“Southend’s The End” *

22May09

Bus Station, Southend-On-Sea

I’d been looking forward to visiting to Southend-On-Sea, unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment. To me it seemed a strangely disjointed town, not sure whether it’s a seaside location with a town attached or a town with a seaside location attached. I couldn’t decide which it was but when we parked up on arriving I noticed that the advert on the back side of the parking ticket was for the Samaritans, so Southend perhaps has other problems to resolve before working on it’s identity.

 An attempted Martin Parr homage . . .

We were, perhaps unsurprisingly, visiting for the seaside so when we arrived we headed straight to the pier (not just the pier but the longest pier in the world) and bought ourselves tickets to traverse it’s length using the somewhat aged railway (named (on our journey) Sir John Betjeman). As we were a little early for the next train I nipped downstairs to visit the Pier Museum – only to be disappointed by the abundance of "No Photography" signs. This always irritates me and only makes me more determined to take photos because there’s never really any reason not to, if they’re that worried that they’re losing revenue by photography then charge for it – and surely every photograph taken has the potential to encourage rather than discourage people to visit ?

Continuing my visit things got increasingly odd as I was spotted checking the time on my phone and told that mobile phones weren’t allowed either – quite what the attendant was going to do to stop me using / looking at my phone wasn’t discussed as I left as a result, somewhat fed up that my attendance was causing so many problems. It’s a sweet little museum but if they carry on like this they’ll kill it off themselves without any help from me or my illicit photos.

The railway journey down to the pier was a little alarming given the view of the corroding girders – which were in essence holding the pier up out of the sea – although an impromptu fashion shoot by some visiting foreign tourists in the carriage next to ours allowed my fears to at least be diverted. At the end of the pier we sat whilst I became increasingly alarmed about the gaps between planks wondering whether I’d packed a rubber ring that morning.

 Esplanade House, Southend On Sea

As already inferred Southend didn’t really offer up a great deal more – perhaps because it was slowly gearing up for a full summer season -  I can only hope so. (Actually there was one highlight in finding Esplanade House, derelict and ready for destruction. We noticed it from the end of the pier but couldn’t work out what it was – we assumed it was a multi-storey car park but it didn’t look quiet right. When we returned to dry land I went in search and was very pleased with what I found. Only shame is that they’re going to flatten it and build some hideous hotel complex instead).

So we left the limited joys of Southend-On-Sea via Westcliff–On-Sea and Leigh-On-Sea, (there’s a theme occurring somewhere there), which were both a deal more upmarket than Southend but not much more appealing as a result, before returning to the the hotel with fish and chips to watch Sir Alan and his ever decreasing apprentices.

* Borrowed from Billy Bragg’s reinterpretation of ‘(Get Your Kicks) On Route 66’, namely ‘A13 Trunk Road To The Sea’.



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