Pevensey Bay bungalow

I ran out of steam writing about day 4, but there's one last thing. A trip to Beachlands, a 1930s bungalow estate in Pevensey Bay between Eastbourne and Bexhill.

Following a spectacular line of "oyster" bungalows, the estate opens up into little houses of various shapes and sizes. Most were built in the 1930s so there's a bit of streamline moderne going on, and some straight Art Deco.

Pevensey Bay Beachlands bungalow

According to Sun, sea and sand: the great British seaside holiday (don't leave home without it), the estate was intended to have shops and a cinema, but the war started and the plans fell through. I've been admiring these sort of houses in Moxette's flickrstream for so long that it was a real treat to see so many at once. Thanks to Chris for the tip-off - gratefully received as we wouldn't have found it otherwise.

Knacker's Yard, Shotesham

ScenicOrNot is a clever new game from mysociety. Random photos of England, Scotland and Wales are presented for rating on a scale of 1 to 10 according to their attractiveness. The photos, from geograph (itself, pretty compelling), cover 95% of the British Isles. Going by the ones I saw it's mostly shrubbery and a knacker's yard (above). It's all feeding into a secret project which will be revealed as soon as they have enough ratings - so get in there.

At first I found it difficult to judge the place, not the photograph. It quickly throws up all kinds of questions about what is 'scenic'. It's easy to judge what is conventionally beautiful (rolling hills, cute cottages) but harder to take a step back and rate something on whether or not it tickles your fancy. I find this whole thing fascinating - the way there's an accepted version of what's attractive. Our holidays often feel like hacking through the tourist board's view of what's important, to find the reality underneath.

Lyttleton Road Tunnel, New Zealand

Coincidentally, I was looking at a nice new Boring postcards blog (found in the excellent Boring Postcards Flickr group). It starts with this wonderful postcard of the Lyttleton Road Tunnel in New Zealand. I love this sort of thing - a reminder that these places were remarkable once and beautiful in their own way. You don't get curves like that in the countryside now, do you?

More boring postcards at Retroglobe | hansaviertel | popcards.

We delighted in Pontin's pleasures (tiny motorbikes, ball pit, amusements, a broken air hockey machine that kept giving us free games) before venturing out to Rye, the nearest town. It's very picturesque. All higgledy-piggledy and old on top of a hill. Full of nice shops and cafes. Apparently the Cheeky Girls have moved here, but we didn't see them.

The Laughing Sailor, Rye

The Rye Heritage Museum and Town Model has a floor full of old pier working models (slot machines of the 'What the Butler Saw' variety). Some were a bit creepy but all were amazing considering their age. With very limited technology there were some quite complex stories, often funny and surprising.

Battle Stationers

As we were in 1066 country we followed the signs to Battle, which turned out to be a mistake. With hindsight it's obvious it was going to be a tourist trap - a little town with narrow streets overrun with tour buses. It would have cost us £17 to have the full 1066 experience, and to be honest, we weren't that interested so we asked the English Heritage man if there was anywhere you could just go and see the battlefield. Apparently there is a bit round the back of the car park but when we got there it was just a field. Might have been a historic field, but it was kind of hard to check. So we traipsed back to the car. Still, a shop called Battle Stationers is pretty funny.

Happy fry-up

Luckily a trip to Eastbourne was just the tonic. When I was wee, we used to drive my grampa there on his holidays and it doesn't seem to have changed much since then. God's waiting room and all that. I had an assignment in the town (of which, more later) which was in a sorry state. There is always a contrast between the seaside face of a resort and the working town, but the contrast in Eastbourne seemed particularly severe.

Macari's Cafe, Eastbournbe

Anyway, it all turned out well because by luck I walked past Macari's, a really lovely old cafe. It was empty so we nipped in for cappuccinos and lemon meringue pie.

Macari's interior

It was a all a bit of a rush, but it was a full and interesting day. To top it off, when we got back to Pontin's, Same Difference, the energetic brother-sister combo from last year's X Factor were playing. Sadly I missed it as I was minding the youngest member of the party who had conked out in the chalet, however I have it on good authority that they were 'tight'.

See all photos from day 4.

Following a quiet night in the Chichester Travelodge we hit the town. Chichester is a very pretty place. I was reluctant to go to the cathedral as my dad was a history teacher and I spent a fair amount of my childhood holidays looking at the cathedrals of England, but it was very nice. I'd forgotten how much fun gargoyles are, and Chichester has some crackers.


Old and new.


