A sunny day and a fine one for the North Norfolk coast. I dropped my partner and the kids near the front and went looking for a parking place. When I reached the cliff top a few minutes later there was no sign of the rest of the family but I did find, between the ice cream van and the lobster traps, a gathering of some thirty souls on a triangle of grass. 'Scripture Union' read the banner but I'd already heard them and their little P.A. system from around the corner.
The Billy Graham figure (vicar?) was a mild mannered chap in his 30s with all the iconoclastic zeal of a children's TV presenter from the 1970s. All very English and understated. "So God spoke to you in London," he was saying into a megaphone to a member of the congregation who gave confirmation. "And [to another] God spoke to you at work? What work do you do? A librarian. In which county? Sussex. So God has spoken to us in London and in America and in Sussex. And this is evidence that God..."
Hang on a minute, I think, my heckles rising. Evidence? God forbid you're ever called for jury service. And I find I'm resenting the din of the megaphone as much as the smug self-certainty of the man of faith behind it. But as I wander down the cliff path the tinny music that follows the sermon merges with the sounds of laughing children, gulls and the breeze and I realise this is what the seaside is all about. The world on holiday and all the hullabaloo that goes with it. To me this born-again evangelist is an echo of the showmen and callers of yesteryear. All his flock need to do now is ditch the canned music and form a brass band. That's the kind of revival I'd be game for on a sunny day at the beach. A little tiddly-om-pom-pom along the prom to wake up a sleepy little seaside town and breathe life into what's known here in Norfolk as God's waiting room.