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Thursday, 3 September 2015

West Kirby: The Pleasures of English Seaside Towns Part 1 of 3

This summer I found myself in West Kirby visiting my Aunt Jennifer, and my cousin Kevin, his wife Hojung and daughter Hanna, all down from Jeju Island in South Korea for the holidays.

Above is the view from my aunt's front room. It's the Dee Estuary you see - if you imagine a map of the UK, this is that little finger of land (aka the Wirral) that sticks out just below Liverpool. At the northern end you find New Brighton where Martin Parr photographed the Last Resort. At the southern end, you get West Kirby, the classy end where nature is the draw rather than seaside delights. You can see Wales in the background and at low tide you can walk to Hilbre Island (visible on the right) and see seals.

That's what we decided to do, at 7 in the evening. The sky was clear, the weather warm and the tide was out.

So we walked and as we walked and we got to Hilbre Island. Once we'd got there, the sky got darker, clouds rolled in and lightning started flashing in the sky and the tide started coming in.

So we started walking back. And then it started raining. Really raining. It was miserable and there was lightning flashing overhead. The rain came down, and we got soaked. And more soaked. Soaked until we couldn't get more soaked.

And then things changed. They couldn't get any worse because we couldn't get any wetter or more miserable.

And it became funny. A truly terrible day at the seaside became absurd. We relished that absurdity, it became almost a performance of absurdity. And we sang and danced and headbanged our way back to Aunt Jennifer's house where we dried ourselves off and drank tea and hot chocolate and ate biscuits like the Famous Five at the end of another day of mad adventures.

And that is a typical day at the English seaside where the awful can be good, and the absurd becomes enjoyable because if it didn't, you would simply die of misery.

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