I’m sat here in the coldest March since 1962 threatening to set fire to the office furniture in a pathetic attempt to stay warm. One of my staff has gone out to the corner shop to get lunch and said ‘he may be gone some time’, in a manner all too reminiscent of Captain Oates. His frozen remains will doubtless be discovered under the Croydon permafrost in years to come, clutching a photograph of his girlfriend in one hand and a pot noodle in the other…..
None of this, however, is anything like as cold as eating fish and chips on the seafront in Brighton, which is precisely what five friends and I did yesterday. True, we did have champagne, which numbed the cold slightly as we huddled together for warmth and decided which of us we’d eat first if the situation deteriorated further. A brisk walk along the pier did nothing to help and only vast quantities of tea and cake when safely indoors made us feel slightly more human.
I’ve a fondness for Brighton. I like the contrast between the very grand Regency architecture of the elegant squares, and the raffishness of the North Laines and little forgotten side streets. It’s always attracted people from the margins of society; free spirited and non judgemental. And somehow, it seems to work so well. There are very few empty shops, and each area has it’s own distinct identity. Sure, there’s Churchill Square for mass market and dubious taste, but there’s a Waitrose, too.
For a while I’ve been wondering if a Simon Carter shop would work there. ‘Crystal palace by the Sea’, I call it. But I haven’t found the right unit, and increasingly find myself drawn to it’s slightly more reserved neighbour, Hove. Quieter, but more discerning. There’s a Farrow and Ball store so it must be good. However, as with every area I identify as promising, there are no vacant shops and estate agents tell me to join the queue.
In a week where I read that high street traffic has now increased for three months in a row, and shopping centre traffic declined concomitantly, I wonder if my prediction five years ago of the return of the High Street may just be looking more likely. It would be good to think so.
That said, as more arctic wind blow in over the steppes and tundra of Croydon, I can’t think that they’re huddled under blankets in Westfield…