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Oh my Christ, oh my giddy aunt, calm down, mop your brow, just keep saying, “it’s only a bookshop, it’s only a bookshop”. But, the thing is, it’s not only a bookshop – it’s Camilla’s Book Shop in Eastbourne –the best second hand bookshop the Lost Prom have ever, ever visited in all their young, well-accessorized lives.

Within 10 minutes, Nhung and Tamsin both had vertiginous piles of books clasped against their bellies, teetering like the Twin Towers and smelling like home. There was a huge shelf devoted purely to Penguin crime novels, their green paper covers like a hundred four-leafed clovers sprouting in formation. There was a massive photography section. There were piles and piles of books everywhere. There wasn’t a parrot that day – Archie the shop parrot only visits Tuesdays and Fridays – but cards had been left for his upcoming birthday. Then Tamsin got stuck into the children’s section and uncovered a huge stack of 1960s and 70s Puffin books. At that point Nhung remarked that Tamsin looked as if she was about to have a frig fest. And quite frankly, book-crazed Tamsin very nearly was. But then she remembered where she was (the kids section of a book shop on a busy Saturday) and collected herself. Early works by the authors of Marianne Dreams (Catherine Storr) and Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer) may be exciting, but they aren’t worth being added to the child sex offender’s register for.

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Our biblio-frenzy was interrupted by the return of old Lost Prom friends Ian and Tina (last met in the Isle of Wight) and Ian’s mum, so we left our stacks behind the counter to come back to later, while we had Welsh Rarebit and baked lemon cheesecake in Zara’s Kitchen, a sweet Persian café with red and gold paisley tablecloths, glass cabinets full of Russian dolls and gold tea sets, a proprietor who looks like Super Mario and a clientele of cyclists dressed in full Tour de France gear.

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Back to Camilla’s to finish up (deep breaths, check nipples aren’t too obviously erect) and then onto Penelope’s Portmanteau, a cute little shop selling vintage handbags and jewellery, run by a lady in a leopard print body warmer. There were loads of charity shops, but somehow, after the highs of Camilla’s and Penelope’s, charity shopping felt a little flat. The stock was all a bit regimented and colour-coded and it just wasn’t doing it for us that day. As we wandered around one shop, an old lady was heard to ask, “Have you got any yo-yos?” (they hadn’t) and in another, we caught a single mysterious snippet of conversation; “My old man’s a dustman”. Matters of great national importance were obviously being discussed that day in Eastbourne.

The Curzon

The Curzon

So had we peaked too early with Camilla’s? Not quite, because our next discovery was, not one but two classic 50s/60s cafes, intact and unchanged since their heyday. Macari’s Ice Cream Parlour or Notorianni’s Milk Bar – which to go for? In the end, we went for Macari’s – resplendent with green and red leather booths and plastic flowers on the table. Nhung had an all-day breakfast, served on a 1950s floral plate and Tamsin had the biggest knickerbocker glory ever, taller than Taipei 101 and crowned in hundreds and thousands like a sugar volcano in Care Bear Land. Not without some qualms though as faced with the tedium of it all, the girl making up the orders was seen to grimace and mutter “Oh God, not again.”

camera obscura

camera obscura

What next – how about the pier and a camera obscura? The Eastbourne camera obscura is a bit more battered looking than the Portslade one, but David the tour guide made up for that by letting us see everything twice. David twirled the camera around gradually, finishing up at one of Eastbourne’s most famous landmarks, “The show ends here – at Beachy Head”, he said. “Doesn’t everything?” Tamsin replied and there was a shocked silence for a few seconds followed by awkward titters. Tamsin then went on to inquire if David had ever seen anyone fall off. The tension was broken by a voice down the walky-talky going “Can you get us some chips Dave?”

beachy head

beachy head

That still wasn’t it. There was also a pretty seafront, a Martello Tower, interesting rock pools and art deco buildings. Though funnily enough, there wasn’t really much Nhung wanted to photograph. Tamsin decided she loved this place and wanted to move here, only having slight second thoughts when at 6pm the town’s character suddenly changed and the streets became alive with snogging, screaming packs of youths roaming their territory like dead-eyed dingoes, high on Matalan and malevolence. We had to dive into Wimpy’s for respite, where the Macarena played for about 5 hours as we shared a burger and chips. But somehow even that wasn’t enough to dull Eastbourne’s vintage allure. Between us, we had bought 41 – 41! books. Our arms ached, our feet twinged but our hearts throbbed. And other things might have throbbed too. But maybe it was just indigestion. That was one, very big knickerbocker glory.

Martello Tower

Martello Tower

Lost
Milkshake (we went back to try Notorianni’s later but it was closed)
Antique shops (Eastbourne has some good ones, but we didn’t have time to look)
Our cool in Camilla’s

Found
41 books
1960s straw handbag with inset pink flowers
Photography magazine
Retro birthday card
Our Waterloo

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