Saturday afternoon – beer, poetry and music.

Got an e-mail from Harvey’s Brewery telling me I could have a pint of Kiss (their February special ale) for half price if I went to the Nelson with my Reward Card.  Who could resist? Certainly not me, even though it was cold and raining.  The open fire helped dry me out outside as the Kiss wetted me inside – perfect harmony.  Drier and warmer I sat down to re-read a slim volume of poems bought recently: ‘Do Horses Fly?’ by Brighton guy Brendan Cleary.  Only a handful of poems all based around the life of Eadweard Muybridge, the guy who built kit to take a sequence of fast photos of a galloping horse, ultimately proving horses do fly, sort of.


Then it was down to the Great Eastern to get Brendan to sign the book.  Every Saturday Brendan ‘spins the discs’ all afternoon in the Great Eastern.  No discs involved any more, but his playlists are generally good for an old man like me – this day it was early Dylan, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Eric Burdon’s Animals.

Stayed around longer than planned because of the good music, several interesting conversations and excellent Franklin’s ‘What Mama Don’t Know’ bitter.  The change of management has not spoilt the place.  Saw a beer I could not resist, just because it came all the way from Hawaii – where my brother’s grandchildren live.

Kona Brewing

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January 2020 bits and pieces

Started with a six mile walk on the 1st – down to the seafront and west to where Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour is having a new home built on the site of a derelict Turkish Bath.  More importantly, from my point of view, just 50 yards from the excellent Neptune public house.

They have a notice behind the bar which reads:

“You can retake an exam but you can’t relive a Party!!”

They had Harvey’s Christmas Ale (7%) on as a special at £4 a pint, so I had one.  Moved on to the ‘Spoons in George Street, Hove where I found Kissingate’s Plum Porter (4.7%), for just £1.75p a pint with one of my 50p-off ‘Spoons CAMRA vouchers.  met a friend and stayed for a couple more – but lighter, hoppier beers, before walking back home.

On the 11th we went to Bombane’s for dinner – the last dinner of the 70 meals out between Jackie’s 70th birthday last year and my 70th on the 12th.  Everyone should have some kind of aspirational target.  Jane and her waitress sang Happy Birthday for us, and the other customers (an anaesthetist and his partner from Guildford) joined in, and took the photo of us, so we took them to the Pump House for a beer and more chat after.

JJ & RS Bombanes Jan 2020

Spot the fruit waffle and ice cream birthday cake, complete with single candle – compliments of Jane Bombane.

On the following day I spent a few hours walking to and from Whitehawk Hill where I joined the ‘scrub bashing’ party which reopened a long overgrown path through a steep hillside of dense bramble and gorse.  I did 2 hours work and left, so I’m not in the celebratory photo below.

save downs megabash

On the 22nd I travelled to Kings Cross to meet an old pal not seen in a decade, Peter Ettridge.  Maybe it was the animated conversation after a 10 year gap, but somehow we only had 4 pints each between 1pm and 6.30pm.  Which was good because we then met up with his wife and son (Amanda and Harry) to eat and drink in a Lebanese restaurant beneath London Bridge station.  I must tackle that growing beer gut!!!!

RS, PE and Amanda London jan 2020


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Christmas Day walk

We had no plans for Christmas Day but got an invitation at last minute to join a gathering of relatives (Jackie’s of course) at a Youth Hostel on top of the South Downs north of Shoreham (about 10 miles away).  So we went.  Took some food and beer and wine early on the 25th.  Kitchen full of workers, and you know what they say about too many cooks, so I went for a walk along the crest of the Downs, searching for a Norman Motte and Bailey castle which, in the words of the Historic England website, ‘was built soon after October 1066’.


This picture is taken from the top of the Motte (castle mound) looking south to the (shrubby) valley site of the long gone village of Perching – you might spot a few linear shadows indicating changes of ground level.  Today the motte is not so high as it was and the ditch just between it and the sheep is not as deep.

I will refrain from showing you more pictures of grassy hollows and mounds – you really had to be there – except for a tumulus passed on the way back to an excellent Christmas lunch.  In case another grassy lump has lost its appeal perhaps you can enjoy the hawthorn bush driven to grow downwind – nice shape, and not grassy.


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An encounter with a dragonfly.

In August Jackie and I went to Lewes for a day out.  It was a cool day, but not cold enough to disable a big dragonfly, so perhaps it was swept up in a car’s draft, and knocked about a bit.  Anyway it was in the middle of the road – not a long-term viable location.


With a little encouragement it climbed onto my hand.  We looked for a place for it to sun itself safely, then all I had to do was to get it off my hand!  That was harder work.  Cunningly ‘sticky’ hooks on their leg ends (can’t really call them feet can I).   Didn’t want to pick it up between fingers, might do same damage a car would inflict, I have no experience of the crush strength of the dragonfly’s body.  Eventually he walked off my hand and we could go to the pub.


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Nature 2020 – a Brighton Year of

I went to the launch of Nature 2020 a few weeks ago.  The City Council, along with both local universities, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the UNESCO Living Coast Biosphere programme, plus others, aims to encourage groups across the city to celebrate and establish habitat for wildlife in 2020 to mark the end of the UN Decade of Biodiversity.  It is OK if you have never heard of that Decade, I’m not sure I had.  But its over soon, so lets do something to remember it.

