Friday, 19 July 2013

Taking a peer at piers

I've been sent for review a delightful little book called Piering Around Britain by John Choopani. It's not exactly my usual reading fare, but it certainly makes a change from quantum physics. I was really pleased to have a chance to look at it because I love piers - a stroll down the pier really makes a seaside visit for me.

The author clearly has his preferences, but I'm happy with both the extravagantly camp pleasure pier, crammed with entertainments and penny arcades, and the more old fashioned Victorian splendour of some of our 59 surviving piers. 'Surviving', it has to be said, is a close call with some of the sad specimens Choopani visits, though many others are still worth a visit.

The format is a very leisurely tour with visits to piers happening as and when they fitted in with the Choopani family holiday schedule. The result is a very haphazard structure - in some ways I would rather it were either alphabetical or a sequential visit around Britain's coast, but at least it fits with the casual and often entertaining storytelling style of the text which takes in any characters or cream teas encountered along the way.

Boca Raton pier - not in the book, which sticks to the UK.
The Boca wildlife is more exotic, but you can't beat a
British pier for the genuine period experience.
There are plenty of colour photographs, some a little low in contrast (particularly the under-the-pier pillar shots), but giving a good visual record. I was less enthusiastic about the 'arty' way the shots are printed at strange angles and don't always clearly relate to the text, but I could live with that.

Overall this is a gentle, easy tour of these fascinating, often Victorian or Edwardian remnants of a past age. It won't take long to read it, but you may well then use it as inspiration to visit a few piers yourself - and at least with Choopani as your guide, you will know which to select for the best experience. There is also a very sad list at the back of piers that are no longer standing, at least one of which (in Morecambe) I remember fondly from childhood.

The front labels the book as a 'not-for-anoraks' photographic tour, and I can see what the author means. This isn't something for the real pier buffs, but for us ordinary folk who appreciate a stroll over the ocean waves and a brisk puff of sea air in the face.

You can, of course, get a copy from and it is also listed on, though at the time of writing there were no copies available.

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