After that bit of culture it was seaside all the way. I was intrigued by the sound of the Witterings and the Manhood Peninsula which lie to the south. I imagined a sort of Mapp and Lucia adult adventure. It wasn't like that though - the Witterings, East and West were mobbed and parking was really expensive so we had a quick look at East Wittering beach. It had the strangest sand I've ever seen - like cement. Next, we headed to Selsey, so we could say "we've even been to Selsey Bill". It wasn't remote and strange like Portland Bill; it was lively and stank of fish. I was a bit disappointed until I noticed:

House made of railway carrages, Selsey

A house made of railway carriages. I've read about these but never seen one in the flesh. How cool.

Palmistry in Bognor

Next up: Bognor Regis. Bognor has become a bit of a legend in our holiday planning. We keep getting close to it, but not close enough to get there. Like a cross between Mecca and Brigadoon, it's become legendary as the place we wanted to get to but couldn't reach. So going to Bognor was a disproportionately big deal. Even with high expectations it didn't disappoint. 100% pure seaside. Beach, pier, bouncy castle, rock shop, crazy golf - the lot. From here Bognor became the benchmark against which all other seaside places were judged, especially by Danny (3) because it had a BOUNCY SLIDE.

Thomas Heatherwick's cafe, Littlehampton

After we'd exhausted Bognor we tried Littlehampton. Danny fell asleep so Tommy and I had a look at Thomas Heatherwick's award-winning East Beach Cafe and headed off again.

Worthing Lido

Last call: Worthing by sundown. Worthing is lovely. Scrubbed up and stately. The Art Deco pier is a gem and the Lido, filled in to be a fun fair was very pleasant. The boys got a shot on everything and I took enough pictures to stoke me up for the last few miles to Camber Sands.

There's usually a bit of trepidation arriving at our holiday accommodation but as this was our 4th Pontin's and we'd been here before we knew what we were in for. We were in the chalets that the pop stars were in at Bowlie, so that was a good sign.

See all photos from day 3.


Following on from Day 1. Well, there were no joys of Birmingham on a Saturday night. Only pissed up students and a 5am fire alarm. The joys.

Apart from that there weren't many adventures today. We tried to get away as fast as we could, which wasn't very fast due to a huge traffic jam on the M6. We hit Warwick, or Historic Warwick as it appears to be known for breakfast at lunchtime. Warwick was historic and half-shut, but I did find this nice shopfront.

At this point we remembered there were some Easter eggs in the boot (it was Easter Sunday) so it was time for an impromptu Easter egg hunt in Royal Leamington Spa. By chance the first park we found, Jephson Gardens was really beautiful. Full of lovely flowers and ducks, and a decent playpark. We stoated about for a bit in the sunshine eating our Easter bunnies then hit the road again. And that was it until we got to Chichester.

It was a nice day though, just getting from A to B with as little pain as possible. Tomorrow is a bit more exciting, honest.

Our Easter holiday was a bit of a marathon. Glasgow to Camber Sands (East Sussex) via Birmingham, Chichester and Knutsford. 1465 miles in all - 3 Travelodges, 1 holiday camp, 6 motorways, 3 churches (2 cathedrals), 2 model villages, 3 miniature railways, 6 motorways, 5 motorway services, 3 museums, lots of ice creams and too many chips.

But to start at the beginning, this is what we got up to. I'll warn you now, it's going to go on a bit.

Day 1 - Glasgow to Birmingham

Meriden, the centre of England

First place of note is Meriden, said to be the geographical centre of England. There's a monument on the village green to this effect. At the other end is an obelisk commemorating cyclists who died in the war. As Adventures on the High Teas will tell you, it's not the exact centre. Hey ho.

The Centre of England charity shop

Everything was Centre of England this, Heart of England that, even the charity shops. As there are many references, it seems churlish to split hairs. It's probably near enough.

Coventry Cathedral stained glass window

Next we went to Coventry for a peek at its cathedral designed by Sir Basil Spence. It was beautiful, awe-inpiring - all the things that a cathedral should be. The stained glass was particularly fine.

Lady Godiva clock, Coventry

The only downside to this was spending time in the cathedral made us just miss Coventry's spectacular mechanical clock where Lady Godiva rides out on her horse, buck naked and Peeping Tom (the Peeping Tom) keeks out of the window to see her. Here she is in action. I had no idea that this was where Peeping Tom came from, or what Lady Godiva was all about so it was an education.

We hung about for a while but occupying ourselves for another 55 minutes was a tall order, so we split for the big city - the joys of Birmingham on a Saturday night. For more on Coventry here's some 1960s footage of the city centre when it was shiny and new, and the rest of the day's photos.


