Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Brighton Pier

It's half term at the moment and I went to Brighton yesterday. Karen had to go there for work so I tagged along. The first thing I noticed when I got off the train was that I could hear seagulls. Funny how something so small reminds you of so much. You hear seagulls all the time at home but they are such a foreign concept here. Plus these seagulls were HUGE! They must be eating twice as many chips as Aussie seagulls.

I walked down to the beach and stood on the pebbles and if you closed your eyes, and ignored the freezing wind, you could imagine standing at Mona Vale beach eating lunch with the fire crew on a Sunday afternoon. I'm not a fan of the whole sand thing but pebbles just seems so wrong for the beach. I did manage to find some sand though. Pity it was a beach volleyball court and it was separated from the water by pebbles and a walkway.

The famous Brighton pier juts out a fair way into the ocean and houses amusement arcades and rides. I popped a few 10p coins into the slots and play a few of the games but didn't win anything. They have a roped off section which houses poker machines for the adults in the same room as the rest of the games for children. The old fogies sit in the poker machine area while their grandkids play the video games not 3m away.

Along the walkway are tiny booths where shops have been for many many years. You can imagine children in the early part of the 1900s running down the wooden planks towards the old lolly shop that stocks every kind of boiled lolly known to man and then some. Plus you can see their mothers following them slowly carrying parisols and wearing long dresses with corsets and bustles and their leather boots tapping along the same planks I walked on (although to be fair some planks were newer than others).

The weather was very overcast and foggy and you couldn't see very far but I overheard a lady saying that there was an old pier futrher around the boardwalk that had fallen into the ocean, so I set off in the direction that she pointed. About ten minutes later I saw the pier emerge from the shrouds of fog and instantly felt sad for it. It must have been a wonderful sight in it's day and now it stands looking charred and black alone in the sea. The bridge that once joined it to the mainland has long since collapsed into the sea. As you walk up to the old pier you are met by the sight of rows of small boats that are pulled up high on the shore for the winter. Hooligans have attacked the fences and pulled them down and there is rubbish and debris all over the place. It just adds to the whole sad atmosphere of the old pier and is a stark contrast to the fun and games of the new pier.

I also managed to get lost in the labyrinth of small "lanes" that accomodate the small shops of Brighton. It was fabulous to wander through the mix of old antique and jeweller's stores and the newer trendy card and arty shops. All the streets in this area are cobblestoned and you couldn't fit a truck down any of them. In fact I think you would be hard pressed to fit a car down most.

I hope to go back to Brighton during the summer to see the difference between the sleepy village atmosphere in Winter and the vibrant festival town in Summer.

We had another snow day a week and a half ago. This time there was lots more snow and I saw heaps of snowmen popping up on my way to work. The school I taught at looked so peaceful and white when I got there. Pity it didn't stay that way.

Off to Oxford on Thursday and then touring London via the Monopoly board on Friday.

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