Forget the view, Lynne wanted a room with air conditioning

Sunset over Southend airport from Lynne's hotel room. Picture: LJM

Sunset over Southend airport from Lynne's hotel room. Picture: LJM - Credit: Archant

A Cure for World Cup Fever

It was a symptom of (now abated) World Cup fever, I suppose.

Suddenly, for the quarter-finals, we decided we needed an away-day in an air-conditioned hotel room with a good telly and so we booked for one night at the Holiday Inn, Southend.

The last time I went to Southend was in around 1995 and the bowling alley on the pier had recently burnt down. It felt like the right time to make a return visit to the Essex resort.

As it is on the coast of the Thames estuary where the great river opens out onto the North Sea, I assumed it would be cooler there than inland – I was so wrong. It was hot and, when we walked down to the beach and looked out over the water we had a sense that the heat was coming from our right, from London. I wonder, if everyone in east London held their breath at the same time, would the temperature go down in Southend?

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The hotel looks out over Southend airport which doesn’t deal with the same amount of traffic as Heathrow but is, nonetheless a busy travel hub and we watched planes take off and land, and passengers deplane and walk through the glass corridor to the terminal. But most of all, we watched the England v Sweden football match, reclining on the bed in our wonderfully cool hotel room.

The outing showed an unusual degree of spontaneity and we were chuffed with ourselves. We even ordered breakfast on the basis that England’s World Cup run has prompted so many barbecues that hotels were probably among the few remaining places in England where you were guaranteed to get a sausage.

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After the game, we drove down to the seafront where jubilant England fans were lolloping into the road, with their beers in plastic pint glasses, urging motorists to sound their horns.

I don’t know if it is indicative of my age, but I have no idea where the horn is in our comparatively new car so I waved my approval and smiled encouragingly. The last time I sounded the car horn was in France in the 1990s when two members of the local gendarmarie in their squad voiture failed to move off when the traffic lights turned vert. I always worry that if I honk, I am going to make people jump.

We motored past the amusements and entertainments until we reached the posh end of the esplanade... at least, Westcliff-on-Sea appears to be awfully posh (amazed they let me in). I reversed into a parking space and panicked when I saw clouds of smoke at the back of the car. But it was nothing to do with the car. When I got out, I realised there were people using the wall along the promenade as a barbecue ledge and the smoke was coming from 16 sausages (obviously no shortage here) sizzling over charcoal.

We walked along the strand, which smelt of seaweed and barbecue sauce. A woman was rubbing sun tan cream into her buttocks which were only marginally covered by her swimsuit. My husband, always the gentleman, didn’t notice.

With the temperature at 30°C (that’s 86°F in old currency) there were lots of people in the water. I rammed my sun hat on to my head to counter the hot breeze. I knew I looked like an ageing granny/Freddie-Parrot-Face-Davies cross but I didn’t care, beach life isn’t a competition. Anyway, I can’t remember the last time I rubbed sun cream on to any part of my body that might inflame passions...

n Here is a tale related to me at a WI meeting near Great Yarmouth, last week. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to skip the following.

The group submits a contribution to a local free newspaper that gives details of their meetings and speakers’ topics. One guest was due to speak on the subject of “stinging nettles”. Something went radically amiss, however – though no one can say how. Maybe it was the computer spell-check, maybe the old cut-and-paste manoeuvre went awry but instead of “stinging nettles”, the speaker’s topic was instead listed as “stunning nipples”. I should point out this is definitely not one of the talks the WI is hosting, nor is it offered as a talk (as far as I know), nor should anyone on any account do a Google search for the term but I thank them for sharing this very funny story which I have already incorporated into my own talk.

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