Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Canvey Island

One of many sites where the life-taking waters of the January 31st, 1953 flood waters rose up unexpectedly over the sea walls and into the homes of sleeping victims. Some fought for their lives and lost. Some probably woke up drowning. Some survived. Jules Pretty tells the haunting stories of that night from all over the East Anglian coastline in his new book, This Luminous Coast. They stuck with me.

First stop on Canvey was the Lobster Smack pub. A beautiful white building with black accents butting up against the sea wall. The Lobster Smack dates back hundreds of years. The sea wall comes up to its roof. We climbed to the top, walked around the sea wall and down the otherside where Havenhole Brook meets the Thames. Some boats were stacked up on the wall. Some were moored in the water. The oil refinery sat opposite. I sat down and enjoyed the sunshine and the shelter from the wind that the wall provided.

We visited the Customs volunteers who shared 4 hour shifts at the end of a raised pier. They welcomed us into their cozy cabin. The walls were decorated with posters: A Sailor's Guide to Clouds, Whales and Dolphins of the UK and Europe, a guide to types of boats, notices about the importance of their work identifying and stopping smugglers (it's not only illegal, it's harmful to the UK), a note about closing and opening the post. Two older gents made room for the 6 of us and chatted a bit about their work there.

After the smack, a quick drive down Long Road, down High Street and to the amusement area and the Labworth restaurant. Yum! A beautiful white structure with polished metal letters and big windows looking out on the water. It's sort of built into the sea wall and it was lovely. The big windows let the light in and captured the heat. It was a welcome refuge from the cold wind.

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