Today the torch passes through Hythe, in Kent. I love that place to little pieces, having gone there with Mr Cochrane and the whompers several times for family breaks. The Imperial Hotel did us proud on many an occasion and we hammered round the golf course (before the girls discovered boys and went off the game) and thrashed each other on the croquet greens. Doesn’t it look like something out of an Agatha Christie story? Now wonder it provided me with one of my key inspirations (of which more anon).
Just across the road (the other side from this view) is the sea. There’s something about pebbly beaches which reminds me of childhood and makes me all gooey inside. (Kent has that general effect, anyway.) But Hythe has more than that to offer. It has a special railway for a start.
A miniature one, which runs all the way out to Dungeness power station (star of a Dr Who episode and itself well worth a visit if they still have the visitor centre).
Then there’s the military canal, one of those lovely spots for just walking along doing nothing much. Hotel to town along the canal, back along the front – better than Monte Carlo any day.
The Imperial Hotel inspired me to write Lessons in Seduction. It appears as a thinly disguised version of itself – golf course, croquet and all – but relocated up the coast to Pegwell Bay, where I spent many a happy summer’s day on childhood holidays.
But memory is a funny thing. I was in the process of edits for the story when I thought I’d better check a bit of geography on google maps. Lo and behold hadn’t somebody come and put a whole load of cliffs in, just where I remember there not being any when I was a child? (Why must your brain play tricks on you, like it does by pretending summers were always sunny in the past?) Some swift re-writing was needed, although luckily there weren’t many instances of people leaping out of the hotel, over the road and straight onto the beach. They’d have broken their necks!
Serves me right for combining two locations…