Friday, July 23, 2004

On the Beach in a time warp

The basic design of the plastic sand spade doesn't seem to have changed since I used them back in the distant times of childhood at the sea.

And I suppose they break at precisely the same point as before too, just above the business end. I always felt it was a deliberate element of planned obselescence.

Weymouth in Dorset is the quintessential traditional British seaside resort. I have family connections here, and I'm in town for a nephew's wedding.

I've never been here at the height of the summer season, though, and it is an eye-opener to find that this kind of resort still thrives. At least for a couple of months of the year.

It is the first really sunny day since I got here, and the beach in front of me is jammers, to steal a phrase from my daughter.

(BTW - the pictures here are from a quieter day, as I don't have my camera today.)

I didn't realise that there really are beach helter-skelters and other funfair attractions set in the sand.

Punch and Judy shows also dot the beach here, which seems amazing in an age of technology where kids can choose from scores of TV channels for much more sophisticated entertainment.

The pedallos and the sailboards are understandable, and busy amongst the outer reaches of the swimmers.

And the elastic ropes on which youngsters can feel like Spiderman are also popular, an extension of the trampolines which are also available.

There are some kites aloft which might well be a cause of concern to low-flying gulls. Certainly a helicopter crossing in from the sea is keeping itself at a safe height.

On the road behind me I turn at the sound of a high-revving motorcycle in time to see a young fellow doing a wheelie as he accelerates towards the traffic lights. An elderly man on an electric mobility tricycle frowns as the lad passes. 'I used to do that too, you know? Just don't feel you're immortal. Life always catches up at some traffic light or other ...'

Weymouth has a lot of old people, a lot of those tricycles swishing along the promenade, the footpaths, and the roads even.

They must make a wonderful difference to people who otherwise would be dependent on family, friend or member of nursing home staff to wheel them around. I certainly believe it brings some of them a new lease of younger life, if the speed at which they drive them is any indicator.

But I'm really gobsmacked at the total range of people here. I've long been under the impression that everybody in Britian now holidayed in Spain or the Canaries, thanks to cheap travel. Yet as I write, every age passes by. Babies pushed in buggies, toddlers tugging at their mummies, teenagers alternating between slurping at their ice-creams and tapping out texts on their mobiles.

The variety of bodies too is awesome. On a day like this, which encourages those in the anonymity of a flesh-covered holiday beach to let it all hang out, there is an awful lot of different hangings. Boobs, bums, and lots of in-between. And they were just some of the men ...

Indeed, I've seen proof that the old caricature people of the traditional seaside postcard is NOT a caricature. Those depicted are alive and, well, living exaggerations.

(Of course, the two people depicted here are just ordinary sunworshippers making the most of a fine day.)

Weymouth is now a big sailing centre as well as a holiday resort, and there's a strong belief that if a British bid to hold the Olympic Games is successful, the sailing events will take place here.

It is very much a B&B and small hotel town too, and it was commented to me on one occasion that it is the 'B&B Golf Society' that is controlling development here, and keeping it as a '2-star' town. The same B&Bs can vary enormously in quality too. Our first two nights here were in one with definite Fawlty Towers characteristics, and a decision to jump ship was proved to be a correct one when we came home from dinner and found water dripping from the ceiling.

The place down the road, for the same money and run by an Irish couple, proved absolutely brilliant. The Sou' Wester Hotel will certainly be our choice if back in Weymouth again.

I came here with a heap of deadlines left behind on my office desk. I figured on working on them here over the week, but in truth they have receded in importance. They'll still be there when I get back to the grindstone Monday, but in the meantime, maybe I've found that there really is something to taking a break?

There's an international foods market I passed by on my way down. A French stall-holder gave me a taste of his wines and offered a deal.

I said I'd be back later, that I didn't want to be carrying the weight around the promenade. I could see he didn't believe me, but he remained friendly and polite.

It's time to go back and reaffirm for him a faith in human nature. The wine DID taste good ...

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