I just don't know where to start! The tackiness seemed to go on forever and that 'bracing' wind was whittling away at my bones. I was at a seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coast called Skegness - sadly enough the name is a good indication of the general attractiveness of the surrounds - to attend the Evangelical Alliance stand for a few days at a four week Christian Conference. I had spent the entire weekend gushing on about my paid holiday in Skegness, an excitement that vastly amused my English friends, who warned me repeatedly not to expect much. The three hour train journey out to Skeggie (or Skeggers – my attempt at a more Australian ring – it never caught on) was brilliant. I finally traveled out of the South East of England and I was glued to the windows watching the most fabulous countryside unroll before me. There was a particularly lovely section of the trip where the train chugged through low, hedge-rowed hills that hid so many little towns that as one church spire passed out of sight, the next one hove to view.
The actual holiday sites of Skeggie were like nothing I had ever seen - huge caravan parks with caravans as far as the eye can see on either side of the coastal road, or the bigger sites like the one we stayed at, with roller coasters, pools, pavilions the size of the Dome and pubs, clubs and cinemas. It looked more like holiday hell than holiday heaven to me. Katy and I were staying in a two-room apartment, one little apartment in a block of ten that was in a huddle of four that was in a collection of 40 that was one of six huge sections of housing. The site could hold up to 8,500 people in peak season *shudder*
At least there was the beach combined with the incredibly unusual and surprisingly clear weather! The site we were staying on had a substantial beach front BUT the camp site was completely fenced off and those staying in the camp could only access the beach from 9 to 5. On Monday I did not get out of our chalet until 5.30 and almost cried when I realised the closest I could get to the first beach I had seen in almost 7 months was to peer sadly at it through a huge fence. I must have looked so lost, walking the entire length of the fence looking for another gate and periodically pressing my face forlornly against the bars.
On Tuesday, as the spectacularly fine weather was holding, Katy banished me from the stand to go and sit on the beach. What a treasure. I was a very happy little Aussie, sitting on the beach in a jumper and a coat with it's hood protecting me from that 'bracing' North Sea wind, watching the Mad (dogs and) Englishmen paddling in the shallows in their shorts. I had forgotten how well I think with a blue sky meeting a heaving sea on a watery horizon.
The actual town of Skegness was familiar – it reminded me of the towns down south with their year-round residents mostly in the retirement age bracket and the winter desertion of shops and arcades – yet horribly different as you approach the beach and are swamped by the roller coasters, seal parks, bowling alleys and mini-golf courses. I did spend most of my time on the camp site however, which was not too bad. Katy and I had pub evenings, we played ten pin bowling (I wiped the floor with Katy) and I even played pool with some of the other exhibitors. Now, for anyone that has ever seen me wield a cue, this story will seem preposterous – but I actually played a smashing game of pool. I potted four balls AND sunk the black to win the game! I was so VERY VERY surprised at my prowess in the bowling lane and on the pool table I decreed Skegness the Claire Sporting Capital of the World! Even more impressive is the little fact that I even had a minor romantic interlude for three days with a charming Scotsman, just home from three years as a missionary in Africa. I will say that romantic perambulations o'conversations along windy Lincolnshire strands with accented men are highly underrated!
I was supposed to stay for just five days, but when I handed over to the next group of EA members Kat and Richard bothered me for almost 24 hours to stay – so I did. One must always look after one's public! The second week at Skeggie was great fun – Richard and I particularly ran amok in a completely sensible way and I was very sad to run the gauntlet of spindly spires back down to the dusty, dirty city ...