Tin Tin of Queensbury Mews
After twelve years of living here – and writing a guide book to the place – I have to confess, I still get lost in Brighton. Wander down some unchartered Twitten in the Old Lanes, past the backs of restaurants, hairdressers and snogging teenagers and I often emerge, ever-surprised, to find myself suddenly in Little East Street, Pool Valley or even Rottingdean. And those sidestreets of old Brunswick town niggle me too; I still have to reach for the map when trying to locate the Robin Hood pub, or my friend Sarah’s house in Sillwood Place. Another such obscure Brighton byway is Queensbury Mews. Turn left after the Regency Tavern, just before entering the Square, and this lonely sidestreet, with its meagre row of houses and back entrance to the Metropole, does little to suggest that just around the corner lies Brighton’s tiniest pub, once known as the Hole in the Wall.
A very extra-ordinary house
Queensbury Mews holds another secret too, as I discovered last month when idling down there one afternoon; half way down sits one of the most extraordinary houses in Brighton, decorated from top to bottom with silk flowers, flags, pictures of old film stars, messages painted on the walls and several CCTV cameras, from which hang (what look like) a monkey, crocodile and toy boot.
Tin Tin in a summery dress
Curiosity got the better of me that afternoon, so I knocked on the door and was greeted like an old friend. Its owner, Tin Tin, attired in a summery dress and pair of novelty ‘dog’ slippers, introduced me to Baldrick (his dog), Cheeky Charlie (his parrot) and a friend Mark. Over a glass of beer and sandwich he spilled the beans about his unusual abode: “I first began two years ago putting up old job references in my window. I was getting intimidated about the way I look (Tin Tin is a half-French, half Indian transsexual) and wanted to show the world I was a good character.”
Harrassment from drug dealers
From there he went on to gradually display the whole of his life story on the exterior of the house, with photos of his family adorning the windows, ‘Thank God for Sussex Police’ painted above the door, and – hanging from the top window – a sad story detailing the poisoning of his dog by local drug dealers. The CCTV cameras, it transpired, were not just a cosmetic touch. Unwilling to bow down to harassment he had them installed, along with secret recording devices, to keep himself from harm. But to show his defiance to his intimidators, he has even gone to the extraordinary length of painting on his roof, in large letters, the message: ‘drug dealers’, with an arrow pointing to the accused.
An exceptional character
After a guided tour around the place, Tin Tin’s house revealed one final secret – a gloomy arched entrance in the cellar led directly to Brighton’s old Victorian sewers! Tin Tin is, I have to conclude, an exceptional individual who, like Quentin Crisp, has had the courage to face a hostile world with humour and wiliness.
‘Would you consider moving?’ I asked.
‘In my own good time,’ Tin Tin smiled. ‘I’m a tough cookie, and I don’t crumble!’