A £3.50 return ticket for a seven-minute train ride to oblivion, the end of the world’s longest pleasure pier, tons of Victorian iron jutting out into a muddy estuary, where the blast of black air from a fog horn blowing up Aunt Daphne’s dress awaits.
Southend. I grew up in this town by the sea. Like a delinquent uncle, it moulded me, and I both love it and hate it. I left a long time ago, but not before it showed me the splendour of rozzers with Alsatians stopping Bank Holiday tribes of Mods, Skinheads and Rockers from disrupting the penny arcades; of sweaty, sand-infused sandwiches on a windy summer’s day, and unruly kids bathing in ignorance and a forest of candyfloss.
Those days may have gone, but blue skies prevail, seagulls hover, pink sticks of rock still crack teeth, and tides flow in and out.
It may be as good a place to live as it is to leave, but it’s always good to go back to, to take in the colours and sounds and watch the drunken grandads turn red in the sun, beside the seaside, beside the sea.