OPINION: Today’s dull coastal visitors are hardly bathed in scandal, #OPINION #Todays #dull #coastal #visitors #bathed #scandal Welcome to O L A S M E D I A TV N E W S, This is what we have for you today:
5:00 PM July 10, 2022
John Masefield’s poetic sally salute to Sea Fever certainly whetted my burgeoning instincts to exchange rural romps for coastal contrasts now and again. An annual Sunday school outing from the heart of agricultural Norfolk had to suffice for a lengthy series of post-war summers.
By the time I arrived in Yarmouth on a bleak November day in 1964 to join the local weekly press reporting ranks Spike Milligan may well have updated, those well-loved lines and introduced them to a much wider audience as he mused:
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky.
I left my socks and shoes there, I wonder if they’re dry.
Such vital practicalities no longer occupy my time by the waves on the Costa-del-Croma, not least because I still can’t stand the idea of sand between my toes. I can always stick my head in it and pretend I’ve got the entire stretch to myself.
There’s a useful myth, possibly fed and watered by tourism touts, that seashore regulars are cosy, caring and sensitive souls.
From bronzed young lifeguards full of morning freshness to rheumy-eyed old salts twinkling in their evening sun, they play host to the sort of close-knit community we used to find everywhere.
Sorry, but this charming survivor of the good old days is but an invention of over-heated imaginations, over-blown holiday brochures and a desperate clinging to the wreckage of Ealing Comedy capers, Hi-de-Hi! campers and Five Go Up to Bikini Top.
That is my honest verdict after countless safaris in all seasons and in all weathers on and around Cromer beach. Last time I got animated? A November Sunday in 1993 when the pier was sliced in half by a runaway barge in howling wind and lashing rain. Don’t read me wrong. I didn’t rejoice at such dramatic damage to one of my favourite fresh-air suppliers, but it felt good to have a bit more excitable company than usual as darkness fell.
It’s been fairly quiet since although they did knock down the delightful old Rocket House Café at bottom The Gangway to make room for a lifeboat museum with restaurant above. That’s progress – but old Blogg and his sou’-westered diners still go down to the galley for wittles and yarns.
I squeeze through a huddle of tractors and boats and echoes to find the water’s edge. Fishermen are usually too busy sorting out hauls to drop anchor for a mardle. Solo strollers, counting footprints behind them without looking, clearly need their solitude. Occasionally, a woman of indeterminate years and wearing sensible shoes will scan the skies, twirl her parasol and offer a free forecast. But most wanderers keep their powder dry.
Early summer visitors, a sort of advance party sent in to test the going, skulk behind multi-coloured windbreaks to avoid any passing local eccentrics barmy enough to ask where they come from. Beach hut owners gently open the door on a new dawning. Dog owners wonder if they ought to check dates for allowing Black Shuck to rampage unchecked across certain parts of sand.
There’s no disguising a lack of real adventure. I must check to see if it’s like that all along our coast. I will arm myself with a few handy examples of how Norfolk seaside life really was a beach for Victorian trailblazers .My copy of The Cromer and North Walsham Post for August 23, 1890, arrived a few days ago to spotlight proper fun and games on the sands where I yearn for a little modern action.
An editorial thundered: “We have been urged by both visitors and residents to raise a protest against the bathing of men and women within the same area. Those degraded creatures who have no sense of propriety in this respect will have to seek a beach unfrequented by persons worthy of being described as ladies and gentlemen.
“Sometimes a whole family will enter a bathing machine regardless of that fact it is in the midst of the ladies ‘ground and there both sexes will go through their natatory exercises to the disgust of those who have hired the surrounding machines.”
Utter degradation! Reckon this has makings of a gripping new television realty show – Call My Buff, Navel Review or I’m A Mixed Bather, get Me Into There! Spring to mind.. Just think what that could do for Cromer’s “living in the past” reputation.
Annie Berlyn, compiling her book Sunrise Land Rambles in Eastern England in 1894, painted this enticing picture of Yarmouth beach as a scene “of wild orgies on the part of excited excursionists”. Want to know more?
“They come to enjoy themselves and for that purpose they dig holes and deposit their many babies, duly provided with feeding bottles, while they themselves, fortified at the frequent and conveniently adjacent saloons, dance to the strains of pump-organs and various other musical instruments.”
Yes an early pop festival with progressive child care provision. And remember this is the resort which flagged up an all-purpose solution to the vexed question of affordable housing, renewable energy and coastal erosion – an old upturned boat on the beach with an iron funnel sticking out of it for a chimney.
Peggotty’s abode, mixed bathing machines, bunkered babies … telling carbon footprints on the sands of time.