Pier back in time

Click on the orange arrow if you’d like to listen too!

Recently, in order to fill a sunny Bank Holiday afternoon, we took the kids down to the Fun Fair at Clarence Pier in Southsea. With its iconic 1960’s architecture the Pier and pavilion are really enthralling places to visit, vivid with memories of misspent youth!

After being relieved of half of our life savings in exchange for three dayglo wristbands, our youngsters gleefully ran off to the rollercoaster, sprinting to ensure valuable ‘ride seconds’ weren’t lost.

As they went and had their fun, having issued our parently instructions we grabbed an ice cream and retired to the beach.

We were standing next to the point on the shore from where the hovercraft launches, shuttling people over to the Isle of Wight, and I realised that it must be over 35 years since I stood in that place. A swell of nostalgia washed over me.

When I first encountered the hovercraft, sometime in the mid to late 70’s, it was like something that had been made entirely from the components of a spaceship. Re-engineered to traverse the milky solent on a blusterous skirt of air.

One small step for man – one giant leap into the future of travel for mankind.

Today by comparison unfortunately, she looks a bit less ‘NASA’ and bit more ‘SAGA’.

However, as she slid sideways across the gravel and into the sea, seen again through my pre-teen squinny eyes, she had lost none of her majesty and intrigue – still very much capable of being right at home in a James Bond movie.

I wondered; If I had encountered my 10 year old self right then, what I might have said to him, me? As our kids screamed their heads off on the waltzers – in the same way as I did way back then, I was clearly having one of those moments.

It was an unusually sunny afternoon in April 1978, and little Steve stared at the gleaming craft as it skimmed out across the sea. This was the coolest thing he had seen on ANY school holiday – it was noisy, shiny, futuristic and it floated on the sea AND the land! He couldn’t wait to tell his mates.

Little Steve noticed an old man stood next to him, holding up what looked like a shiny mirror, about the size of a cassette tape.

“What ya doin’ wiv that mirra mista?”

“It’s not a mirror son, it’s my phone – I am filming the hovercraft and then I’m gonna send the data up to YouTube so everyone in the world can see what I’m reminiscing about. Here, this is the link -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FckgdRuKK_M 

“MUM! MUM! THE DINNY MAN’S HERE!!!”, shouted the kid as he ran away – tripping over the frayed hem of his flared jeans.

“He said he is gonna phone the hovercraft, and then uplift it into a tube before you can blink!”

“Never mind the dinny man son, he’s lost his marbles. Eat your ham sandwich and drink your warm orange squash.”

Many things have changed in those three and a half decades. People things, technology things, lifestyle things.

But so much has not changed.

Waltzers, Dodgems, Candy Floss, Mr Whippy and the hovercraft – all alive and well, creating smiles, toothache and a sense of wonder as people fly above the sea on a pocket of air – today, unchanged, exactly the same.

I thought about talking to my kids about what I had learned in between those two visits to the hovercraft launch point – what the intervening years had taught me.

Unfortunately, unless what I wanted to share with them involved “extra time at the fair“, a “trip to McDonalds“, or an “ice-cream“, it was unlikely to land where I hoped it would!  I need to pick my time.

Instead maybe I’ll ponder to myself on the gap between the first time I heard that ‘whoosh‘ of the hover…and this time.

What would I ask 75 year old me if he were here right now?


(If you’d like to SEE the hovercraft)…



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