Camberwell comedian Jenny Eclair has no intentions of ever leaving south London… although Margate has a very appealing nostalgic charm
Isn’t it weird how stuff happens? Last year my fourth novel, Moving, was published. A book which – ahem, yay! – recently featured in the Sunday Times top 10 best-selling paper backs.
While I fantasised over healthy sales, I never dreamt how prophetic the title might be. Suddenly, everyone I know is moving. My mother has finally caved in to the idea of a ground floor, stair-free flat, the erstwhile resident skint daughter is in the process of transporting all her worldly carrier bags to New Cross and, in what seems like a coordinated migration, several old mates are heading out of London variously for the sea/countryside/financial freedom.
Meanwhile, yours truly stays where she is. It’s a decade since we built this black wooden house on the hill and, personally, I’d be happy to be carried out in a box. But if everything goes wrong, if London turns economically colder and nastier, then I might consider Margate.
Margate has romance and buried treasure. It has Tracey Emin neon signs and a sandy beach full of dachshunds
Just 90 minutes from London, it’s got romance and buried treasure in the form of an underground shell grotto and art for all at the Turner Gallery, where the café sells a bacon sandwich that puts my Nana’s to shame. It has Tracey Emin neon signs and a sandy beach full of dachshunds and poodles and, more than that, Margate has Dreamland.
Dreamland is fantasy made flesh for the old-fashioned seaside resort nostalgic who doesn’t mind a big crack in their rose-tinted glasses. It’s a semi-restored amusement park with roots that reach as far back as the 1920s and a heyday dating back to the mid-20th century. Ten years ago the place was rotting – the broken bones of its rides lay abandoned like smashed-up mechanical skeletons. It was neglected, burnt out and hopeless. But sometimes councils see sense, lottery funding lands smack-bang where it’s needed and fortune winks in the right direction.
Dreamland is rising from the ashes. Presently it’s a weird mix of the magical and forlorn, an ideal location for arty films and moody photos. There is a roller rink, vintage pinball arcade, a proper helter-skelter and the promise of more to come. Other bigger, flashier amusement parks have donated old rides to the cause and further renovations this year will see the re-opening of the Margate Dreamland Ballroom. I just hope they find the world’s biggest mirror ball, because I’m heading back with my dancing shoes.
Dreamland is rising from the ashes. There is a roller rink, vintage pinball arcade, a proper helter-skelter and the promise of more to come.
In the meantime, I have a new hobby because, when you are stuck on your fifth novel, you go hunting for inspiration in the haberdashery department of Peter Jones. Yes, ladies and gents, I’m doing a tapestry cushion cover featuring a red squirrel eating a nut on a green leaf background.
I can hear my blood pressure drop as I half cross-stitch my way across the squirrel’s russet woollen tail. Seriously, if it weren’t for the resulting agonising ‘tapestry shoulder’, complete with needle threading squint, this would be HRT in kit form.