Saturday, 15 March 2008

Frinton on Sea

I don't want to pretend that Frinton on Sea is a very typical British seaside town. Far from it. This is no Blackpool with £15 a night hotels. It is a very exclusive seaside town with a very elderly demographic (my ex-headmaster now in his 90s lives there). It was developed in the late 19th century on largely open land according to a plan. This produced some good turn of the century domestic architecture and some really outstanding 1930s Art Deco. However, the overall look was spoiled later by modernist blocks of flats and the all too typical Essex bungalows.

I knew Frinton quite well as a child because we would go there for a day out. After a day on the beach (patrolled by beach inspectors to check any impropriety) we would walk along the crumbling coastline to the tatty but nevertheless more exciting Walton on the Naze with its long pier (once the second longest in the country).

If you have read this far, you might be thinking that this is not a domestic architecture or personal reminiscence page. Earlier this week I saw on BBC2 a documentary about Frinton which, good though it was, was fundamentally depressing if one pauses to reflect about an ageing society.

Lots of elderly people, some of them with age related mental problems, and most of them seeming very lonely. One elderly gent in front of his bungalow asserted 'they're all friendly round here' and then greeted a couple walking past with a cheery 'good morning'. Reply came there none.

What is my core take home point? That the English obsession with privacy does little for the informal social networks that could provide valuable support in an ageing society.

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