We took a bank holiday break to Southwold beach, paddling in the sea in the shadow of the Sizewell nuclear power station. I was disappointed to find that the water wasn’t warm or glowing (but freezing and brown) or filled with three-eyed Simpsons fish. Our friends had hired a beach hut for the week, which turned out to be a brightly painted garden shed. It was a nice place to hang out, but apparently these are so prized they sell for around £140,000. Seriously? You can get something similar from B and Q for 227 quid.
On the last day there I caught crabs. Obviously not the sexually transmitted kind – I wouldn’t write about that in a family newspaper and am frankly appalled that your mind even went there. We were after the stupid ones with inefficient pincers and easily crackable shells, which don’t even have the wit to walk in the right direction, let alone think about setting up a comfy home in someone’s pubic hair.
This kind of crab lives in a cold river, rather than some warm pants like its tiny sex-obsessed cousin. So we headed down to a little bridge over the estuary with our kids and some raw bacon. If we couldn’t lure the crabs out by dangling the children over the edge, we were prepared to risk the loss of a bit of breakfast instead.
I had my baby strapped to my chest in a sling, facing outwards, so spent most of the morning pretending she was Kuato, the mind-reading parasitic conjoined twin from Total Recall. My friend’s kids did the actual fishing pulling out dozens of bewildered crustaceans and plopping them in a bucket. No crabs are harmed as they all get released for another child to catch the next day. It’s a living for the idiot crabs, I suppose. They get a bit of raw bacon and some mild peril and the kids get to think they are expert fisher-folk. Everyone wins.
The tide crept up unexpectedly quickly and we suddenly noticed that both our exits were cut off by the rising water. Would we all drown?
No. But I had to remove my shoes and socks and roll up my trousers and wade through three inches of cold water to get Kuato to safety (so that she could live to tell Quaid, whatever the secret information was - I’ve seen the film at least 20 times and I don’t really know - was it the three-breasted lady’s phone number?). Still it was a mild thrill and a tiny bit of peril for us, so we got to know how the crabs felt.
We also visited the brilliant Under the Pier Arcade on Southwold Pier. This is a hugely enjoyable experience combining money-stealing arcade games with satire and modern art, largely created by the genius Tim Hunkin.
It’s funny and creepy in equal measure and slightly more frightening than being cut off on a bridge by a tiny flood. I went on one machine where I got a lying down work-out led by Jane Fonda, alongside Joan Collins and Osama Bin Laden, and another where I apparently entered a submarine that took me under the pier where I finally saw a radioactive fish (that tried to eat me). I then got to bash some bankers like they were whack-a-moles. Seriously, it was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent at the seaside. Not enough seaside holidays satirise themselves as they’re happening. It was subversive and parodied rip-off arcades whilst still taking loads of money off us. Bravo Tim Hunkin. Great work.
I am not quite sure how I did it, but I got through my marathon of all 11 of my old stand-up shows, plus a new one, Happy Now? over the last six weekends. It was great to meet some of you Metro readers afterwards, some looking slightly shell-shocked as my live stuff can be a bit edgier than my columns. But thanks for coming. Hope to meet some more of you on tour.