Today we took a train from London Victoria to Brighton, which was the setting of Alison MacLeod’s Unexploded. In Brighton, we saw where Evelyn, Geoffrey, and Philip lived, including the house/street that served as the inspiration for their house, and the pier where Philip and his friends hung out. The pier was also important to the book because it was one of the first things to be closed and boarded up in preparation for a possible invasion by the Germans.
We started out in The Levels, a place in the book. The Levels is a park with an amazing playground with exotic playground equipment. It was really fun to play a little bit on the playground! There was also a water area with sprinklers, and a grassy area for sports and for playing with dogs. In the book, there was supposedly a market in The Levels, but we saw that the market area was actually across the street. That market area seemed to have some sort of pop-up theatre that put on satirical shows. One of the posters was for a show called S*!t-Faced Shakespeare- Hamlet. While it was moderately inappropriate and definitely satirical, it was relevant to the class because it was Shakespeare and this is an English class.
We then walked down to the Brighton Pier, another place often mentioned in Unexploded. The pier was incredible, with arcade games and amusement park rides. We walked the length of the pier, took pictures of the water and of ourselves, got ice cream cones, and even played a game in the arcade! After exploring a bit on the pier, we walked down onto the rocky beach to look underneath the pier. In the book, Philip and some of the other boys find themselves under the pier several times, so it was neat to see what it was like under there. We walked along the water on the beach and looked in the direction of France, and tried to imagine what it would be like to stand on the beach, as the characters did in the book, watching for air raids and being fearful another country’s military would come to invade the beach. It was difficult to imagine the way the characters would have felt, and difficult to try to envision the beach being sandbagged and closed in preparation for an invasion.
In the afternoon, the whole group went to The Old Ship Hotel for a traditional British afternoon tea. This was an amazing experience! We learned the “dos and don’ts” of afternoon tea while we waited for our tea and snacks. With our tea, we had finger sandwiches, scones, eclairs, and many other sweet pastries/desserts. Afternoon tea was definitely one of the most “British” things we have done on this trip. I cannot remember for certain, but I am sure afternoon tea was likely mentioned in Unexploded. If my memory is correct, there is a part in the book when Evelyn goes to a neighboring flat to see Otto and they have tea together.