I had to take the car into the garage today to have the brakes fixed so, since the garage is half way there, we took the opportunity to go to Saltburn pier and spend a few hours by the sea. There is the statutory amusement arcade but otherwise the pier is simply a long, unadorned bridge to nowhere. There’s a car park, a kiosk that sells chips and a coffee shop all within spitting distance. Everything you need if you want to do nothing and enjoy yourself doing it, which is precisely what we did.
Here you can sit for hours, drinking tea, watching people, watching the sea and the ships as they pass in the middle distance on their way to the freight terminal a little further up the coast. An elderly couple in overcoats who could have been drawn by Raymond Briggs were walking away from us across the beach towards the water’s edge. The sea was relatively calm: a handful of surfers, their wet-suits pulled down to their waists, were strolling along the seafront talking animatedly about merits of various boards and the great waves they’d ridden. With minor alterations, their enthusiastic conversation could have been that of a group of cyclists, motorcyclists, rock climbers or, indeed, any group of enthusiasts. A tall, thin man with a grey beard and a multicoloured, knitted hat was walking a Jack Russell. Two Japanese teenage boys were stood, queuing to buy fish and chips. I found myself intrigued by the sound of their (to me) incomprehensible conversation. A heavily tattooed man in bare feet was walking two dogs, a rottweiler and a Yorkshire terrier. His jeans were rolled up to his knees and a pair of black Doc Marten boots dangled from his waist. Someone started up a blue and white scooter and wove their way slowly on it in and out of the other passers by.
Visitors do tend to congregate around the pier, taking in the pier itself, the beach below it and the seafront. If you sit and stare, as we did today, the same people tend to recur as they move from place to place. Two dogs, the woolen hat, the couple in their overcoats. The effect is not unlike a complex piece of music in which certain phrases recur in slightly different contexts.
We walked out onto the pier and sat on a bench, watching the seagulls circle over the beach below us. Then we headed back towards the car park. On the way, we joined the queue at the fish and chip kiosk and bought ourselves a bag of chips. We sat in the car looking out to sea to eat them. In the next parking space the surfers were busy packing their kit into the back of a car. I spotted the elderly couple again: having walked down to the water’s edge, they were now walking to the end of the pier.