Monday, 24 June 2013

Folding Bikes and Stuff

In  the quest to minimize weight and security issues and to avoid banging holes through the bodywork of the newly re-sprayed van, I have spent a lot of time looking at folding bikes, both online and in shops. It's the cycle rack problem; Do you or don't you? I'd prefer not to. However with regards to folding bikes. Who knew how expensive they are? Who knew how many there are for commuters and how many variations on the basic design? And who knew what a pain in the arse it would be to find something at a reasonable price that can at least ride a “made dirt track”* without falling to bits or breaking your arse, for less than a grand.
However after much research I have found some candidates:
Everything else ... too expensive.
The two/three above stand out
A: because I measured the rear access garage against the folded measurements of the Tern Joes.
B: all three bikes have wheels of greater diameter than 17 inches, and this is significant.
C: Whilst still appearing to be incredibly expensive for what they are, they are still relatively affordable.
Our riding criteria are: Shopping, site seeing, access (all the usual). It would be lovely to be able to afford an A frame and a cheap car like a Smart to tow as well as bikes, but it’s extra insurance, and fuel and risk. We’d both have to do towing courses (though our current licences already allow it, our skill set would be sadly lacking).  

Back to bikes we don’t intend trying the King of the Mountains route for a laugh, or doing downhill dirt tracks  in the shit. However a made dirt path* through a wood or field is never out of the question. Just take the New Forest as a for instance, miles of walking routes, miles of cycle paths. Do you then want to limit the radius you can wander through the forest, to that enabled by shanksies pony**?
The answer is probably no. So we need bikes that are rugged enough for dirt paths, rolling over potholes, and bad road surfaces, with enough traction through the gears and wheels to climb a moderate hill, but also pack away small. I refer the reader to Youtube, for visible proof that small folders are a bit shit on a steep incline; gearing is critical unless you want to get off and push.
So like everything we are planning we have to compromise somewhere. With regards to bikes, the compromises are almost too numerous to count, and without exhaustive test drives in varied environments you just can’t make a decision.

Forums don’t help. Forums I find more and more are populated by friendly but unhelpful idiots who want to wish you luck in your search for an answer ... they just needed to get it off their chest ... thanks for sharing now fuck off (politely off course). And the other kind of know all obnoxious idiot, who disagrees with everything you’re asking about, your reason for existing, your reason for asking, and to tell you that they bought the most expensive best recommended piece of equipment ever ever ever ... it was shit, they could have done better themselves and they sold it to some other fool on E-bay and you’re doomed.

Ooh I forgot to mention the clique twats who decide to use your thread to banter with each other for page after page after page regailing each other with stories about how they’ve answered your question a million times in other threads which they relentlessly post links to in your thread and have cool user names  like  “Foldingbikedude” and IKNOWSOMUCHMORETHANYOUDOYOUSHOULDBOWDOWNANDLICKMYBOOTSFOLDINGBIKEDUDE ... with a signature quote like “mountains tremble at my passing I’m so fucking great” and a picture of a Pokemen shitting out a folding bike shaped turd as their Avatar.
Ahem ...
So anyway, forums, could be useful ... frequently not, rant over.
Ooh I did forget asking shops, they tend to tell you what you are looking at is a piece of shit ... even though they sell it, and that you should by this gold plated, diamond encrusted one over here that was actually excreted by the last living Pokemon in our dimension ... but still isn’t going to like a dirt track.
Rant really over.
If we look at some of the bikes, there are only three or four manufacturers worth mentioning. All the others from what I’ve seen are either steel framed or so cheap, that the maxim “you get what you pay for must be applied”.
·         Brompton; all commuter great quality, really expensive, not designed for our purpose.
·          Dahon; mostly commuter, well known, quite expensive, do a full size off road unit ... best part  of a  £1000 (still none with front suspension).
·         Tern (Bastard son of Dahon), make 26 inch folders, still a young company, their cheapest 26 inch the Joe 21 is £350 (only if you buy from Evans),  may a be a compromise too far as it is just a full size folding commuter the Joe 24 is a possibility, but £550 and then the Joe 26 £650 and more (still none with front suspension).
·         Montague make full on 26inch folding off road bikes ... need a mortgage to buy one. However if you have Montague money they look great and can weigh up to 27lbs less than the equivalent Tern or Dahon ... however their final folded size is about the same as the Terns (eer no suspension here either).  
So we return to the two/three above. Eclipse £600, 20 inch wheels, folds up small, good reviews but not a mountain bike, quite a lot of kit built on (pannier rack, dynamo powered front light, rear battery operated light), if I was a commuter I’d probably buy one of these ... if I didn’t buy a Joe.

