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The deckchair: the beach equivalent of Open All Hours’ Arkwright’s snappy till

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:00 15 September 2017

No room for a deckchair! A packed Great Yarmouth beach, viewed from the Britannia Pier, on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1953. Picture: CLIFFORD TEMPLE

No room for a deckchair! A packed Great Yarmouth beach, viewed from the Britannia Pier, on August Bank Holiday Monday, 1953. Picture: CLIFFORD TEMPLE

Clifford Temple

Good riddance, I say, in response to the recent news that the traditional seaside deckchair has fallen out of favour with hirers and, consequently, is being widely withdrawn by coastal councils after perhaps a century and more of being a familiar staple of beach holidays and day trips.

Admittedly, it is many a decade since I last sat in one, but still recall being wary of them, finding them uncomfortable, awkward to sit down in or get up from, not the same shape as me, and often threatening to get their revenge on users who had not properly fixed the height bar in the slots - the leisure equivalent of Arkwright’s lethal till in Ronnie Barker’s Open All Hours.

Admitted, the brightly coloured canvas added to the cheery coastal scene, brightening countless snaps when the monochrome Box Brownie was ousted by cameras with greater potential.

At my advanced age, I doubt that I could rise from a deckchair without an embarrassing loss of dignity and elegance, plus stout support from sturdy younger generations. Let those deckchairs be remembered in seaside snaps and saucy postcards, condemned to holiday history!

Apparently, today’s seashore visitors prefer the kind of comforts they find on holidays abroad, and like to settle on sands or promenades with a degree of elegance. Also, mindful of the need for austerity, they put their seating in the car with the luggage and other accoutrements, a near impossible feat with a traditional deckchair even when collapsed flat.

But, I gather, some resorts are mercenary enough in these straitened times to charge for visitors’ own seats to be used on sands or proms!

For many holidaymakers and day-trippers, part of the perfect seaside experience is to strive to avoid paying for services and goods wherever possible. Finding a toll-free convenient parking space is a good start for any of us, of course, but the determined Scrooges will delight in bringing with them picnic hampers, flasks of tea, folding seats, wrap-around wind-shield...

At his long-time home in Canada, former Yarmouthian Danny Daniels read in his on-line British newspaper about the decline of deckchair availability at our seasides and writes: “Seems they are no longer as profitable for councils as they used to be. Is the same true about Gorleston? If so, what a pity.

“One summer, while at college, I had the job of flogging deck chairs to the visitors to Gorleston beach. I had this big pile of chairs which I had to uncover each morning ready to start selling at nine o’clock. It was 2d (less than a penny in decimal coinage) a chair for 9am to 12 noon, then another 2d from noon to 3pm.

“After 3pm there was no charge until I started to collect them and pile them up again overnight at 5pm.

“Of course, I also had to keep an eye open for those who got them at 9am but left before the morning was out, and the latecomers who then plonked themselves down without paying. I was not that popular when I then approached them with my little satchel asking them for their 2d.

“The same process played out after about 1.30pm as those leaving for a late lunch took themselves townwards.

“And I have to admit that, towards the end of the week (since the chairs were taken out pretty fast in the mornings, especially those that were really warm and sunny), I developed a core of ‘regulars’ for whom - for an extra 3d or so - I would put out a row of chairs with towels on them, as though occupied, until they arrived about 10am when most would already be occupied.

“Who said it doesn’t pay to be crafty?

“Anyway, it looks as if it will not pay me to come back and take another job like that with today’s council. Is there no end to limiting entrepreneurship?”

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