Memoir ‘The Road To Cleethorpes Pier’ by Margaret Royall
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Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Road-Cleethorpes-Pier-memoir-prose/dp/1999870573 £6.99 in the run up to Christma
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This memoir of childhood was published by Crumps Barn Studio in May 2020.
I was really excited about this project and I have very much enjoyed writing about growing up in a seaside town on the East coast of England in the 40s, 50s and 60s. It has brought back many memories, events still vivid in mind as well as ones I had almost forgotten. Looking out old photos to include in the memoir has been a real joy, although many were grainy and need careful restoration.
I have chosen an unusual format for the book, a fusion of poetry and prose passages as a nod to the Japanese prosimetric form called Haibun. In its traditional form it is usually a travelogue consisting of haiku ( a Japanese 5-7-5 short verse form ) prose, diary, newspaper cuttings, diagrams etc – but I have adapted this to my own format.
Much has changed over the years but some things are still the same. As the resort lies at the mouth of the River Humber, a tidal river, the sea only comes up to the beach at high tide but is otherwise absent. Tourists are surprised if they arrive at low tide and cannot see the sea.
Cleethorpes traditionally boasted five miles of golden sand. It has long been the resort of choice for holidaymakers and day -trippers from the Midlands and Yorkshire. It forms a conurbation with the larger town of Grimsby to the north, famous for its fishing industry.
The chapters in the memoir are short, embellished with old photos and historical references. The fusion of poetry and prose has worked well. Readers can dip in and out of the book, reading a chapter a night (rather like the old -style ‘ bedside books’ of the past.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 May 2020
Received the memoir this morning and read it at one sitting. Terrific! It’s very evocative of those years, and suggests a real affection for friends, family and upbringing.
I like the way cameos of Margaret’s early life have been interspersed with poetry and photos, and the compelling narrative holds it all together. Beautifully written and very enjoyable.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 May 2020
There is so much to admire in this little gem of a book. Margaret’s gaze looks back fondly – describing lost family and friends with warmth – but doesn’t flinch, recalling the “Siberian breeze” on a sea front where a riding party was once lost. The anecdotes about the Lincolnshire Methodist community are by turns funny (a friendship started over a leg stuck in a chair at Sunday school) and tinged with tragedy (the preacher with dementia getting bible verses muddled up). It’s a refreshing approach to interweave prose with poetry, which is done skilfully, and there is so much rich, human detail not only about Cleethorpes, but, memorably, 1960s Kaiserslautern. In fact the book almost becomes a study in how the two cultures emerged from the war. But the real reason to recommend it is harder to capture. The book just somehow wakes up times and places that the world would never thought to revisit, but ought to have done – and you’ll want to extend your stay until the last page
Old photo of me aged 18 months with doll’s pram
Sample poem from the memoir:
THE ROAD TO CLEETHORPES PIER
Each grain of sand a shiver down my spine,
a memory harvested from fields of youth,
stowed safely in the vaults of passing time
The sand streams silently through open fingers,
rewinding spools of déjà vu, time’s smile
a crooked barb that cuts too deeply now
The vault was locked, keys buried deep, for fear
the skin of salted wounds might burst again,
the heart might find the memory spool too harsh
The sandy trail leads back to Cleethorpes pier
and tides that washed the slate clean every day…
Five miles of golden sand – a postcard whim!
And yet I long to open up the vault,
to face the memories, good and bad once more…
to count each grain then cast it to the wind.