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Life Lessons Amelia

In the May 2019 Bank Holiday with my son Zak at Easton and Otley College in Norwich we decided to stay for a week in Stratford just south of Norwich. On the Saturday all four of us, my wife Jo, daughter Olivia and son Zak , visited Southwold in Suffolk, a short drive away.

When the children were younger we had stayed in Suffolk several times with Southwold being a favourite beach. George Orwell lived there for a period and this fact is celebrated in the town with a blue plaque on his house and artwork near the pier. It is a well preserved seaside town, and I am sure if George Orwell visited it today he would agree. When our children were little, Zak and Olivia would play on the beach running fully clothed into the sea only for the sun to dry them off as they played in the sand. It was a great family place to visit and play. Indeed, if you visited in 2019 you would still consider it a great place for families to visit, yet in the last ten to fifteen years it has changed in a very subtle way.

As ever, when I arrived in Southwold I parked in the large car park near the pier in my twelve-year-old Citroën Picasso. We arrived at 9am expecting a busy car park this Bank Holiday week-end , but I need not have rushed as the car park was barely half-full with brand new Range Rovers, Porches and Mercedes cars. Not realising it as we parked, my humble car was odd-one-out due to its age and make.

We walked along the sea front with our fluffball of a dog, Teddy and eventually sat down and bought some teas and hot chocolates to drink whilst we chatted and watched people arrive to enjoy their day.

It struck me how immaculately dressed these holidaymakers were with tailored shorts and t-shirts and flowery dresses. Indeed I heard one teenage boy say, “I only ever wear Tommy Hilfiger to go to the beach.” My daughter informed me these are over-priced smart-casual clothes.

It also struck me that unlike my messy children of the past the children on the beach were very clean. Indeed, very few had buckets and spades, with cricket, football and rounders dominating large areas of the beach. The colourful beach huts along the sea front also provided a source of entertainment as each one’s occupants arrived and extended their presence from the hut into the prom with tables, chairs and even a small sofa. The huts themselves are intricate works of art with clever set ups inside providing hot drinks, and all manner of paraphernalia turning them into small homes from home. These beach huts are eagerly sought after by the rich and famous fetching tens of thousands of pounds for what is effectively a glorified garden shed. It then occurred to me how Southwold has changed. It had transformed from a family seaside town to a rich man’s play town where money bought everything at an inflated price from cordon bleu fish and chips on the pier to over-rated art galleries in the town. The people “enjoying” it were largely white, English and wealthy. But that, in itself, is not a problem. What I observed on top of their wealth was an imperiousness as they sought to show-off a bought status with high end luxury cars, designer clothes and talk of what they were buying next loudly on their mobile phones that were stuck to their hands.

My fears on the fate of the Southwold tourist were confirmed as I watched a lovely-looking lady and her pretty daughter walk along the prom in matching flowery full-length dresses. The daughter was about four or five and was appealing to play in the sand. “Why can’t we?” the little girl pleaded two or three times with no response from her mother.

Then finally her mother responded to her pleas, “Life lessons Amelia. It’s life lessons.”

Forgive me if I am wrong, but the greatest life lesson is to play in the sand getting wet and dirty like my kids used to.

Colourful detail of a beach hut door painted in red white and blue

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