As I write this, it’s raining outside – and we’re all happy. I’ll get the kids kitted out in their rain ponchos, make sure they’ve waterproof shoes, and head for the beach. There’s nothing to compare to a British seaside town in a downpour, and Brighton is one of the best examples. Only in the rain does it shine.
Once, we made the mistake of coming to Brighton in the summer when the sun was shining. We shuffled along the wide promenade, as if a family of lemmings taking their small steps towards the edge of the cliff. There were so many people that we couldn’t move any faster and had to queue to do anything at all, even have a pee. But on this autumnal day, a stiff brisk walk along the seafront is a pleasure. The sea is a broad ribbon of grey, the pebbles a collage of speckled greys, the sky a perfect grey, the same cold, clear colour as my youngest daughter Savanna’s eyes.
Now – not in the long-light months - is the time to visit Brighton. We’ve already been to the Sea Life Centre, the oldest aquarium in the world, more interesting for the dated method of display than the exhibits, even the cow-nosed rays. The aquarium is by the entrance to Brighton’s pier - the sort of pier the kids had read about in books, with tin can alley, a ghost train and penny-pushing arcades. Wandering along the pier with a mack on, battling with the sea breeze, is a pleasure with no price. My kids spent an afternoon playing the game of finding their balance against the wind.
When the rain began to seep through our coats, we sheltered in the Jubilee Library, nominated for the prestigious Stirling Prize, where the kids sprawled out on the floor reading their favourite books for free.
The wind came up, the rain continued to pitter-patter. Undaunted, we ventured on to the near-deserted beach, pulled off our shoes and socks, rolled up our trousers, and paddled. What a toe-curling joy, running in and out of the ripples trying to stop our feet being frozen. So much more fun that lying listlessly on a towel, hoping the feeble British sun would give us some colour.
And how much better fish and chips taste when you’re shivering. We took them back to our sea view room, watching the waves as we warmed up.
Next stop: Paris
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