The Joe’s £350 to £550 26 inch wheels, longest measurement when folded 92cm, (all three folded measurements are 92cm x 85cm x 35cm). Folding sizes are significant the van width at rear doors with panelling is 125cm, but you must take account of best folded storage orientation. The 92cm is the vertical, and we need to allow space for two.
Folding bikes may be an ask too far. And Paul asked the question: why not just carry normal bikes inside, and chain them up outside when they aren’t being used?
He has a point!
And in truth I really love my Trek 4300, it’s been my faithful friend for nearly ten years, and Amanda’s Rockhopper weighs less than a fag paper, all the folders weigh more, even the Alloy ones. For a £70 strip down service (plus parts). Mine could be spanking again in a day.
I may have made a decision as I wrote this :-)

*Made dirt path, one defined and often maintained for access, but not always drained or even, and usually not even coated with loosechippings
**Shanksies Pony ... your own two feet (catching Shanksies pony home ... you’re walking).

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Very Long Day

I couldn’t find my shaving gear this morning. I needed to look my best for no reason other than I didn’t want to turn up at Blackdown looking like a well attired tramp. Not that Paul would care as long as I make myself clear and bring a cheque. Not finding shaving gear is clearly move related. Not finding it for an hour because someone who shall remain nameless plonked it in a basket full of shoes, and then put more shoes on top was unfortunate; It was Amanda by the way.
So I missed the 8am window for leaving, this meant that all the pissing about required at the start of the journey, such as getting fuel, doing tyre pressures ((which really were in need of doing), cleaning the billion dead green fly from the windscreen etc didn’t get finished until 10am. So really I didn’t properly get on the road until 10am. I can mitigate not fuelling last night, with the reason: the motor home was in a secure parking space outside the flat, and had I moved it even an inch, someone else would have claimed the parking space and I would have had to leave our valuable cargo in the hellish place called Paranoia... yes really that quick and by that tiny margin. You think parking in London’s hard; try Southend on Sea with double yellows outside your own home, and no access to off street parking. For Fucks Sake Permit parking would have been a better option. Southend borough council is becoming a bigger pile of poo each day I spend here seeing how they have ruined the place.
Any way I digress.
Six and three quarter hours of relentless miserable drive later I’ve completed today’s mission. The van has been delivered to Paul, we’ve had a chat about my drawings such as they are (I haven’t had time to enlarge the originals, but Pauls no fool and I think we are on the same page). Colours are an issue, the price has jumped ... er ... a lot. I did ask Amanda if she wanted to bail out and just forget the plan to travel this year, and just do the van ourselves in our own time and live to fight another day? But she said, in for a penny in for a pound ... Fool money his and a parted are easily ... make a sentence out of that. Or realise that you could be dead tomorrow, so fuck it “All in” after all; you can’t take it with you, and if you’re willing to shovel shit you’ll always have a job, to get some back in the coffers.
I’m now on the train coming back to London, on the last available train my “Super Off Peak” ticket will allow. The ticket allows me to travel on any train one way before 6pm. After 6pm the ticket wouldn’t be valid or I’d have to pay the peak fare difference. Like anyone gives a monkeys about that except me, right this minute. Let’s just say it was a close call.
Last time I made this journey, it was not nearly as long in my mind ... the driving bit that is. However this time I did do miles of South circuit M25 road works, an accident induced miles long jam, a vehicle fire (never seen the remains of one of those before ... almost exciting) induced jam, a million mile long queue before Stonehenge, a million mile long queue after Stonehenge. It’s two hundred and ten miles from Southend. Ninety of those miles are after Stonehenge, where the A303; while pretty and scenic, does become a bit of bind because it frequently drops to a single lane. The part of me with a train ticket deadline kept shouting in my inner ear, that somebody ought to do something about the A303 and its congestion, the part of me that wants the Southwest to remain an awkward destination for the masses to reach thus putting them off, suffers the trauma of jams and stop start traffic for literally miles and miles and miles in the knowledge “you always get there in the end, and at the start of your new day, it will haave been worth it in spades”. What I should have done, was leave at 6am, suffer the traffic over Dartford bridge and a bit of rush hour shite at the M3 junction of the M25, and gotten well in front of the weekenders on the A303 ... and shaved the night before. However if I remember right, the night before I was still step cutting and insulating the redundant wiring and hiding the ends away in secret places and re-stacking the loose Motorhome equipment logically and stably for the long journey.
Time is a precious commodity, once spent never to be accrued again. This is one of the real lessons of the last 18 months, 168 hours a week, that’s all you have, look at a week in hours and all of a sudden life is very short indeed.
Seat update: The seats a fucking pig if you have to sit it for six and three quarter hours, even with twenty minutes out for a pee and a pasty ... also worth pointing out that the person who suggested peeing on the pasty lied.
What else can I say, that isn’t just padding? The train journey back, when you aren’t hemmed in by cuttings, is spectacular as far as Woking ... then it gets a bit built up and crappy. I have some photos of board and lining material to show to Amanda, I need a beer and something to eat, but I have at least two and a bit hours of travelling left to do. I’m going to sign off now, I’m waffling and trying to stay awake ... makes for a tedious read. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Waxing Lyrical

