Friday, November 07, 2008

Prestatyn in November

Prestatyn, it turns out, is a town of contrasts: a sheltered avenue of trees

and then a mill-pond (the mill, alas, tucked away behind 'No Admittance' notices) with dirty-looking ducks.

Then another walk down another lane and a school - peering through the windows I saw children with their hands up and I had the odd feeling I was truanting from life, doing nothing, just walking, or maybe trespassing

through a hushed estate of houses which added to my sense that I really shouldn't be here, that I should have something else I should be doing

then into town and its interesting vernacular architecture of old-time inns

and public houses, and chapels

converted so easily into curry houses; the arches above windows conveniently close to the curves of an Indian temple, and the listing of evening service and morning Sunday School quickly replaced - with the flick of a sign-painter's wrist - to the prices of a good tandoori.

Ah, Prestatyn dreams of being hot

with palm trees and lidos and beach huts which seem sadder still under grey skies and the cold damp air of November.

But still, there is the soul-soaring loneliness of the beach,

a glorious emptiness of pale sand

with the impressions of waves set hard enough to turn my ankle. And as I limped from them I thought again of all the ripples I have seen preserved in sandstone, and that moment: the one when something catastrophic happens, when everything changes - a sudden shift of the tide - and these tiny undulations are fixed, like these could be now.

Ha, back to the end of the world...

Which takes me, quite neatly to this.


It is a shock to come upon it and a shock to see how far it stretches behind its prison-like perimeter. Its resemblance to secure accommodation is striking. Are the bars to keep people out - or in? I imagined a few months from now: the noise, the enforced jollity, the group entertainments and the organisers with their determined grins.

But for more than half the year Prestatyn lives without it. Half the year the parks are empty

and life can continue unguarded.

Back in the town there is the bustle and cheer of a thriving and affluent place. The shops are full. The faces smile. Maybe it is a little like blanking out pain or grief. It is there - but there is no need to dwell on it.

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Blogger Brian Clegg said...

There's something about the words 'Prestatyn in November' that strike fear into the heart.

I am reminded of an article in the Guardian many years ago which covered university options in the manner of a Monopoly board and included 'Go to Aberystwyth, go directly to Aberystwyth, do not pass Go...'

Fri Nov 07, 12:58:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Heh, I appreciate the sentiment, Brian, but to be honest I think I could guide you through a gorgeous string of places from Yorkshire to Aberystwyth. For every Rhyl and Prestatyn (and Prestatyn is by no means all bad) there is a Hawarden, a Rhuddlan, a Dyserth, a Bangor and a Cearnarfon...then there is a place called Aberfraw on Anglesey which I first saw when I was aged about 17 on a field trip and thought the most beautiful place on earth. In the winter it is better still.

Fri Nov 07, 01:49:00 pm  
Blogger Kay said...

I love the seaside in winter. I love that there can still be such huge empty spaces, and the sadness underlying everything is such a relief after a lifetime in towns and 'X Factor' TV where everything is noise and artificial cheer.

Fri Nov 07, 03:46:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Kay, there is a sadness, isn't there? And yes, I love it too.

Fri Nov 07, 08:49:00 pm  
Blogger Susanna said...

great pics! no I am going top have to go back and read the captions!!

Fri Nov 07, 11:11:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks S!

Fri Nov 07, 11:32:00 pm  
Blogger Debi said...

Funnily enough, we spent half term hols in Camber Sands - at Pontins!

You're right that the place has a serious downside especially visually. But it also enables people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford a hol to get to explore the coast.

We go regularly. 4 days for 4 of us in small and basic but spotless apartment, a large swimming pool and the dunes and beach just across the road. All for under £70. Can't say fairer than that, squire.

Sat Nov 08, 03:29:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Well, Debi I haven't seen Camber Sands but very much hope it's better than this looked...

Sat Nov 08, 04:32:00 pm  
Blogger crimeficreader said...

I loved this post.

Having worked in north Wales for some time a years ago, I did shopping trips, to Rhyl mainly, but I also went through Prestatyn on at least one occasion. You saw and have recorded far more of it than I ever saw, so thank you for that.

I'm sure I passed Pontin's - which looked barren at the time and I guess I was off-season too - but I did not notice the fencing to which you refer and the similarity to prison accommodation. I suspect this was due to me being my own driver and concentrating on the roads with no intention of stopping.

Great to see it and read your point of view, Clare. Again, you've got the real life of the residents and not just the views of the pass-through tourists.

Sat Nov 08, 07:10:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks CFR! I have been thinking about Pontins ever since I read Debi's comment, and feel a bit guilty about dismissing a place which clearly must bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. But it is so hideous to me - the unrelenting flatness and uniformity, the lack of vegetation, and that fence...

Sun Nov 09, 10:57:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another of Clare's delicious town-tours, pleasantly twisting back and forth in mood. I like these so much. "Prestatyn" sounds like a cholesterol-lowering drug.

Fri Nov 14, 02:02:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

""Prestatyn" sounds like a cholesterol-lowering drug." Ha - very good, Marly. Maybe someone ought to mention that to the Prestatyn tourist office.

Fri Nov 14, 09:48:00 am  

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