Dry January in Weston-super-Mare.

Weston-super-Mare appears as a West Country seaside relic from the 1950s, a chapter long before Ryanair and easyJet established themselves, apparently, as the conduit for poor people to see things other than factories. They seem simpler times, its agents unencumbered with the fatal liberality and accompanying ontological crises bequeathed to our generation. The birthplace of John Cleese and none other than Jeffrey Archer, the renowned borderline-midget Isambard Kingdom Brunel ‘chillaxed’ here when he wasn’t building the Bristol & Exeter Railway. I’d like to think he would have sat on that beach and taken a selfie were an iPhone readily available.

The town is Blackpool sans the tower. There are shops and several pubs; I venture in a few for Beck’s Blue non-alcoholic concoctions that produce aghast stares from puzzled bartenders. The Tesco houses a security guard decked out in jackboots. It rains in the winter and, presumably, the other seasons. The pier looks nice, but it was nicer before a fire engulfed the pavilion in 2008. A crucial part of a quietly devastating motion picture, the Merchant Ivory-produced The Remains of the Day (1993), takes place on the pier.

Highlight of the trip: I went looking for Bette Midler on the beach but found only sabotaged sandcastles and faint figures in the distance.

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