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After the hard-faced sneer of Skegness, Cleethorpes on a sunny Sunday morning has a hazy charm. Most things are closed, apart from the RNLI shop which is staffed by two old ladies discussing a man who collects ties. It feels like the last day of summer and the air is heavy with future memories. But there is a hint of darkness – we hear a man shouting abuse at his child, a boy who looks stunted and miserable. And Cleethorpes’ most popular nightspot is called ‘Gypsy Tears’.
But there are donkeys on the beach! Mike, their handler tells us that he’s there with them all the year round, ‘because the resort is poor so you have to look for money where you can.’ In season there are 16, but now it’s down to 3. Their fur is soft and thick like British Blue cats and they keep trying to headbutt us to steal Nhung’s biscuits. The man who was bullying his son buys his daughter a ride. The boy is not allowed one.
We continue along the seafront, which is peppered with sweet, retro ice cream signs and an eccentric home-made crazy golf course that looks like outsider art. On the beach there’s a big wheel and some other fairground rides. We hear Northern Soul and we see see some middle-aged mods on the seafront. As they get older, mods start to look the same as rockers.
Onto the Wonderland Indoor Market, a collection of mainly second hand tat; VHS videos, faded pink lampshades and for some reason, a ‘fetish kit’, complete with bondage restraints. There’s also a café that serves ‘ostrich butties’.
That’s it for Cleethorpes. It’s time to start the drive back home to Brighton. But we have a few more stops on our way home. First, on a tip from Del in Skegness; Hemswell Sunday Market, which is near the glamorously-named Spittal-in-the-Street and allegedly one of the biggest boot fairs in the country. Unfortunately, by the time we get there, at about 1.30pm, most of the traders are packing up. However we strike lucky at one stall selling mainly outerwear. Tamsin and Lindsey both get a coat and Nhung buys the same leather jacket that she’s wearing. It’s useful to have a spare. Tamsin also buys a single mannequin arm. It’s useful to have a spare.
We finish our Northern road trip on an industrial high, revelling in the beauty of some curvy, mighty hourglass-figured cooling towers, supermodels of concrete and steam. Tamsin and Nhung duck under some barbed wire and scuttle through stinging nettles to try to get closer to Cottam Power Station, but we can’t stay long as Lindsey is waiting in the car and has spent the whole weekend in fear of arrest due to our lust for smoke. However, our next stop, High Marnham Power Station is paydirt. These beauties have been decommissioned so we can get much closer. Oh god, how we love cooling towers. Nearly as much as we love the seaside. The only way to finish the trip is to stop for milkshakes and twisty fries at The OK Diner, a 50s style diner at the side of the motorway.
Donkeys. Car boot sales. Cooling towers. Milkshakes. Mild trespassing. It’s been an exemplary Lost Promenade day.
The full glory of the biggest car boot sale in the country
Tin of RNLI biscuits
Notebook with picture of bunny rabbits on the cover
Black coat (which has gone on to become Lindsey’s favourite. The other day, as the sun blazed down, she said, ‘I love that coat, I wish it was winter again so I could wear it’)
Blue and black check tweed coat
Olive leather jacket
Disembodied mannequin arm
Beautiful, sexy cooling towers