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.

8 thoughts on “Tide and Time

  1. Eunice February 25, 2022 / 10:05 pm

    Maybe it’s because it’s winter and lots of places are still closed that you feel Southport has lost it’s sparkle? Morecambe is the same, I love the place but it’s miserable at this time of year and for that reason I tend not to visit the seaside in winter. I think since the improvements were made along Southport promenade a few years ago it’s much better than it used to be. I watched a film a while ago which was shot in Southport in 1985 – the place looks really dated there and not a patch on how nice it is now.

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    • Welcome to the Beautiful North February 25, 2022 / 10:26 pm

      I think you have a point Eunice. I agree that for many years Southport was in an awful state and it is now much improved. I think for the most part, the idyllic place of childhood memories is not entirely real in that we only have our child’s perspective and our selective, always happy, recollections. I’m sure the place wasn’t perfect, even then. You are right though… English seaside towns are best visited in the summer.

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  2. Michael Graeme February 26, 2022 / 11:59 am

    Southport is my nearest big town, though I have been avoiding it throughout Covid. Your words and pictures here capture it very well. Winter does rather take the shine off it, but as Eunice also says the post millennium investment along the promenade has made a big difference. Summer evenings there can still be pleasant, if you close your eyes to the fast food trash blowing up and down the gutters.

    Sadly though, I do find the town itself is a shadow of its former self, with most of the big name stores now gone, since the crash, and hardly any of the high-end trading it was once famous for, say along Lord Street, where my parents would go window-shopping on Sunday afternoons. I guess this is the same for most towns, now. I do have a fondness for it, though, and you’ve inspired me to have coffee there this afternoon, but, like you, I’m also glad I knew it in better times.

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    • Welcome to the Beautiful North February 26, 2022 / 4:24 pm

      I suspect I might feel the same about any childhood favourite place revisited, perfection then and only ever experienced on the warmest and brightest days. We change as much as the place does, or more so. Southport is still charming and, big shops or not, has more to offer than my local town centre, for sure. About 10 years ago, a colleague and I would occasionally ride in after work to eat chips on the promenade and watch the sun start to set, so I fully agree about those summer evenings. I hope you enjoyed your coffee today.

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  3. shazza March 1, 2022 / 10:44 pm

    I do love seeing a vintage carousel, especially at the seaside. The holiday resorts always look better in the summer though I think. My only childhood memories of the seaside are definitely from warm sunny days. Although I do now enjoy a winter beach walk it wasn’t something my family ever did when I was a child. X

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  4. ThingsHelenLoves July 31, 2022 / 8:14 pm

    Ah- a shame Southport didn’t live up to your memories. Maybe a return trip on a busier, Summer day? I like to see places in their off seasons, I’m not sure why! I’m hoping the past few years might drive people back to UK destinations and seaside towns. We can hope!

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    • Welcome to the Beautiful North August 1, 2022 / 12:04 pm

      I also love to visit the beach through all the seasons. I live 35 minutes (by train) from Southport so am able to go fairly regularly. I share your hope that the restrictions of the last couple of years and changed attitudes to UK holidays might encourage more exploration of our diverse and beautiful island.

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