Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Green Light in the City

A Canadian in Skegness

14 August 09 words: Rob Cutforth
illustrations: Rob White

Our Rob gets injected with an armful of Skeg

I’m not a beachy kind of guy… especially a British beach. I’ve never understood the point of lying in a giant kitty litter box all greasy and sweaty while the wind sandblasts three inches of skin off of your back.

I also don’t like stuff on my hands. I never use moisturiser or creams of any kind; I hate greasy palms, literally or figuratively. I feel like that Goldfinger chick all covered in paint whenever I have sun cream on my hands. They say you can’t die if your skin is suffocated with goo, but I’m not convinced. Also, people are fat and their nipples are hairy. Fat, old, hairy-nippled guys in butt-crack revealing Speedos are reason enough to never go to a beach if you ask me.

The Nottingham Riviera (aka the big beach in the Market Square) seems like a good idea. You can go down on your lunch break, take off your shoes and walk through the sand without the threat of armies of lycra-covered old-man johnsons coming at you from all sides. I bet the Nottingham Riviera was brilliant for the first week or so before it became a steaming hot stew of townie vomit and kiddie pee complete with giant swear word written in the middle of it.

Unfortunately, I don’t know for sure how that turned out as this column was due before it opened. No matter. There is another way to write about Nottingham and beaches and that is to visit the real Nottingham Riviera, Skegness. I am regularly surprised at how kak most things described as “traditionally British” are. I mean, I know they’re going to suck, but they always seem to suck just that little bit more than I had anticipated. Skegness was no different.

I arrived in Skeggeh with a couple of friends on a very sunny Sunday afternoon to see three things that really set the tone for the day. The Christmas decorations were still up, there were enough algae in the man-made canal to allow even the most godless heathen the ability to walk on water and the 'I' was missing from the huge 'Pier Bowl' sign.

Skeggeh main street (the hilariously named Grand Parade) is a veritable cornucopia of eyesores. You don’t know where to look first (or look away from). There’s the dilapidated castle thing, the depressing tourist shops full of useless pieces of plastic and R rated postcards and the worryingly rickety GIANT WHEEL. Kids are smart these days and most of them seemed to have taken the hint, with only a few brave souls on any of the rides. No Nottingham kid wants to lose an arm when the log becomes dislodged from the flume, you can’t light an old lady on fire with one hand - how would you strike the match? There is nothing sadder than an empty log flume, let me tell you.

Well, except for the Skegness bingo caller. He had the voice of Ferris Bueller’s teacher and the self hate of an alcoholic used car salesman. 'Clickety click, sixty six. Gordon’s den, ten. There’s a bug on the screen, sixteen. My life means nothing… twelve'. I don’t know whether it was his desperate monotone or the promise of some serious schadenfreude, but before long we find ourselves sitting in front of Captain Happy dropping pound coins into the bingo machine.

There are a few things that immediately strike me as strange about Skeggeh bingo. One, you are sitting in front of a machine. There is no swirling Bingo ball cage, no wooden bingo balls, no cards and no daubers. The best thing about bingo is the ability to give your mate a giant purple dauber bindi when he’s least expecting it. Two, the numbers are in coloured columns. Now, I am no bingo aficionado, but one thing I do know is that in the game of BINGO, the numbers line up underneath the letters B-I-N-G-O. That is the whole bloody point. Three, and most importantly, there is no booze. If you’re going to take away the rolling balls, the dauber fights and the big prizes, you better replace them with booze… and lots of it.

The caller starts calling the numbers rapid fire one after the other without pausing to take a breath. I start freaking out.

'How are you supposed to keep up? He reads the numbers out too fast! I can’t keep up! Wait, wait!' to which the caller replied 'Don’t worry if you don’t hear all the numbers, I’ll tell you if you’ve won'. So, basically, it wasn’t bingo at all, it was 'Put-your-money-in-the-machine-and-shut-the-eff-up-game'. It was the most pointless exercise of my entire life. Believe me, that says a lot.

If I thought the bingo was messed up, it had nothing on the arcades. The blinking lights, spinning wheels and enough neon to make a Bangkok brothel look classy, mixed with the sickly sweet smell of cotton candy, fish and chips and body odour hit me like a sledgehammer. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to fall into a coma, throw up, have an epileptic fit or go into anaphylactic shock.

After playing the camel game, the Bunk-go, the penny pushing thing and winning nowt, I decided to sample some of the food, it smelled so good after all. Stumbling, dazed down the Grand Parade, we found the world’s tightest fish and chips shop. Along with the usual stuff you’d find on an overhead menu in a chip shop was the proudly displayed 'Ketchup 10p' and (if you can believe it) 'Plastic fork 5p'. 5p for a plastic fork! How desperate do you have to be to charge for a plastic fork? Only in a world ruled by crazy apes with lasers does charging 5p for a plastic fork make sense. It’s the first step toward anarchy.

The most shocking thing about Skegness was the beach itself. The yellow sand goes down the coast for miles and looks out onto a massive wind farm. Standing on Skeggeh beach watching the water lap at the edge while those giant white blades spin slowly with the sun setting behind you is quite a wonderful experience. It’s almost religious. Really. As long as you keep your eyes away from the Disneyland on downers behind you and tell yourself that those donkeys on the beach are not wishing they were dead, you can have a very pleasant day out in Skegness. I look forward to seeing how they replicate that in Market Square.


We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now

You might like this too...


You might like this too...