I had first visited Brighton a couple of years ago for work and James joined me for a day or so after the conference. We had both felt it warranted a second visit and booked this trip last autumn. It turned out to be a good time to be heading south rather than to Scotland with wintry weather blocking roads up there. On the day we arrived the University of Sussex were holding a graduation ceremony in the theatre near our hotel. There were many Chinese families taking photographs along the sea front. We did get a couple of breaks in the rain for a bracing walk on the mainly pebble beach in the late afternoon where the supports and the remains of the old West Pier are.
We spent some time wandering around the lanes where there are some chain stores but also many independent shops including some very quirky ones. One thing I did notice was that people we encountered in the hotel, cafes and shops were very friendly, unlike some other southern cities I have visited. Several years ago I stayed with a friend in Southampton in December and while she was at the university, I went into town to do some Christmas shopping. The only person who said anything more to me than the bare minimum to carry out the transaction was the Big Issue seller who was from Manchester.
Having visited the pavilion on our last trip, this time we explored the Museum and Art Gallery. It has a number of permanent galleries including one on 20th century furniture and art.
I was particularly struck by this lift compartment installed in Selfridges on Oxford Street, London in 1929. Designed by a French artist, Edgar Brandt and entitled ‘Les Cignones (storks) d’Alsace’ they remained in place until 1971 when they were removed because of new fire regulations.
There was a gallery devoted to Brighton in the 20th century with displays of mods and rockers who clashed on the seafront in 1964.
Other galleries contained their pottery, china and fine art collections, John Pipers aquatints of Brighton, performance and toys, youth projects in Brighton with youngsters from different countries exploring their culture and traditional costume including New Ireland, Myanmar, Peru, Canada and Alaska and Mali. There is also a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the Museum of Transology.
All too soon it was time to head for home. Had it been drier I would have liked to walk the Undercliff Path which heads east for 3km and also to explore the huge amount of street art in the city including a Banksy.
Up early and organised as today we leave. I was reading the ‘i’ at breakfast and was disappointed to read in an article about the ‘real’ Jack the Ripper’ that the person thought to be responsible had died in a ‘lunatic asylum’. That might have been the 19th century term but I had hoped that someone writing in the 21st century (and their editor) might have chosen a less stigmatising term. An e-mail to the Independent was dispatched when I got home. The last time I had to write to them (I don’t read the paper very often) was in the 1990s and on a similar theme. Here in Brighton, a lesbian couple kissed in a supermarket and were asked to leave after a customer complained. I was very pleased to hear that the gay community and others staged a sit-in in Sainsburys as a result. Elsewhere in the country, a woman and her clearly identified guide dog were asked to leave another supermarket as pets were not allowed in. We got to the station and boarded the rail replacement bus. A group of young people were off skateboarding and accompanying them was a spaniel with a back-pack – not something I had seen on a dog before. Apparently he does not like skate-boarding. All too soon were at Victoria, then Euston and then back home.
A day is really not enough to do justice to Brighton but that is all we have. An early start along the promenade with wind and waves suggesting that indeed Hurricane Gonzales might be on his way, meant that the Pier was not yet open. We wandered through the streets to the gardens surrounding the Pavilion (also still closed) and into the Lanes. Those nearest the Pavilion have fairly upmarket shops (I found a great tunic in the Toast sale and had a great chat with the staff) but as you head into the North Lanes there are dozens of funky vintage stores, a street market, bric a brac stalls and shops and we discovered two secondhand bookstores (needless to say, books were purchased). I also fell in love with and purchased a 1960s green Beswick coffee set which we also have to squeeze into our luggage. We had some samosas from a street stall for lunch and in the afternoon visited the Pavilion.
No photographs are allowed in the opulent interior so you will have to visit to see for yourselves. We had decided to catch up on a film we had missed when last in Edinburgh and after that had dinner in a restaurant in Ship Street after admiring the lights on the sea-front. Many people were heading into the city centre for the evening and security guards were getting into position outside the bars. One street cleaner seemed particularly jolly as he trundled his machine down the road. We opted for a quiet evening as we head for home tomorrow.
After two days of an intense but very stimulating conference, it was a relief to don my jeans and go out into bracing sea air. The sea, which had looked blue first thing this morning was now somewhat greyer but there were still a few people on the shingle beach. The first sight outside our hotel is what remains of the West Pier, part of which collapsed in 2002 and the remainder caught fire twice in 2002.
The lights were coming on and birds wheeling in the sky as we wandered along the promenade to the remaining piers before having something to eat and a relaxing evening before more exploration tomorrow
The first part of today’s journey was familiar: the drive to Crewe Station and the train to Euston. As we drove to the station we passed local farmers were lifting potatoes and cutting the last corn before the rains return. On the platform, Virgin were doing some new staff training but otherwise the journey to London was uneventful. The tube was hot and crowded as it as approaching rush hour but at least it was only a few stops to Victoria and then a train to Brighton where I am running two master classes at a conference for the next two days. We passed Battersea Power Station which is being renovated and turned into flats/shops and who knows what. Then, miles of south London before we eventually began to see green spaces appearing as we headed into Sussex. This is the only British mainland county I have never been in before. At Haywards Heath the rain began and was still there as we pulled into Brighton. I was glad to see the two great arches of a Victorian Station and as I was tired and had bags, took a taxi to my hotel which is right next door to the Grand Hotel. After dumping my bags in my room I set off for a walk towards the pier with the hope of doing some night photography. Unfortunately it was so wet and windy this was not possible so here is a photo from the Tourist Office.