"You'll never guess where I was today!" announced Terry Richmond with a grand flourish as he stepped into the kitchen through the back door of his comfortable semi-detatched home. His wife, Carol, turned around from the sink with a start, where she stood peeling potatoes for the evening meal and said, "Oh Terry ! You made me jump bounding in here, early from work, like that ! So, where have you been today then, and what are you looking like the cat that got the cream for ?"
"Brighton. I've been to Brighton for the day" he replied with a broad grin, as if his revelation his day's travels was the answer to the location of the Holy Grail.
"And...?" queried Carol, bewildered by his obvious excitement.
"Brighton. The Coast. Don't you get it ?", he answered her taking hold of her shoulders and twirling her around from the sink.
"Er....no". Carol said laughing, “and put me down you daft sod”.
Terry's expression changed to one of quiet patience. " Okay" he said, " What is next Friday ?"
"Next Friday ? " Carol paused to think a moment, " Its our wedding anniversary. Twenty years." Her face still held an enquiring look. " So? I mean I we usually go out for a meal..." And then it dawned on her, "Hold on, you said Brighton ? Where we had our honeymoon ?", the light dawning in her eyes now.” Oh I’m sorry love, no I haven’t forgotten. How could I forget all those Mods and Rockers rampaging along the beach”, she added with a laugh.
"Yeah " replied Terry, "Still it was all we could afford then, three nights in ruddy Brighton. Just our luck they chose to have their punch up there at the same time. "
"Right." said Carol, the great mystery solved now," But the nights weren’t so bad were they “she said with a soft smile,” So you spent the day in Brighton, yes ? Is that it, and what on earth were you doing there of all places ?"
"I'll come to that. Listen. You know old Mister Bradshaw ?"
"Oh yes, I remember him all right. All roaming hands and hot breath at your firm's Christmas do as I recall. Dirty old git"
"Yes, well okay, sorry, but that's him. Always trying it on. Anyway, he had to go down to Brighton to see a client and his car was in for a service so he asked if I fancied a day out to drive him, lunch on the firm.."
"Oh I see. Lunch out is it ? I take it you won't be wanting this roast that I am cooking now ?" interupted Carol.
"Yes, no, oh hell. Hang on and let me tell you the rest" said Terry, flustered by his wife's observation "We get down to Brighton and old Bradshaw told me amuse myself and pick him at three 'o' clock."
"Oh wonderful" said Carol raising her eyebrows, "some of us have to work for a living. You get a day at the coast and lunch thrown in !"
"I only had a burger - you said last night you were cooking a leg of lamb. Anyway now, listen. Remember where we had our honeymoon ?"
Carol thought back for a time and then she said, "Got it. The Seaview Hotel. Right ?"
"Yep. The Seaview. It's still there."
"What, that old place ?"
"I went inside " said Terry a little smugly.
"What on earth did you want to do that for you daft buggger ?"
"Well, you know, old times and all that. it was amazing. Totally unchanged. Even the owners looked as I remember them."
"Oh don't be stupid. That was twenty years ago. I doubt that they are still alive."
"They're not. It's run by the son and daughter. The image of their parents. Remember his old fashioned waxed moustache ?"
"Now you are being silly ! How could you remember that ?"
"Didn't need to. There was a photo on the wall in reception. Mind you, I swear the wallpaper is the same - looks the same in the photo."
"Okay then. So you went in. And....?" she asked expectantly.
"...and I booked us in again for next Friday night. For old time's sake. Thought it might be fun. You know, a spur of the moment thing."
"But its mid summer, and it never was The Ritz. You mean they had a room free ?"
"No, not just A room. Our room, number seventeen. Up the stairs. Second left. Remember ?" " said Terry, pleased now with his surprise.
Carol looked at him in silence a moment, carefully choosing her words, " look lover, it is a nice idea but, well you know, we have moved on a bit since then and it is a bit well, er.."
"Downmarket for us ?" prompted Terry. He reached into his pocket and pulled out some tickets. " These are our tickets for the ferry on Saturday morning. We drive along to Dover for the ferry and then off to France."
Carol's face lit up." Brilliant ! " she said, throwing her arms around Terry and drawing him close for a long kiss."You wait until we get to France my love, then I'll show you a thing or two" she said as she released him and patted his bottom, "but right now let me finish cooking the dinner, okay ?"
"Right enough" said Terry, slipping out of his shoes and walking off to the lounge.
