Summer in Skegness

Brit dons his heavy-duty waterproofs and grimly takes up his bucket and spade in a traditional British seaside resort…

A few weeks ago I found myself clamped in the teeth of a North Sea gale, on a bitter July Tuesday, trying to make a sandcastle from the brown sludge of Skegness beach.  

It was a corporate team-building thing. My team lost, our castle having drowned in the alarmingly rapid flood tide before it could be judged. We’d put a lot of hard, joyless labour into it. I watched it go under the waves, the collars of my summer raincoat turned up in a doomed attempt to keep the worst of the drizzle off my neck. It was that really wettening drizzle that you only get in English seaside towns. Out in the grey seas, the vast turbines of the Lynn and Inner Dowsing Offshore Wind Farm turned, turned, turned. 

Now we can all agree, I hope, that the proliferation of wind farms across the British landscape, from Scotland to Cornwall, is one of the most gobsmacking acts of madness in our nation’s history: a wilful vandalism of our green and pleasant countryside – for the sake of, what? …Saving a drop in the carbon ocean? Setting an example to the Chinese and the Indians (who, if they followed it literally, would put turbines along the Great Wall, or stick a plastic recycling plant bang in front of the Taj Mahal)? I’m convinced that a few decades hence we’ll come to our senses and take all the wretched windmills down again; for now, we bribe landowners with vast sums to wreck beauty spots and natural habitats and lovely walks, so that we can pay lip service to the great global committee follies of warmenism and their terror of temperature.  

But I digress and, be all that as it may, it’s fair to say that Lincolnshire’s offshore wind farm doesn’t really wreck Skeg. It doesn’t improve it either, but the incursion by liberal modernity into a corner of rough old workingman’s Blighty is an interesting juxtaposition, like a Starbucks opening in Toxteth. I’d never been to Skegness before and I expected it to be one of those places that’s better than you’d imagine. But in fact it is exactly how I imagined: like Blackpool, but smaller and sadder. There is a pier, a tattered funfair, an amusement arcade, a lapdancing club, a bowling alley, a clock tower and a terrible sense of innocence lost. During our day we experienced all of these except the lapdancing club. We bought some tat and we drank beer and ate pretty good fish and chips at The Clock Restaurant before being herded onto the beach to make the humiliating sludge-castles. 

Perhaps if you grew up in Lincolnshire or in some landlocked county like Leicestershire, where Skeg was your annual seaside treat, then you might enjoy sweet pangs of nostalgia even now. Do you? The great robotic windmills won’t help with that.  

“What I like about this place,” said Jeremy, my colleague, waving at the bulging technicolour stalls of beach-based tack and the horrible dead illuminations and the lapdancing club and the deafening electronic blare of the funfair and the amusement arcade… “What I like about this place, is that it’s so….restrained.” 

“Yes, it does have a certain subtle elegance.” I agreed. “Still, there’s always McDonalds, look.”

“McDonald’s is the poshest place in Skegness,” said Jeremy. 

“In Skegness, people get specially dressed up for an evening out at McDonalds.” 

We snickered nastily over our shared middle-class snobbery. Indeed, we team-bonded over it.

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About Author Profile: Brit

'Brit' is the blogging name of Andrew Nixon, a writer and publisher who lives in Bristol. He is the editor and co-founder of The Dabbler.

25 thoughts on “Summer in Skegness

  1. Worm
    September 5, 2011 at 12:30

    I wonder if anybody called Jeremy has ever been to Skegness before. I have to say that I very much doubt I shall ever have a reason to go there.

    I just googled ‘skegness’ and on the first page alone were 2 news stories from this week that ratchet up the depressing crapness – “Baby boy drowns at Ingoldmells caravan site” and “Skegness fairground ride collapse leaves woman fighting for life”

    🙁

  2. tobyash@hotmail.com'
    Toby
    September 5, 2011 at 12:39

    Corporate team building in Skegness? I think you should find another job.

    • Gaw
      September 5, 2011 at 12:59

      But appropriately crappy in a way. After all isn’t this a good metaphor for much of corporate life?

      My team lost, our castle having drowned in the alarmingly rapid flood tide before it could be judged. We’d put a lot of hard, joyless labour into it.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      September 5, 2011 at 13:28

      Had to get up at 4am to travel there, too.

