Naturally there is a risk that if I chronicle yet another little holiday foray (get back to school Mama J), my travel weary dragonfly may get suitcased down with motorway fatigue and tripadvisoritis. It is a risk I will have to take before I decrease my miles and rejoin the rat race. My summer expeditions (Ok, I’m aware that all these mini breaks do not mask my lack of a Gap Year) have provided too much blog fodder to be ignored; so, these are my personal headlines of self-discovery:
- It is ok to be a motorway service station snob. In truth, Road Chef just don’t hack it, Wild Bean can’t hold a flat white up against a Costa Americano (cue Mama J’s Costa Coffee dance now trending on Youtube) and nothing can top a service station disguised as a farm shop (Thank you Tebay and Gloucester, you are a Prince among motorway thieves).
- UK beaches just cannot be beaten. I have previously eulogised about loch side shores and Scottish beaches, and, after a short trip away, I can now add Brighton’s shingled promenade to this coastline of delights. I will return to this topic.
- A hotel breakfast is a holiday highlight. Seaside air increases your appetite ten-fold and as we have not yet Brexited, it would be rude not to work through a whole Smorgasbord of cheese and pastries before tackling a full cooked English breakfast.
- If the weather is kind, it is absolutely acceptable to sleep all day on the beach – perhaps surfacing for lunch – before sleeping another 8-10 hours at night in a palatial hotel bed. It is also perfectly acceptable to spend the day remarking on how tired you feel. ‘It must be the change of air’.
This consolidation of my holiday findings comes after this week’s four day break in Brighton. No harbour-side self catering this time, but boutique hotel living (to the uninitiated this equates to: small hotel, bed the size of a small country and a huge jar of lollipops in reception). This means that I have run the full gamete of travel this summer, morphing my dragonfly from hardcore camping (mosquitos) through self-catered Scottish island hopping (midges) to arrive, rested and (almost) ready to return to work via hotel/deckchair living (wasps).
I have to declare a vested interest in Brighton for I lived my teenage years up the road in Ferring/Worthing. There is nothing like a trip down memory lane to provide your travel companion – the fortunate FM (I might even have to change his acronym from Favourite Man to Fortunate Man, but perhaps he should be the judge of that) – with hours of tales from Mama J’s ‘ye olde memorie lane’.
First shocker was a meal out with GC (Golden Couple; my school pals and dragonfly jar catalysts). I wasn’t shocked by them, but I was shocked to find they had booked us into a new tapas bar in my old village. While they all browsed the excellent menu, I bored the young waiter rigid with my incredulity about what his employer had done to my former newsagent. (I know you are interested, so let us just say, that my high dental cavity count can be traced back to the excellent tobacconist sweet counter that has now apparently disappeared and morphed into a bar. I spent many a happy time in said newsagent, perusing the confectionary offer while waiting for my school bus to arrive). When we enter this new tapas emporium – let it go, Mama J – GC are sitting at said bar, knocking back large gin cocktails and showing absolutely zero concern about where I will now go to purchase my Bazooka Joe bubblegum and fruit salad chews.
It is no wonder that I spend the next day lying in shock on Brighton’s shingled beach (FM comments that shingle is so much kinder than sand – he seems relieved to be holidaying without the fear of sand in his crevices or – heaven forbid – sand in his car. I put some small pebbles in his lunchtime sandwich just to make sure that his British beach experience is complete).
I am soon distracted by the sheer volume of people joining us on the beach. The sea is freezing, but the average British holidaymaker is not put off by the cold and will drag his whole family into the waves with the promise of a stick of Brighton Rock to anyone who can survive 2 minutes without crying. I note that it is usually the grandparents who last the longest in the sea – the young ones (a senior tone is coming from Mama J here) will only stay in the water if they have a tame friend who is willing to stay on the beach and take copious photos of their ‘spontaneous’ wave frolics; the weather only becomes acceptable if the friend can create an insta-hotspot opportunity for the briney teenager. I note all this from the warmth of my tartan blanket, mind; FM has been sent off in search of a cup of tea.
Brighton has become very trendy since my teenage years. For me, a venture out to Brighton was usually taken in daylight hours and inevitably involved an attempt to enter into a world of fashion that Worthing would not permit (from memory, my school wedges were an item of envy in the summer of 1978; don’t hate me because I was an influencer). If GC and I did go nightclubbing, ‘Sherry’s Dance Hall’ was the order of the day (Don’t even start me on why a building that had survived from 1919 and merited a mention in Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’ can not be restored alongside the promenade Meeting Place and Madeira Terrace. Breathe Mama J, Breathe). I have to begrudgingly admit that Brighton is now a much more interesting rainbow of entertainment and shopping than it used to be. It has even got a British Airways (i360) Observation Tower so no need to ride the splash and slide on the pier. I consider buying a small dog to get myself back on trend, but realise that a dog is not just for Summer.
We finish our trip with another ear bend for FM as we walk along Ferring beach. Sitting on a bench on Patterson’s Walk I am flooded by a host of sister memories and go a little quiet. Thankfully my reverie is masked by a sanguine cyclist who has set himself up on a seaside bench with a large pile of tinned beverages – not a sandwich in sight; he toasts all passersby loudly and genially. I realise that the village perhaps wasn’t as ‘dull’ as my teenage brain had catalogued it. I now realise that nothing beats a windswept sister sunbathe in the shelter of a shingled beach groyne. Nothing beats a sister cycle to the beach and a good old natter and paddle. Can’t change that. Can’t take that away. I’m glad I have had the chance to remember.
AA Milne allowed Winnie the Pooh to say, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,’ but I am guessing that this is too much text to run through a stick of Brighton Rock. However, it is good to have a windy beach to accuse as the cause of a leaky eye. It is good to be with friends and memories that allow you to just ‘let it all out’. It seems that I have just added to my headlines of self-discovery:
- Dragonflies do metamorphise and so must I. Holidays, if you spend them with the right people – in the right places – allow you to do this. How lucky I am.
Work beacons and Brighton did rock.