Lazy, hazy days of summer on the front at Frinton
PUBLISHED: 15:28 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 20 February 2013
Tartan picnic rugs, cricket commentary on the radio and leopardskin patterned trunks – Richard Bryson, pictured right, remembers lazy summer days spent at Frinton
Tartan picnic rugs, cricket commentary on the radio and leopardskin patterned trunks Richard Bryson, pictured right, remembers lazy summer days spent at Frinton
It may sound rather disloyal but back in my childhood a lot of south Suffolk folk turned to Essex for their seaside visit rather than their home county.
Then again Frinton, with its traditional, non-tacky feel seems a better fit with Suffolk. Just as Norfolk sees Southwold as one of its own, Frinton, in its serenity and understatement, could be another Aldeburgh or Southwold.
Although I didnt discover the attractions of Clacton and Felixstowe until my more independent teenage years, I dont think choosing Frinton was all about snobbery.
There were commonsense reasons why my parents took my brother and I to this part of the coast. From Sudbury, via Colchester, Frinton was quicker to get to than many of the Suffolk resorts. But where this town was different from its counterparts up the coast was its flexibility. It didnt really matter what the weather was like, it had an answer.
On warm, sunny days (and when the tide was out) it had decent-size sandy beaches. When the tide was in, or it was too cold or rainy to sit on the sand, you could always pitch camp on the greensward.
Presumably todays children go there with iPods and skateboards to race along the breakwater paths. We went with bucket and spade, fishing nets and any sporting paraphernalia we could find. I practised my bowling on the grass, or sand, and got into bad habits playing across the line to avoid the ball going into the waves. I recall attempting to fly a kite on the greensward, umpteen games of one-handed catch and the smell of salt and strong detergent in the public lavatories, which you were reluctant to visit barefoot.
I still remember the tartan rug and windbreak we used and the tap-tap of the mallet, banging home the pegs of the latter into the sand or turf. Our soundtrack was the call of the gulls overhead, barking dogs and parents calling to children: Henry come and get your Scotch egg, or Florence, put some more sun lotion on please.
Murmuring away in the background, on a transistor grinding to a halt through too much exposure to sand, was the Test match, or sometimes, Wimbledon.
If I hear the wonderful commentaries of John Arlott, Brian Johnston and Alan MacGilvray it takes me back to those sunlit days when sport filled your head rather than the anxieties of adulthood.
When we ventured into the sea it was murky, brown and cold. That was okay for cooling off on hot days but a more masochistic challenge in colder climes. And were leopard pattern swimming trunks ever in fashion? According to incriminating photographs of myself, aged five, they were and somehow my mother avoided the clutches of the fashion police.
And though no right thinking Great White Shark would venture into such uninviting waters there was always the fear not to swim out too far. That Seventies blockbuster Jaws well and truly tapped into our fears of the primeval.
Back on dry land an absence of pubs or hotels open to the public meant Frinton was free of drunks and loudmouths. The only signs of a potential breach of the peace were the tut-tuts at the length of a queue to buy ice-creams.
In the high street I remember a Woolworths with a roughened wood floor, some tea shops and a tobacconist or two. No doubt now it is fashion boutiques, mobile phone shops and banks.
Passing those famous level crossing gates at the entrance to the town was the way to a secluded world, a tranquil Jurassic Park where the dinosaurs wore blazers, slacks and boating shoes and their female counterparts expansive floral dresses.
Yet while it is easy to mock I hope it hasnt changed.
Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent, goes the saying, though provided this haven of old fashioned British values safeguards its heritage it will always have the last laugh.