As I sat and wrote the previous posts, I was snatching glances out the windows of the trains on the way into London. I watched Westcliff, Chalkwall and the Leigh parts of the estuary pass by on my right from my backwards facing seat (you get to enjoy the view recede and it stays with you for longer from this position).
The estuary and Thames river side (the flood plain) of Essex is an insanely varied and attractive landscape ... if a little flat here and there. Even the bits being crossed by the army of pylons, looking like giant automaton striding across the land away from Tilbury power station, casting their wires back from man to man like explorers not wanting to get lost in a blizzard.
People moan about pylons, (and I understand why, if where you live is virgin land and thus far unspoiled). However I’ve known pylons all my life, from the ones strung along the Thames near my parents home in East Ham, to the ones strung across Wanstead park, where my first forays into camping and survival started and to my nans old home near Frinton on Sea ... these pylons were special, they were the first ones I ever heard buzzing and hissing in the drizzle of a wet afternoon.
We  travel by train every day, and ride past all those places that were treat days for me as a kid, and it just doesn’t seem to lose its charm. I know it’s only been a week or two, but there is something about the mud flats on the foreshore between the pier and Leigh in the morning that bounces the light around even on a cloudy day. And then there’s the clouds and the land of Kent across the estuary, giving perspective to everything, and there’s intense blue skies in every shade the sky sees fit to impress us with. I’m almost going to regret not seeing the same skies run through with low Autumn and Winter sun and golden dawns, and vermilion sunsets and sun rises
 We haven’t even had a high tide yet, that little treat is yet to come (and every stage within the tides range). And therein lies the reason the train journey is such a pleasure, (why all train journeys are such a pleasure). The tide changes, the light changes, the crops in the field change. For instance: early flowered Rape has gone over, but in several fields we go by its only just coming into flower. Salt marsh pasture is turning a very dark green, but shimmers to a white green when the wind lays it low, spring leaves in woodland and golf course trees have lost their spring growths delicacy and have now hardened off to their summer fullness. The Hawthorns blossomed like a second wave of Blackthorn all along the slopes below Hadleigh Castle. Some of the Hawthorn was the less common pink variety or possibly the even the Midland variety which is natively pink (crataegus laevigata, for those interested in such things ... as I am). Amongst the long grasses of the salt marsh there is a multitude of what I think is yellowist yellow, Meadow Buutercup dotted in clumps, splashed like paint flicked off a brush, to some pattern of seed dispersal known only to the wind.
The ponds and rean/reens, in the rural parts of salt marsh reclaimed from the estuary are full to the brim from last years rains, and these carve up the marsh in places from Benfleet through to Tilbury. They are straight lines of glistening water verged by long grasses and reeds, penning in cattle or horses here and there. There is an odd order to things even in the wilder parts ... I know without a shadow of doubt that the entire area is almost entirely the product of man, except of course the underlying structure of flat land suddenly edged on both sides of the river by a gentle slope that mark the edge of the flood plain, (visible if you know what you’re looking for even in the heart of the city of London).  
Wherever there is water there are birds, either in flight in mini flocks flitting from shrub to shrub or clump of reed to clump of reed or in little mixed clusters bobbing about on or promenading by the water. Where the train line runs the inland route, the added elevation gives sweeping mobile vistas over a distance of five miles or more gently down slope to the rivers edge, where until recently we walked. This land is variously marked by hedgerows or roads cutting straight lines across and through tracts of land turned over to isolated homes or farms. At the edge of our side of the river from Canvey to Tilbury you see the signs of industry, the rivers edge sprouting machines and gantries many meters high, higher by far than the pylons mentioned above.
There is a thing I have observed inwardly many times, as I have taken to the higher places overlooking the flood plain, and that is this: The works of man seem so small from a distance, even more so when you have stood next to great edifices of concrete, or massive structures of steel and been a little in awe up close. You stand back, look at the unending sky miles and miles across before it blurs with the land, and see the land itself losing all form, except for the base structure of hills and undulations, once in a while the indistinct straight lines of a transmission mast, pylon or chimney ... yes we are still there, but in the overall scheme of things, very small.  
All things being equal, you have to wonder why you need to travel so far and so wide, when you have all this on your doorstop.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Insulation Pictures

