Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brighton Three Ways From Sunday

Trudging slowly over wet sand,
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen.
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down :
Armageddon - come Armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! Come!

Every Day is silent and grey.

Hide on the promenade,
Etch a postcard :
"How I Dearly Wish I Was Not Here."
In the seaside town
...That they forgot to bomb :
Come, Come, Come - Nuclear Bomb.

Every Day is silent and grey.

Trudging back over pebbles and sand,
And a strange dust lands on your hands
(And on your face...)

Every Day is like Sunday.
"Win Yourself A Cheap Tray."
Share some greased tea with me.
Every Day is silent and grey.


Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.  With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anyone could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd.  They came in by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down the Queen’s Road standing on the tops of the little local trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into fresh and glittering air: the new silver paint sparkled on the piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian watercolour;  a race in miniature motors, a band playing, flower gardens, in bloom below the front, an aeroplane advertising something for the health in pale vanishing clouds across the sky.

        It had seemed quite easy to Hale to be lost in Brighton.  Fifty thousand people besides himself were down for the day, and for quite a while he gave himself up to the good day, drinking gins and tonics whenever his programme allowed.  For he had to stick closely to a programme: from between ten and eleven Queen’s Road and Castle Square;  from eleven till twelve the Aquarium and Palace Pier, twelve till one on the front between the Old Ship and West Pier, back for lunch between one and two in any restaurant he chose round the Castle Square, and after that he had to make his way to the station by the Hove streets. These were the limits of his absurd and widely advertised sentry-go.


        Advertised on every Messenger poster: ‘Kolley Kibber in Brighton today.’  In his pocket he had a pack of cards to distribute in hidden places along his route;  those who found them would receive ten shillings from the Messenger, but the big prize was reserved for whoever challenged Hale in the proper form of words and with a copy of the Messenger in his hand:  ‘You are Mr Kolley Kibber.  I claim the Daily Messenger prize.’


        These two girls were walking from the direction of the Palace Pier towards the West Pier, which they had nearly reached.  

        At about a hundred yards’ distance from the West Pier some sort of suggestive nudging took place between their interlocked arms and they turned away to the left to the railing overlooking the sea.  They leaned over these railings and gave an imitation of observing the beauties of what remained of the sunset. 

        ‘Go on,’ said the pretty girl to her companion.  ‘Have a look now.’

        ‘No,’ said the ugly girl.  ‘You look.’

        ‘No – you look,’ said the pretty girl, and she was in due course obeyed.  The pretty girl is usually ultimately obeyed on such occasions, for, in addition to her ascendancy for other reasons, she is the initiator, the senior officer, the skilled and experienced campaigner in operations of this nature.

        ‘Yes,’ said the ugly girl. ‘Here they come.’

        She was alluding to three young men whom they had believed to have been following them.  

        ‘All right.  Just pretend to be looking out at the sea,’ said the mature strategist, in a quiet, steady tone which in fact betrayed some nervousness by virtue of its quietness and steadiness.

        ‘It’s a lovely evening,’ she added.  ‘Ain’t it?’

Reader Key:  I. Everyday Is Like Sunday (Morrissey-Stephen Street); II. Excerpt from Graham Green, Brighton Rock (N.b., Lobby Lud pictured above is the actual newspaper promotion contest that Graham Greene used as the basis for Kolley Kibber); III.  Excerpt from Patrick Hamilton, The West Pier. (Graham Greene once described The West Pier as the best novel ever written about Brighton, a place I've visited several times and love. I have had no sinister experiences there, however, just rough late winter weather.)

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