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The view from a beach hut

PUBLISHED: 14:24 16 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:52 28 February 2013

The view from a beach hut

The view from a beach hut

Life's a beach, at least it can be if you've got your own hut, but you need to watch out for parrots, as Catherine Roberts discovered

IN BRIGHTON, people walk their parrots along the promenade. My mother and I discovered this in our second hour of people-watching, an activity thats increased tenfold since we bought our beach hut.

Sitting there, I realised that despite having lived in Brighton all my life I had, until recently, quite neglected the sea other seas seen the warm beauty of the Mediterranean and flown over the unknowable Atlantic when really its this one, my home sea, that makes me the happiest. Its so easy to overlook the sea, even though many of us glimpse it every day.

Now that weve got a beach hut, that familiar length of horizon has a different meaning to me: Im judging whether the sea would be warm enough for a swim, whether the promenade is too busy for setting chairs out, whether the beach will be empty enough for my uncle to fish from, whether Ill be watching windsurfers today, or maybe marathon runners, or yes, perhaps even passers-by walking their parrots. Because since getting the beach hut, we have a base from which to immerse ourselves in the seafront, no matter how horrible the weather.

The beach huts that skirt the Brighton and Hove promenade have neatly replaced the bathing machines of the nineteenth century. If youre willing to overlook the increased amount of scorched flesh on show, essentially things havent changed that much. People still come to the huts to be happy. Mostly to be happy in decent weather, of course, which is why springtime and autumn are my favourite seasons. That last pulse of September sunshine always feels like a gift. We bought our beach hut in the early autumn and were so lulled by the pleasant warmth that we almost forgot to prepare it for winter.

That was when we learned a few lessons. Cover the locks with Tesco bags during the colder months. Do not leave anything remotely valuable inside. Do not, whatever you do, spend hours painting the doors on a windy weekend, because you will return the next day to discover your gleaming hut textured with dried-in grit, sand and Kit Kat wrappers. Some of the hard work is a result of us buying a hut within our price range. It had weathered a fair few storms: the constant damp had warped the walls; the floor was half-rotten. We still wage a constant war against rust, flaking paint and salt-jammed locks - or broken locks. The beach huts are prime targets for thieves.

There should be some sort of handbook for keeping beach huts, really. Its all worth it because a beach huts not just an investment for the milder months. The work we put into maintaining our hut, and that we make use of it in every possible weather, has made it irrevocably ours. Were not the only hut owners who like to huddle over a Thermos flask in winter whilst watching a Carpenteresque sea fog creep inland. Seeing the huts laden with snow this last winter was completely surreal. My camera became an extension of myself, because its not often that we are treated to a view of waves lapping against brightwhite ice.

Perhaps inevitably, weve fallen in love with our beach hut. Im tempted to sign the front door when we do this years coat of paint, because while we cant be too inventive when it comes to the colour scheme, in my eyes its a Rembrandt in the making. A very battered, well-loved Rembrandt, maybe, but one nonetheless.

Sitting outside our beach hut, we once overheard a girl wonder to her mother about the lines of little houses. And there it is: it might be six foot by six foot and slightly slanting, but our beach hut has become a second home, and our life is better, and much saltier, for it.

A HUT OF YOUR OWN


It is possible to purchase beach huts directly from the owners, or, as we did, through an estate agent.

Prices range between 7,500 and 11,000, with new huts currently going for 12,000. Brighton and Hove Council charges hut owners an annual licence fee and rates (in total around 330) and insurance is compulsory.

Catherine Roberts is a Creative Writing graduate and writer based in Brighton.


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