Brighton (and a smattering of Thatcher)…

by Sadie Mills on April 19, 2013

Brighton PierMy first living memory of Brighton was on the news in 1984, when I was all of six years old.  It was coverage of the terrorist attack on The Grand Hotel, the Tory Party conference and assasination attempt on our then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, by the IRA.

Now I don’t know what your political/religious persuasion is.  Frankly, I don’t really care (no offence).  I have a fair bit of Irish Catholic blood, and stories of overlords from England coming to The Emerald Isle, raping and stealing land, makes bile rise in my throat.  But there again, seeing images as a child of English polititians (yes, even them) stretchered out in their pyjamas in the middle of the night…  It’s more visceral.  They left a mark that stayed with me forever.  Not that I knew who they were, not that I agreed with their policies, not that in that moment it really mattered.  Because in that snapshot, they were (as terrorism victims always are) just helpless, frightened, confused people.  Apart from Maggie, who seemingly came out barking like a Rottweiler (bar the odd tear).  And, I have to say, more power to her.

Back to Brighton.  The truth of it is, I’ve been there only once, when I was eleven years old.  It was purely by happenstance.  I saw The Royal Pavilion and fell in love.  To me, it was Britain’s answer to The Taj Mahal.  Wonderfully decadent, completely over the top.  At eleven years old, I thought it was fabulous.  I still do.

When I began writing Virtually Perfect, the very first vision I had was half way through the story, Eve sitting on a bench in the gardens looking doleful, like that iconic image of Princess Diana, sitting in front of the real thing.  Ben swaggering up with some cocky repertoire – I had all the smart-arsed lines.  As I was actually writing, my convoluted, witty one-liners fell away to the real story, but I sure am glad it all started here.

The Royal Pavilion BrightonAll of the places set out in my novel are real (all bar Alessandro’s coffee house and La Casona).  Google Earth, Youtube and the World Wide Web are all beautiful things.  Ben’s apartment block, Percival Terrace, still stands.  It’s a stunning piece of architecture with an interesting past.  On Friday 13th November 1987, half of it mysteriously disappeared into the ground.  No wonder he bought it for a snip.

Percival Terrace Brighton



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