The Coronavirus diaries, 30th July 2020

Gosh I was thirsty by the time I reached home. I had finished my bottle of water thirty minutes into an hour long train ride, then there was another half an hour before I walked through the front door. The bus fortunately came quickly or it could have been longer. I drank a litre of water, glass after glass. I am back on the water now, though I did have some grapefruit juice too. The train was very warm (it’s a warm day and although the train this morning was air conditioned, this evening’s was older rolling stock and the breeze through the window didn’t seem to do a lot. Wearing a mask didn’t help. I really don’t understand how women wear hijabs and niqabs and still manage to look cool, comfortable and even elegant. Don’t get me started on how hot a burkah must be.

I spent a happy couple of hours in Colchester. There are two stations at either end of the town. One called Colchester, which is fairly self explanatory, the other Colchester Town. That one used to be called St Botolph’s as a church dedicated to the Lincolnshire saint stands close by.

St Botolph’s tower

Last time I arrived at the latter station. This time the former. The first couple of hundred yards of my walk into town did not impress. Then I noticed plaques in the pavement giving snippets of information and history. I found the first one just after gazing across the road at this building.

The Railway Mission

Information plaque: Railway Mission

So I trailed happily up the hill reading plaques and dodging other pedestrians. I soon began to recognise sights I had seen before, and to appreciate again what a hotbed of history Colchester is. It’s main claim to fame is that it was the first Roman capital of Britain. But it also has fine Saxon buildings, including Holy Trinity church, a Norman castle, Georgian arcades, and a a whole array of structures to please the most exacting eye.

Holy Trinity tower

But I admit today I was more focused on the shopping. If I were to move to Wivenhoe Colchester would be the nearest large town. Did it have places I could buy the jars of tahini, the olives, the fresh tofu that I’d want. In short, yes. So thumbs up. It also has a large Marks and Spencer, every chain store of note and a host of eating places and open spaces. Continue reading

Day Trip to Essex

My first day trip of 2018. It was supposed to be last week, so it would have been 2017, but reconvened as the weather was awful. The day was blowy. Very blowy, but it confirmed my first impressions, made over a decade ago, that Leigh-on-Sea is a very attractive place.

First off, it’s a train from Fenchurch Street Station, so all players of the GB Monopoly board will get a quiet thrill of recognition at that one. The landscape gets wilder and more romantic as you leave London. There are ruins of what look like hall houses, or something too small to be castles and too rugged to be monasteries. Then there’s the coast. Waves sparkling in a silver sea. Admittedly the tone was to my mind lowered by two young women whose conversation indicated that clothes (as opposed to fashion) were their main interest in life. They discussed the various outfits they had worn to various parties over Christmas and New Year. As we neared Leigh-on-Sea where I alighted (to use a verb which is now almost archaic but somehow still current in public transport speak) they were almost orgasmic at the fantasy of Primark offering everything for sale for £3 per item. This was something one of them had dreamed about. I alighted to the words “Just think, I could change my wardrobe every day!”

I was wearing a NorthFace jacket bought in 1999, boots of uncertain vintage, and a roll neck jumper that is at least twenty years old. I think I looked fairly presentable until the wind whipped my hair into something channeling Ken Dodd, but there you are.

Leigh-on-Sea. Essex. Such mixed messages. Essex has a number of parliamentary constituencies, all of them represented by Conservative MPs. Essex voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Leigh-on-Sea’s MP is David Amess, sound on fox hunting and invading Iraq, much less sound on human rights and Harvey Weinstein. For those of you this side of the pond that will almost certainly have triggered an audible hiss, or you may be staggering backwards clutching at your heart. But remember, Woodford – lovely Woodford – once the seat of Winston Churchill, has returned IDS to Westminster several times. Some things are beyond reason. Pantomime villains must have to work very hard in these places.

I read somewhere, long ago, that Helen Mirren grew up in Leigh. I think politically she’s moved on. And yet. Leigh exerts a pull. It’s a real place. For all the cutesy, quaint and self-conscious prettiness of Old Leigh, it has an authenticity that many other places lack. It is still working, still honest. If only it didn’t have Amess. If only it hadn’t voted Brexit.

Let me try to show you. As you walk from the station this is what you see. A real place, working. No Disneyesque ersatz fishing village.

En route from the station


If like me you are a sucker for sea and boats it gets better. Or worse. It depends on your perspective.

Red

Working


There are pubs. Lots of them. But for some reason I want to call them hostelries. It’s that sort of place.

Ye Olde Smack

Quaint

Lunch venue

Crooked Billet hostelry

It’s one of the most dog friendly places left in the UK.

Good behaviour

Dog friendly beach

Happy

Continue reading

I’m on the Train

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was to explore areas of London close to where I live, areas I think I know but where really I have the barest knowledge. I haven’t done terribly well at that but as the year trots to an end I am finally making some progress. However, I have enjoyed some out of town day trips. This started with a trip to Coventry on February, followed by Birmingham, Coventry again, Colchester, Chatham, Ipswich next month and today Walton-on-the-Naze. After a night of rain it’s a fine morning and promises to be warm and sunny. In anticipation of a fair amount of walking I am wearing my boots and I have a packed lunch with me. The train is very long and very empty. I don’t know if it is going to fill up later but I have to change at Thorpe-le-Soken where I have two minutes to make the connection. This train will continue to Clacton. Have I ever been to Clacton? I’m not sure. It may have been the destination for a ramble once, but I have no memory of it. Another one to add to the list. Continue reading