Walking Saltdean to Hove

This last week has been a mess of tiredness, hard work and melancholy, so I needed a good walk to blow the cobwebs away. I didn’t want to be out too long but I wasn’t in the mood for walking near home; my regular routes feel a little overworn from grinding out steps for the fitbit.

It was an extravagance, but I took an Uber to Saltdean and walked back from there. It was raining lightly as I set off, but that was all the better to clear my head.

Just outside Rottingdean, someone had erected a crude wooden cross on the shoreline:

The undercliff was quiet. I watched the effortless flight of the gulls and was  transfixed by odd birdcalls from the shore (I need Shazam for birdsong!). The sky like a Constable painting.

In the Marina boatyard, a painted rudder reminded me of a Mark Doty poem from a recent workshop (‘that green is what I’ve wanted all my life‘). The water in the harbour was calm, and I was fascinated by the complication of the sails on one of the boats. It was for sale, and I briefly considered a pirate’s life, remembering William Burroughs’ Cities of the Red Night. I’ve forgotten most of that novel, but I love the idea of the Pirate Articles as a founding document for a better America.

I had breakfast at Mac’s near the Marina, which is probably my favourite cafe. They do chips that are crisp and hot, and I’ve found nowhere else that does them so well. Then back onto the seafront, striding west.

Closer in, the town looked grubby. There is a perfect distance to see the i360 from: on the Downs, it’s like a huge flagpole, declaring ‘Brighton is here’. Closer up, it looks like a big chimney. The terraces on Marina Drive are pretty much derelict, but there are plans afoot to renovate, the sort of development scheme that makes you wonder if the neglect was intentional.

At the end of the walk, the sun was fighting through the clouds. I walked home through empty shopping streets, wondering if it was the early hour or the pandemic keeping people home.

The best thing about the walk was the little bits of graffiti, the messages that people had felt driven to leave along the way, like secret codes.

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