My alarm woke me at 6:20 and I leapt – slowly – from my slothful bed. The view from the window was not entirely promising, the sky being grey and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining.
At Liverpool Street station, I went to buy baguettes and coffee for breakfast while Tigger talked to the Quick Tickets machine. We met up in the queue in the ticket office: something had gone wrong at the machine and single tickets had been dispensed, not returns. We needed a human to sort things out.
Our ticket clerk, a pleasant lady, refunded the singles and issued returns in their stead. Despite this delay, we still easily made the 10:00 Great Yarmouth train. Not that we were going to Great Yarmouth. The train took us on the first leg of our journey, which was to Colchester. The plan was to bus it from there to the seaside at Clacton.
This turned out unexpectedly difficult. For some reason, the bus we wanted calls at North Station any time except during the day on Saturday, arguably the day when people most want to go to the seaside from the station. We took a bus into town but found the same situation: the bus is not available from the town stop during the day on Saturdays.
We walked to the Temporary Bus Station ( they have been building the new bus station for a long time without any obvious signs of progress) and there finally got a 76 to take us to our destination.
During the train journey, the sun had broken through and the weather began to look promising. However, there was a thin layer of cloud and the air was uncomfortably humid.
The ride to Clacton is quite pleasant, taking you through countryside and small towns. When we arrived it was warm and sunny but with a haze veiling distant views.
Thinking it was time for refreshment, we entered the Pier Tearoom. Tigger wanted toast and hot milk while I fancied a toasted teacake with tea. At the counter I asked “Do you do toast?”
“Our menu is there,” replied the woman, unhelpfully, pointing at the boards on the wall.
No toast, then and no point in asking for toasted tea cakes, either.
“OK,” said I. “We’ll have a small black coffee and a hot milk.”
She poured my coffee and said she would bring the hot milk to the table. When it came, it was a small jug of hot milk for the coffee. Hot milk as a drink was not on the menu either…
We went for a walk on the pier, passing through the amusement arcade. Tigger had a portion of baguette remaining from breakfast and threw pieces of it to the black-headed gulls. Smaller than herring gulls, these birds are skillful flyers and it was a delight to see them swoop and pick a piece of bread out of the water in flight.
On the way back, we spent some 2p coins in the slot machines. Needless to say, we didn’t win anything.
After our experience with the Pier Tearoom, we looked for somewhere a little more sympathetic for lunch and spied a branch of Prezzo across the road from the pier. We had Mozzarella in Carrozza with pizza to follow.
By the time we emerged, it was definitely cooler with a fresh little breeze blowing, and more comfortable. We thought of taking a bus ride to Walton on the Naze, which is just along the coast. The bus terminates conveniently on the seafront at Walton. We sat for a while in a seafront shelter and then went for a walk.
Perched on a street lamp we saw a gull with a twisted leg and for one mad moment, we wondered whether it was LJ who had come all the way down from Whitby! It wasn’t LJ, of course, and in fact, it wasn’t even a herring gull but another species, perhaps a common gull. Like LJ, he seemed to be thriving despite the deformed leg. This makes me wonder how common leg damage is among gulls and birds in general, how it occurs and how badly they are affected by it.
We sat for a while, enjoying misty views of the sea and ships and watching life go by. The mist increased in intensity so that even the pier was veiled by it.
We bought a cup of sea at a seafront stall whose owner looker like an ex-biker. Some of the people hanging around looked as if they too might belong to the same fraternity. So I was not altogether surprised when he remarked with interest on my rings, though he seemed disappointed that none possessed a skull motif!
We boarded a bus back to Clacton and as it pulled out, the Outlaws arrived. The Outlaws in question are the well known motorcycle club. Though I didn’t have time to count them, and could photograph them only from the bus, there must have been at least a hundred of them. Imagine the effect of that lot streaming along the roads! (Looking at the Web page, you will understand the tea stall man’s remarks about the skull motif.)
Unfortunately, we were not able to see what happened subsequent to the arrival of the Outlaws. Our bus took as through an evening landscape back to Clacton where we found another to take us to the station. Within about a quarter of an hour we were able to board the 19:29 for Liverpool Street.
Because of of certain frustrations, including those with the buses and the humidity which made for discomfort, we did not enjoy this outing as much as some others. I think it was worth going, though, despite the annoyances.
What can I say about Clacton? I ought not to judge it definitively because I have only ever seen a small part of it and, I suspect, not the best part. At least, I hope there’s a better part. The seafront area resembles Southend, which I suppose is fine if you enjoy the tacky delights of amusement arcades, gift shops selling rubbish and “food” outlets filling the air with the stink of stale oil. Plenty of people like this sort of thing so I am sure Clacton will survive the economic downturn by providing to such tastes. I find it all pretty naff.
Walton is different. It doesn’t cater for the same crowd so it is quieter and its pleasures are of a more subdued kind, though that was rudely shaken by the arrival of the Outlaws. I find Walton more congenial, with or without biker gatherings.