What is it
Was the past
Real, yet the
Present but a
I visited Saltburn-on-the-sea, on the North Yorkshire/County Durham border, on a dull day-late afternoon-in October. It wasn’t quite as ruinous as Eastbourne(or, even more so, Hastings with its burnt-out pier)http://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/a-gap-in-timeeastbourne-and-brightonswest-piersa-sebaldian-hommage-by-steven-benson/; but it was semi-shuttered.The only real choice was a bling, imitation marble-tabled, gided mirror, too faux to be pretentious restaurant, where, after perusing the menu for something with which my ravaged oesaphagus could cope,I chose a monumental tuna sandwich on a giant wooden platter, which, thinking now of Sebald’s entombed fish in the Bed and Breakfast in Lowestoft, seemed to sink under its own weight. I looked out of the window: the pier and the cliff railway had survived; well, mainly survived,because the pier had lost its head in a storm and now had the appearance more of a tapering long jetty.Yet, notwithstanding its being off-season, the place had an aura of semi-dereliction.
I went back to the holiday home and googled: Saltburn was virtually built by one man, Pease, in the Victorian era. Amongst its attractions,perched on the edge of the cliff, like a vast, redundant sea-monster, was the Zetland Hotel, which, once having had its own railway platform and port-cochere, had submitted to closure(as a hotel)in the 1980s, being converted into flats.(I couldn’t help thinking of the Deauville Grand hotel in “The Emmigrants”, Ambros Adelwarth section). I searched , in vain, for pictures of its last years, as a decaying hotel: it may have been one of the British Transport Hotels that slowly disappeared into the Thatcherite sinking sand of the early/mid 80s. Saltburn station still has a half-life, though the tracks are divorced from the original building;
but , startlingly,it retained two platforms still; there was even a dmu, its rattling ceased for a short time,in one of the platforms, ready for its journey to Darlington or Bishop Auckland; but it is now really nothing more than a sundered, tenuous unstaffed halt( like many of the smaller stations, including termini,of the post-Beeching era, though they do have the charm of a defunct air and minimalist feel)