      • Worm
        September 5, 2011 at 13:39

        Don’t you work in Bristol? If so, correct me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t your ‘Team Building & Diversity Co-ordinator’ have perhaps chosen a crumbling charmless brown-watered mud infested hell hole a teensy bit closer to home? One that isn’t on the farthest opposite side of the country? Minehead for instance?

        • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
          September 5, 2011 at 13:43

          Weston-super-Mare would have been the perfect, equally dismal substitution. We’re now part of a national conglomeration though, so we have no control over the decisions of our Team Building & Diversity Co-ordinator, alas.

          • Worm
            September 5, 2011 at 13:49

            I thought WSM was positively genteel compared to somewhere like Burnham on Sea

  3. jgslang@gmail.com'
    September 5, 2011 at 14:47

    ‘Perhaps if you grew up in Lincolnshire or in some landlocked county like Leicestershire, where Skeg was your annual seaside treat, then you might enjoy sweet pangs of nostalgia even now. Do you?’

    Skeggy!!! My 50s riviera among the yellerbellies The day trips from Lincoln in our Standard 8. The jaunty roadside sailorman (wood? concrete?) that you passed on the outskirts. The beach that put the sand into sandwiches. The ‘bracing’ (read ‘icy’) North Sea. Little did I think I would ever see the name Ingoldmells again.

    • cf146@york.ac.uk'
      Craig Fox
      September 6, 2011 at 15:35

      Am afraid I also suffer those Skeggy pangs. Sort of. Bittersweet scars from all the summers abandoned to the care of sinister Butlins Redcoats, Timmy Mallet types all. Skipping along the beach toward the amusements with the other unfortunates, excitedly singing “Ingoldmells” to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Thanks, Mum and Dad.

  4. law@mhbref.com'
    jonathan law
    September 5, 2011 at 16:21

    Adored Burnham when I was a boy — we lived just a few miles away across the Levels, as the heron flies, but the lanes through the marsh and across the dunes seemed to wind on for most of a summer’s day to young lads hungry for the slap and plop of sand and mud, the coiled burrows of beachworms, and maybe even a distant glimpse of the sea, somewhere off by Cardiff.

    I haven’t been back in 40 years, and I’m not sure I’d care to.
    (I see that B. on S. now boasts as its USP and chief visitor attraction “the shortest pier in Britain'”– how far would you travel to see that?). However, I was in Minehead a couple of years back and I thought it was lovely: I suppose it’s like they say, having kids of your own gives you odd bits of your own childhood back, whether you have any idea what to do with them or not.

  5. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    September 5, 2011 at 16:56

    Knew someone once who was born in Skegness, at least it sounded like Skegness. Judging by her appearance it may well have been Loch Ness.

  6. philipwilk@googlemail.com'
    September 5, 2011 at 17:16

    If you think Skegness is a little lacking in gentility, you should try Mablethorpe.

    • Wormstir@gmail.com'
      Worm
      September 5, 2011 at 19:08

      Philip thanks for introducing me to mablethorpe- just had a good laugh after googling it to find that the districts around are called Theddlethorpe, Strubby….and Miami Beach

      • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
        September 5, 2011 at 19:13

        Arf!

      • law@mhbref.com'
        jonathan law
        September 6, 2011 at 18:23

        Worm, you’ll find a good example of your beloved plotlands at the nicely named Humberston Fitties, just south of Cleethorpes.

        Even by the standards of British coastal resorts, the chain of seaside towns that extends from Skegness and Ingoldmells through Chapel St Leonards, Sutton on Sea, Trusthorpe, Mablethorpe, and Saltfleet to Cleethorpes seems particularly faded and forlorn. However, there must have been a time, before the package-holiday era but not so very distant, when for thousands of families from the Notts and Derbyshire coalfields and the shoe factories of Northampton and the foundries of Leicester this was the seaside. As such, these places must have been redolent not of nostalgia but of sex, glamour and freedom. To a frivolous Southerner like me, it’s always seemed a bit incongruous that the final stormy sex scenes in Lawrence’s The Rainbow should be set around a bungalow somewhere near Skegness or Mablethope (“The fight, the struggle for consummation was terrible. It lasted till it was agony to his soul … he only wanted to be buried in the godly darkness, only that, and no more” — the godly darkness of Skeggy!) However, given the period and the milieu this is probably absolutely right.

