So is that it? Well, not quite. Read the header – I’m walking to Brighton Pier. The final part will be in the future but I did slip in an extra walk in that direction. I try and do some kind of cardio exercise every day, which often consists of energetic stepping on to a raised platform with weights strapped on to me. Sometimes I walk outdoors instead and, with the sun shining on the street I was brought up in, I decided to do one more walk and at the same time get my daily exercise.
Years ago I walked to school every day, a two-valley affair which took about 40 minutes. (Thus I saved my bus fare to buy comics, fuelling the mind you are now seeing evidence of.) I replicated this walk, following the Drove Road route that as the name implies was once used for moving sheep and cattle. Having ‘Walked Home’ ™ I now walked past an Emmaus Community, temporary home for some folks who have nowhere else – and a great secondhand shop.
I walked down through what used to be a golf course and is now a park at the back of a Sainsbury’s, past the newsagents where I got the first Captain Britain comic with the free mask. Over to the windmill that gives Blatchington Mill its name, and which used to feature on my school blazer and the cap that only ever got worn on the first day.
There will probably be a school reunion in 2015 but this was not that year so I walked down Holmes Avenue, just like I did when I used to go to get the bus. From there I turned into Elm Drive and then Rowan Avenue, the first street I remember living in. The prescribed cardio minutes achieved, I stopped to look in the yellow-cellophane window of a Christian bookshop in a small parade of shops hallway up the street. There was a print of a child in a red jumper, bathed in light. When asked recently if I had ever had any spiritual experiences, my equivocal answer referred to a memory of being taken to a small park in my pram, here on this street, looking up at the clouds and feeling a vast sense of meaning. Looking for this park, I found a small twitten right where I remembered it. I walked down it and found myself in the back of the huge Hove cemetery. This was quite a shock – could the cemetery have grown so much that it had absorbed my remembered park? Well, logically it could have done I supposed – many have died in the last 45 years. Somewhat cast down I carried on up Rowan Avenue. Soon I found another twitten, which did actually lead to the park I remembered. I was not transported by numinous light, but I did see a pretty mosaic with a heart motif, and another heart, broken in some sad but homely graffiti.
And walked up past our old house, now the headquarters of a landscape gardening operation called The Grass is Greener. And on, turning down Hangleton Road Road, leaving a hundred stories behind and seeing again the view that is for me worth a thousand Golden Valleys, Boundary Road and the sea.
I walked on down, crossing under the railway and running up the steps which my dad had run up with full pack on return from National Service.
Boundary Road (which also goes by the name of Station Road) seems to be both thriving and run-down, a mixture of decades-old family businesses, ethnic groceries, amusement arcades, pet shops, hairdressers and cafes frequently punctuated with charity shops. A Tesco squats in the middle, like the castle of a benign-seeming overlord. Murder, art, buying and selling, drunken-ness and poetry have happened here. I remember many things in this road – from the long-gone Bistro Edward restaurant to a Corgi toys sticker that stayed in the window of a shop for years after it closed. I could give a tour of the absent and erased. If I had substantial resources for art-like capers and fewer commitments, I would live here for a year and a day, never leaving the boundaries of Boundary Road, documenting every shop and cafe and becoming its Robinson Crusoe – but that’s all for another time, or for never.
I will return here to start the final leg of this walk. For now I went to Sami Swoi and had an espresso while I waited for the bus. It was dark in the little restaurant and that coffee was bitter, hot and strong.