Jim Gowans’ West Hill Watch, June 1

Digital Screens at Brighton Station

The proposal to install 11 digital advertising screens at Brighton Station has given BHCC conservation officers cause for concern. The station which dates from 1841 is a landmark building within the West Hill conservation area.

The officers’ report points out that the  proposed digital screens would be substantial structures and the majority would be visually intrusive; those either side of the front entrances to the main building would detract from the simple classical proportions of the grade II* listed Italianate building. These eight screens would be wider than the classically derived columns and pilasters against which they would sit and would harm the proportions of the entrance area and obscure the edge detailing of the columns, pilasters and arches. They would compete with and visually dominate these important architectural features, which are prominent on arrival and departure and which set the character of the external and internal concourse areas.

The application proposes a substantial overall reduction in the number of advertisements within the Station as compensatory benefit and an overall rationalisation of signage. However, most of these existing signs are in much less prominent and sensitive locations, mostly lining the platforms where they have much less impact on the architectural interest of the Station. The signs to be removed also include non-fixed signs which do not require Listed Building Consent and these may potentially reappear without such control.

Some Silver Lining to the Covid Cloud

Whilst your correspondent has not ventured far during the current Covid emergency he has been aware of an increase in neighbourliness as one pleasing consequence of the “lockdown”. There have been offers from younger, fitter residents to help the more vulnerable with shopping and errands and the Thursday evening applause for key workers has encouraged neighbours to acknowledge each other’s presence (at a safe distance) in an unprecedented way. In West Hill Road, for example, colourful bunting and children’s artwork at the windows has added interest to the street scene and raised the sprits of those taking their daily permitted exercise. Many residents have taken this opportunity of confinement combined with fine weather to maintain the outside of their homes by re-painting doors, polishing brass door furniture and sprucing up the front garden, all of which has improved the environment for all to enjoy especially as restrictions on movement are gradually lifted.

Flint Fall Out

Maintaining the outside of many homes in West Hill during the Covid emergency has sadly not extended to saving one attractive feature of the conservation area which is being steadily lost as the years pass. This is the flint panel which originally added interest to front boundary walls of most of the properties. After a century and a half the mortar holding the flints in place is in many cases beginning to fail, allowing weeds to penetrate which then force the flints to fall out. Regrettably, front boundary walls have often been repaired by merely rendering over the flint panel and painting the entire elevation including the brickwork with white masonry paint. If these “snapped” flints having fallen out, are not lost, it is a relatively straightforward job to reposition them. Ideally a lime-based mortar should be used as this will allow the wall to “breath”. Modern cement-based mortars may shrink on drying and fine capillary cracks can develop that admit water and cause damp internally. This can consequentially shorten the life of the repair.

Jim Gowans

Column: Life In Isolation

I have to say I’m amazed. Although self isolating, as a normally very active and social 75 year old, I’m coping really well, particularly as I have set myself a routine to keep me sane. I wake at 7am as usual, make a cup of tea and then return to my bed which has now become my Throne, and I love it. I read, then watch something on catchup before calling friends and dealing with paperwork. My cat thinks she’s gone to heaven, as she lies on my bed and enjoys uninterrupted attention. Finally, I’m forced to get up, if only to avoid turning into a complete bed potato.

With fine weather, I have been doing plenty of gardening. Every leaf shares equal attention, the invading moss on the cobbles is now only allowed to remain for aesthetic effect, the plants are fed, watered and spoken to  with fondness, and the patio is swept almost out of existence. Then, before I know it, the time has come for my one walk.

I alternate between the beach and the park,( each, being but a minute from my house.)  The unusual tranquility of the now deserted beach, takes me back to the words of Blake.


“To see a World in a grain of sand,

  And a Heaven in a wild flower,

  Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,

  And Eternity in an hour”


In the park I’m reminded of how I utilised my time, all those years ago, when returning home having dropped the children off at school each morning. With little time to prepare for my journey into the W, End for rehearsals, ( in those days I was involved in numerous musicals,) I would take advantage of the quiet and empty space to do my vocal warm ups.  Now that these are redundant, I converse with myself in French instead. It is good practise, and I and me always agree, never correct each other’s mistakes, and enjoy each other’s company.  Wonderful.

A further self indulgence, is rediscovering my repertoire of opera arias I learnt over fifty years ago at music college. Now, I join Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, and sing along at the top of my voice. I love it, and I thank God that the students next door have all gone home.

