Where We Walk (done turf, now surf)
The first time I came to Southend it was for a walk about thirteen years ago with my dogs and my friend Brenda. Brenda is reponsible for nearly all of how my whole life turned out from 28 onwards. She and I rode together on the Isle of Dogs, she introduced me to the coke fiend and then, not to be deterred by that abject matchmaking failure, to Mick with whom I have two children. Brenda also brokered (through her sister) the rescue of my current dog, Rudi, and she took in my beloved dog, Billy, who took great and enduring exception to my having children. Naturally, to return the favour I re-homed her old car which I bought to save her from tyre-kickers. She even took delivery of a horse called Blue last year – spooky.
Despite appearances to the contrary it is I who was in charge of my own destiny, because I placed the advert in LOOT for a new flatmate, which she answered and that was how we met. That day we didn’t like Southend, so we walked along the beach to Westcliff and then caught the train back to London, pretty much not planning to return EVER.
I hardly expected to move here, but I did and managed it under my own steam. I masterminded the whole thing with only a few tick boxes. Period housing at affordable prices (unlike Harlow which is cheap and god-forsaken architecturally), good schools and, crucially, not on a flood plain. We moved. Brenda went somewhere more posh earlier (but also in Essex) and I walk the Irish dog here, and she walks my old one, plus a poodle and two labs (but that’s another story) about 20 miles away.
So, out of season, Rudi and I visit the same beach although usually further along, away from the road, at Chalkwell. Southend might not seem much of a beach aesthetically, but I really love the way it always looks different. I used to prefer the tide in, but now I prefer the everchanging light on the mud and the patterns that the water has made on its retreat. We might have a load of heavy industry to look over at on the Kent side, or at Corytown towards London, but they have their own strange appeal. On some still, misty days you cannot see them at all.
I am no expert with a camera. I am on the 3rd model in as many years because of ill-treatment. I merely point, press and try to keep the camera straight. Sometimes I can’t even manage that.
I took this picture for a few reasons. The boat (that you can hardly see) is a cause of fascination locally, it is some kind of houseboat, is not permanently occupied and was vandalised recently. The duplicate signage makes me smile – I need to check if the words are identical, they look it. The seaweed on the boards is ridiculously green and very slippery – neither of which facets the photo captures fully. One of the first times Rudi saw it he tried charging down it at full gallop and came a green and slimy cropper.
When I looked at the shot at home on the computer it put me in mind of the roads I fear driving down in the dark.