I pulled into the near empty sea front car park in Dymchurch at about 9am. It wasn’t the best of weather to say the least. The sea was in a foaming, booming rage. I peered through my flapping wipers with dismay. The gale was sending sweeps of stinging rain on the long paddling walk between me and the ‘pay and display’ machine. Right now, I didn’t even want to get out of the car let alone draw.
I had travelled a long way so I had to get out and face it. I grabbed my gear got out of the car, hunched over and weaved around the worst of the lake sized puddles to the ‘Pay and display’ machine.
Already there, was a very elderly man with a walking stick fumbling in his pockets ‘These machines are a bloody disgrace’ he bemoaned. More fumbling and pushing the odd coin into the slot while tottering wildly on his stick. I don’t know how long he had been there but he appeared drenched already. He seemed to be lost for the right money so I offered him a few coins which he duly popped in, grumbling at the same time. ‘Bloody disgrace! I’m 87 ya know!’ ‘Really!’ I said faining surprise. More coins. He finally got a ticket.
I waited for a moment for him to give me the one pound coin in exchange of the small change I had just given him to help him out. I then realised that my one pound would never come. This pensioner had just ripped me off!
He had the audacity to carry on bleating ‘It costs bloody £1.60p now and not long ago it was only 60p’ ‘Well’ I said pointedly ‘it still is 60p for you but for me it is £2.60p!’ That told him.
His face flashed with momentary confusion until the penny dropped so to speak. He steadied himself on his little stick, leaned in, grimaced, and began ‘YOU’ bigger grimace ‘CHEEKY’ Really scrunched now ‘LITTLE BASTARD!’ and ended with a curt, sharp nod before tottering back to his car. I looked up. It began raining harder.
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and so far Dymchurch wasn’t doing well.
Like a coward, I immediately complained on Facebook about how bleak and miserable it all was here. Within seconds I had a dozen or more ‘Defenders of Dymchurch’ hosing me down with halcyon days of youth and tales of many happy weeks in this Kentish seaside town. Even the arty ones were finger wagging saying that Paul Nash painted here often and I need to look again.
Friendless, I made my way to the location where my client wanted me to a paint. It was a largish green, positioned in front of a sea levee, and a row of houses of various designs and eras in front. It was rather pleasing really and reminded me of a green I played on as a child. If the weather was good you can imagine much fun here.
The levee gave me a bit of protection from the wind so I set to work on the drawing. I started getting the bones of the drawing together and another storm came in. It soaked the sketch book in seconds and I was drawing on paper mache. There was nothing I could do right now so I took a few photos and popped back to town for a look around.
Dymchurch is a very small place although it does seem to have everything the larger sea side towns have. Everything but on a much smaller scale. It has a miniature arcade, a diminutive fairground complete with wee little rides, a modest chip shop with the genius name of ‘The Codfather’. A mini ice cream parlour, A place that sells inflatable stuff, modest pubs, and even a box sized Tandoori.
Yes Dymchurch can list everything Blackpool has but just not as big, Dymchurch even has its own tower! Which I suppose is part of the charm the ‘Defenders of Dymchurch’ were so keen on. It’s a traditional family place, like in a Ladybird book.
This was confirmed whilst chatting to a fella who runs the hospice charity shop, he loved living in Dymchurch and said he gets regulars each year that create a sort of wider community beyond its borders. Later the rain cleared up and I returned to the green to begin again.
My book had dried out and I managed to get a better drawing down with the help of bulldog clips to keep the pages in place. I even got a few flashes of sun which helped on the shadows too.
Once done, I made my way back to the car park. By now, there were a few patches of dry tarmac and thankfully no pensioners mugging people at the ‘Pay and display machine. Well, it all turned out fine in the end.