Preparing my evening meal has become something to look forward to each day ,as this has been an opportunity to rediscover the contents of my freezer. I try to remember when I cooked such delicious dishes. God knows how long they have lurked in the dark, but thankfully I have not poisoned myself yet. So these delicacies are a treat to look forward to later.

In the meantime, I have a choice of occupations for the afternoon. One such is to cull my collection of paperwork and photographs.Sadly, the object of this exercise is forgotten within seconds.  This is my history, I rationalise. So all that is achieved is a small trip down memory lane, but oh what pleasure this gives me. However, with nothing discarded, it refuses to return to its dark and lonely quarters, and it is only with a great deal of cajoling and persuasion that it finally relents, in the hope that it may once again, in time to come, see the light of day

Another treat is to, re-assess the contents of my over bulging wardrobe. I am instantly shamed. Why on earth do I still have clothes I  brought with me from London 22 years ago?  It takes me only a few minutes to justify this stupidity. Some garments no longer fit, but who knows? I may lose weight, and after all, if this lockdown lasts for too long, my darling daughter may tire of doing my weekly shop, and my freezer might finally be empty.

Other clothes are in need of repair.Hooray!  As long as I’m able to see well enough to thread a needle, It will simply provide me with a new occupation. And what of the faded fabrics? Well, I may not have dye at hand, but it will be something to look forward too when the shops re open. And the realisation of this ,immediately justifies why I still have hundreds of carrier bags in the cellar.  I confess, my one concern, is that since I am unable to invite anyone to visit, my motivation to tidy up has completely disappeared.

Yes of course, I do miss my children, whom I now only see at the front door when they deliver supplies, and  I hate not seeing my grandchildren. However,( and I never thought I would hear myself this,) thank goodness for Technology which has revolutionised all our lives. There  are so many means of keeping in touch. Speaking, seeing and sharing are still with us.

And so the weeks go by.   I am happy, and I am so lucky. I  know I’m privileged, and my heart goes out to each and every person, who through no fault of their own, is finding this hard.  I am so so sorry. I just hope we will come out of this as a more compassionate and caring society.

And of course, our thanks must go to all those who endlessly help us day to day. But most of all, to our selfless, generous and tireless NHS workers.  My alarm clock is set for 7.55 pm each Thursday for the big clap. We will come out of this, but their contribution can never ever be repaid. Bless each and every one of them. May we never forget.

Kate Dyson





Peter Batten’s Jazz Corner: Bird song

Have you heard of “The Bird”? Charlie Parker, known as “Bird”, was a very great alto saxophonist and the major creative force in the jazz style known as Bebop. During WW2 he became widely admired and then idolised, in the United States, for his fantastic ability as an improviser. When that War ended his fame and the jazz style called Bebop immediately spread around the World. The effects of that explosion are still felt today. Here in Brighton jazz is enjoying a new surge of interest. Although the musicians and their music have a healthy variety, an influence from the Bebop era can be felt everywhere.

But Bebop was not the only jazz style to emerge from WW2. Something very different was born, – and much of it was hatched outside the United States. First let’s be clear about dates. No jazz of any recognisable style began before 1900. Then the early “traditional” style began to be played, most obviously In New Orleans. The first recordings date from the years of WW1. More and more bands appeared, recording began in earnest and the focal centre moved up the river from New Orleans to Chicago. Jazz also grew rapidly in importance in New York. By 1927 this early style, based on the interplay of trumpet, clarinet and trombone reached its peak. It then began to disappear into minor clubs and bars. Very few young negro musicians were interested in this style. They quickly took up their places in the new “Big Bands”. [Do not forget that racism in the USA meant that until well into the 1940s Big Bands were either white or black]

What happened in WW2 was quite a surprise. In Holland, in France, in the UK, in Eastern Europe, in Australia, amateur jazz bands often of self-taught musicians began to attempt to play in what they believed was an early and purer style of jazz, unspoilt by the commercialism which dominated the “Swing” era from 1935. By 1945 these bands were beginning to attract enthusiastic fans. It was a new phenomenon.

Peter Batten

Memories: VE Day Then and Now

On 8 May 1945, VE Day, my cousin Sheila Freeman (née Grant) was living with her parents, Emily and Chris Grant, her sister Pam and brother Roy, Auntie Rose and Uncle Ernie King, Val and Michael, my Mum (expecting me in late October) and dad-to-be, Thomas Mayers, home from three and a half years’ service with the RAF. All of them lived at 9 West Hill Road with Gran. Sheila said that there was a street party outside and dancing. I have a family photograph taken by my Dad of that event.

