As luck would have it I had to head to the South Coast to Eastbourne to visit a regional wholesaler by the name of HT White, purveyors of Fine Wines, Spirits and Beers. I also took the chance to trace some steps of my teenage years further east along the coast to Bexhill-on-Sea, a seaside resort that my stepfathers parents retired to and where in my early teens would visit during my summers holidays.
Back in the mid seventies I would be put on a train from London to the South Coast where I would be met by Uncle Dick at Cooden Beach Station. Uncle Dick was my stepfathers stepfather and Marjorie was my stepfathers Mother, she was elegant and very much a lady. They had moved south from Northwood Hills to enjoy their retirement. I would be sent to stay with them for a week or so during the summer holidays. They lived in a block of flats in Harewood Close which was a 15 minute walk from the sea front.
I would be treated to Sunday lunch at the Cooden Beach Hotel and would be taken to the Delaware Pavillion for afternoon tea.
My recent visit brought back a flood of memories, walks along the sea front with Uncle Dick and a very long 3hr walk on Beachy Head where he pointed out Newhaven and I thought that was the next stop. He was always well turned out in his tweed suites and clean brogue shoes and drove a Rover P5, the sort of car that MP’s were driven around in. Marjorie (Nana), was a quietly spoken lady but always made you feel welcome, everything was clean and tidy and I made sure I didn’t make a mess. I didn’t see that much of them but the times I had been had always been full of wonderful memories.
One story I will share was when I joined a neighbours son on a fishing trip to Pevensey Bay where we went bass fishing in an inflatable dingy, armed with a couple of short Milbro spinning rods, Intrepid Black Prince reels and a box of ABU spinners, which I still own to this day. That one trip reminded me on how dangerous the sea can be. We were pulled out on a strong current and only for the sharp wit of a dog walker am I here today to recite the story for had she not sounded the alarm then we would have most certainly been lost at sea and possibly drowned. Fortunately we were rescued by a small craft that threw us a line and towed us back into the pebble lined cove. It is only on reflection does one realise how close that was to a tragedy.
Some forty years later I found myself on a warm July day in Bexhill, partly at the invite of Janet and Mick who own Tea By The Sea and The Cockle Shed.
Mick had recently acquired some vintage tackle, some he was selling and other items he wished to keep. Over a cup of tea we discussed our love of fishing and vintage tackle.
Mick had several mint rods, a B James Avon and another MK IV Carp Rod. A mint Edgar Sealey float rod, which I rather liked.
Best of all was a mint Hardy Halford Knockabout. Also in the box of tackle he bought out from a back room was a mint wide spool Speedia, an Ambidex Bait Caster, Efgeeco cast holder and a good dozen Harcork floats…it was a vintage tackle paradise.
I didn’t buy anything to my own amazement, I just settled for a small pot of mixed Cockles and Whelks. Sitting in the sun I cast my thoughts back over the four decades, when the band would play in the afternoons at tea time and I would share a pot of tea and a scone with Nana.
Twelve hours later and after another meeting I drove past and then stopped to call into the Sunbury Tackle Shop, there I found a mint Trudex, a Hardy Bruce & Walker reservoir rod #7/8, an Allcocks Silver Wraith Float Rod and a priceless Hardy,’The Composite Fly Rod’, made of greenheart and split cane. To see within 24hrs such an array of tackle was quite astoninshing….it’s out there if you can find it.