Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Aquarium Terraces

Brighton & Hove News reports today on the proposals to regenerate this large unoccupied seafront site to include a fine dining room (surprise, surprise) and a sports centre. The renovations will include replacing the boarded-up windows, seen above, with a glass frontage. (Evidently optimism reigns supreme).

The rotunda seen above will be unaffected but a separate development  calls for the demolition of the small glass pavilion seen in the photo below:-

It is regrettable that none of the proposals call for any changes to the eyesore that is the roof. It seems more suited to a rundown edge-of-town industrial estate than a Grade II listed property at the heart of a famous historic seafront:-

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

At the Fabrica

The light & sound installation by Brian Eno, Guest Artistic Director for this year's Festival, is wonderful. Enter the blacked-out gallery and relax on one of the deep comfortable sofas facing an array of monitor screens. Let the soft melodic soundtrack wash over you while the screens display an ever-changing mosaic of hand drawn patterns which soothe and entrance the eye. Such sounds of the outside world that penetrate this once religious building become insignificant and far away.

The work is entitled "77 Million Paintings", (but who's counting?) and the accompanying leaflet describes it as "Monumental in scale, duration and thematic scope" which "underscores our essential human and ephemeral nature". I felt it was like being inside a grown-up kaleidoscope but none the worse for that.  Well worth inclusion on your Festival 'must-see' list. Entrance is free.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Vote Green for Democracy

Churchill once said "Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all the rest", (or something like that), but some would argue that  the British "first pass the post" model is up there with the rest. Certainly many electors have to cast their vote in a general election without hope that it will have any influence on the way they are governed. The arguments in favour of "first past the post" are that it gives strong government and reduces the prospects of a hung parliament. One wonders however, if over a number of parliamentary terms, it has any advantage at all. "Strong" government is only needed if you are pushing through unpopular measures and then it is just as likely that your legislation will be reversed or modified at the next election. In any case, in 2010, the prospects for any one party to have a large majority appear especially poor.

In the 2005 election over 250,000 people voted Green and for their views to have been given proportional weight in Parliament they should have been represented by about 6 Green Party MP's. How can a system which denies a voice to a significant section of the electorate be considered fit for purpose?

Now, in Brighton Pavilion in May, a unique opportunity presents to begin to change things.  Whether your normal inclination is Labour, Conservative or Liberal, your single vote is unlikely to play a  critical role in the political make-up of the next parliament. Voting for Caroline Lucas on the other hand provides a good chance of electing the first Green MP and so make a contribution towards accurate democratic representation. It also saves one the bore of ploughing through the different manifestos to try to distinguish the difference between them.

Related article: "Can Caroline Lucas change British politics for ever?"

Friday, 23 April 2010

A well-trodden path

Victoria Gardens were once surrounded with low metal railings. These could be easily stepped over, so I'm not sure if this well-trodden path between the University and Church Street predates their removal or not. While still there they at least gave out a subliminal message to respect the grass.  This may have helped but now the scarring only disappears in the most favourable of growing conditions.  The cold and lack of rain certainly seem to be hindering recovery at the moment. 

It would be a shame to lose any of the grass to permanent paving, and the consequent diagonal bisection of the Garden would not be attractive. Perhaps the solution should be aimed at making it less energy efficient for walkers to choose the direct  route. This would spread out the footfall and in damp conditions even persuade some to follow the perimeter paving. This might be achieved by positioning narrow shrub beds for several yards along the edges of the garden at Church Street and the University, and a strategically place bed or landscaped mound near the centre of the garden.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

St. George's Day

In many countries the 23rd April is still celebrated  as a Feast Day to mark the birth day in 303AD of St. George. It is also the date of Shakespeare's death, and, in Brighton on the nearest Sunday, the 25th., the written word and the national flower will be celebrated in Jubilee Square with a writing and poetry event, "The Book & the Rose".  In a square decked out in the red & white of St. George, the Festival Shakespeare Company will be paying a special tribute to the bard. There will be entertainment from Hanover Poetry Festival, Hammer & Tongue,  Short Fuse and the Catalyst Club and folk music from well- known Sussex performers. There will also be children's activities, deckchairs and local stalls selling flowers, including red roses, and books.

In England the use of the red upright cross of St.George originates from the 12th century crusades and in 1220 the Synod of Oxford declared St.George's Day a national feast day in England. The red cross was used as a national flag & military badge during Edward III's campaigns in France from the 1340's onwards.  In 1388 the crosses of St.George & St Andrew faced each other for the first time across the battlefield of Otterburn.

During the 15th century the celebrations for St.George's Day rivalled that of Christmas  and the symbol of the English rose became popular. It was one of the few Saint's Days that survived the Reformation in the 16th.century, but, after the Union with Scotland in the 18th. its popularity began to wane.

The English have no celebratory occasions exclusively their own and the growing independence of Scotland and Wales has given impetus to the idea that St. George's Day should be given a higher profile. Petitions have been presented to No.10 calling for a St.George's Day Bank Holiday and questions have been put in Parliament. So far these have been side-stepped but many supporters will be taking a day's holiday on the 23rd. to help publicise the call.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Preston Park Parking

Before October 2009 this view would have shown a near continuous line of parked vehicles, including travellers' vans, as far as the eye could see.  Then  the Council, in its wisdom, extended Central Parking Zone J to include Preston Park Avenue with the dramatic result you see here. Perhaps the planners failed to notice that there was free all-day parking along the parallel service road. Whatever, if the intention was to give residents and passers-by a better view of the Park the scheme must have succeeded beyond all expectation.  However, if another intention was to add to council income it has failed badly and, at the present rate of use, it looks as if tax-payers will be bearing the costs for a long time.

