One thing you need to bear in mind is that ‘the season’ in Brighton starts at Easter. That’s when all the shop-owners dust off their souvenirs from last year, switch on their candy-floss machines, start up the carousels and pray for sunshine.
Now, I would have thought that if you were planning a new, ground-breaking tourist attraction – like a huge, grey pole – for a resort like Brighton, you would want to have it open at the beginning of the season. Well, if that was British Airways’ intention, they spectacularly failed. By the middle of July, nothing was ready; no restaurants, no bars, just the grey pole and its attendant Doughnut, still being tested to make sure it was safe.
Having said that, I must admit that it was quite fun watching the Doughnut being put though its paces. Slowly, slowly it started to rise…
And although, for the purposes of the test, the Doughnut only held a couple of men in hi-viz vests and some cardboard boxes, it was still quite an impressive sight as it gradually made its way up the pole … and into the sky.
… and away…
… into the blue yonder…
From the top of the i360, on a good day, you will get views all along the south coast and over the Sussex Downs to the north. On a bad day, you will disappear into the mist, to return, some twenty minutes later, hopefully enriched by the experience of being cocooned in a grey doughnut at the top of a grey pole from which you could see nothing. Worth £13.50 of anyone’s money, I’d say!
So Brighton has a new tourist attraction and a new landmark that can be seen from all over the city.
The i360 is due to open on August 4th.
Will I be there, queueing for a ride?
One of my favourite things to do in Brighton is to walk along the seafront. When we lived here, some twelve years ago, we used to amble along the promenade regularly during all four seasons and in all weathers.
In the summer you often have to thread your way amongst the thousands of visitors who pour out of the trains from London every weekend and unwittingly book their places in hospital as they expose their lily-white British flesh, long swaddled in layers of warm clothes during the British winter and chilly spring, to the merciless rays of the early summer sun.
In the winter you have to wrap yourself up against the lacerating wind and lashing rain as you show your determination not to be beaten by the elements. In the autumn you find yourself sharing the promenade either with delegates with ID cards around their necks from whichever political party is ‘conferencing’ in Brighton or with crowds of barbershop singers or whichever random gospel choirs who happen to have hired the Brighton Centre for their annual convention. It may be wet. It may be cold. It is never dull.
Last week, as I ventured out to brave the hordes of ice-cream toting tourists and gleeful deck-chair hirers, I saw a pole. Just a big pole, sticking out of the ground halfway along the seafront.
You couldn’t miss it. There it was. One huge grey pole.
Now, as I am sure you will agree that was already quite exciting. I’ve never seen a seafront, anywhere in the world, that sports a huge, grey metal pole. It certainly wasn’t there the last time we were in Brighton, two years ago when we got evacuated from South Sudan. Eastbourne and Hastings, eat your hearts out!
We drew nearer to have a closer look…
… and discovered the British Airways ‘i360’, better known locally as ‘the Doughnut.’
Weymouth, Portsmouth, Blackpool and London all have to look up to us now!
From re-grouting the tiles on the bathroom floor…
… to a quick shower and a change of uniform…
… and off to a concert with the Brighton Welsh Male Voice Choir.
Ten minutes, the lot!
We will fight them in the front bedroom;
We will fight them in the alcoves and in the little nooks and crannies;
We will fight them on the skirting boards and on the wallpaper pasting tables:
We will fight them in the annoying, fancy Victorian plaster coving that is incredibly difficult to paint and then just collects dust for the rest of eternity.
We will never surrender!
When we packed up our house in Northampton to go on VSO four years ago, we disposed of nearly all of our furniture. As happenstance would have it, our daughter was setting up her flat in London at the same time, so off went our bed, settee, armchairs and anything else that could be useful. Whatever was small enough to go through a small trapdoor was stored in the attic of our house and the rest went to a number of local charity shops.
And off we went to South Sudan and subsequently to Papua New Guinea, without a care in the world. So far, so good.
Then we came back and took possession of our house in Brighton. The pictures below illustrates our first major challenge. Where were we supposed to sleep?
Oh. Lord. Where do I start? Instructions? What instructions?
So where does this bit go?
If, at first, you don’t succeed… get a bigger screwdriver.
Oops! Forgot the bit that holds it all together.
When we first saw our house after twelve years of being occupied by tenants, we were a bit saddened at the state of the place, but we were galvanised to get stuck in with alacrity, perseverance and a lot of paint.
When we saw the state of the garden, we knew we were beaten. There was no way that we would have been able to tame that monster and set about rehabilitating the house at the same time. So we called in reinforcements and had two strapping young men working for two days, just to hack down the jungle and leave it in a state where we would have some hope of being able to maintain it.
Our lawn, such as it was, had disappeared beneath a field of dandelions.
We despaired of ever being able to sit on the lawn on a balmy summer’s evening and drink our Pimms. Maybe next year.
One of our first jobs was to repel the invaders, thousands of them!
One thing we have learned over the years is that snails are homing animals. If you throw them over the wall into the neighbour’s garden, they eventually make their way back. We actually tested this theory when we lived in Northampton. We marked some snails with correcting fluid and threw them into the school playing field at the back of our house. Two days later, they were back.
So the solution to our snail invasion in Brighton was rather more interventionist, not to say, gruesome.
By the time our two gardeners had finished, this was what our lawn looked like.
Maybe the year after next, before we have our Pimms-on-the-Lawn party!
It will be a rural idyll one day. Promise!