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w/e 2023-07-31

An eight-day week, because we’re just back from a trip to Essex: a few days at my parents’ and then a few days staying in Wivenhoe, perhaps the most Suffolk-y bit of Essex. The weather wasn’t as bad as I feared and it was nice to get away and not feel guilty about doing very little.

A photo looking out over a wide river at low tide. A small boat lies at an angle next to a ruined wooden jetty. In the distance is a wooden shed, with a roof but hardly any walls.
Alresford Creek, near Wivenhoe

We popped to Walton-on-the-Naze for a day which, as previously mentioned seems to be undergoing as big a renaissance as I’ve ever seen. This was confirmed by venturing onto the pier, which has had a huge makeover inside, the biggest I can remember in nearly 50 years of visiting.

Many of the older rides have gone, including the merry-go-round and, a favourite when I was a kid, the ghost train. The dodgems and the mirror-and-glass maze have been moved outside. A selection of interesting climbing walls have been installed next to a new soft-play area. The arcade, which was once a walled-in area on one side of the pier, has expanded to fill all the space once taken up by the removed rides and the wide central aisle, with the addition of a wide variety of machines, old and new. The whole place is no longer gloomy, but is somehow both dark and brightly-lit, with the addition of a swirling multi-coloured carpet adding to the casino-like feel and, presumably, deadening the cacophony a little. (I do wonder how they’ll keep that clean and bright.)

A photo of a long space stretching into the distance, with a black ceiling lit by neon tubes. The ground is covered in a swirling multi-coloured carpet. A large ride-on car amusement is in the foreground and many other amuseument machines fill the rest of the space, all lit up in different ways.
The initial view inside the pier. A few more on Flickr

You can see some of the pier as it was 40 years ago in a BBC documentary on YouTube (starts at 2.15):

Aside from that excitement, the most noticeable thing in the area is the amount of new houses going up. It seems like every village and town has a new housing development or two in or around it. See, for example, New Gimson Place in Witham or The Paddocks in Cressing.

They all look much the same: little detached and semi-detached houses on small plots, with front doors opening almost straight onto the pavement, and tiny back gardens. All brick, very occasionally clapboard, with steep roofs (presumably to allow for the addition of more room in future). Small curving roads. No solar panels. I’m not saying they’re bad but it’s a shame they’re all so samey (or that people all want the same “traditional house” style) and that so much money buys people so little.

§ I’ve enjoyed playing Laya’s Horizon on iOS which is – for reasons that escape me – made for Netflix and free to Netflix subscribers. Adrian Hon reviews it better than I would in his newsletter. It’s a lovely thing, gliding around nice landscapes, listening to the sounds, with very little stress. I fear that, like most such games, my brief period of enthusiastically losing myself to it will be followed by never touching it again, but it was a lovely few hours.

§ I read Lanny by Max Porter this week (here’s a Guardian review), which was good. A touch of wyrd olde England in a modern English village with its “moved-here-from-Londons”. (Hi!) It kind of lost me a bit near the end but I especially liked the section in which the narrative voice jumped from one village inhabitant to another, every paragraph being a different person’s first-person thoughts.

§ We’ve watched one-and-a-bit seasons of Halt and Catch Fire. We saw the first season nearly five years ago but when Matt pointed out the whole thing is available on Channel 4, and we couldn’t remember anything about what we’d seen, we decided to start again. Of the four main characters I’d entirely forgotten about Cameron, never mind many of the details.

I’m still enjoying it. Sometimes it feels too slow, sometimes it feels a bit kind of sketched in. Occasionally characters are inconsistent, even allowing for the fact people are inconsistent. It’s nice that sometimes things are set up, almost un-commented on, only to pay off a few episodes later.

I like that Joe is (so far, anyway) not great. He wants to be like Steve Jobs, and he’s up-to-speed with the an overview of the latest and future tech, and he’s very good at talking-the-talk, enthusing people about the possibilities… but he’s just not great, and his grand plans, at best, only sort of work. There must have been, and are, so many people like that. I know I’ve met some.

It’s only struck me, watching this, how quickly technology changed. I mean, duh. But I was only twelve in 1982 when we got our first computer (a Sinclair ZX-81), so going from that era (of season one) through to, say, the internet and mobile phones being mainstream by the end of the century… that felt like a long time for me because I was growing up at the same time. Going from twelve-years-old to 30 feels like a lifetime when you’re in it. But, now, 18 years is alarmingly short – I think of friends whose kids are off to university, when it feels like they were only born recently – and it’s amazing to think how quickly everything changed.

Anyway, good, we continue. With the show and it all.

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