To Blighty for the our best man’s birthday bash…

part one…

The birthday party trip to the south coast (UK) slowly approached while I was in full spring cleaning mode. Well, not so much the cleaning as the clearing. When I am in contemplative mood the house seems to overwhelm me with all the ‘stuff’ we’ve acquired over the years. Even changing countries didn’t seem to cut it down although I remember a lot of visits to the dump, the charity shops and a couple of car boot sales before we left the UK. Our removal boxes were stored in the roof of our house here while it was refurbished and when I eventually started to unpack them there were several cries of ‘why on earth did we bring this?’

The discovery of the local charity shop of Secours Populaire was a godsend in parting with the unwanted bits and still is my ‘go to’ place rather than the dechetterie. One man’s rubbish etc..

So throughout the spring I have been steeling myself and getting rid. I read a self-help book many years ago and discovered I fall into a certain type, one that feels guilty about throwing stuff out whatever the stuff might be. The trick is to put it aside for a while until you are convinced it can go. I managed to convince myself the plethora of books could go. Himself doesn’t understand the attachment I have for books, ie novels I have read. And I can’t adequately explain it to him so whenever I talk of getting rid of something he immediately seizes upon my overloaded bookcases as the first ‘victims’.

But I have been strong and packed up several dozen books, maybe a hundred or more. I am helped by the fact a friend knows of someone who supports an animal charity and who will take books for their regular sale days. In fact, the bags of books so far I have given her have been sorted by mutual friends who share my tastes in reading.

After my bookcases it was the shared ones in the spare room that became the focus. I did a trawl through them a few years back when I realised there were a lot of reference books made useless by the internet. Remnants of our boys’ youth when the questions kept coming. Those books had gone to the UK on one of our earlier trips and ended up in an RSPCA charity shop. This time we were going to be staying in Brighton and I know exactly where some charity shops are located as they have been the source of some of the novels I am now moving on!

So several bags of non fiction stood ready for the off alongside a number of large boxed games, from when trivial pursuit spawned many others cashing in on the fashion for home entertainment around a board. Ours had all been collecting dust for years, one even had its cellophane still intact.

Unlike Christmas when the boot is packed with goodies, this time there were a few but mostly my donations for the charity shops. Bonkers maybe, but I can’t bear to throw away things that might earn something for someone in need. It all squeezed in and we were away.

Well, almost. The party fell on the weekend just after my appointment with my opthalmologist. Rendezvous are scarcer than hens teeth so the plan was to still keep it as Brive is an hour north of us and in the right direction for Rambouillait, our first night’s stopover. However, the place was very busy and I was in there more than an hour. When I finally emerged we decided to head straight off and take a late lunch at the aire after Limoges or at least buy some sandwiches to eat later in the car. Some much needed coffee and we were off again.

The weather wasn’t too cheerful and was very windy but the traffic wasn’t too heavy and we made Rambouillait in decent time. A comfy room in the Ibis that had rejected us over plumbing problems at Christmas and a short walk across the car park for a gruffalo bill supper

Once again, the following day the drive north was against a background of scudding clouds and strong winds that buffeted the car. As we neared Boulogne the traffic on the big viaducts was limited to one lane only. The decision to take the tunnel seemed the right one yet again.

As before at check-in we were offered the next train and, after a stop to visit the duty paid, we boarded, this time being ushered into the lower deck. Can’t be very busy, we told each other. Little did we know about the chaos that was erupting for coach passengers at Dover. (My niece was stuck on her coach for 48 hours! )

I dug out my codeword book and busied myself on the letter puzzle while the train took the strain. A young French girl with ‘formation’ (training) across her hi-viz reminded us to open windows and keep the car in first gear.

The drive up the M20 was slow as the interminable roadworks continue and the stop at the services at Clackers Lane was a shock, literally, as we careered from pothole to pothole on the entry slip road. The muck along the sides of the M23 to Brighton was a reminder that expensive as motorway tolls in France might be there are benefits to be had.

