Tide and Time

After a week of gale-force winds, rain, sleet and hail, Friday brought sunshine and double figures on the thermometer and felt like it should be taken advantage of. The ground being sodden and unworkable, tackling garden jobs was not an option. I had a couple of long-overdue errands to run in Southport, the closest coastal location to home, so decided to take the pleasant 35 minute train ride, mainly through arable farmland, to the seaside.

To my surprise the train was full, though from the snippets of banter I couldn’t avoid overhearing, some of my fellow passengers were headed to an event at a holiday camp a bit further down the coast. I had a very brief wander around that camp a few years ago when visiting another beach, and I hoped that the ladies, who had apparently travelled all the way from Glasgow and Northumberland, would not be too disappointed.

My errands ticked off the list, I headed towards the sea front to breathe in the briny air. I had thought it a bit early in the year for the seasonal traders, but a sunny, albeit cold, day in half-term week had tempted a few to open up.

The pier was busy. Couples walking dogs and family groups holding ice cream cones in gloved hands seemed not to care about the cold, enjoying the fresh air and making their own entertainment. The seaside attractions, on the other hand, all brash gaiety and neon, seemed to be trying too hard. The riderless carousel horses looked forlorn. Not even the Charlston, followed by a rousing big-band number, could get them whirling. All dressed up but with nowhere to go.

The music, the ride, the lot, all sad and showing their age. I felt my age, too. I used to love this place as a child, favouring it over bigger and (to most) better Blackpool up the coast. Much has changed, none of it for the better as far as I can see, but change is part of life and mine is just one opinion. I sat for a minute on a memorial bench dedicated to some folk who had ‘walked here often’ over many decades.

I spotted a couple of my own happy ghosts on the beach, animated in fragments of sunlight, colour and sound, committed to memory.

I’m glad I knew Southport in better times. But it can be a mistake to compare the past with now. My memories are those of my child self, candy-floss flavoured and always in summer sun. Of course, now can never compete with then.

Nostalgia put aside, and back to the moment, I looked down to the sand where a new generation walked and ran and laughed, moving out towards the tide, probably wondering, like us all, if they would ever reach it.