I’m taking a break from the 15th century at a little seaside resort in 1962.
I had this brilliant idea of spending two days by the sea—walking for miles along a placid beach, sitting outside reading, after-dinner strolling through a quaint town. Well, note to self: the North Sea isn’t the Caribbean, ducky.
I’m in a gently shabby hotel in the gently shabby town of Redcar. My gently shabby room does face the sea—I’m close enough to see the sandpipers poking along just 25 feet away. But how windy is it here? Less than a mile away, clear as those birds, I can also see the silent sentinels of the offshore Teesside Wind Farm. Completed in 2013, the 27 vertical turbines are part of group of 40 such farms ringing the sea off the coasts of Germany, Denmark, Norway, and the UK.
Not exactly bikini countries, right?
I sat in the window of my room, reading, writing, and enjoying a cuppa. At high tide, the sea was rambunctious, white waves crashing against the wall of the two-lane road separating the water from my humble inn. Low tide, however, was a revelation: a quarter-mile of fine clean sand, lightly rippled by wind, leading right up to the water, now absolutely still.
So I bundled up and took a winter walk. It was, well, quite fresh out there. And glorious. Even when it (sigh) sprinkled a bit. And definitely when the sun came out, oblivious to the raindrops, which soon stopped. It was easy to imagine the burly Norsemen arriving here, wide-eyed, a thousand years ago—“Ay, Eric, pretty mild here!”
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I couldn’t survive on just the traditional British food in the hotel, so I ventured into the little town a few times. It was mostly pubs, a few restaurants, and a bit of halfhearted commerce (including a barber shop called “The Barber Shop”). I ventured into a couple of small cafes over my two days here with mixed results. As is often true, the Asian place (here it was Thai, in Edinburgh, Indian) was best.
The tiny town was Central Casting come alive—twenty-something couples shepherding their three blonde children; elderly people calling each other Mum and Dad sipping pints at all hours; people smoking and speaking in accents so strong I could only understand half of what I overheard.
Across the two days, I asked locals their view of Brexit. Sometimes I didn’t even have to ask; as a foreigner I was sometimes enlightened on sight. The consensus here is that Brexit’s essential, and that Boris is heaven-sent. Why? To end ‘free movement’—“We can’t have the whole world just coming in here and living off Benefits,” as a taxi driver put it.
I didn’t argue, I just wanted to hear unedited opinions. So, let’s restrict the immigration of people like the Poles? “Nah, they’re OK, they work,” said a café manager. It was Middle Eastern people he was resentful about. And what about the predicted shortages of produce and medicine? “I don’t worry about all that international trade stuff,” he said.
Redcar is part of Britain’s depressed northern belt that hasn’t gotten much of the advantages of the 21st century. These people voted for the Brexit vision of turning the clock back a century to when Britain was powerful, self-sufficient, and everyone’s neighbor was, well, British. The world will never be that way again, of course.
If you haven’t been following Brexit, you might want to start. In just eight weeks Great Britain will start to collapse of a self-inflicted wound. Towns like Redcar will take it right back to 1962—years of agonizing slide into irrelevance, unemployment, bad food, and wondering where it all went wrong.