Harry’s Ramblings; I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside
A Monday stroll in November by the seaside is a wonderfully invigorating exercise. Not too many people about, the main body of tourists are long gone home, back to their warm houses far away from the penetrating wind that can take your breath away one moment and fill it with spray the next. Eastbourne is one of those resorts that apart from the pier has few attractions for the younger visitor, mid-way between meccas for kids of Brighton and Hastings, with seafront amusement arcades welcoming those with too much change to be paid into an avaricious hand that possibly pays out prizes more suitable for easy destruction.
The amusement section on Eastbourne’s pier also has these machines, strangely attracting pensioners who should know better than to fritter their meagre money they intend leaving to grasping grandchildren. These senior members of society are here in November because of something called Turkey and Tinsel.
This is a marketing ploy devised in the 1990s to fill empty hotel rooms in the fallow period between late Autumn and Christmas, when traditionally people don’t tend to holiday. It is usually organised either by a hotel, or a coach company which owns the hotel, guests arriving on Monday, departing Friday morning. Arrival evening meal is Christmas Eve just in that hotel, with bingo followed by a local entertainer, usually a singer with some degree of talent but insufficient to be attractive to a more discerning audience.
The whole hotel is decorated with appropriate baubles, then the next day is designated Christmas Day. There are games, mince pies, a light lunch, because the turkey dinner is still at 6pm. Alongside each place setting is a cracker, and a present. This has usually been purchased at the pound shop, wrapped in different coloured paper according to whether it is a male or female recipient. Far more pink than blue. The next day is Boxing Day, not much to celebrate here, then the last day is New Years Eve, with the inevitable different singer, and Auld Lang Sign. But the balloons and party poppers all go off around 10pm, because the senior celebrators can’t cope with staying up until midnight.
Then the next morning, it’s off in the coach, with the hotel staff standing on the step, waving farewell, see you next year, and how much did you leave in the tip box, you miserable old pensioners.
But back to my seafront walk. I have taken a photo of an abandoned street cleaner’s barrow. The point I make is how pleasant, even in the out of season high winds, the person’s job must be. Imagine the anticipation of collecting your barrow from the depot, walking along the seafront pushing, looking out for litter that stays still long enough to be gathered. No pressure, start as the sun comes up, have a lunch break, then end as the winter sun goes down, with the backdrop of the sea, the sound of the heavy waves breaking, no-one to bother you except for the occasional pedestrian who wants to exchange pleasantries. There is certainly no-one sitting on the wooden benches, dedicated to some long ago person who liked to sit and reflect on their favourite seafront seat.
There is a photo of the bandstand. This was erected in 1935 as part of Eastbourne’s seafront renovation. It is completely open to the public on Christmas Day (the real one, not pretend like the hotels), Boxing Day, and New Years Day, for a free bandstand late morning concert. It is easy to see over 4,000 people dancing there in their finest Christmas jumpers, proudly displaying what their dog is wearing. This unfortunate animal frequently has elf ears, or the ultimate ignominy, reindeer ears.
If the dog is in its owners’ arms, jiggling up and down with a silly grin (owner, not pooch), it is out of time with the band, which is usually the excellent Eastbourne Silver Band. The volunteer bandsmen give up their Christmas morning to entertain, makes no difference about the weather. Boxing Day it is a more robust jazz band.
Out of season is the ideal time to come to Eastbourne. There are always deals to be had at hotels. A lot of people these days book their rooms through an online site, but the hotel has to pay 20% commission to them. What we always do is look at all the hotel web sites, then contact our chosen hotel directly. We ask politely what their rate will be without the booking company’s commission, on most occasions we obtain a discount. And there is a strange anomaly in Eastbourne, whereby you will pay considerably less for your seaside room rate than most other desirable resorts. Have no idea why, but the Eastbourne hoteliers, despite having an active hotels association, haven’t managed to raise to a more economic level.
So there are Eastbourne hotel discounts to be had. I once asked the general manager of the five star Grand how many weeks of the year he would offer a discount. He replied that apart from public holidays like Christmas and the June tennis week, all weeks had offers. Even at The Grand.