bungalows

bungalows

Before now, Littlehampton had been largely known to us for its most famous ex-residents: child-killer Roy Whiting and Preston from the Ordinary Boys. However, Tamsin once sneaked onto a friend’s school trip to visit the Body Shop factory and afterwards ate some chips and candyfloss and took a ride on the waltzer. This ended in violent sickness. But Vogue magazine recently named Littlehampton, “Britain’s coolest seaside resort”, due to its trendy new East Beach Café, so the time felt right for a re-visit.

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One of the first buildings we spotted was the Dolphin Pub, a haunted hotel where Lord Byron and Oliver Reed are both said to have stayed. The pub’s website proclaims, “we operate a zero tolerance on drugs and trouble”, so it seems unlikely that either would be welcomed now.
A sign outside the pub proclaimed that it was holding a “new age and spiritual fayre”, so intrigued, we wandered in, choking back the patchouli fumes. The room was crowded with Elvis Presley, Titanic and World War 2 memorabilia as well as a life-sized figure of Jack the Ripper. Amongst all this, the landladies Ellie and Katie, and Ellie’s clairvoyant sister spoke enthusiastically to us about ghosts, hauntings and spiritualism. They run a group called LIGHT paranormal investigations, based at the pub and conduct regular ghost-hunts in the cellars. Star spook is the ghostly Uncle William, a long-dead murderer who likes to stand behind women and breath on their necks and occasionally push them down the stairs. On one memorable occasion he actually tried to get inside a guest’s neck.

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The ladies failed to sell the advantages of the pub as a boutique hotel, despite the attraction of a meat raffle every Tuesday, and Thursday afternoon sing-alongs to “olde songs from the music hall and wartime era”. One room can’t be used because everyone who goes in starts to suffer from depression, another room gives you the urge to jump out of the window (one guest did, and broke her leg). A further room contains a cupboard that houses a vortex where the spirits come from. Tamsin asked if the vortex ever works the other way, and sucks you in, like in Poltergeist, but apparently not.

Everyone who came into the pub claimed to be a clairvoyant. One man clasped a spaghetti bolognaise ready meal for one as he purchased a pagan bumper sticker. Another woman came in and showed the resident medium a picture on a camera, saying, “look at this – the cellophane is in the shape of an angel”. “It is an angel”, the medium replied.

The Dolphin’s proudest moment was when noted psychic Derek Acorah visited. Nhung became very excited at this point. She was once so obsessed with Most Haunted, that for a train journey, she bought Derek Acorah’s autobiography and claimed it on work expenses. So what was the great man like? “Very nice, but he wears high heels.”

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

Our new mediumistic friend maintained that all the paranormal activity at the Dolphin proves there is life after death. Tamsin asked her if the spirits had told her what it was like, but the answer seemed fairly vague. Apparently the next place is full of light and love and everybody is happy and beautiful. It sounded rather like Tamsin’s notion of Laboratoire Garnier. There was no concrete information like, what do they eat? (Oh wait, maybe Philadephia Light?) Or what are the curtains like? According to the medium, the spirits call this planet, “the dark planet” because it’s so violent and cruel. The Earth is merely a learning planet before we go to the next place. Tamsin felt in her bones that there was something wrong about this, and brooded on it for the rest of the day.

After the excitement of the Dolphin, we felt a little bit of charity shopping would calm us down. Billie Holiday sang huskily in the background of the first one. At the next shop, a young boy working there agreed to show us a tray of gaudy rings, “just as long as you don’t come in and intimidate me with hoodies”. He asked if we were from Hove and said he wished he lived there too, “in Littlehampton there’s no Maccy D’s or Kentucky”. It got us thinking about food, so we decided it was time for lunch. “Always nice to talk to a couple of trendies”, chimed our charity shop charmer.

Private keep off

Private keep off

Although we were tempted by an eatery called Baguette-Me-Not, we chose the Galley Café – all done out in a nautical style with nice touches of chrome and blue vinyl. Nhung requested 2 sausages and 1 piece of bacon with her all-day breakfast, rather than the standard 1 sausage and 2 bits of bacon. This seemed to flummox the waitress, who had to check with the manager that it would be OK, but it all turned out fine in the end, and we had a good meal.

