Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Gillian Darley index

Gillian Darley gets cabin fever on the Essex coast

Periodically this column lightens up to bring you instances of architectural high spirits, diversions and distractions, cheerful things found serendipitously along the way. “If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness” goes the first line of Billy Bragg’s ode to Essex, A13 Trunk Road to the Sea.

In the 1960s the Bragg family would drive out from Barking, via Dagenham and points east, to Southend. Arriving there they weren’t to be distracted by the obvious attractions of the mile-and-a-bit-long pier or the (then still intact) Kursaal amusement park, but pressed resolutely on. At Shoeburyness they settled down for a picnic on the beach and then embarked on a marathon walk which, to a small boy, seemed to go almost all the way to Holland.

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