I pushed the accelerator a little harder. The pedal was to the metal though. I didn’t have enough speed. He was getting away. Looking back over his shoulder at me and laughing. Only five-years-old. I kept throwing glances back over my own shoulder hoping I wouldn’t get caught. What I was doing was highly illegal. Ahead of me I saw the little boy slow to a stop. Gotcha. A grin spread over my face as a puzzled look appeared on his. I was gaining now, closing ground. Then all of a sudden my bike began to slow to a juddering halt. This was met by the sound of laughter from all around us. Our time on the battery powered racing bikes had come to an end. Disconsolately I stepped onto the number two spot of the podium, hoisting my young cousin on to the top step. I don’t recall seeing Lewis Hamilton carried on to the number one podium position by the driver he’s just beaten. Again. Because he never loses. A theme I was going to get used to that very same day. With 25 years of life experience on my cousin (and a full driving license with no endorsements) I sent him dirty looks as we posed for pictures taken by our family. If you’re not first, you’re last folks. Welcome to a family day out in Walton-on-the-Naze. Hereon in known as Walton.
To me, the name Walton has always conjured images of the television show Murder She Wrote. I mean The Walton’s. With my cousin on his school holidays, my Uncle suggested we join them for a day at the beach. I don’t need asking twice, and before you could say goodnight John Boy I had downed tools and jumped in the car with my parents and brother for the trip. An hour-and-a-half later, most of which was spent saying, “goodnight John Boy,” we arrived on a decidedly cloudy day.
I have often wondered what “the-Naze,” in Walton-on-the-Naze stood for, so before heading off I used Wikipedia as my friend to find out. The Naze is a headland. Glad we cleared that one up. Back to the story. Oh, you don’t know what a headland is? Well dear reader, let me tell you that a headland is not the name of a teenage boy’s dream amusement park but, “a coastal landform, a point of land usually high and often with a sheer drop that extends into a body of water.” Thanks Wikipedia, so basically a cliff that drops into the sea.
Losing creates a hunger. To come back stronger, to win next time. In this instance, the hunger was for fish and chips. And so it was that we left the pier, walking into town and chowing down on some cod and chips (with mushy peas, battered sausage, chicken nuggets, onion rings and lashings of tartare sauce). Fish and chips is always better at the seaside, it’s a fact of life. So I won’t linger on the minutiae of the meal. If you’re questioning the role of the chicken nuggets and onion rings though, remember a five-year-old was present. The onion rings were lovely.
The majority of the day was spent on the pier, and in Walton there is, or was at least, a lot of pier to love. Earlier this year storm damage hit the end of the structure rendering it unusable for the time being. At its full length it is the second longest in Britain, behind Southend-on-Sea. With the two longest piers in the country both belonging to the Essex coast it does raise the question of whether the county is trying to compensate for something. Just saying. Despite its former length, the Walton pier is quite narrow and that is perfectly fine. It’s what you do with it that counts, as a former girlfriend told me while we were discussing piers. All standard pier activities are catered for from amusement arcades to fun fair rides to food and drink outlets. There’s even a large area full of black leather couches putting me in mind of erm, the X Factor waiting room. And nothing else.
By far my cousin’s favourite activity was handing my arse to me on the race track. Again and again we clambered aboard the battery powered bikes as I tried without success to win one race. Just one. Every time I took the “civilian” bike, my cousin rode the all singing, sirens blaring Police version. To me this was a portent of my pending arrest for breaking the law. On the ride it clearly stated that only children should ride the bikes. Being this generation’s answer to James Dean and wanting my cousin to enjoy himself I forwent the warning and became a fugitive. All the while I was secretly worried that I would be reprimanded by The Man. It was no coincidence that when the bike I had been riding all day decided to not start I went missing as The Man came to see what was wrong with it. “I reckon a 12 stone, 30-year-old has been riding this.” He said before throwing me from the pier. Back in reality he pulled my old faithful bike from the track and went on his way. But we still had two tokens to use. One more race. I was too big for the battery powered cars that were also available so I found myself astride the Police bike. Finally. We set off at a blistering pace. I was catching my cousin, it was time for me to win. I was Jenson Button (on a bike), I was Nico Rosberg (on a bike), Damon Hill (on a bike, again). Once a champion is better than never a champion. Then my cousin realised his car had more juice in it and soundly showed my a clean set of tyres. Turns out I’m always the bridesmaid. Watch out for me at your next local wedding, I’ll be trying to catch the bouquet.