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Image: A locals view
Shoreham Beach stories
By Andy Ramus
Living on Shoreham Beach as a child, you kinda felt like you owned the world sometimes, stood on the beach where all that changed was the position of the shingle, sometimes banked right up so high that it near buried the old wooden breakwaters, and then other days the sea would pull the shingle back so far as to expose, what then as a child, seemed like mighty tree turrets, or Queens Guards all neatly lined up. The tops of these breakwaters all crisp clean and square, with their horizontal binders that had big fat rusty bolts and square washers staining the timber below, keeping them clamped smartly together and providing us with a walkway to navigate along. Below these binders, the uprights were thinned out and rounded off by the ceaseless activity of the sea and shingle, sometimes gently caressing, sometimes thunderously pounding, but always the story of time could be seen most clearly at the bottom of these solid sentries. We knew as the shapes became more greatly accentuated and the hour glass figure showed, that the end would be coming for the battle weary posts and soon the Sea Defence workers would arrive with their gargantuan machinery to extract the withered sentries, like a dentist pulling teeth.
Everything seemed so huge back then, with their long Whirligig boring tool, a giant corkscrew of a thing, massive caterpillar tracked vehicles which used to put me in mind of metal dinosaurs, all clanking and squeaking their way around, our own beach ballet, and with the lead part going to the Pile Driver which shook the earth with every pound as it battered in the new posts.
The breakwaters had two directions, one at the top of the beach parallel with the coast line, theyre the sentries, and the other directed like an arrow down into the sea, made into a solid wall by continuous planks bolted to the uprights, stopping a foot short of the 12 inch by 12 inch posts tops and giving the effect of a medieval castle wall, also making quite a handy windbreak all year round. Diving platforms at high tides, cricket wickets at low Springs, fortresses, hide and seek, obstacle courses, and cool shelters for fires and music under the stars in later years. I can stand at the top of the beach and go into memory freefall down the years, from a tiny tot happily bouncing around on the sand, wondering why all of a sudden itd gone dark after a small sail boat had been picked up in a mini whirlwind and dumped on top of me, no harm done; through to turning over in a rubber ring before I could swim, and getting promptly fished out by dear old Da after they noticed my little legs pointing up out of the sea and kicking around, tears that time but otherwise undamaged. Endless summertime beach picnics, spending virtually the entire day playing, swimming, and eating on the beach, I remember we used to be a popular place for the rels to visit too, which was great. What a life it was, and free of charge.
During winter, Bonfire Night was the biggest beach occasion. All the local kids had their own bonfire, our family (there were five of us) always teamed up with the Severs family from around the corner, and there were seven of them, so between us we usually built the biggest bonfire around, right bang at the top of Mardyke, the north- south road that leads up to the beach, prime spot, really was, and slap bang centre between the beach huts to the East, and the Church of the Good Shepherd to the West. And we were really proud and proper, we thought, about how we built them, a decent Wigwam shape, no ugly lumps. People used to think they could use our fires to unload their unwanted burnables, which we didnt mind too much, cos we wanted ours to be the biggest, but theyd just chuck it on willy nilly, ignoring the aesthetics, and wed come home from school, straight indoors, change, have Tea , and shoot up the beach to re shape the fire to our exacting standards. We even had camps built inside, so that we could guard the fire at night. Wed start building weeks before the actual night, Bonfire Night was just the culmination of a six week adventure for us, of building, burning, letting off fireworks, and other excitable kids stuff.
We had to guard our fires, because it wasnt unheard of for us to torch a rival fire that looked like it might be about to eclipse our own efforts. One time we took a raiding party down to a fire West of the church, armed with paraffin, paper, and lighters, to torch a foreign effort. It was massive, swollen by a consignment of wooden packing crates that a local firm had been liberally dumping on the beach for just such use. Unfortunately for the owners and builders of this fire, they got the vast majority of the crates while we were at school, and before the rest of us even knew they were there, so in one fell swoop they went from being virtual non runners to biggest fire on the beach by a mile, and thus catching our undivided attention. On this particular occasion, a combined effort by allied forces raised to the ground possibly one of the biggest bonfires ever seen on Shoreham Beach, two weeks before the actual Night. So successful were our efforts in this matter, and so big the fire, that the fire brigade was called, in fear of damage to local property, their bonfire being much closer to the houses opposite along that stretch of the beach. And who was there to assist them?, yep, to a man, our torch committee, offering to carry buckets if needed.
