Amsterdammers’ Cycle Hire was down an alleyway amid the tangle of roads and alleys surrounding Brighton’s train station. So naturally I got lost trying to find it. But this gave me the chance to explore the artsy area off Trafalgar Street between the station and London Road. Maddening would be the best way to describe the eventual cycle to the beach while extremely tired and three sambucas down. Brighton’s streets really aren’t designed like most of Australia’s urban roads, with bike lanes, so I was obligated to duck and weave between double-decker buses and myriad other traffic to end up heading east along Marine Parade in the afternoon sunshine. The ride was largely uneventful, but at least I was getting some much needed exercise in order to burn off alcohol I hadn’t planned on having in my system. The cliffs of Dover are world famous, and many kilometres west of them just on the other side of the Brighton Marina Village I came across bleached-white imitations of them on the Undercliff Walk. This was the turning point of my ride, so I rested awhile with a cigarette and gazed off over the English Channel to France, before heading back. Once I’d breathlessly dropped the bike off at Amsterdammers’, I returned to the hostel via buying a copy of Oliver Twist from a street vendor. I had almost or actually finished Youth in Revolt, and Dickens seemed an appropriate purchase considering my present location and state-of-mind. To be precise, this was the afternoon in which Emma had decided finally to reject me. If not for how much I was enjoying her home town, I could have wished she’d been so decisive before I’d jumped on a plane from New York to get there. She made the “you’re a lovely guy, but” remark. Any girls reading this: never call a guy you’re rejecting “lovely”. Among many other things, it’s simply lazy and shows a lack of respect for the fact that someone regardless of how deserving has shown an interest in you. So I replied graciously, and went out alone to watch James Bond battle evil in Skyfall. It was cool watching Bond while surrounded by a bunch of British people. Bastards really got into it. I went to bed early after such a draining day, then woke up a couple of hours later and was forced to wait out the dance music playing below me, which was so loud it felt like I was trying to sleep on top of a music festival speaker. Finally, after a fitful hour or so sleeping in blessed silence, I quite without regret checked out of the St Christopher’s hostel and headed west with a full pack.
Weariness, now, has overcome me – probably as it did while I walked from St Christopher’s to check in for a badly needed night’s sleep at a Granville Hotel private room. At almost 8000 words into the Brighton leg of my trip, and at the risk of needlessly expanding such a number further, I feel my narrative like my present journey is listless, joyless; full of the more run-of-the-mill details and missing many of the more interesting highlights. I’m drinking cheap shiraz, smoking Port Royal Original Rum and Wine tobacco and listening to 94.1FM Gold Coast Radio jazz. Why have I not either headed back to London or hired a car and surfing equipment and burned off toward Wales’ waves, by now? It wasn’t just because I still wished to bike to Devil’s Dyke. I also hadn’t yet managed to defer my flight back, not to New York, but all the way to Los Angeles on December 29. Procrastinating, I explored Brighton’s west, known as Hove, then took the last of my afternoon jet-lag catch up naps. Only took a bloody week! This time without any planning I found myself at The Brunswick pub off Holland Road and enjoyed not a big jazz band, but an enormous jazz band. Contented, with three pints in my system and countless instruments ringing in my ears, I retired to a bed which was just as hard as at St Christopher’s but bigger and minus the dance music playing until 2am. After an “excellent sleep!!!” I indulged in a complimentary breakfast of a bagel with smoked salmon and eggs before finally sorting out my needing to be adjusted flight at a nearby (working) traditional English payphone. During the hour I spent on this phone with Expedia and then American Airways, the positive was that I could delay and extend my flight to December 29 and Los Angeles for $900. The negative was that because I didn’t have a US credit card I had to present in person at Heathrow in order to pay for it, within two days. So, dreams of surfing the UK dashed, I checked back in to the Granville and spent my final afternoon in Brighton by working off my newfound daylight energy and lingering heartbreak by finally cycling to Devil’s Dyke. This time without coming across a sambuca wielding weirdo at the local pub, I hired another bike and aimed it toward London.