I do like to be by the seaside.
I am sitting outside the best hotel in the seaside resort. The Royal Norfolk built in 1836 to replace the previous hotel which burnt down. I am alone but previously the exiled Emperor Napoleon III, Queen Alexandra with her sister Empress Maud of Russia had also taken the waters at this hostelry. I asked Dmitri if royalty still popped in, he looked at me as if I had dog poo smeared over my face.
This is of course is Bognor Regis. I am here to have a swim and to tick another box in my love affair with Briton’s piers. I am also trying to add to the town’s pitifully threadbare history.
It is famous for only two events. The poet William Blake in 1804 stayed for three years in what was a village Felpham ,which is now part of the town. It was there he wrote his most famous work Jerusalem. Today (as he feared) the green and pleasant land of which Silly Billy wrote is now supermarket and a car park.
And of course George V’s famous Bugger Bognor remark. Many versions are given of why and when he said this. The one I like came after the heavy smoking king had spent time near Bognor in 1928 convalescing (hence the Regis) it was suggested he might go again for his health. Bugger Bognor was the ( understandable)response!
Bognor’s once proud pier is now but a pitiful stump ,a jetty with an amusement arcade at its base. I walked its few yards. A sign reads “No jumping or diving from pier. Anyone caught will be prosecuted.” Frankly not prosecuted but certified.
Two fishermen with one rod sit huddled at the end of truncated pier. Its usually mackerel but to day it was too windy. But then a collector’s item. Pure Fast Show. One of the town’s many mobility scooters and its owner is hiding from the wind on the pier. And its driver is necking extra strong Special Brew. Bognor lives! There may have been few takers for the wind brakes(£5 a day, £3 after 2pm) but drinking and driving is making a comeback on the pavements of
Bognor. Too old too live, too drunk too drive. England’s pleasant pastures green,who needs them?
I had the worst fish and chips ever-apparently having fish and chips on a pier was number one in a Daily Mail readers survey of 50 Things To do in the UK Before You Die. Lovely little Museum. But if Brighton is a ten, Bognor I am afraid is barely a two.