My trip abroad finally begins to make sense, in that there’s a narrative and something of a timeline, and that I truly believe I went to the other side of the ocean to visit A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY!
I’ll be busting out the caps lock and exclamatory fonts quite a bit because, holy shit!!!!, I am NOT going to die without having been anywhere! This, my friends, weighed on me like you couldn’t believe. Having been gypped and gypped myself out of pretty much every good thing I ever wanted or had those wishes go sideways like the guy who ended up with a 12″ pianist I’ve grieved…
But this time I honestly and truly Did A Thing!
This is me and my amazingly kind and generous friend, Anna. Right there we are on the amusement pier at Brighton. Brighton Pier is at once warmly familiar and delightfully exotic for someone whose summer heart lives at the Jersey Shore. Sea smell, gulls, the flashing cacophony of a video arcade, rides, the give of weather-beaten wooden deck planks beneath your feet, but instead of pork roll sandwiches and gigantic pizza slices from 3 Brothers they had this…
Whelks? Cockles? Jellied eels? I don’t know if the former two are served alive-o, alive-o, nor did I care to find out.
This is me on my first visit to the beach. The water behind me is the English Channel! And on a different day I went in! Honestly? I felt like Gertrude Ederle. Look at me, LA who never gets to go, I’m in the English fucking Channel! And if I could swim 45 miles I’d be in France! That’s how it felt. The world had become magically accessible.
The structure behind me is the West Pier. A gorgeous romantic ruin. I already had a fab photo of it hanging in my dining room at home. A gift from Anna when she visited me during her US tour in 2009. Now I got to meet the photographer and he seemed pleased to know his work had a home in New York. I wished like mad I could have afforded another of his works. A limited edition litho taken at the foot of the chalk shore on a foggy morning when the tide was coming in. The swirls and parabolas and geometric juxtapositions of mist, water, and solid made my eyes prickle and heart ache. So beautiful. I did what every cash poor tourist does, I bought some postcards.
If you look near my hideously swollen ankles you’ll see stones. Bigger than gravel British beaches are covered in stones. Anna said the tide goes out far enough to leave hard pack wet sand along the shoreline but my timing was always off so all I had was stones. Ankle twisting, shifty, gorgeously tumbled, but painful underfoot stone beaches. The loose sand of Seaside isn’t much easier to plod through but it is less painful. And the sitting is easier. A few butt wriggles and you’ve dug a perfectly form-fitted ass trench, whereas the stone beaches are happy to have you suffer regardless of body part. Feet, knees, butt, whatever.
On one of the beach forays with Shirley the World’s Most Adorable Puppy we went to a dog friendly cafe for fish and chips. (See previous entry about dogs allowed places.) Of course we do have fish and chips here in the States. Some better than others, but I can say that both meals of fish and chips I had in England were superior. One at the cafe and the other from Anna’s local chippy- the fry was light and crispy like great tempura and the fish was fresh and flaky. Chips are chips though. French fries, unless they’re tough little burnt up nuggets of potato ends, are good. I do not accede to the English on this one.
Sadly I cannot remember the name, but the church behind me is 1,000 years old. It’s less than 10 minutes from Anna’s house. And according to her the whole area is lousy with places like this. Where I live Europeans have been barging in for almost 400 years. The Dutch were hard on the heels of the original Pilgrims who showed up at Plymouth, and they made the Hudson Valley their own. So ‘old’ is relative. Locally ‘old’ is assumed to be at least 200, but probably 300-370 years old. Anything built after the American Civil War is nice but not necessarily ‘old’. But compared to what I saw in England our ‘old’ is smirk-worthy. Like 20-somethings bitching about “Kids today…”. When I get to the Yorkshire entry there will be all kinds of ‘old’ which, despite my antipathy for the Roman era, tickled me to no end.
If you have somehow missed the size of me in the pics and blew past my fixation on food so far, I’m sorry. I should have titled this ‘A Fat Woman Eats in Britain’.
Once we found out that the swanky afternoon tea I’d wanted was 60 pounds a head just for some nibbles in a castle (!) Anna thoughtfully took me for a cream tea at the Steyning Tea Rooms. Steyning itself is unbelievably quaint. Touristy but also just a place where people live and work. Tudor cottages, cobbles, thatch, bloom-choked front gardens, crooked little buildings and mullioned windows…(insert humming content and visible bliss).
The woman behind me is the co-owner and primary baker. A lovely friendly person who was delighted to have another Yank coming by for those amazing scones of hers. Expecting wee two-bite scones Anna and I ordered accordingly. Imagine our shock when presented with those HUGE fruity and savory scones and enough clotted cream, butter, jam, and onion marmalade to paint a house. We waddled out of there stuffed and still had leftovers enough for the next day’s breakfast.
Gracious! I’ve got not only my fab visit to the North to detail abut a day in London too. Plus I got to do a bunch more in Brighton including a political rally with Jeremy Corbyn! I seriously don’t want to give anything short shrift. So I’ll break off here.
I crammed entire lifetime’s adventure into 9 days. Probably the only one I’ll ever get and I really want you guys to know how much fun I had, how much I learned, and how grateful I was to finally, finally, finally GO!