collins

Beach Party
by Clive Collins

I grew up hearing Americans sing about summer: beach parties, girls in tiny two-piece swimsuits and fun in Acapulco. One song I remember was called “It Might As Well Rain Until September.” In the English seaside town where my family spent two weeks every August, it probably did.

Our summer place was Skegness, “Skeggy” to the unfortunates who regularly went there. Each spring in our East Midland’s city the advertising hoardings of the railway stations and bus depots, the travel agencies’ windows, broke out in a rash of posters for holiday destinations all around England’s coastline, a paper paradise of fun, sun, sand and pretty girls, but my father’s meagre wage meant we were for Skeggy. Its advertisements featured “The Jolly Fisherman,”a cartoon fat man in a black sou’wester hat, red scarf, blue jumper and tight white trousers tucked into thigh-high sea boots skipping along the shoreline above a caption that read “Skegness is so bracing.” It was. Bitter winds blowing in from the sea usually are. Looking back, across the years, I cannot recall ever seeing anyone in Skegness who was inappropriately dressed for December.

As a seaside town Skeggy was more town than sea. As a beach resort it was more beach than resort, the sea just some distant rumour. In the 1950s, when my family members were regular visitors there, two ex-army DUKWs were used to carry fare-paying passengers down to the water and back again. We sat glumly at the top end of the sands trying to keep warm. When the time came that my parents could no longer tolerate the resort’s bracing effect, we retreated to a café for hot coffees. My sisters dropped sixpence into the jukebox and danced to warm themselves up: “Here Comes Summer.” I listened to the music and dreamed.

CAPTION: The author and his family bracing themselves on the sands at Skegness, England (August 1958).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Revisiting L.P. Hartley’s “foreign country,”where they do things differently.

Clive Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, and The Story Shack. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.