It is one of the clichés of Seaford conversation that the town neglects, indeed is almost ashamed of, its position on the coast. The sea-front, as I hope this picture conveys, is hideous. The town prefers to sell off the few amenities that might make it more interesting, such as the only pub on the front, to property developers.
An exhibition at the weekend, which might have offered some hope, was infected by the same disease. Supposed to show the town some ideas for development of the seaside, it only ran for two days, in a cramped space. Although University of Brighton architecture students were involved in preparing some of the designs, the only thing the organisers put online was the YouTube video below, with tedious music, and more appearances of the Union Flag than a Conservative Party conference c. 1959. It conveys nothing to the viewer.
What a pity. If the organisers had spent a little time in thinking about how to convey their ideas to the town's population, online and face-to-face, something more productive would have emerged.
'Haven't you seen snow before?' schoolmasters used to ask sarcastically, if snow began to fall during a lesson and bolder boys than me would run to the windows to watch.
One could ask the same question of Southern Railways, or of London Buses. The entire Roper family is confined to Seaford. My workplace is shut, son's college is closed, but in any case there's no train to take him to Lewes, and my daughter's school is shut.
Even at my advanced age, when it snows, I can believe I have never seen it before, especially in the first few hours.
I was eight in the great freeze of 1963. My father bought, though my mother ridiculed him, some snow chains for the car. A GP, he could not afford to be immobile and it was characteristic of his devotion to his parents to take this precaution,. But the chains took hours to fit, and to remove, and I think for most of the time they went unused. He went on his rounds nevertheless. I suppose many of his elderly patients must have died during that period, though he would never have discussed it in front of us or, I suspect, even with my mother.
At school the caretaker would flood a section of the playground with water from a hose early in the morning, so that by break-time, there were areas of ice for us to make slides. The game must have died out, for one never sees children doing it now. The technique is simple: choose a patch of icy ground on a tarmac surface and by running at it, and sliding over it, make it sufficiently slippery. Once there is a run of sufficient length of compacted ice and snow, the sliding can begin. After a run-up, much the same as a bowler’s to deliver a ball to a batsman, one turns, so one's feet are at right-angles to the direction of travel , and, with arms out to keep balance, slides as far as one can.
On the return to 3α’s class-room, our shorts would be soaked, for even in this winter, we continued to wear shorts. To this day I do not feel the cold much in my legs, and ran across the downs yesterday in shorts. These shorts were kept up by an elasticated belt in the school colours with a snake fastening. Socks were long, and terminated at the top by a band of the same purple and black and over a grey shirt we would wear a similarly trimmed v-necked pullover, and round our necks the school tie.
Were we cold? I only remember feeling very cold on games afternoons, and that probably because, pale young aesthete that I was, I did not participate with any great enthusiasm. If I had ‘got stuck in', as masters would urge me, I might have kept warmer.
Though I've had my own study, for the first time since school-days, for nearly three months now, the Guardian have yet to send a photographer to capture it for their writers' rooms series which appears in the Review on Saturdays. They prefer to give space to less significant talents. No matter, because now we have blogs and every man and woman can be their own Guardian Review.
My desk. It belonged to my father, a GP, and he sat behind it in his surgery on the ground floor of our house in Cambridge. It is Victorian, but I do not know its provenance. It may have belonged to my grandfather, also a doctor, or my father may have bought it. He would sit behind it; on the other side, tens of thousands of patients sat on uncomfortable chairs, to be told good news or bad, to hear diagnoses and prognoses, to be given prescriptions or referrals, to have their infants vaccinated and their suffering alleviated.
This pestle and mortar sit on the desk. My father still, in the early stages of his career, dispensed his own medicines, my mother acting as apothecary's assistant, but he kept these for decorative purposes. I still regret that, when he retired, he sold his leech jar to a local chemist who collected such things, though it would have been too large to keep on a desk.
Some books. At last all my books are out on shelves, rather than inaccessible in boxes in a garage. They are two or even three deep in some cases, and the arrangement is not yet logical. There are a lot to add to LibraryThing.
Technology corner: this doesn't do justice to the mare's nest of cords, chargers and other electronic detritus here. It needs a thorough purge.
A writing case, used by my mother. Like so many of her generation, she was a great correspondent, with her mother, her sister and old friends, and disappointed that the practice fell into abeyance. I know use the case for writing paper and envelopes for my much rarer letter-writing.
And finally the view from the window of Seaford rooftops and gardens. Corsica Hall stand slightly elevated to the left of the photograph, behind it the sea
I often fear that people believe the Sussex coastal town where I live, Seaford, to be a gerontocracy. Perhaps they're right. They've closed the town's youth centre and sixth form and now, in today's local paper, a town councillor sounds off against a planning application for a 3G mobile-phone mast, not on aesthetic grounds, nor on the spurious risk to health grounds that the feeble-minded usually invoke, but because no one in Seaford will want to use 3G because we're all too old.
Councillor Roy Bennett is quoted thus in the Sussex Express: 'How many people have these phones? They're expensive and I think the majority of people in Seaford just have mobile phones for convenience and emergencies. We are going to get more and more masts put up but I don't think the demand is there. Seaford has quite an elderly population and it will be years before it has a population which uses this sort of technology.'
Next time I come home on the train of an evening, I expect the train to be boarded at Bishopstone by a mob of vigilantes with councillor Bennet at its head, confiscating iPhones, iPods, laptops, and other evidence of the 21st century.
Though it in no measure dilutes the implacable hostility I feel towards the small seaside town I live in, I was intrigued to discover in Stefan Collini's review in the latest London Review of Books of Dai Smith's life of Williams that he lived here while an adult education tutor after the war. This is more interesting than the people one finds through a keyword search of the Dictionary of National Biography which, apart from the corrupt MPS who have sat for the constituency, finds those who were educated here when it was the prep school capital of the south coats, and those who died in the town's many nursing homes.
Collini describes some of Williams writing as thin. That is the abiding memory I have too; I always suspected the vogue for his work owed much to the attraction of his position as a safely unattached leftist, free from the vulgar necessity of political action.
Bank Holiday Monday on Seaford beach was enlivened by a fire on a motorboat, which exploded and sank off Splash Point. The and the Newhaven lifeboat was called out and the one man who had been on board rescued . This has variously been reported as happening 'off Beachy Head' (that night's BBC local television news) or 'off Newhaven' in the next day's Guardian. I'm the first to acknowledge Seaford's obscurity, but even so...