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Archive for May 1st, 2011

Like a mad dog and/or Englishman I was walking in the midday sun. Past St-Andrews-by-the-Gasholder, now -by-the-Tesco, along Church Road and into Western Road.

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The route took me past former dwellings in the Drive and in Montpelier Road. I could write books full of stuff about these places – channelling dear dead Bohemian days in an Ormskirk suburb – but not this time.

I began to feel overwhelmed with memory; everywhere I looked there was some detail or other…

Walking back from my job at the Zap Club – finding the latest Adam Hall ‘Quiller’ novel in a newsagent at the end of Preston Street – Northlight – “I will risk death in the labyrinthine tunnels of a given mission, ferreting my way through the dark and through the dangers, alert for the footfall, for the shadow, for the glint of steel that must be seen in time and dealt with, dog eat dog, for this is the way, the only way to the objective: this is my trade and this is how I ply it…”

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My objective was the surviving pier, and the way there passed its ruined sister, the West Pier I have dim memories of being on it before it closed in 1975.

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The beaches were packed on this sunny bank holiday. I could see the Palace/Brighton Pier, hovering in the heat shimmer, a strange filigreed sculpture of pleasure-seeking. I could be there in a few minutes…

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but remembered that I wanted to acquire some specialist equipment for my next project before I went there. So after a phone call I veered off into town. At the bottom of West Street I cut through a narrow street next to a bar that used to be the New Regent, a venue for punk bands back in 1977-8. I saw many bands here as an underager, one of which was X-Ray Spex. There in the shade for a second I thought about their frontwoman Poly Styrene, ill in a hospice. Early the next morning I read that she had died that day, her last Facebook status “Slowly slowly trying 2 get better miss my walk along the promenade.”

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RIP

In the North Laine area I accomplished my mission to purchase the special equipment. Then I popped in to Dave’s Comics to see my friend Huw. Together with his brother Gavin he lived in the next street to me when we were growing up. We were stone-throwing rivals and (such is the nature of growing up) Huw is the only person I can remember (yet) who has punched me in the face twice, on two separate occasions. Later, finding we shared an interest in sf and comics we became friends and he was part of the pack going to the New Regent.

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Huw Middleton, Alpinist, DIY long-distance routemaker, wild camper – you should be reading his blog – but he doesn’t have one.

Fully equipped I walked back through Brighton, past the Royal Pavilion (orange worm incursion) and through Bank Holiday crowds. Then, there it was again – the objective – Brighton Pier.

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Nothing left to do but promenade to the end.

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Leaving Boundary Road behind, I launched into new territory, walking along Portland Road – a long street, parallel to the coast. I was now in Hove. In the popular imagination, Hove is the posh bit, all majestic streets of villas sweeping down to the seafront, last of the rich widows and ‘The old rock ‘n’ roller / With his two-seater stroller’ out with his kids. However it isn’t all like that. Portland Road has a utilitarian feel, with the same kind of shops that can be found in virtually any town. It’s a place to buy hardware, place a bet, drink beer. I wandered along it, keeping to the shady side as the sun rose higher.

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The former Granada cinema, now not even a bingo parlour, has become a rotting hulk.

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Jamie Reid’s Situationist-style Sex Pistols graphics are quoted on this cute Royal Wedding tea towel. Meanwhile a sign on a nearby church combined an Nth-generation version Keith Haring copy with some clip-art to make a Royal Wedding poster. #artschoolsnarkiness

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Some things

Reaching Sackville Road, I looked at a small square with a couple of shops – one of those where wind blows leaves and trash around in little eddies and whirlpools. I remembered being out with mum and buying a comic there once, OMAC (One Man Army Corps) issue 2 ‘edited, written and drawn’ by Jack Kirby in 1974. I had avoided Kirby’s work up until then, preferring artwork that looked realistic and detailed to his blocky, streamlined work. With this comic I finally got it (or as Kirby might have written, ‘WITH THIS ISSUE I FINALLY ‘GOT IT’!!!) and spent the next few years reading Kirby almost exclusively, channeling his raw pop mythology. That long-ago story felt topical in the week of a Royal Wedding, featuring as it did a city being hired for a party.

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There’s a neat analysis of this story here.

Walking the virtually empty streets of Hove I doubled back into New Church Road. Many years ago when I was 5 I spent a few months in the ‘Children’s Unit’ of what was then the Lady Chichester Hospital. This was an unsettling time and I had imagined that, standing on the site with the perspective, power and freedom of an adult, I would (symbolically) dismantle the place down to the ground. But time had done the job already and it was transformed into something else.

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I turned back to the route. There were drifts of blossom on the pavement, like confetti from a vast wedding…

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…not some tawdry affair with a mundane prince, but something big and meaningful – perhaps the nuptials of the 50-Foot Woman from the posters adorned my route that morning…

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