After clearing out almost the entire jewellery cabinet of a junk shop like a swarm of Colorado beetles attacking the harvest, we stumbled upon Nhung’s charity shop find of a lifetime – a crinoline for £2.95! The man behind the counter, gleaming in Del Boy hair, gold necklace and tattoos told us that it had been on the Richard and Judy show as part of a feature on bad wedding dresses. Nhung’s heart leapt – she has been longing for a crinoline for months. After our last trip’s find of a silk Victorian bonnet, all she needs is a parasol to make her life complete.

Swan invasion

Swan invasion

As much fun as we had in the town centre, Littlehampton is really about the river and the sea. Dubbed in the 1920’s “The Children’s Paradise”, a glimpse of this still remains. The river teems with swans and small boys fishing for crabs. The beach stretches for miles and the scree turns into sand. Tamsin thought about kicking a sand castle down, but decided not to. Harbour Park according to Wikipedia, “the 18th most popular theme park in the UK” sits near the front. But as we arrived it was veiled in rain and deserted, its sad-looking rides resembling colourful sweets sucked out and spat into the gutter by a bored toddler. Nhung was anxious to see the Blue Peter lifeboat, which is based here in Littlehampton, but it was all locked away and only comes out for exercises on Sunday. However, she was cheered up by a passing old lady with an East European accent who stopped to say, “I like your beret very much”.

Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel

As the rain continued, a man went running past, but without moving his arms, a strange Dalek-like blur in the distance. As Nhung needed to access her cameras, Tamsin helped to carry her many buys. Bent over with heavy bags and a crinoline tied in a bow shape, she looked like a camel with a pair of fairy wings. Nhung got excited by a sky-blue gasometer then we crossed the footbridge to the West Beach.

Boat Graveyard

Boat Graveyard

Walking along by the river, we came suddenly upon an odd sight, a sea of mud dotted with broken sailing vessels which Nhung named the Boat Graveyard. Like a scene from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “The very deep did rot: O Christ!/That ever this should be!/Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/Upon the slimy sea”, the rotting carcasses and bones of boats looked to Nhung, like a dinosaur or great whale skeleton in the British museum and to Tamsin, like the remains of a wildebeest after the lions have got it, but before the vultures move in. “I looked upon the rotting sea/And drew my eyes away;/I looked upon the rotting deck/And there the dead men lay”…

Carcass

Carcass

Reaching the West Beach, which was wilder than the East side, with no cafes, we were starting to feel hungry, footsore and in need of a wee. A slight difference in our sensibilities was revealed in the following exchange: Tamsin: “Yuck, a dead seagull”
Nhung (excitedly): “Ooh, where?”

Beams

Beams

After a weary walk back, we decided to refresh ourselves in the best fast food chain in the world – Wimpy. Who needs Maccy D’s or Kentucky when Wimpy does 4 vegetarian options, alcohol and knickerbocker glories, serves its food on china, does a Senior Citizen’s Special (fish and chips and a cup of tea for a fiver) and always has nice staff? While Nhung photographed Tamsin’s newly bought humming-bird shaped thimble with her pinhole camera, Tamsin reflected with increasing outrage on what the spiritualists had said. To dub this “the dark planet” when there are so many intriguing and beautiful things to see in this world seems the ultimate betrayal. And obviously the spiritualists have never been to Wimpy.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Lost:
The East Beach Café (the most renowned thing about Littlehampton, but we somehow missed it)
Tallulah’s Bustle Boudoir (a lingerie shop we’d read about “dedicated to bringing out the Inner Fairy in all who shop with her” that we also failed to find)
Black pencil skirt (torn at the back as Tamsin was trying to get into an awkward position to take a photo of a swan)
Blue Peter Lifeboat

Found:
Cream polka dot chiffon blouse
Gold and silver striped knitted top
2 Ngaio Marsh detective novels
2 powder compacts (1 red and gold, 1 white and silver with a butterfly)
2 red heart-shaped mugs
Turquoise and white striped skirt
Chinese fan
2 handbags (1 brown with a bow, 1 black 80s frame bag)
Photography book
Pack of Healing with the Fairies Oracle Cards
Crinoline
Book of HG Wells short stories
2 pairs of long stripy football socks
4 brooches (1 blue, 1 amber and gold, 1 black and white ceramic, 1 big and lizard-shaped)
2 pairs of earrings
Thimble in the shape of a humming-bird
Gold charm bracelet
Slightly bent amber art deco ring
Advice from a lady in Sainsbury’s that Tamsin might be suffering from an underactive thyroid

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Walk the Plank

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