Brighton Goodbyes

Walking around Brighton I get real bad house envy. Viaduct Road, though convenient, doesn't quite win in terms of aesthetic appeal. It's noisy, sooty, and... let's just say we recently had some petite furry visitors who enjoyed our crumbling abode a little too much. My friend Louis has just moved into a flat on Little Preston Street. It's spacious, open-plan, and has a prime view of the West Pier/sea to sip coffee in the mornings and happily survey. A-grade jealousy material. Envy exasperated tenfold when I finally went on their roof yesterday. I have six weeks left in Brighton until I move North which I'd been feeling completely fine about in the bleakness of my dissertation blues when rain slapped our window panes and I felt like everything was sure to topple. But... standing on that roof, gazing at my hometown in sun-tinted glasses, I felt what can only be described as - a pang. Sadness/happiness, a sense of nostalgia/being completely in-the-moment - all rolled into one. Of course, I've had to leave Brighton before. It wasn't easy, but I know it's survivable. And I do feel ready to try something new. But it just sucks, as goodbyes always do - I should know, I've said enough of 'em. I find the whole scenario reminiscent of being 22, generally. Knowing your whole life's ahead of you, with so many decisions to make and opportunities to take. Yet, you can't help but yearn for previous years when homework was your biggest affliction, all your friends lived in a five-mile radius, and everything was relatively simple. Your past was comfortable. You followed routes that were, in essence, laid out for you - education, work, etc. Now I can only make short-term plans to stop from terrifying myself with the uncertain big picture. At least, though, most of us are fortunate enough to have different paths to choose from. And, just as the saying goes: "how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."  Brighton, my old friend,  you are pretty special.

Dear New York City

The sun's been glowing in Brighton recently and it's been absolutely magical. Yesterday, my friends and I set up camp on the beach in a pebbly spot past the pier, near to Concorde 2, barbecqued prawns and nibbled on an assortment of snacks. I was feeling a little worse for wear from the night before but as the Victorians knew back in the 18th century, the Brighton sea is a revitaliser. Today I've been thinking about the home of another Brighton beach - New York City. If you've read any of my other posts, you'll be aware of how much I mire in nostalgia. This is no exception. After watching the latest Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with SJP, I couldn't help but wonder... about the first time I stepped foot in the city.
As a chica growing up, NYC featured prominently in my life. With every film, TV show and song exploring the depths of the concrete jungle, my fascination grew for what it would be like to visit this glittering Mecca of my dreams. Cheesy as it sounds, after securing a place at the UMass Amherst for my year abroad, I knew my dream would finally come true. 
Before arrival, I was bemused. How as a student, with very little money, would I get the true Manhattan experience? How could I possibly follow in the footsteps of the fabulous and petulant Carrie Bradshaw, with Jimmy Choos to navigate the sidewalks of Soho, when I could barely afford Target sandals. I pondered. Would I feel the Central Perks of the Villages or find myself with an Empire State of Mind? Or would it be a case of New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down? The first step was my transport. For $59, I was on the Peter Pan bus cruising south through New England. Luckily for me, a friend from my years in Texas had taken up residence in Astoria, Queens, while studying at Parsons — the fashion school from Project Runway — and offered me a place to stay. After a tearful reunion, we set out to see the sights.
On day one we trawled the villages: East, West and Greenwich. On the way there, I stood next to Olivia Wilde on the subway. In the pleasant heat we witnessed an Occupy Wall Street protest, which struck quite a chord with me, and not just because of the awful guitar being played by a man wearing a severe amount of camo. Later, we ascended to Lana's friend's rooftop in Williamsburg and played beer pong basking in the light of the Manhattan skyline. I almost cried. 
On day two, feeling slightly weary and awestruck, HSBC decided to block my debit card - really helpful, cheers. Now I truly had NO money, although I did have an unlimited subway ticket. Lana had to be at school all day so Jesse, her flamboyant friend, and I dragged ourselves to Grand Central and took photos inside its beautiful walls, before strolling abruptly through Times Sq (one cannot briskly walk through), and then onto the rooftop of the Met. All about dem sweeping views of this wondrous island. Satisfied and lethargic, we laid in Central Park watching the clouds go by and I felt truly content. As time wore on, he had to leave me to have dinner with a friend in Harlem, and so I headed south to Battery Park to go the Statue of Liberty. I'd just about reached the ferry station when a certain Google intern gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
He was a guy Lana and I had bumped into on the subway from Bedford Ave on Friday night. He was chatting with his friend, who turned out to be from Brighton (, England that is - whodathunkit) and after she departed we talked and talked until he left in a curly-haired, big-eyed blur. With a sigh we concluded that we would never see him again. How shocked we were, then, when we spotted him on the same platform as us on Saturday night. Coming from different places, we had collided into each other again and this time I felt brave enough to ask for his number. It seemed like fate. Flash forward to day three and the Californian invites me to see the Book of Mormon on Broadway as he had rushed tickets and got two box seats for $30 each. How could I say no? Surely I could borrow the money from Lana. Quickly, I ran, down escalators, and upstairs to reach the other end of New York for the show. I was Cinderella running through the neon walls of Times Square to meet my prince. Okay, slightly dramatic, but you catch my drift.

