Wednesday, 25 February 2009

God's Waiting Room



We took a trip into Eastbourne yesterday. Now, for those of you who don't know it, Eastbourne is a busy seaside resort at the eastern end of the South Downs. It is often referred to as God's Waiting Room because of the large number of elderly people who have chosen it as their last dwelling place upon this earth. I must admit to having seen a number of folk who would make Methusaleh feel like a young whipper-snapper, and you do have to watch that you don't get run over by those little motorised trollies or injured by badly-handled zimmer frames. These things aside, Eastbourne is a fairly pleasant place; a bit like Brighton but without the vibrant gay and artistic communities. Many of its hotels have seen better days, and now have a kind of faded grandeur. One can imagine them staffed by aged waiters and chambermaids called Arthur and Tilly, who have probably been serving Brown Windsor and turning down beds since Charles Dickens came to stay.

One curious fact that came to light was that more elderly people than youngsters in Eastbourne have been served with Anti Social Behaviour Orders. It seems that they get involved in late night DIY to the annoyance of their neighbours and all manner of other cantankerous encounters. One man, a self-employed gardener, was issued with an ASBO for trying to drum up custom for his business in an aggressive manner. I wonder what was said...Come on! You know you want your roses pruned! It'd be a shame if those garden gnomes fell down the stairs, now wouldn't it?
Eastbourne is close to the dizzy heights of Beachy Head, a 535 foot chalk cliff with a lighthouse at its foot. Apparently the Head has been a popular venue for suicides since the 1600s (I wonder where they went in the 1500s...or were there other preferred methods of suicide before the 17th century?) with around twenty people a year choosing to step off the edge of the cliff and into oblivion. 'A six hundred foot drop can be deadly', says the BBC's Inside Out website in a curious case of stating the rather obvious. Some years ago a telephone box was placed close to the edge of the cliff with telephone numbers for the Samaritans plastered all over it, so one would hope this would reduce the incidence of suicides. One chap threw himself off, only to land on a ledge two hundred feet down the side of the cliff. Having been spoken to by a local policeman and clearly having got something out of his system, he then calmly lit a cigarette and waited for the helicopter to arrive!

Our trip was not troubled with anything so disturbing as a two hundred foot cliff tumble, no; it was merely to purchase some curtains and enjoy a leisurely lunch. And so, surrounded by the octogenarians of what is supposed to be the sunniest resort on the South Coast, we ate, we drank, we curtained. If, of course, you will permit me to use curtain as a verb.

13 comments:

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Elderly ASBOs - dear me! Makes me think of Hell's Grannies on the old Monty Python sketch! What was their motto - 'Make tea not love'?

Buying curtains is fun, as is putting all the little ear-shaped hook things in. I usually manage to get them upside down ...

willow said...

Magnificent photos! I'm so envious of your neck of the woods.

SweetPeaSurry said...

We have a "God's Waiting Room" here in the US, it's called 'Florida' :)

Heather said...

I love that picture of the lighthouse off Beachy Head - very evocative of lovely childhood holidays. I haven't been back to Eastbourne for many years and perhaps it's wiser not too - my fond memories and illusions might be shattered.

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

I hope the Eastbourne Tourist Board don't see your blog!! Or the residents for that matter. You may find yourself a marked man. Don't go too near the edge!

Comedy Goddess said...

I love our day trips together, even if I do need an English to American translation dictionary.

chris hale said...

Raph - I remember Hell's Grannies so well. I think you're right about the motto!

I would imagine putting up very tall curtains does not pose a problem for your good self.

Willow - I'm sure you have some wonderful countryside where you are.

SweetPeaSurry - Yes, I've been to Florida, and I can see where you're coming from!

Heather - welcome! As you say, it may be wiser to stay away and remember it as it was. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be!

Derrick - yes, I've been waiting for the the Eastbourne Tourist Police to knock on my door...is that them now?

CG - Dictionary, eh? Which bits can I assist you with?

Comedy Goddess said...

What is a zimmer frame? What is Brown Windsor? And DIY?

Sorry.

Madame DeFarge said...

Waiting for Godot I suppose? I imagine that Eastbourne must be a riot. They clearly need a Respect Czar down there to teach them a thing or to about respecting the rights of the young to go to bed early and turn the lights out at 9.30.

Stevyn Colgan said...

I always remember comedian Lee Evans commenting that he could tell that Eastbourne was for oldies as all the shop windows were bifocal ...

Stevyn Colgan said...

CG - Simmer Frame - a walker: on eof those frames that elderly or infirm people use to stay upright

Brown Windsor - a rather insipid British soup

DIY - Do-it-yourself - Home improvements, a British obsession!

Rob Inukshuk said...

I never did make it to Eastbourne while I lived in the UK. No one told me it was such a jumping place or that they did curtains!

I guess there's time yet, what with there being 40 years to go before I qualify for entry!

chris hale said...

CG - Sorry I wasn't around to answer your queries, but I see Stevyn came up trumps.

MDF - Quite right! What's the world coming to when young people are having to complain about senior citizens causing a hullabaloo?

Stevyn - And everything's in capitl letters so they can hear. YES IT IS, DEAR. THAT'S RIGHT.

Rob - You still have plenty of time. I only have another twelve years until I hit pensionable age! But in my head I'm still eighteen or thereabouts.