I’ve Never Spent A Day On The Beach
I’ve lived in Brighton for over forty years of my life and can count the number of planned visits to the beach on one hand, even as a child. It was something that never appealed to my parents and, yet I have to say, there is no regret on my behalf either. However, that said, we did visit Madeira Drive in the holidays though, that being to board one of the coaches queued along there for an afternoon excursion to a Sussex place of interest. I remember they used to have boards resting against each coach, advertising their destinations, and then it was a case of ‘pick and choose’. I can’t help thinking that the mention of this simple Sunday afternoon treat will rekindle many a forgotten 1970s memory. And perhaps therein lies the rub.
Now my attitude towards our beach is not one of a joy-spoiling Scrooge, there is no purposeful antagonism here. I think our shingle beach is actually a thing of beauty in a world where the glamour puss of sandy shores has monopolised the catwalk of coastal fashion.
As many will know, historically the beach at Brighton has not had the best of reputations for its cleanliness and other things associated. I do understand that these days things are very different, and that it does have ‘Blue Flag’ status, which means the beach is well maintained and the water quality is good. Also, VisitBrighton.com tells us that the beach was ‘Voted one of the Top 10 city beach break destinations in the world, Brighton & its beachfront cool are legendary’. I’m not sure who did the voting, but again, perhaps as someone who rarely walks on the beach, except to take a few pictures of the seascape, I’m not really in a position to comment on its feel good vibe.
So I wonder, being that my apathy towards the beach is not deliberate, if it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Perhaps Sydneysiders have the same attitude towards the Opera House, or Londoners towards their awesome structures with so much history attached.
It’s as if I regard the beach as a major tourist attraction, and the Palace Pier in a similar vain, thus assuming that it is mainly for the tourists, as if purpose built to give them something different from that which they are used to. The idea of spending a summer day there is always usurped by the possibility of a journey into the countryside, or a visit to another place of interest, the chance to get away from it all.
I always used to play cricket on a Sunday during the summer, and when I was driving out of Brighton the road was clear, yet coming southwards into town, as far back as Patcham sometimes, traffic was almost at a standstill. The return journey yielded the opposite, a breeze back along the London Road whilst tired drivers with restless children battled to get through to the A23. I always said this was the benefit of being a Brightonian by residence, not being pigeon-holed in to certain visiting times, and also knowing all the short cuts in the event of being caught up in such jams as has happened on the odd occasion. This only seemed to enforce my arrogance about having all that makes Brighton appealing on my doorstep and not needing to fight the fumes and congestion to reach it in a small window of available time.
As I grow older, I hope that I don’t regret my indifference to many local places and facilities that are so easily in reach. It is so easy to forget how much the town offers whilst being pre-occupied with moaning about its inadequacies. I still can’t bring myself to spend a day on the beach though. But then, given the current weather, I think it may well be coming to me first…