Skip to main content

We do like to be beside the seaside. We do.

I keep thinking I’ve pretty much recovered from jet-lag until I get behind the wheel of the car when my brain seems to slip into a fog and I have to remind myself to really focus. It must be the repetitiveness of the actions, or, along the motorway, the monotony of just staring into drizzle and tarmac.  

Having left Miami last Wednesday, arriving in London Heathrow mid-afternoon on Thursday, I headed off to Folkestone on Friday afternoon for a meeting with French haiku poets to start organising an Anglo-French Haiku Festival for 2013. I really did think I’d be falling asleep over the discussions and meals but I was surprisingly alert for the majority of the time. Partly because the Southcliff Hotel on The Leas kept me generously and tastily well fed (I had ‘top points’ fried eggs on toast for breakfast each morning) and partly because of the energetic weather along the cliff-top and gardens below. 

I don’t know Folkestone that well. I’ve been to the harbour for cockles and shrimp doused in vinegar and white pepper. I took my grand-daughter to the funfair that has since been dismantled, and I watched Tony perform at the Burstin Hotel when he was a professional entertainer. Perhaps those experiences limited my perception of the town. I’d forgotten about its reputation as a faded Victorian seaside resort and dilapidated grandeur has a charm all of its own, as does the zig-zag path from The Leas to the beach.

I’d called Tony on Saturday morning to let him know how things were going. Folkestone is his childhood town: his grandparents lived here and he spent his summer and Christmas holidays in their three story Victorian terraced house. On the phone he suddenly recalls proposing to his first wife, at the tender age of 19, halfway down the zig-zag path. ‘I thought I was being romantic,’ he said, ‘but I remember she was really scared of the dark path and the caves. Unless she was terrified at the idea of marrying me!’

marriage proposal
the zig-zag path
to the sea

The path and caves and gardens have been spruced up since 1964. I don’t know if they’re still scary at night but I fell in love with them by day.

If you can’t face the long walk down and back up you can replace one way (or both ways) with a trip in the Victorian lift for a £1. The lift, the path, the gardens… they’re not the neon-flashing, theme-park, sensory overload attractions that are proliferating all over the country. They hark back to Folkestone’s Victorian past when a brisk walk in sea-air was a more than satisfying reason to come here.

I’m glad the council have invested time and money here, renovating the caves, planting wildflowers, creating a grass-banked amphitheatre that has the Channel as a backdrop. They’ve kept their bandstand too and on Saturday there were performances by local bands while people lounged on chairs and blankets with picnics and enjoyed themselves doing a respectable nothing. 

The only thing that could have been, would have been, a perfect finale... an ice-cream. A whippy ice-cream with a Cadbury’s flake of course. But I ran out of time. Another day. Perhaps here, with a picnic basket and good company.

Hungry Writing Prompts
Write about monotony.
Write about breakfast in a hotel.
Write about a path to the sea.
Write about a proposal of marriage.
Write about doing nothing.

Popular posts from this blog

Pie, pie glorious pie

So often when we talk about food we are talking about family. In fact that was how the hungry writer blog began, nearly six years ago: weekly memories or life stories linked by the theme of food. Food is nurture and love. It can be celebration and anxiety too. It can also be a battleground, as the parents of young children know so intimately! Which is rather a satisfying segue into the family featuring in this week's blogpost: The Radfords. Because if anyone understands the feeding of children, really, really understands, it has to be Sue Radford who, with her husband, Noel, has 19 children. You can read about the family on their website but don't rush off yet as what I really want to talk about is pie. And specifically Radford's pies.
Noel Radford has been a baker for 25 years and opened his own bakery in 1999 in Heysham, Lancashire and makes pies with locally sourced ingredients. That, along with his skill as a master baker, means that the pictures of the 'filled to t…

Eat, laugh, cry, remember: Baked Camembert

Once, on a holiday in Malta, I dressed Tony up in my gypsy skirt and stretchy white vest, used two satsumas for breasts and made up his eyes and lips with the brightest colours I had with me. Then I took a photograph. He didn’t seem to mind, in fact he seemed quite tickled by the fuss and attention to detail, but the quantity of rosé we’d shared at Snoopy’s restaurant on the seafront in Sliema earlier in the evening might have had something to do with that.

This was 1988. There were no digital cameras for instant viewing (and, praise be, instant deletion). The only instant photographs at the time came courtesy of Polaroid, with their packages of square film and box-like cameras, and slid out of the front of the machine on shiny thick card that everyone huddled over and watched develop. But they tended to be party cameras, appearing at Christmas, birthdays, engagements. You captured your holiday photos on a proper camera, one you had to load and feed film into, then unload and drop off…

The Mythic Biscuit: Oreos

My childhood biscuits were mainly plain but had lovely names: Marie, Nice, Rich Tea. Quiet biscuits. The kind of biscuits that would never interrupt a conversation. Polite, not pushy. At the other end of the spectrum, and only irregularly present, probably a result of practical economics, were cheeky Jammy Dodgers, irritable Garibaldis, and self-contented and reliable Bourbons. And even more irregularly, the flashy inhabitants of a Christmas Box of Biscuits: Pink Wafers. I ate them at the same time as not liking them very much, a bit like Miss World Contestants in sparkly dresses, too much eye make-up and a saccharine idea of world peace. 
I'm in the mood to think, and personify, 'biscuits' because the lovely team at Oreo sent me some samples of their new Oreo Thins. I hadn't heard of Oreos until the early 1990s when a friend asked if I would bring him back a packet from a Florida holiday. I forgot and pretended I couldn't find them. 'But they're everywher…