See below pictures from three and a bit days of intense lagging with materials various. I was very pleasantly surprised by the insulating effect of the foil over bubble wrap. I should explain: the blown fibre has only filled frame cavities so far, so its thermal properties are still minimal. The foil on the other hand, has proved that it does exactly what it says on the tin.

I spent about four hours in the van on Sunday afternoon with the side door slightly ajar to allow the glues fumes to be blown out. What I couldn’t know until I stepped out of the van was the difference between the overall external temperature and the internal temperature; from pleasantly warm to goose bump chilly. What makes the whole thing even more surprising, is that the only heat source inside the van was me. I think this foil stuff is the bees knees ... I’m so pleased I’m even going to give B&Q a link to it ... invest in this stuff you won’t regret it:

There are a few tweaks to be done, and I need to shuffle the pile of fit out stuff backwards so I can get to the panels behind the drivers doors. The pictures don’t show the roof section complete with all cross spars now covered. I think I should complete the entire thing by the end of this evening.

The Reason For All This Upheaval

I bought some lagging materials the weekend before last, for the purpose of stuffing the internal framework of the Movano. I settled (as noted elsewhere) on the blown fibre from recycled plastic bottles. It’s non-irritant, doesn’t readily break down (the reason environmentalists hate plastic waste, and you can understand why), doesn’t rot or go mouldy in and of itself (though I reckon if you wet it and seal it, it would be as good a rooting medium as normal Rockwool). It’s lovely to work with, tears easily, and breaks down to what feels like slick, rough, cotton wool. The outside of the bundle has been semi sealed by heat (I think), this makes the outer edge great for being the leading edge when stuffing.
Tools are improvised: The flexible handle of a plastic fish slice, a coat hanger bent to be a double ended hook for pushing and pulling, and the classic long handled wooded spoon for the easy access ram it in bits ... caveat: one mustn’t ram to hard or the insulating properties are destroyed by compaction. It’s  hard work, and I’m gobsmacked by the volume the internal frame can consume. I should also say, if you aren’t prepared to be lacerated, then you should probably not take the job on, and it’s one of those jobs where gloves really do just get in the way.
I initially bought a single 4 meter roll that expands to 200mm thick once unwrapped. I’ve barely stuffed the nearside middle to top struts and the top nearside strut, and half the packs gone. So on the evening of the 5th of June I’ll be going back to B&Q for another three rolls (whatever’s spare goes to Paul for use in the final fit out, so none is wasted). In amongst all this stuffing I’ve secreted the Silicone desiccant bags I‘ve been saving at work.
As with all these kind of first time jobs, there is a learning curve. You don’t want to ram to hard for fear of creating bents on the outside when you find a soft spot or void in your previously stuffed sections, the hook needs to be used sparingly because you don’t want to scratch off the internal paint and expose the metalwork (n spite of desiccants), and as with every DIY job you ever did it takes three times as long and ten times the materials you originally estimated.
The prep work to get ready for stuffing and sticking insulation materials involved a clean with white spirit to remove grease and dust post respray and thirteen years worth of soot deposits. The next job following the stuffing of the internal frame is lining the internal panels with double skin foil bubble wrap (that’s our main heat reflector and retainer) then Pauls lays on blown fibre under ply, to provide the sound insulation in addition to being a thermal barrier. To ensure breathability within the space between the foil and the external shell I’m going to be using a high temperature spray adhesive (not a high temperature contact adhesive), and I’ll run the adhesive in horizontal lines to ensure air flow throughout the internal space.
On Tuesday 11th June I’m taking the van back to Garry Lee Panel craft, there is a crack in one of the side windows, and one of the window rubbers has split (this allows a tiny amount of water ingress). I’m not beyond the idea of replacing an entire window (or windows), but it’s very much the last resort. My part of the window re-fit will be re-running the Herzim strip that protects the screw heads, but that’s a way down the line yet.
Once all this is done, it’s ready to go to Paul at Blackdown for final fit, and the date pencilled in is the Friday 14th of June. This requires a bit of logistical tinkering, because once the van has gone any large items requiring shifting between lockup and anywhere else will require van hire, so Friday and Saturday this week will be lift and shift days ... we also have to fit in Amanda’s and my dad’s birthday tea’s, and (I may have mentioned this elsewhere) site seeing and tomfoolery with Amanda’s sister who has flown in from Cyprus for Amanda’s birthday weekend.
It’s all go go go.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Moving Moving Moved.

