Living in West Sussex, I went to Chichester, the county town at the age of 12 for an interview for a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital, a private boarding school. It went well until we came to the inevitable (see the school name) religious question and I had no idea whatsoever who Pontius Pilate was, my relationship with the Bible being somewhat chaste at the time.

This PP guy has a lot on his conscience. Two thousand years after his death he prevented me from donning yellow socks and mediaeval kit. On the other hand, had I known who PP was, I would never really have moved to the West Country but largely remained a Sussex boy, and that would have been a loss. It’s a moot point whether it would have been easier in future job interviews to say that I’d gone to Christ’s Hospital instead of Sexey’s School (founded by a sixteenth century royal auditor who splashed money around on charitable causes. I don’t know how he got his name.).

But this time I only passed through the fine cathedral city of Chichester on my way to Selsey (Seal Island) although none were in evidence on my visit). It’s wonderfully quiet here with an absolutely deserted beach with not so much as a dogwalker to be seen. No buckets and spades, no candy floss, no penny in the slot machines, no obesity maintenance joints, no ice creams on sale apart from at a once Polish owned shop, none of the customary clamour. It’s an almost Swedishly unspoilt beach. Chilly but bearable lying with my back against a windshielding rock looking at the rough sea. After intensive relative-focused days and a business day in Dorchester, I felt I needed the sea and am glad I found this little townlet, whose existence I knew nothing of until recently, out of the way on the oddly named Manhood Peninsula, the most southerly part of Sussex, ending at Selsey Bill, which, like Portland Bill was once just an odd name for me.

According to, there is an Old English word bill “bill, bird’s beak,” related to bill, a poetic word for a kind of sword (especially one with a hooked blade), from Proto-Germanic *bili-, a word for cutting or chopping weapons. Used also in Middle English of beak-like projections of land (such as Portland Bill)”.

My respite here will be short as I’m looking forward to meeting daughter and grandson on his first trip to London at Gatwick tomorrow. But I shall come here again when I need to clear my head or hide away for a while or just to practice being a pensioner luxuriating in my west-lit room where there is not only a bath but a bathroom with a window for a sunset wallow.

One thought on “Selsey”

  1. Look up billhook.
    ‘A billhook or bill hook is a versatile cutting tool used widely in agriculture and forestry for cutting woody material such as shrubs, small trees and branches. It is distinct from the sickle. It was commonly used in Europe with an important variety of traditional local patterns.’
    We had two in our shed when I was a boy in Templecombe. I am sure they can still be bought, should you feel the need!

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