I had been heading for Brighton since 1974. London-by-the-Sea, directly south of, one hour from Kentish Town or Victoria. The New Steins, a square off St. James’ Street, Brighton’s gay High Street. £27 in 1974, £45 in 2008. I stayed at near all the New Steins hotels. In tiny cramped rooms occasionally I had a view of the illuminated Pavilion Pier from the west facing rooftop rooms, which was my desire. To lean out fag and glass of beer looking at the helter-skelter.
I usually chose Brighton if I could not make up my mind where to go. The options were to cycle east or west depending on which way the wind blew. Brighton: A confounding city of gaiety, excess and hedonism. To the east is an uninterrupted sea wall path beyond Peacehaven. To continue on the shore to Newhaven the tide has to be right out because of a single impasse. Worth it. This is a wild shore. Newhaven harbour, massive, warlike and deeply melancholic. Guarded by a hillside World War Two fort. Transmanche ferry to Dieppe, a bleak nightly journey. It is possible to return from Dieppe and make it by train to a Brighton hotel on Sunday evenings.
To Seahaven. The walk across the low dunes is derelict, as often on the south coast of England abandoned after World War Two. Seahaven is not for hotels. Seahaven is a stepping on to the real chalk cliffs. Cliff End and Cuckmere Haven on to Seven Sisters, Birling Gap and Eastbourne via Beachy Head. If on foot catch the bus either back to Brighton or carry on to Eastbourne. Of course Beachy Head is always there for one. It is possible to ford the river below Cliff End or drag a bicycle through it. Up to London on Monday from Eastbourne.
Brighton revisited. I stayed over in Brighton for the weekend occasionally. Beware though its not possible to get up to London on an early commuter unless the bicycle is folding. On foot, rambling, there is a bus early morning.
I was drawn to Peacehaven, partly because a certain spot there summed up life itself, my own at least. (the eastern end of the sea walls stops overlooking sea cliffs lashed by the sea i.e does not wrap round to Newhaven despite being a continuum all the way from Brighton Marina). A kind of nature’s 3D metaphor animated by the sea. Attended by the sound of waves rhythmically crashing over sculptured sea ramps. All here is present of physical life: man-made sea wall, ramps, the inland security of the bulk of chalk, the sea, the domination of nature in most directions and a poigniant obvious stairway towards the sky.
On the bus returning to Brighton. I met a man visiting his parents in Peacehaven. This man filled in the details I did not know about Larry Olivier who lived in Brighton. He told me a story about Barry Noble a Gateshead gypsy, turning up in a Rolls Royce to meet him in the Gay Hussar, as it were, with a view to buy Pavilion Pier for £50 million. And then there was the scene when him and Richard Branson underneath the arches at Charing Cross. One of them asked ‘What the Heaven shall we call it?
I had lived in Hove. Brunswick Square, Number 7. They painted the house 5 yearly. The King Alfred swimming pool was my destination for Saturday. I liked Hove but left prematurely for Kentish town. A broad promenade, and lagoons leading to Shoreham power station.