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{01/07/2012}   Visiting Brighton

I was in Brighton yesterday.  Every time I visit Brighton I think about how much I’d like to live there.  But then I think about lots of things that kind of annoy me about Brighton.  I’m not sure I ever will live in Brighton, but I did once get as far as being poised to rent a flat as well as starting a temp job and I have a few times looked to live in Brighton and commute to London.  But what is it that always stops me yet draws me in in the first place?

Brighton is, on paper, pretty much perfect for me: by the sea, lots of independent shops, lovely flats and houses, regular train service to London in about an hour and a lively, vibrant feel.  But there are some things that bother me: there is a whiff of unemployment, it’s expensive, it’s very trafficy (I have a car that I have no intention of getting rid of just to live somewhere in particular), it’s quite debauched/henny/staggy at night, it’s full of people trying painfully hard to be cool/alternative/hippy and I never get a feeling of it being as multi-cultural as I think it might be or should be, apart from all the language students.

I think my longer-than-expected list of things I don’t like about Brighton could well have made me realise why I don’t live there!  But I think it’s unusual to have such a love/hate feeling about a city.  I have that with London but it’s big enough that you can live or go out places that cater to your “love” feelings.  In Brighton there is kind of no escape, you just have to live and socialise amidst love and hate.  Ultimately, Brighton is quite small.  Brighton & Hove actually.

I think perhaps I am more Hove than Brighton, but a lot of Hove has an air of past grandeur, it doesn’t have Brighton’s buzz, which is reflected in the huge numbers of parents and children you see wandering around in a middle class bubble of, “I’m cool, I live in Brighton”.  That sounds a bit harsh but I can imagine why you would want to live in Hove with young family: beach, commutable to London, bigger and nicer home than you’d get in London; a bit of a mini London by the sea.  Maybe Blackheath by sea.  But I wish it were just Hove and that the influx of relatively wealthy families wouldn’t demand London things at London prices … that concept may need thinking about.  I guess my irritation on this score is that such enclaves always seem exclusive, but Hove isn’t supposed to be like that, I don’t think.  I used to live in Blackheath and it felt like a 2.4, white, wealthy middle class enclave where others were reluctantly admitted.  The prices in local cafes and shops were not for the likes of me.  Parts of Brighton seem to be heading this way, in fact have been for a long time.  Hove isn’t really like that, if anything it was the other way round, but I fear there is a chance “traditional” residents of Hove will be priced out.

But on a positive note, despite all my moans, I really love it there.  It is a city (it’s a town to me!) that I have visited more than anywhere else, having visited since I was a baby and even had a few birthdays here (I was obsessed with the Dolphinarium!); it is also the place I have always gone to to make big decisions (whether to take a job in Germany at 18, go to Japan at 22 and even end relationships).  Maybe one day I will live here, though I doubt it, but I am very happy to have a good friend who lives here that I can visit and stay with!

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