Tangents, Copy & Blogs!

Whilst writing my contribution for an article in the upcoming Summer Edition [it’s jam-packed, don’t miss out!] about why I love living by the coast.

I can wax lyrical about living by the seaside, I love it, but my copy (as you’ll see) has turned into a real nostalgia-fest! It also brought up a topic that we haven’t really covered in Educational Life yet, and one of merit, if not based purely on my own opinion.

Prepare yourself for the cursory disclaimer about how all views expressed in this blog are those belonging to myself and not Educational Life CIC as a whole…

I feel strongly that it is important for young people, teens and young adults to have a part-time job. Yes, the job helps to fund themselves, but, in my opinion, a part-time job is pivotal for personal and professional development.  As families, we can mould, shape and encourage, but there are gifts in being instructed by others, sharing their experiences, earning respect from them and learning the value of things – not just money, although the rate of inflation on pocket money compared to minimum wage is somewhat staggering, but also the value of time, professionalism, respect, integrity and being dependable.  A job gives us a bit more independence as we grow up. Strange really, that to gain independence we become answerable to more people. As teens, we believe that with independence becomes the removal of the ‘interference’ of elders, of just being answerable to ourselves, but in reality, independence makes us accountable to more people! Like a toddler who needs boundaries to feel safe, we need accountability as adults to thrive. How can we be improving if we aren’t being held responsible for the tasks we are performing? How are we learning/growing/developing if we restrict our interactions to a few people?

Anyway, before we delve any deeper into that thought process, let’s step away from the tangent and back into the WHY. Why do I love living by the coast? Well, it refers back to the Jane Austen quote at the beginning really – sea air and health…

There’s a lot to be said for living by the coast. My family relocated here to improve our Asthma. It worked. It wasn’t a miraculous cure, but it certainly helped, the number and frequency of attacks greatly reduced. As an adult I moved to the Midlands for a while and noticed the impact it had on my health, the air there is crisp and fresh, not a smog-filled urban jungle and yet somehow nothing quite manages my breathing like sea-air.

That’s a physical benefit, but the emotional and mental health benefits are phenomenal too. My teenage years were spent making the most of the local beaches and activities around here – yes, for those of you who dislike sand between your toes there are plenty of other things you can do.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the stuff myself. In fact, in times of angst, I had a particular place that I would storm to. There is a column in Margate that I could climb up on, sit cross-legged and enjoy the beautiful view of Margate – depending on how I positioned myself I could change the vista. I couldn’t tell you how much time I spent perched there staring out to sea. I wonder what passers-by thought? Watching the waves, their tumult or their calmness soothed me. I’d listen to music as I stared and try to make sense of this world and navigate my reactions to it. With varying success.

Those memories are as powerful as my joyful memories. Money was tight growing up, we didn’t get a lot for pocket money and what we did get had to stretch. I had a little job that I loved, and I took as many hours as I could during the holidays but if I wasn’t working I’d take advantage of the free activities and walk everywhere. It’s amazing how much you can do around here on a shoestring.

When I wasn’t working, school holidays were spent frolicking with friends on the beach, sunbathing, reading NME magazine [or Bliss, Shout or Cosmo] sharing a portion of chips between us all and feeling grown up. Knowing that we needed to be home before the streetlights came on to signal curfew to avoid being grounded. Nights out at the Lido, listening to live music and drinking underage. Having a whale of a time.

Botany and Joss Bay were beautiful places to grow up and learn your place in the world. To appreciate the beauty of nature and become fierce about protecting and looking after our natural beauty spots. Annoyance at litter being left behind, chatting to local business owners who tried to guide you and were glad to see you. I certainly felt that we were welcome and accepted, as long as we were peaceful and didn’t cause trouble.

In my late teens, little gatherings started on Joss Bay, a speaker for the music, a place for a band or two to jam, a little BBQ and just people having a nice time in one another’s company. It wasn’t anything formal or structured really, but it was fun and you’d sit with a feeling of contentment. I could be wrong, it could be a coincidence, but it seems that these small get-togethers were the start of something very special. What seems like a blink of an eye later (but in reality, quite a few years have passed!) it has become a well-respected coastal festival and draws visitors to our little area of the world. Year on year it attracts bigger artists, skate and BMX stars and more and more festival-goers, that’s right, Wheels and Fins started as a little thing and I couldn’t have even told you who was who. I just went along and had a lovely time! It’s really the kind of story that is inspirational and one that as a community we should celebrate.

If I wasn’t working, lounging on the beach, looking after my sister, I was at Dreamland where we’d buy one wristband and then artfully remove it, so everyone could have a go on the rides. It was an easy way to spend an evening having fun. Despite the time spent there I still can’t stand Waltzers or teacups!

