Bernard Durrant who lived on Canvey for a while in the 20/30’s, is a Novelist and Poet in his 90s. I asked him if he would write something to add to the Archive and this is what he sent. You can read some of Bernards book ‘The Dark Mirror, a word cycle’, which contains memories of Canvey here. Bernard died in 2013 and is buried in Southend.
How can magic be put into words!
But wait – here are some memories of Canvey from early 1920s.
You want me to share them with you?
Wild, unspoilt. No gas or electricity, so no bills for my parents who owned a white bungalow, on stilts, with duckboards leading to the road at the Haystack. And winter raging over the sea wall, until spring came to suck out the mud everywhere. Hurricane lamps hung back on ceiling hooks, wicks trimmed, brasses polished in all their glory. No sewerage system, of course, and I spent many a cool moment peeing in the wind. All manner of beasts lurked in my childhood dreams. And always the high adventure of being taken to the mainland -that other world – at Benfleet. Especially in winter on the wooden ferry for the five-minute ‘voyage’, when my father would whisper in my freezing ear, ‘Well, son, we could be drifting towards Samoan breakers that are not six cables’ lengths away from disaster, perhaps with all souls lost!’
But not all news froze my heart into fragments of despair.
Are you still there?
From the sea wall my mind’s eye picked out the Golden Hinde returning from the Spanish Main laden with treasure, with the captain shouting across the water to me “Come lad, sign on at Greenwich or Erith, free rum galore!”
I often thought to hear a mermaid, on a dolphin’s back, in some wine-dark sea; enough, enough… what magic there was has long since floated away in a bottle to tall-masted horizons of a boy’s imagination.
A childhood without magic. It would be like a home without books.