Although there were normally six or eight fires going up each year, with different families kids responsible for each one, we were all mostly mates and the rivalry was a friendly one. There was a suspicion however that the big one which had sprouted overnight just past the church was being put up by grown ups, certainly none of us knew the kids along there, so when this monster appeared it couldnt go unnoticed by any of us. Not much wood collecting went on that night, as we mulled around our fire, still the best looking if no longer, (for the moment at least), the biggest. About ten of us discussed what to do about the situation, or not so much what, as how, and when. Chris and Russ, the cousins, from Woodards View and Beach Green, had the fire next to ours, with the brothers Dave and Tim, from Ormonde Way by the river bank, they had access to the paraffin. Matches and paper were no problem, we had small fires most nights of the week during bonfire season, so just wait til dark, and wed swing into action.
Not exactly SAS stuff, we just walked down the beach from our fire, which as I said, was at the top of Mardyke, and drop down out of sight from the upstairs windows of the Kings Walk houses, which overlooked the beach. Noticeable only by the crunching sound of our feet through the shingle, like someone noisily chewing cornflakes, until wed negotiated our way through the sentry breakwaters, and descended towards the sand, where upon, we could turn and quietly make our way along, hopping over the breakwater walls, not talking as we went, but being very serious about the whole thing. During the summer, when all our families spent vast amounts of time at the beach, wed have our own section we each used, according usually to ease of passage. And with the breakwater walls dividing it up into allotments, groups of families had their own distinguishable stretch which they frequented; often wed eye the Day Trippers with annoyance as they intruded on our beach when real warm weather attracted increasing numbers. Anyway, we all knew which stretch of beach was whos, so on this night of skulduggery, it felt a bit like jumping through peoples back gardens, but instead of fences, brick walls, or bushes, all we had to contend with, was the green slimy seaweed which clung to those parts of the breakwaters most regularly submerged by the ever rising and retreating tides, slippery stuff, so a sure footing was required whilst hurdling nimbly over.
As we came alongside the beach opposite the church, we could safely ascend, under cover of the fishing boats there, and their boathouse. Also there were the concrete steps leading up, remnants of the Second World War I think. All we had to do now was creep up from behind our victims bonfire, douse it with the paraffin, then light it, easy youd think, but that nearly went wrong. It was being stubborn and wouldnt light, so Tim chucked the whole plastic cans contents on, and at the same time that the fire took hold, the can was still in Tims hand as the flames came licking towards him, and panic set in, he chucked the can while recoiling away from the pursuing danger, then we all very noisily turned tail, and belted for it, sounding like a herd of elephants marauding through a crisp factory until, under the security of distance, dark, and the sure footing of sand under foot, we could stop and admire our handiwork lighting up the night sky with its flames spitting bright tongues of fire heaven bound, and giving a fine orange glow to the neighbouring fishing boats.
Another year, someone elses raiding party lit our fire, not realising our eldest brother, David, was in the camp inside it, he got out ok, and saved most of the fire by pulling it down, but it couldve been nasty. I think that was the year when some barge ran into Brightons West Pier, and half demolished it, sending loads of lovely debris along the coast to fuel our, by now, whopping great fires.
Death of a pier, Birth of a Bonfire
Shoreham beach was swarming with frenzied little boys running up and down the shoreline, first claiming what lengths had already been discarded by the tide, and then running right in to the sea, just to be sure of salvage rites, hands on rules, and with no bullies in our ranks, it worked, the bigger boys didnt seem so keen to get their trousers wet. I remember how happy I was that day, as we all ran around with huge beaming smiles on our faces, and how immensely proud we felt as we stood back at the end of an industrious day, and viewed with buoyant satisfaction, our marvellous creation, made all the better by the great lengths of ex West Pier timbers, some as long as four metres/ twelve feet, (we were the children of the metric/imperial changeover). In those days of train strikes, power cuts, and minor food rationing, our pleasures were derived from simple things, and never at any cost but effort, though gladly done.
