On the road

At what point do I consider myself to have started this walk? I haven’t actually walked anywhere yet, but I’ve definitely already started my adventure.

I start properly on the road tomorrow. I’ve been in Cleethorpes the past few days. There can be no place on Earth as English as Cleethorpes, except perhaps Gibraltar. This is the seaside – no mamby pamby beaches here, thank you very much. Just acres and acres of salt flat and mud and marsh and dozens of delighted families making sand castles by the pier.

Women in saris walk barefoot on the sand. Women with tattoos on their necks berate children named Harry and Enid (clash of classes?) There’s not one, not two, but three mini golf courses, with or without tawdry innuendoes. The local transport solution involves a mini road train and an actual motherfucking steam train. And every food-establishment (I can’t use the word ‘restaurant’ for these) serves variations on a theme: fried fish, fried fishcake, fried scampi, fried sausage, fried bacon, all served with your choice of chips or fried bread, peas and gravy.

Yesterday I stopped for a beer in the smallest pub on the planet. I don’t think they care if the claim is true, they make it anyway. It’s the “Signal Box Inn”, the end of the miniature steam railway. I sat outside writing, wearing a long sleeved shirt, a jumper, a fleece, and a Goretex jacket. And a beanie on my ludicrous head. Everyone around me had on t-shirts and shorts. They were on holiday, damn it, and they were wearing their holiday clothes.

I also bought some donuts – a very seaside thing to do, the caravan park lady told me – and as I watched the young girl frying them up I happened to notice the enormous barrel of vegetable oil at the end of the bench. “Oh that,” she said. “Yeah, we go through so many a week, you can’t even think about it.”

I do think about it though. That’s a lot of oil. No wonder most of Cleethorpes smells like something is deep frying. Everything is deep frying.

Tomorrow I leave the seaside and head inland, across the Lincolnshire Wolds (an area of outstanding natural beauty, apparently) and on to Caistor. I wonder what it will smell like.

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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