Salisbury to Brighton - John's Dad's Birthday!
Friday 10/20/06

It was a large English breakfast morning: eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, toast and ham plus yogurt to start off the meal. After that meal and a climb up 3 flights of stairs I was exhausted but the show must go on. After a short repose we packed up all of our stuff checked out and headed for Brighton.

We had become good friends with the car's navigational computer - we later named her Maude. Maude let us know how to get to Brighton. She is actually quite smart so she offered to redirect us for some parts of the way because traffic was so bad. Now, don't you wish you had a chauffeur who could do that? This is the most I have seen of the English countryside since John and I dated and it is indeed splendid. Great expanses of green pastures for miles and miles of highway. We got to Brighton in about 2 hours from Salisbury. Maude was quite helpful at keeping us on the right track. John is not convinced that she saved us from bad traffic but considering we got into very few if any backups I differ in opinion. I must admit, though, I have never driven through so many round-abouts in one journey which is probably because she took us off the main highway - not a bad thing but I was sure glad John was driving.

We came directly to Papa Tony's house and called on the intercom downstairs. John impersonated a delivery man and Papa Tony let us up to his flat (when in England it is "flat" not apartment). He says we did surprise him but I am not so sure. He was not supposed to know we were coming and it appears he didn't but with the British "sang froid" he calls it I can hardly tell. (this added later after he read it - he swears he was really surprised)

His apartment is gorgeous. You have to believe me when I never really considered England as having a seaside. Yes they are surrounded by plenty of water but no real beaches as Americans are used to. When I think of English beaches I think of something very close to the volcanic rock beaches in Kona, Hawaii. Well, this is as close to a beach as you can find here or at least in my limited experience on this big island. A number of his windows face the English channel so it is a great view where you can see the rolling waves in the distance and the seagulls are all cawing away constantly. Simply splendid.

We rest for a moment and Papa Tony plays something out of Billie Holiday's songbook on the piano. We decide to go to Rottingdean to a pub and have a pub lunch. We went to a little pub close by and had ok fish and chip and peas. We then took a walk up the hill to see the rolling ball court, the convalescent home where Lord Briginshaw, John's granddad (Papa Tony's dad), presided over the union. Very pleasant looking place with a majestic gateway entrance - the houses have been rebuilt in to small cottages. On the way back down the hill we visited the gardens which were just exquisite. We headed back to Brighton for a bit of a rest till Jane and Pete make it here. It turns out they are on the M25 which is apparently the worst place to be on a Friday evening.

I think I will be taking a short nap too because John's heavy breathing is doing a number on my eyelids.

Well, before we make it back to the house to get a cat nap we drive by the Royal Pavillions which looks quite Indian in architecture. Unfortunately we were whizzing by in the car so the shot I have of it is of a bunch of fuzzy out-of-focus green trees and half a shot of one of the doorways - I think.

Soooo, after 3 or so hours of a light snooze with a number of wake-up calls with updates on Jane and Pete's progress on the highway we are up for the second half of the evening. Papa Tony is preparing dinner and we are trying to figure out how to stay out of his way because when we talk to him he forgets what he was doing. John being the talkative one forgets that he needs the quiet and keeps interrupting his trip to somewhere to retrieve something. The more times he goes back and forth the grumpier he gets. I can't blame him but he raised a talker of a son which makes me smile because he is no different.

Just as Papa Tony announces that dinner is served, Jane and Pete finally make it here with a broadly smiling Thomas. Traffic was horrendous because it is the Friday afternoon of a long weekend and probably a lot of people are heading to Brighton for the weekend. It just happens that Papa Tony's birthday falls on a half school day when everyone decides to go away for the weekend. We eat dinner which is really appropriately called 'aperitifs dinatoires' in French as I recently learned from Catherine my adorable French friend. Dinner was a mix of boiled new potatoes and eggs, jarred sausages and olives, some ham, tomatoes, grapes, etc. After that came the birthday cake that Jane and Pete brought. After a quick happy birthday song the cake was cut. Before I had a chance to bring out the spoons, Pete, Thomas and Papa Tony were eating away with their fingers - enough said. Thomas brought Grandpa B his present which he proceeded to unwrap as all 3 year-olds do. John gave Thomas a present from us from Stonehenge a stuffed sheep and the accompanying goodie bag of chocolate sheep droppings. He loved the sheep but he definitely held on to the chocolate. So this is how British men develop their love for chocolate - I have always wondered about that. It is always a wonder to me that I met the one guy who manages to love chocolate much much more than me and equal to just about any female choc-a-holic that I know. But then I met our friend Gordon's brother and he eats just as much chocolate as John! If you did not gather by now he is a Brit as well. So I am basing my well founded conclusions on a statistically valid sample of two.

After dinner, cake, and a shot of whisky from the 12 year Chivas we bought for Tony's present, Jane and Pete head off to their hotel to get Thomas to bed and we promise to meet them later for a drink at their hotel.

We head down to the hotel for the aforementioned drink and we are not 2 minutes walk down the street and it starts to drizzle - quelle horreur! But this is Brighton. We make a b-line for a cab to take us to Hotel De Vere. It has a beautiful lobby with high ceilings and ornately carved awnings with lots of marble. The bar was great as well and just off the lobby. We called Jane and Pete down and started on the drinks, that is, everyone had a drink and I had what Pete called fruit juice - a virgin Pina Colada. Then we went on to have a debate on whether a pina colada is still a pina colada if it does not have any rum. I said it did not have rum in the name so I had the right to keep the name but we could not come up with what the 'lada' meant at the end. It could very well be the rum - as such we had no final answer.

We also talked about the pledge of allegiance if Britain should have something similar, shouldn't there be a rewritten one that does not mention God to accommodate atheists, some guy who shot a burglar in the back after he had left his house doors and window open as a virtual invitation, term limits for the California governor, whether you can run for elected office if you are not a citizen, Tony singing karaoke, Tony planning on playing the piano at one of the local blues bars, Auntie Pauline (Mimm's sister), going to Ireland to see Auntie Pauline, how Tony felt becoming 70, what his learnings were at 70 and so on. All while keeping an ear out for Thomas who was half asleep upstairs on the baby monitor.

The cutest part of it was Tony wore silver numbers 70 on his shirt pocket so he could flash now and again to unsuspecting on-lookers. He said he has learned so far that the older you get the less you know. The promise of one drink turned into three with John and Pete going off in the middle of that to have a smoke. The whole atmosphere was enhanced by intermittent bouts of hard rainfall, a guy outside who was quite drunk being coaxed by his girl friend to have a seat on the steps because he was stumbling around, live testing the baby monitor (Jane went upstairs talk in the monitor because it appeared the one we had was cranky with static), and the ebb and flow of guests or fellow drinkers into the bar area.

At a little after midnight it was time to head back, we are staying with Papa Tony because he so graciously offered and it saves us a mint on hotel rooms. We take a cab back which is the crowning of a perfect evening. Tomorrow is the lunch with everyone and I can't wait because I get to meet Papa Tony's brother and half sister Jane. Always interesting to see what other parts of the family are like. For now, it is time for bed everyone is in a dead sleep except for me and I think I would like to join them. Tata, a demain.

Update: I found out from my friend Yukiko that Pina Colada means "strained pineapple" - so Pete is right that it is a fruit juice but I contend I am just as right that it does not lose its name because there is no rum in it.

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