The Piers demise brought us an unexpected problem though; the timber from the Pier was all hardwood, either Teak or Mahogany, maybe both. Soon enough we had OAP vultures hovering around our creations, telling us it was too good to burn, and a crime to waste such timber, they even tried bribing us, but we werent having any of it. If there hadnt been so many of us, I think theyd have taken it anyway, we caught one big fat old boy, always wore a flat cap and only ever spoke to tell us off for one thing or another, trying to nick a piece one night as we were returning from one of our regular forays along the beach, that was one of the great things about it, with every change of tide came a potential bounty of material for our fire. Anyway, as I say, vigilance always played a major part in our operations, wed gone to some considerable length to make our prized bonfire the most impressive on the beach, so we werent giving any of it away, and we certainly werent allowing some mean, fat, old grown up try and nick any of it.
Whenever I pass the decaying remains of Brightons West Pier these days, Im eternally reminded of times long since past, and how perhaps, we were the first to see that famous Piers proper and fitting send off.
The Sea Defence incident
One year, the Sea Defence people got wind of the fact that wed nicked a breakwater post from their yard which was conveniently situated off Kings Walk, and a piece of cake for us kids to get in and out of, we used to play in there all year round as it was. They must have known that we had all of their loose timber around on our fires, cos if we hadnt, the place wouldve looked a mess, and it didnt, tidiest Sea Defence yard on the South coast come November 5th, but they had to draw the line somewhere, and we crossed it by using a 12 by 12 beast for our bonfire centre post, and that stuff aint cheap I suppose, so they got their big crane out and hooked it back out as we watched helplessly while our lovely wigwam shape crumpled and turned into a dumpling. Not put off though, and with renewed gusto, we set about rebuilding, with half a mind on revenge, they were only around during working hours, and we were night scavengers. Come the big night that year, they put a police guard at the entrance to the Sea Defence yard to stop any last minute pilfering, but that was no problem as our mate Daves garden backed on to the yard, so we could hop in and out undetected, right up to the last moments, and march triumphantly up Mardyke with our booty for the fire, it actually made it much more amusing thinking wed had the last laugh.
What a night it always was, Kings Walk residents often had barbecues in their front gardens, while they viewed the bonfires going up, and people came from far and wide to see it all. Shoreham Beach, between the Good Shepherd Church and the Beach Green recreation ground would be packed with thousands of spectators admiring the results of, almost solely, childrens enterprise.
Although were a row back from the sea front, wed still have a lot of people around for Jacket spuds, Flapjacks, Sausages, and all sorts of other tasty stuff. The Jackets were fantastic, nice and crusty, with a steaming and soft interior, which piped like a steam locomotive with the first incision of the knife, then wed saturate the insides with margarine, turning it into mush, and scoff it down, saving the skin til last, for a mouth watering drool -fest of a savoury chomp. Oh, and the Flapjacks!, Ma made the best Flapjacks in the world, cooked that day, and still a mite warm while sticky in our little paws, a tacky revelation which produced a taste sensation. Whenever a tray came out of our oven with Flapjacks, there was always a multitude of eager waifs trying desperately to look as if their mortal continuity depended on their paws getting clamped around the concoction of rolled oats, sugar, golden syrup, salt, margarine, and lemon juice. November 5th was the busiest night of the year for our kitchen, with a seemingly endless flow of cooked comestibles emerging from our Tricity cooker, and Ma had assistance from various other Mums visiting, so the place was a cacophony of different sounds, smells, and reverberations, voices raised continually higher, to be heard above the combination of firework explosions, and noisy children running amok. Cooking smells combining with the residual aroma of the burnt out Catherine Wheels, Rockets, Roman Candles, Volcanoes, Bangers, Air bombs, and plenty more. Then there was the smoke which filled the air, inside and out, but not of the suffocating or stifling variety, with the back door open to provide a source of ventilation for the kitchen, and the sharp crispness of a cold November evening, you could lean your head back for a healthy intake of breath keenly through your nostrils, and say, mmm, its Bonfire Night and I love it!
