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View From The Hill – Nicholas Lezard

At time of going to press it looks as though – although we cannot be sure, so let’s touch wood – we’re going to be allowed out soon. 

The days are getting longer, we will be able to meet friends again, or at least do so with a clean conscience. One of the great pleasures I have rediscovered is the simple act of walking along the seafront. It is a hard and damaged heart that cannot be cheered, even when it’s nippy out, by a promenade among the various citizens of this city. 

I’ve lived here for two years and a bit, but I first fell in love with the place in 1984, when I was among the first on the scene when the Grand was blown up by the IRA in 1984. I was staying with journalist friends of mine – they got a call from the desk of their national tabloid telling them to get down there immediately; they brought me, in those days not anything even like a journalist at all, along for the ride. 

Every time I look at the Grand I remember the huge chunk taken out of it by the bomb, and then salute the way that Brighton coped with the event. Ever since then I have been visiting regularly and now I am delighted to have settled here. Every day I love the place more and more. 

   My youngest son is studying at Sussex, living in Brighton. We have got into the habit, once a month or so, no deliberate timetable, of having a beer on the shingle while chatting and looking at the sunset and freezing our bits off. 

The latest dilemma, from a couple of days ago: do we sit against the seawall facing the potentially glorious sunset but being chilled by the wind, or sit with our backs to the wind, on the other side of the wall (or groyne, a word that never fails to delight me) and miss the sunset? In the end we chose to shiver and look at the sunset. Which was glorious. 

A group of young women about my son’s age were sitting a few feet nearer the sea and they asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of them. My son is sternly against the idea of public performance. “No,” he said, firmly, “but I will wish you a happy birthday.” I would have sung my heart out to the birthday girl had I been on my own, and drunker, but I did not want to embarrass either my son, or myself. Or indeed the young women. 

   I asked my son, as we climbed back up the shingle, whether he was going to be staying here for a while after his term finished. I was worried he wasn’t loving the place as it should be loved. “Oh God yes,” he said. He paused to take in the life, the light. “This place is great.”

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