Pier Hunting- Southend
This is the big one. Longer than The Mall,longer than Priory Lane at 1.3 miles, it claims to be the longest pleasure pier in the world. Well if crazy golf at one end and penny arcades at the other are your idea of pleasure then the boast is very real. But as Jesus showed walking on water is always a pleasure.
On a cold misty day with the boats going to and from Tilbury in the background there was mulled wine in the pier head cafe. Apres promenade de jetee I joked with the Filipino behind the counter, she smiled but no happy ending. The pier is so long because when it served the boats it had to clear the endless mud flats which come between Southend and the sea at low tide. This means it has a miniature railway whose engine is named after Sir John Betjeman who did so much to save the pier when the council were all for giving up.
The heyday of the pier was in the 40s and 50s. That is when my 94 year old pal George and his Wandsworth mates would go down to London Bridge in the morning, load up with crates of pale and special ales and the fun would begin. Get off at Southend have a few more then back on the boat and home by midnight. Gor Blimey Guv, what a carry on. A right old Knees Up all the way down the Lambeth Walk where no doubt they would Roll out the Barrel. Oh those Cockneys how they danced,more Rabbit *than Sainsburys, a few Pigs Ears* were drunk that day and those that were not Elephant Trunk *were probably on the trip with the Carving Knife*. Though as George says,”The wives they were the worst, drinking like fish they were.” Souhend has always been the East End’s(therefore true Cockney) favourite. It has none of Brighton’s la di la.
So on a day when the Currant Bun* didn’t shine I made the trip. I bought postcards in the pier shop, mulled wine on the pier and liquorice toffees in the sweet shop. Then it was of to Robins Mash and Poe shop established 80 years ,for a bit of Kidney Punch*. Never had it, OK I’ll have two pies and liquor(a kind of parsley Army and Navy*). The place was quite full and all were conscious that a stranger was tucking into a Cockney delicacy for the first time. Very cheap £5 the plate. Rosy Lea* 80 p extra. I finished and more than one asked, whatayouthink? Bloody marvellous(I lied, cheap mince mash and gravy, filling but not very tasty). One diamond geezer got up and winked “Aint bad is it”.
*Rhyming slang. Rabbit and pork-talk; beer; drunk; wife; sun; lunch; gravy; tea.