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.
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…”
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.
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…
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.”
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.
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.
Nothing left to do but promenade to the end.