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JUST OVER THE HORIZON


Having retreated to my hotel room from the latest rain squal, I stand at the big bay window and look across the promenade and wide cobble beach of Brighton, West Sussex and think about the historic events this site has witnessed. This mile long line of great Edwardian and Regency hotels has been viewed by a German U-Boat captain through his periscope.

It was right out there that the Spanish Armada was defeated by Sir Francis Drake and the weather. That’s were the boats evacuated the wounded and fleeing from Dunkirk, Caesar’s legions and William the Conqueror invaded and the D-Day forces returned the favor.

France is so close you can almost smell it and many people have swum to or from  it. Aviation records have been set here and bottles with messages have been launched. It is this body of water that protected Britain from Nazi railroad invasion.

Along this promenade, fine gentlemen in tails and top hats have escorted their silk-swathed  ladies, raced horses and built mansions as retreats from London. Just up the coast great chalk cliffs rear up out of the turf on one side and the crashing waves on the other. They are part of a vast deposit that starts in the Midlands, runs southeast through here and Dover and extends under the best wine country of France helping to make it what it is.

It was here that Victoria’s crystal palace was built to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and the Royal Pavilion still stands–a fantasy thousand-and-one-nights pile with dozens of onion domes and Turkish arches. The Brighton Pier, Ferris wheel and merry-go-round light up every night and salsa dance lessons are held on the lighted band stand out in the water.

Today the promenade is peopled with vast numbers of young Polish and Ukrainian couples pushing baby buggies. They go to the English language schools on The West Road, serve in every restaurant and shop and are far better looking and certainly slimmer that their British counterparts. They probably don’t start every day with that ghastly “full English breakfast” that must be slowly clogging arteries and killing the natives.