I’m utterly fascinated by British seaside villages, for reasons I don’t fully understand myself. I suppose it is because they represent a part of the history of the United Kingdom that my generation have never known – serving as hotspots for a little bit of sand, sun, surf and general frivolity for the British people.
Then came the 1960s and along with this decade, sunshine vacation packages, which did their part in luring holidaymakers abroad for the summer months.
Here we are now in 2015, where you can’t go anywhere near a beach in Greece or Spain without seeing at least eight places advertising “Full English Breakfast”. Meantime, these little seaside villages (with the exceptions of Brighton and Blackpool) have largely been left to crumble and rot.
So, when I heard that Margate in Kent was making an attempt to revitalise their town by reopening Dreamland, a funfair that was the centrepiece of the area back in the bygone days of seaside revelry – I knew I couldn’t not go. I then learned that for three weekends of October, the park would open as Screamland.
That was that. I was sold.
Margate is at the worst, a 1 hour and 50 minute train trip from London’s Victoria station. Although it was half-term at the time, the two of us were able to relax, sharing a four-seater table between us, with minimal screams from children nearby, watching as the Kentish countryside rolled past us through the train window.
It seemed no time at all until we were there. We dumped our stuff at the local Premier Inn, which was conveniently located between the train station and the amusement park (although Margate is not by any means a big town) and headed straight to the beach. It was not the worst I had seen in this country – it had sand, unlike the pebbled shores of Brighton Beach and was far more beguiling than Weston-super-Mare. Late October doesn’t lend itself to seaside frivolities, but it was nice to have the ocean in my sights again.
From the beach, we wandered up into the old town. It was small – I spied two small bookstores (I wandered into one, to find an old copy of A Study in Scarlet for ten pence. TEN PENCE!), an assortment of cafe’s and chain stores. Realising that we had neglected to eat lunch, we found ourselves a pub that was still serving food (at 3pm in the afternoon!) to order the best and cheapest pub grub that I’ve feasted on in awhile. An ale for my gentleman, two pound cheese board (to be fair, there was only one cheese on it – but still!) a pie for me, a pudding for him and a MOUNTAIN of mashed potato and gravy came to 18 pounds. Not only was it delicious – it kept us sustained for the remainder of the night.
An important detail, as we had quite a night ahead of us.
As it was nearing on four thirty, the majority of the businesses were beginning to close their doors. We strolled along the main road, passing some arcades along the way. I’m a sucker for a game of ‘whack-a-mole’ so we spent a good few minutes and pounds navigating through the archaic games machines. We shot hoops into a Sega basketball game, played a round of air hockey, (during which I managed to shoot into my own goal on way more occasions than my boyfriends) and finally found a “Hitty Mouse” game that bored us both stupid after about a minute. Our pockets considerably lightened, we left – armed with a stack of arcade tickets and not much of an idea of what to do with them.
The sun was setting and the night was nearly upon us. I had been adequately charmed by this sleepy seaside village, but the actual event of the night, our whole purpose in coming here was still ahead of us. For now, it was back to the hotel for a cup of char’ and a sneaky afternoon nap, before working ourselves up to fun and amusement of a horror themed retro theme park…