US and UK – Love and Other Deprivations – Part Two of Nine

Kensington Olympia Station (I think), London, England

Kensington Olympia Station (I think), London, England

Man, my time in Brighton is going to require a lot of words by the looks of it. But I’ll endeavour to make it no-less interesting than anything preceding it. And I’m not even there yet. I’m still in London – checking in to the Northfields Hostel. I hope its management is reading this. I was ripped-off a couple of pounds by the guy working there. But I’ll have to come back to the details, because according to my notes at this point it’s “time for philosophy”. They go for about five pages of my notepad, so I can’t use them all within the one post. While I was still in New Orleans: “This fever delirium’s awesome – I slotted into a barrel I just could not escape, committed suicide in a Coles fresh produce prep room (and was sure to leave a note saying that working for a supermarket makes you a slave earning only enough to survive and return to work each day), drifted through a vortex the colour and direction, but not destination, of which I could change, was sucked by a huge spider/elephant monster into a world full of marching chains that led me to a place where the chains were mummifying humans who would scream one last time before being entombed in metal.” If that doesn’t enlighten you of how sick I was in Louisiana. . . . “Peace and love: it’s what hands are for. One to extend an olive branch and the other to caress a lover’s chin, perhaps before kissing her or him. Following one’s heart is foolish, under normal circumstances. I hate when I ask someone how they are and they wince, like it should be obvious they are not well.” And, finally, though I’ll try to sprinkle the rest of them through Brighton, “Freedom and the evil which constantly assaults it sometimes demands that relatively good, innocent people must suffer and die”. My God, was I sick. Well, the guy behind the Northfields’ counter seemed legit. And the night’s stay only cost 16 pounds (how in God’s name do you create a pound symbol with a US keyboard?). Steal! One problem: he didn’t (he did) have change and I’d just arrived in the country, so I had none to offer. So he took my 20 pound note and said we could sort it out in the morning. Utter bullshit, the twat – to use the local lingo. The Aussie equivalent would be “cunt”, but I abhor the word and promise you this will be the only time it appears within this blog series. I went to bed without arguing the point with him. Then woke up two hours later. Roughly 2 or 3am. Goddamn jetlag. Resigned, I showered, relieved some tension in a sexual manner, read up about London and Brighton in a Lonely Planet guide I found in the common area, then at about 7am hunted and gathered down the road for a corner store in which to buy some food. Then a not yet Christmas miracle occurred. I’d first seen snow on the ground in Yosemite National Park, California. On this my first morning in London, which I can’t accurately date due to the time difference from New York, I saw falling snow for the first time. Delicate crystals of water glinting yellow in the lamplight drifted to meet Northfield Avenue between my enraptured eyes and the tube station. Grizzled London commuters ignored it as they hastened toward the station. And it turned to sleet pretty quickly, so off I went in search of food with sleet/snow crunching on to my umbrella. The experience of seeing a snowfall was wonderful, if brief, and has for me not been repeated since.

Two tins of soup, a half-loaf of bread, tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and 20-pack of Marlboro Lights set me back 11 pounds. Not fucking bad. It rained, then sleeted, then snowed, then sleeted, and rained again on my way back to the hostel. There I greedily consumed my bizarre as London’s weather breakfast. Satiated, strengthened, it was time to collect four pounds from the reception con man.

“I gave the change to your roommate,” he drooled. “Did he give it to you?”

My roommate was asleep when I arrived about midnight and was presently still asleep.

“Oh,” I naively began, “you gave it to him?” Then I walked upstairs, already suspicious and then conscious of the fact that the guy wouldn’t give me my money no matter what I said.

I’d been screwed. The fucker. I hoped he would invest the four fucking pounds in premature balding treatment. From there I slept in from 8am to about 11.50am. Set an alarm for 10.30am but slept through it, of course. No discipline. Sigh. And the guy who allegedly had my change was gone when I awoke. Thank God for the changing of the corrupt guards, which meant there was someone other than the petty thief at reception when I found myself down there – who told me not to worry about paying for the late check out. From the nearby Northfields station I managed to negotiate with help from friendly rail staff my way to Kensington Olympia Station, from where only apparently could I train it south to Brighton. Before boarding my train I stopped for lunch at Miran Masala on Hammersmith Road – where I would eat the best so far Indian food I’d ever tasted. From there the abstract and ever mobile concept of time flew through one physical constant: cold. Even within the carriage. Until I was looking through the stationary train’s windows upon rows and rows of identical houses separated only by a leafless tree-lined main road. Brighton. I was home. Well, where home would be for the next week or so.

Love at first sight - Brighton, England, some time during an early December, 2012, afternoon

Love at first sight – Brighton, England, some time during an early December, 2012, afternoon

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