A week later Terry and Carol finished work early and tried to set off ahead of the week-end traffic. The weather had held and there would be no shortage of cars, coaches and caravans on all the main roads South to the coast. Despite their best laid plans they got caught up in the inevitable delay but Terry's job out on the road paid off; he knew all the minor roads as well as most people only know the Motorway routes to get from A to B.
"No problem" he said to Carol, patting her thigh." I know a short cut through here that will take miles off this lot." He waved at the long queue that trailed away over the hills as he turned down what looked to Carol like an unmade track. At the point where they turned off the main road a sigh said 'Stokes Farm only- Unmade track'. After a hundred yards of ruts the track suddenly became a narrow but surfaced country lane. " Apart from the odd tractor we will be on our own now" laughed Terry as he accelerated into the Lane.
"Well you be careful then" said Carol, "It's only a narrow road."
They had lost a lot of time in the traffic up until the time that Terry had finally gone off on one of his personally discovered and guaranteed 'cross country routes'. The slow puncture that he picked up whilst bouncing over the rutted short cut (actually waste land between two fields), finally blew right out about thirty minutes later. Finding the spare flat, then walking miles, or so it seemed to find a telephone, and then at last getting a garage to actually find them made it dark by the time they set off to finish their journey. Carol was not amused.
"Well some bloody short-cut that was I must say. If we had stayed on the main road we would be there by now" she said moodily to Terry.
"Sorry love. My fault, but let's not let it spoil the weekend eh ? I dunno, I've used that dodge dozens of times with no problem and now today, today when it really matters....."
Carol reached around and gave him a quick hug, "yeah alright" she said, "Just get us to Brighton love. You're forgiven."
Terry rested a hand on her thigh again, this time higher than the last time he squeezed it." Sure you don't want to wait a bit ?" he asked her with a kind of a lecherous look, "the lane is very dark you know ?"
"No I don't !" exclaimed Carol in mock indignation, brushing his hand away, "you just concentrate on the driving. There will be plenty of time for that later - if you are not too tired that is" she added with a tease and a grin.
By the time they reached the Guest House (it was and never had been a Hotel) on the outskirts of Brighton, it was just past midnight. Despite the bright day there was no moonlight and there were no stars to light the way. Stepping out of the car and into the pitch black of the night Carol said quietly, "I do hope the weather holds only it looks like there is a lot of cloud up there now."
"Yes" agreed Terry, "Hey look ! " he said, a little too loudly to be 'ssshhed' by Carol, " Look there at those old cars. Must be a rally or something I suppose. That one is a Hillman, and there are two Anglias, a Morris and look at that old Vauxhall. All sixties the lot of 'em!"
"Thankyou Jeremy Clarkson. No can we get inside" said Carol.
The inside of the Guest House was deserted. " What do you think Carol ? Shall I ring the bell or what ?"
"Its a bit late. Isn't that our key there in the cubby hole ?" She pointed to a row of pigeon holes behind the desk. There was a key with a heavy fob on the one marked 'seventeen'.
"Yes, that's ours. Tell you what. I have already paid for the room because we need to be away very early for the Ferry so why don't we just let ourselves in ?"
"Come on then, I'm shattered" said Carol. Terry reached over and picked out the key. " Just a sec" he whispered and paused to make an entry in the register that lay open on the desk. "There" he said, "that makes it all right now " and they went up the stairs to the door that was the second on the left.
"Look at that old telly" laughed Carol, pointing to the oversize TV that sat in the corner, "looks the same as the one that was here last time" as if 'last time' had been last week and not thirty years ago. "Go on Terry, switch it on and see if you can get a late film or something."
Terry fiddled with the old set, it was an ancient Philips with big white buttons that had to be pushed and then turned to tune a picture. All he could get was old, but strangely familiar black and white programs." Must be the late night rubbish spot from Southern TV" he called to Carol who was now getting washed in the tiny bathroom," I can't find much at all to watch." He switched the TV off.
"Okay then lover, I'll have to find something else to do....with you" breathed Carol in a low seductive voice as she stepped out of the bathroom, naked into Terry's waiting arms. “You know, it might be fun to do this again next year” she added with a giggle, before Terry’s gentle hands changed her giggles into low moans of pleasure.
The owner of The Seaview Hotel (well why not, it had a TV in every room after all said and done) looked up from the reception desk as a familiar face walked up the steps and into the lobby. " Ah, just the man. Hello Tom, and how are you this fine morning ?"
"Hello Phil. Another belter of a day out there - god its hot. Sorry I am a bit late. There's so much holiday traffic you see. Trust me, only took the short cut around Stoke's Farm. That cost me two hours more than I reckoned. Still no harm done, well not to me at any rate. Same old girl on the blink is it ?"