One year the fat from the grill pan caught alight, and as if it were part of the proceedings it was calmly dealt with by Ma, giving it the damp cloth procedure before removing it out of the door and safely on to the driveway. One minute the cooker was engulfed in flames, and the next its business as usual, without so much as a mention. I think a nuclear explosion couldve gone off then, and wed have thought it was a new firework amongst the organised chaos of the night.
These days, some know nothing intefering Busy bodies have decided that bonfires along the beach are too dangerous to allow, so one more tradition is condemned to memory.
Things are different on the beach now, the level at the top has been raised by some ten feet at least, and the breakwaters on our stretch have gone, removed and replaced by piers of Norwegian granite rocks, which I have to say, have their own aesthetic value. If I were a child now, I think my imagination would invent plenty of playful purposes around or amongst them. For now, Im quite content to sit a little up from the high tide line, and just watch as the sea breaks and washes over them, turning the brown sandy water white, then squint my eyes in the glow of the Sun glistening off the irregular shaped rocks. Between the piers, its much the same as always, with the water turning to white foam, and making the dry stones dark after immersion, thatll never change, at least only in the manner of the waves and sea swell. Walking down to the waters edge, I always feel its a bit like being in an orchestra pit while some Wagnerian opera booms out all around you, and the sea fresh ozone clearing your nasal tubes, it makes you wish you could throw open your arms and become part of it all. Maybe when I die Ill have my ashes spread at sea, and in death achieve a life long dream. Im digressing again, anyway, yeah- changing, well the beach is much higher now as you step on up from the road, all part of a programme devised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Farms (since changed their name after the Foot and Mouth fiasco), to reduce the risk from allegedly higher tides. It all puts me in mind of The Planet of the Apes film, when Charlton Heston comes across the ¾ buried Statue of Liberty, as I look along the beach and recall where all the different breakwaters were, and how, if they were still here now, Id probably be sitting in The Boat, one of our favourite parts of the breakwaters as children, pointing southwards (obviously) from the Sentries at the top end of one of the breakwater walls, was this V shaped section which wed played in a thousand times, as Horatio Nelson, Blue Beard, Captain Blood, or many times stood inside it, defying the encroaching sea as it claimed the ground around us. Now its all gone, the space occupied, and covered by mountains of imported shingle from further along the coast. Along past the church, where all those years ago, a few young scoundrels undertook that mischievous deed, the boat house is still there, with a few clinker fishing boats left, it doesnt look as big as Id remembered, but then what does, being a child, you always feel like youre living in the land of the giants. All around, the shingle is banked high, and in time I suppose it will claim the boat house too, I cant help but wonder what it will all look like in another thirty years time. Even now, as I look eastwards from our rocky pier, I can see past the West Harbour Arm, which forms the entrance to the port of Shoreham, there beyond it stands the shiny metallic chimney of the new gas turbine power station, where once stood the two mighty, cream coloured, brick built chimneys of the old, coal powered, predecessor.
You know, these rocks have a craggy inelegant beauty about them, I think I like them. With the arrival of the full moon, bringing the Spring tides and their extreme highs and lows, you can still see the tops of some, not quite buried, breakwater posts at the bottom of the ebb, old and new together for a while longer.
Image: Shoreham Beach Sunset in November
Absent Elk acoustic living room session, click n check it out
click here to hear the Elks live on radio 2 with Dermot O Leary
Follow this link to get the tunes of one of Shorehams best bands :- 'Absentelk'
Image: Soon to be famous Shoreham band- Absent Elk
Image: Carlo Sandblow cover art
click here 4 Carlo Sandblow:- another fantastic Shoreham band
Local musician Lee Nicklen is part of this excellent music collaboration, 'Baby Charles', as heard on Radio 2 with Mark Lamarr, live from Maida Vale studios. Click here to check them out.
