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Secrets and Lies

Sunday, 9 May, 2010

Walking windy Brighton

Brighton – every Saturday and Sunday in May 2010 at 11.00 and 15.30 (1.30)

A walking tour of Brighton with a charming guide and a few surprises.   On a wet, windy afternoon in Brighton, dashing hopes that summer is coming, Tony Moss the Secret and Lies tour guide is waiting for his attendees outside the Royal Albion hotel.    Tony Moss is armed with party poppers, he hands them out and explains to the group that if it sounds like he’s telling a lie to pop the popper.

Tony Moss is dressed in a black professor style robe and carries a large orange and black umbrella in tour guide tradition.  The tour begins outside the Royal Albion hotel and one of the first statements which sounds like it could be a lie is that Brighton had three piers.  Then comes another – Brighton had the first and oldest electric railway.  This was after the French razed Brighton in 1515.  Spotting the lies could get difficult and some people are Brighton residents who seem unsure what is fact or fiction.

Moving on round the corner is a plaque to Dr Richard Russell dated 1759 who died four years after moving to Brighton.  Something of a quack doctor he advised drinking a pint of sea water a day for health benefits and practiced his ‘cures’ on rich Londoners.  One of Dr Russell’s concoctions was whisky and sea water.  This could be bought in London pubs and was cured with woodlice and crabs eyes.  Tony Moss offers round a bag of Dr Russell’s cures which looks like pieces of chalk but is found to be liquorice.  A wish it had been chalk from a non-lover of liquorice.

At the Duke of Malborough’s house it’s a trip back in time to the 1820’s when Brighton was fashionable with the upper classes.  The guide explains how the Prince Regent was jealous of the Duke’s property which propelled him to build the Pavillion.    The prince’s mistress Maria Fitzherbert lived next door.  Tony Moss shows a picture of the Prince looking bloated and mean which the press had printed.  Then he produces one of mistress Maria Fitzherbert which looks uncannily like Amy Winehouse.  A lie.  Pop.

Entering Brighton pavilion to admire the Indian Gate.  It was thought the Indian soldiers would recuperate better with the gate in place; it was intended to remind them of home.  Well meaning mistaken thinking.  A farmhouse once stood where the pavilion is.  200 years ago the pavilion and its gardens were for nobility and gentry only, the grounds were fenced off.

The Dome, which is now a museum and art gallery, was considered an architectural success unlike the pavilion.  The poppers are succeeded by party horns to blow if Tony Moss is telling lies.  During the gulf war two songs were banned.  The prize for a correct guess is a stick of Brighton rock.  The mix of facts, pictures, poppers, blow-outs, sweets, rock and walking is an enjoyable combination with jokes from the guide.

The tour moves onto the statue of Queen Victoria who looks upset with Brighton, past the court house where a female boxing coach for young fascists was imprisoned for impersonating a man, onto a statue of Max Miller who had the rudest joke ever in the history of the music hall, the Theatre Royal which was, or is, a top place for flirting rather than watching plays and Marlene Dietrich’s OCD involving cleaning cloths and champagne, whilst walking through Fringe street with artists flyering, promoting and performing.

Next a game of spot the Brighton ‘celebrity’ names on the front of buses and hear about the marina’s Hollywood style walk of fame.  There are only a few lies with more examples of truth being stranger than fiction.   The research put into the walk, the knowledge and charm of the guide is impressive yet comfortable, he has a good rapport with the crowd, everyone at their ease, marvelling at the new information they possess about this sweet, salty, exciting, hen and stag party, chips n’ beer city.

Getting lost in the lanes (time for Tony Moss to raise his umbrella) which were built in the 17th century and informed that this is the haunted talk part of the walk.  There have been reports of ghostly events in ‘Poplar Place’.  Standing next to a bricked up archway where a grey nun comes out at night and puts the fear into passers by.  Now outside the Black Lion pub formerly a brewery and The Cricketers – most haunted pub in Brighton where barmaids report strange noises and being touched – sounds like a lot of drinking establishments.

Getting close to the end of the tour is an alleyway used by a fat man to win a race, walking onto a market place used to sell wives and slaves – same difference.  More ghost stories at the town hall which rests on top of an anglo saxon burial ground.

Back at the seafront to look at the site of Turkish baths built by Dean Mahomed, known as Dr Brighton, one of the most famous Indians in history and end with a conversation on modern sculpture in Brighton – the Kiss Wall and Big Green Bagel known as the ‘seasick doughnut’.  Secrets and Lies is a snack of Brighton – it whets the appetite to return for a meal.  A yearning for a kiss and a sugary doughnut.

Tour guide:  Tony Moss.  http://www.secrets-and-lies-walks.co.uk

(c) Wendy Thomson 2010

reviewed on Saturday 8 May 2010

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