So we moved house. It’s taken a huge effort, much pain, angst, swearing, late nights and a year’s worth of takeaways ... some of dubious quality and nutritional value ... some downright icky (Doner Kebab with the works, and no beer involved ... who would have thought it possible?), but we are moved and the cheque for the equity is in the post. I’ll take moment to decry the shite institution of soliciting (solicitors). They cocked up our final deeds forms, so we hadn’t signed them for the transfer day, this meant no money was forthcoming on the day ... but we had paid for an electronic transfer £35.00 + Vat in with the fees. Because we didn’t use that facility on the day of sale it has expired and they, the solicitors who “fucked up” wanted another £35.00 +Vat to do it all over again. You’re saying ... but if they “fucked up” then don’t they owe you an electronic transfer for free? And I say “in our world they do”, they say “Take a flying one at the moon”. Soliciting; the word for what prostitutes do on street corners ... they to my mind are the more noble profession, and we have to wait a week for a cheque to clear.
They say a fool and his money are easily parted. Sometimes I think they were referring to Amanda and I when they coined that phrase. In preparation to move into my brothers we had to spend some money tidying up and decorating ... a couple of hundred quid on materials. My brother hasn’t looked after the place and seems not to know what to do with it from one year to the next; this has cost him a relationship. His lack of motivation or care for his own home means that after twelve years, we have just replaced his carpets ... the ones that were there when he moved in, another six hundred quid, and on the Sunday after we moved in we went to B&Q and coughed another four hundred quid on light fittings, a toilet seat, and shower screen ... because shower curtains are shite and because I have pursauded my brother not to take the short term quick sell option on his truly enormous flat to the first person with a pile of readies. So he can shift himself to Sweden in the hope that the grass is greener there than here ... this road has been travelled before and it didn’t end well ... I wish him the best of luck for try two, but am firmly of the opinion that an insurance policy is in order. That being a fabulous flat in the dark heart of Southend on Sea. Said flats deposit being paid for by now long dead grandparents and great grandparents.
It’s not so much that I care for my brothers welfare (clearly I do a bit), it’s the principle, it’s the fact that in these “ard times”, we all got a leg up onto the property ladder by dint of the hard work of our forebears. And that shouldn’t be squandered in foolishness ... says he who just sold a house to go travelling, though Amanda and I have something to return to.
I feel today as I sit here in his enormous first floor flats lounge with windows on two sides (end of terrace, 8 minutes from the station, 8 minutes from the high street, 400yds from the seafront), that we, Amanda and I have stepped out of last year’s frying pan, into this year’s fire.
I won’t see a penny back from my elder brother, he’s skint, but I will make my stay here tolerable, because I don’t like living in shit, and I will honour (though that word seems a bit lofty) my grandparents hard work through the early to mid part of the last century when they scrimped and scraped through two world wars, a depression and in the case of my great grandparents (on my mothers side) the loss of the mother while the children were very young. Of my fathers family practically nothing is known, he was illegitimate and adopted shortly after birth.