I was thinking: “Twenty things in 2020″, where ‘things‘ can be, say, ponds, metres of hedgerow, trees, bird boxes, solitary bee dwellings, bat boxes, lawns managed for wildlife, square metres of meadow and much, much more.

This year I signed up with the ‘Heritage Open Door’ programme to lead a couple of local history walks around my area of Round Hill.  It may just be serendipity but next year the theme of Heritage Open Door Week (which lasts 10 days – don’t ask) will be ‘Hidden Nature’.

Surely this is a sign! Or is it just a happy coincidence?  Anyway it seems worth some consideration.

I also ‘discovered’ a nature reserve this year, just on the edge of Brighton.  It probably wasn’t lost, but it was unknown to me.  And I’ll bet there are lots of them that could be promoted and enhanced in ‘Nature 2020’ and by HOD during 11th to 20th September 2020.


The notice is from the reserve I discovered earlier this year, out to the eastern edge of Brighton.  Its only a small thin strip of land, but you can get to it with by entering points.happy.tape – don’t know what I did before What3Words.  Oh yes, grid references, or even latitude and longitude.

On another matter – house sparrows love a thick hedge.  There are 2 overgrown privets along my road and they are always chirping with sparrows.  But they don’t have to be overgrown, a formal one will work, jus add a house sparrow box or two to your home and wait.


This privet is, as you might expect, near the Waitrose supermarket in west Brighton.  Not everybody has even that much space, here are 2 other ideas from the same road.  One offering some planting, the other maybe drawing attention to a need.




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Half a day down town.

Went to buy a ticket to hear Stewart Lee in February at the Brighton Dome.  Lucky I went when I did, he is sold out on his last and 4th night and I got one of the few tickets for his third night.


In Brighton Bier the barman was delighted to hear Stewart Lee was coming to town and determined to get a ticket as soon as his shift was over.  This same guy told me he suffered from anxiety and depression and manages to control it with running.  So impressed was he with the power of running that he set up a community interest company (Positive Movement) to introduce running to others with the same issues.  After an experimental half of Brighton Bier’s ‘Cardigan Chic’ brown ale (slightly sweet but good bitterness to balance) I had a pint of their excellent ‘South Coast IPA’.

Moved on to the Evening Star where Jonathon Richman music was playing.  A good start, made better with a glass of ‘Aurora’ from Burning Sky.  The barman and I bemoaned the loss of Trafalgar Wines.  Would you believe it, the owner, Steve Foster, just decided to retire – no consultation with his customers, just up and left!  And he’d only run the place for 36 years!!  No stamina some folk.  But I did hear that the Great Eastern had re-opened so decided to pop in and see what it was like.

It had been closed for a few weeks and I feared that it might re-open as something I would not like.  No worries though, it has the same feel, just a lot cleaner and no musty smells.  The manager used to work for the small local group which had leases on 3 bars including the GE, but was refused renewal by Enterprise Inns.  Tony (for that is his name) said that EI had taken note of the protests and petitions when they took it back in-house, and had decided to keep the spirit of the place.  Two good beers, and more due on later that day said Tony, and I chose a pint of Downland’s ‘BrAmber Ale’.  Heard a curiously attractive song playing but failed to ask what it was.  Subsequent online searches have told me nothing, perhaps someone can help:

“You left Poughkeepsie in 1988”   and a few lines later:

“You don’t build a woodpile in a palm tree state”.

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Rediffusion – the first cable TV?

A new resident of Round Hill (my corner of Brighton) got in touch recently because she noticed a heavy cable attached to her chimney stack.  It crossed the road and was attached to the corner of a low-rise block of flats opposite.  She wanted to know who owned it and was it in use, and if so, for what?

Fortunately years of working here as a house painter had given me the answers.  The cable belonged to a now defunct company called Rediffusion which operated all over Britain and in many foreign countries too, delivering Radio stations (from 1928) and TV (from 1954) to homes by cable.  Early broadcasting was often difficult to tune into well, and the cost of good radios and televisions was high.  Rediffusion entered the market by establishing an excellent receiving station and a network of cables and repeater amplifiers to deliver signal to homes for a small weekly sum.  They also provided the loudspeaker for radio, and later TVs.

We had radio by Rediffusion at home in Hull when I was young, I cannot recall if we got TV the same way.  At its peak in 1976 it employed 13,000 people in the UK and had expanded into, amongst other fields,  recorded music, computer systems and flight simulators.  The business was sold off and closed in the mid 1980’s.  So, to answer the lady’s question, nobody owns the cable now and it has no purpose.

Over many years I have removed their fittings from high on the front of houses, but sadly I have never kept any.  Perhaps that would be too geeky, but if I get a chance I will keep one of the old Bakelite junction boxes, they are full of heavy brass conductors and bolt one on top of another to deliver separate lines to different homes.  The square ones shown below are the early Bakelite boxes, whilst the more recent oblong boxes are a thermoplastic material.  They are just along the road from me, and I know someone who lives there so I may yet have one.



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