        • Wormstir@gmail.com'
          Worm
          September 6, 2011 at 18:47

          Humberstone fitties? They certainly have some ungainly place names in those parts!

  7. dkldr@yahoo.com'
    September 5, 2011 at 22:07

    I have always loved the name “Skegness”. Sounds like the Mecca of soggy fish n’chips n’ grotty slappers n’ chib fights.perusal ccessive

  8. info@shopcurious.com'
    September 5, 2011 at 22:53

    I’ve obviously led a sheltered existence too, never having been to Skeggy. But I was in Paris today – and coming back on the Eurostar passed by some shockingly huge wind turbines in a field right next to the track – somewhere between Paris and the tunnel… They were way too big up close, but in the distance from the beach, as in your pic, they look like those miniature windmills kids stick in the top of sandcastles. Curiously innocuous and actually rather cute.

  9. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    September 6, 2011 at 09:55

    This raises the old spectre of British place names lacking even a modicum of the romantic and the reason, with the possible exception of Berkeley Square, for their absence from songs. ‘The Golders Green Lineman’ lacks that vital element somehow and ‘Rose of Accrington’ in no way shape or form conjures up visions of thwarted love.
    We won’t mention Stevenage or Tulse Hill or Gene Pitney.

    This wurd verifikation hurdle is making my brain hurt.

  10. tanith@telegraphy.co.uk'
    Adelephant
    September 6, 2011 at 11:12

    Skegness is one of those places I’ve often thought I wouldn’t like to go to. Having read your post, I will certainly avoid it if I can.

    I’m disappointed that no one from the Skegness Tourist Board has appeared in its defence.

    • Worm
      September 6, 2011 at 16:03

      perhaps they agree on all counts

    • Brit
      September 6, 2011 at 21:45

      Yes, we mustn’t rule out the possibility that this is the most flattering thing that has ever been written about Skegness on the internet.

  11. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    September 6, 2011 at 20:50

    Upon reflection…..

    Away from Droitwich’s vale,
    With my ol’ hat there for a sail,
    I crossed upon a cotton bale,
    To Rose of Coventary.

    Cho: Oh brown Rosie,
    Rose of Coventary.
    A sweet tobacco posey
    Is my Rose of Coventary.
    A sweet tobacco posey
    Is my Rose of Coventary.

    I landed on the far sand bank,
    I sat upon the hollow plank,
    And there I made the banjo twank,
    For Rose of Coventary.

    Oh, arter d’rectly bye and bye,
    The moon rose white as Rosie’s eye,
    Den like a young coon out so sly,
    Stole Rose of Coventary.

    I said sit down just where you please.
    Upon my lap she took her ease.
    “It’s good to go upon the knees,”
    Said Rose of Coventary.

    The river rose; the cricket sang,
    The lightnin’ bug did flash his wing,
    Den like a rope my arms I fling,
    ‘Round Rose of Coventary.

    We hugged how long I cannot tell.
    My Rosie seemed to like it well.
    My banjo in the river fell.
    Oh Rose of Coventary.

    Like alligator after prey,
    I jump in but it float away,
    And all the while it seem to say,
    “Oh Rose of Coventary.”

    Now every night come rain or shower,
    I hunt that banjo for an hour;
    And see my sweet tobacco flower,
    Oh Rose of Coventary.

    Oh fare thee well you belles of Spain,
    And fare thee well to Liza Jane,
    Your charms will all be put to shame,
    By Rose of Coventary

    Y’all take care now.

  12. jameshamilton1968@googlemail.com'
    James Hamilton
    September 7, 2011 at 09:45

    For the sake of completeness, here’s the Skegness tourist website which confirms Brit’s hunch that he’s just written the most complimentary Skegness thing on the web.

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      malty
      September 7, 2011 at 10:51

      making Skegness one of the most dense populations of caravan resorts in the UK.

      That has to be one of the most damming indictments ever set into print.

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