Fanzine, or folly?

Beach huts at least at Mudeford Sandbank have gone up in value from £20,000 in 1990  to £260,000 in 2012 largely due to mainstream media coverage.

Buy Buy Buy, if you value your sanity. They are the thin line between you and a world saturated with let me call it brainwashing and without freedom from other’s security, worse. tells us why, but after I have crossed the bar,  beach huts will have become even greater money pits and escapes from the brainwashing of our ordinary lives. Well, that is one way this might go. Personally I know no one who has regretted buying a beach hut at any price, and no one who has not regretted selling one, upon sad reflection. I told Lionel Blue, the former ex Chief Rabbi that what was the most important thing about owning a beach hut was having the time to think about what was the most important thing to think about. And that, obviously, in a beach hut. He suggested, politely, that that might be a tad selfish. He was right. I am reminded it is all about the next generation. Now, is that elitism? Is that nepotism. Maybe there just are not enough beach huts…or similar small spaces to “think” in.

Between the World Wars leisure and transport bought incomers to the nooks and crannies of the English coastline. Where only fishermen had abraded their way with rope and sinew to the local inn, now Cafe’s sprung up to cater for the increased numbers. Before long tents and shelters amongst the dunes began a trend now well known to the colour supplement reader. Today chic women of a certain age check out the facilities while their husbands or partners grumble ever so slightly at what they had to pay to buy in to this view and tranquility , uninterrupted, and they soon realise, exquisitely rare.

354 huts here, on a Sandbank between the harbour on the left and the sea.

In World War 2 the huts were removed to allow the Army to patrol the place, for a mile away at Hengistbury Head the area contained an experimental radar installation ably researched by historians. It is said a massive copper cable runs a half mile within the site. It can be detected by dowsers and would be worth many tens of thousands of pounds today. Some think this was the heyday for people here, others only remember the lack of water or toilets. Many memories are at my archive site Essentially it was a place where the shall we say lower middle class played and enjoyed freedom, fresh air and exercise, and the privations of city kids were forgotten as idle hour was followed by playful endeavour.

aerial view from the 1940’s

Below is an example of a 1980’s beach urchin, by now huts have transistor radios, maybe one or two have a portable television, but that is rather frowned upon. Kids generally played with their neighbours, each hut could accommodate the usual 2 adults and two or more children. Parents could keep an eye on their own and their friends children, and incidents were and still are extremely rare. The harbour is shallow, slightly deeper channels are marked, and they regulate the wanderings of ferry boat operators bringing town visitors to the beach and it’s cafe. The connections have always been a couple of miles to the west to Christchurch Quay…and a short hop to Mudeford Quay across a short gap which is the harbour’s mouth…at the “Run”. Children could play, test themselves and become confident in ideal surroundings. Lizzie, here, whose mother was a nurse, cut her foot on glass in the harbour, and found learning chess
the only way to sit still till the wound healed itself. The hut interior was my own choice of design.

Lizzie learns chess whilst her foot injury heals. No play-stations then. It is all about the next generation.

So, in a way, this was before the internet bought the whole world with all its imperfections to your door, and you could not close even a stable door half against the takeover of your holding a gate open or closed as you saw fit.
This was and still is a magical square mile…old battles have left the sand to settle with the wind, and your neighbours want exactly what you want. The Council, once a presence on the beach, found there was no one and nothing to police. Sure, with modern inventions like windsurfers there can be mistakes made, but all in all the area polices itself. I even started Panopticon Security as a more formal answer to the odd careless few occasions that can arise
but got bored when nothing happened. Part of the attraction is that the harbour and headland…(Hengistbury Head), isolate the beach huts. A couple of miles to a locked gate puts off the weary or bleary and most activity declines with the sun.

A 1960 map drawn by a local man, showing public landing places , then.

So, folks, I have painted a picture of an idyll. Who but someone enthralled with it as it was, is , and likely will be, would pay the price of a house for a hut. Here you sleep better, breathe better, feel the toxins drain away as you no longer have access to the wrong sort of lifestyle choices. Some will go to the fish stall on the quay and claim Chef’s rights, yet few now fish for their food as my father and his friends fact as we all did.

