But did you know that when the original inhabitants of what is now Clacton (and Jaywick!) first roamed these marshes there were elephants here much larger than the mammoth and England was still almost linked to mainland Europe (bit like now!) with the North Sea only a river into which flowed the Rhine?
And did you know that Clactonian Man hasn’t changed all that much during that last half million years? (I’m joking now.)
Seeing Clacton man in a new light
Stooped, violent, unable to utter more than a grunt and hell-bent on terrifying innocent bystanders with Stanley knife-type weapons.
This is the image that archaeologists have painted of the ape-like man that lived in the Clacton area 400,000 years ago.
But new research has caused historians and archaeologists to re-evaluate the culture that has been dubbed “Clactonian” … East Anglian Daily Times news (You can find the original HERE)
I recently re-read The Snow Goose, Paul Gallico’s little masterpiece set in the years leading up to WWII and climaxing with the sailing dinghy setting out from Jaywick again and again and again to bring back soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, until finally it does not come back and the girl Fritha waits and waits in vain.
Paul Rhayader, an artist with a humped back, takes refuge from the world in an abandoned building between the sea nd the marshes – a building called a lighthouse in the book, but only because the American publishers believed American readers would have no idea what a Martello Tower was (and presumably no interest in finding out).
When I was young, a man who lived in one of the big houses on the left at the end of Golf Green Road just before it turns into Broadway (the biggest house, the one set right back from the road) told me Paul Gallico had stayed at his house, had gone out with him on his yacht, and walked the beaches and marshes of Jaywick and St Osyth getting the feel of the place and watching the birds. He said the “Saxon village” where Fritha lived was St Osyth, and the particular Martello Tower Gallico had in mind was the one at the end of Brooklands that is now the centrepiece of the Martello Tower Beach Caravan Camp.
When you know that, it all makes much more sense – at least it does if you come from the East coast of England! If you don’t, it might help to know that the Martello Towers were built along the East coast in the time of Napoleon. Like Hitler, though, he abandoned the idea and invaded Russia instead, where he lost half a million men. “Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it” could have been written for Hitler!
And the snow goose of the title? You’ll have to read the book to find out about that mysterious bird – and about Fritha, who is seen holding the goose on the cover of the Penguin edition.
Back in 1958-59, I was working in the mornings helping Jim the Milkman deliver milk all around Jaywick. Only it wasn’t just the mornings because he never hurried. He’d stop for a cup of tea here, a piece of cake there – I’m talking about in people’s homes not at cafés – or go running off along a dyke with his binoculars if he spotted an interesting bird – or if it started raining heavily between stops we’d just sit tight in the cab and have a smoke. He smoked Woodbines, and it was him who started me smoking – back in those days no one thought it was harmful, especially if, like us, you spent so much time out in the fresh air.
I’ll return to the bird-watching in another post, but today – it’s Christmas Day 2017 as I write this – I simply want to remember every day (except Christmas Day) from Christmas Eve till New Year’s Day not getting back to the Dairy (Lord Rayleigh’s Dairies in Clacton) till long after it got dark again (we set out in the dark in the morning) . Everywhere we went, starting in Jaywick Lane then the Three Jays then all over the Tudor Estate, people asked us in for a cuppa and a mince pie or whatever, and often we went in, at least for a few minutes. And when we got to Jaywick itself it was the same, working down Meadow Way and Golf Green Road and up and down all the little roads between Meadow Way and Broadway – and the Never Say Die (we delivered there, of course, but Jim was not a great one for pubs – he didn’t need them!) and so to Brooklands and finally Grasslands as it grew dark and here everyone (which in Grasslands was not many in the winter) wanted us to come in for a drink and a smoke – and no one complained about how late their milk was being delivered!
I did two summers with Jim, when Brooklands and Grasslands were packed tight with people and another milkman did the Tudor Estate, but only that one Christmas. I will never forget it!
I remember horse-drawn milk-floats like this – and I think Jim told me he used to do his round with one – but when I was with him it was like the ones below, electric floats but still with the glass bottles that began to be replaced by cartons in 1960.
I wasn’t born in Jaywick, but my daughter was. Well, almost. We were living right at the far end of Grasslands with nothing but the dyke between us and open marshland. This was in the early 60s before the place became infested with caravans. The view was something like this:
Anyway, when my wife went into labour we had to rush her to the maternity clinic in Skelmersdale Road (where my aunt was the midwife) so technically the birth took place in Clacton. But mother and daughter were back home in Jaywick with me two days later, all cosy and warm: we had a stove that was happy to be fed on driftwood I found on the beach. Ah, those were the days …
And I remember the first day we had the baby at home, The Bachelors singing I Believe on the radio:-
Every time I hear a new-born baby cry
Or touch a leaf
Or see the sky
Then I know why