Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Sea, The Sea

We found time to get to Southend yesterday, and the winter sunshine was enough to temper the essentially desolate feeling that you get in a seaside town, out of season. My daughter had fun, and my wife and I realised that we could never, ever, live somewhere like that, somewhere so very white and otherwise socially homogenous, somewhere opposite, in fact, to where we live now. The reasons behind this conviction are probably different for the two of us. I was brought up in a medium-sized town that was almost exclusively white and middle-class, and if the experience hasn't scarred me exactly, it must have hampered the development of my sense of community and of personal and social responsibility. My wife was raised in the Babel of the East End, however, and has never left it, and would miss it terribly if she did. We had an expected house-guest the other evening, a friend of my wife's who had missed her train. When quizzed by a third party about her stay in Stratford she was broadly disparaging and pointed out that, after all, she was from the country. To us, the country is somewhere you might want to visit, but not somewhere you might conceivably want to live. Southend, by no means uniquely, has neither the obscure charm of the country, nor the diverse delights of the city. It has the sea, though, which is what took us there, and not against our wishes.

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