Rye and Camber Sands, 26 April 2015
‘Yeah that was me, down at Camber Sands’ (Lark Descending)
One of the many rewards of devoting your life to cycling to places mentioned in Half Man Half Biscuit songs is that you see a much underexplored side of Britain. A short train ride from our native London, with its Gok Wan acolytes, fair-trade cocaine, jog-proof I-pods and Ken Hom wok sets, is a world of forlorn seaside towns, massive crackling pylons next to caravans (static, naturally), and disused military installations.
Like HMHB, the Fall seem drawn to these kinds of landscapes, and so we kick off our tour of the Sussex-Kent coastline at their gig in Hastings. Playing under a banner that says ‘DEDICATION NOT MEDICATION – YOU DECIDE!’ (we vote for medication ) Mark E Smith and his terrified minions put in a decent shift , deigning to perform ‘Theme from Sparta FC’ as an encore.
Back at our accommodation (run by a lovely Armenian couple who are relaxed about us leaving our bikes in the way of the fire extinguisher) I dream of being transported to Mars, albeit a Mars where there are a lot of noisy seagulls. Their screeching is eventually replaced by the sounds of the young couple having energetic sex in the room next to mine.
The B and B turns out to provide only the first ‘B’ of the traditional B and B offering, so we have breakfast at the Indian restaurant next-door, to the accompaniment of some jaunty 80s hits, which prompts some animated debate about whether Starship had dropped the Jefferson before they recorded ‘We Built This City’. The day’s cycling starts off with some steep climbing out of Hastings into Fairlight, before following the coastline to the day’s two destinations: Rye, and the Pontin’s holiday camp at Camber Sands.
With May 7th a couple of weeks away, many of the citizens of Sussex and Kent have made their political views clear. Based on a detailed analysis of the posters and placards we cycle past, we can confidently predict that the outcome of the 2015 General Election will be:
Conservatives – 103 seats
Labour – 23 seats
Others – None
Cycling-wise there’s not much to report, other than the usual slow progress, confusion about routes, missed turnings, and fury with errant GPS devices. Mostly, it’s cold, damp and windy. It’s tempting to say it’s a miserable day, but you may like a bit of drizzle, so we’ll stick to the facts.
We lose one of our number in the Rye area, but reunite in a pub in New Romney, where we’re befriended by a rave era casualty who spends a good half hour shouting “Fuck off you Chelsea Scum!” at the TV, before realising Chelsea aren’t playing yet. Over pints of lime and soda we decide that Deal and Broadstairs can wait for another day – one when it’s not raining and Arsenal aren’t playing Chelsea. We luck out at the Swan Hotel in Hythe, where we’re just in time for the game and a lukewarm Sunday roast. Our train home is from Sandling, which is just a couple of miles away, and two letters short of being a dead wading bird, so an apt place to end another tour.