We wanted a quiet day at the seaside, because we felt cooped up. All through the really fierce heat- or what in England feels like fierce heat- we’d stayed indoors as much as we could. In London, anyway, it feels like an oven everywhere. So we headed off for Whitstable in Kent.
Only when we got there, Whitstable was packed. An Oyster festival combined with a beer festival. People poured out of the station, and every street down to the town centre was packed. I never managed to get fish and chips- outside every chip shop was a queue. Every pub was packed. We found one café at the far end of town, the Whitstable Coffee Company, which serves a terrific bacon and brie baguette.
It got claustrophobic. You couldn’t get near the seafront, let alone go for a paddle. Normally, Whitstable is a small, quiet, quaint resort where you can relax, but not today. Luckily, back up the hill it has a castle- what must be the smallest castle in the world- with beautiful flower gardens. So we sat there and watched a bowling match.
The trip did us a world of good. On Monday morning, we felt reinvigorated. And one of the best bits of the day was the train journey down. Especially when the people of Kent started boarding. These were ex-Londoners and their descendants, with strong cockney accents. It was like travelling back in time. They were taking their kids for a day out, and the kids were all healthy, happy, fascinated by the world around them. They were struck by the cows and sheep in the fields that flashed past.
London is deadening. It simply doesn’t bring out the best in anybody. You might want to come here to see a West End show or visit the Tower of London, but day to day living is foul.
Another benefit of the journey was that it gave us the opportunity to read. And I’d bought The New Statesman at Victoria Station. I might start reading this regularly. Here were well-written articles about the world around us, the sort of thing you should get from a newspaper, but don’t.
And it has spurred me on to…something. I’m trying to come up with a story that is non-genre. Trying to write something more honest than a horror story. The literary equivalent of a Jam/Beatles/Madness/Kinks song. I’m still reading William Trevor’s Collected Short Stories, which are superb.
I’ve started to collect newspaper stories again. The one-paragraph snippets, where an ordinary person (that is to say, a non-celebrity, and not in a position of power) has done something, frequently bringing about his/her own downfall. Because I need to look at life head-on, and not duck it, or disguise it.