves , though, are not at all attractive; they're squat and cement-coloured, like fish-and-chip-shop steak puddings. Mostly they're derelict and this one seemed deserted, as if turned out of its mould onto a patch of derelict caravan site near the ugly sea wall. Apparently it's used as a 'community resource' - the odd structure on the top is with the sloping roof is used for watching birds, I think.

Roy stayed behind in London as he was still recovering from 'flu, and I wished I'd taken a hot water bottle. I'm still working on the story, hopeful it will suit one of the women's magazines I've been studying. The children enjoyed the pool at the club house, and I liked splashing around although it was really too shallow for serious swimming. Clacton was a featureless town without the seedy frontage or romantic old town pubs of Hastings, the cultural attractions of Brighton or Whitstable's oysters. It was too cold for walking, and anyway my grand-daughter doesn't like to, so we watched interviews with Marathon runners on the TV and kept the gas fire turned up high. Shame the heat never reached my bedroom, at the other end of the van. The walls are not much thicker than cardboard.

On Sunday afternoon it was remarkably easy to park in a Clacton side street to visit a run-down aquarium on the pier, entrance fee a very resaonable £2. They could hardly have charged more, considering that the main tank was under repair. I felt sorry for the ugly lumpfish, squatting in the murky depths like half-deflated grey balloons with rows of carbuncles along their sides and gaping botoxed lips. They were surrounded by mini-shoals of agressive silver hake, dashing from one end of the tank to the other. Further along the pier the children filled transparent plastic figurines with layers of coloured grit, my grandaughter choosing a heart with a lace attached. 'Look, grandma, a present for mummy'.

By the time we went home she'd handled it so much that the layers had mixed together.

The evening entertainment was Bingo, then a giant rabbit leading the kiddies in line dancing with a misogynist magician to follow. Maybe he was just jaundiced, but it was a bit early in the season for that. I didn't care by then as I'd won £100 for a 'full house', although young Sam had to help me keep track of the numbers. He was duly rewarded.

I've done more reviewing than fiction writing this month, mainly of French films, and reported on some China-related talks. I also joined an excellent 'live' writing group which inspired me to write two stories, one of which I posted to WriteWords. It attracted fewer negative comments than the usual run, so I'm quite cheered.

Yesterday was so warm I took my new mini-laptop to the park. It was too hot to work in the pavilion cafe garden so I went into the cafe itself but as I half expected I attracted admirers - well, one admirer who was in his late fifties/early sixties maybe but had a fine head of wavy grey hair and good taste in shirts.

'Excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing the machine you are using, and wonder where you bought it.'

(Did anyone think it was my personal allure ? You can lower your eyebrows now)

I told him all about it, and I'll do the same here when I've had time to take a photo of it to include with my next post - maybe tomorrow.


Anne Brooke said...

Clacton! That's near where I come from (born in Dedham and brought up in Colchester - and my mother lives near Clacton now!). I agree - it's rubbish in summer, but wonderfully wild and bleak in winter. Which is of course the best time of year for beaches. That part of Essex has the best skies in the world - hope you enjoyed them!



Sheila Cornelius said...

Thanks for this Anne. I didn't go on the beach - it was as much as I could do to get the grandchildren to walk to the pier from where I'd parked the car.I've added the short story to the Women's Group on the WW site. It's called 'Martello Rendezvous' and there's a reference to the sky, as I recall, although I've left out the name of the town. I'll return in the winter with my husband, who likes walking.