Going to the seaside

Aug 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Cross Channel

The school had strange and arbitrary rules.

Other than very rare trips to Exeter or Plymouth, if one was under 15, the seaside town of Paignton was the only Saturday afternoon destination on offer. Despite the fact that  there must have been dozens of visits there, between the autumn of 1974 and the summer of 1975, no memory of it now remains, other than a railway station that was the end of the line, a car showroom that sold Rolls Royces, and a seafront with benches. How the time was passed, where money was spent, what entertainment there was for a fourteen year old, not a single image remains. Perhaps some Freudian process has wiped the files that recorded those hours.

By the time one was 15, the option of getting off the school bus in Torquay was added. Saturday afternoons in 1975-1976 used to be spent sat in the corner of a café in Torquay. How it made much money was a mystery, it was never full and seemed content to allow the three of us to sit for an hour at the corner table with our 5p cups of coffee. There was a gaming machine next to the table, still referred to as a one-armed bandit in those days, and we would feed the odd 2p piece into it.

Our stay in the café must have brought the owner a grand total of 25p, before we wandered down into the town to look at records we couldn’t afford in W H Smith’s. I was a rustic, but my two friends were from the Midlands, they came from big towns and knew far more of the world than I ever would.

By the time 1976-77 was reached, things began to change there were more frequent  Saturday afternoons in Exeter and in Plymouth, and, one day in the summer of 1977, we even travelled to Bude in north Cornwall.

Going back to places is never wise, they are rarely as one remembers (travelling to Westward Ho! in north Devon earlier in the year was a less than happy experience, the place we had known in the 1970s had disappeared), but two days in England allow the thought that on Tuesday a drive to Paignton might be worthwhile. There is no prospect of disappointment, for without memory there can be no expectations, but there might be a clue as to why it is all forgotten.

And if Paignton offers no reason to linger, beyond it there is Brixham, the one time home of Henry Francis Lyte whose hymn Abide with me must be one of the most eloquent ever expressions of disappointment and confidence.


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  1. I would give Torbay a wide berth Ian,(holiday makers and people on permanent holiday paid by my tax!) head for South or East Devon ! There’s a lovely cafe just down on the beach at Branscombe !

  2. But I have to find out why I forgot Paignton!

  3. Paignton is not nice, beach huts, amusements and a fairground litter the front. It is definately a place to forget.

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