We were desperate. A friend and I had just spent an excitingly tense day at Wimbledon, observing the familiar ritual of a British tennis player being put to the slaughter. We had just celebrated the milestone of finishing our first year at university and thought we would celebrate this auspicious occasion by dabbling in some typical British summer pursuits: tennis and a trip to Brighton. For both of us, it would be the first time we had engaged in these pastimes and being nineteen – innocence still not fully tempered by experience – it was all rather thrilling. Even the rigours of steadfast queuing in order to get a taste and smell of those unique grass-courts couldn’t quell our fervour. As we arrived in Brighton, some fifteen hours after having joined fellow pilgrims of the hallowed turf, brazenly managing to blag our way onto Centre Court* (if you would like to know please see asterisk at the end of the article), thus squeezing in a few bonus games on top of our groundling passes (which were pretty reasonable at £5), we couldn’t have been more high-spirited. Until we arrived at the B&B in Brighton.
In retrospect, even some thirteen years later, the place still sends shivers down my spine, more comically scary rather than outright scary, admittedly. Now it is perfectly reasonable to argue that arriving in Brighton on a Friday at 9 o’clock, a balmy night at the end of June, without having booked anywhere to stay is not necessarily the wisest thing to do. Being nineteen though, we were absurdly idealistic as well as being incredibly certain that we would discover a smart B&B, where we could rest our weary heads, ready to savour Brighton’s beautiful delights the following day. Alas, we didn’t; naturally, all establishments were full. It quickly became obvious that we ought to have booked. The Wimbledon glow was rapidly evaporating into the scented, multi-coloured ambience wafting around the city. Patience was wearing thin, until we alighted upon “Geoff’s Place” (in order to protect people’s identities…historical accuracy should hold sway but I am pretty sure this is what the place was called). It is often said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that one should keep one’s mind open. However, first impressions weren’t promising. Flaking exterior, grubby windows, ramshackle sign and, unless my eyes were deceiving me, bits of tiling liberally sprinkled on the pavement. An offering to the Gods perhaps? We had been traipsing around for far too long. We were beginning to feel pretty wretched. Therefore, ringing the doorbell was not done with any trace of hope, more out of desperation.
We were not disappointed. For Geoff (that is what we shall call him) mirrored the dilapidation manifest outside. Without speaking, we knew straightaway that this B&B was going to be less “comfy and relaxing” and more “dirty and despairing”. Geoff (even now, I’m sure he meant well, despite appearances to the contrary) was hastily explaining the array of breakfast options available. His voice was lost in the fog of tiredness, as I absorbed the dirt on his fingernails, the unkempt clothes and the peeling plasterwork overhead. It is fair to say that the place had seen better days. We could have left, no question. What stopped us? Was it out of consideration that we stayed? The truth was pure and simple. We were bloody knackered. The musty smell was overpowering as we headed upstairs. Suffice to say, the bedrooms lived up to the overall dispiriting atmosphere: unclean, Havishamesque in its dusty pallor and distinctly uncomfortable. Morning couldn’t come round fast enough.
My hope, most likely in the age of trip advisor, is that either this place no longer exists or it has been completely refurbished. I did learn a priceless lesson about the art of travelling. Always try and research/book a place to stay beforehand, thus eliminating risk of “terror to the senses”. We never did taste the wonder of Geoff’s eggs the morning after the night before; as dawn broke, we fled with joyful release into the warm embrace of the seaside air.
*We pretended to be French