Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Scratching the itch

I mentioned the other day, or maybe it was only yesterday, that I have always had itchy feet.  I never wanted one of those jobs that would see me flying all over the world only to see the destination airport and the inside of a hotel, either of which might as well be in Los Angeles, Berlin or Delhi.  No, I wanted to see the world, not just 4-star hotels which are the same everywhere.  I was, I suppose, fortunate that in my last job before retirement I was able to scratch my itch, albeit only very slightly.

That job was with a national newspaper here in England, a religious newspaper which catered for a specific church.  The church held an annual convention and the editor of the newspaper, along with several reporters and a photographer, always attended to report on the proceedings.  I always tagged along for a day or three - not because I had any great interest in the goings-on themselves, but it was politic to at least show my face.  The newspaper party, not unnaturally, stayed in hotels in the various towns across England where the conference was held.  It was after I had been in the job about three years that the hotel selected for our party to stay in - it was in Cardiff, I think (which is in Wales, not England) - proved to be a disastrous choice.  The editor was furious with himself for having chosen that hotel, more or less on spec, and in discussion with me agreed that we should change the way the hotel was selected each year.  This would involve somebody visiting the town a few months before the conference to check out the hotels, negotiate a rate and make a booking.

So, I got to visit several towns and cities across the country and spend a little time in each, thereby having an opportunity to see something of the sights.  I spent time in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Southport, Blackpool, Derby, Scarborough, Leeds, Bolton, Huddersfield, Halifax, Edinburgh (yes, that's not in England either) and Norwich, among other places.

But there was always one thing that surprised me.  I was always in those towns and cities at the time of year when dusk fell at about 6.30 or 7.00, just as I was wandering the streets, possibly checking out restaurants in case I would be able to negotiate a better deal by letting staff eat away from the hotel.  As I strolled the streets, lights would be coming on in the windows of the houses I passed and I was allowed glimpses into other people's homes.  I would see those people going about their everyday, domestic tasks and a strange feeling would come over me.  It was almost as though I felt lonely or homesick.  The feeling only ever lasted a very few minutes, but it was there in almost every town I visited alone.


Yesterday I posted a picture of an Indian gate to be found in Hove.  There is another Indian gate in Brighton, the more downmarket part of the city of Brighton & Hove.

One of the most famous buildings in Brighton is the Royal Pavilion, the seaside palace built for the Prince Regent, later King George IV, in the Indian style.  During part of the First World War, the Pavilion was turned into a hospital for Indian troops injured on the Western Front and after the war, it was decided to erect a new gateway to the Royal Pavilion grounds from the south as a permanent memorial in Brighton to the use of various buildings in the town for Indian soldiers wounded in the First World War.

The India Gate is a gift from the people of India to the inhabitants of Brighton and Hove as a thank you for caring for their sons.   It was unveiled on the 26 October 1921 by H.H. the Maharaja of Patiala.

The inscription reads:
“This gateway is the gift of India in commemoration of her sons who – stricken in the Great War – were tended in the Pavilion in 1914 and 1915. Dedicated to the use of the inhabitants of the Brighton, B.N. Southall, Mayor”.
In replying His Highness said. “For many of those who had returned to India he had heard expressions of fervent gratitude for the attention and care lavished upon them by ‘Doctor. Brighton’, whose fame and skill as a healer and health restorer were talked of in many hundreds of remote Indian villages.”

The inscription has now faded and was replace by a wooden plaque in 2007.


The Broad said...

I've always thought the Brighton Pavilion was an extraordinary sight! I've yet to visit it, but it's on my list -- if I can ever tear my husband away from The Lanes and his favourite stamp shop!

Brighton Pensioner said...

Believe me, it's well worth a visit.