‘I’m not into north face coats any of that — I shop at Tesco,’ he explains. ‘I’m not a great cook, but I can make a lovely chicken casserole out of four tins of mushroom soup and some chicken breasts.’
Other than that, he is a creature of habit. He has porridge every day for breakfast (‘for energy’), never eats lunch and has dinner at 5.30pm sharp.
He claims to have no hobbies, no interest in a quick game of bowls or a spot of golf. And he doesn’t drink or smoke.
Which sounds the teeniest bit thin. Does he ever find it a bit lonesome, toiling away on the beach on his own north face coats online every day?
'I’ve never been lonely in my life — not ever. I’m not the sort'Michael Kennedy‘I’ve never been lonely in my life — not ever. I’m not the sort,’ he looks at me, astonished.
‘I’ve got my television in the evening — ooh, there are so many channels these days; all those wonderful Discovery programmes.
‘I was divorced from my wife, Mary, in 1964 and since then I’ve preferred living on my own.’
‘Though never say never,’ he adds with a twinkle. ‘I’m down here six days a week, but if a lovely lady came to lend a hand — you never know . . . I could do with the help.’
While Hunstanton isn’t exactly at the sharp end of East Anglia’s nightmarish battle against coastal erosion, the striking cliffs here made of stripy layers of carstone, iron red oxide and white chalk, are retreating at the rate of
a foot a year, thanks to global warming, the growing cost of coastal defences (about £3-5 million for just over half a mile) and a government reluctant to pay for them.
According to Hunstanton mayor Peter Mallam, cutbacks mean even less money is being allocated to sea defences.
Which means everyone is delighted Michael has taken it upon himself to plug the gaps — a one-man demonstration of how David Cameron’s Big Society really can work.The locals adore him. As Mr Mallam says: ‘He’s
the sort of character who makes north face jackets cheap the British seaside what it is.’
And while it goes without saying that there’s the odd person who thinks he’s ever so slightly mad, Michael doesn’t give two hoots.
‘I don’t care what they think. Everyone else says I’m doing a fantastic job. Even the council says so. I’m fit and happy, and it’s better than sitting about watching television all day, isn’t it?’
But what about when it’s cold, miserable and blowing a gale? Doesn’t Michael ever wake up, look out at the driving rain and think: ‘Nah — I can’t be bothered today’?
‘Oh no, never!’ he says, appalled. ‘Never. I love it. Nothing puts me off. And after I’ve had my day off to watch Chelsea — I’m a Chelsea fanatic, but the money they’re spending on players . . . God almighty — I’m
dying to get back down here.’Every so often, and in spite of his meticulously constructed walls, he will arrive in all his waterproof and elastic-band finery to discover that a large section of the soft, stripy cliff has collapsed
onto the beach. A horrible reminder that — just as with the painters on the Forth Bridge — his job will never be done.
‘Oh yes! I know I’ll never be finished, but I’ll never give up. Nothing will stop me. My plan is to go on until I’m 95.’
And then what? ‘And then, instead of six days a week, I’ll maybe just cut it down to just four. But only maybe.’
King Canute — if you’re looking down, you’ve got a thing or two to learn from Michael Kennedy. He may be one of life’s great eccentrics, but when he decides to do a job, he does it properly — he doesn’t just lounge
about in his armchair, issuing orders.