18 July 2013

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

Brighton - scrapbook of a perfect day!

You can see it in their eyes. There is nothing like it. An ice cream. The sunshine. The pier. The sea. It doesn't get much better than this.....  

I was brought here as a little lad, in flannel shorts (soon stripped down to underpants to avoid getting more oil on my school trousers!) by my grandfather.  The stone pier here and the scrambled pebbles will always remind me of that magic day.

But perhaps your man above is thinking of the another era, when Mods met with Rockers for bank holiday congress here on the esplanade. Perhaps, for my friend here, things are not the same, even though the merry-go-round still churns round despite the years?

Today the only Vespa you will see in Brighton is in the museum, and echoes of the Who's Quadrophenia belong to the long lost world of post war tribalism, when young people had little to gain and little to lose, although they certainly had ideas of identity.  

Naturally, I suppose, there are modern versions of this need to make statements about identity, from the young lady below:

To this slightly canned example of a young man enjoying himself, with three lions on his shirt:

To the bevies of young women that parade to celebrate the oncoming matrimonial bliss of one of their kind:

Or this aspect of the police force which not only portrays them as young but also as very friendly:

Yes, Brighton is colourful, from pink front doors and drainpipes:

To the clear blue of private shops:

To the startling jazz of vivid graffiti, brightoning up the brickwork:

On a sunny Saturday in summer, the trains down from London are packed to the gun-whales, the teeming plat-formers at London Bridge being the most desperate, several deep for twelve carriages long (even though they rarely seem to run more than eight and these are already full), but tempers are cool, as holiday mode prevails. Then, on arrival, there's a controlled exit from the station, all eager to get to the beach or the pier, though not frenzied enough to fight with the traffic.

Most head straight down to the beach to claim a square metre of pebble heaven, to absorb the UV and get to grips with the real matters of life, like this:

Or like this, perhaps:

Or to experience the refreshment of an unscheduled dip in the briny:

Or a plastic pint of warm beer:

While others make a bee line for the Pier, not the West Pier, of course, as that became derelict in the 1970s and then was destroyed by arson in early 2003:

A cruel fate for a splendid example of Victorian extravagance. This cost £27K in 1866 and was for over one hundred years a marvel of engineering and a joy to the promenaders. Even now it is the most photographed building in Brighton.

But the Palace Pier (1899), now Brighton Pier, is the only one of three such Victorian constructions to survive, (the Chain Pier was destroyed in a storm in December 1896), seen here in the distance:

Or seen here on the deck:

Or here upside down:

Or here on a smartphone:

Or here in the frame:

Or here on the wing:

But there is more, much more, to Brighton, than the seaside.

There's been a settlement at least since the Norman invasion, and it began to become fashionable in the days of the Prince Regent (who became George IV),

though the real boom started once the railway connected her with London (1841) and taking the sea air, or even exposing oneself to the salty waters, became popular. The population grew rapidly, peaking at 160,000 and being just short of that today.

Today the Royal Pavilion (built by John Nash as a palace for the Prince Regent in the early 19th century and modelled on oriental architecture) is one of the sights, though next door (and free) is the Brighton Museum, which also incorporates the Brighton Dome, and which is almost as exotic.

There is also, in the Quarter, the Fishing Museum, which offers a most intriguing window on a very different world.

Then the Lanes, or Laines, also draw the crowds.  These narrow and curious streets were laid out and built up in the late 18th century.  Today some are residential, but many have quirky and attractive shops, with bric-a-brac and curios heading the list.

Though there are also some fine pubs and eating places, some of which are modern and funky, while others keep a traditional air.

Some corners are quiet:

Some are colourful:

And some are being developed:

It can be tiring, with the sun beating down, and the crowds jostling along the prom, so one place to retire to is The Grand Hotel, built in 1864, and partly destroyed in the 1984 Conservative Party Conference, when Mrs Thatcher narrowly escaped the IRA bombing.

Brighton is like a race track, like Derby Day. It attracts all sorts, from the possibly dodgy, who perhaps have their roots in Brighton Rock:

To the peaceful ancients:

To the heavy tourists:

To the curious individuals:

To the shy:

To the careless:

To the absolutely carefree:

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!

Where the brass bands play:
So just let me be beside the seaside
I'll be beside myself with glee

And there's lots of girls beside,
I should like to be beside
Beside the seaside!
Beside the sea

And then the sun begins to slip, and the heat eases off, and the gulls swoop lower and lower, emboldened by hunger and by human laziness.

And later the air is darkened by the electricity of the sideshows, the brightness of the lights.  All the fun of the fair is there, and night becomes it, glittering after the gauze of the day.  The carousel turns, and turns.....

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