Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Devil's Dyke

I drove Fiona down to Hove today with a car load of her possessions destined for her new house. It’ll be the first time (apart from the periods she’s spent in the US) that we’ve lived more than a few miles apart for close to 20 years. I shall miss her horribly. That said, after today, I fully understand why she’s decided to move down south. We arrived in Hove just before lunch. The sun was shining. People were walking dogs and drifting around, sitting in cafes, looking thoroughly happy and seeming in no rush to get anywhere in particular. Cars were waiting politely at junctions. Everything in Brighton and Hove moves at a much slower pace, but the people are somehow very recognisable. They come across just like chilled-out Londoners! Most of them probably were Londoners once.

Anyway, Fiona’s new flat is absolutely beautiful; floor to ceiling windows, airy and light, with a wonderful atmosphere. Step out of the front door, turn left, and there’s the sea, all aquamarine and shiny. It’s a two-minute walk to the beach. No exaggeration. Within five minutes of walking out of her front door, we were sitting outside a beach cafe, waiting for a much-needed veggie breakfast.

I have decided that the moment Fiona leaves town for any reason, I’m going to be down in her flat like a shot. It feels like the perfect place to sit and write; windows wide open, a through-draft gently billowing the curtains. Perfect.

I spent all the spare moments I had talking to various people about our Arts Council application, trying to get to the bottom of why it had been turned down in the hope that we might be able to reapply, which is a process I may well have to begin tomorrow, alongside trying to find alternative sponsors. I’m confident we’ll get there. At a certain point, I may simply decide to take out a bank loan.

On the way home, I took a wrong turning, and we ended up at the Devil’s Dyke; a glorious heath land at the top of the Sussex chalk downs with stunning views of little windmills, and hedged-lined lanes, and heather-covered hills dipping down to Worthing and the sea beyond. You could see for miles, although, as we pulled into a little car park to appreciate the view, we were somewhat confused by the number of lone men who seemed to be in their cars, casually reading, or glancing furtively at one another. None of them were admiring the view outside the car park! Fiona joked. “Do you think they’re waiting for their wives to come back from lovely cycle rides?” “No,” I replied. “I think their wives are waiting for them to come back from work...” There’s a fine line between dogging and cruising, and I think some of them might have thought Fiona and I were the afternoon’s entertainment!

350 years ago, Pepys went with the two Sir Williams to Westminster to do some business before heading to the wardrobe with his bessie mate du jour, Lord Sandwich’s “man of business”, Henry Moore. News came from Portugal. Catherine de Breganza, the English Queen-in-waiting, was hoping to begin her journey to London within the week.

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