Southwold was both very typical and very idiosyncratic. It was a purpose-built Victorian seaside town, and in that respect it was pretty similar to a lot of other seaside towns around Britain. I was particularly charmed by the rows of beachfront changing cabins, but those are kind of iconic and certainly not unique to Southwold; if anything, I think they’re more often associated with the South coast, where the weather is warmer.
The thing that was totally specific to Southwold was the arcade. There was a room at one end of the pier that resembled any old arcade: screaming children, screaming machines, epilepsy-inducing flashing lights. That is not the arcade I’m talking about. Further down the pier, there is a single room of homemade arcade games. Actually, “games” might be overstating it – in one, you put a strand of hair in a small petri dish and then watch while it does a “DNA analysis” (for example, it confirms that you’re human, then gives you the likelihood that you’ll eat toast on the morning of 11 June 2038, and then says in 2142, its 98% sure you’ll be dead. Spot on, I’d say).
Another game involves inflatable rubber gloves “patting you down” – Jaime tried that one.
The hands-down favorite was a really rickety looking photo booth – The Expressive Photo Booth, it was called (see below). The whole thing was made out of plywood. We sat down and moments later, the seat started rocking back and forth. That was when the machine took the first photo. Then there was a bright light. Then a long pause. Then the seat dropped out from under us (I screamed). And a few moments later, we got our photo (top right) and I yelled “Let’s do it again!”
I would’ve kept going, too, but I don’t think Jaime was as into it as I was.
You can read more about Southwold’s special somethings, which include a brewery, a new housing development and a water clock, at my other blog.