Victorian seaside

By Rob John

August 10th 1894. I couldn’t sleep last night. I was too excited. I’ve never been on holiday before, see. Never been outside London. Never been on a train. And I’ve never seen the sea. A few months ago on my birthday my dad said ‘You’re ten years old now, Annie. It’s time you saw the sea.’ ‘The sea’s miles away,’ I said. ‘How would I get there?’ ‘You’ll go by steam train,’ said Dad. ‘We’ll all go...in the summer. We’ll stay for a whole week.’

A whole week? I thought Dad was joking, but he wasn’t...and that’s why we’re on a train now...Dad, Mum, my little brother Joe and me. We’re nearly there. In a few minutes time, we’re going to see the sea!

August 11th 1894. Today I couldn’t stop staring at the sea. It’s huge! It goes on forever. You can’t see the end of it. I asked Dad if I could paddle in it. ‘You’ll do better than that,’ he said. ‘You’ll go in all the way up to your neck...if you want.’

To go in the sea me and Mum had to get inside a bathing machine. It’s a sort of hut on wheels. You put your bathing costume on inside. Then a horse pulls the bathing machine right down to the water. I was so excited. I wish Dad had been there when I got in, but he and Joe had to go in the water at the other end of the beach. Men and women aren’t allowed to go swimming together. The water was cold, but I loved it. My skin went all tingly. Ma and me just stood there laughing...up to our necks in the sea. I’ve decided...before I go back to London, I’m going to learn to swim.

August 12th 1894. There’s so much to see at the seaside. On the beach there’s a Punch and Judy puppet show. On the promenade, a brass band plays on a big round stage. You don’t have to buy a ticket, you just sit down in a chair and listen. It’s all free. This afternoon, me and Joe had a donkey ride. Dad lifted us up onto our donkeys, and a man led us slowly along the sandy beach.

‘Look at me!’ said Joe. ‘I’m riding a horse!’ He’s only five. He doesn’t know the difference.

August 13th 1894. The food you get at the seaside is lovely. Today we had fish and chips, and shrimps and ice cream cones, and this evening we had candy floss. Best thing about food at the seaside is that you can eat it outdoors. You don’t have to sit down at the table to eat like we do at home. Here, you can sit on the beach and eat a sandwich, or have your chips walking down the promenade. Everything’s different here. Everything’s better.

August 14th 1894. Today we went on the pier. The pier is like a long platform that sticks out into the sea. When you walk along it with the sea crashing underneath your feet, and the wind blowing in your face, it feels like you’re on a huge ship. At the end of the pier is a little theatre. We went inside and saw a clown, and some dancers, and a man who could swallow a sword.

August 15th 1894. Today I wrote a postcard to my best friend Gertie. The postcard had a picture of the pier on one side. On the other side I wrote. ‘I am having a very nice time. Wish you were here. Your friend, Annie’. Dad said the postcard will get to London before we do. That made me sad. I don’t want to think about going back to London.

August 16th 1894. Our last day at the seaside. Ma bought me a net and a bucket, and we went to the beach and looked at rock pools. We caught some crabs and some tiny fish. We put them in my bucket, but later let them go. We also found some pretty shells. Ma said I could keep those and take them back to London. Then we went bathing in the sea for the last time. I tried to swim, but I was too scared to take my feet off the bottom. I felt disappointed and cross with myself.

August 17th 1894. We’re going home now. We’re at the station waiting for our train back to London. Smokey, wet, boring London. This morning, I said to Dad, ‘I don’t want to go home. I want to live here at the seaside...forever.’ Dad said, ‘If you lived at the seaside all the time you’d soon get bored with it. But if you only ever come here for just one week, it’ll always feel special. The seaside will always be here, Annie. It’ll be waiting for you when you come back next year.’ ‘We’ll come back next year?’ ‘Yes,’ said Pa. We’ll come back next year.’ ‘Promise?’ I said. ‘I promise.’ said Pa.

Yes I will come back. I’ll come back and...eat ice cream...ride donkeys, and next year I will learn to swim.

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