To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Mention "Piers" to a local in China and they will think you are either referring to the 2009 Progress In Electromagnetics Research Symposium in Beijing or to the Piers Trade Intelligence Database. The last thing they would think of is a structure sticking out into the sea, so image how difficult it was to explain the cultural significance, last Monday, when the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare burned down.

Fortunately my partner and I have walked the length of Brighton Palace Pier where she was inducted to the delights of Cockles and Mussels (of Molly Malone fame),dressed in vinegar and pepper ( the seafood .. not my partner!!) so she was had had a taste of pier culture and was appropriately consoling on Monday, all the more so because she was aware that once upon a time I had lived in Weston-super-Mare.

My parents introduced me at an early age to the magnificence of Southend Pier, at 1.33 miles the longest pleasure pier in the world with its own railway to take people out to the pier head..When I fly into London from Asia it's the marker I look for indicating that we are approaching the Heathrow stack.

On occasion in my teens we went down "Sowf'nd" late at night/early morning to buy fish and chips etc on the front. (36 miles from london - less if you we already in Essex partying) We frequently stopped in a no parking zone by the pier, switched on the hazard lights, popped the bonnet, kept watch for the police and fussed over the carbareter, whilst someone crossed the road to buy the food.(you would be suprised at number of passerby's who offered to help fix the car)

My parents also introduced me to Brighton Pier (50 miles from London). In social/class terms Southend Pier was "Downstairs" whilst Brighton was decidely "upstairs". Eddie, a friend from school went to Brighton Polytechnic and when I could I visited from Aberystwyth. Visits frequently included staggering up to the end of the Pier first thing on a Sunday morning after a debauched night in order to get blast of sea air to sober up. Depending on the timing we would either stagged back to get some breakfast and/or sleep or go to the pub for a hair of the dog. Like Weston Bighton has a second neglected pier

Of course Aberystwyth was blessed with its own modest Royal Pier. I visited it at least once as a student at dawn during my finals.Hayfever had just kicked in and I was so hyped up because of the exams that I could not sleep so I walked down from the campus at dawn , climbed past the "Danger - No Entry" signs and sat on the end of the pier taking in the sea air (it was windless) to clear my sinuses. I heard the police car doors bang and watched it drive along the front from the other end of the bay. The boys in blue thought I was about to top myself and came to save me - another student suffering from exam stress. At least the excitement cleared my head.

After Aberystwyth my next encounter with a Pier came when I moved to Cleethorpes. I undertand it has now become a Night Club which basically sums up my memories of cleethorpes As I remember you could vist at least two different clubs every night for a week without repeating yourself!.

After some time in and around London, I moved to Western-super-Mare - a truely wonderful place (really!!) Nominally in the county of Avon it's heart lies in Somerset.My mother got upset about the boys aquiring a zummerzet - wurzzle accent - mind you that was before they went to australia!!

Anyhow Weston is a magic place to live or to go to for a holiday. It's near Bristol and Bath, Glastonbury is just down the road and it even has a well served airport(why go through Heathrow) Moreover Weston and its environs are/were pier replete.

Apart from the Grand Pier which just went up in smoke there is also the Birnbeck Pier, unique in that it connects mainland to an island. The next town down the coast is Burnham on Sea which has a small but pleasing pier. (in fact the UKs shortest pier!!).

And In the other direction up the coast at Cleveden there is also a bobby dazzler of a pier. You can catch steam ferries from the pier to visit Ilfracome.

On reflection even though I live by the sea here I have decided that weather permitting I might visit Leigh on Sea next time I go to UK even though it has no pier.

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