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Englandaganza, Stop 9: Brighton
Having given up the ghost in Oxford town, I wasn’t going to be that productive in the remaining time allotted. My Thursday meeting was with Rob, who had done the initial consulting with us on the PILIN project, and had given us some analysis that helped us tie things up at the end of the project. The intention was to show him how we’d ended up tying things up, get some final feedback for the report, and fill him in on what else was coming up. I think that got done at some point in the day; but Rob was determined to get me touristed up, and I’m glad he did.
I did have the chance of inviting Rob up to London from Sussex, to stop the madness of me bouncing all over the English countryside; but no, I had to go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky. Well, not that lonely: it was Brighton, after all. The train took me past Gatwick, whose platform I photographed wistfully:
Here was the airport I was not going to be flying in or out of. As it turns out, Heathrow is not that bad at all (or at least, the Manchester or Something terminal isn’t); but I wouldn’t let that get in the way of a good phobia.
I alighted in Brighton, and by the time I realised I should be photographing the Railway Sign for Brighton, I was already past the gate.
I was about to photograph the No Smoking sign in fifteen languages; including not just Welsh, but Scots Gaelic — for all those monolingual Highlanders arriving in Brighton through a time portal from 1825. (But then, the monolingual Highlanders from 1825 couldnae afford a packet of fags, anyway; so they really didn’t need the Gaelic at all. Still, touching gesture.)
I didn’t photograph the sign either, because Rob bounded into view, and we were off to explore Brighton.
After parking underneath a pigeon:
Brighton makes sense. It’s narrow alleyways, affluent shops, self-consciously bohemian, packed with strolling Englishpeople, and suffused with light. In other words, it was St Kilda. (The Melbourne St Kilda, not the godforsaken island off Scotland.) That’s cool, I like St Kilda. I just wasn’t expecting to see it this far north.
Oh, and the Brighton Pavilion is truly out of place. What exactly is a mini Taj Mahal doing on the English seaside again?
Rob decided we should head back to his village over the hill, to get our internets in order. We didn’t in the end, and I suspect he just wanted to give me a further guided tour. Facts gleaned from the topographic expedition included:
- Over The Hill from Brighton has a microclimate, because there’s a hill in the way. It’s not a terribly tall hill; but it was enough to block the weather, and all human through traffic until the railways came to town (or unless Mother Nature beat a way past first, with a river). The dikes (as in ditches) between the hills were absurdly dippy, too. Devil’s Dike, they called it, and they weren’t wrong.
- There is a village of Fulking at the bottom of one of those hills. With the “l” strategically scratched out in the panoramic map atop the hill.
- The trees! The trees! I’d been wondering through both my sojourns in England where the trees all went; they upped and moved down to Surrey (and on the other side of The Hill from Brighton). There were actual forests to be seen, even by the roadside. In reasonably small clumps, to be sure, but enough to hide French contraband in. Rob pointed out that whereas the top of the hill had a panoramic view of everything, the villages surrounded by trees felt claustrophobic; and for England, that would be rare.
- If you want to buy a house in Sussex, don’t get on with stone slabs for its roofing. The National Trust will be all over you with the renovations, and the timber frames have started to sag under the weight. Another couple of hundred years, and the frame might actually collapse. And then where would you be.
- If you’re a Norman invader with lots of restive Saxons in your countryside, a moated farmhouse is an excellent idea: it keeps the resentful plunderers out, and, uh, makes your daily commute to the fields very amphibian. If you’re a twenty-first century Englishman living in a moated farmhouse, they’re not quite as handy, because you’ve got bloody tourists coming by to take photos all the time. (“Y’all get the hell off of mah property before I drown y’all, y’hear?”)
- Burmese cats really are a lot like dogs. Rob’s Burmese actually rubbed noses with me.
- I’m still allergic to cats, as I found out five minutes later.
After an hour or so, I was bundled off to Gatwick, to recover from my allergic reaction and board the train back in to London. Gatwick had a vending machine with Ben & Jerry ice cream. Cherry Garcia, I’ve really missed you…