As the pound continues to fall, food prices and the cost of holidays rise, businesses switch their investment to mainland Europe, the universities struggle to attract foreign students and the NHS, farming, construction and hospitality industries highlight their growing labour shortages, and the Leave EU voters mutter, “Nothing to do with us”, this Blog has sought diversion in harmless pleasures while awaiting the next Tory party inspired crisis known as the general election.
Owing plenty not only to the NHS but also the charities that keep it afloat, this Blog and Mrs Blog, and, in the past, both Blogdaughter and Blogdog, set out each May in the sponsored Brighton Heart Support Trust stroll along the seafront. I think this is aimed in part at showing bystanders that bionic “body parts scroungers” can still put one foot in front of another, and perhaps also at convincing us survivors of the same thing.
This Blog has made full use of the NHS over the years
The weather usually looks kindly on our walk, it provides more opportunity to enjoy the city than when you’re trying to park, and it offers unlimited prospects of bacon butties and donuts on the pier.
Displaying great self-discipline, we restrict ourselves to just one sandwich each….
….so we can afford to be a little more self-indulgent at the donut stall.
Mrs Blog and I, both being semi-retired, have taken to walking on the South Downs and visiting National Trust properties, shops or tearooms during midweek with the result that the world seems full of old people. I suppose they have to be somewhere but they do seem to take a long time to choose a cake.
Midweek matinee fun
On the other hand, we find that children are also best avoided. The housing estate where we live (Mrs B doesn’t like me using that word — I think she has middle class aspirations) has organised a Street Party one Sunday in June. Now, we’re British and, despite recent security warnings, not easily frightened, at least not until the threat level hits “Replacement Bus Service” or “Street Party”. We have accordingly Googled, “HELP! Where else can we be on 11 June??” and will be attending the annual memorial service at the Chattri.
Our cul de sac always overdoes it with these things. This was to celebrate the completion of the draft neighbourhood plan
As it happens, this is a favourite walk destination for us and we have planned to make the service for a while. The Chattri is a fine, marble monument, a listed building, set high on the Downs outside Brighton with distant views of the sea. It marks the spot where Hindu and Sikh soldiers, injured in action in the WW1 trenches and brought to the temporary hospital in Brighton’s famous Pavilion, were cremated if they failed to recover. (Only if they died, as Mrs Blog rather pedantically insists that I point out.) Wiki tells me there were over 800,000 Indian soldiers fighting for the Empire at the time and that King George V felt that the exotic mock-Indian surroundings of the Pavilion might help them feel right at home. That, and the pier, sticks of rock and Donald McGill postcards, no doubt.
Visiting any scene of “ultimate sacrifice” like the D-Day beaches, Flanders war graves or the Menin Gate is inevitably a most moving experience and to stand at the Chattri and think of those men a century ago, fighting and dying so very far from home, is right up there.
There must be something in the air because I met up with an old school friend a week ago at the Imperial War Museum. (Did I say I was seeking diversion in harmless pleasures?) He was over from where he now lives near San Francisco (it’s always sensible to retain friends in useful places) where they don’t have any history of course. This Blog isn’t really into weaponry and not obsessed about set piece battles, but the IWM is about so much more. It’s one of the best places I know for telling a story and engaging your interest. We spent a good three hours without even making the shop or café, which Mrs B found hard to believe – the shop and café bit. The more or less permanent, extensive exhibition on the holocaust would be hard to beat – and we did take in the equivalent in Jerusalem during a recent cruise – but our starting point was the temporary gallery on “Fighting for Peace”, the story of conscientious objectors, the Greenham Common women and protest marches against the Iraq war.
You put your whole self in….
The age old scenario: you finish your demo and there’s never enough buses
Adopting our “we’re approaching middle age” practice of buying tickets for midweek matinees, Mrs Blog and I went to see Richard Wilson as the headmaster in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On at the Festival Theatre in Chichester. Having read the play several decades ago it was nostalgically comforting to hear Bennett’s familiar lines:
“wild horses on bended knees couldn’t have dragged me away”
“it was the kind of library he had only read about in books” and
“I have never understood this liking for war. It panders to instincts already catered for within the scope of any respectable domestic establishment”
That’s about as experimental and challenging as theatre needs to get for Mrs Blog and me.
Not exactly Alan Ayckbourn, though, is it?
Next week we take another adventurous step, this time musically, to the hip coastal resort of Eastbourne. Sorry, that should read, the hip replacement coastal resort. It’s for a Gerry and the Pacemakers concert and there’ll be pacemakers everywhere. Along with all the other scouse ex-pats on the Sussex coast I’ll take me red and white scarf for the cardiac recoverers’ encore…..
“Walk on, walk on, with hope in your hearts….”
Gerry always gets a great encore at the Eastbourne Hippodrome