The Run where the Rivers Avon and Stour meet the Sea

Today, it is likely the fish sold on the stall on the quay, (opposite an EEC funded unused fishing dock), actually
comes from Devon, or more miles away than are in this paragraph anyway. For the past ten years the fishermen who are left have been able to claim an EEC fee for not being able to fish for their living for any reason….and any Salmon
caught by the registered fishermen who bothered to register, has been put back or taken by car in a tank to spawning grounds. In fact the one or two left with the relevant licence have been given a wheelbarrow of EEC money to waive their rights in perpetuity to catch the Salmon…at least.

Fish ahoy

And here is the catch. My years of innocence at this place were something others would die for. If you fish, if you watch a spider, you become aware of the struggle and the joy, and are able to settle for the joy. That year. the next year, when you get a vehicle out of season even. It becomes an annual fest, a perennial paradise. But, that lesson, the lesson of the fish hunting for prey, and you baiting a lethal line with a trapped sand-eel that was caught as bait as it was a bit slow….starts to haunt the seaside strand. As huts get written about, as car parks get bigger, as bus routes increase, as outboard motors make a harbour effortless, anyone with a hut now experiences the loss of that democracy and a new struggle for survival. It works in a hundred ways. The Council fees seek market parity by legislation intended to economise the whole wide world, and your little bit of it gets bigger chunks taken out of it, one way or another. Our little hut was 11 foot by 12, and when we sold it for £120,000 it was costing £2,000 a year in site fees. So I cannot complain but I reserve the right to observe, mindful that huts are or ?should really  be tiny democratic spaces!

But that wasn’t the catch that really got to me. For the strangest of reasons between 1986 when I was living full time in that little hut (the only person to stick that out for 6 years for the novelty of it) I found a person can become prey to mysterious forces precisely because he is different. You may not know but if you fit a profile marketeers will seek you out. Even if you are off the grid, self sufficient, economically insignificant…if you get noticed for being different even Governments will seek to explore what has “gone wrong”. And whilst the idea the subject does not know they are “prey” as it were, they set the boundaries for what they seek, not what I express.  For if someone reports a hut user for out of season hutting the authorities will be intrigued to investigate.
You may have guessed that I am not talking about the post war project  “Mass Observation” scheme, where a Government wanted to know private stuff. But where I looked I found pain and sacrifice and an end to killing. I found an end to History.

I crossed a line into a world dragged up from the depths of Nature’s capabilities.

I am talking about projects that are so secret despite researching the American’s Monarch Programming in 2002 for 5 weeks, (which is a sort of umbrella term), I do not know the project names in this country. That is a whole can of worms and if you look for long enough it will find you! So what I am saying is that Governments are perennially vigilant for any sort of deviations from the normal. And have programs that seek to surround anyone out of kilter with the rest of the world. PLease check out any mentions you can find combining my name, “Tim Baber”, with “Monarch Programming”, and my triumph….the word Mengele. Against the odds, against the official accounts of Mengele’s life,
I have proved to myself at least, a simple slightly sad person blogging about his local area, can stumble into a big pond where he is a very small fish, and only just escape with his life. I am the one that got away. It is a fisherman’s tale, but one, I promise, where only now talking about it am I making a rod for my own back.

And believe me, I have spent a year trying to corroborate this view, on the web…(easy, just google the words I mentioned) and in the history books….( I can prove the record was faked) and in the real world writing to Oversight Committee’s and so on, and in frustration, becoming an accredited and fully security vetted journalist for the now industry of Counter terrorism. Perhaps that was my mistake, no sane person wants to swim in these waters, it is a gang thing. You sacrifice your autonomy, and you get to swim in a shoal. You try to find out why or how a beach hut kid can become a victim of something in the past, heh, you have just opened a door to a new deep end where there is no “bigger boat”. Some see the only hope is to have a bigger faster boat  or beach hut than everybody else. But that is so against the British thin red line mentality of equal rights.

You really need to be relaxed while you look into this particular bolt-hole for the very very rich or amongst them, the very very few. If you think you have understood this, you have not. From hut to holocaust in as few links as my 2002 research needed to sow the seeds in my mind something was wrong with our lives, it stays away from beach huts for a child for summers long. But there is a dark dark place waiting outside a little hut, and I have lived there. Tim Baber


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