blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Revisiting the past: Downside, Shoreham, and Lancing's Widewater

From 1983 to the end of 1985 we lived on a street called Downside, in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex. When I was in Brighton earlier this month, only a short bus ride away, I decided to revisit it.

I had a brief walk on the nearby Downs so as to be in the countryside for a few minutes. It was lovely. I saw sheep, horses and puddles, plenty of pale grass on the bare hills and a view of dazzling sea. Having trespassed through a farm there, I easily found my way to our old house, No. 19, and even went as uninvited as a ghost down the passage way to peep at our old back garden (altered unfortunately though they're still growing lots of indoor plants in the extension we had built at the back of the house). It is in a quiet neighbourhood that hasn't changed much.

I wandered on down the street (where I once conceived a little poem called Ecstasy) to the top of Buckingham Park, still recognisable too. I remembered the right direction to the primary school, then known as Kingston Buci, where Emma and George used to go every morning, but I hadn't a clue where I used to go to do my shopping. Isn't that strange? I must have been less interested in material things then than I am now: I could remember my poem but not my groceries. I didn't find Emma's "Middle" School and hardly recognised anything in the centre of Shoreham except for the railway station which hadn't changed one bit. You still have to wait at the level crossing gates for the trains to go through. I saw my father alive for the last time at that station.

After a spot of lunch at "Teddy's Tea Rooms" near St. Mary de Haura church, I walked across the "Adur Ferry" bridge (new, with glass walls) to Shoreham harbour, crossing the Adur estuary, as far as the shore again with its long row of locked up beach huts, and then as far as the Widewater at Lancing, that lies between Brighton Road and the sea.

I have a book a friend once gave me called The High Path––by Ted Walker, who was a British poet. It was his autobiography, written in 1983, and the title of the book refers to the path I took from Shoreham to Lancing along the seashore, with the waves breaking on the pebbles on one side and a quiet salt water lagoon, the Widewater, on the other, which is a nature reserve. I crossed the Widewater on the wooden bridge half way over, and took this picture looking back, not including the two wild swans, off to the right:

Ted Walker grew up here. We used to live behind the houses on the left, too, on Brighton Road, during the few months between leaving Switzerland in late autumn 1982 and moving to Shoreham in the spring of 1983, and we used to lie in bed listening to the waves breaking on the far side of the sea wall and moving the pebbles about. I could no longer identify the house; we only used part of it and used the lower entrance. I remember that we had the use of a piano and TV that didn't belong to us.

This time I did recognise the shops and the corner where I phoned to hear of the birth of my triplet nieces in 1982. I caught a bus back to Brighton from there, catching a glimpse of Lancing College on the hill and passing Southport where all the working ships are moored. 

At the end of the day I had another encounter with the past when Chris and I met four friends––fellow musicians––who still live in Sussex (David, Margaret, Hyder and Lea). We had supper together at the Café Rouge in the Brighton Lanes and enjoyed one another's company just as much as we used to do: a very pleasant evening indeed.

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