Phil nodded, " Spot on. Room Seventeen. Dead as a proverbial Dodo"
"I dunno why you hang on to that old relic - must be the only working dual standard TV set in the country !"
"Yeah, you know the old 405 before everything went 625 and then colour, gawd help us."
"Ah well, it is the very first TV my father bought for the place so I like to keep it going. Sentimental. See what you can do eh and what was that you said, something about 'no harm done' ?"
"Oh yeah. Nasty accident again up near Stokes Farm. Very nasty. poor buggers. Police said they were still cutting them out when I went past. Straight over the edge they went, all the way down Devil's Drop. Killed instantly. 'Course they've got a recovery truck up there and its fair blocked the lane right off."
"Who were they ? did the police say ? Locals maybe...?"
"They did tell me a name. Not local, but I forget. Leave it, it'll come to me. Anyhow, your old TV. Room seventeen. Empty is it?"
"Oh yes, as it happens. We did have a booking but it was a no show. Londoners" Phil raised his eyes as if to dismiss all who lived outside of Brighton."Here is the key. Go on up" he said as he took the key from its place and handed it to Tom.
Twenty minutes later Tom came back down the stairs. He was struggling under the weight of the big TV set that he now carried and stopped to rest it on a chair in the lobby.
"Sorry Phil. She's had it this time for sure. Lucky you cut the plug off for safety because the scan transformer is completely burned out. Plug this in and all you would get would be a warm fire !"
"Ah well, it had to happen one day. Take it away with you, and you had better bring me something to replace it with, something cheap I hope".
Tom was about to pick up his load again when Phil said, "Oh, don't forget the key this time Tom." Tom tossed it over to Phil, "Catch!" he said, but Phil was too slow and it landed on the open register. As Phil picked it up he saw a new entry, an entry with a short note from the guests in room seventeen - dated the night before. It simply read, " Terry and Carol Richmond, back again after thirty years."
"Well I'm damned" said Phil,"I never heard a thing but according to the register my guests did arrive last night after all. Odd, there’s no extra cars in the car park”.
"Your sister already made up the beds then ?"
"Sorry Tom ? The bed ?"
"Yes, the bed. It's all made up. Did Hilda already do it ?"
"Hilda went to town early today to shop. I haven't done any of the rooms yet"
"Well the bed hasn't been slept in then. So who did you say it was up there ?"
"A couple from London. Spent a honeymoon here, when mum and dad ran the place. Thirty years ago it was. The Richmonds, Terry and Carol."
Tom's face paled. "Shit!" he said, "That was the name that the Police gave me, the car that went over the side. The Richmonds."
Terry and Carol had finally dressed now and decided to take a wander around the town, just for old time’s sake. There was a small cafe that they remembered and thought it would be fun to see it was still there. They left their room and ran down the stairs more like a pair of teen-age sweethearts than a couple wed for thirty years. As they ran through the curiously still empty hallway, Terry dropped the room key on the desk.
“Blimey Phil, bit nippy in ‘ere mate” said Tom as the front door gusted open and a sudden cold draught caught him by surprise.
“Put the wood in the hole Tom” said Phil, nodding towards the door,” Funny, weather was supposed to be hot and sunny today.”
“I’d best be on me way, got a few more calls to make yet” said Tom. He was careful to pull the door shut behind him as he left.
The Cafe was still there, the same cheap Formica tables covered with white plastic cloths. It was only a couple of streets away but Terry couldn’t help noticing that there were no cars parked, that everything, well he couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but everything looked, so dated. They looked at the menu, having already decided to enjoy a breakfast there. A pot of Tea, Carol noted was 1/3d. Hang on, 1/3d. “Terry”, she said” Look at the prices love”.
Terry looked. “Well that’s odd. Its all in ‘old money’, in fact these prices look about right for 1967”. Hearing the sound of engines he looked out of the cafe window and there saw a great long column of Scooters, scooters bedecked with chrome and lights and on every one a Mod sporting an ex-Army Parka, the obligatory Mod girl riding pillion; the Mods were in town. “What the.....” he said to nobody in particular., his voice trailing off unanswered. Carol looked up too, hearing the discordant revving of the Lambrettas and Vespas, and as she did they both began to realise that something was wrong, something was terribly wrong.
They didn’t speak. They left the Cafe and walked back in silence, hand in hand, to The Seaview. As they crossed the car park Terry dimly noted that their Ford Escort was not in the car park, that it was full now of much older cars, 1960’s cars. They went back into the still empty guesthouse and upstairs to their room. Room 17. It would always be their room now. Forever.