Tag Archives: Grockles

Grockles, Oliver Reed, and musical clowns…


I’ve lived in Barnstaple, North Devon for over fifteen years now, so I certainly don’t fall into the category of what people in these parts call grockles, but neither am I included in the exclusive subset of locals, you don’t get to adopt that honorific until you’re a thirty year veteran.

I think when the real locals realise that you’re here to stay, instead of buying a second home (bad) or thoughtlessly pumping money into the biggest economy in the West Country, tourism (theoretically better) they start grudgingly thinking of you as resident aliens or simply from away.
I probably fall into the limbo state known only as an incomer, still obviously not from “around here” but recognisable enough to be accepted.

Not that I’m complaining you understand. I love living here, the people are friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. The countryside is beautiful and there is stunning scenery wherever you look.
The only problem at this time of year is that everyone wants to look at it.
From everywhere.

In short, Grockles.

Yes, I think fifteen years is easily long enough for me to have earned the right to moan about the hoards of lobster coloured, shorts and tropical shirt wearing, surfboard toting, loudly arguing strangers that invade our town every summer, even though I’m falling into the same trap as the locals, cursing what is primarily the lifeblood of the area for half the year.

Being a busy market town with decent high street shops and easy access to all the nearby tourist spots, we tend to draw all the folks who are having a day off from the beach, or need to stock up at the supermarket, which is of course wonderful for local businesses (when I was a market trader none of my fellow stallholders referred to this period as the summer holidays, it was always just “the six weeks”), but not so good if you live here and want to use those same businesses for your daily shopping.
I’ve already seen a comment on my Facebook feed this morning saying that “the grockles have eaten every last scrap of bread in Tesco”

And because we’re so convenient for the surfdude-magnets of Woolacombe and Croyde Bay, the ever popular The Big Sheep (honestly, it’s not just stunned tourists gawping at a gigantic sheep in a field), and the walkers paradise that is Exmoor National Park, (including the “Little Switzerland” area of Lynton and Lynmouth, worth visiting if only to discover the magical wooded valley that is Watersmeet), we get inundated from all directions.

So I’m perfectly well aware that it’s uncharitable of me to complain, when all you lovely people have helped make Devon and Cornwall the top UK tourist destination, and put money into our local economy, etc etc.. we appreciate it, we really do.
So come on down, we (and the locals) love to see you.

But do you really need to bring four generations of your family grocery shopping with you, even though you’re only pushing around a trolley with a bag of charcoal briquettes and a bottle of sun cream?
And do they all need to stand in the queue with you, honestly?

And because you happened to have got on so well with that nice family from Guilford who are in the chalet next door at the holiday park, when you bump into them halfway down the frozen food aisle, is it strictly necessary that your combined party of 19 children, five grandparents, and four angry spouses hold an impromptu discussion on what plans you all have for dinner that evening?

There aren’t any rules, as far as I’m aware, saying that you are required to push a trolley each either, they do take up rather a lot of room.

I’m also fairly sure that there isn’t a recent law stating that all your children should use the entire floor area of the shop as a skating rink, scooter and/or skatepark, or racetrack for various radio controlled vehicles, all whilst screaming their darling little heads off.
Or did I miss that?

Having negotiated the more-than-usually gridlocked nightmare that was my weekly shopping expedition to Tesco this morning, lobster hued grockles and all, it was almost a relief to arrive at the till to impoverish myself just that little bit further, particularly as I managed to find my favourite checkout operator, a nice Scottish lady called Jess who always has a smile and time for a chat.
I gave her one of my custom-made Diary of an Internet Nobody stickers a few weeks ago and she always asks whether I’ve done anything new.
So if you’re reading this Jess, this one’s for you. (Oh, and if you click the little button that says “Follow blog by email” at the top of the page, you’ll be notified each time I post something) I don’t know how you cope to be honest, you must have the patience of a saint.

I’ll give you one positive thing about our seasonal invasion though, it certainly serves as a reminder to be well behaved when you go grockling up someone else’s hometown.

And as for the word “grockle” itself, well, it’s popularly believed to have first been used in the 1964 British film noir The System, (also known as The Girl Getters) starring Oliver Reed, Jane Merrow and David Hemmings, about the pursuit of holidaying girls by local lads in a small West Country town.

You can watch the whole film here.

But I prefer the version that many locals still insist is the correct explanation.
In the 1930’s there was a Swiss music hall act called Grock the Musical Clown who regularly had a red face, baggy clothing and a handkerchief tied round his head.
Residents of the area clearly noticed his similarity to the increasing number of visitors “from away” who were starting to frequent seaside destinations in the years between the wars, and a new term was coined.

So just for completeness, here’s a film of Grock himself in action.

And if you’re off on holiday soon, think of the locals, however “local” they are, they still have to live there…


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