So after two weeks of abominable pain, the jaw bone, though intermittently spiteful, was significantly more bearable.
So after a zoom meet with my writing partner in South Africa, I put some lipstick on, clean woolly wear against the cold, and off we set.
Driving through the countryside was like travelling through a Harris tweed jacket – the beech leaves mustard, the ferns a reddish brown and mounds of maroon and yellow leaves. The sky was low, grey, lowering. Jim driving and me nodding off round the bends.
We were going to Hastings, but if we turned right at the next roundabout we would be in Brighton 30 minutes earlier. So the old git hit the indicator and The Cuilfail Tunnel appeared.
‘The unusual name for the tunnel comes from the Cuilfail area of Lewes, although it’s not originally a local word. Just over a hundred years ago the land above the tunnel was owned by local solicitor Isaac Vinall who named it after the area in Scotland where he stayed on holiday. Apparently the Gaelic root means ‘shelter or ‘retreat’.
There’s a pub on the exit of the tunnel called the ‘Snow Drop Inn.’ We once had fish and chips in there with one of the dawters ex’s. Big portions but still those irritating sachets of sauce that require a good set of gnashers, or a sharp pair of pliers, to tear open. It’s called the Snow Drop Inn because an avelanche of snow once fell on its roof.
Anyway, out of the tunnel we came and decided we would go to Hove, actually.
On and on went the road, grey and greyer hung the clouds; drizzle smeared the windscreen and it felt like we were driving through the Devils Dyke. Which in fact we were.
Through a part of Hove that nobody recommends, pound shops, charity shops, ugly rental shops, and then a level crossing. If the rain had come down any heavier I could swear we were in a Meryl Streep film that would end in the dissolving of our marriage.
Left at the T Junction and the sea met the sky. A big Pet shop, a strange store selling sporty stuff and an industrial estate that was as uplifting as a motel in Preston Park where for £71 a night you could shower in the gushing water from the gutters.
Undeterred the Sherper, tensing his muscles, found us a parking place on the side of the road. We climbed out of the car and walked towards Brighton. Houses with hanging horseshoes dripping rust down their white stucco walls. Bed and Breakfasts with swinging signs – straight out of a Tim Burton movie – revealing that there were no available rooms. The Palm Bed and Breakfast had about as much allure as a used Brillo Pad.
We crossed the road, down some steps to a grassy area where a young woman was boxing with her trainer. He held out the pads and she pummelled the shit out of them. The ‘lagoon’ had about as much allure as two grubby Brillo Pads.
I needed the loo – that kind of unattractive outlook always does something to my guts. We headed for the closest pub. It was shut. So we walked back towards Pet Corner, crossed the road and entered TIFFANY’S. Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be more precise. The squeaky door opened inwards.
At least fourteen huge family tables. The loo had the simplicity of a hostel in Budapest.
The ‘oosbind had found a seat at an empty table. Two men in orange and black tabards were tucking into an all day breakfast. A lone traveller was eating his way through eggs, beans and chips with tomato sauce, and a table at the back of the room had a family of four including a child who sounded like he had consumption, his rattling cough accompanying his crisps.
Six clocks hung around the room told us it was 1.30. Cardboard cut outs of life-size Audrey Hepburns smiled at us from behind the till and from across the room. Marilyn Monroe hung around. Elvis and several figurines of Laurel and Hardy filled every possible space. I ordered a hot chocolate for me, a strong Americano for the old git, a huge plate of chips – we were at the sea side after all – and the condiments.
I put 50p in the plastic VW camper van which was next to the till.
The waitress brought us an oval plate of skinny fries. The tomato sauce and mayonnaise were Lidl’s best. I grabbed vinegar from the next table, it’s origin unknown, and a salt cellar which had been packed in Dublin. My escort had to apply the salt to our wounds because I couldn’t work the salt cellar which was stiff.
The waitress did not smile
‘Where you from?’ I enquired.
‘That’s nice.’ I said
Do you know Albania?’ She lit up.
‘Oh!’ the light went out.
‘How long have you been here?
‘5 years’ she said mournfully
‘Do you like it here?’
She didn’t speak just shrugged her shoulders, walked off, her slouched back spoke volumes.
I enquired as to whether my husband wanted to continue wandering through Hove.
‘Do you?’ he asked.
So we walked back to the car, his arm in mine. We slid into the car, whose alarm had gone off, and drove down towards the A27.
I nodded off. I apologised for being such lousy company. He replied that he didn’t mind me being such lousy company. My jaw was pinching and draining the living daylights out of me. My driver refused the radio as any more talk of Owen Paterson was guaranteed to have us weeping into our paper napkins which we were still holding from Tiffany’s. He got us home by three.
It was not the most scintillating of outings; out of season sea-side towns, are
weary at the best of times. But Hove actually, on November 4th had all the appeal of a dead halibut.
You win some you lose some.
Next week Hastings?