First of all, another apology to readers – this post might turn out to be an exercise in bad syntax and grammar but I’m hot, tired and not quite compos mentis. You’ll see why.

I went to bed at just after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning and I was wondering how best to spend the first day of my leave. There were really only two options that popped up into my head, going to Galleon’s Reach retail park and a look around and to get a couple of non-essential items or to go to Brighton for the day as I’ve been threatening to for the last few months. So I made myself a deal – if I woke up early enough, I would go to Brighton but if I had a long lie-in, Galleon’s Reach and a possible foray to Stepney Green to discover the fate of my thrice-damned Desktop.

Having woken up at 5.30 quite fully, I knew that heading south was the order of the day. Dragged my arse out of bed at 6.30 as I couldn’t even muster up a doze and booked a train ticket – £9.90 on FCC with my Goldcard. Problem was, my Goldcard expired on Sunday so definitely had to pop down to the tube station and get a renewal. Monday at Stratford Station isn’t my idea of a good time but there we go. And of course, there had to be one muppet who wanted complete detailing of how the Oystercard worked in the queue ahead of several nervous commuters, flyers (I assume they were flying from the amount of baggage being lugged around) and me.

Jumped on the train at London Bridge and pretty much played Zelda on the 3DS all the way. For some reason, there was flooding on the line and we were delayed by over half an hour which wasn’t all that bad as things go given that I had a free set of seats and no annoying types jump on – they got on the train at Gatwick. This is why public transport is eschewed by the middle classes, the sheer number of nutters and whack-jobs out there. If nothing else, it was very close to lunchtime by the time we actually pulled into Brighton so I was able to head straight for the sea front, find a chip shop and have chips on the beach.

However, on the way I passed by the shopping centre and thought I’d have enough time for a quick diversion and so I looked for any independent clothes shops. Poked around the H&M for the sheer hell of it and walked out with two t-shirts, a really…unconventional shirt and something that was a cross between a fleece, a hoodie and a bodywarmer. All for less than £30, bargain.

After I’d finished stuffing my face (and I was fleeced, there’s no two-ways about it), I undid my shirt and caught a few rays. Although I only spent 45 minutes in the sun, that was enough to transform half my body into what I’ve taken to calling my Dr Zoidberg look. Hell, all I need to is shave my head and beard off, attach a Marigold to my face and start talking with a Yiddish accent – Oy. One thing that was odd/irritating. I come to Brighton to escape some of the…multiculturalism of London, no enforced eavesdropping of foreign conversations, no non-British accents and I found myself surrounded on the beach by Americans, Chinese, Indians all yakking away. Everywhere else I went that day was all London/Sussex (and even Yorkshire & Lancashire) accents but no, not on the one quiet corner of the beach which I’d claimed for myself. Living in East London is a real cultural melting pot and it can seem like a competition, groups vying for cultural dominance with strategic positioning of businesses, religious buildings etc. There’s a time for embracing diversity and there’s a time for the familiar and the latter was definitely sought. Otherwise it wasn’t a day trip somewhere different, it’s just exactly the same thing but replace some concrete with a bit of sea-front.

So, once I’d been cremated in the sun, had an ice-cream on the promenade and poked around the pier. In ten years, it was difficult to discern what, if anything, had changed since I was last in Brighton with Gerry. It’s fair to say that my view of the town was coloured by his perpetual whining that day as it wasn’t nearly half as bad as I recall. The amusement centre has really changed – more ticket games and way less video games/arcade games and those that remained offer something you can’t get on a video game console. Had a look but didn’t participate on the rides, in all honesty, they just looked…tame. Still, it was a good wander around and the water below was a cool Prussian blue colour. A large sign said “it’s dangerous to jump from the pier and strictly forbidden”. I so wanted to do so as soon as I saw that.

After the pier, I took myself for a walk down the promenade and went all the way down to the Marina, diverting on the way back to Duke’s Mound. I’m not saying any more than that but made my way back over an hour later. It’d been almost four hours in the sun and there would be a high price to pay later on. Plus I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the ice-cream so it was time to find more adult entertainments and that involved heading back into town. This involved coffee, coke and a cookie at Nero. Some kind soul left his/her copy of the Independent on the table I sat at and so tackled the crossword whilst guzzling my drinks and listened to music. Checking messages on TB, I found that Chris had picked up my message and we made plans to meet up later that evening which we did. Had a pint at Xuma in Hove and then back to his for a while.

Spent a few hours at his, talking etc and blessedly, I was able to take a cool shower and change my shirt at least before heading back out to forage for a sandwich and get on the train back to London. That was a wee bit more civilised until it pulled into Gatwick when hoards of flyers clambered aboard and hyperactive kids were running up and down the train generally misbehaving whilst indifferent parents did little to stop them. Eventually I got back to Stratford but rather than wait for a bus (it was close to 1am), I walked home. And of course there’s no bus stop – clearly TfL and Newham Borough Council don’t care too much about personal safety of travellers – so waiting at a stand in the middle of nowhere wasn’t my idea of a good time. Having been awake for 20 hours by this point, I’m somewhat cantankerous and crabby – if one of the usual bozo’s was going to ask me for spare change, he/she would just get decked, no two-ways about it. Normally I can ignore them but I was NOT in the mood.

20 minutes later, key is in the door, the house is hot because some bozo has closed all the sodding windows and I crawl into bed and stick the fan on full blast. Tired, happy but in need of a full rest and to have the prickliness of the burn to diminish a little.

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