I normally write about the exotic, far-flung places that my lucky life takes me to. This month I want to talk about what is, to a Brit, a less exotic destination and yet one of my new favourite places on earth. I speak of Brighton (and Hove), the Regency jewel in the English seaside world.
I live in Cheltenham, another beautiful Regency town in the Cotswolds. Over Christmas I had to move to Brighton for a month as I was starring in the new production of The Rocky Horror Show.
This meant avoiding all the stress of a family Christmas by moving into a seafront hotel and being waited upon hand and foot by the wonderful staff of Hotel Du Vin. This was no hardship.
However, it has caused some problems at home as I returned there after Christmas with a bad habit of ringing my wife from the bedroom to demand breakfast and emailing her photographs of how my laundry should now be presented (individually wrapped in muslin and in a wicker basket). This did not go down well, and I was brought back down to earth in no time.
I did also return to my hometown with a slight sense of regret – something I’d never had about the place before. Cheltenham is the sort of place where people will go out of their way to come up to me to tell me that they don’t watch TV and so have no idea who I am. I used to think this was a grounding thing, even something that was good for me. No longer.
Brighton is a town full of like-minded souls – creatives, who adore popular culture and make no excuses about consuming and loving every vacuous element of it.
Weirdly, I used to hate Brighton. I used to equate it with overly-tattooed, pink-haired grebo types wandering around the streets with little dogs on string. This, to some extent is still true. What makes Brighton so special however, is this very independent, punky nature of the city’s inhabitants.
The United Kingdom has become a homogenised society where every high street is dominated by chains making them indistinguishable from each other. Brighton is different. It is packed full of independent coffee shops, restaurant, shops… it is fighting the good fight against global super-brand hegemony and is a fantastic place because of it. It’s only when you spend some time there that you realise how ‘samey’ UK high streets have gotten and how refreshing it is to go somewhere with that homemade feel.
Another equally important reason for loving Brighton is the dog-friendly nature of the place. On my daily walks along the seafront I saw every type of dog in existence (and several I had no idea existed). Restaurants, bars and even hotels are dog-friendly. On my first morning I opened my hotel door to see my neighbour emerge from her room with a large wolfhound.
I fully intend to return there for a month next Christmas. I might even take my two dogs. Just don’t tell my wife and kids…