Thursday, 27 October 2011

Oh what a lovely war

I love sharing an office with a film location company:

"Did Andy know you wanted to hang someone off the balcony?"

I thought it might be Michael Jackson on the end of the telephone line. But no it's the filming of the new Sweeney!

So do we really think the politicians have sorted out the Euro problems then? No. I don't think so. Not least becasue it will mean pumping yet more money into the banks, whilst the banks themselves pour yet money into the pockets of their staff. It stinks. No wonder wealth disparity has increased so much in the last twenty years. I am a great supporter of the Occupy anti-capitalist protest camp outside St Pauls. Actually, the point is that it's really outside the Stock Exchange. THere's been a great deal of untruths spread about the protestors, but then you can't really expect the City authorities to be too truthful about the strength of feeling the cause has attracted. It is a crying shame though that The canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral Dr Giles Fraser has decided to step down, apparently because he disagrees with the Church's desire to evict the protestors. It seems there is an unholy trinity of Church, State and Finance. We saw Giles Fraser earlier this year at a public event to discuss 400 years of the King James bible...that's the one you've probably got tucked away in a bottom drawer somwhere. He seems very personable.

The West Pier was a pier in my beloved Brighton. It was built in 1866 by Eugenius Birch but was closed in 1975, awaiting renovation. It was Brighton's second pier, the other being the Palace Pier

The West Pier was opened in 1866 with a length of 1115 feet, and built with cast iron threaded columns screwed into the seabed. The pier did not have much of a superstructure until 1893 when a pier head was extended and a pavilion added. A concert hall was added in 1916 and a new top-deck entrance in 1932. In 1965 the pier was bought by a company that owned some seafront hotels and entertainment venues. They had ambitions for the pier but as maintenance costs increased the pier was closed in 1975 when Brighton Corporation declined to buy it and the pier passed into the hands of the Crown Estates Commissioners. A trust was formed to save the pier and in 1984 they bought it for a nominal sum. After that time there were many schemes to revive it, most were madcap and one included backing from the now bankrupt boxer and local resident Chris Eubank.

Famously it was used as the back drop for Attenborough's wonderful musical Oh! what a lovely war!

The West Pier had been cut off from the shore (partly deliberately, for safety reasons) since 1975, but the West Pier trust offered regular tours of it until the structure suffered a serious partial collapse during a storm on 29 December 2002, when a walkway connecting the concert hall and pavilion fell into the sea. On 20 January 2003 a further collapse saw the destruction of the concert hall in the middle of the pier. On 28 March 2003 the pavilion at the end of the pier caught fire. With a remarkable degree of irony firefighters were unable to save the building from destruction because the collapsed walkway prevented them from reaching it. The cause of the fire remains unknown. On 11 May 2003, another fire broke out, consuming most of what was left of the concert hall. The Fire re-ignited on 12 May. Arson was suspected: the West Pier Trust refers to the fires as the work of "professional arsonists". Suggested beneficiaries to ending any possible development of the West Pier either local residents who objected to a new development on the sea front, or the threat of competition to the lucrative Palace Pier's business.

On 23 June 2004 high winds caused the middle of the pier to collapse completely. Despite all these setbacks, the West Pier Trust remained adamant that they would soon begin full restoration work. Finally, in December 2004, the Trust conceded defeat, after their plans were rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in part because of problems with achieving the required "matched funding" from outside sources. Subsequent plans to restore only the oldest, structural parts of the pier were eventually rejected by English Heritage. However, in September 2005 the Trust revealed in their newsletter that they were forming further plans to rebuild the original structure with help from private funding.

In December 2005 the last remaining physical structure, the "little white hut", was lost when strong winds broke it away into the sea. Ironically, when the rest of pier had been intact, the hut had been said to be in serious threat of falling into the sea; yet it was the last piece to remain.

These days there is a rotting skeleton...and when The Boy and I had kayaks it was always fun to paddle round and through the structure, which is much loved by the local seagulls.

Since then, the idea has been to create a pier for the 21st century - the i360, is a slender, elegant observation tower the only one of its kind in the world, that elevates visitors in a pod to a height of 150m above sea level to enjoy stunning views. There are some great pictures here. It has been designed by the same people that created the London Eye, so is quite spectacular. If it hadn't been for the financial crisis (yes those bloody bankers again) it would have been built by now. This despite fierce opposition from Brighton's other Pier, the Palace Pier (renamed Brighton Pier by the owners to make a point) which couldn't see the benefits (and visitors) that such an attraction would bring. At the time of going to press there doesn't appear to be a time-scale for getting the i360 built....although they are claiming a 2013 opening date.

So it has come as quite a surprise that at the Palace Pier to find that on a slightly smaller scale we have the Brighton Wheel. A very splendid, if somewhat clunkier reflection of the London Eye, suddenly appeared. Of course, being Brighton, this one is second hand having first made an appearance in France and then South Africa, but who's to complain?! We went up it (round it?) this week during a couple of days off, and it has provided us with views of our city that none of us had ever seen before. Fantastic.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Tara's Photo Gallery continues to thrive I'm delighted to see. I contribute when I can, and today I thought I would with this picture:

We were on a short break to Norfolk with some friends, and we headed to the amazingly sandy beaches when I saw this lady with her dog. I thought she had so much character in her face that I had to ask if I could take a picture of her and her dog...they both seemed to be having such a wonderful time. Surprisingly she was more than happy to be pictured, and this was the result. I wish I'd been able to send her it.