In the novel The Blotting Book by E. F. Benson, Edward Taynton acts as the guardian of Morris Assheton, managing the young man's finances until he turns twenty-five, or until he marries. Morris learns that Godfrey Mills, Taynton's partner, has been spreading allegations about him. These have prompted his girlfriend's parents to forbid her to see him again. As Mills has traveled to London, Taynton counsels him to calm down. When Mills returns, Taynton assures Morris that he will sort everything out.
Mills' usual practice is to disembark at the train station in the nearby village of Falmer, and walk down to Brighton. Taynton and Morris wait for him, putting in frequent calls to his home, and checking at the office. No one has seen or heard from him. Eventually, the two men part company, and Taynton takes his exercise. He reverses Mills' route, and walks up toward the train station at Falmer.
He does not meet Mills along the way.
From Benson's descriptions of Taynton, I formed the mental picture of a heavyset, laid-back individual. I didn't realize until I mapped out the journey that the distance between Falmer and Brighton was over five miles. So Taynton was far from a sluggard. I was curious about the village that plays a small but crucial role in the novel. So one day in Brighton, we walked up to the city's big train station (a distance of over a mile in itself), and boarded a train for Falmer. As there was little more to the village of Falmer than a church, we timed our visit to coincide with their 11:30 a.m. Wednesday service.
|Brighton Train Station|
In Benson's novel, Taynton walks across lonely, quiet hillsides. This is what we saw as we left downtown Brighton. Perhaps a few more people live here now than in 1908.
Falmer Train Station was moved to this location in 1865, and rebuilt in 1890, so this is the same building that inspired Benson to include it in his novel.
It's probably received a new paint job since then.
I'm guessing the American Express Community Stadium probably wasn't here in 1908, though. It's home to the Seagulls Football team. ("No, not soccer, football. You're in England now, mate.")
Beside it now lies the University of Brighton.
Finally, after following directions from two different people (and only getting lost and having to retrieve our steps once), Falmer's St. Laurence Church appeared on the horizon. And we still had a half-hour before the worship service started!
So why was the door closed and locked?