I went to Bognor Regis last weekend. Why? Not why did I go there…I was in the area and thought I’d take a look. No, I mean why is Bognor there at all?
There’s a scrappy strip of gravely beach, a featureless concrete prom, some retirement flats and several streets of closed down shops. The gates of the adjoining holiday camp seemed securely locked, and the sea looked grey and menacing (as did the hooded youths hanging around)
As for the rusting pier, it had more barbed wire than Guantanamo. Plus ominous signs saying ‘Jumpers will be prosecuted’. I zipped up my cagoule lest my cardie offended the Bognor Anti-knitwear League.
On the council’s peeling notice board all the posters were way out of date. Wow, last summer by all appearances had been a humdinger. Sadly the Grand Illuminations took place in June, so not much hope of Christmas cheer.
No wonder that king said that nasty thing about Bognor!
But suddenly a jolly little stall selling sea food came into view. Cockles, winkles and jellied eels…in December! So, armed with a tub of whelks doused in chilli vinegar, I strode off towards the beckoning slot machines. The sun emerged, the ocean sparkled and a bracing breeze blew, causing the rather fine windmill on the Krazy Golf course to spin wildly. Aged couples were diligently pooper scooping, taking full advantage of the winter amnesty on dogs on the beach. There was even a queue forming at the Mr Whippy kiosk.
I lost a small fortune on the slots of course. Should have noticed the arcade proprietor’s flashy Mercedes parked outside, a sure sign that punters’ pennies turn into pounds.
This is what the British seaside is all about, I thought! And with it being such a contrast to our own dear city with is myriad seasonal events, its trendy boutiques crammed with irresistible treasures, its hordes of affluent shoppers and impressive illuminations, I thought blimey, a change really is as good as a rest and started to enjoy myself.
After all where in Bath could you get a pot of whelks and winkles in chilli vinegar without it being called a melange de fruits de mere and costing a fortune?