Thursday, 30 August 2007

More reflections

It must be the time of year for remembering. Perhaps it has something to do with the end of Summer and the approach of Autumn. The warmth lessens, the leaves start to turn, there's a sense of change in the air.

Other Bloggers are also looking back. In the Hamptons on Long Island there's an appreciation of more gentle road signs when people knew how to behave on the road. Grandmere Mimi is looking back on the New Orleans she knew and lost to Hurricane Katrina.

And as I sliced the softened oranges, lemons and grapefruit for my Three Fruit Marmalade, and put it to boil in the stove, I was thinking of the ways in which my home town of Brighton has changed, and how much of what I grew up with is no longer there.

My private primary school has become a girls-only part of Brighton College. Brighton, Hove & Sussex Grammar School became a VIth Form College many years ago. Brighton Technical College is now part of a University. And then as I flew further afield: Northumberland College of Education was swept away in reforms soon after the 1970-73 intake left. Moorlands Bible College has dropped the "Bible" part of its name, disposed of the phallic logo, and continues its mission. Salisbury & Wells Theological College has, as mentioned in the previous post, closed its doors to that form of Christian training and become Sarum College instead.

Of all those places, the Bible College is the only one that is still recognisable, and I don't particularly want to return there. I've moved on, and so have they.

And it's the same with my home town. All the shops I grew up with in the Kemp Town area of Brighton have long gone. Mr. Mockford the greengrocer, with his beetroot always on the boil behind a wooden partition. The "Home & Colonial Stores" with the tins of broken biscuits. "Webbs Stores" and its flavoured milk machine where we would buy a carton to slurp on the way down to the beach. "Barnard's", the little TV and electrical shop that had a model railway running around its window. "Fogel's Patisserie" that, being Jewish, was open on Sunday, and from where we would get cream cakes for tea. The Post Office in the old Georgian gymnasium building is now just offices. And the small corner off-licence, "Munnery's", where I worked on and off for 11 years has been closed for a decade or more, and the shop turned into town house accomodation.

The skyline of the new city is completely different from that which I used to see from the top window of our house. We had two open piers. The block of "Sussex Heights" was the tallest thing for miles. And of course, Black Rock has disappeared under the Brighton Marina construction. You can no longer walk from Brighton to Ovingdean Gap and round the corner to Rottingdean and back. That was a wonderful Sunday afternoon walk, and I had an unforgettable wander along part of it one Tuesday afternoon when I was about 13.

One image of Brighton comes back to my mind again and again. When I was about 12 I had a vivid dream of the sea rising up and flooding the town. I was standing in the bay windows of the top floor of the house looking out over the rooftops, and the waves were rushing towards me and breaking on the windows. This was long-before warnings about global warming and rising sea levels. It was long before stories of Meteor impacts and tidal waves. And this same image is as strong with me now as it ever was. At the time I even wrote some of the dream down, and I still have it packed away somewhere.

Premonition? Imagination? I certainly enjoyed the storms that would sweep in, and I would go down to the sea-front and dodge the waves. Time will tell.

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