It's always interesting to see your hometown through the eyes of a tourist. It's particularly interesting when the tourist in question is your New Boyfriend, on a giddy whirlwind trip that involves meeting your parents, Grandma, schoolfriends and Teville Gate in one day.
There are numerous telltale signs of potential lunacy that people look for when they start dating someone – hidden Michael Buble albums, teddy bears, hairs on the palms of their hands. But when the suggestion "let's go to Brighton for the day" is met with the response "no, I'd rather see Worthing" from your new beau, you might feel you have legitimate cause to worry.
I could have talked him out of it. I could have pointed out that while a day trip to Brighton would provide an actual day's worth of things to do - buying hemp, eating goat's cheese, getting spontaneous piercings - a day trip to Worthing would have been over in the time it would take me to say, "um, there's the pier." I could have explained that visiting a seaside town in the bleak midwinter tends to infuse one with a lingering melancholy for weeks to come, as though one's soul has been given a good once-over with a cold, wet flannel.
But I didn't. Being the patriotic bundle of Sussex pride that I am, I said, "yes! Let's do it! It's been MONTHS since I spent an afternoon doing battle with a 2p machine." So off we trundled to Worthing, on the 9.17 from Victoria, burdened with one hangover, one caffeine headache, one Cornish pasty and one weighty copy of the Observer. Mistake number one, naturally, was not remembering that an eye-wateringly early start wouldn't mean All the More Time for Grade-A Fun, but actually just that nothing would be open yet.
"There's the law courts," I said, before running through a brief history of the town's more newsworthy trials of late. He took a photo. "There's some council buildings," I said. He took a photo. "Here's Worthing library, where I briefly worked before finding the pressures of town-centre book borrowing too much and moving to the altogether less 'urban' Goring branch," I said. Photo. "We still have a Wimpy." Photo.
And while I tried my best to do justice to Worthing's lovely art deco architecture, our literary history, budding artistic community and slightly bigger than average H&M, it was always the less remarkable elements of the town that NB was drawn to. Places I hadn't been since I was 12, having been too busy standing on the A259 with a sign saying "anywhere with a Pret." Because in the same way Parisians never go up the Eiffel tower, the charm of the English seaside town, with its tearooms and slot machines and non-ironic visits from Canon and Ball, is often lost on us residents.
Sometimes you just need an outsider to come along and say "hey, the Guildbourne Centre looks interesting - let's go in there."