I arrived very early for my gig in Eastbourne so I could have a look round the town in the hope of thinking up some local material.
The pier was the most obvious attraction to visit and I was glad to see that it was incredibly shit. It's about a thousand times worse than the pier at Brighton (and I'm talking about the one that keeps burning down and falling into the sea). The arcade nearest the land is pretty bad and has really scary life-sized clown statues doing circus tricks in the ceiling. It is almost as if it has been designed to scare children away. I braved the cold and wind of the Eastbourne evening to go to the end of the pier. I know it's not exactly high season, but it was fairly deserted and dilapidated. There was a pub that seemed to have closed down and the entrance to a night-club called "Atlantis". This was too good to be true. I immediately formulated a routine about the fact that explorers have been searching for the lost world of Atlantis for centuries, without realising that all this time it's been stuck at the end of Eastbourne pier. No-one has spotted it because it's impossible to get to the first arcade with the scary clowns without saying, "Are you serious? Is this really it?" and turning round and going home.
But I can tell you Atlantis is a wondrous place, just like Plato described it, except it is inhabited by a strange half human/half apre sub species, driven almost entirely by sexual impulses. I can see why people wished that the whole place had disappeared beneath the sea.
On the way off the pier there is a sign that says something like "If leaving at night, please do so quietly." I can only assume that that is sarcastic. I don't think anyone who spent any time there will be exactly whooping and shouting, unable to contain their excitement at all the fun they've just had. Maybe they get a lot of furious people yelling, "That was shit" or possibly it's just good advice. If you leave under the cover of night and don't make any noise, there is a chance that no-one will ever know you were stupid enough to go on there.
But there's more to Eastbourne than the pier. They also have a Shop Museum. It's a Museum of Shops or more accurately (I'm guessing) a Museum of stuff that has been sold in shops, as it is quite a small premises. I am surprised that this is not mentioned on the sign on the way into town, "Welcome to Eastbourne, home of the world's only Shop Museum!" People would be flocking into the place. Everyone is curious to witness the tiny, almost imperceptable and often insignificant changes that have happened to packaging in the last hundred years. "Look Camay Soap used to have a very slightly different logo! Brilliant!" Alas I had arrived in Eastbourne too late to enter the shop and its 4 floors were closed. Kindly the curator of the museum had made a display of a few of about 20 of the items you might see on your visit in the front window. A sign boasted that there were over 100,000 more items inside. But to be honest I'd seen enough to satiate my curiosity in the window. In fact I thought there were about 18 too many things to look at there.
Up the road from the Shop Museum was a hairdressers with what I think is the shittest name for a hairdressers that I have ever seen. And that's saying something. A lot of hairdressers go for a funny name, based on some kind of hairdressing pun, like "Fringe Benefits" or "Cut and Dried" or "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow" or "Having the Snip". The shop in Eastbourne was called, "The Ministry of Hair". That's just shit. There's no pun there. There isn't a government ministry that sounds like "Hair". Hair isn't something you would ever think deserves its own ministry (either in a government or religious sense). You can imagine the owner coming into the salon when it was just about to open and saying to the staff, "I've come up with a brilliant name for out shop. Check this out! The Ministry of Hair!"
How the faces of those flamboyant tonsorialists must have fallen.
What image are they trying to get across? Are they saying, "Come here, we will cut your hair in the style of your favourite government minister! Have the beautifully coiffeured locks of David Blunkett! You too could look like Gordon Brown!"
Perhaps they thought it would sound cool, like "The Ministry of Sound", but they were wrong. The mistake they made there was that they forgot that their business was based around hair, rather than music.
To me is sounds like you'll go in there and be greeted by a civil servant who will scurry round a bit room full of shelves piled high with box-files full of different hair. And filing cabinets bursting at the seams with wigs and loose strands of lost hair. Unbelievably the place has a website, so you can check it out for yourself at http://www.ministryofhair.com
I made many of these observations at the gig and it went down very well. The people of Eastbourne know they live in a shit-hole and are very happy to laugh about it and you have to love them for that. People in some shit places try to pretend their town is brilliant and so can't abide it when you point out their delusion (one of these places is famed for its inhabitants having the best sense of humour in the world, but you just slag them off and see how funny they find it! Can you guess where I am talking about? I can't say or they'll get cross and I don't know, I'll be forced to make a trip up there to apologise|), but not in Eastbourne. They don't take themselves too seriously. Consequently I had a blinding gig (despite going on first) and drove home wishing I had started doing all this again years ago.