Summer is an unpleasant, burning, blinding, sticky season, but redeemed by being full of girls in sundresses.
This morning I loaded up a reasonable amount of clothes and an unspeakable amount of electronics into backpack and shoulder bag, and set off in bright summer sun towards the station. The tide was going out as I walked up the Avon, so what at Hotwells was a near-full and swiftly flowing river was by the time I hit Temple Meads a mud-rimmed trickle. Along the way, in between being bracketed by cyclists and honked at by various forms of waterfowl that just couldn’t let, I noticed a weirdly familiar piece of paper. It was a card for some coffee shop, identical to the business cards Tom got made to advertise his prop blog (now defunct, as he has a new one here which I must help him fill soon.) Interesting coincidence, as it was Tom who I was going to the station to visit.
All the usual potential catastrophes I associate with rail transit (malfunctioning ticket machines, misdated tickets, missed connection, train crash, meteor storm) failed to come about. Apart from some slight uncertainty about which station to change at (Cosham, Fratton or Fareham – as it turned out all would have been fine, but malfunctioning texts and helpful but uncertain conductors added to the worries.) My booked place was a forward-facing table seat on the shady side, and the rest of the train was busy but not packed. On a hot, not-well-air-conditioned train it was easy to fall asleep, and when I woke up from a confused, sticky slumber involving Ching slings and TF2 Scouts climbing drainpipes on pl_badwater, I noticed that the two blokes sitting at the same table as me were engaging in an incredibly interesting conversation; words of policy flew about, important-looking paperwork scattered their part of the table and the slightly less handsome one was twiddling with some expensive looking audio equipment. They seemed a bit classy to be journalists and a bit earnest to be politicians. At the end of their journey, when they weren’t talking whatever shop they were part of, they started chatting about The Wire and Mad Men (glee!). They got off at Southampton, and I asked the gorgeous coffee-coloured girl with an odd foreign accent sitting across me (yes, it sounds like she’s about to become my spunky sidekick in a cheap thriller novel, sod off, these people actually exist) who they were. She said the slightly more handsome one was the presenter of Dragons’ Den, and sure enough when I got to a functioning computer the internet confirmed I’d been sharing my table with the reasonably distinguished Evan Davis. Cool!
Then to Goring-by-Sea (which I reflexively pronounce “Göring” for whatever creepy war studies related reason). Tom met me at the station, looking beardier than ever, and we went to his new house and florped; had tea and bread and butter, played with his in-progress Dog (see prop blog link above) and watched a couple of eps of The Wire, which I am far behind on.
Then, in nominal exchange for one of the Blackberries he had rescued from a skip and restored to functionality, I said I would buy him fish and chips. So beneath a rather greyer smile we strolled to the seafront, in search of a chippie, and then… along the seafront, still in search. It was, anyway, a lovely walk (A pretty girl said hello to us, quite out of the blue. I was so taken aback I just mumbled hello and kept walking.) But the seafront was one disappointment after another. When the pier at Worthing hove into view along the beach Tom joked that we might end up there; this was the part of seafront which we’d walked to last year when Tom lived in Worthing proper, two train stations and an easy five kilometres east of his current abode in Goring.
Yeah, that’s where we ended up; it was, in fact, the exact same fish and chip shop we’d eaten at last time.
But what the hell, eh? They didn’t have any haddock but this was a minor trouble. The two large cod and chips the friendly proprietor gave us were very large, and we wandered onto the pier to, now justifiably famished, eat them. They were truly delicious. We sat back on the planks, decided with the gathering dark clouds that a train back would be prudent, and generally thought “this is the life.”
Then, full of supper, proposing buying a cuppa at the chip shop, we tried to get off the pier and found somebody had locked the fucking gates behind us.
Tried climbing over (Tom is nimble as a nimble thing but I have zero upper body strength), searched the pier’s closed establishments for human contact, called the Worthing council number on some of the posters, eventually just gave up and called 999. Got a friendly, professional-sounding copper of Sussex Police, and my name, my address and a number of worryingly long pauses later, he told me someone was coming to save us. This was another glowingly good encounter with the police, adding to the long list of good things I have to say with them (though you should hear about this one time I tried to pick up a computer…)
We waited, and waited. A gaggle of tourist kids looked at us in suspicious fear, a couple of girls showed up at the fence and didn’t quite believe we’d been locked in, a number of older strollers just gave us looks of disgust and passed right on by. Eventually a rather too cheerful chubby handyman bloke with a key arrived, opened it up for us, and we were free.
But the fish and chip shop was closed now, so there was no tea, and as we wandered back to the station the rain began, gentle but gathering.