... I do like to be beside the sea!
Oh I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play, "Tiddely-om-pom-pom!"
I actually do love to be beside the seaside! Being brought up in Glasgow, the family’s annual pilgrimages to the seaside are embedded in my memory. Like most families at that time we were not car owners – but my Dad worked for British Rail and, from when I was about five, our annual quota of free passes ensured we could go to an English seaside resort.
Our early destination south of the border was the much-maligned Blackpool, but I really liked the town, and still retain an affection for it. The Blackpool illuminations remain a wonderland for me. Of course, these were always late in the season – cleverly extending hotel occupancy so it meant a second visit, usually at the Glasgow September weekend. For over 100 years they have been lighting up the front and, this year, are actually being extended through to early January to encourage visitors to keep coming.
The Blackpool Illuminations
You would never go to Blackpool for a contemplative retreat. Music blared out, screams could be heard from the rides, and bingo numbers filled the air. And it must be where I first heard the song, ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’, a popular British music hall song.
According to Wikipedia it was written in 1907 by John Glover-Kind and made famous by music hall singer Mark Sheridan who first recorded it in 1909. It speaks of the singer's love for the seaside, and his wish to return there for his summer holidays each year. It was composed at a time when the yearly visits of the British working-class to the seaside were booming. It was, for a long time, used as a signature tune by Reginald Dixon MBE, who was the resident organist at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool between 1930-70.
Although I have no recollection of him personally, I loved hearing the sound of that organ, resonating through the Tower and I guess it was him tickling the ivories.
The 60’s and early 70’s were probably the heyday for British seaside resorts, before cheap European package holidays became popular. Since then they have been in steady decline.
Until Covid came along.
Roker Beach and Promenade
The British beach and holiday resort is suddenly back in fashion. And why not? It is easy to forget that they really are impressive developments. I was reminded of their grandeur on a recent trip to Roker in the North East of England. Now, coming from Glasgow it may sound somewhat superior to be looking down at the north east of England. But I confess I had no idea of the beautiful beaches and fine coastal towns between Sunderland and Whitley Bay.
My Dad’s railway passes never took us to the area and my adulthood overlooked that part of Britain.
One of the things that struck me was the mile upon mile of promenade and I realised that across the UK there must have been a promenade construction boom. And sure enough….it was during the Victorian age when seaside trips became fashionable for the better off, then popular for the working classes. They really are significant structures having to withstand the weather and waves and the millions who still walk them every year. We love piers but they all need a robust and practical promenade
Roker looking south to Sunderland
The Victorian Age was one of huge infrastructure investment. In this time of uncertainty will we embark on grand public works programmes to help restart the economy?
Houses are a great public benefit and of the right design and construction and located in the right setting they can be life changing. How about near a seaside promenade?
"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author and aviator (1900-1944)
Stay safe. Lead well