I can't believe the holidays are over already. We had a great time down south, did a million things and now my head is spinning trying to get back to normality (and work) tomorrow. So, not much to say at the moment except commiserations to all those in the same boat.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Recommended on iplayer Time Shift: The North/South Divide which was on BBC4 last night. John Harris travels around England looking at the differences between the north and south and trying to pinpoint the mythical Watford Gap (not the real Watford Gap, which he finds quite easily).

It was like a cross between Stuart Maconie's In Search of the High Teas and Touring Britain, another BBC4 series where David Heathcote travels round the UK using old guidebooks as references. I've been soaking of all these up, and will be looking out for the north-south divide myself as we head to the centre of England tomorrow. Anyway, it was one of the more interesting programmes I've seen for a while, so I thought I'd flag it up.

Service will be intermittent for the next week or so. Thanks for all the travel tips. Happy Easter everyone.

Tyneham Village, Dorset

Here's another piece from Nothing To See Here, this time about the ghost village of Tyneham in Dorset. In the 1940s the War Office commandeered it for firing practice, and never gave it back. We visited in October on the way back from Corfe Castle. I wasn't sure what to expect from a ghost village but found it peaceful and thought-provoking.

Fantastic Voyage has a great post about Tyneham and other places, drawing on Patrick Wright's book The Village That Died for England. I quote:

Making an unexpected cameo appearance at one point are various members of the Archigram group who set architecture student projects there when teaching at the AA in the 1970’s. Coming across like an only slightly less absurd version of Withnail and I, David Greene and Warren Chalk buzz around the place with their long haired prodigies (including young Will Alsop) in clapped out vehicles and stride into local boozers ordering quadruple whiskies.

That's a unlikely combination. Access is restricted to certain days of the year. More pictures in this Flickr set and more about abandoned communities in the UK.

Sarey Poppins chick purse

Those of you looking for an alternative Easter gift might enjoy these lovely chick purses from Sarey Poppins. The fabric is adorable and they're really sturdy. Mine came crammed with golden mini-eggs - hooray!

Sarey Poppins blue chick purse

When not making fab purses, bags and lavender doggies Sarey Poppins is Sarah Martin from Belle & Sebastian, so they're a little piece of pop memorabilia too.

For a few years now, there's been talk of the girl group musical that Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian has been making. As with many of his projects, it sounds totally unlikely - he advertised for some girl singers in the paper, did online auditions and wrote a musical to suit these characters he imagined so clearly. But if there's one person who can pull this sort of thing off it's Stuart and now here's a sneak preview of God Help The Girl. I'm very excited. It sounds great.

The single, 'Come Monday Night' will be out on 11 May and the album on the 22nd June (23rd US). Hopefully at some point it will be turned into a full-on Umbrellas of Cherbourg-style film, full of mini-kilted international beauties.


So, the Cook v Crowle All-UK layer tennis final was a blast. I'm glad I was officially on the fence, because I couldn't pick a winner out of these two. God bless them, they took it very seriously, rigging up their studio with painted desks and a net. After that the pressure was on for 10 quick-fire rounds. There was smoke coming out of my fingers as I tried to keep up and I wasn't even doing the hard part.

It was a great match. I really enjoyed watching it live, seeing the narrative unfold, and checking out the crowd's reaction (this is a great use of Twitter; now I get it with hashtags). Well, Britannia rules the waves and boy, were the rules waived as we went from a an idyllic island (above) through air pirates, sea beasties and knob gags to a triumphant ending.

The commentary was one of the trickiest things I've had to do - 5-10 minutes to write something witty that did the pictures justice was tough, but it was great to be caught up in the heat of it all. You can judge the winner for yourself on the Layer Tennis site. Thanks to Rex and Cookie for such a great game, and the folks at Coudal for asking me along.

Crowle v Cook: Layer Tennis

How tickled I am to be commentating on this week's All-UK Layer Tennis Match. For the uninitiated, Layer Tennis is a match between two designers, where they swap a photoshop file back and forth in a series of "volleys", building on it each time. They have 15 minutes to take their shot and after 10 rounds the spectators decide the winner. It is masterminded by those lovely Coudal people and a guest commentator (that would be me) provides a running commentary.

The delightful thing about tomorrow's comp is it's Simon "Cookie" Cook of the superb Made in England, versus the mighty Rex "Rexbox" Crowle. The briefest glance at their websites will give you an idea of the calibre of this game. Let's hope the excitement doesn't impair my speed typing.

It starts at 4pm BST tomorrow, so it's an early start for American viewers. But am or pm, it's going to be a blast. Do tune in if you can. Also available on Twitter.

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