Image: This is Baby Charles, check them out!
Image: Shoreham beach 8a.m in May
Image: Our disappearing breakwaters
‘71-’72 First Kiss
As a typically shy child of 9 or 10, the mini bus, which occasionally took us from Shoreham Beach to St Peters RC school, could be a daunting affair, mothers would ask me if I’d like to sit next to their daughters, and I’d politely decline while going crimson with embarrassment. Attention of just about any sort would then bring on intensely irrational responses, over which I seemed to have no control, and absolutely no idea of what I was about to say or do, but whatever the reaction was, and it would nearly always be a bad one, it would (as it seemed then) just heap further embarrassment and humiliation upon me. Well, knowing this, I had a surprise in store, when one year, I think I may have been ten, certainly still at infant school, and during another of the many fine summers we used to have, a girl, who’s name has long since been lost to my memory, came to stay with her family for a holiday at our next door neighbours house, Mrs Whitehead, who, throughout the summers, let her upstairs as a holiday apartment to various families. We’d always be on the lookout to see who the ‘new’ lot would be, for any potential playmates. And, as I say, this girl turned up one year; we hit it off straight away and spent all our time out on walks around the riverbank, the beach, and the airport together. This one time, we headed from the beach and off towards the river Adur, which kind of sweeps along parallel with the coast line, before making its way North through the Adur valley as it carves its way through the Sussex Downs.
Shoreham Beach is a peninsular between the river and the sea, and when you step off this peninsular, as a child, you’re entering a whole new playground of farmland, playing fields, a railway bridge and embankment, beyond which lays Shoreham airport and the Downs. Shoreham airport was always an immensely popular place when we were young, flanked on two sides by the railway embankment and riverbank with their grassy sidings, and the Gothic Cathedral like Lancing College as a backdrop, with its surrounding woodland set in to the Downs, (always a popular conker picking place). Small planes and helicopters always buzzing or whirring around, and giving a general air of excitement to a child. Standing under the railway bridge as the trains went over, holding our ears to muffle the rattle and roar, especially so when the bucket carriages of the cement works came through, pulled by dirty great diesel locomotives, their sound amplifying tenfold as they left the Terra Firma and hit the bridge!. Even at the height of summer it would be cool under the bridge, that was the first thing that struck you, the sudden temperature drop of an almost ghostly chill.
Amidst the many aircraft hangars, with their dismembered flying machines in varying states of repair or assembly, stood the main airport building, with its rounded off corners in the Art Deco style, and cream in colour, topped off like a wedding cake by the black framed, crittle windowed conning tower for the Air Traffic Control. We were fresh air children with the freedom of the country in all its chaotic natural shapes, intertwined with some of Mans more interesting structures, and an innocence of imagination to explore with. So there we were, hand in hand on a gorgeous sunny day, happily walking along having passed under the railway bridge and on to the riverbank pathway, stopping, as all the us kids used to, to check out the gun emplacement Pill boxes left over from the war to protect the airport, now cloaked with blackberry bushes and weeds, but still accessible.
