Another proscribed day for sun, and the streets of Brighton swell with the influx of strangers from near and far. They flock to enjoy the fair weather in this idyllic location, this haven of sea and fair-ground novelties, committing to a brave and arduous adventure with high rewards. For those who couldn’t make it to Brighton, I’d like to put you in the traveller’s place, so you, too, can appreciate what a lovely way to enjoy the sun it is:
Coming to Brighton
As any beach-chaser will tell you, part of the fun of allotting your sunshine days to a seaside community is getting there. Whether you live ten minutes or two hours from the nearest coastal resort, you can be sure to enjoy the shoulder-to-shoulder cattle drive of the beach pilgrimage. Sweating out your breakfast as you struggle to find space to lift your desperately needed bottle of water, take this joyous journey as an opportunity to revel in new acquaintances.
Who would you like to meet today? Perhaps the family with the over-active child, spilling chocolate milk on your leg and occasionally barking frustrated orders in your ear. Not orders meant for you, of course, but delivered with the same piercing spite, all the same.
Or perhaps you prefer the company of the riotous party crowd, on it since dawn, downing cans of cider and roaring hilarious running commentaries to one another about the unique, unbelievable minutiae of their day, littered with imaginative nicknames and meaningful curse-words: “Did you see? Ringo just threw his can at the fucking bin and missed! Did you see? Did you see the fucking mug?”
Where else can you find these important, life-affirming acquaintances, if not on the wheezing train, to the music of a bedraggled conductor as he snarls over the intercom about the signals delaying your journey. Those gracious signals, designed on high, perhaps, to let you enjoy your travels for just a little bit longer.
Making the pilgrim’s march
The pilgrimage doesn’t stop in squeezing impossibly through the station turnstiles. As you’re swept down the road by your enthusiastic new friends, join in the shouts as the crowd bursts with excitement expressing their innermost triumphs and desires. “Beach!” “Sea!” “BRIGHTON!” – it’s not stating the obvious, it’s congratulating the world on being there. A meaningful confirmation that this dream has become tangible.
Disregard the possibility of getting lost in Brighton’s labyrinth of lanes, and join the herd to trundle directly down the road, on an unmistakable trajectory to open coast and breaking waves. Think of West Street as a queue in a theme park, nothing more. Patiently wait your turn to step onto the greatest ride of all.
Enjoying Brighton beach
Take heed, before you precariously trudge through the already-seated crowds: this is a pebble beach. It’s hard, the rocks move underfoot and if you trip you might hurt yourself. More importantly, be wary in all directions of hapless children hurling stones towards the sea. Their judgement is sometimes marred by the excitement of being close to water, so they might not appreciate that their aim and upper-body strength lacks the years of training it takes to throw a stone two hundred feet into the sea. Their abortive efforts are more likely to clock you in the face.
If you are lucky, you may find a nice open spot to stretch out your blanket and various necessary items for the day. Don’t worry if you end up overlapping another’s family’s space – we’re all in this together, and others will be sympathetic that the collection of plastic toys and oversized cool-boxes you heaved through the city has earned a place by the sea. The particularly enterprising amongst you might like to squeeze to the front, to get a real taste of the water, because proximity to the water is a priority, and there’s always more room for people to shuffle along the coast.
When you’ve got your coveted spot, and have lavishly splattered yourself with sun-cream, its time to enjoy the day. If you found a rare plot where you have the space to stretch out, lie down and lap up the sun. If not, take the most liberally dispersed position you can and grin anyway. Grin madly at the place you’ve achieved, so close to the water, and the freedom it represents, breathing in the healthy sea air, letting the sound of the waves soothe you. Try to block out the stench of sun-cream and sweat that pervades you, and the general cacophony of children’s squeals, parents’ laments, louts’ shouts, family arguments, the tinny music of cheap speakers and the toneless warble of unsolicited musicians. Don’t despair at people tripping over your head, or lofting empty beer cans into your eye. It’s all part of the charm.
Feeling adventurous? Perhaps it’s time to take a swim! This is what it was all for: the ambience of sea-air and the opportunity to cool off in the most natural setting possible. As you charge into the sloshing seawater to partake in general water-sport madness, marvel at the various colours and textures the sea has adopted from the gifts of thousands of occupants’ discarded possessions, foodstuffs and filth. You may be surprised that the water is quite cold: it’s often more fun to paddle up to your ankles and take a few photos instead of actually swimming. This will help you fit in with a burgeoning community of like-minded carefree holiday-makers. Line up together along the country’s edge and pat each other on the back for making such a hearty effort to enjoy the blistering heat of English Summer. You did it.
Your tipple in the sea complete, return to your lying position with shouts to your friends, or anyone within earshot of a strangled scream, that the sea is really cold but it’s so much fun. Try to let everyone know this as loudly as possible, because there’s a chance that no one else nearby has seen someone who’s paddled in the English sea before, and they might want to congratulate you.
With the journey complete, and your seaside activities roundly accomplished, try to race against the sky to drink all your booze before the clouds come. If you fail, don’t worry, you can always keep drinking as you drag your tired feet away.
Leaving the beach
The journey home can be as much fun as the journey to Brighton, perhaps even more so as you can now enjoy a lighter load. Part of the beauty of visiting somewhere like Brighton beach is that you don’t have to tidy up after yourself. The sea washes everything away, after all, and with so many thousands of people leaving the same waste behind you’d be a fool to care about your discarded plastics and cans.
Rejoin the drunken party-goers, now expelling body fluids in amusing locations, and the happy families now screaming at one another, on the terse occasions that they break their icy silences. Be prepared for the train back to rattle with the joy of accomplishment that the beach visit has produced, often recognisable by the groans of glowing sunburnt faces, the angry snap of overtired children and the raucous laughter of drunkards who now have a dozen more hilarious tales to repeat to one another.
Go home with quiet reflection, proud that you paid due to the sun god in the most appropriate and fulfilling way possible. Tell those that you meet in the days to come of your adventure, and know that it was fair and true. Brighton is the place to be when the sun comes out. It’s just so good to touch the infinite natural beauty of the sea.