This weekend my eldest daughter wanted to attend her best friend’s birthday party and so it made sense to book a hotel room in Brighton rather than travel the fourty miles back to my caravan on the field. On a warm day in June the population of Brighton will multiply many times on any weekend. There will be an influx of Londoners looking for a beach and a chance to bake under the sun or chill in the sea. There will be hen parties and stag parties and just turned 21 and just turned 40 parties. Brighton is fun. For all the faiths and all the nationalities and all the ages – Brighton is there to be enjoyed and Brighton rarely disappoints.
It was so busy this weekend I was unable to park the hire car anywhere near the hotel. I parked it in one of those multi-storey car cages in a joining town known as Hove, and the taxi driver was happy to take us to the Thistle hotel. This hotel catered for the wealthier visitors. If you were happy to pay three pounds for a glass of lemonade then you could sit down in the huge meeting and greeting area and enjoy that exalted feeling of importance that sometimes comes when surrounded by an interior designed for royalty. I would never book a hotel simply to feel a bit of royalty – but there were few hotels with any vacancies and so the Thistle it had to be.
By mid-afternoon my eldest daughter had made her way to the friend’s party. I had my little daughter to entertain for the rest of the day – and her little mind desired nothing more than a walk along Brighton’s pier also knows as the Palace Pier.
This pier was opened in 1899 and had taken eight years to build at a cost of 27,000 pounds. It once had a concert hall but now consists of arcade galleries, restaurants, a pub, a fair ground area and many small stalls selling anything from souvenirs to hot dogs, doughnuts and henna tattoos. There is even a Gypsy carriage and inside you will find a clairvoyant who will gladly vivisect your future – for a little fee of course.
We started at the doughnut stall and purchased four freshly made sugar coated rings of fried dough. My mind was cast back many years ago when I would get up early every weekend and cycle to the bakery in my home town and spend several hours cooking the doughnuts. The machine that made the doughnuts hasn’t changed at all. A metal bucket with a rotating plunger that forms the rings of dough and a bath of hot liquefied fat with a track that pulls the frying doughnuts along the length of the bath. I know exactly how much lard will be mixed with the doughnut mixture which is then fried – and I can advise the dieters out there to stay well away from them.
Next on the activity list was a ride. It was like an octopus and we sat in a seat at the end of one of its arms. The mechanical octopus would spin and the arms would rise and fall and the punters screamed with fear and delight. After the ride finished both my daughter and I agreed it was great to be terrified in a controlled sort of way.
And so we took a roller coaster ride called the crazy mouse. We sat in a carriage that rotated clockwise and anti-clockwise as it made its way around a track with all the bends and the descents that are typical of this sort of ride. I tried not to notice the rust on the rails and assured my daughter that these things were examined daily for faults and it was all perfectly safe. Although I didn’t scream like my daughter I cannot be sure I wasn’t the more terrified one in the carriage.
We then spent some time in the arcade area. I gave my daughter some change and she tried her luck. All those clever machines with so many prizes to offer. The colours and the sounds and the excitement of the win that is rarely forthcoming. A fun way to be sure, to lose all your spare coins.
Across the road from the pier entrance is a famous aquarium called a Sea Life centre. It was built in 1872 and I have no doubt that most of my relatives whose early life was spent growing up in London would have visited this aquarium on one of their Brighton visits. I have visited the attraction many times and I have always found the ocean life fascinating and so too the architecture of this old aquarium. This Sea Life Centre has recently had a face-lift and the main gallery really is quite colourful.
And so that was my day with my youngest daughter. A day spent amongst those that would tour and those that would party. A day for fun and a break between those long days of work – a chance to stabilise the energy levels and reflect on the privilege of our life as it is. To enjoy these attractions built over one hundred years in the past and enjoyed by many generations and also those to come. And as I stood there observing the daughter running from machine to machine full of the spirit of youth – I wondered if she too would one day be doing exactly the same with her children.
Peace to All