Sigh. I mean that’s based on convention probably the worst way to begin a story or sentence, right? But the reason for it is I just flipped ahead through my notes and I’d guess have at least another 8000 words to get through before I leave Brighton. This is a sad fact because many of those words will carry increasing heartache but also a happy one because many other words will speak of how sensational I found the place to be. Horrible and wonderful memories, fighting a philosophical war within my skull. I’ll use the notepad as an intermediary between them. After experiencing my first pay toilet – a baffling concept I figure literally flushes some tourism down the toilet – at the Brighton Railway Station, I emerged onto Queen’s Road immediately baffled by what my precise location was. Until I spotted the Atlantic Ocean, and made a beeline for it. From the esplanade, just like with my first close encounters with New York’s Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, I managed just in time to get some photos of a blood orange sun setting south-west over the Atlantic. And was happy. I was already charmed by the people and architecture I was seeing, and hadn’t even spoken to anyone or entered any buildings yet. While a limp English Channel swell lapped at the stony shore and gulls cawed to the evening I searched for a hostel via a cafe’s wifi. The large cup of tea I had there, coffee I’d had earlier and cruel, contemptuous jet lag were probably at fault for the poor sleep I had that and each night I spent in the town. It didn’t help matters. Presently, I was standing outside well-reviewed Buggies Backpackers’ locked front door, waiting for a woman completing bookwork within to notice my shivering frame from a window. She eventually did, only to tell me the hostel was closed for “airing out” during winter. So I wandered down to my second choice – party hostel St Christopher’s, where beds were 13 pounds a night. A new record in accommodation thrift, for me. I kept in touch with Emma a couple of times through Facebook, in between the train station and where I finally stashed my backpack at about 9pm. Why through Facebook? Let me take you back to San Francisco via Los Angeles. Just before leaving LA I’d paid $30 to Vodafone, for about 500mb roaming internet data on my phone, which was stupid because all hostels and cafes had complimentary if sometimes temperamental wifi. But I bought it anyway, went over its limit, naturally, to the tune of 900 fucking dollars, and Vodafail notified me, by my now largely useless phone while I stood outside my San Fran hostel, corruptly late that my account had been suspended. They couldn’t have cut me off at, say: 2 or $300 over? The bastards. I didn’t bother reactivating the account until I returned to Australia.
Writing to Emma and anyone else I needed to get in contact with not dramatically urgently was my preference over phone calls, anyway. You may have noticed through reading this and other things I’ve written that I enjoy it. Writing. And doing so through email to people, whether they were just around the corner or across the oceans vast, was kind of modernistically romantic, to me. Particularly with Emma, I’d write to her with the assumption in mind that she might care to know my whereabouts and activities as I did to know hers. Turned out she was at a pub within walking distance of St Christopher’s – a pub I won’t mention the name of because it could risk revealing her true identity, if I haven’t already. She wasn’t alone though. She was with colleagues. What? I thought. Why would this girl I’d just met and developed affection for that I suspected she reciprocated presume to have me meet her friends so soon? “Why did you chase a girl you barely knew across the Atlantic?” you might ask. I’ve already explained my emotions, and the fact that I had planned long before meeting Emma on visiting the UK from New York – should it have proven financially possible at the time. I will concede that I probably wouldn’t have seen Brighton if not for her. So touché, dear reader. Touché. Quite aside from all this doubt, I showered, shaved, dressed and ventured forth in search of the young lady and her travel company associates. At the very least, I figured as a dislocated, lonesome Aussie traveller, I was meeting up with the best possible people. Sigh: sweet Brighton. It was an enormous snow-globe village – minus the snow, presently. Obviously most if not all its buildings laid claim to more years than any anywhere Australia could, but I was quite surprised by what looked like an Indian palace that was surrounded by other impressive but less conspicuous buildings and the charming Pavilion Gardens. I still can’t figure out what it was called but it housed a few different services like the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and Brighton and Hove Tourist Information Centre. Plus it was built by one of the King Georges, probably only a hundred or two years ago. And finally, its street front featured a quite simply (and I’m excited right now because this is my first time justifiably writing this long but excellent word) phantasmagorical ice skating rink. I’ll put up a photo below so I don’t have to explain why. Agree? Good. Movin’ right along. Found and hugged Emma at her warm and indie musical little pub, where I promptly visited the bar for my first mulled wine. An excellent method for surviving a coastal English winter, is mulled wine, but I swear you’ve got to drink eight of them just to feel as drunk as you would after four full strength beers. Only two of her mates where there when I arrived. Then they were everywhere! And I really liked them. They responded well to my more than a little bit (another long yet appropriate word) discombobulated presence. Contributing to my sense of pleasant unease, of course, was Emma – who looked from a dream with her hypnotising green eyes and slightly below the shoulder chestnut hair. Making her smile and reveal her perfect little white teeth was at the time my consistent endeavour. And I achieved enough success by which to remain heartened. Despite probably 10 mulled wines and regularly ducking outside into the Arctic-feeling air with Emma for cigarettes, I never really felt intoxicated. She and her attractive, taller friend Laura certainly looked drunk though. This was mostly because neither of them had apparently eaten dinner. Emma tried to convince me that she was unattractively drunk. I stated my disagreement, while rolling my eyes and grinning. She playfully mocked me.