Return to the coast

Instead of a 20 kilogram backpack I had a mostly empty bag weighing little more than the notebook and novel I had inside it. Despite living in a country where it was impossible to be further than 72 miles from the coast at any point in time, it had taken six months after my return from Encircle Africa to get back to the coast.

The land sloped down to the coast from the main station. The station’s Victorian ironwork and glass arches prevented the aah-wahwahwahwah of gulls from reaching me. They hovered still in the air, only to be buffeted aside by the wind, dragging my eye from the almost still sea. It was a couple of shades greener than the waters off Africa and the British early spring sky. The blocks of colour – green-hued sea and baby-blue sky – were only broken by Brighton’s two piers.

One was bright, with the constantly swinging arm of the amusement park at its end, and the other an abandoned black skeleton, its connection with land already lost.

Brighton is possibly the easiest, and greenest, place to visit by public transport. Regular trains from London meet the flurry of buses that in turn struggle beyond the lanes of angry cyclist ringing their bells furious at the tourists.

There was a beginning of a hazy cloud forming, but the biggest difference between Africa’s beaches and Brighton’s was perhaps the pebbles, and the crowds. Africa’s beaches were almost always empty; places for landing fishing boats and going to the toilet. With the idea of visiting the beach an unwritten rule of any vaguely sunny day in Britain it’s easy to forget that beach holidays – holidays of any sort – are almost new.
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