All around, the summer scent of new growth and birds twittering, chirping, and tweeting continually though sweetly, as nature itself embraces the Sun at its life giving best. Dropping down the concrete steps and into the Pill box, as we stepped inside she wrapped her arms around me and planted a smacker straight on my lips, this little ten year old was in no way prepared for that, and none too sure what to do next either, except try it again, this was something new, and I knew I definitely liked it. Well that was it, we left the pill box and walked along the riverbank, stopping about every ten yards it seemed, to dive into the long grass of the embankment for another passionate embrace of snogging. I was an intoxicatedly happy little boy, walking on air as we ambled home without a care, sporting contented smiles. Unfortunately however, everything in the life of a child’s mind, is fragile and fleeting, we began talking about our recent frolics. Passing back under the railway bridge from warmth to cool and out into the warmth again, we said how much we’d enjoyed it and must do it more, then she started calling me ‘Sexy Lips‘, and repeating it over and over, which for some ‘ten year old’s’ reason, gave me the mild hump, so in fine ten year old’s fashion, I responded with “shut up you silly cow”, which didn’t really have the effect I’d hoped for at all, in fact she just beamed back joyfully, “when I go home Sexy Lips, I’m going to write to you all the time Sexy Lips”, “well I wont read them, I’ll throw them away”, “I Will write, Sexy Lips”, pausing, to give me the, ‘I will get my way’, look, “and I shall come back to visit again Sexy Lips, and kiss, lots and lots and lots”, bless her. She was irritating the hell out of me now, “no you wont you silly cow, ‘cos I wont see you!”. all the previous joy had drained out of me, while she seemed to be having the time of her life, revelling in my discomfort.
As we crossed over the Adur recreation ground on our way back to Shoreham Beach, things were about to get very much worse for this socially challenged ten year old boy. “I am going to write to you Sexy Lips, and I am going to see you Sexy Lips, and kiss you lots more, Sexy Lips, Sexy Lips, Sexy Lips”, just how much worse, I thought, could it get?! Then as we crossed the main road, to the grass embankment which descends onto Shoreham Beach, my worst nightmare came into view, in the shape of big brother and his mates. All of a sudden I had to change my tack, and sweet talk this pre teen siren into complying with my strongest desire that she NOT be seen walking with me. An elder brothers mental persecution is bad enough any time in the formative years, without allowing further ammunition in to his arsenal. And so it was, that she walked up one side of Mardyke, and I the other, doing my best to look as if I had nothing to do with her. I can’t recall any interaction with my brother, such was my concentration, but I passed them unscathed, turned the corner into our road, went indoors without looking back, and never saw her again, callous little swine that I was.
It would be five more years before I kissed another girl, and then only in a party game. Alcohol eventually came to my rescue, to an extent, in the shape of Dutch courage, but that too can be a poisoned chalice, as I would soon enough find out. When the Summer comes these days, and I can smell the long grass in the heat, I remember with blissful joy, how a little girl woke a little boy up for a moment, before his shyness put him back to sleep again, and he re-enlisted as a fully paid up member of the ’girl hating’ little boys club, or not so much hating as afraid of.
Image: New year 1987, Herald headlines!!
When the Clock came down
New Years eve in Shoreham-By-Sea, you may well think, yeah, yeah, New Year anywhere, di da, di da, di da, but not so. Shorehams not a big town, but its not small either. I mean, take the High Street, from the Footbridge at one end, to the Norfolk Bridge at the other, is about 2 or 3 hundred yards between, with eight pubs, and then about another dozen or so more within a five minute walk, but basically the High St always was, and still is, the drinking centre of Shoreham, and the Bridge pub at the end of the High St, next to the Norfolk Bridge, is one of the bigger of the main drag boozers. Its a decent sized pub with rooms to let upstairs, so its laughingly called the Bridge Hotel, but the only time its ever been full was when the old arched blue iron Norfolk Bridge was being knocked down, and the new featureless one being built in its place, so for 18 months, Shepherds civil engineers and labour force stayed there and reinforced its right to be called an hotel. Outside the Bridge Hotel, separating the Bridge from the High St, is the three way roundabout, the other way being north, up to north Shoreham, and on towards the old Cement Works, Beeding, Bramber, and Steyning.
The roundabout itself was just a large flowerbed encircled by a pavement, and with an antiquated sign post, which used to have a big (by Shorehams standards) three sided clock at the top of it, each face meeting one part of the tri directional traffic. In each of the spaces between the off shooting roads, was a pub, to the South, the Bridge, to the West, the Kings Head, and to the North, the real ale serving wine bar (now the Lazy Toad) which seemed to change name and owners every six months. Clearly you should be able to see how this area became the focal point come New Years eve.
