A holiday at home

August 21, 2017 by Ray Morgan

I don't know about you, but my Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of other people's holidays at the moment. Majorca! Cornwall! Croatia! Cromer! (hashtag pub lockdown). I went on holiday in May, which seems about fifty years ago now, and I'm feeling the need for some holiday vibes.

I recently took a random Tuesday off, and my sister and I took my nephews (18 months and 3 and a half respectively) on a holiday-ish day out in Southend. We got on the open top bus from Rectory Grove, where the 3 year old buzzed with excitement at seeing the Broadway from the eyes of a bus (even though we didn't even make it to the top as it was so busy). We got to Southend, changed them into their sweet little swimsuits and they leapt in and out of the fountains that spark great jets of water, a perfect playground for water babies. Then we went on the Big Wheel in Adventure Island, which cost the grand total of £2.40 for all of us. We spied boats and planes from the top of the wheel, which they loved. As did my sister and I, who also greatly enjoyed the two hilarious teenage girls operating the ride who did dances like the Macarena and Whigfield's Saturday Night to entertain us.

We then ventured into the arcades, where I taught the eldest to play the 2p machines (life lessons) and the youngest bombed around pointing at Minion games and pressing buttons - he didn't even realise he wasn't playing the games, he just loved pressing all the buttons. Despite a minor (okay, MAJOR) fail on the way back - the kids did NOT want to be constrained on the top of the bus and were not playing ball - it was a brilliant, cheap, holiday-day out, and it felt like we were tourists in our own town.

I did it again this weekend. My partner works Saturdays, so I decided to take myself on a date. The weather was set fair, and I walked all the way into Southend along the seafront from Leigh. The tide was in, high, and the sun sparkled on it ridiculously. I took endless photos of the water. I sat on the sea wall and a wave jumped up and splashed me, making my sunglasses salty and refreshing my face. My heart almost couldn't take it when I saw an elderly swimmer being helped into the water by someone much younger. The old man smiled as he got further into the water. It was beautiful. I saw people paddle boarding, swimming, wind-surfing. Kids shrieked at the tide touching their toes, others made sandcastles and threw stones into the water.

I saw a huge ship on the horizon and thought how great it would be to take a photo of it. So impulsively, I decided to go to the end of the pier. I asked when the next train was, but it was in 30 minutes, so I walked it in whipping winds and bright hot sun. I couldn't even hold my phone in my hand it was so windy; it would have been blown out of my grip. I plugged Nick Cave into my ears and strode. It's a view unlike any other. I stopped occasionally to look back and see just how far I'd walked; it's impressive every time. I got to the end of the pier and the enormous container ship cast a shadow over the buildings. It coursed past, and I took photos that didn't come out quite like I'd planned as the ship was starting to become too far away, but just standing there, battered by the wind, watching it was enough.

I took a selfie standing against a rainbow-striped beach hut, much to the amusement of two giggling teenage girls. They mocked me, but I took it in one take, so who's laughing now? (As if they've never taken a selfie in their life!) I queued up for a cup of tea in the blank, corporate 'centre' (there's so much potential for that space, don't get me started) and struggled to find a table for one among the throngs of old people and toddlers. I took my cup of tea and sat on a step in full sunshine, reading my book, occasionally holding my face up to the sun. I could have sat there for hours until the next enormous ship went past. I enjoyed the moment for about 40mins. I took the rattling, funny old train back, making temporary friends with old people and toddlers. We kept smiling at each other, it was so sweet. For £4.50 I'd been out to sea and back; it's not every day you can say you've done that.

I really feel like I've got the best out of our town lately. It may not be a real holiday, but it can absolutely feel like it. And the best bit? I was home in time to make macaroni cheese and a crumble for pudding before Jo got home from work. A holiday in a day.

To read all of Ray's previous blogs, please click here


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