This week, my hometown’s received a bit of a bashing: top twenty showing with worst air quality in the UK, plus a mention as one of the towns/cities with the lowest wages. When the self-proclaimed ‘local’ Twitter account tried looking for positives, results were a typically expected mix of council bashing, pictures of great views with pretty much everything in between. Apparently, there are FOUR WIMPEYS in this area, which is the closest provincial English towns managed to diners before McDonalds arrived on British shores in 1974. This is mentioned as noteworthy as my first ever MaccaD was in the Southend High Street branch when that opened four years later.
However, this town was in the blood well before moving to live here. My parents used to come to the coast as Mods in the 1960’s. One of my earliest memories was of a burger van on the Seafront, fried onions stuck as a favourite smell at least a decade before it was considered as ‘fast food.’ The first time a Bond movie (Live and Let Die) was seen in a cinema and not on ITV was here, at the Odeon Cinema where Demon Internet began their lives as an ISP. My husband’s first job was at Lloyds Bank on the High Street, and over thirty years later we happily remain.
It is high time my hometown got talked about more because that is what it is. Both my kids were born here and, like it or not, the place is a part of their lives as well as mine. There are some grand plans to take a camera and photograph the places other people seem to overlook. A desire has arisen to discuss what it is really like to live and work as an outsider in a town that has often seemed very alien to me, especially in darker days. Most importantly, there is an affinity to the Estuary that has existed since childhood and is now asking to be documented in poetry and prose.
The Great Southend Novel is already being planned.
When you see this header, you’ll know its time for a look into Life in a Coastal Town.