Song of the Seaside

This poem was presented as part of a collection for the 2016 Koestler awards during my stay at HMP Highpoint. It reflects upon the decline of British seaside towns that flourished as holiday destinations from Victorian times up to the arrival of cut price air fares to Spain. From the early seventies onwards, many small hotels were turned into social housing, supplied to meet the needs of London Boroughs for those on social security benefits that did not need to live in London, where the cost of real estate for the local authorities became prohibitive. Of course, those living there all year round  had to learn to live with a certain rugged beauty of grey skies and seas and those tourists visiting and braving the weather out of season. Hopefully this poem will also evoke some memories.

 Song of the Seaside

Breaking seas on promenade walls

Sounds of silvery seagulls’ calls

Flotsam on the grey-brown beach

Sheltering ships beyond the reach

Of gale-force gusts beneath wintery skies

That will the waters’ waves to rise


The sailors on brave battered boats

Glimpse grey-green where the jetsam floats

Deliver to diverse destinations

Produce to ports from unknown nations

Unseen cargoes, dark days and nights

Witnessed by the vessels’ lights


Couples stride along the strand

Hardy souls, dogs’ leads in hand

Clothed in coat and hood or hat

No trace remains where children sat

Their hounds run free along the sands

No ice-cream vendors or military bands


Winter wreaks its weather well

Aspects altered by the ocean swell

This seems to be a different place

As if humans here were a different race

Lovers of air, the fresh and pure

Taking a traditional seaside cure


Birds’ nests along the cliff face grow

Chalky rocks white as winter snow

From whence other walkers may look down

Keeping close to the grey and ageing town

That used to be a beauty blessed

To Londoners taking a well-earned rest


Now dishevelled shops are closed or grim

Where status seekers kept fit and trim

Hotels converted to social apartments

For the great unwanted, rejected like garments

No more catering to the middle classes

Now watering holes for one-day passes


As cut-price fares fly to foreign seas

Those that our seaside sought to please

Here is developed the low-cost town

A seaside contribution to dumbing down

Where price of product determines choice

And arguments are won by the loudest voice


The beauty of the seaside lost

We may all live to count the cost

Of short-term planning and speculation

A source of shame to a sea-faring nation

Even when the sun has day-long shone

The seaside’s attraction has all but gone