On Brighton Beach
On Brighton Beach

Today Lizzy relives stepping out onto Brighton Beach courtesy of a recent business trip.  The glorious evening was my own.  How though would I make best use of 4 free hours in a town I had never visited? 

1) Head for the deckchairs on Brighton Pier.  Spend a leisurely hour in the company of a book that had been sent to me over a year ago by one of the organisers of the Brighton Festival, William Shaw.

Sunbathing
Sunbathing

The Illustrated Brighton Moment is a collection of short stories depicting real incidents in the lives of the many writers who have made their home in this world famous British coastal town.   (World famous – Brighton’s not coy about this.  There’s the world famous pier, world famous ice cream parlours, and, of course, the world famous rock.)

 2)     Stroll round the town and check off the landmarks from the stories read.   

Brighton 2009
Brighton 2009

 If you know Brighton, you’ll realise I didn’t walk that far.  Certainly not as far as to Hove or any further down the coast than the Pier but I will next time and I’ll take the book with me again.  There are, in total, 53 moments, some stories and others examples of street art.  The latter unfortunately no longer in situ as the book was originally published to coincide with the 2008 Brighton festival.  Regardless The Illustrated Brighton Moment served its purpose as a rather unconventional travel guide quite magnificently.  I experienced moments and sights that would normally have required a much longer stay. 

 

Bond Street  is a place where different visions of Brighton rub along happily.  It has the upmarket labels, the high retailers’ margins,  the air of smartness to gladden the hearts of those whose vision of the city’s future revolves around branding and enterprise … It’s cheerful, it’s colourful … Chic sits comfortably with quirkiness.  …

All this is what you see around you.  But a curious thing happens if you look beyond where you’re going.  Look straight ahead – the effect is best on the left-hand side of the street – and you will see the Downs.  It’s just a small rectangle of hillside, partly framed by St Bartholomew’s Church; it looks almost like a trick of the eye, cut from the country and pasted into the town. (From Down Town by Marek Kohn)

 And so it is.

Bond Street, Brighton
Bond Street, Brighton

The stories are as varied and entertaining  as Brighton itself.  I particularly enjoyed Katy Gardner’s The Mugging.  It’s only 1.5 pages long so I can’t tell you anything without spoiling it.  But the identity of the thief will surprise you all.  William Shaw’s story The Self is an Unending Prospect is x-rated.  C J Sansom’s Ancient Bones tells the sad story of how the spine of a pioneering palaeontologist,  Dr Gideon Mantell, came to be an exhibit in the Hunterian Museum in London.  Rose Collis’s Shock Waves reveals relives the terror of the great tidal wave of 1929 and reveals that I wasn’t the only child to have nightmares of such when holidaying at the seaside.  So much to see, so much to learn.  A marvellous book which allowed me to appreciate the feelings in Chris Paling’s story The Sea End of Wardour Street 

I got here in 1975 and, when I walked out of the station, I knew this was a place I could stay, and maybe belong.

His Brighton moment has lasted for 34 years. Mine was over in 4 hours leaving only enough time to contemplate the transience of all good things as I admired the wonderful sunset over West Pier.

Sunset over West Pier
Sunset over West Pier (Destroyed by fire in 2003)

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If you like the idea of true stories – unmadeup ones – you can sample many more at the website of the publishers of this book – www.unmadeup.com. You can even submit your own if you’re feeling courageous!

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