One isn’t known to get too sentimental about buildings - what’s a pile of bricks and mortar, beams and pillars after all - but I was genuinely upset to see the images of Eastbourne pier up in flames this week.
When the news broke and I saw the first pictures of smoke billowing from the 144-year-old structure, I could have cried.
For during my university years I lived in the seaside town, and spent many an evening walking up and down that pier, partying nights away at the local nightclub, Atlantis, which sits at its sea end. I’ve laughed and cried on it, made up, broken up and in some ways grown up, often dressed in the whacky and wonderful outfits reserved for student life. The ‘back to school’ parties, where we pulled on our gym skirts and put our hair in pigtails, the toga nights when hundreds of us decided which sheet we liked least, before cutting it up and pinning it haphazardly to our person, and every other fancy dress in between - I’d seen them all.
There were the not-so-great parts too, of course. Getting your shoes stuck in the wooden slats, battling the elements at 4am to join the 100-strong queue waiting for a taxi, and the pleas to friends - who’d had one or two too many shandys - that no, it didn’t look far down, but no, it probably still wasn’t a good idea to jump off. The sea’s pretty nippy, even on the ‘sunshine coast’. Coming from a seaside town, quaint sights such as piers are commonplace to me. Blackpool does have three after all and, as a child, Fleetwood had its own too until a fire ended that.
But that’s not the case for everyone, and it’s heartbreaking that many of these Victorian structures have succumbed to flames in recent years. Having stood strong against the elements, and remained firm throughout the war years, they’re now starting to disappear from view, the charred remains - like those at Brighton just down the coast from the current casualty - being all that remain.
‘At least there are a few left up north,’ I found myself almost boasting this week.
But it’s true. Yes, they may be in need of a lick of paint and yes they sometimes feel like they’ve not been updated since 1962, and yes, they often house some of the more questionable members of society.
Putting all that aside - or maybe for those same reasons - they’re still something to treasure.