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Barry Kirk’s Essex Insight

PUBLISHED: 15:43 10 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:43 10 October 2014

Thorpe Bay,Essex

Thorpe Bay,Essex

Archant

Barry Kirk shines a light on Southend both past and present

YOU know when you are getting old when it comes to taking grandchildren to sign on at college. To make matters worse, the latest trip was for my second granddaughter, Victoria, who started in early September. She enlisted on a Media/Journalism course at South East College in sunny Southend, and with memories of Southend past, I had my doubts.

But, have you been to Southend lately?

Not a Kiss Me Quick hat in sight and the esplanade, usually knee deep in discarded chip paper, was so clean you could almost eat your chips off the path. Well almost.

What a change from my youthful days quarrying tank traps in the pebbly sand for the overweight families to fall into as well as dropping the traditional boiled eggs or Rossi Ice Cream for a coating of sand. It always was a strange place, where you only admitted you were going if you forgot what rail line you went on.

Trains terminate at Southend, so it was no use saying you were holidaying in up market Clacton or Mrs Bucket’s holiday beach hut in Frinton. Southend was the holiday Mecca for eastenders, who brought their whippets to train on the beach and would leave legions of scruffy youngsters outside the seafront pubs clutching a glass of lemonade and bag of crisps. After a few pints it was off to the Penny Arcades with the exploding light bulbs and tinnitus inducing music with a weighty bag of pennies that lasted all of a few minutes. Then the scramble to find disappearing parents for more money while they hid from the deckchair attendant and his ticket machine.

Even the Mods and Rocker fights were down market as most could not afford mechanised transport and used the train instead. On the more notable occasions, the train loads of swaggering leather-clad bikers and hair combing Mods were met by battalions of Essex Police at the station who took their shoe laces to prevent trouble. It was very effective as the popular form of attack was ‘a good kicking’ which then carried a health warning about contracting athletes foot.

But all that has gone and the Southend of today has seen a remarkable makeover. It is now a place well worth visiting with a thriving student community, shopping centre and an ambience that defies the memory.

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