Bryson stayed at the Birchfield in Weston, but it was fully booked so I took a room at the Seaward, which deserves its two stars. Cheryl on reception greeted me like an errant son that owed her money. (A waitress has already caught my attention; but what doesn’t catch my attention these lonely days?)
‘This the Bob Bryson book, is it?’ Cheryl asks. ‘The very one.’ I assure her. Then she does that thing that all people do when discussing a book they’ve no idea about, which is to look at both covers and then flick aimlessly through the pages, as if by assessing the font size they might gain a deep impression of the book’s narrative and prose style. ‘What did he do in Weston, then?’ ‘Chinese, arcades, had a go at his landlady, bed.’ ‘You’ll manage most of that but if you have a go at me I’ll clip your ear and make you go without breakfast.’
I like my hotel room. There’s less stuff to get off the bed before you can get in it.There’s no soap or shower cap or vanity pack to get confused by. The TV has an odd relationship with its bracket, tilting uncontrollably down and to the side, so it can only be watched sat in a corner on the floor. And, best of all, there’s no distracting view because there’s no window.
There is something pathetic and affecting comparing what I have just seen of Weston (a fight in a kebab shop; several dozen TO LET signs; the Premier Inn on the front which is proud to serve Costa; The Argos on Waterloo Street, which ought to be listed to serve as an example of how not to build things; the forsaken promenade torn through by a lumpen carriageway; the locked-up pier; the careworn hotels with their careworn patrons) with the images of Weston in 1910 that hang in the Dragon Inn, which show a proud and prosperous place, its beach busy with blonde bombshells in red costumes.
In the morning I spoke with an old man working in a souvenir shop. He told me that many people think the new arcade is too loud, but that he just takes his hearing-aid out; that the tide is the second fastest in the world, or it might be third; and that it’s a shame Portsmouth has lost its shipbuilding, suggesting that the decision to award the contract to Glasgow might be an effort to squash the Scottish independence movement. I asked this wonderful man if he was happy here. ‘What more do you want? You can see Wales from here.’