Often, I’d take my sister to Hawley Square and we’d sit with a picnic, or we’d go to Dane Park and ‘skateboard’ down the hills… unconventional skateboarding I must confess… I’d stand on the back of her wheelchair and we’d go whizzing down together. Looking back, it’s just as well my Mother never knew. Beaches were far more difficult because they were not accessible with the wheelchair. Fortunately, now, the wonderful, Beach Within Reach, offer all-terrain wheelchairs that navigate our beaches easily. They can be reserved for when you want to visit. I am sure that this will have made a huge impact on many families and stopped the struggle of lugging heavy chairs across the sand and the inevitable stress that would come from it. So much so that 9/10 beach trips were avoided.

Broadstairs Folk Week allowed us the opportunity to do something very different and soak up the atmosphere. We’d stroll around the craft tent, chat to Morris Dancers and people from all over the country while we enjoyed a Morrelli’s ice cream and carefully sit in the gardens a bit further up from the bandstand, or in the Balmoral Gardens listening to the live bands. We’d walk home full of cheer, freckles kissing the bridge of our noses and thoroughly exhausted from the days escapades.

If we had family visiting with young children we’d go for lunch at The Captain Digby and make use of their indoor and outdoor play areas. When things were tight, there was no minimum spend (which for struggling families is a godsend.) For the sake of a couple of rounds of drinks or a low-cost, tasty meal you could entertain the family for a few hours. Similarly, The Racing Greyhound, Ramsgate has an outside play area as does The Wheatsheaf, Margate.

There’s something very special about Canterbury. There’s a wonderful atmosphere and so many little independent shops to visit. In hindsight, it was also a terrific way to extend independence and give a bit more responsibility. The nervous anticipation of waiting to catch a train or a bus unsupervised in a group of friends was electric. We’d waste whole days over there, eating a sandwich (okay a McDonalds) in Dane John Gardens after visiting Canterbury Cathedral and window-shopping to our heart’s content. I won’t name my favourite shops, because it wouldn’t be fair but I remember the contentment of strolling through the winding side streets in the sunshine before making our ways back home.

Finally getting to the bit about the first job…

I was so lucky growing up in such a lovely area. Even at work, I had the beautiful view of Viking Bay, when the weather was nice, we’d all hope to serve the tables outside on the terrace!

My first proper job was as a silver service waitress in a restaurant called Marchesi. It was a Broadstairs institution and people still lament its closure. If you look, as you walk along the Esplanade, you can still see the sign for it on the wall of what is now Prezzo.

My memories working there are treasured. I made friends for life [you know who you are] met my partner there and had an amazing time, whilst I learnt how to be professional. We had so much fun – honestly, we did. The hours were long and at times it could be challenging but I have more fond memories from that job than I have from any other. As anyone will tell you, you haven’t worked in Broadstairs unless you’ve worked during Folk Week. It is a mad rush, but terrific fun!

I honestly believe that every young person should work in hospitality. It teaches you so much about impersonal skills, customer service, time management, discipline and hierarchies. As a first job, it also teaches you to work with different departments – don’t laugh, working as front of house you liaise with the kitchen which comes with its own joys and perils (you know when they’re upset when staff lunch comes out or you’re shouted at because it’s their career and your job) you can learn so much from the kitchen, if you take the time to listen to what isn’t being said. They can come across as short-tempered, but there are reasons. You learn humility from chefs because they don’t accept excuses and you do not talk back to them, you show respect and realise that what you think is irrelevant when a customer is waiting for their meal; you haven’t followed an instruction to the letter or you watch them sweating in 40 degree heat with blue towel wrapped around their heads like ninja turtles going to war. They also then get changed and walk into the restaurant after service talking to customers even when they’d rather be making their way home – to give the best they can.

It also teaches you to be reliable and consistent. If you don’t turn up for a shift, your team are going to struggle and you will have let them down. You work as a team, encourage each other and laugh with one another whilst giving your customers an evenign out that they will cherish themselves – what an honour to be a part of someone’s memories – not you as a person, but their experience because you have worked your tail off to go above and beyond to ensure they have a lovely time.

The value of things – time and money. That’s a rude awakening isn’t it?! That an hour of your life that you’re not getting back is worth very little, despite your blood, sweat and tears (possibly all at one point or another!) and that’s before they’ve started paying tax and national insurance! They soften the blow there a bit! This gives a bit of realisation to young people, a gratitute to their family for the things they have done and continue to do for them out of love and duty. That to save for Reading Festival tickets they’re going to have to work x amount of hours to make it possible – it isn’t a given, it takes work and dedication. That time isn’t given – friend is having a party at the weekend? FORGET IT! You’re working. It’s a family event that you haven’t booked off? Tough, YOU’RE WORKING!  You have exams to study for? Yep, welcome to the real world, fit that in around your work and recite things whilst your working!

Great times, terrific ways to grow, develop, make new friends and learn about yourself. I recommend it to all teens!