Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier

At the beginning of March, I wrote a post about my holiday to Southend-on-Sea during the summer of 2018 – https://elliethompson.uk/2022/03/06/sunnier-climes-part-1/ . This is the continuation of that experience.

Seven Hotel – Southend-on-Sea

It was a beautiful day in July when I set off from the rather plush Seven Hotel and headed for the pier. The train that went almost the length of it hadn’t started running yet as I’d set off very early in the morning. It was the hottest day we’d had in the UK for three years at over 33 degrees, and I’d thought I’d get out before the peak of the heat hit. As I sped off in my electric wheelchair, George, the welcome breeze swept through my hair. It was exhilarating, and I was soon at the halfway point. I looked back at the distance I’d travelled and admired the view. The sky was hazy with the heat, but the sea was blue. The gleaming white buildings, hotels and apartments were in the distance now.

The view from Southend Pier.

I trundled across the pier’s wooden planks, thoroughly enjoying myself with the seagulls flying high above me, squawking loudly. The café was right at the end, and I thought I’d stop there and grab some breakfast and a coffee. Twenty minutes later, when I’d almost reached my destination, the clackety-clack of the wood below my wheels began to sound odd. The planks were old and worn in some places but perfectly sound. After a few more metres, the noise became louder. I wasn’t too concerned and had my eye on the sign at the end. I stopped to take this photo. It read …

Congratulations. You’ve reached the end of Southend Pier.

I could see the café up ahead and was looking forward to my breakfast. I was nearly there. I went to set off again when I suddenly realised that something was wrong. My wheelchair was leaning to one side. I looked down, and there was a completely flat tyre. What a place to get a puncture! Now, what do I do?

I turned to look over my shoulder and saw a couple behind me, although quite some way back. I waved at them frantically. To my dismay, they seemed to assume I was simply being friendly and waved back at me! As they got nearer, they could see my predicament and stopped to offer their help. I had no idea how I would get back to the land end of the pier.

Southend Pier – the longest pier in the world at 2.16 kilometres

The couple said they’d go to the café to get assistance, and soon, they returned with a manual wheelchair. I transferred into it, but there was still the dilemma of what to do with my chair. I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it. The only thing to do was push my chair, George, onto the train with me by his side and head back to land. A great idea, but there was a problem. The goods carriage was the only space big enough to take my chair, and that was filled with crates of wine bottles and beer for the café. There was no option but to unload it all onto the platform. The guard was not impressed! Finally, they got me on the train and back to terra firma. I then had to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the breakdown vehicle came and rescued me, brought me back to my hotel and whipped George off to have a new tyre.

I can laugh about it now, but that’s one holiday I shall never forget!

15 thoughts on “Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier

  1. I lazily never take a patch kit when I go out for bike rides, but I always take my phone. Even though I could always call for a ride, I still always feel stressed about it. Have you been stranded many times? I think I’d worry about it all the time. The person you called, is that their job to come recue George? I guess you need a support system for such breakdowns. There are so many things that people like me just don’t think about.

    1. I never go anywhere without my phone – we’re joined at the hip! It is very stressful for me breaking down, especially at the end of the longest pier in the world! You could say, I like to do it in style 😉 . I do quite often phone a friend for moral support. Fortunately, My wheelchair belongs to the Motability Scheme here, which I have to pay for. Usually, they would put me in a taxi to get me home and then the pick-up vehicle would collect my chair and take it to repair it. On this occasion, their vehicle couldn’t get to me being so far away from the land, which is why they had to get me on the train. What a performance! Over the last few years, I must have broken down about 7-8 times; recently, once on this occasion, one at the hospital and once in Tescos. The last time this happened, my wheelchair (Ollie) was brought back to me at home on the back of a huge 14 ton pick-up truck. That’s all they had available at that time. I’m not sure who was most embarrassed, the truck driver or me. I can see the funny side of it now, thankfully 😀 .

    1. It certainly was very stressful. My current wheelchair (Ollie) has pneumatic tyres, so they’re more liable to puncture. I must have run over a nail in one of the planks along the pier. I’m hoping my new chair will have solid tyres so it will be more reliable. It’s not so much of a smooth ride with those, though. Mind you, the suspension on Ollie is pretty good, so it’s very comfortable to travel in.

  2. One bad thing can surely ruin the experience!!
    Glad to know you are safe and sound. I think they should make better wheels, which are not bothered with punctures.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Devang. I was somewhat disappointed not to get right to the end of the pier where the café was. I was looking forward to my breakfast and coffee too. My current wheelchair has pneumatic tyres, so more likely to puncture. Hopefully, my next chair will have solid tyres, so it’ll be more reliable with a bit of luck. Fingers crossed.

      1. That’s a great idea, Devang! If I had a floating chair, I could go in the sea for a paddle! As it is, that’s something I haven’t been able to do for decades. It would be lovely.

  3. I had never thought wheelchairs could get flat tyres, but of course – they are like any other tyres – poor George lol, and poor you even moreso, not a nice situation to be in, especially when on holiday and then this happens. Thank goodness for kind and helpful people. I didn’t brave the pier when I went to Southend, wish I had now but it was just so busy and packed with people (on a bank holiday)….but I’d definitely want to do it if I ever visit again. 😊

    1. Thanks, Cherryl. It’s funny now when I look back on it. I love Southend – many people knock the place, but I’ve been twice now (not since the last experience, though!). If you get the chance to go, you must try and go along the pier – as you get away from the land, the view is lovely. Okay, the sea is often somewhat murky, but the smell of the fresh salt air is wonderful. Mind you, I haven’t been abroad for decades, so I don’t have much to compare it with. I think you’d enjoy it. Hope it’s a gloriously sunny day when you do get to go! ☀🌞☀

    1. I had to admit that experience wasn’t so funny as I’d gone down the pier only in the morning and there wasn’t another soul about. Even the cafe at the very end of the pier didn’t open for an hour after I punctured! Once I was back on dry land and back to my hotel, I stopped panicking and could then see the funny side of it. On the upside, the view from the end of that pier on that sunny morning was stunning. Sort of helped a bit. Xx 🌞

      1. Being stranded like that would sure make anyone anxious. Quite horrifying, too. But a good view and water does help me calm down. You always look for the silver lining?

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