Thursday, 12 March 2009

London Sur Mer

I'm conscious of the fact that this is my second posting this month with a French title. I apologise. I shall try to be more inventive demain.

We took a little trip to Brighton today. Brighton, beloved of the Prince Regent, and the first resort to make sea bathing popular. This latter claim to fame was a the result of a paper published by Dr Richard Russell, MD FRS, in 1750, 'Glandular Diseases, or a Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the Affections of the Glands'. The good Dr Russell recommended that those who wished to be cured of such ailments should not only bathe in the sea, but drink the stuff as well. Russell himself lived in Lewes, but recommended his patients take to the water (and take the water) at the nearest seaside town...Brighton.

Our visit today did not involve the imbibing of sea water; no. It was to see the comedy Lloyd George knew my father at the Theatre Royal, a 'proper' theatre with gilded mouldings, etched glass, velveteen seats...and very little leg room. Were Victorian Brightonians tiny people with little legs, I wonder? If so, then they must have suffered alongside London theatregoers, for I have never found an old theatre with anything approaching a decent amount of leg room!

We went to the matinee performance. Now, in London the matinee is beloved of the student on a budget. In Brighton, however, the pensioner is king (or queen) of the matinee. Dear friends, it would probably not be an exaggeration to say that Mrs. Hale and I were a good two decades younger than the bulk of the audience. We were surounded by sweet old ladies reminiscent of Miss Marple, who probably live in Rottingdean or somewhere equally pleasant, and their husbands, decked out in crimplene slacks and those light-coloured shoes beloved of the elderly. I felt as if I had wandered onto the set of the remake of Cocoon. All around me I could hear prostates popping like champagne corks, and the crackle of newly-permed hair. None of which is true.

The play, which starred Edward Fox (at his spendid best) and Claire Bloom, was a gentle drawing-room comedy of a type I haven't seen for years, and seemed ideally suited to the (mostly) elderly audience, who roared with laughter at the jokes and applauded politely for just long enough at the final curtain. I did say to Mrs. Hale before the play started that I hoped it would not be too dramatic, as some of our fellow theatregoers didn't look as if they could stand anything too shocking. But I needn't have worried.

Afterwards, we sallied forth onto the streets of London on Sea, as Brighton is sometimes called. And yes, I can see why. We encountered Big Issue sellers, a couple of Greenpeace Chuggers who greeted us like long-lost relatives, saw a small posse of street drinkers engaged in polite conversation within the environs of a bus shelter, and came across The Temple That Is Primark. But get away from all of these things; wander round the jewellery quarter that is The Lanes, visit the quirky shops in North Laine, or just enjoy a couple of hours looking at Brighton's distinctive architecture, its narrow streets and squares before rounding off the day at a decent seafood restaurant. That's the Brighton for me.

I think I'm going to like living down here. And the Tourist Board aren't paying me a penny. Honest.

19 comments:

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Sounds like a good day out! (The Temple that is Primark?)

And - naughty Chris for not telling us it's your birthday! Happy Birthday! We will drink to you and eat some of Girth's best cake this evening at Necky Knoll House!

chris hale said...

Thanks Raph! And if you could send a little of that cake in my direction, I'm fairly sure I might be able to manage a very small morsel of it. Sorry, I can't keep up this pretence. Big piece of cake! Mm, cake!

willow said...

(((sigh))) I adore Edward Fox and Claire Bloom! And you saw them both in person?! I am so envious.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, by the way!!! I wouldn't have known except for Raph's comment.

chris hale said...

Willow - yes! really enjoyed the play; two great actors of the old school.

Thanks for your kind wishes.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Did you know that Brighton was called Brighthelmstone in the days of the Prince Regent? I read that somewhere, it might not be true, I have both blonde and senior moments, Sir!

I came to you via your Memes on Comedy Goddess's and Derrick's fab sites bytheway!

mo.stoneskin said...

Mate I am at Hove station right now, on way home from Sussex Beer Festival, it warms my heart to hear of Brighton and her Big Issue sellers, we (me and my missus) lived here for 4 years, the aforementioned sellers the bain of my life, the donuts bought from the pier are my fondest memories.

And yet you didn't give me a shout... Next time huh?

We were in the Laines just last Saturday. Ah the Laines. Don't you just love them.

chris hale said...

AWONI - Welcome! Yes, it was apparently so called in days of yore. Good to meet you - please come again.

Mo - Hove, actually? Beer? Festival? Why wasn't I informed?

Comedy Goddess said...

Happy Birthday! What a nice way to spend it. Here's to many many more!

chris hale said...

Thank you, CG. It was a jolly nice day out!

punk in writing said...

Sounds delightful. :) I just might have to extend my trip to Brighton the next time I visit your fair island.

And Happy Birthday, even if I'm a bit late...

chris hale said...

Punky - yes, Brighton is quite a quirky place; lots of arty shops and arty people. Well worth a visit. And don't forget to get some candy floss (cotton candy) on the pier.

Thanks for the birthday wishes!

chris hale said...

Punky - yes, Brighton is quite a quirky place; lots of arty shops and arty people. Well worth a visit. And don't forget to get some candy floss (cotton candy) on the pier.

Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris and belated you know what's to you!

It's a few years since I was in Brighton and I think it does keep improving. Many moons ago, when I first saw it, I couldn't imagine why anyone would like it. The Regency terraces were dilapidated and the place was just seedy! "Dirty Weekends" seemed appropriate in more ways than one!

Can you tell me who put my name down as the party pooper??!!

kimmirich said...

A drive-by, Happy Birthday, just tapped into your blog from Comedy's blog!

chris hale said...

Thank you Derrick. Yes, Brighton is certainly a lot less seedy than it used to be; a far cry from the old Graham Greene novel (in which, incidentally, someone called Hale is murdered).

What's this party pooper thing you mention? Surely no-one we know could be so ungracious, or so incorrect!

Kimmirich - thank you; do call in again. The kettle's usually on!

Rob Inukshuk said...

Feliz cumpleaños ,gelukkige verjaardag, χρόνια πολλά, buon compleanno, joyeux anniversaire, с днем рождения, feliz aniversario, happy birthday!

I've always found Brighton to be a pleasant suburb of London. I'm glad it was a good day out.

DocElectron said...

I loved the (way too short) amount of time I spent in Brighton and I loved reading your post - it brought back some awesome (if not cold) memories.

chris hale said...

Rob - yes, it was a good day. And thanks for your good wishes...and in so many languages!

Doc - glad I've brought back memories for you. Do call again.

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