Well, New Years eve of 1986/7, wed ventured off mob handed from the Bridge, on the ritual pub crawl, mostly pool team players and girlfriends. The pool teams at the Bridge were its defining reason for us to be there, or at least, the reason usually put forward for the trip to the pub in the first place, Thursday nights for matches, and every other night for practice. The mix of personalities was a strange one too, Pscho-Billies, Mods, drips, squares, Heavy Metal heads, and a few unquantifiables, me included.
I think that was the year when we commandeered a Double Decker bus up by the railway station, to take us from the Buckingham pub, along to the Morning Star, a good twenty or thirty of us just jumped on board and pointed the way, the driver didnt seem to mind though, and happily drove us the two hundred yards to our next port of call, no charge. The rest of the night, like so many New Years eves past, is not overly clear, until that is, the coming of That hour. The race to the top of the clock is a time honoured event all over the country, the year before, Id made it up there first, and this particular year I was keen to uphold my position. It seemed like the whole of Shoreham was out on the streets ready to cheer in the next year, and those of us who had taken it into our heads that we were going to climb the clock, were just waiting to get going. I couldnt say what sort of a start anyone got, but I can tell you that after a mad scramble up and over the signposts, fifteen or so feet high I guess, with hazy memories of the other faces in the race, Stuart Bareham the only face I knew, I gained the top of the three sided clock first, with one arm clutching the far side of the beast, I tried to pull the rest of myself up and on to the top and claim my spot. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a wobble on the clock as I tried to pull myself up, undeterred by this, in my drunken keenness I tried again and hauled myself on to it for what turned out to be a very short lived triumph, because as I came up, it came down. The falling I dont remember at all, or at least nothing clear. I came to, laying on the flowerbed at the base, with a long coat spread over me, and looking up at the many faces peering back down at me, Alfies was the first one I recall seeing, our pool Master, grinning at me. As I stood up and looked around, with people asking if I was alright, I was surprised to see an ambulance parked up outside the Bridge, then a policeman came out from the throng of merrymakers and asked me if I was going to get in it, no mate, I was thinking of having another beer actually, but the copper basically put it to me that I could either get in the ambulance, or come and answer a few questions down at the station, you know, come to think of it, maybe they should take a look at my back after all, I quickly replied. This was a real pain, because we had a party arranged at our place that night, so how the hell could I get back again in any hurry from Worthing casualty on New Years eve, I couldnt risk any more incidents with the Old Bill that year, so the ambulance was the only option. Well, as I stepped into the back of the ambo, I was greeted by a blood strewn mess of a face looking sorry for himself, Jesus mate, what the fuck happened to you?, you happened to me! came the startling reply, apparently Id slammed into him on my way down, but while Id had a reasonable landing on the flowerbed, hed gone on to smash his face into half the signposts during his descent to the floor, he was the eldest of the Davison brothers, and his old man was a copper too, talk about picking them!
Later that week I got a phone call from Frank Horsley, or 'Scoop' as we called him, the main Herald reporter, asking me if he could name me in the paper. "No mate!" was the swift reply, I'd already read in the Argus how councillors were estimating the repair costs at a few grand, the last thing I needed was them sending me the bill for it. So my anonimity was assured for the time being, other than the hordes of merry makers that were there that night and witnessed it first hand of course. No mobile phones in those days to capture the moment for posterity, which is a shame, I'm sure it would have made a popular view on youtube!!
That night marked the end of another little after hours custom of ours too, Saturday nights were Brighton nights, fleets of taxis outside the Bridge to cart us off into town, and one particular night, on our return back to Shoreham High St, we spotted a traffic bollard had been knocked off its island, so between us, we managed to scale the Clock and sit the bollard on top of it, with the white on blue arrow pointing down to the road. That made its way into the following weeks Shoreham Herald, with a front page picture I think, well that was that, for weeks after, wed come back from Brighton after our Saturday night out, a dustbin one week, a traffic cone the next, all found there way to the top of the clock and into the Shoreham Herald. The blissful joys of drunken revelry.
Image: Bin on the clock, circa 1982/3
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