On Monday I set out for a quick trip to the seaside. I miss living by the sea, yes, even in wild winter weather. Autumn? Bollocks! It’s winter here. What’s more my Kiwi friend Jane is visiting the UK at the moment and it felt like the perfect time to have a decent girls catch-up.
The best way to travel from Basingstoke to Brighton is by train, for one simple major reason. The train does not go up the M3.
Basingstoke Station has just had a refurb and now there’s lots of glass and automatic ticket machines, but the old still ‘shines’ through. There’s a sangfroid glamour about Basingstoke – once the promised land for the London crowded middle classes, now an urban shrine to concrete.
These platforms are packed at 7am with every man and his dog (literally his dog..) heading up to London, a 40 minute train trip away. As long as there isn’t ‘the wrong kind of snow’ on the tracks.
Has much changed since Basingstoke was born as a new town? The advertising hoardings maybe.
I have to catch two trains to get to Brighton. First, the South Western, and then the day-glo wonder that is Southern trains. How would you like to be greeted by that colour scheme first thing in the morning?
Life rushes past behind glass. I try to make out the individual trees and leaves, but I can’t, it’s too quick. It’s a lesson in perspective perhaps. There’s no point squinting, or stressing over the details. Sometimes, you just have to let life wash over you.
Time waits for no woman.
Before too long we’re there. We pull into Brighton’s elegant platform halls – a huge airy dome covered space, that looks like an umbrella with it’s spokes revealed.
And then it’s off to lunch. At Brown’s with the smartly dressed set. One woman stopped to ask if we were Kiwis, and chatted happily about her expat life in Brisbane and around the world. Was there a faint regret in her voice as she recounted her life Down Under?
I had minute steak and frites. It was the best steak I’ve eaten in four years living in England. It only looked like steak it tasted like velvet.
We chatted and reminisced like the old friends we are, and for a moment there it was a beautiful collision of worlds – my past, my present, and a hint of my future. Our new friend, Annabelle, was uncharacteristically friendly. She told us to follow our hearts and remain grounded at all times. It was Brighton after all. But she is right. I took the words and planted them deep inside me.
Her friend looked on unimpressed.
And then it was home to the Brighton Marina where we drank wine and talked, looking out over the boats clinking in the rough seas. Every now and again I could see the foam from a massive wave crash over the top of the sea wall. Behind it lay the angry waters of the English Channel. Another metaphor for life.
Inside, we talked and felt close and comforted, and we revelled in our ‘safe harbour’.
Home is where you feel safe. Don’t you agree?
NB/ I travelled to Brighton on my own ticket, and all opinions above are my own. Especially the one about the steak. Train travel from Basingstoke to Brighton cost £42.