The Roads To Jaywick

Jean-Paul Sartre’s trilogy The Roads To Freedom has fallen out of fashion somewhat – as if that mattered – yet it remains a classic. But for a book with a bit more existentialist heft, I recommend Pebblehead’s bestselling paperback The Roads To Jaywick. That blighted, benighted, dilapidated seaside town, has of course, provided fodder for any number of potboilers, including Jaywick – West Of Clacton and The Sordid Sands Of Squalor, but Pebblehead’s is a fundamentally serious work, and there is a lot about cows in it, which is always a good thing.

In an interview with The Literary Dunderpate, the author explained the genesis of his novel. “One morning as I was eating marmalade straight from the jar with a spoon,” he said, “It occurred to me, in a flash of insight, that, if one is so minded, all roads lead eventually to Jaywick. Once you approach the shabby resort itself there is but the one road, pitted and unlovely and dismal, but to reach that road one must travel along many other roads, depending on where you start from. You might be in Gore Pit or Fingringhoe or Vange, or even in Messing or Fobbing or Dengie: it doesn’t much matter, for there will be a road wherever you are that will lead you inexorably to the windswept collapsing hovels of Jaywick. Lord knows, even from Mambeg and Clynder, if you have Jaywick in your soul you will find a road to take you there.”

That last phrase is telling. Pebblehead originally planned to call his titanic masterpiece A Jaywick Of The Soul, but decided against it. “It is true enough,” he explained, “that there is a sort of psychoJaywick that lurks within the mind of every man and woman on the planet, but I wanted to insist upon the real, physical Jaywick, that place where the sickened traveller can come to a halt and go for a pint in the Never Say Die and get their head kicked in by feral Jaywick youths.” Pebblehead goes on to describe the transfixing sense of Weltschmerz he felt when peering over the sea wall and seeing, on the gruesome beach, a big sign warning him of “Danger – Keep Off”.

As a bestselling paperbackist, Pebblehead has sometimes been criticised for being shackled to realism, and in the process of writing The Roads To Jaywick he did indeed  test out his thesis by travelling by road to those glum coastal shacks from a variety of starting points. He proved that roads from Threekingham and Scratby and Snodland, from Coffinswell and Mugdock and Crundale, from Hoo and Swillington and Catbrain and Widdop and Slack and Splat, from each of these, in a cart pulled by inelegant horses, he could, eventually, reach Jaywick. And that, he suggests, is what makes us human, arguing his case with a vivid account – taking up more than two-thirds of the book – of the famous incident known in Jaywick lore as The Day The Cows Came Visiting. The cows, of course, came not by road but, being cows, across fields, across flat hopeless fields on a misty morning. It is a haunting tale, and one to which Pebblehead’s gorgeous prose does justice.

I believe it is a great scandal that The Roads To Jaywick is not a set text to be read by tinies in all the community education hubs in the land. It is all very well filling their heads with the likes of Sartre and De Beauvoir and Norman Spinrad, but those who devise the curriculum will reap a whirlwind. Better by far, surely, to envision a nation in which our urchins sit enraptured in their study pods, lapping up the timeless words of Pebblehead? Pebblehead who, for the sake of literature, lay drunkenly sprawled in the gutter outside the Never Say Die in a wretched seaside hellhole in the spooky mist, at risk of being trampled by roaming cows whose roaming brought them, as if by some uncanny cow-controlling propulsive force, across the fields to Jaywick, west of Clacton.

9 thoughts on “The Roads To Jaywick

  1. Set text scandals (a tongue-twister if ever I heard one) seem to be more and more common these days. There was some fuss last week, was there not, over one of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems being struck off the syllabus for an evident refusal to give up its meaning without a struggle? (I hate it when poems do that). But this is nothing, obviously, compared to the constant denial of Pebblehead’s ‘The Roads to Jaywick’. Perhaps Pebblehead should have followed the example of obscure European novelist Ysabeau Neuf, who sidestepped the issue by publishing the study guide to his novel ‘Dozy Robot Waltz’ before the actual book himself (which, as it turned out, was never required)

  2. Just think of the time saved in criticism and literary interpretation if every author were required to submit a summary suitable for school-children. Imagine the amount of literature we might have been able to avoid reading.

