It was early. All was still apart from the gentle lull of the tide reaching in and out. Although warm for the early hour, a slight breeze was fanning my sweaty body five miles into my run. The burning ball of sun poured molten gold into the ocean of blue. An expanse of richness shimmered majestically on the horizon. It was six am and as my Nikes pounded the sea wall, I thought I could be anywhere in the world: Malibu, Bondi, St Tropez, Skegness…the windmills on the horizon, definitely Skegness.
The above might read like the opening of some trashy novel, but it’s my trashy novel – it’s my trashy Skegness. Skegvegas. The once jewel of the east coast. A little seaside town at the end of the line, of nowhere, where millions have flocked to for over 150 years. Where many a memory has been made. Where it’s clean air, flat promenade, amusements, and multitude of chippies, have enticed holiday makers, day trippers and retirees from all across Yorkshire and the Midlands. A family favourite. A place some have always dreamed to retire to: the quiet pace of life; living by the sea.
Only, some people don’t agree. Some people think my town is a shite-hole. Think that it’s acceptable to say our sea is a toilet, that it’s scruffy and that it’s a dump.
“Once thought of as quaint seaside town in northern England, Skegness is now a pile of dirt bordering the North Sea with a run-down amusement park idly resting on the land.”
Firstly, for those of you who don’t really know me, I’m not really a person who would be happy living in ‘a pile of dirt’. So let’s unpick that first. ‘A pile of dirt’ suggests Skegness is a giant dump site. This is an insult, not to me and my fellow Skegnessians, but to unfortunate people who are forced to live in some countries in dangerous snd unsanitary conditions. Countries like Mexico, Laos and the Philippines, where children are forced to hunt for food in amongst toxic chemicals and broken glass. Where orphans are forced to live off the land and make shelters out of rubbish – the only place they can call home.
Now, although I’m not blind to the fact there is rubbish in our streets (even I can see and smell the overflowing bins), I know two things:
1. I pay council tax which pays our streets up he cleaned (I even see the trucks coming s as no going from the beachside depot on my morning walk, or run). Therefore, it’s not it cannot be described as a ‘pile of dirt’.
2. That the major rubbish is from the type of people who lack social manners or grace to use a bin. The type of person – I have witnessed – who would come during Covid and not bother to put their chip wrappings in the bin and let their children poo on the beach. Therefore, if my town is a ‘pile of dirt’ then maybe people need to start paying it some respect.
And this brings me to my second point. Living in a seaside town; an area of social deprivation; is both enjoyable and depressing at the same time. It’s glorious living here at times. To be able to finish work and walk along the beach – any time of the year. To be able to spend weekends in a space that many will drive hundred miles to have fish and chips on the sea wall and drive home again: a smile on their faces, a sense of a spring in their step. Skegness: a sanctuary. But like most things in life, we tend to look at things with rose tinted glasses (it’s easy to on a sunny bank holiday). We don’t try to dwell on those winter months when it doesn’t get really light (a nightmare for a blind person). Where the arctic wind cuts across the sands and Skegness truly lives up to its name ‘bracing’. And where the town’s poverty is laid bare as there’s no work; no money: and where the food bank is stretched and desperate for donations. It can be a bit grim.
But, let me draw you to the why? Skegness offers a piece of nostalgia. It has a sense of good old-fashioned fun where that so called ‘run-down amusement park idly resting on the land’ is seen as a Mecca for Joe Public to escape to. A haven of thrills. And as for ‘run-down’ – hugely inaccurate and hugely unfair.
This latest press coverage is dangerous. Both for our local businesses and residents. In a town where our council fail to reinvest in our community and make us more attractive for tourists, it falls to our local businesses to keep reinvesting, to keep building.
However, the biggest issue with me is the detrimental impact this careless journalism has on the younger community in our town. Friday’s Daily Mirror headline of ‘Brits slam seaside town’s ‘dirty streets and brown sea’ and urge tourists to ‘run away’. Is both inaccurate and damaging. When this came up on my phone on Friday afternoon, I discussed it with my class. Who, I am proud to say, discussed it maturely and with objectivity. The overwhelming feeling of ‘Skegness is crap at times, but it’s our town and they have no idea’. They laughed at the ‘dirty streets’ – that’s the visitors. They argued about the ‘brown sea’ – it’s the mud flats. They saw the ridiculousness in people running away ‘200,000 tourists and thousands of caravans says not. Proud as I was of their defending of their town, it doesn’t take away the fact that they are well aware of Skegness’s downfalls, but they also understand loyalty.
To grow up and to try and build a life here is hard enough without the snobs, critics and arrogant of our society. When I found out that I was one day going to lose my sight I panicked. I longed to live my life to the maximum. I vowed to travel; see and do things that I could recall in vivid colour when I could not see anymore. I longed for life – not in Skegness, But life has a funny way of working out. To some extent I have. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve plenty to still do. There’s so much I still want to see and do, but, against all odds I’ve raised a family, built a career and had some brilliant experiences – all whilst living in a small seaside town. But although staying in Skegness was never part of the plan; I wanted the Malibu beach house (still do) but life, circumstances and good old-fashioned loyalty have kept me firmly rooted in the town I’ve grown up in. Sure I’ve been away, lived elsewhere and at times wanted to leave, but something more than family has kept me here – I am lucky enough to have a beach.
Skegness might be a little tough around the edges. It might need some investment. But, and this is the thing, thousands visit us every year for the sea, sand and a big bag of doughnuts. We might be tacky, but isn’t that the appeal? Who wants to pay through the nose for a seafood cocktail in some overpriced pub on the Cornish coast when you can sit on the prom with the bracing air and a tray of cockles, mussels and a crab stick for a fiver? Up here on the east coast people are real. We are friendly, accommodating and understand the value of our visitors.
Most days, when I watch the sunrise over the sea, take RosieDog for a walk across the dunes and can hear the sound crashing in my back garden, I feel so incredibly lucky. And I know I am. When I mention where I live, that I go on the beach most days, people are often envious and hold Skegness in high esteem. Memories of fish and chips Sundays and being sick on the waltzers are often shared. These are the people who should be speaking out. These are the people whose opinions count. These are the people who know the beauty of our little seaside town. And, if you’ve read the shitty publicity and think we really are as bad a holiday destination at Syria, then my advice would be to listen to our many admirers. Come visit and see for yourself!
Skegness is my trashy novel. It’s my life. Like anything it has its ups and downs, but there are worse places…Everyday my heart lifts when I see the beauty around me, I’m sure it would be a tonic for you too!
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