It didn't matter which sea. The one closest to London was preferable. I haven’t actually seen the sea for over ten years. The last time was in South Africa, the year I saw my mother before she died. The beaches here aren’t a patch on South Africa’s South Coast and we weren’t even on a particularly nice one. Port Edward isn’t anyone’s idea of a Fab Holiday, but for some reason, my parents liked it.
The closest beach to central London is Brighton. This was not the sea I wanted to see. After much investigation (i.e. measuring the shortest train journey), I settled on Margate. The idea of Margate tickled me pink – there’s a Margate on the South Coast too, along with a Ramsgate (I don’t think there’s a Brighton….), so I thought it would be hilarious if I went to the original Margate. Ironically, both the British and South African Margates are considered to be somewhat tacky and are both extremely overcrowded in summer. (Port Edward was a bit further down the coast, closer to the Wild Coast, and much more isolated).
So off to Margate I went. I thought it was horrible when I got there: tacky beyond belief. But the sea was green. And then I got lost in Old Town. Then I found a bookshop in an old bank. I got lashed with wind and rain for about a minute. I heard a few waves splash up against an ancient promenade. I saw huge tankers and ferries edge their way across the horizon. I saw the sea from the upstairs gallery in that awful Turner building. Then I had an early lunch at The Mad Hatter’s Tea Shop and fell in love. By then the tide had gone out and I got full of sand walking along the seaweedy tide line. At last, I stopped walking and just stood on a bit of slippery rock and looked and looked and looked.
Because that’s all I wanted to do: I wanted to look at the sea.
Obligatory holiday snaps to follow.