The fire we have stepped into, is another round of decorating, plastering, electrical works etc. My brother has managed to get himself in hock with GE Capital Home Finance, who appear from the letters I have read to be regretting lending money on the one hand while trying to use bullying tactics to get “elder” brother to re-finance both a mortgage and a loan secured against the flat to re-schedule his debt ... I’d love to know what the loan money went on, he doesn’t drive, own a car, or for that matter have enough furniture to fit out his own home ... if I’d borrowed thirty grand and secured it against my home, I’d have something to show for it.
The plan now, if I/we can pull him back from the brink is to decorate the place to a fairly high standard, fix the ruined kitchen, fit light fittings that don’t look like they belong in a slum (bare bulbs on single strands of flex ... except the loo which does have a shade), and in the case of the bathroom, just the exposed terminals where a light once was. And when all this is done get in a decent estate agents, and get the place rented out to the highest bidder.
The problem is of course that, he lives in the area I defined in the previous post, to whit the rough bit of town that should be the cool heart of modern Southend on Sea. In an ideal world, everyone would suddenly realise what a great place this could be, spruce themselves up, whistle a gay old tune summon the bluebirds the rabbits and the deer, old brock the badger and some cheeky scamp squirrels and set to with brooms, mops and buckets and give the place (all of the York Road and Southchurch area) a spring clean fit for a fairytale princess ... However I have more chance of winning the lottery than I have of instilling civic pride and sense of ownership in my brother let alone an entire community that seems to be equal parts, entrenched locals maintaining a thin red line, some form of student looking body (though I suspect it is just a look, and really just a cover for copious weed smoking and looking like crusties), a fairly visible tattooed chav like community of underage mums and dads (underage as in should have learnt something and got a job before making more people and sponging off the state ... see previous post), and finally the mixed bag of foreign nationals, trying hard not to be confused with the previous two bodies of people (crusties and chavs), but being let down horrifically by the Eastern European man/men who think a gathering on the only bit of green nearby with a four pack of Kestrel Lager each, equals a modern seaside picnic ... bless their cotton socks, they aren’t actually doing anything wrong per se, they just look untidy and a bit intimidating ... though if you nod hello they all respond in kind genuinely.
So the mission to coin a phrase is to polish a turd, put perfume on a pig and hopefully get this place, that is so close to all the amenities a modern city commuter wants, station, seaside, nightlife, a very nice “outside of town” retail park, and in places a very trendy happening music scene top dollar rent. And in doing so, save elder brother from blowing his only foothold in the country and his only chance of ever owning his own home eventually from the fuckers who preyed on the weak and the stupid and played such a big part in creating the two tier society of have lots and have nots that we live in today. And by blows ensuring that if his mission to Sweden goes pear shaped that he can at least return to something, rather than nothing and no chance of getting anything; in the harder hearted Conservative future (which I can’t say displeases me), that would see a near or beyond fifty something man with fuck all to show for his free education, and thirty years before the mast, just cut adrift. He would be given short shrift by those agencies supposed to look after those that could fall through the net (single white are allowed to fall through, they don’t count). And my younger brother sister and I could do very little more for him, as we have commitments of our own already.
I keep looking skywards to the one I try my very best not to believe in and ask for miracles, and here I am again ... there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.

