Letters to The Whistler – August

Dear Editor,

With reference to Tom Sargant’s tribute to Sally May in the June/July edition of The Whistler, I completely agree with Tom in the way the 7 dials area has changed over the last decade. I have said for many years that one day Brighton will become, ostensibly, a suburb of London. From the time I was a child I have always been connected with this part of Brighton. Over a period of fifteen years my mother and I lived at various different addresses in the 7 dials area. In 1967 my mother moved to Southwick and I moved to London and then on to Sweden.

In 1980 I returned to the 7 dials where I have lived ever since. When I returned I completely recognised the place I knew as a child and young adult. Bohemian, a bit scruffy, not one, but two (proper) cafés opposite each other. There was a butcher, a fishmonger, two green grocers; the co-op on the corner had many incarnations and different names over the years. We had a launderette, a newsagent, and a clothes retailer which specialised in school uniforms and which is now the ‘moo cow’. In other words, we had proper shops serving a local community.

How I noticed the change when the London money started coming into the area was when my Volvo 240 was no longer the smartest car in the road. Now it’s bumper-to-bumper £30,000 4x4s. Sally May clearly read the writing on the wall. I was a little surprised to discover from Tom’s comments that there were two other Reg’s in the area, ‘Boring Reg’ and ‘Slightly-less-boring Reg’. I always thought I was the only Reg on the block! A different story up north: you trip over Reg’s all over the place they even have Reginald Streets and Avenues. However, here at the 7 Dials it would now appear I’m no longer a novelty and the place I once knew not so many years ago is hardly recognisable from what it was. For better or worse, who knows, the one thing for certain is that nothing is forever.

Reginald Gennaro Woodhouse

Hello Colette and Sylvia,

I learned to my horror this week that one of the unfortunate people mentioned in Tom Sargant’s Sally May piece is supposed to be me.

This supposed appreciation of a local bookseller leaves a sour taste, and it is disappointing that such material has been given space in your excellent publication. It’s one thing to have a private joke within the confines of a shop, but how dare Sargant be so insensitive and discourteous as to place his and Sally May’s derisive nicknames into the public domain when some of those mentioned and/or their families are still around, including myself.

As a bookseller for most of my life, I wouldn’t dream of belittling our shop’s customers in this manner, from however long ago. This cheap exploitation of those Sargant considers to be oddball or outsider reflects very badly on what’s supposed to be a magazine for *all* of the members of our local community. He must surely know, full well, that I am still around as I am not exactly a low-profile Brightonian, with decades-strong links with Phoenix Brighton (teaching and staging exhibitions), Oxfam, numerous local listings magazines and radio stations, the Cheeky Guide, local underground publishers, and the thriving experimental music and performance scene. I consider it impolite in the extreme that he didn’t think it worth trying to contact me, but instead pressed on with portraying me as some sort of shambling idiot. I’ve no idea of Sargant’s agenda about me, fortunately not having encountered him in the time since I was (briefly) a customer at the shop in question; but I insist that an apology to me be printed in your next issue for the distress caused by this attention-seeker.

Sorry to make such a negative comment about our otherwise excellent community magazine !

Best wishes, Stephen Drennan

Dear Stephen,

We are very sorry that you were distressed by Tom Sargant’s obituary to Sally May. No offence was intended.

Sincerely, The Editors

Dear Editors,

If Stephen is seeking an apology from me then I can only say that I’m sorry that he doesn’t appreciate the humour of my dead friend – which seems rather too late to change now.

With best wishes, Tom Sargant

Dear Whistler,

Have just picked up a copy of your magazine and thought I would say I was born at the Buckingham Road Maternity Hospital on 7 November 1945, the day my dad was demobbed from the RAF, and then lived with them and my  Gran, Mrs Emily Hay, at  9 West Hill Road; shared with  Aunt Rose and Uncle Ernie King, cousins Val and Mick in the basement; Auntie Emily and  Uncle Chris Grant on ground floor with the bathroom; with use of Gran’s first floor kitchen, and Mum and Dad’s room and my cot; and then on the top floor in a huge room, my Gran’s bedroom, living room and dining area.

It overlooked  the street, which seemed a long way down and I can remember many family gatherings round the well-laden,  enormous dining  table. There were wash stands, wardrobes, display cabinets, and an organ. From the kitchen below I saw the tiny garden, and Fabian’s Yard next door.  It was built on the site of Hodsons Mill, I believe. Once, when I was  taking photos of the area after a flat was for sale in No 9, a chap called Mr Fennell came and talked to me about the mill. My cousin, Roy, had sent me an old photo of the mill just before it was moved to Clayton. When Fabian’s yard went, the plot was vacant for ages until, on a periodic visit, I discovered it was in a conservation area and several terraced houses were going to fill the gap, to be called Mill Row. In 2014, a century after Mum had been born at 16 Edward Street, I thought the newer homes looked older than No 9.

I would love to know if the Hay, King, Grant or Mayer families are  remembered. We loved to visit her long after most of us had moved to new council houses in Hollingbury/Patcham. Gran was 96 when she died in 1975.

Sandra Cooper, nee Mayers

The Whistler editors recently wrote to  local councillor, Lizzie Deane, and Damian Marmura, the council Head of Operations for Head of Operations for Refuse, Recycling and Cleansing Services to bring their attention to the increased level of graffiti in the West Hill area and a broken communal bin in Buckingham Road that was overlooked in the latest round of replacements. Here are their replies:

Dear Colette,

I am sorry to hear that graffiti has increased in West Hill, as I know how frustrating this can be. It’s difficult to say how far this directly results from cuts to services: from my own observation over the years, there almost always seems to be an increase at half term and again during the school holidays. Where government cuts have had a direct result, however, is that the council can no longer fund its removal from private properties (unless its content is racist or otherwise offensive) so that there can be more of a build up.

Best wishes, Lizzie

I will see to that bin as soon as possible. With regards to graffiti, I will also organize an action day with our unit – more likely during weekend, spending all day in the area and removing the graffiti as they go along.

Best wishes, Damian Marmura


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