Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What happened to summer? Did I blink and miss it?

On our way into Uni this morning, Em and I were talking about the way that summer seems to have flown by.  We're now in the third week of August, and are both toiling over drafts of our chapters in order to get them to our Supervisors so that they have time to look at them before the start of the new term when all hell will kick off.  Again.  Actually, I'm quite looking forward to the undergrads returning - I have a theory that the main reason that the University lets the campus to the language schools during the summer vacation is to make the academic staff and postgrads really appreciate the undergrads who are, in comparison to over excited, hormonal European teenagers, lovely.  But, don't tell them I said that.

Maybe it's because I'm getting old - although Em clearly isn't - but I seem to have missed this summer.  The weather has been rubbish - although not as bad as last year, or the year when Water Gala was rained off in Seasidetown (the winds were so high, the marquees kept lifting off the gardens) - and when we left Seasidetown this morning, it wasn't exactly bustling with families making their way to the beach weighed down by windbreakers, picnic hampers, over excited children and grumpy looking fathers. 

Last Wednesday, I took the bus into DesertedTown - the next town along the coast from here - in order to take my Council Tax certificate into the the Council Offices to make sure that I don't have to pay Council Tax for the next financial year.  It wasn't a bad day weatherwise, although I was glad of my fleece (which is totally normal for a day by the English coast), so I decided to walk down to the new Art Gallery that has been built at great public expense - somewhat controversially.  Before going in to get my fix of Culture, I walked along the harbour arm and looked back at the beach.  It was 11.00am on a day in the middle of the summer holidays.  I know that DesertedTown is largely closed, and the rest covered in a mixture of despondency, seagull shit and vomit, but I was surprised at just how empty the beach was.  It's a beautiful beach - golden sands, safe bathing, Council provided lifeguards, deckchairs for hire, and a small cafe providing refresments - but there were only about 20 people on a beach that can easily cater for 500. Where were the interminable beach cricket matches, or the sandcastle building masses?

Reading the media reports about the state of the economy, it would appear that many people are opting to "staycation", but where were they?  For that matter, where were the kids of DesertedTown?  It's very odd.  Other years in this part of the world we have seen the usual numbers of daytrippers, the DFLs, and people enjoying holidays by the sea - no matter what the weather, and it's rare to see a beach where you can get more than a fag paper between groups of visitors. This year just seems to be more 'grey' and empty than usual.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the hoards of people weren't in the Gallery.  It's a perfectly nice building (from the inside), with amazing views of the sea, and very few exhibits.  Which was puzzling.  In the main, I quite liked what was there, but it was a bit like nouvelle cuisine.  Nicely presented, a little pretentious, but you wouldn't go there if you were hungry.

I love this part of the world - I've decided.  I came back here primarily to go to University, and I never thought that I'd want to stay.  The people who live in this part of the world are, in the main, proud of our little part of England, and certainly they're as nice as any I've met.  And, I think that this is the reason that I feel so sad when I see DesertedTown in this state, as well as FadedTown on the other side of SeasideTown. 

But, it has been a strange summer.


  1. Yes – the summer has flown past.
    If the weather is nice at the week end you might find that seaside town is heaving with people trying to enjoy the last remnants of summer.

  2. That's true - the nice weekends certainly bring out the trippers. But this year's been different somehow, generally more quiet. This worries me, not only because it's a sign of my advancing age, but also because the businesses in the three towns rely on what they can earn during the summer to see them through the rest of the year.

    The local politicians keep telling us that the new Art Gallery is going to rejuvinate the area. I do hope that they're right. But, if I'd bought a train ticket from London to come and see the Culture on show, I'd have been pretty disappointed. Although, the Old Town, which is trying to reinvent itself as a kind of St Ives with jellied eels, does have a kind of energy about it. Not many people looking in the shops, but the energy and the determination is definitely there.

    Let us keep our fingers crossed for the Great British Seaside.

  3. Hi again – I noticed that you mentioned council tax – can full time MA students claim exemption, and if so do you know what the eligibility criteria are?
    I will be doing a full time MA, I own my own house but I live alone (having given up hope of meeting Mr. Right) - I’m divorced and my children have flown the nest to peruse their careers. I’m not employed and packed my job in to have a radical career change (took out pension accruement to live on) – so would I be able to claim?

  4. Oh yes. Full-time students are elegible for exemption from Council Tax - and if you live alone, this means a 100% exemption. Whoopee!

    You need to apply to your university for a Council Tax exemption certificate, although some universities have an arrangement with the local authority. When you've got that, have a look at the website for your council to find the right form - which will be called something like 'Council Tax Exemption form', fill it in, take it to your Council, and that should do it. Some Councils are more efficient than others, and some will continue to make you pay while they're processing it (mine did), but you should get the momey back.

    You should be able to get more information about this from your university (although if yours is anything like ours, the staff in the Registry are on the cusp of nervous breakdowns at the moment and I'm trying to leave them alone). Have a look on the University website, and if that fails, contact the Student Union.

    I love it when I get my Council Tax bill that shows me what I would owe, and then applies the exemption...

    And, good luck with the MA. I hope that you enjoy being a full-time student as much as I do. As for Mr Right - could any man compete with freedom and a reading list as long as War & Peace? I think not.

  5. Many thanks - yes books have become the love of my life and I will be able to buy more with the council tax exemption.
    Good luck with your dissertation too.

  6. And, don't forget your student discounts at Dorothy Perkins, New Look, Topshop, cinema tickets, theatres etc.

    Actually, don't forget Orange Wednesday (if you have an Orange mobile phone). For that, which is buy one get one free, if one of you has a student card, Vue cinemas let both of you in for the price of one student ticket. Now, that's a damn good wheeze.

  7. Oh - and the student railcard (pays for itself very quickly).

    God, I love being a student...

  8. I did not know about the rail card for mature students. It will come in very handy as new uni is a six hour round trip from home involving two trains and the bus. Many thanks for your help.

  9. The best thing about the railcard - the absolute best thing - is that it is no longer called a student railcard. Oh no. It is called the 16-25 railcard.

    I love that. According to my railcard, I am aged between 16 and 25! It must be true if it's printed on an official document....