And so to Dungeness in Kent. The green sheep-spotted Romney Marsh suddenly giving way to drifting shingle, sea kale and rusting winches. After a mile or so's trudge across hot stones and a dismantled Southern Railway line to photograph the 1930s concrete Sound Mirrors for Classic Constructs, the Ashley Caravan Serai moved south onto the peninsular proper. Here in the unique and, quite rightly, conserved area, everything changes from bleached bungalows and double yellow lines to bleached shacks and double helpings of Unmitigated England. Nothing looks permanent here, the shingle 'gardens' blurring into each other, weatherboarded dwellings trying unsuccessfully to hide the abandoned railway carriages at their heart, uncompromising plants clinging to the salt-swept pebbles. Everything ignoring the grey abstract of the nuclear power station humming on the shoreline. A 6,000 acre triangle of land formed by opposing currents of the English Channel, the light bounces off both stones and sea to turn it quite literally into the most brilliant place on the coast. And then up the Old Lighthouse to see it all from the gull's-eye view, striations of old sea banks and Union Flags fluttering at the backs of tarred sheds, the light railway steam locomotive simmering like a kettle that's escaped from the red-roofed cafe. And the Britannia pub with Shepherd Neame, smoked mackerels and Doctor Feelgood. I came down the steps and bought a novelty salt and pepper set modelled on the lighthouse, and then got into such a deep conversation with the curator about this being the setting for H.E.Bates' The Lighthouse that I left them on the counter. Anyway, a cyber seaside souvenir for the first to correctly identify the caravan. I honestly don't know myself, but, like everything else here, it's burnt like the hot shingle into my memory.
Philip Roth: End of a chapter
2 days ago