Dylan Jones: 'The town of Deal was perfectly attuned to the melancholy demeanour of a sullen 13-year-old boy'

Talk of the Town

Sunday 23 October 2011 07:26

Oscar Wilde said he hated views because they were only made for bad painters. Deal certainly had lots of views, and it also had its fair share of bad painters. It had minor celebrities, too, including Charles Hawtrey, the diminutive Carry On foil, and Simon Raven, the novelist, and the man who once sold some furniture to my mother.

When I lived there – in the early Seventies, when the local cinema still showed Saturday morning pictures – it had the best ice-cream in Kent, and I vaguely remember it had won various awards (it was mildly crunchy, as though it had sand in it). You saw the sea every day, great swathes of grey, sometimes so rough and so high it seemed to be touching the sky; the clouds so black and heavy they dropped down to meet it.

Dramatic, that was Deal; a semi-charming, if slightly dilapidated seaside resort that always felt as though it didn't really know why it was there, staring into the Channel, a little undeservedly.

But there it was, neither Brighton nor Margate, neither Hastings nor Sandwich, and forever in their collective shadow. And so it was perfectly attuned to the melancholy demeanour of a sullen 13-year-old with an unhealthy obsession with Alice Cooper – the man Conservative MP Leo Abse tried to ban from these shores! I remember buying his 1973 album Billion Dollar Babies on HP, 50p a week for five weeks ... five weeks I went without ice-cream or Popswap, five weeks I had to spend listening to a C60 cassette of my friend's Gary Glitter LP (I listened to this so often I wondered if at one point I might actually sprout a silver bacofoil jumpsuit), five weeks I spent listening to Radio Luxembourg under the covers late at night (and on which Dawn's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" was played every 15 minutes, as if by royal Lux decree).

Five weeks when I would cycle down to the front, just to stare at the sea. I knew it was there, so why did I do this, twice a day, every day? Probably because I was feeling maudlin, a perpetual state of mind at the time for me, and the sea seemed to know.

And more importantly, in the callow eyes of a neurotic 13-year-old, it seemed to understand.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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