Having got through most of the winter without succumbing to too many germs, last week saw illness reign at Kibber Towers, necessitating the last-minute sacking off of the long-awaited Damo Suzuki gig last Friday in favour of creeping sweatily off to bed (and not in a good way.) at 8pm. By Sunday a touch of cabin fever had set in, so we embarked on a little gentle countryside exploration around West Sussex, which is generally posher and more agricultural than its Easterly twin. It's always good fun to have a nosey around the mid-war Private Estates that dot the coastline, with their prim grids of bungalows and pervading air of unknowable eccentricity. I love to imagine what goes on here, prompted by yet another sighting of a tended clump of pampas grass (the traditional method of signifying an interest in 'swinging') waving enticingly outside a pristine 'Little Orchard', or the incongruence of a battered 1971 Pontiac 455 with a bumper sticker saying 'South's Gonna Rise Again' (Confederate flag so presumably not meaning the Home Counties of England) parked on the driveway of a house called 'Bateman's' (which I assume to be a nod to Rudyard Kipling's old pile across the Weald in Burwash.). But not everyone in these parts is a wannabe poet - take a meander around genteel little Felpham, and you'll find yourself pootling past William Blake's house (William Blake! Sorry, but that excites me.).
It's worth detouring into Chichester just for the cathedral (though Pallant House gallery is always worth an afternoon if you have time), which has a memorial to Holst at which you can, if of an immature bent, do your own version the 'Gracelands' scene from Spinal Tap by sticking your finger in your ear and humming an out-of-tune version of 'Mars, The Bringer of War' (I got glared at by a verger.). Don't leave, though, without casting your eyes over the tomb of Richard Fitzallen and his second wife Eleanor, which inspired Philip Larkin to write his poem 'An Arundel Tomb'. It's an unusually tender carving for what were fairly brutal times in which marriage was usually no more than a business transaction, her body turned towards him and his bare hand - the gauntlet removed for eternal skin-on-skin (or stone-on-stone, if you must) contact, clasping hers. Even the ferociously cynical Larkin was moved to curious exploration of the emotions implied here, while continuing as ever to declare himself consigned to the role of outsider-observer in such matters.
We headed home via Bognor Regis, the embodiment of the deflated and defeated Georgian seaside resort, the one which despite its best efforts never really attracted the glamourous patronage of the society miscreants who took their expensive naughtiness up the coast to Brighton. A reputation for genteel dullness has long since been superseded by a reputation for drug-related crime, poverty and relative squalor, and on a cold afternoon at the end of winter even the appearance of the low yellow sun couldn't enliven it much. Plus, there were posters around advertising a Clown Festival which was due to end that day, so I was especially keen to get out of town as quickly as possible fearing that we might get caught up in some terrible, feverish Clown Carnival as the participants threw off any remaining inhibitions and blocked the main drag with a full-scale, Bacchanalian Clown Orgy (I'm not joking about this. I was genuinely fearful about the possible onset of Clowns.).
We got home safely, feeling better, and happily didn't have to sack off our second hotly-anticpated gig of the week, the premiere of Steve Reich's Radiohead-inspired 'Radio Rewrite' at the Festival Hall on Tuesday night.
About which I shall say more later.