Staying in a Sussex coastal village ahead of a saltwater feature last Friday.
Demure and immaculate, the place reeked of money, yet what began as a wistful admiration of every ‘ideal homes’ cliché you can think of – flower-framed doorways, gravel drives, voluminous lounges with timbered ceilings – gradually decayed into mild revulsion as I wandered the streets as night fell, in a fruitless search for somewhere to eat. Or indeed any kind of retail premises whatsoever.
The streets were deserted, the roads only occasionally inconvenienced with a passing car and I discovered that you can only see so many ‘private road’ and ‘no access’ signs before you start to feel thoroughly unwelcome.
As unlikely as it seemed when I first arrived, the longer I walked through the gathering gloom, the more I began to miss my own town, 150 miles away geographically and light years economically. The town whose own balmy evenings play out to the accompaniment of distant sirens, raucous laughter from the street and neighbours unloading a week’s worth of frustration on each other’s chin. Each occurrence individually deplorable but a collective reminder that I live somewhere that at least has a pulse. Could it be that wealth has its own austerity, deconstructing communities into a gathering of aloof households?
It was just one night , of course. For all I know, that sleepy Sussex corner has summer fetes to die for and the wildest Halloween hoedowns in the south. On the evidence of last Thursday night, though, it’s two drunks and a kebab shop away from being my kind of town.
Pic of the Day – in Britain, we’d have just pebble-dashed it.