This year, we decorated No 1 Highview Avenue North in Patcham with the White Ensign on the flag pole and flags pegged to the washing line with red, white and blue pegs; VE Day bunting fixed between a trellis and the Wandering Minstrel Rose bush; and British Legion bunting held in place by tent pegs in the raised flower bed in our front garden. VE Day 50th Anniversary tea-towels were pegged to the net curtain in the lounge and I re-used my daughter’s Mother’s Day gift basket to arrange all sorts of poppies collected over the years with decorative pastel coloured butterflies on sticks. The NHS poster in the porch of a rainbow has had ‘VE Day 75th Anniversary Celebration’ added to Easter, Mother’s Day and St George’s Day events. I collected displays of suitable photos and photo albums and had them close at hand to show either passers-by (at a distance) or my husband, son and daughter.

One good thing during this period is that, though always conscious of keeping a safe distance apart, we have met old neighbours from the far end of the Avenue; newly moved in neighbours; and those who moved in decades ago. Every Thursday night we have gathered outside our houses and rung bells, banged gongs, bashed saucepans and lids, as my poor hands are too marred by frequent washing to clap.

We have enjoyed distant encounters with young couples, families and oldies making the best of the beautiful weather. I take my sketch book to the Lilac Park as we see it in full bloom. Our Lilac tree is now passed its best but I painted it while it was in its prime, as well as the plants, shrubs and roses I can see while sitting on my patio. We see the little girl in the garden alongside the bottom of our garden bouncing on her trampoline.

On May 10 my husband drove slowly up West Hill Road and I was so taken with the decorations on both sides. I forgot to take special notice on No 9. I hope you all had a safe and peaceful celebration to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

Sandra Cooper

Column: David Foot

Here I sit, putting finger to keyboard. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the sky is blue. You would think that all was well in the world. Barely any traffic noise. The water is clear, the air is fresh, and maybe, we are just starting to creep out from the horrors of arguably the most disruptive – non war – event, that has occurred in this country, in the last 100 years. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, hundreds of thousands of businesses have closed, some never to re-open, and our lives will be changed forever. Maybe only slightly, for many, but nothing will ever be quite the same again.

Sure, our Nescafé, PG Tips, Best Bitter, Pinot Noir, or whatever your preference, will taste the same. But will you still get it from the same place? Our major supermarkets will still exist, but they are increasingly losing custom to the “discounters”, and will those that in their new working from home environment, have gone back to using local stores (where they have been open) remain loyal, or revert to their “big shopping” habits? Will our local pub(s) be open as before, or will their punters carry on drinking cheap booze, at home? (a Director of a large “PubCo” of my acquaint, recently said that up to 50% of their pubs might not reopen). My point (thank heavens, I hear you say) is that none of us know what effects this pandemic will have on the world (and thus the share values of the businesses in it) as we know it. However, it may be worth putting things in perspective. As I write, there have been some 6 Million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide, with 360,000 deaths. Sadly, around 38,000 people have so far lost their lives to it, in the UK. In the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918/9 some 50 Million souls lost their lives, 228,000 of them in the UK. In the Battle of the Somme, some 125,000 British soldiers died: one battle alone. Not to detract from the horror of losing someone to Coronavirus, many cases of which, some will say, could have been avoided. Just to illustrate the relevant scales.

Maybe it is because our world has changed so much, in the last 100 years, that the effects of this disease are having such an effect, and may well have in the future. Our High Streets are already changed, some beyond recognition. Even more shopping has moved “online” during the lock-down, how much of that will never return to the old-fashioned way? How long will it be, before we are happy to be squeezed in together, in “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” aircraft, or on public transport, without being concerned about what we might catch? After the World Wars, and the last pandemic, people just “got back to normal”. Now we are being threatened with “new normals” whatever they may be, and we will just have to wait and find out how different they are.

From an investment perspective, most share values have taken quite a battering, and probably the greater part of those will bounce back, to some degree. People have been eating and drinking, and will continue to do so, so the producers have, in the main, fared reasonably well. They should continue to do so. My feeling is that a fair amount of larger company shares have been “over sold” and will recover, in time. Well managed UK Investment Trusts might well prove to be worth a punt, particularly if they have an element of “gearing” (they have borrowed, to invest) as this tends to make them fall more in falling markets, and vice versa. My usual warnings: don’t invest money you may need in the short term, always expect to invest for at least five years, and don’t “keep all your eggs in one basket”. So much has changed, since our last edition. Until we see how much has changed again, in the next couple of months, enjoy the sunshine!

David Foot