Sunday, January 25
Southend Pier, 11:30
I got up at 9:45 and realised that, for £5, I could be watching Tales of the Supernatural and The Widow. The former promised that it “contains six bone-chilling, blood-curdling, nightmare-inducing short films that link together to reveal a shocking truth…” and the latter sounded even less interesting. I had breakfast instead: a croissant and a cup of tea.
Then I went to explore the longest pier in the world. I am now about two thirds of the way down it and I have just passed the One Mile sign. The train still travels up and down the pier. It has just passed by. I am noticing that the light is extraordinary. In the distance I can see the oil refineries on Canvey Island.
At the end of the pier I will find an art exhibition, a Royal Lifeboat charity shop, and a cafe with the slowest service on earth. I will sit there waiting for my second cup of tea, trying to remember what used to be at the end of the pier when I came here in childhood. I think I can remember a large indoor amusement centre but I cannot distinguish it clearly from whatever is at the end of Brighton Pier and the other piers I have visited since coming here.
A family with an obviously intelligent but sulky ten year old girl, who is loudly proclaiming that she isn’t sulking and that, anyway, it isn’t fair, reminds me suddenly of Auo. I would have liked to show this to her. She would have liked to see it. As it turned out, I didn’t and therefore she didn’t.
I will think about this for some time until, there being no possible conclusion to arrive at, I will get up and walk back down the pier. In the hour that I have been here the tide has gone from completely out to completely in. I will realise that this is a detail I had completely forgotten. The tides at Southend has always been remarkably fast.
Calculating carefully I will decide that I will do better to eat a late lunch here than an early dinner in London. I will therefore walk along Marine Parade to the Neptune Fish bar, where I will have haddock and chips.
I will then cut confidently round the back and through a maze of little streets to Southend Central without ever getting completely lost. The train, the tube, and the business of checking in at Heathrow will all go remarkably smoothly. At 19:25 I will be in seat 23C with nobody sitting next to me.
At 00:30 I will be getting into a taxi. Seconds later I will be heading home. To my surprise I will manage to enter the house, get washed and go to bed without waking anyone, even the cat.