Nicholas Lezard: View From The Hill (Feb)

I sometimes feel a bit of a fraud, writing for The Whistler, because I don’t live in West Hill any more. And even then I lived on its Western frontier, Dyke Road. I now live about ten minutes’ walk away, off Montpelier Road. It is a testament to the editor’s commitment to free speech that he lets me write for this publication at all. 

Life on the frontier was hard in those days, it’s why I moved. The worst thing was the regular incursions of raiding parties from Hove, who’d turn up in Mad-Max style customised Nissan Leafs and pinch all the best olives from Ricci’s Italian Deli without so much as a by-your-leave. Or should that be Nissan Leaves? 

I campaigned strenuously for armed border guards and tank-proof barriers, but you know what councils are like. They drag their feet until the problem sort of goes away. (The last time I was up that way, the Seven Dials Co-op had been gutted. This completely freaked me out. The Co-op may not have been the loveliest supermarket in town, but it was very much the nearest, and the idea of having to another quarter mile down the road to the next one made me come over all faint. I hope it’s back to normal now.)

Hey, but we’re all still in the BN1 gang, right? Well, I’m not so sure. BN1 is a funny old postal district, extending like a fan (the kind you hold in your hand and flap to look coquettish, not the kind that goes on the ceiling) from its southern border, a strip of land on the seafront that is many, many times smaller than the arc of its northern border. And it goes on for ages. 

You’d think that everyone who lived in the same postcode would have a pretty common identity, but no. I remember looking for a flat when on the run from the maniacs in Hove – I’d crossed one of their warlords in a Nocarello olive deal gone wrong – and going miles up the Dyke Road on foot in awe at how suburban it became, and how quickly, when compared to the image of itself that Brighton likes to portray. A trip to Devil’s Dyke last summer really brought home to me how big, and how various, BN1 is.

I looked on the internet for a bit to see if anyone had anything to say about this unusual situation. I didn’t find anything pertinent, but I did notice on the Zoopla website that it pointed out that Brighton is in the county of Sussex, which is not news to me, and that Sussex has a population of 0, which is. 

I haven’t gone outside today so I can’t check whether this is true, or whether this is a cock-up from the website people at Zoopla. I hope it’s the latter because the editor is taking me to the Regency for lunch. (The Editor also has a commitment to lunch). If it’s the former, at least the pirates of Hove are no longer a worry.

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