Brighton etc – Granny Battleaxe takes a trip

Granddaughter was born in Brighton, and hasn’t been back since she was six, so we went for a day trip on the train. Philosopher was working at the Jerwood, so it was just the two of us.
     Getting there was an ordeal. GD’s difficulties mean that she doesn’t like crowds, or noise. We started off well on a nice quiet, but slow train, and things were fine until we got beyond Polegate, then the train gently stuttered to a halt in the middle of waving golden fields of barley.  It was tranquil and beautiful, with the Long Man of Wilmington looking down at us from the downs above the fields.

Long Man of Wilmington

     The scenery palled after about twenty minutes. An unhelpful man sitting across the aisle leant across to us:
     ‘There’s no toilet on this train.’ GD’s head shot up from her game. Loo anxiety is another significant factor in her personal universe.
     ‘I think I may need to go a little bit’, she said in a small voice.
     ‘Not long now,’ I replied robustly, hiding my anxiety. Fortunately, she went back to her game. After another five minutes or so, the train lurched into life, and crawled into the next station, Berwick. To my horror, there were about 1,000,000 people crammed onto the platform, waiting to jam themselves into our three carriages. Turned out the train in front, bound for Gatwick and Victoria, had broken down. So, worst possible nightmare scenario, massive, noisy crowd and no toilet…..
Fortunately, the hoards got out at Lewes, and our train carried on to Brighton. Even so, we were very late, and arrival at station led to immediate loo dash.
     I’ve been going to Brighton since I was little. My father’s family all ended their days living in mansion flats in Hove. As a young child I went on the West Pier, but my strongest memories are of  dark, stuffy rooms full of old people. I would hide behind the curtains of a big bay window in what I now know to be Kings Gardens, looking wistfully out at the sea beyond Hove Lawns, stupefied with boredom, while my parents chatted to my grandmother and my great-aunt May, whose husband had supposedly been the town-clerk of Shoreham. Another more distant aunt, Audrey, lived with her middle-aged son. I was puzzled to hear my father whispering that he ‘batted for the other team.’ Those relatives were rather raffish – my grandmother spent her days drinking gin and gambling with her ancient companion, Benny.
     My parents also had some raffish Brighton friends. One, author and vet Buster Lloyd-Jones, lived in the penthouse in Courtney Gate, right on the sea-front.  I enjoyed visiting there, he was a kind man, confined to a wheelchair, and he always had a variety of birds and pet animals to show me.
     Two of our three children went to the University of Sussex. My daughter met her partner in Brighton, and GD was born on her graduation day. She made the front page of the Brighton Argus!
      Talking of the West Pier, my daughter and I must have gone on one of the last tours of the ruined pier, before it finally collapsed. You had to wear a hard hat, cross a narrow walkway above the waves to reach it, and the piles of guano were unbelievable. Poor pier, I’m so glad that Hastings was luckier.

The remains of the poor West Pier from the other pier – and now they are finally building the huge observation tower

      Philosopher and I thought of moving to Brighton, and rented a flat for a bit to see if we would like it.  First, Lansdowne Place in Hove, which we had to leave because the students above were too noisy, and then Rochester Gardens, also in Hove. While we had some great times in Brighton, we soon decided that living there was not for us. Too big, too crowded, too noisy, too expensive.
      So, back to our day out. We went down to the sea-front, where GD professed not to remember anything. I failed to persuade her to settle down for lunch at a nice sheltered table outside the ‘Fortune of War’, and also failed to tempt her to go on the galloping horse roundabout, which I love. She went on it when she was six, I have the photo, but  she now dismissed it as ’embarrassing’.

No ride on the horse roundabout for Granny Battleaxe….

      She wanted to go on the pier, but found it too crowded and noisy, which indeed it was. The whole city seemed far busier than I ever remember it being.
      However, we did go on the big wheel, which, thank goodness, was a success, and very well received.  We went round about five times instead of the advertised three, and got a good view of everything. The man kindly let us have a little pod to ourselves, so GD did not have to face up to strangers.

The wheel
Going up…or down
Crazy view of the crazy golf
Little people on the beach

      For the first time ever, poor Granny Battleaxe had to walk through the centre of Brighton, including the North Laine, without visiting a single shop – by this time, GD had decided she wanted to return to Hastings…..

Goodbye to Brighton

      Yesterday, we took her riding – Fairlight Hall have started a Riding for the Disabled initiative. GD has been on a horse once before, and quite enjoyed it, so I thought we’d have another go. It’s so easy to fall for all that mystical stuff about horses and troubled young people having a deep and meaningful connection. Still, given how reluctant she is to try new things, commendably, she got stuck in and did it. Boundaries were pushed in all directions. The instructor was very friendly, and GD rode a lovely, gentle palomino pony called Daisy. It all went very smoothly, and she seemed to quite enjoy it, but not much sign of life-changing animal/human empathy….

                                                          The riding experience                                                                                                        

  Well, off to Brum today…..

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