Carol On My Calf

06Apr07

southend_491.jpg

Today I have returned to my hometown. Sitting in the early traffic, I wonder how many of my fellow-motorists might have been in my class at school, might be previous girlfriends, or I may have worked with? Things might have been so much different had I stayed: Got a proper job, married a local girl, had – Essex children.

I have been sent to Southend-on-Sea this glorious day; the seaside location of my magazine assignment and where I first started ambling along the sea front, with camera and Tri-X film that I processed in a darkened toilet at home. Up until a few years ago, we used to stride along the mile and a quarter-long pier every freezing New Year’s Day. Quite coincidentally, we learned through a cousin addicted to researching our family tree, that on Boxing Day 1864, our ancestor Daniel scrapped with some squaddies from Shoebury Garrison. He was later found washing around the pier’s iron struts – on New Year’s Day.

Southend was one of the prime casualties of the 60s sombrero switch to the Costas and it’s been in terminal decline ever since. But I see the garish Treasure Island theme park is helping to bring the hoards back to the Thames Estuary mud flats. I was there to photograph a man from an organisation called Coaster Force, a cult of thrill-seekers dedicated to the addiction of Roller Coasting. Southend is once again on the map – because of Rage.

Seeing Rage for the first time made me almost wretch (rather than growl). There is a vertical climb – and I mean vertical, a Saturn 5 effort – followed by a (once more with feeling) vertical drop with a helical twist at the end. I have been fortunate to fly with the Red Arrows on a few occasions but let me tell you the huge relief I felt when I learned it had suffered software failure and the V-Drop was a Z-drop.

I’m really quite pleased that parts of Southend sea front is still the faded, shabby back-water that I fondly remember. After all, if the Vegas of the Home Counties had been on my doorstep, I may never have picked up a Canon AT-1 for £169.99 and marched off down the esplanade in the summer of ’78.

I may instead have had ‘Carol’ tattooed on my calf.

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One Response to “Carol On My Calf”

  1. Sometimes going back to your roots can be a good thing. All places do change and so do people in them, for the better and sometimes for the worse. I myself feel that to “get right back where I once belong” could be just what I need right now. With regards to Carol, she might be sitting there having your initials tattooed on her shoulder…who knows…it might be a good thing…it’s the little rascals she has in tow you should worry about…


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