Eastbourne.

Sunday 05 July 2020 – Eastbourne.

The day started like most others this past week; grey low cloud, drizzle and high wind. Coffee in bed seemed like the right thing to do; immediately followed by a second coffee in bed. We made it out of bed just before 9 for an enjoyable video call with my sister in New Zealand. During the hour we were online the rain stopped, the cloud was blown away by the strong wind; clearing the sky. A nice day beckoned. It was time to make the planned, yet to be achieved trip to Eastbourne, a 30 minute drive along the coast.

I last passed through Eastbourne in Jan 2018 when I took a walk along the cliff tops to Burling Gap. I vaguely recall visiting as a child in the 1970s, though that is as likely to be a false memory as it is true. Eleanor has been twice before, and it rained both times. We both wanted to visit on a sunny day.

I parked as soon as I found a spot within an easy walk of the yet to re-open pier. It is very windy.

As we walked towards the pier we came across an oddly shaped white beach hut, which turned out to be shaped as a tooth, and is a memorial to Beachy Head Lady, with this message on it;

‘Along this coast near Beachy Head a young woman of sub-Sarahan African origin was buried one thousand eight hundred years ago. She spent most of her life thriving on a diet rich in the fruits of the sea and from fertile downland fields. Her story is recorded in chemicals hidden within her teeth and in her fragile bones. But how or why she arrived on the shores to make a new home so long ago will probably remain a mystery.’ I really liked this message and it intrigued me enough to try to found out more; as every good message should.

Beachy Head Lady is thought to be the oldest known person from sub-Saharan Africa to be found in the United Kingdom. It is not known when her remains were originally found, though they were recently rediscovered in the museum in a box marked 1956-1959. Further information on the original discovery remain quite sparse, which adds somewhat to the mystery. I chose to not dig much further. Mysteries are good.

It is a funny old day, as many have been in these barely re-opened post-Covid emergency days. It is a sunny, though windy, summer Sunday. There are a few people about, but not as many as expected. The shopping areas are mainly open, so places for people to go. There is an air of reluctance and tension in the air, as well as a touch of the ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude you get from those who think Brexit is a good idea and social distancing is stupid. I did not see a lot of masks being worn, though they are yet too made mandatory in England.

We walked along the front, past the pier and the place where the street drinkers were gathered in a vaguely intimidating fashion when I was here last time. I don’t remember anything specific, but I knew I was very keen to use the public toilet and they were all bunched outside and I walked for ages till I got to the downs before finding an appropriately unpublic tree. The things you remember.

We walked as far as the Martello Tower where we stopped for a hot chocolate and sat in the sun feeling like our skin was being peeled from our faces by the sun and the wind. The hot chocolate was very nice, as was the Martello Tower and its little peace garden.

Leaving the tower we were walking in the direction of the Towner Gallery when the wind whipped the camera strap that was not around my neck or any other useful (or useless) part of my body and tore the camera from my hand, cracking the rear screen when it hit the ground. Damn. Three camera in three years; all broken by me not being careful enough. Lucking the camera still works,  and it has a viewfinder, though I have to use auto mode as the screen displays(ed) the exposure settings. I could at least take some more photos today.

Auto mode does not suit my style, and with three small scratches on the lens, it is now time to replace the camera. A choice I did not want to have to make again after the stress of finding and buying the small Panasonic GX800 last year, a camera I have not really learnt to love. It may be time to sell that as well and buy a single replacement. Choices and decisions. I hate them both.

The Towner Gallery is fabulous. I have seen photos and read about it, and it was a pleasure to see it at last, I love the look of it, so funky and modern. Sadly it was still closed, but it opening in a couple of weeks, a good reason to come back to Eastbourne.

We picked up lunch from a Mexican food cart, in a very un-social distant queue, not many people wearing masks either. My nachos were tasty, there was an awful lot, though the chips were stale which was a good thing really. They went in the bin, not that I like wasting food!

We walked along the sea front for a while, stopping for an ice cream in a faded little park with a faded little tea-shop and then walked back to the car and I drove us home.

Mission accomplished. A day out to Eastbourne and it wasn’t raining.