  3. I would appreciate a summary, suitable for adults, of the most metaphysically challenging work of my childhood…
    It’s ramifications have echoed down my life-time and, at 50 years of age, I find myself no closer to understanding to it’s core philosophical conundrums…
    Sadly the passage of time has befogged my mind and robbed me of much of it’s profound text…
    I still have the shimmering gold of the first two immortal lines as my mortal existence’s traveling companions…

    “Here is Tip…”
    “Here is Mitten…”


  4. Dear Mr. Key

    There is something grim about the coast of Essex even at the height of Summer. And surely Jaywick is the grimmest and most threadbare spot in all Essex, cowering behind a brutalist concrete sea wall for protection.

    Worse by far even than the massed gas flares of Corringham glowering over Canvey Island or the pungent mountains of rubbish on top of what was once the early Saxon village at Mucking. But wait a minute there is something sublime here on this dismal shore, where the muddy strand merges seemlessly with the eternally brown North Sea. Where it seems one big wave could wash it all away. Something desparately beautiful and forlorn. If only I was equiped with your advanced lexicon I’d be able to capture it, but I’m not.

  5. Jaywick is lousy Jaywick’s a dump
    Let me hear you say that i’ll give you a clump
    Jerry built houses all falling down
    they say it’s no more than a poor shanty town
    Some people tell you, it’s very bad
    These misguided people for them i feel sad
    News papers give it a very bad press
    it floods all the time you here them digress
    Given agrant never see theproceeds
    itsspent on Clacton for allof its needs
    Council and Government spout what Th’ll do
    When it comes to the crunch they haven’t a clue
    Potholes Puddlesdog turds galore
    Let them believe it the’ll not vist our shore
    We have no faith or great expectation
    From government andpromise of regeneration
    Creative writing is where i wrote this
    I’m speaking for JAYWICK so dont take the PISS

  6. Ivor nor a Nova, nor a sumptous pavlova
    but given at cost,a 4 wheel drive Land Rover
    Like me its seen many miles of lifes highways
    of uphill peaked struggles on difficault byways
    with ages come resting,less moving, then nesting
    my Land Rover`s braking needs not much more testing
    as lifes now down hills seemingly level out at best
    my need for mass transit has seemingly comes to a rest
    I live now in West Clacton or Jaywick it seems
    populated by “miss-fits” I`m told, but not old has beens
    to be greeted each morning by cheery good mornings or hello
    it fills me with dread, for if I have to leave or go
    my jaywick, my Jaywick I shout out most days
    my Jaywick, my Jaywick I hear others all say
    with talk of bulldozers, destroying the worst
    we all sit waiting, patiently, for the bubble to burst
    Its coming, its coming, some shouted with glee
    but not for my sweet home, its sweet home for just not me
    we live in our kingdom. our castles, our defence from those
    dusbelievers, poets, drivel in writings, in verses, our foes
    Its Jaywick, not Ipswich, nor Romford or Kensington too
    but a small seaside community, thats quitely laughing at YOU

  7. Jaywicks twin town. but only in Kent.
    In a strange but true scene, jaywick had a twinn built at Studd Hill Kent.
    Even more strange, if you look over Jaywicks sea wall, directly out to sea, with binocculors, you will see Herne Bays windfarm site, just off the coast of Studd hill,
    now, they can see ours at Gunfleet Sands.
    Studd Hill and Jaywick, were both built by the same family, in the 1930`s.
    But its the Essex site, thats been allowed to fall in value, to fall into disrepair in places, but WHY..
    One reason?…………….regeneration of Gold Coastlines.

    Hearne bay its miles away
    its another place for you to stay
    you can visit it for just a day
    its fun to find to go and say
    i`ve been to visit just for the day

    but you can move and not come back
    you can even leave your tired old shack
    leaving friends and foes and tat
    fresh new homes and welcome mat

    places to see and visit with glee
    new bright estates next to the sea
    who will visit to drive to see me
    sitting all happy looking over the sea

    but when you look so hard with glass
    you seem to think about your past
    neighbours gone their days the last
    bright coloured bungalows taken to task

    regenened and bright and fresh and new
    but lacking its communities favorite few
    the newbies purchase and try with might
    to bring good standing without old fright

    old brooklands now cold and distant past
    with its owners who fought each to the last
    standing stories 3 tall the views all can see
    that old Gold Coast just next to the sea

    the cost for this is heavens high
    stories 3 reach up near to the sky
    but fortunes for the many not like you
    but costly houses thats for the chosen few.

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