June 25, 2019 by Whispering Smith
Whispering Smith Column published in the Littlehampton Gazette May 30. 2019
My son suggested I join him and his partner for the Day of Dance at the Brighton Festival. My dodgy hip and walking stick preclude the dancing at present so it was an excuse to decline the invite. ‘You would love it,’ he tells me. ‘Morris and jive, street parades and all-around fun.’ No, I say again, I don’t like travelling and I particularly don’t enjoy Brighton, parking is atrocious. ‘Come by train or bus then, don’t miss out.’ He can be pretty persuasive but I am resolute. I say Brighton is full of hills and bizarre people. ‘Come off it, never more so than in Littlehampton, apart from the hills that is.’ No, thank you, I tell him, I loved Brighton in the old days but now, not so much. ‘It will be a lovely day; I’ll meet you at the station and we can cab up any hills.’ Not keen, son, I tell him, but thanks anyway. ‘Dad, think again, there are dozens of pop-up bars offering all kinds of real ales, a great tasting opportunity, and great music.’ Young rascal has got me, my two weaknesses, all of a sudden Brighton sounds reasonably attractive.
Jeans seem to be the dress code of the day and I feel a little out of place in my gentrified tan cords, slouch hat and tweed waistcoat with silver pocket watch chain a’ dangling. Then, sitting in a green tree-covered open space with my son doing a crossword, sipping a delightful brew and watching with the whacky world of the Brighton Festival drifting by. A bug-eyed dog eating a giant carrot at the next bench and the owner answering my query by telling me the mutt is a vegetarian and actually preferred a cucumber. Am I being teased for being nosy?
Morris dancers, swinging rock ‘n’ rollers and clog dancers to the rear as much weirder and wonderful things to see. Mums and Dads actually playing with their kids for starters, instead of leaving them to their own devices while they diddle-doddle on their iPhones. A wanderer passes by dressed as Donald Trump followed shortly by a man dressed as Theresa May and then a dancing procession of sologamy – apparently there is no plural for the word, they are people who marry themselves for reasons that escape me. Who the heck are they going to argue with for the rest of their lives? A street performer amusingly delivers some Shakespeare and a mime artist with a microphone set up, -what is that all about? And so, the morning flies by.
A very nice inexpensive, lunch in a pub followed by a small sip of rhubarb flavoured gin… I’m not making any of this up, folks. A man sitting opposite me is wearing an Open Road Stetson hat, it is badly blocked and I am wishing I had worn mine to show him how it should be done. Morris Dancers and Clog Dancers appear outside of the pub and the street is suddenly crowded with stamping ladies, clacking sticks and jingle bells. Here and there I recognise a face from Littlehampton and am acknowledged with a surprised look, a kiss on the cheek and a smile or two.
All good days, like all bad days, come to an end and I want to be back in my comfortable LA armchair before dark and thus avoid the walk through the late night-time town centre. My son walks me to the 700 bus stop and my free bus pass ride back to town. I admit to him I have had a whale of a time and before I can stop myself, I suggest doing the same next weekend … I get that disbelieving, patronising look children sometimes give their aged parents but it comes with an affectionate smile, an affirming look and a nod.