The show was amazing. Afterwards, we meandered through the bright lights and Naked Cowboys to my friend’s school, where the Google intern left me once again in a curly-haired, big-eyed blur. Not before paying for my ticket, like a true Prince Charming in a city of fabulous gay men, pigeons and lady Liberty herself.

Field Day

6th & 7th June, Victoria Park --- Saturday has finally arrived. We were told it was meant to rain all day so we pack rain-macs in our rucksacks and hope for the best. We board the bus from Whitechapel as we drip with perspiration. I don't trust BBC weather any more.  Rhian's come from Leeds to London for the weekend and doesn't have an Oyster card so we scramble for change, waving festival tickets like flags, throwing pounds and pennies at the bus driver. In a flash, we disembark. Unsure of where to go, we follow the trail of hipsters pouring into the park. Everyone looks immaculate despite the heat --- I wish I knew their secret. Into the arena, we head first to the bar. It's 2pm and we're in need of refreshments. I see lots of Beacons Festival posters which excite me as in 7 weeks time I'll be in Skipton enjoying a lot of the same acts once again, but this time with camping and good old Northern grub. I'll do a post about it all soon. (Y'all, please come too!)

Osmotherley Reservoir

A little drive out of the market town of Northallerton and on the western edge of the North York Moors National Park lies Osmotherley. I've spoken about it before but it deserves another mention. Picturesque, quaint, and the epitome of all things that make North Yorkshire so beautiful, Osmotherley is always a treat. The village itself houses a multitude of cosy pubs, cute coffee shops, and places to buy ice creams when the sun illuminates the stone of the buildings and the green of the grass. It's peaceful and secluded yet there's always a buzz about it. Last week during a fleeting visit home, my family and I took William (our beloved canine) on a ramble around the Osmotherley reservoir. Before we could pull up to the little car park enclosed by the moors, an Alsatian cantered past us, chasing after a poor sheep. Bleets echoed in the hills as the animal ran for its life. Panic spread through us like an electric shock. "COME BACK HERE!" screamed the owner. Thankfully, the dog did, abandoning his toy of choice and returning to its shaking master to receive a grand telling off. This dramatic start to our casual potter remained in conversation as we walked the route along the water. What had happened to the rogue sheep? Would it be able to find the baby who it had been accompanying before? As we crossed the stepping stones over the river and ascended back to where we'd began, we heard a high-pitched bleet. It was the baby sheep, crying among the heather. We paused, feeling heartbroken, and put the lead on William. Then, suddenly, our eyes caught a white blur moving down from the top of the hill across the road from us. Another was weaving across from the left. Again, bleeting echoed continuously. The sheep were returning to save the baby. Once reunited, the cries ceased, and the jolie famille walked steadily on together. Osmotherley - the epitome of all things that make North Yorkshire so beautiful.

Caffe Aldo, Brighton

I think I've found my new favourite restaurant in Brighton. It's a very unassuming little place nestled on to Trafalgar Street, a few strides down from the train station. I've walked past it hundreds of time, yet, never really noticed it before.

Liz and I first went to Caffe Aldo last week after a series of recommendations. It's BYOB so we grabbed a bottle of red from the corner shop across the road, before settling down in seats outside. I won't lie to you, I had a little complex eyeing up the seagulls, who, in turn, were hungrily gazing at our food from afar. I spent most of the meal in fear of being dive-bombed.

Food-wise, I ordered the Capriciosa pizza - artichokes, prawns, olives, mushrooms, and salami. All of my favourite things. Fresh out of the pizza oven, it tasted beautiful. Liz had the chicken, which she raved about. The bill was extraordinarily cheap for the quality of the food, and the service was lovely - really laid-back but efficient. 

Last night, we returned with Melissa to show her the gem we'd discovered. This time we sat inside, away from the inquisitive white-winged creatures that line every Brighton rooftop. 

Once more, the food was impeccable. I ordered the same thing as last time as I'm very unoriginal, but Melissa had the calzone, and Liz the spaghetti teamed with the steak. On my next visit I think I'll try one of the pasta dishes. There's a particular prawny one that's caught my attention (can you tell I'm a seafood fan?) We laughed, drank wine, relished our food, then waddled home. 

If you're looking for Italian cuisine in Brighton, Caffe Aldo is top of my list. As far as I'm aware it's open for lunch and in the evening, and also has a takeaway service. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Oh and try not to knock over a wine glass when exiting like I managed to do... I think I might go a little easier on the vino next time.

