Waking up early on a Sunday morning, I peek out of the curtains. Its only 7:00am and it’s always going to look foggy like that at this time. The clouds loom over head, but it’s still bright, nonetheless. I’m positive, I’m excited, and quickly run a cool shower. Liam’s still snoozing as I pull on my jeans, a short white T-shirt, and a long navy cardigan. To flip-flop? Or not to flip flop? I didn’t. I opted for black leather pumps instead. The kettle sounds loud in the quiet flat, as I flick it on, and it jumps into action. It wakes up the cat who is not used to such early morning start on a Sunday. She mews and expects her breakfast before I go to get mine.
It’s a quick turnaround, and within twenty minutes all the lights are turned off, the radio set onto Radio 4 to keep the cat company, before the front door shuts behind us and the key is turned in the lock. Do you think the peach mac or the canvas jacket? I ponder at the top of the stairs. Do you want to catch the train or not? He asks, rolling his eyes at me. The air is fresh, so I stick with the mackintosh and we race to the train station.
One change. Two change. A hot sausage roll and take-away coffee later, we are on the train to Brighton. It’s only an hour journey and I pop one earphone in my right ear and one in Liam’s left. It’s still early, I rest my head on his shoulder and close my eyes. Two little girls colour a large pad of paper with bright felt-tip pens in the chairs next to us. An old lady and her flowered shopping trolley get on ten minutes later. She parks it close by and shuffles onto the seat opposite me. Gardens with whirligig washing lines full of whites pass by, fields busy with Sunday morning football clubs appear and then are gone as quickly as I saw them. Clatter, bump. Jitter, clunk; the train clambers down the track.
In no time at all, I’m being woken up. My hand in his, I am led down the platform, among a swarm of people. I look up to a maze of Victorian windows and beams, painted blue high up above my head; the station roof. A stern brow and a nod from the inspector. Tickets please. I hand him mine. Thank you. He says.
On the sunny side of the street we walk, avoiding the sea wind whipping past us too cold. I feel like skipping now we are out of London, out of the smoke and one square metre of space in that city. The air feels lighter. Can I see the sea? I tiptoe for a moment. I’ve got to see the sea! Not quite yet. We walk closer down the hill, passing cafes and slightly run down shops, the kind you know have been there forever, with their signs a little peeled, and their customers too few. The promenade is not yet busy. It’s open for business with one or two stalls, selling shells and jewellery spread out on bright cloths. Tinkling music is playing, all in different tunes, from different places, luring you to each end of the stretch. And there’s the sea! My hands are place gently on the cool metal bars along the front. Feel my feet firm on that concrete promenade. But my heart wants to leap out from my chest and do a little dance over the waves into the distance. Take a deep breath, it smells like the sea; salty and fresh. Miles and miles of glittering blue, today quite calm and still.
A Mr Whippy ice-cream? He asks as he kisses my head. Oh, yes, please. No flake... I remember to add. The sun has got hot, I feel it on my face. We walk slowly towards the pier with our ice creams, hand in hand. The pier vibrates with the music on the megaphone. It's Bob Dylan. So we stand and watch the sea, and listen for a while. My Mac over my arm, I tiptoe across the slats. Avoid the dips, the gaps and damaged bits and eye the rusty bolts with suspicion.
We have all the time in the world as we walk along the pier, the wind blowing my hair gently to the right. I feel like a Victorian Lady from an old sepia photo. I pretend I'm in a long frilly dress, adorned with jewels, my parasol and hat. I strut proudly along the pier. Link arms with my tall, top-hatted man, and laugh as I imagine his handlebar moustache.
Ker-ching! Clunk Clunk Clunk! Brrrrring! Oooh, the Penny Arcade. Flashing lights. Tinkling tunes. I feel seven again, and rush to go inside. Holding as many two pennies in my hand as possible. I make a little carrier for them with the bottom of my T-Shirt. Eyes darting to the trays underneath, I look for the coins which have fallen too soon. One through the slot. Slide down the chute. Hit the bottom. Spinning around and around until it stops. Then sweep. Knocked down a level. Pushing the rows forward and forward more. One or two fall, and I hear the satisfying clatter of two pences in the tray below. And everyone stops to glare a jealous look.
I see the fair at the end of the pier from the corner of my eye. Dodgems, the Waltzers, a Helter Skelter - roller coasters galore!
I grasp Liam's hand, dragging him across the slats. Oh we've got to have a go on the Waltzers! He looks at me as if I'm crazy. But I was sick last time... He says. Oh don't be a baby. Lets get tokens! I kiss his cheek. We change over six pounds with the tiny lady in the booth, and compromise to have a go on The Twister - fast, but less sicky.
The bar goes down across our laps. We hand over our tokens. The bell sounds and the music starts. His arm is tight around my shoulders. The ride jolts into action; we swing sharply to the left. There's a pause for half a second - I catch Liam's eye - before we fly across the section, my hair whipping furiously behind me. I throw my head back and look to the sky. Hands in the air! I scream to him. The people waiting by the side, whizz in and out of sight. My heart is thump, thump, thumping so I hold on tight. His face looks green, his teeth are grinding and his lips curl.
We slow right down all of a sudden; the music comes to a stop. My hand is white from gripping on so tight. Giggling, I lift the bar and hop onto the floor.
His arm slips around my waist and I pretend not to notice that he's wobbling a bit, or that he's using me as a crutch. Laughing, we pass a small pub with patio chairs and tables. How about a pint on the pier? I ask, with a slight glint in my eye. Hmm... Maybe in a bit. He says, squinting into the sun. I flop over the railings to the sides of the pier; still trying to catch my breath. We look out to sea, to the beautiful blue and right across the stony beaches. The sun beats down a little stronger than before. The tinkling music plays on. Lets get you back to shore. I say.