Thursday, 23 July 2009

At the seaside

I grew up with a mental image of the British seaside, largely based on the first books I read, shortly after reinforced by Enid Blyton and equivalents. Promenades, piers, ice cream, beach chairs, hats, umbrellas, bright colours. Fun. Over the years it came to include images of sun-burnt Englishmen, slightly overweight yet under-dressed people, Pimms and G&T (in no particular order). And this is exactly what I found in Brighton. Thousands of people streaming down from London and everywhere else, filling the street cafés and tea rooms, side walks and parks. With large hats, underutilised sunblock, picnic baskets, tired children and that slightly manic "I am having fun"-mentality. There is another side to Brighton too, one with real people. I'll go looking for it one day. But for now, confirming a mental stereotype was quite satisfying.

We had sandwiches on the beach. Pebbly, but more comfortable than I had expected. And no scraping of sand out of various bodily bits for days afterwards. The beach goes on for miles (and miles (and miles)), with a uniform distribution of people until the cliffs of the Sussex coastline start. Then a walk on the Palace Pier. I love the old photos and especially the programmes here. The optimistic Art Nouveau structure is still filled with a collection of suitably kitsch and entertaining stalls - throwing coconuts at plastic teddy bears, fish and chips, obscene soft drinks, the amusement park, theatres, even a proud expat advertising his rooibos and biltong with a flag. More ice cream. Normally I'd be deeply irritated, but it suited the garish frivolity of the space, the season and the people.

Pretty pier.

Suitable entertainment.

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