I decided to write this haiku as I sat in the departure area of San Diego Airport following an unexpected flight delay, presumably due to the bad weather in the mid-west. My flight was initially delayed for 2 hours, then 3, making my connection at Phoenix impossible, so I tried to reschedule the flight.
Like many airports San Diego offers “free WiFi” but, again like many airports, it very rarely works, based on my experience on a half dozen trips over the last 3 months. I fail to understand why, but it seems a common problem, as Phoenix also has a signal that routinely drops. Perhaps they are in cahoots with the phone service providers so we have to use our data plans when stuck in a place we just want to get through.
Anyhow, I used my waiting time to write this as homage to the poor service…
Nestled on the Tendring peninsula on the east coast of England, and providing seaside entertainment for the masses for over 150 years, the town of Clacton may seem like any other British seaside town. Clacton came to prominence in 1871 when it was founded by Peter Bruff as a seaside resort, largely for Londoners to escape the city. He built the pier, which still stands today, and steamer was the main method of reaching the town until the road and rail system caught up.
The heyday of the town was really the middle decades of the twentieth century when there was a Butlins Holiday Camp and many hotels and guest houses to entertain the day trippers and summer holiday makers. Then along came cheap flights to more exotic locations and, like so many British resorts, there was a significant downturn in the economy.
Even in the 21st century the town still has a significant number of visitors and people enjoying the sandy beaches, and going on the rides and other amusements on Peter Bruff’s original pier. When we were kids there were dolphins and orcas kept in the swimming pool on the pier, but thankfully that’s gone now.
The landscape has also changed a bit with the offshore wind farm on Gunfleet Sands but all in all a pretty standard town that has had its ups and downs…
… Or is it?
Well, there are two things that are also uniquely interesting about this town, so let me explain.
Firstly, Clacton was the site of the first civilian casualties in World War II when Frederick and Dorothy Gill were killed by a Heinkel bomber that crashed into their house on May 1st, 1940. Little is made of this fact, although I clearly recall a plaque on a bench on nearby Skelmersdale Road detailing this tragedy when I was a teenager.
Secondly, although Clacton is primarily known as a typical Victorian seaside town, the area slightly inland at Great Clacton was inhabited by the Celts and there is some evidence of Roman involvement too at the coast. The most amazing fact though is that during the paleolithic period, the area was used for flint mining and tool manufacture. And in 1911 there was uncovered the “Clacton Spear” a wooden yew spear which, at 420,000 years old is the oldest known wooden tool created by man. It is, in fact, even older than Homo sapiens and was carved by our pre-ancestors Homo erectus. An entire period of human development, Clactonian, was named after the town and describes the fascinating industry of flint working and tool making.
I lived in Clacton during my teenage years and was totally unaware of this significant piece of our history. Sometimes it truly amazes me how understated the British people can be. In many other places in the world both these events would have been used to develop another aspect of the town, with museums and themed activities, but not in this corner of Essex.
It’s been over 7 years since we last visited the UK as a family and I thought our recent visit would be a great opportunity to write something about good old Blighty for a few posts. It will motivate me to process my photographs and also is relevant to promoting the art group I run at Quintessentially British, which now contains over 11,000 images of “Britishness” by more than 700 artists. Ironically, I haven’t posted that many images of my own to the group since I set it up 5 years ago, so this trip was an opportunity to get some more images to post!
So, I’ll start with our first port of call – literally – Southwick, in West Sussex.
Southwick is a small coastal town situated on the River Adur on the south coast of England. There have been settlements here from at least the Roman times and the town is first recorded in the Domesday Book (1085 AD). Like many nearby towns, it was the extension of the railway lines in the 19th century which really caused the town to expand becoming a popular place for tourists to visit and take the sea air.
Although largely eclipsed by Shoreham-by-Sea to the west and Brighton & Hove to the east, Southwick still has a thriving commercial port (called Shoreham Port, even though it’s really in Southwick and Fishersgate), serving both commercial and navy vessels in docks on the River Adur.
There is a nice village green with traditional pub on the edge, railway station and a couple of new windmills placed adjacent to the pebble beach, almost as an advance guard to the huge wind farm that is being developed off the coast in the distance.
A bit of something for everyone, perhaps? Certainly a nice place to sit in the sun and enjoy a “99” (soft ice-cream cone with a chocolate flake).
Wow, it has been over a month since I posted a blog! I am appalled with this failure of what started out as a rebooted daily discipline, back in Jan 2016, but there’s been a good reason for this.
In mid-June I was fortunate enough to have taken an extended family vacation back to England and include a brief 2-night sojourn to Paris too. I had grand plans of writing blog entries and posting images as we traveled but, to be honest, I was too busy enjoying myself “in the moment,” as they say these days.
And that’s how it should be.
I will play a bit of catch up over the next few weeks and months as I process the hundreds of photographs I did take that will jog my memory. And I’ll start off with the first three that I worked on yesterday evening, from Brighton, Paris and Amesbury.
The time went very quickly and we saw family, several friends, and many of our old stomping grounds and tourist attractions. We were even fortunate with the notoriously unpredictable British weather.
It would have been nice to have stayed longer and spend more time with even more friends and family but, alas, time caught up with us and it was with mixed emotions that we returned to our home in Pennsylvania. After a day or so I admit that it’s good to be home and to appreciate the life that we have here.
That’s the philosophical part of traveling, perhaps!
As I sit here in my office at temperatures hovering above freezing in the unseasonably mild (yes, it’s true!) winter weather I cannot believe it was nine months ago that I was traveling to Chennai (Madras) in India. I first wrote about that trip here and in subsequent posts that week, but it was only today that I finally got around to processing a few more images from that trip, starting with the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore, now a district of the sprawling city.
As I go through more images I will upload them to my art site and may include a few more here too in other posts.