As we dropped down to the seafront to find our hotel we could see big white waves rushing in from quite far out and when I tried to get out the car the wind nearly took the door off. I fought to hold onto bag and coat and leaving ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ in situ I leaned into the wind to check in and secure a hotel car park space, which was on a first come first served basis. After a certain amount of debate, there being the Brighton marathon in the Sunday meaning that leaving the car park would be impossible…we finally dumped our cases, texted the boys we were safely arrived and took ourselves off to the bar! Bien sur…

Our youngest son was coming down from north London having picked up our grandson straight from school. After his big smile and rush across the hotel lobby for his hug, petit fils insisted we start on his homework. Ever the good ‘dadi’ I persuaded him one worksheet of odds and evens would be quite enough, he was looking at a fortnight’s holiday, after all. As he scrawled his answers I was thankful I was no longer required to mark thirty similar efforts. Retirement is a happy place!

The older son, cyclist and Brighton resident, recommended a nearby street of eats and we chose a Chinese restaurant we all knew. One that would provide chips for our youngest member. As it was he was very impressed with his freshly squeezed apple juice and referred to it thereafter as his milkshake.

We toasted his dad, Jon, as it was his birthday too and then tucked in. Petit fils was impressed for a second time as I used chopsticks. Teach me how, now, he demanded, in much the same way he wanted to learn French, immediately, at a marche des producteurs last summer so he could chatter to his new found French playmates. Fortunately, he became engrossed in the recounting of a story with enormous ramifications about a cunning rat and a cat and a river….while a huge plate of chips disappeared without the need for chopsticks!

Leaving the eldest son to find his way home, the rest of us were all glad of our beds back at the hotel, hoping petit fils wouldn’t come knocking too early. As I drew the curtains the i360 glowed like an alien spacecraft from the top of its tower.

Amazingly, the following morning the sea was much calmer and the sun trying to break through, despite a chilly wind…what a change. After breakfast and a certain amount of faff moving the car to a carpark we could exit from the next day without a problem, and the handing over of the board games to the British Heart Foundation shop, it was a day of typical seaside fun. The beach had to be explored first, bien sur, and I soon had a pocket full of shells collected by petit fils.

The pier is the big attraction for most visitors and so we wove our way along the lower promenade towards it between rock shops, oyster bars, lurking seagulls, bucket and spades, postcards, fishing boats, art exhibitions etc.

A stop for coffees allowed us a closer look at the i360 as it slowly ascended. The collective family opinion was it is a waste of money and doesn’t make up for the sorely missed West Pier destroyed by several things including fire and successive storms, an iconic image of Brighton and Hove for many, including us.

I was pleased to see the other pier had had its original name reinstated. It had always been the Palace Pier and although still preceded by Brighton it was good to see Palace back up there.

Below us surfers were trying to catch the waves left by the storm. Brrrr. We were intent on fun of a monetary kind ..the arcades. Petit fils adores the air hockey so after the two of us ramming 2p coins into slot machines with only occasional wins, he took on his dad, uncle and ‘dada’ in turn. I just enjoyed watching them…and videoing, of course. Excitement was high!

All this activity meant appetites were sharpened and there’s only one meal you can eat on a pier (in my opinion) and that’s fish and chips. We adjourned to the Palm Court and dined well on huge portions of cod and haddock.

Still with energy to use up it was the turn of the arcade games we hadn’t visited and then one of the outside rides. Petit fils and I agreed that one of them looked far too scary for either of us, especially with a tummy full of cod and chips!

There were a lot of people around as usual on a weekend in Brighton and the marathon the following day was clearly a big draw. We threaded our way back along the pier stopping for a daft photo..

And then back to sit on the beach to catch our breath. This time it was small white shells washed tiny and smooth by the sea that Kai was fascinated by and we watched as he involved a young woman sitting on her own in his search. Soon my other coat pocket was full too.

All this excitement meant the oldies needed a bit of a rest before the evening so we retraced our way back to the hotel but this time on the upper promenade where barriers were being readied for closing the road in the morning.

That evening we finally had the birthday celebration meal for Jon in a pizza place while across town one of my sisters and her extended family were likewise celebrating her son’s birthday, which he shares with Jon. We had hoped we might meet up for an apero but it hadn’t worked out so we raised glasses to both boys instead.

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1 Response to To Blighty for the our best man’s birthday bash…

  1. says:

    Dear Lynne and Lou, So wonderful to hear all about your adventures in our BlightyLand ! I so love Brighton and the pics of the Piers.because I worked on Central Pier in Blackpool for the summer season, taking photos for Walkie Talkie Snaps with The Beatles on in the Winter Gardens(you couldn’t hear them, and after them the who place stank of Urine as girls couldn’t hold it in.) Those were the days.But I left shortly after that and arrived in London, and there we met! and the adventures began!. Cant write much


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