Thursday, September 08, 2005

Places I Like No 1

I've always been rather fond of visiting seaside resorts during the winter.
I'm not so fond of them during the summer. There is something depressingly vulgar about the plastic pleasures and shrieking children that puts me off. The tawdry funfairs and vomit flecked pavements after closing time speak of a desperate attempt to escape the workaday world.
The winter is different. The places feel half asleep; their faux gladrags and winking slot machines concealed beneath drapes awaiting the start of the summer season.
I like to stroll along a deserted seafront with a cold wind blowing through my hair: my coat collar turned up against the chill. There is something reassuring about sitting in a warm cafe, the windows misted with condensation, gazing out at the ubiquitous drizzle.
They are the sort of places where nothing is expected of you, and you expect nothing. Time feels open ended and you can just while away the hours with walks and, perhaps, a matinee in a deserted cinema. The French word 'ennui', sort of describes the feeling I'm trying to describe. It's not directly translatable into English; but roughly means a feeling of pleasurable listlessness. It's a kind of melancholy that bears no relation to depression.
Of course, I wouldn't want to live in one of these places. If I'd been brought up in one I'd have been on the first bus out. They're just nice to visit; a temporary respite from the world of schedules and deadlines.
The traditional, empty winter seaside resort is becoming something of a rarity. These days there is a permanent community of immigrants and homeless people in most of them. That alters the atmosphere and can make them seem, if not threatening, then certainly on the depressing side of seedy. The more affluent resorts also have a permanent community of retirees and commuters who make the towns feel like suburban outposts of somewhere else.
Thankfully they can still be found; and while they continue to exist, I will occasionally be found standing on a rain lashed seafront gazing out to sea.


MHN for short said...

That's exactly how I feel about Matagorda Beach. We would go there as kids during the summer, but my favourite time was during the winter. All bundled up in your coat searching for seashells and sand dollars and finding all kinds of both. No sound but your breathing and the occasional seagull and the waves crashing on the sand in rhythmic succession.

Thanks for the reminder. love ya Garfer. m.

Wyndham said...

In an age when everything's been demolished and rebuilt, shabby seaside towns, can give you a tiny insight into what life was like fifty years ago. A clear, chill, sunny day in winter and some sea air and peeling paint is one of the most attractive sights in the world, I think.

frobisher said...

A beautiful and atmospheric piece. I love walking along the seafront out of season, lifts the spirits.

Faltanus said...

wow Garf - i am so with you on this one. i love the beach in winter. i had the pleasure of living just blocks from a beach in Maine for a winter. i loved walking on the beach as it snowed - since we tend to associate the shore with sun and heat, there was something very surreal about the experience.

garfer said...