Seaside View

Alex and I have just rented a small house on the Brighton seafront. It's right on the seafront, as our back porch leads onto shingle. The house is small, but it's what we can afford, and I'm really looking forward to cramming it with our furniture, and starting up in a new (old) town.

The beach itself is quite short - I make a mental note to put together an emergency 'very high tide' plan - but it's tidy and, on this particular sunny day, crowded with visitors. For once, the sea reflects the sky and is a bright blue, rather than its usual grayish green. An incongruous-seeming spit of chalky ground - Beachy Head in miniature - acts as a breakwater, and some brave youngsters jump off it into the frothy water below.

There's no furniture in the house, yet, and I'm happy to stand at the back doors at look out onto the beach. I can't quite believe that this is going to be my daily view for the however-long it happens to last.

Apparently the lease includes a cleaning service, and a middle aged lady with a vacuum cleaner is taking one last pass around the place. We agree that the large rug in the living room - a large diamond motif in shades of brown hessian - is dated and ugly, and needs to be thrown out, especially as Tigger is delighting in burrowing under it. The cleaner mentions some other furniture in the back room, so I decide to check it out, in case it's worth keeping.

In a back bedroom - which I'm surprised to find as I thought there was only one bedroom, upstairs - there are three old desks of varying quality, a decaying bedframe and mattress set, and what looks like an old, industrial sewing machine on one of the desks. Of course, this piques my interest, and, upon a closer look, the cast iron lump turns out to be an industrial, foot-powered grommet press. I'm still pleasantly surprised, as anyone who knows me knows that I can use such a thing. One of the desks is a rather nice bit of furniture - solid wood, heavily lacquered, looking 1930s-ish to my untutored eyes. The other two desks are plywood and veneer - much later period and much cheaper looking - so I decide to keep the nicer desk, but send the other two and the bed to the landfill. At this point, I notice that bedroom has, on opposite walls, the most godawful ugly wood-veneer panelling I've seen in a long time. It's mud brown, with the grain printed on, and runs in long vertical panels from floor to ceiling. I make a mental note to ask the cleaner if ripping that stuff out - or painting over it - will violate the lease but I'm once again distracted by the view.

It's getting late, the sun is close to setting and the beach is almost empty. I laugh as I see an old-fashioned VW bug somehow tear along the narrow strip of wet sand which has been exposed by a very low tide. The last of the beach-lovers are clearing off, and I idly wonder how noisy this neighborhood gets on a summer Saturday night - there are a lot of clubs by the seafront.

"It's a nice view, isn't it?" says the cleaning lady.
"Yes. It's a shame I can't stay." I say with a growing feeling of sadness
"What do you mean by that?"
"This is a dream. I'm dreaming. None of this is real." (I have my lucid moments, and this was one of them.)
"Oh. I see." I think the cleaning woman fears my mind has come undone. "Why don't you take a walk on the beach whilst you're here, then?"
"I can't. If I leave, I won't be able to find my way back here, and I'm enjoying this view. I don't want to leave just yet." (nb: an almost-constant issue when I dream, if I part ways from a person or place, I can't find them again, even if I retrace my steps exactly)

The cleaning woman is a bit nonplussed by this, and I'm very upset. I just want to wake up and get this over with.

The dreaming-eye shudders for a second - I think I did wake up for a moment - and I'm somewhere in central Brighton, talking to a couple of characters from a popular TV show. (No, I'm not saying which). We're discussing embarassing nicknames for the male lead who is with me (his female sidekick being the other) and how one of those nicknames (Pierro, or Pietro, something like that) was actually a name of the actor's father, that the writers had worked into the show. We're just chatting, teasing the guy, hanging out.

Eventually, the female sidekick says "Let's go to the beach. You live down there, right, Johanna?"
"Er, in a manner of speaking. But the place won't be there now. I'd rather not go." The idea of going to the seafront rattles me.

This response provokes an outcry of the don't-be-silly type, and I'm outnumbered as we pile into a car, and the female sidekick drives us to the beach.

We arrive at something a bit more like the Brighton seafront that I know from real life. A promenade has been built over where I remember my housing development to have been. Very much out of place is a five-foot-high flint-and-mortar wall (shades of the one around Preston Park) which blocks the view of the beach from the promenade. To see the beach, a person has to go down onto it. So, the three of us do, and there are the 'arches' beneath the promenade. Most of them are shut up tight - the day is gray and blustery, and I have a sense of it being autumn. My companions march up to one locked-arch in particular - near the lime chalk prominontory which has now been encased in concrete to protect it from further erosion - and insist that my house is within, that the promenade was simply 'built over' the house. If I was to unlock that arch, they insisted, I'd find my house. The fact that this particular arch is about three feet high and even at my shortest I'm not a Lilliputian native seems to have escaped notice. Dream logic.

I'm already upset at what I'm seeing, and insisting that my point has been proven can we please go now, but I'm not being heeded. The lock is broken off the arch - I didn't do it - and a mess of sand, salt and unnamed white slime comes out, along with a volley ball. Apparently this has something to do with a popular stunt by bored youths, but the point of it escapes me. My friends insist that if I just dig through the muck, I'll find my house. I'm very upset by this point - crying and distraught - and have had enough of this arseing about. Fortunately, the dog jumped onto the bed at this point, and woke me up.

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