I hope to get to Hunstanton one day. Its pier may not currently be in physical existence, but the Hunstanton Pier Company has the majority of its 999-year lease left so who knows what will happen in the future? The now-gone pier features in the last Ealing Comedy Barnacle Bill…
…and George Harvey Bone, the protagonist of Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square, briefly contemplates the pier while he spends Christmas in Huntstanton with an aunt, in a prelude to the main action of the novel1. Walking on the cliffs, he observes how ‘The little pier, completely deserted, jutted out into the sea, its silhouette shaking against the grey waves, as though it trembled with cold but intended to stay where it was to demonstrate some principle.’ However the pier’s Pavilion was destroyed by fire in 1939 (the same year Bone destroys himself in the novel), and most of the pier was lost in a storm in 1978.
So there are at least two reasons to visit. But travelling east takes a lot of energy and it will be a while before this happens. In the meantime here’s a very short film by Tina Richardson, schizocartographer supreme:
1 The Hunstanton sequence may be just a minor part of a ‘Novel of Darkest Earl’s Court’ featuring some famous passages in Brighton. However the early part of the book is memorable and has inspired at least one poem. For my part Bone’s sojourn with his aunt, a “sport” dutifully ‘pretending that she liked “cocktails”’ has always stuck in my mind as an example of cosy pathos. “But she was a good sort. She would be cheerful at tea, and then when she saw he didn’t want to talk she would leave him alone and let him sit in his chair and read The Bar 20 Rides Again, by Clarence Mulford. But of course he wouldn’t be reading—he would be thinking of Netta and how and when he was going to kill her.” The Bar 20 is a Hopalong Cassidy novel, 17th in an immensely popular series that had also been adapted as films, so it works as an arbitrary example of low-brow reading. However Hamilton himself is recorded as enjoying westerns as ‘leisure reading’ and, at the very end of his life, revealed to a young friend (the 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot, who I once met briefly when he was Chancellor of the University where I worked) that he ‘longed to write stories of the Wild West!’ (as stated in Sean French’s biography.) So Hamilton, Bone and myself, in our respective times and 8-o’clock sitting rooms, all enjoy escaping into the literary freedom of the western plains. Bar 20 will go in my suitcase when I finally head Hunstantonwards.
There are some beautiful images of The Bar 20 Rides Again books, including the ‘yellow-covered’ edition that Bone would have had, here.