On the Soapbox

I’m not one for making social commentaries on the blog as it’s not really in keeping with the theme, however once in a while you have to make an exception. We have moved over the last two weekends, from Tilbury to Southend on Sea, it is as noted elsewhere just a stop gap between our old home and the road.
Southend on Sea was where we went as children for days out and even whole holidays. Southend was a nice place with a small kiddies fun fare called Peter Pans Playground and, the longest pier in the world. Through the rose tinted spectacles of hindsight it was a bijou and traditional, the houses were seaside town clean and the shops were all novel and interesting and mostly independent.
In all fairness I was not overly bothered by the South end on Sea bit as a child, except for Peter Pans, and the amusements on the sea front, I always preferred Leigh on Sea, because of the mud flats.  However I do remember the high street as a street with traffic. I remember my mother going into shops, and I remember proper restaurants. 
So how is it that a high street now devoid of cars and buses, pedestrianised is suddenly from this viewers perspective … so dreary and down at heel?
I have a theory, it’s one of those to my eyes fairly self evident theories, and I haven’t really dug around, so I may be wildly wrong, but, I think I can see the cause. Foreign holidays started the rot and the British seaside fell out of favour (this is well documented and a problem nationally).
Moving on a few years, the seaside industry is in decline due to relatively cheap foreign packages and the promise of guaranteed sun. So what to do if you’re a hotel owner with empty rooms trying to make ends meet in England? Easy rent them to the homeless? Sounds perfect, hotel stays in business, with a regular turnover of guaranteed income from itinerants moving through. Problem, the money is for accommodation only, the homeless person is probably not going to have a spare bean to spend in your local economy, and may possibly never work.
What do you do if you’re a council who has decided to take on lots of dispossessed individuals and get grants to house the homeless in hotels? Raise business rates to meet the shortfall because the citizens you’ve shipped in are potless and aren’t spending any money.
Then what happens is, the businesses that were suffering from a lack of custom, have to dig deeper to pay the council business rates. Those business's have less money to spend inwardly or outwardly and in so many cases eventually go out of business as the chains move in and the stack em high sell em cheap modus operandi reigns. It’s a vicious circle of decline.
What you’re left with is charity shops, cheap shit burger joints, and tuppenny ha'penny high street stores selling cheap as chips disposable crap to people who only care about the now, the looking good until the fashions turn over and their entire wardrobe is out of date. And out they go again buying piss poor quality knock off tut, in the vain hope of some validation in a society that has been telling them for two decades or more how to look good, and anyone can get credit even if they haven’t got a pot to piss in.
On the back of this low rent clientele, comes boozers, losers, druggies and the scum that feed them or feed off them … too whit dealers various, and shister Landlords who swept in at the end of the last property boom then crash, and bought all quality property at knock down prices and turned it into an over populated cheek by jowl sink estate, that the council (who by which time were also caught in their own spiral of decline) had no choice but to turn a bit of a blind eye and allow it to continue to eat itself alive.
Caveat: this doesn’t apply everywhere in Southend ... just where you want your legitimate passing trade and central hub.
Now the bust without the boom is with us, and “times is ard” for everyone. Southend on Sea is left with this legacy; fantastic homes carved up and turned into slumy looking bedsits, itinerants, dossers and the genuinely disenfranchised all huddled together, stuck in an environment where work is often seasonal, and transport into the metropolis is relatively expensive.
People are now looking to stay home for holidays, because all of a sudden going abroad is too expensive, or people are making do with multiple short breaks and day trips. But of course they are now put off of visiting their childhood seaside resorts, because seafront benches are occupied by pie eyed layabouts, the streets where once they could get an ice cream, or sit down for a family meal are gone. What they have instead is “cheap shit burger joints, charity shops, and low rent corporate tut shops”.

The once half decent pubs of the town have become that wretched half club half pub that attracts only those looking to get totally annihilated on a Saturday night and piss and puke in shop doorways thus ensuring the sound of the siren (ambulance or police) is the street sound of choice, in a raucous accord with the screaming swearing OI OIing moron that is the binge drinking 18 to 30 year old of Britain today.
There are of course pockets of the old seaside town here and there, and move either side of the centre of Southend itself and you find things much as they were when I was a kid, but that isn’t what this post is about. It’s about having your rose tinted glasses head butted full on into your brow and seeing your holiday town and your memories mis-managed by bleeding hearts with no common sense, and greedy councillors from both sides of the house, hand in glove with greedy developers for twenty or more years turning a gold mine into landfill.
If there is a consolation then it’s the fact that Leigh on Sea has its own council and they have maintained their standards, and it’s only a short bike ride away.
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