Evidently, Preston Park Avenue before the restrictions was mainly attractive to long-term parkers, and now, even if people are prepared to pay, a maximum time of 4 hours is of no interest. On the other hand of what use is 4 hours to anyone else? Preston Park Avenue has no shops or restaurants and many properties have private parking spaces.  In fact the main group of people who will now be disadvantaged are users of  Preston Park itself: being  now less likely to find a free space within the Park perimeter they will be forced back to the road to pay for a facility previously available free. . .

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Then & Now: the seafront from Embassy Court

                      In 1951:-

                           In 2005:-

Since the 2005 photo was taken, the bandstand has been restored and its immediate surroundings appropriately landscaped; but the aesthetically pleasing rhythm of the walled formal gardens, laid out in 1884, has been lost.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Long-lost sea-wall

This postcard from 1905 shows the eastern end of the sea-wall looking down from the West Pier. The wall is still there but has been buried for at least 70 years by the build-up of the shingle beach. This build-up followed the programme of sea-defence improvement in the late 19th century, particularly the construction of large concrete groynes.

On the sea-front near the right of the picture can be seen the sadly-missed late-Georgian Bedford Hotel; destroyed by fire in 1964 and replaced by a monstrous tower block.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Pebble Art

Seen on the Western Esplanade, a few 100 yards west of the King Alfred. It must have taken quite some time to collect and sort the pebbles according to size and colour and then arrange them in this complicated pattern. But the creative impulse cannot be restrained . . . .

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Brighton's Hostile Parking Meters 2

The charges at parking meters have recently been increased and many unsuspecting motorists have been caught out, either not putting in sufficient money for the time they wanted and having to pay again, or not examining the parking ticket and walking away only to find a penalty notice on their return. It is true the parking charges displayed on the meter have been altered but these are in very small lettering. Many aggrieved motorists feel that better publicity should have been given to the increase. In view of this I am republishing below an earlier blog on the subject of the City's parking meters.

In these days of crowded roads and heavy car use it is perfectly reasonable that motorists should be asked to pay for on-road parking. Indeed, they are not really in a position to criticise the charges made for this convenience. These charges are presumably arrived at  by the local authority taking into account  social, economic and environmental factors; whereas a motorist can only see it from one point of view, the effect on his pocket.

But, while accepting the need to pay for on-street parking, the motorist is surely entitled to have the means of handing over his money made as streamlined and fair as is possible. Not only do Brighton's parking meters not fit this description, they seem designed to be  positively hostile to the user.
  • The charges vary through the City, as do the times in which they are in operation. Unless one is very familiar with the area one has to find the relevant kerbside notice to check times, which often means walking in the road, and then locate and trek to nearest parking meter.
  • The charges displayed on the meter are in ridiculously small lettering and, at night, in tree-shaded, poorly-lit street are impossible to read with or without glasses.
  • Meters only accept one of the sums listed on the front, or a greater amount, but  do not give change. If you put in too much, you lose money. For example, if you want a half-hour's parking for 50p but only have a pound coin you do not get one hour, you lose 50p. If you go for the next level, £1.30 for 2 hours, you get 105 minutes you do not need. The meters do not accept credit cards. 
  • Many residents will be using the bus by day but resorting to their cars in the evening to avoid a long wait for a late bus home. Arriving at a parking meter shortly before 6pm or 8pm (depending on the area) they are faced with the dilemma of either taking a chance and not buying a ticket, or putting in too much money and being awarded time the next morning that there is no hope of their being able to use.
There is no need for it to be like this. The meters could be easily tweeked to issue a ticket with a parking duration simply proportional to the amount inserted. If, for example, the charge were to be set at 2p per minute and £1 were inserted a ticket timed for 50 minutes later would be issued. This would remove nearly all the problems listed above. There would be no need to decipher notices or scrabble for exact change or overpay.  Wherever parked  one would simply keep on inserting coins until the required time showed on the meter's illuminated display. The rate would of course be set by the council to ensure no loss of income. 

It would make life much easier for the motorist. But perhaps that is not the intention.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Sex Discrimination at the King Alfred

There is a prima facie case of sex discrimination in the poolside scheduling at the King Alfred in that there are several "women-only" sessions and no "men-only" ones. I am sure that is not of the slightest concern to any men until they suddenly find themselves, due to the economic exigencies of modern life, in charge of a pre-school son, daughter or grandchild.

It must be desirable that young children are first introduced to the water in a reasonably tranquil environment and evident that the general swimming sessions may not provide this.

Mothers & grandmothers have the opportunity to take toddlers at the women-only session on Wednesday mornings but men are barred from the pool at this time. This seems to almost hark back to Victorian times and the days of segregated beaches. Even if the original fear was of the pool becoming dominated by some kind of masculine boisterousness this is hardly likely to come from anyone in charge of a 2 to 4 year old. It is difficult to believe that anyone would object to a relaxation of the rules under these circumstances.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Anyone for Badminton?

A small friendly group meeting Sunday mornings at the King Alfred is seeking new members. 

Mixed doubles, mixed ages.

Next meeting 11th April. 10am to 11am.

Usual times 10.30am to 12.30pm.

For further information click here.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Brighton Place

This view from Market Street into "the Knab", as it was originally known, is one of the nicest in the City. The variation in styles and rooflines and the fortuitously sited cupola of the Leeds Permanent building on North Street all come together in a pleasing composition. The view was only slightly marred, when this photo was taken in July 2007,  by the construction work going on in the middle distance.

Sadly, in 2010, the construction work is still not finished, the blockwork lacks its cladding or rendering, the shops are unoccupied and part of the frontage is unattractively boarded up as shown in the photo below:-