Déjà Vu in Brighton (part two)
Continued from part one
Part one of Déjà Vu in Brighton covers my initial solitary walkabout in Brighton trying to capture the city through the eyes of literary character Will Maskall (from Will's War, Escape from Neverland, Dance into the Wyrd and the yet to be published Forgotten Road and Secret Spring).
Part one can be found here: http://nissevisser.hubpages.com/hub/Dj-vu-in-Brighton
In part two I am joined by my friend Gerrit Orgers who is enough of a nutter to play Will and Jamie with me in the delightful city of Brighton.
Capturing a Cover at the Metropole
I had been lugging my tin hat with me for a week as well as my catapult because I reckoned we needed to emulate some of Will's adventures in Brighton because...well just because we could really. Gerrit thought this was perfectlly normal and we started with an expedition to the Metropole which Nick Bulters is using for the creation of his cover for Will's War. Nick had picked up on the David vs Goliath theme in the story and had captured that theme in his artwork - still in development, but the picture below shows where it's going.
We found the Metropole easily enough to the west of the pier and Gerrit bravely squatted down on a busy road whilst passing drivers must have raised an eyebrow at the sight of myself attempting to capture Nick's portrayal of Will Maskall. It was a great deal of fun I thought.
Staring at Starlings at the Palace Pier
If I have been confusing you somewhat by references to the old Palace Pier this is because the new name Brighton Pier doesn't seem to be favoured by Brightonians most of whom will insist that Brighton has two piers: The Palace Pier and the West Pier, even though the latter is temporarily inconvenienced
After playing at the Metropole we headed east again towards the Palace Pier where we were captivated by the sight of a flock of starlings which manoeuvred about the pier in stunning formations. Quite clearly they were telling me that they would like to make an appearance in Will's War and I will happily oblige them for their efforts made splendid viewing.
I had Will compare the walk along Madeira Drive to a stroll around a Roman arena where he waved to the crowd as a victorious gladiator. Walking there with Gerrit I was struck by the accuracy of this portrayal and realised there was yet another omission from the story which would need to be addressed. I have recently seen British Pathe newsreel footage from the thirties in which the walkway above the collonades and the vantage points alongside the Marine Parade were filled with people observing the car racing which took place here. To my mind - and Gerrit confirmed this - no healthy twelve-year-old-boy living reasonably close to the Kemptown seafront would have missed such a show or failed to fondly recollect the fury of roaring car engines long after the event had passed.
I duly waved to the Roman Emperor Talkus Lottabollox the Second who my mind's eye envisioned enthroned on the regal vantage point offered by the old Victorian lift house.
Based on digital impressions of Brighton I had decided that Will's favourite place would be Banjo Groyne and when we arrived there I did not regret this for an instant. The westward view of the Kemptown seafront and Palace Pier is spectacular. Will's imagination ran riot at Banjo Groyne. Facing the sea as the waves crashed in he would be on the bow of a ship keeping his footing as the salt spray cascaded down on him and turning around he would fancy himself an archer on the outer ramparts of Camelot with the inner city walls rising up to protect the bright facades of palaces. I was pleased to note that all this worked out really well now that I was actually at Banjo Groyne and saw what Will would have seen.
Ruminations about childish fantasy had to be put aside when a division of Nazi Ninjas emerged from the sea and Gerrit and I had to see them off using a catapult, thereby saving Brighton from unexpected foreign occupation.
Apart from saving the city there was a task for me at Banjo Groyne; in the book Will gifts a friend three pebbles from the beach by Banjo Groyne and I duly collected these to take with me, as well as a few spares.
A Sober Moment at the Royal Sussex County Hospital
Reaching the Royal Sussex County Hospital after leaving the beach we had a sober moment of contemplation, especially by the out patients building; we knew what scenes had played here in September 1940 and they form a heart of darkness in Will's War.
Kemptown was delightful; we could never walk far without spotting that blue sea at the end of one street or another and the layers of social class were very visible. The grandeur of the seafront palaces replaced by elegant Georgian homes and further on the modern high rise buildings which had replaced the old slums.
We went into the Kemptown Bookshop to talk to the owner. He had a few bad experiences with self-published authors to judge by his response (and especially what he wasn't telling us) but did say that if he liked the end product and if he could order it from one of the main distributors he would consider including Will's War in his shop which was more than I could have hoped for given his initial reaction.
There is a scene in the book where Will purchases a tin helmet at a fictional second hand shop called Harper & Sharpe (a tribute to Bernard Cornwell) and I was delighted to run into the Brighton Flea Market shop. Even more so when Gerrit noted a 1935 Amazing Stories magazine, just the sort of thing Will's friend Jamie might have lying about his home. The magazine might make very interesting source material so I purchased it. The Brighton Flea Market is worth a browse; it is large with a wide range of well-priced items.
We made our way to St James Street, where a number of scenes take place and I really liked the feel of this street.
The Lanes Revisited
I showed Gerrit around the lanes. After the discovery of bacon-chocolate at Choccywoccydoodah (it was very good!) we went into the Lanes Armoury and wished our travel budget stretched to cover the remarkable items on sale in there; it was like being in a museum and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.
There was time for a bacon bagel on Bond Street and then, with due reluctance, it was time to say adieu to Brighton as there was more of East Sussex to explore.