Dear Uncle Ian
“I’ll have those two plump melons, please” seems tame today! But in the 50s it would have been banned for obscenity, like a lot of the original saucy seaside postcards by Donald McGill. I’m sure Aunt Fifi will appreciate this one when she gets back – bearing in mind the dance she stood up and did at your Ruby!
Earlier I was on Brighton Pier, and felt moved to write about their wonderful marine conservation programme. If you like, you can check it out at: www.paulcostello2011.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/postcard-from-brighton-the-pier/ – I’ve heard you’re into silver surfing!
Even in winter Brighton is thriving. It’s a student city these days, with an art college, universities and lots of English Language schools. When I lived here, to make a bob or two I did B&B for foreign students. The Swiss and Brazilians were nicest, but the Germans were hard going. One called Hans had no sense of humour at all. I once asked him: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” and, seriously uncle, he replied: ‘Vell, vee never allow our chickens to get on zer road in zer first place.’
The biggest change I found in the famous Brighton Lanes is that the countless dinky shops, once full of antiques, have become Brighton’s jewellery centre, all selling silver or white gold. The window displays are great! An antique ring marked:
A Marvellous, Amazing, Victorian, Silver and Diamond Ring
came next to:
A Truly Wonderful, Old, Marvellous, Silver and Amethyst Tiepin
An Absolutely Marvellous, Antique, Silver Brooch with Pretty Sapphire.
I realised there was a theme going on. With at least three hundred items in every shop window, shop owners worked hard to outdo their neighbours. Further along I saw:
A Rare, Marvellous, Fantastic, Edwardian, Silver and Diamond Engagement Ring
A Superb, Wonderful, Marvellous, Amazing, Exquisite, To Die For, Grandma Would Look Great In It, White Gold Hat Pin.
No surprise that a sign in a nearby bookshop said: Roget’s Thesaurus – Sold Out.
I don’t know about you, uncle, but if I was going to spend hundreds of pounds on a ‘Marvellous’ ring, I’d want to know that as well as being the only such ring in The Brighton Lanes, no-one else in the whole world (or Margate) also had a ‘Marvellous’ one.
Beyond The Lanes is a fashionable district called North Laine, a ‘boutique’ area buzzing with Brighton’s alternative culture, and packed with vintage clothing shops, arty cafes, bars and galleries. I love it, uncle. I saw more studded noses than there are Catseyes on the A259, and people wearing racks of rings like mini orchestral triangles – each set playing a different octave. One enterprising shop owner had installed a battery-powered circuit on a heavily ringed employee, and was challenging customers to pass a metal rod through her rings without triggering a bell. A quid a go. I found the eyebrows quite easy but the lips were my downfall every time! Had I succeeded, I’d have won:
An Amazing, Delightful, Marvellous, Just Like A Baby Elephant’s Tusk, Every Auntie Should Have One, Ear Stretcher.
I was thinking – there’s no reason why Aunt Fifi shouldn’t have an ear stretcher just because of her age, is there? It would only need a ten millimetre hole. Let me know when she might be coming home, by the way.
Paul Costello © February 2013
Utterly Undiscovered – comic Bed & Breakfast Memoir by Paul Costello.
Illustrated by Emma Hames. Header image above from chapter titled: Caught Napping
Publication: spring 2013. Fineleaf Editions http://www.fineleaf.co.uk