My favourite place is the bowling green and croquet lawns in Hove.
I love the Art Deco buildings; part of the splendour of Hove’s 1930’s civic pride. My friends Steph and Garry had their wedding party in the bowling green bar. Brighton’s premier Elvis impersonator, fresh from a gig at the Labour Party conference, had everyone dancing by the end of the evening.
Crown green bowling was one of the few hobbies I could share with my dad. For a few weeks one summer I got quite good and entered a north west regional competition. I played against another young man, who said he wasn’t very good. He trounced me. Later on, I learnt that he was a very talented player. I’d never come across competitive sportsmanship before. I think about my dad and my huge potential for success, as I watch the brilliant players who make the bowls clack together on the manicured lawns.
During lockdown I took photographs of the ornamental lily pond each day. Something about the depth of the water and the growth of the lilies kept me going. There were few people around initially but come June, when the weather was warmer and folks were braver, many more people came to walk the sea front. Most ignored my jumping the railings to get a better shot.
Some of us yearn for times gone by. Others are willing to accept progress and all the positives that come with plans for the future. I like the deco clock face without hands. I point it out to visitors. It doesn’t keep time. To me, it’s lack of motion is soothing.
Continuing on from where the more glamorous Hove Lagoon and the mythical Millionaire’s Row ends, lies Basin Road South, or Apocalypse Alley as it is affectionately known in my household. The road perfectly bisects the brutalistic industry of port businesses dealing in power and raw materials, and the benign beauty of Hove’s coast, where the sea and shore appear ever-changed on each visit. On the far western end Shoreham Power Station’s compact form looms over the amiable Carats Cafe Bar, whilst surfers venture into the surf in search of a wave to work with, but enjoying their freedom whatever. There is something deeply ambient and escapist in this stretch, away from the busier beaches and pared down to sea, sky, stones and concrete. I never get tired of seeing what arrangement the narrow palette of colours will take and to watch the sun melt into the water.
As a child in the 1950s living in Woodland Avenue in Hove, the Three Cornered Copse was at once a place of excitement and dread! There was always the worry that there might be a monster hiding behind one of the trees; there was always the risk of tripping over the numerous tree roots across the paths but there was also the excitement of pretending to be one of The Famous Five on an adventure.
Walking through the Copse on my own was forbidden because my Mother would say that there were “strange types“ from time to time – but I would run ahead of my parents, devise all sorts of stories in my head and play them out.
Then you emerged from the Copse onto the sward of green grass which is now overlooked by the houses of Hillbrow to which we moved in 1959. The game changed there into handstands, roly-poly down the hill or, in the summer, making daisychains.
The next bit of the walk took us across the Dyke Road and down towards the windmill whose name I have forgotten.
That was the place for games of French cricket, which as an only child had to be adapted to allow for my parents rules! When I go back to visit Hove now I am sad that the old road to the Windmill is no more, or rather it is there but never used but as a driver I welcome the new road!
There are many places I could choose; over the years I have lived here, there have been good times and bad, and throughout all those times, Brighton itself has been a constant sanctuary for me. A place I chose to make my home when my future was uncertain, a place that I could feel safe and that has nourished me in many unexpected ways.
My favourite place in Brighton and Hove is the crossroad at the top of The Drive at the intersection with Cromwell Road. I live in a block of flats which overlooks this junction, I can see it from both the living room, and the bedroom. Its presence in my daily life is subtle, it is always there, just in the corner of my eye. Standing at the window and looking down at the crossroads, watching the world pass by, daydreaming and nightwatching, I feel connected to the people traveling through, and the space itself. A space that symbolises possibility, transition and transformation among other things; all my best ideas occur to me as I stare into the vortex of the crossroad.