A Detour

3 February 2011


My backpack and I stumbled over the roadworks onto Brighton’s sidewalk as I waved goodbye to the worried grandparents.

Day 1

I confirmed my stay here, in this London-South Coast hybrid, just that morning with nothing else urgent to do in Bournemouth, so off I went before noon on the 1st of the 2nd month. Of course, I didn’t have anything urgent – in fact, I didn’t have anything at all to do in Brighton, so I wondered around the place looking at all the swanky little sidewalk things. I unwittingly walked into ‘The Lanes’, aptly named with its tiny walkways, a defining pedestrian-only area of Brighton which many of these aforementioned places reside. Second-hand clothes, Bonzai trees, coffee shops, bric-a-brac, vinyl stores… all that sort of thing, galore.

I settled down in the second Starbucks I passed since that was the cheapest place to sit somewhere warm and with few enough people in so I could get my bag off. Of course this was easier said than done as I squeezed through the doorway and awkwardly sideswiped fashionable young adults. As is commonplace with English buildings, the temperature difference between inside and out was an unholy ten billion degrees, or something thereabouts, so I got something icy to balance things out. Again I unknowingly disturbed people from their coffee drinking nirvana by turning corners and walking up stairs to get to someplace to sit. Then, finally, a seat in a Brighton coffee place to call my own! How exciting!!! Oh, how the’coffee drinking elite’ would mock me for’thinking’ this, but little do they notice I’m abusing their own system that I care not for, just for warmth and comfort!

Being 2 hours early for the arranged meet up with this guy, I sat in there for god knows how long before I set off to the’meeting place’, the whereabouts of which I had about as much idea of as to what I did in Starbucks for such a length of time. Great. I walked around the place asking every 2nd person I saw to a new landmark I was meant to go to. I think half of them told me the wrong directions. A pair of girls even walked back to me apologising for naming the street I was on North st. instead of Castle st. or something like that. Eventually I recognised Henry, whom I hadn’t seen in 4 months anyway, and we exchanged stories all the way to his converted garage-flat near Queen’s Park, stopping for a hollow, elongated glass object along the way.

Then, we discussed everything and anything, at the end of which deciding to head to an Indian restaurant. The one we happened to walk to was an all-vegetarian all-you-can-eat gig, so we stuffed ourselves with genuinely good food for 4.5 pounds. Our discussions only ended in front of the right-honourable BBC; so boring it must have been, since I fell asleep with it blaring.

Day 2

This was an incalculably dramatic day, if you could calculate drama, which I know you can, just ask any TV/film establishment.

After waking up at 10am, I booked these things online:

  1. Brighton –> London
  2. London –> Newcastle
  3. Newcastle –> London
  4. Newcastle Utd. vs. Arsenal
  5. London –> South Coast (almost, but cancelled for flexibility)

Visually, it looks very straightforward, but it took all of daylight to get it sorted. I can’t be bothered to explain why. During last half an hour of’light’ (really just mist) I went for a walk around Queen’s park, which was interesting.

Henry was due back from his job, programming gyroscopes and other geo-spatial instruments & thingymobobbies for an animation company, with two other Aussie expats who similarly fled the country only to end up in Brighton. It wasn’t so encouraging to hear, after meeting these two Aussies from Avalon, Northern Beaches, that they came over with almost exactly the same money in the bank, with exactly the same model backpack. They told their story of how they couldn’t last the year travelling around Europe, so ended up finding a mega-cheap place in Brighton. Well, I’m in a different space as I’ve got a uni place waiting for me. Anyway, really cool couple.

Fell asleep watching South Park for an unusually long time.

Day 3, judgement day

I decided to make up for the loss of the second day by walking out the door at 10am and making the most of where I was. Brighton’s centre, then back via beach. Easy.

Walking around, I struggled to see anyone under the age of 50, though they were probably working. Then I noticed how Brighton is the gay capital of England. My impressions were this walking through the streets, in chronological order:

• Adult shop • bong shop • homosexual interests shop • bong shop • adult shop

et cetera.

Obviously it wasn’t really like this, but this my first impression. Or second impression – whichever.

Speaking of stereotypes and clichés, I went to a student travel agency to get an International Students ID card I had all my documents with me to prove that I was in fact Oliver Lowe, and not a Gaddafi loyalist. After asking whether I could order one, I was reminded all too much of Little Britain’s “computer says no” sketch. I swear to god those guys hit social nails right on the head worryingly well sometimes. There was no reason to reject my request, but vocalised few taps on the computer was enough for her decision, vocalised just the same as LB’s sketch depicts. Anyway, I eventually got it with some persuasion.

With a sense of achievement I headed down to the notoriously pebbly beach. It brightened up quite nicely as I went down there, but I think I have an explanation for this:

as seen from the pleasant Brighton pier.

Tacky English crap as usual, though. It wasn’t long after I got back onto the beach that I got a phone call telling me more about this job for me to demonstrate some medical software to a clinic. Now I had to get my arse to Chichester, about 1 hour West, before I left for Newcastle, which was happening in just 2 days anyway. It was this situation that made me realise that walking briskly along the pebbles is rather inefficient.

The phone rang again, with my grandparents telling me that my Newcastle United game ticket had arrived in Bournemouth, which was 3 hours west from where I was, despite the club telling me I would pick the ticket up at the game! Well, I couldn’t believe how my grandparents had deceived me, not telling me that Newcastle played their games on the opposite end of the British island on my grandparents’ lawn.

I didn’t know where I was staying in Newcastle, and I didn’t have any phone credit so I couldn’t make outgoing calls. This cycle of waiting for several calls back re: medical work thing and re: where to post NCL ticket went round and round a few times before it all was sorted. The reason I’m saying all this is because I know that something like this is going to happen again sometime, where tedious problems all arise at precisely the same moment.

I didn’t actually leave from where I was staying in Brighton until 5:30pm or so to get a train. Dead on rush hour, though. Jesus there are a lot of commuters from London, and rightly so; I think it’s only about 30 minutes away. Really nice train station. I think it’s Victorian, but I’m about as expert in that as I am on the technique of eating clay pots with just one chopstick…

Something like an hour passed waiting for my train. The train ride was eerie like the nights in Brighton were, which experienced such strong mist that they’ve installed yellow street lights. It wasn’t particularly bad at all, just very eerie like a sub-$5 000 budget horror film pre-Paranormal Activity.

So that was the end of that. Work ahead. Woohoo. Then a 10-day long weekend in Newcastle. Hmmm… Oh wait, I’ve got those reactions mixed up. Oh wait, it doesn’t matter and it’s no wonder, either – a ‘week’ is an irrelevant period of time now. It’s f#ing great.