Saturday, January 24
Adventure Island, 16:00
Everyone I know has plans for the weekend.
Arja, the woman formerly known as my therapist, suggested at our final meeting that “I should make time for myself”. Last night I put these together and decided that I should have a solo adventure.
I decided that my technique for doing this would involve getting myself to a mainline railway station and then, spontaneously, choosing a destination.
This didn’t quite work out as planned because, as soon as I got to Waterloo, I found a leaflet for Horror-on-Sea, a festival I had once read about and expressed some vague interest in. It seemed to be taking place while I was reading the leaflet so, my decision suddenly made for me, I set off for Liverpool Street station.
I bought a ticket, then tried to find the platform. The kindly man at the information desk smiled and explained that the train actually left from Fenchurch Street station. I left somewhat puzzled, and walked the ten minutes to Fenchurch Street, the only London mainline station not on the tube system.
I was in Southend-on-Sea an hour later, wondering whether I would recognise it. I had not been here for about 45 years, and the High Street is now pedestrianised. The cinema where my grandmother took me to see 101 Dalmations is no more.
The beach area though seems almost unchanged. I am looking at Adventure Island, a miniature funfair either side of the pier. The opposite side of the road still has the Rossi ice cream parlour I remember from my childhood.
The festival is taking place in the ballroom of the Park Inn, about twenty metres away. The Park Inn has a special festival discount so I decide to stay there for the night.
I will book my bargain room and then take a look in the ballroom. The festival will appear to be sparsely attended by the kind of people I would usually avoid. I will decide that the occasion seems to be usual enough to continue avoiding them.
Leaving the hotel, I will wander for miles up and down the sea-front instead. Eventually, when I am hungry, I will find Tomassi & Son in the High Street, where I will throw myself into the absurdly luxurious set menu.