Monday, 23 August 2010

A tale of two seaside towns

We've been away for a week or so on our annual summer round of the relatives. Both Martin and I are from small, seaside towns, where our families still live. First of all we went to Southport, to visit all my lot. The place has changed immensely since I lived there. There's so much more to do now. I visit the town every few months, but for some reason the changes only sunk in during this visit. I took some of my nephews and nieces (there should be a collective noun for those!) out for the day, and most of the activities were new since my day. We went ten pin bowling, on the tram along the pier, on a boat on the marine lake, and had a rousing game of crazy golf. But it also struck me how expensive all these activities are, and how unlikely my nephews and nieces would be to take advantage of these regularly, given the cost. There should be some reduction for local people especially in the low season when the town is far from swarming with tourists.

Yet the increase in activities also means an increase in lowly paid seasonal jobs for young people; taking care of the boats, making hotdogs, waiting on tables, and even driving the tram down the pier. Hopefully, these opportunities will be available to my family when they're a little older.

The biggest change I've observed has been to the beach. Southport is known for it's long stretch of golden sand, upon which the sea seldom encroaches. It takes so long to wade out to it for a paddle that it's really not worth the effort. But now the shoreline is being transformed by clumps of grass taking root and turning the beach into land. It's distressing to see the beach disappear. I'd be somewhat consoled if I knew whether these developments are good for the environment, but I fear that they're not good for the town.

Aberystwyth, next stop on our summer tour, is a very different town. It's been immortalised in a series of comic books by Malcolm Pryce (Last Tango in Aberystwyth, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth and so on). Despite its beauty, it does feel like an end of the line sort of place. The highlight of our summer visit is going to the summer show at the University's art centre. This year it was to see Chicago. The last few years the show has been directed by Michael Bogdanov, a well known director, but although he didn't work on this year's show, it was still a fun night out.

I've seen the show in the West End, and also the film, and while the dancing in Aber's version was not nearly so spectacular, the staging and costumes were excellent and the singing pretty good. Most fun was the casting of transvestite Elizabeth Diamond as Mama Morton, the go to person for any goodies to make a stay in prison more tolerable. Lawyer Billy Flynn was played by a real live American, which meant at least one of the accents in the show was relatively good.

We are currently all agog to see what the show will be next year, my bet is Grease. Will keep you posted.