Cat Power & Mac DeMarco in Brighton

Cat Power & Mac DeMarco 

May is an electrifying month in Brighton. Thousands of music appreciators queue for hours for short sets from up-and-coming bands during The Great Escape. Theatre encapsulates the city through the Brighton Fringe, with the Spiegeltent -- a series of marquees -- pulsating as its hub. Sadly I missed most of May's festivities due to my dissertation induced hibernation, but I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket to Cat Power, as part of the Brighton Festival, by a lovely pal. I first heard Cat Power (real name Chan Marshall) way back in 2006, with her album The Greatest forming part of the soundtrack of a 14 year old girl heartbroken to be leaving her hometown. Her velvet voice found me again last year when I stumbled across the video for Manhattan, which follows bleach-blonde Marshall grooving and giggling around an ever-transitional island I too have felt a strong affinity with. "Don't look at the moon tonight," she sings soothingly, "You'll never be, never be, never be Manhattan."

The noble arches of the Brighton Dome welcome us in. First up is Benjamin Clementine, a barefoot figure shrouded in darkness. His voice reminds me somewhat of Sampha, both melancholic and haunting. He's definitely worth checking out if you haven't heard of him already. After a short break between sets, in which my friend has to leave due to falling ill, I settle down solo in my seat unsure of what to expect from the female headliner. A quiet and unassuming woman graces the stage. As she begins to sing, a hush encompasses the audience. We are transported through the beauty of her vocals. It doesn't matter that she's not a Beyonce in terms of hyper-choreographed, raucous stage presence; the music is enough to bring us to the edge of our seats. She mixes old stuff and new stuff with covers, switching between her piano and guitar. Several times she speaks in her sweet, husky voice to those in the crowd, apologising for forgetting verses and for technical problems --- minor hiccups with lyrics subtly smoothed over by gentle charisma. Because of her inherently nervous demeanour, her set seems at times a little scatty. Yet, this only enhances the adoration felt for this enchanting woman. Such is emphasised by repeated screams of "I love you!" from fans in the depths of the Dome. As the gig draws to a close, Marshall takes the bouquet she's been presented with, and throws the flowers one by one into the crowd. To me, this act defines the entire aura of the evening --- a rare musical intimacy. I depart feeling like I've left with a little piece of her. 

The very next day I'm at The Old Market with friends about to see Mac DeMarco. At the other end of the spectrum from Cat Power, DeMarco is the crooning buffoon king of low-fi California-vibed rock. We drink Polish beer through the support, Amen Dunes and TONSTARTSSBANDHT, respectively, and wait impatiently for the return of the Mac (couldn't resist). I feel slightly overcome with a variety of emotions...  a weird lust for the main man, joy, and a faint bit of heatstroke, due to the humidity of the venue. Now, my memory is a little hazy of the evening due to being extremely bevvied, but I can wholeheartedly say that seeing the Pepperoni Playboy live is a necessity. The audience whips itself into a frenzy; people crowdsurf and hurtle themselves onstage to take selfies with the leading dude; Mac tells a bouncer to fuck off. Sweat drips from the foreheads of  the fashionably dressed, dancing ferociously, drunk-on-DeMarco. And the American-dad-dressed guitarist of the band rocks a Jurassic Park cap. It's surreal and euphoric. In the encore, we're told to get down on the floor while the band play Neil Young --- we kneel to Neil. Phones fly in the air to share the show through Snapchat and other social media, but even snaps like the one below fail to capture what it feels like to be in that room, with those people, beheld by the silky-voiced, reigning jester of the court. As the saying goes, I guess you had to be there. I've already bought tickets to see him again in Leeds this November; I'm hooked. 

As May comes to a close, the Brighton music scene continues to blaze thanks to the likes of Be Nothing, One Inch Badge, and other people dedicated to bringing the best of the best to our beach-town. May it keep on burning. 


Sunday Routine

It's been a while since my last post and in that time a lot has happened. I've handed in my two 6000 word essays, and in so doing, completed my degree; I've spent the subsequent three weeks seeing friends and reveling in not being cooped up inside; I've spent most of my time drunk/hungover/repeat. 

Sunday is the day of rest, usually spent in front of the TV nursing bevvy-induced nausea while chowing down on a McDonalds and feeling perfectly justified to do so. Today, however, has not followed my usual routine. This may be because it's the 1st of June (new month, new me?!) or perhaps because I went out Friday night and so yesterday was my hangover day instead. Either way, Emily and I slipped on our sandals and paddled through the Laines and down to the sea, in order to soak up the sun peeking through the clouds. Feeling the warm pebbles reminds me of exactly why I love Brighton and how sad I'm gonna be to have to leave it again.  

Sunday Routine (bookmarked months ago from Stevie) is an insight into how others (highly cultured individuals) spend their last day of the week, usually in a way a lot more creative and interesting than the all-day slobbing I'm used to. With a blank-canvas-brick-road laid ahead of me, it's my summer resolve to spend more time doing things that excite me --- writing/day trips/swimming in the sea. Maybe next Sunday I'll take my slobbing from bed to the beach and kill two birds with one stone.