Our holidays were spent by the sea, from dawn to dusk, digging castles and moats, then filling them with buckets of water. Drinking water from the tap in the wall and sandy sandwiches eaten where the sun always shined. That was growing up in Southend-on-Sea.
You soon learnt to swim when you paddled out of your depth and frantically doggy-paddled back to shore. Then, of course, there was the mud, the glorious mud. for digging and throwing and not treading on the wiggly worm casts, 'just in case'. The 'clever clogs' brought inflatable paddling pools to be filled by wiling hands, so that a cooling splash about could be had, in the long hours that the tide disappeared. No lilos for us, oh no. You might fall asleep and get whisked away by the tide. Then the coastguard would have to be called and that would be a sin when you were growing up in Southend-on-Sea!
Following the wooden, barnacle covered sleepers down to 'the Ray' for a swim, with one eye on the tide so as not to get trapped. Then hanging over the wooden bridge at the creek, with a bit of mussel baited string to catch an orange crab. That was growing up in Southend-on-Sea.
Special days meant an open-top bus trip to Peter Pan's playground, now called Adventure Island. Fun on a whirly carriage, brightly painted train and adventures in the Crooked House, sliding down its wooden floors. A go on the speedy go karts, if you were lucky and maybe a prize for fishing out a duck from its watery stall.
Then there was 'The Pier'. Growing up in Southend-on-Sea meant train rides on the longest pier in the world and at its end, penny arcades or Punch and Judy, or even a trip to Rochester, Kent and back. Hours spent fishing from the lower decks of the pier; seeing how wet you could get before retreating up top.
The persistent memory, however, of growing up in Southend-on-Sea, is, the smell of the sea. Oh that smell! It seemed to represent everything healthy, a 'cure-all'. 'The sea air' and the freedom of it all. One thing you knew for sure, if you grew up in Southend-on-Sea, was that it wasn't the sea that gave off that fabulous fragrance but the mud! when the tide is out, the smell of the sea is at its strongest....So lovely, growing up in Southend-on-Sea.
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