Escape to Brighton!

Posted on June 2, 2015

I felt I needed to disappear at the weekend as I had got to that stage where I just needed a break from work, cricket and Facebook posts that say “re-post if your dad was a hard working man” or “Re-post if you remember when it was cool to eat Spangles, own a Rubik’s Cube and get your anus traumatised by a BBC TV Presenter.”

The great irony with the people who have families and 1980’s memories that are far better than mine, is that they slag off modern technology using modern technology...”Re-Post if you went to school in bare feet, got your ear clipped by the local Bobby on the beat and made toys out of sticks rather than playing on X boxes or iPhones” is often followed by a photo of a ham salad taken on an iPhone with the words Yum Yum written next to it.

Enough was enough, so on Sunday, I shot off down to Brighton with my girlfriend after booking a late deal at a hotel on the sea front. Almost every time I feel like going off somewhere on the spur of the moment, Brighton is always the place that comes to the forefront of my mind and this weekend was no exception.

It is difficult to explain to myself, let alone anyone else, why I like Brighton so much, because if you look back at the sea front from the pier, it is something of a tired looking place, with the old Georgian buildings dwarfed by sixties monstrosities such as the Holiday Inn building, a grey, concrete vision of misery designed by an architect presumably, during in his darkest hour.


Brighton Sea Front is a tired looking place 

We stayed in the Old Ship Hotel on the front in between the two piers, one that is still in use, the other, a feature of twisted and melted steel that was burnt down in March 2003 when locals heard the news that Lenny Henry had been booked to do a series of stand up gigs during the summer of the same year.

Actually, I made the Lenny Henry bit up, but it was an arson attack not long after a battering by a winter storm, and after a whole series of debates about what to do with it, somewhat bizarrely, it has become something of an iconic feature that can look quite spectacular if the weather conditions suit.


The old pier has become an iconic symbol of Brighton

Anyway, if you are ever thinking about staying at The Old Ship Hotel, it is okay if not a little tired, but be warned, we got charged £23.00 for the car park underneath it, which, if you ask me, has a smack of audacious exploitation about it. I think the room itself was £86.00 without breakfast, which is about par for a standard Brighton room I’m afraid to say.

So, after ditching our bags, we headed straight out for a stroll on the front in bracing winds which were the remnants of a deep low pressure system more familiar with October than early summer. However, as we walked, with the wind in Jennifer’s hair (I don’t have any) I soon began to realise why I liked Brighton so much…there is always something happening.

As we passed the old pier we stumbled in to a food, beer and wine festival featuring a plethora of stalls boasting weird and wonderful produce sold by all sorts of weird and wonderful people. We satisfied our palettes with some extraordinarily strong beer, a glass of wine and a couple of samosas and meandered on our way down to The Lanes and had a swift one in the Druids Head before going back and changing for he evening.

The evening saw the emergence of lukewarm sunshine and a stroll through The Lanes that eventually took us to a restaurant called Donatello’s. I am guessing that you won’t be staggering backwards in shock when I inform you that this is an Italian restaurant, but you may be when I tell you how inexpensive it was…£33.00 for two decent meals and a bottle of wine served by friendly and helpful staff. No wonder it was busy.

We then left there and went to what was effectively a mini-festival on the roundabout near the east pier and despite it being 10:30 on a Sunday night, a party was in full swing with an eclectic group of people making full use of the dance area. This included one woman who was offering some sort of sexual pagan ritual to any man who passed her and another who was playing her air guitar, with some vigour, to ‘All Day and all of the Night’ by The Kinks.

Unfortunately for her, her impressive audience (including us of course) was taking great amusement from the unfortunate position of her invisible guitar that had, inadvertently, made her look like she was enthusiastically strumming her vagina; it has to be said that her facial contortions didn’t help matters.

We left there when Jennifer showed moderate to strong resistance at my now semi-drunken attempts to get her to dance to ‘Rock the Casbah’ and returned to the hotel for a couple of G&T’s before retiring and rising early enough in the morning for a stroll and breakfast before heading back home.

We had breakfast in an extraordinary little Cafe called The Blackbird Tea Rooms which was decked out in a vintage 1940’s style that was so effective, it really was like taking a step back in time; all that was missing was a doodlebug crashing through the window whilst we stoically continued to sip on our beverages as “We’ll Meet Again” played on the gramophone.


The Blackbird Tea Rooms

It was as we left the tea rooms and wondered back through the alleys past the independent shops, cafes and bars, all with their quirky owners and staff, when I realised why I like Brighton so much. It is a town full of a kind of Bohemian individualism, where people don’t care for the common human trait of following like sheep. You could, if you chose to, walk down the road in a top hat, a leather rain coat and pink trousers and not one person would glance at you twice. I like that.

I first went to Brighton in 1992 on a work conference and then, from 1997 through to 2008, my accountant, Brian, was based there, so I often used the excuse to go down to see him. He was a man with a fantastic memory for facts and figures and was full of eccentricities, telling tales of working for 1960’s gangsters and bent coppers from his Ship Street office that looked like the setting for a Dennis Potter play. Sadly, his love of Stella and cigarettes did for him at a relatively young age (63, I think).

Brian loved the town and he introduced me to the pubs and The Lanes with great enthusiasm. Every time I go to Brighton, I always insist on walking down Ship Street where he was based, deluding myself that his head might pop out of the door and invite me to The Cricketers for a pint.

I should get over it really and satisfy myself with a trip to Basingstoke, a new shirt from Next, a Latte from the Starbucks tax dodgers and Facebook re-posts from the Daily Mail claiming that we are about to have the hottest summer since the Bronze Age.

Re-Post if you agree…

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