The problem with going to the south coast is that you have to negotiate London first. Do you travel due South, taking the shortest route by distance, but having to drive through central London? Do you go East and risk getting stranded on the Blackwall tunnel approach? Or do you travel West and suffer the horrors of Hangar Lane and the M25. We went West. And regretted it.
It took three hours to get to Lewes, but we arrived and were immediately fed by Hilary; a glorious selection of breads and cheeses.
We went to Tide Mills in the afternoon, that hugely atmospheric spot along the coast from Newhaven, which is now an abandoned village crumbling into salty marshland. I think I'm right in saying that it was pretty much deserted by the Second World War and pulled down to prevent it from becoming a potential hiding place for invading Germans! I'm told it was also the home of a hospital for people suffering from tuberculosis, which makes it all the more creepy in my view. I'd love to go there on a misty day in autumn.
Raily, Nathan, Iain and Mez swam in the sea. It was surprisingly warm, but the waves were enormous and poor little Wils had the fright of his life being rolled around in the surf in one particularly bad trio of waves. I sat with him on the headland throwing pebbles at an old tin can, drinking a bottle of raspberry lemonade. I imagined sitting with him in 40 years time when I'm an old codger, sharing an old-fashioned bottle of pop whilst his own kids get buffeted by the waves.
We went back to Hilary and Rupert's for tea before heading West to Hove to call in on Fiona. We had a beautiful, bracing walk along the seafront to the pier, which looked like a pencil thin neon advertising hoarding stretching out into the dark, dark sea.
As we walked along, I stopped to make a recording of the sound of ropes slapping in the wind against the masts of a group of dry moored yachts. I've seldom heard a stranger noise. It was a minimalist musical episode. Cracks, clangs, claps and chimes playing in counter-point against the constant drone of the sea. I sat and listened, utterly transfixed, for ten minutes.
We went along the pier, just as it was closing down, and felt like the last people to arrive at a party. Various hen parties were staggering about in tall, uncomfortable-looking shoes. Frankly, if you can't walk in heels, ladies, you shouldn't try! There's nothing less attractive than a woman staggering down a street with hunched shoulders and lolloping ape-like arms. It doesn't matter how pretty or expensive the dress is; if you can't walk properly, you'll look cheap!