We made the decision to go to the seaside.
The weather forecast was sun and more sun even though it was a bit chilly. Enjoying the chillyness takes my mind off global warming,
We set off, and because of Scamsgate, we had to take cash that was stashed – to buy petrol – which has now skyrocketed to £1.41 a teaspoon.
We drove to Brighton but the old git missed the turn off so we travelled two miles in the left hand direction and ended up in Eastbourne.
The clouds parted and the sun shone. We parked the car, at the top of the town and realised we didn’t have any coins for the meter. Our cards having been cut up because the scammers had fucked us. I went over to a hotel, carrying a ten pound note – the Hotel was closed.
Into a second hotel; that too was closed. The whole esplanade was shut up – victims of covid. There was one hotel open. I walked through the revolving doors, over to the coffee shop counter, I asked the young teenager if he would change my ten pound note into coins for the parking meter.
‘We don’t take cash.’ he said with the voice of the computer that always says NO.
Sulking, I walked to reception and asked the masked manager if he would change my ten pound note into coins.
‘We donta taka casha’ he said in the manner of the The Italian computer who always says ‘Nonna….’
I was disconsolate, we had the cash but not the where-with-all to park our bleeding car. There was a table of 6 women who had just cracked open their first bottle of Chardonnay. The smell of lean, crispy, green grapes filled the air and the stubborn aroma of dead wine on tongues that have seen better days, hung like a penitent cloud over the table.
To a woman, each opened her purse, shared five pound notes, giggled as they counted out coins, generally put their metaphorical arms around me and supplied me with the coinage I needed. I was touched that, without a moment’s hesitation, they unpacked their purses. Receipts, emery boards and photos of grandchildren spilled all over the table. They raised their glasses and clinked me off.
I put four quid in the meter and we left the car in the safe shadows of a cold October day.
Down the steps we went and turned left, towards the pier, a beautiful Victorian job built in 1866. The beach looked like a building site, the pebbles and shingle having been turned over by a tractor. We stepped gingerly over the tracks. Seagulls hopping over the little mounds. The Channel washing in and out. The wind blowing. The sun shining. The air clear.
We walked up to the walkway to the pier.
I wanted seaside chips; the first kiosk promised a bag of perfectly fried frites but the smell of greasy old grease saw me walk in – and out – in the crisping of a potato eye.
We walked further onto the pier. Glass shop, tea shop, and a doughnut shop craved our custom. They didn’t get it. The pier welcomed us and thirteen other visitors. Eastbourne was Covidead.
On the way back we asked the workmen, in their high-viz jackets, what the bulldozers were for.
SEA DEFENCE: GLOBAL WARMING. they said. They were perched on the wall like gannets waiting for the tide to go out. Eastbourne is being prepared for the high seas.
We found a waterfront coffee shop. I had an oat-milk cappuccino, the old git had a three shot Americano. We both had flapjacks that were as old as Beachy Head and as crumbly. I sucked on mine between slurps of coffee whilst he fed his to the pigeons and seagulls.
On the way back to the beach huts and first aid station – our point of reference for the parking spot – we were accosted by two women of a certain age. We had seen them sunning themselves on the pier, heads against the timber, catching the rays.
‘Yes.’ I said.
‘I thought you were.’
‘Yup it’s me.’
‘Why aren’t you on the telly any more?’
‘I’m seventy fucking two’
The two women laughed, thanked us for the minimal chat, and left dragging their smiles behind them.
Tide out and the tractor, digger and a massive bulldozer started their sea defending. The gulls stood and watched. We watched, then left for the beach huts when a woman on a wall shouted
‘Don’t I know you?”
The excitement was too much. I ignored her. twice in the space of ten minutes. The ‘oosbind said I could have made her day by telling her I was in fact once Jeni Barnett.
I now know who my target demographic is. Eastbourne women who hang out near the pier, with no memory for names and a preponderance for obsolete television shows.
Up to the beach huts, turn right up the ergonomic steps and there was our ancient car, sitting in the sunshine, opposite a row of vacant hotels, deadly quiet and Covified.
Eastbourne had served her purpose. No chips, no candy floss, no crowds. Just sun, sand and sea.
On the way back we stopped off for a flea comb for Dennis.
By 3.18 we were home. Wind swept and interesting.
Next week we’re going to Hastings, then the following week Winchelsea, then the following week Pevensey, then Whitsable, then Brighton and then bugger me November will be gone and we’ll be looking at December away days.
Lucky we are to have a car that works, money for petrol and the will to live.
Lucky we are to be able to stop arguing for the duration of the trip to enjoy each other’s company over a seagull and lucky we are that we’re not dead – although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
The north wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what will we do then
We’ll sit in a barn,
And keep ourselves warm,
And hide our heads under our wings
Or we could just go to the pub……