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Once More Unto The Beach

Felicity Cloake

‘A perpetual holiday is a
good working definition of hell’ 

George Bernard Shaw


  1. ‘By looking over my left shoulder I see gorse yellow against the Atlantic blue, running up, a little ruffled, to the sky, today hazy blue. And we’ve been lying on the Gurnard’s head, on beds of samphire among grey rocks with buttons of yellow lichen on them … You look down on to the semi-transparent water – the waves all scrambled into white round the rocks – gulls swaying on bits of seaweed – rocks now dry now drenched with white waterfalls pouring down crevices. No one near us …’ – Virginia Woolf, from her diary entry for the 30th March 1921. As she no doubt oft observed, who needs Lanzarote when we have Cornwall?

  2.  ‘Ilfracombe is the end of everything. The express train that had wound so long and crowded out of Waterloo had only three carriages left. Parts of it had been dropped off at Exeter and Barnstaple. Here at Ilfracombe Station, the end of the line, we seemed to hang in air on a cliff top, with the town two hundred feet below us, silvery slate cliffs, sea and the far-off coast of Wales below.’ – John Betjeman, writing in Trains and Buttered Toast, is clearly a man who never had to stand by the loos for five hours.

  3. ‘The long tunnel under the parade was the noisiest, cheapest section of Brighton’s amusements: children rushed past them in paper sailor caps marked ‘I’m No Angel’, a ghost train rattled by carrying courting couples into a squealing and shrieking darkness. All the way along the landward side of the tunnel were the amusements; on the other little shops: Magpie Ices, Photoweigh, Shellfish, Rock ...’ – Graham Greene celebrates the sinister glories of the British seaside in Brighton Rock.

  4. ‘I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset; the mountain almost invisible in a blur of pastel grey, glowing on the top and then repeating its shape, as though reflected, in a wisp of grey smoke with the whole horizon behind radiant with pink light, fading gently into a grey pastel sky. Nothing I have seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting.’ – Evelyn Waugh, writing in Labels, proves cruising isn’t for everyone, despite the unlimited breakfast buffets.

  5. ‘He wheeled her across Beach Rode and on to the paved promenade along the seafront. There was no one about but an old couple walking a dog. Anna K held stiffly to the sides of the platform, breathing in the cold sea air, while her son wheeled her a hundred yards along the promenade, stopped to allow her to watch the waves breaking on the rocks … then wheeled her back … The next afternoon it was raining and they stayed indoors.’ – JM Coetzee’s Life & Times of Michael K manages to make even the seaside seem gloomy.

  6. ‘The trip to Morocco was only a four-day break: there simply wasn’t time to get away for longer. We’d had to compare diaries even to find that much free time … Mostly we just chilled, but we also explored the markets, went on a trip to the Atlas mountains, bathed in a waterfall and found nice restaurants for cosy meals. We even rode a camel, which looks great on the video – luckily we don’t have “smellyvision” or you would know what a real stinker our camel was!’ – Chantelle, in her autobiography Living the Dream, shows us what a trooper she is, even on holiday!