First Night in Brighton

So we had our first night there. I have woken with a slight headache, ear-ache and sore throat so I am feeling a bit off-balance.  But those are caused, as I well know, by a sleepless night. And not our new home in central Brighton. My mother calls it our subterranean control centre. I think of it fondly as our Brighton bunker.

It is underground, under a snazzy hairdressers. It does not appear to catch the sunlight at all, at least I haven’t observed it yet. This is a little troubling as I am a sunseeker. On the day that we moved, we had brilliant, bright blue skies and strong sunlight. The pebble beach was impressively packed for a February weekend. Our little grotto, however, stubbornly retained its cool, dark interior throughout. The light could not penetrate our forces.

This is, however, the only down side of our new home and I do not do it justice by starting off with a negative. It’s a cosy bolthole. The rooms are quite large for a converted flat, with a kitchen and bathroom that are proper sized and not the usual galley jobs you so often get. The living room is the main feature, with wooden parquet floors and an exposed staircase running up one wall to the bedroom and what will soon be our gallery/walk-in-wardrobe above. (for soon, read six months to a year) It is my little slice of Manhattan loft. Except it’s underground and in Brighton.

Last night, after realising that we could not finish the bedroom painting in time, we made a den in the living room. Dan set to rearranging the boxes into the second bedroom/study (currently painted a fetching ketchup red with a black concrete floor) so that we could have space for our mattress. And I tried to unpack the kitchen.

I had thought – novice! – that our kitchen had plenty of cupboards. I recall actually remarking on that to the previous owners. How they must have laughed. After unpacking the usual bits and bobs, I unearthed items that cannot easily be categorised: Juicer. Weighing scales. Salad spinner. Mismatched tupperware and slightly mouldy thermos flasks. Joss sticks. Waffle iron. Where the hell are these supposed to live? My cupboards were full. The painted red shelving (soon to be duck egg. See above) was full of random items I had been periodically throwing up there. The cupboards were jammed. And so they remain. In a box, or rather, boxes. Until further notice.

Unperturbed, I continued to make dinner. A simple pesto pasta and salad, I knew I could handle it and the kitchen in its unpacked state would cope too. As soon as the garlic started frying, and the familiar, scent wafted around, it dawned on me that this little cave of ours was our new home. It was ours to keep. I felt a surge of affection for it, and noted that I was very happy. We uncorked our first bottle of champagne. Jazz fm accompanied the rest of my cooking (a less than perfect station but easy listening) and after a few glasses of some very good bubbles, I actually started to feel relaxed.

It didn’t last. I awoke no less than 7 times during the night. The cats did their best to assist my sleeplessness. At about five, Frankie blessed us with a crap. As his litter tray was about four metres away from my head, the stench almost knocked me out. After gently prodding my fiance, he awoke in a trance and set about clearing it up, even remembering to spray sickly room spray, before blindly falling back down onto our mattress. My hero.

After dreaming I had overslept, I awoke at the alarm, feeling as though my eyes had been punched. I looked worse. My hands won for best appearance, however. After three days of stripping wallpaper, sanding walls and decorating, I looked like a dried, crusty shell. In an effort to appear slightly less heinous, I had coated myself in a gradual self-tan the night before. My palms are now a burnt orange, glowing like bizarre beacons of tanning failure. Now I look like a sunburnt shell.

Which would be fine normally. But in the back of my head is the constant glossy-mag mantra that it is only (only!) four months until our wedding day. The run up to this momentous occasion, or so I am told, is supposed to be a focussed, dedicated session in prepping and preening my body, face and hair into The Best Me Ever. This is just not happening. I work 15 hours a day, we have just moved house, which we have foolishly decide to fix up and decorate all by ourselves. I can barely manage to remember we have a wedding and book essential parts of it, let alone ensure that I am drinking green tea and giving myself salt scrubs every five minutes.

Where DO people find the time to read wedding blogs, let alone have such inane lives as to write the things. Who has time to hand-knit nutmeg holders or make sugar-spun fairy wings? And why, if you had that time, would you spend it doing this crap? Suddenly, clever, independent women have turned into southern American cookie-cutter housewives who obsess about hand-crafting their entire weddings. “It’s just one day!’ I feel like screaming. And yet, when I protest, they look at me smugly. Oh yes, they think, you have your wedding your way with no hand-wrapped, hand-made bonbons, and you will FAIL, my friend. And we will win. And in a flash, I realise: this is a competition and I am already losing. What kind of wife wouldn’t dedicate their entire lives to their wedding day? I tremble in fear. Let the games begin.


Logo for Cirque du Soleil, TotemA huge tortoise shell looms below the sparkling figure gently spinning in a slow descent into the packed Royal Albert Hall. The tortoise shell is ripped from the skeletal dome upon which it rests as the “crystal man” reaches the top of the central prop for tonight’s performance of Totem by Cirque du Soleil. “He comes from space to spark life on Earth”, and so it is that 10 florescent, lizard forms jump into life as his glittering body reaches the ground.  They dance and jump through the structure, landing with pinpoint accuracy and perfect grace on the bone-like frame. Two of the cast swing on parallel bars incorporated into the frame, their rotations and jumps perfectly coordinated to avoid an unthinkable clash of bodies. The first act ends with four of these lizard beings spinning on the two bars, a feat which blows the minds of the audience of families and Valentines lovers, setting the tone for the evening ahead.

The acts which follow are incredible. A beautifully choreographed trapeze act sees two reluctant lovers fall (pun not intended!) for one another 20 feet above the ground. Their bodies simultaneously repel and support one another as the artists contort into stunning shapes and then violently yet gracefully transition into sequences of jumps and flips. Earlier, 5 Japanese unicyclists had ridden into the arena over a pneumatically animated bridge on to the stage. Whilst balancing, rocking forwards and backwards in perfect time to the music, the girls take bowls from their heads and place them gently on their feet. As the audience hold their breath the bowls are flipped in the air to be caught on the heads of other artists – seemingly impossible and amazing to behold.

Photo copyright Flickr user TBWABusted
Photo copyright Flickr user TBWABusted

This was my first Cirque du Soleil experience and it surpassed all of my expectations. I arrived having seen snippets of past performances on TV and with the expectation that having seen so many stunts and effects in movies, I might be less than impressed with the live experience, a little desensitised even. Not the case. Seeing the rules of physics I am forced to live by so casually manipulated by other living breathing human beings was breath-taking.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the traditions of the circus have not been lost.  Time between acts is well filled by clown acts, humorous and brief, where the audience is reminded of the circus’s own history, just as they act out mankind’s evolutionary tale.

Reviews I read before booking Totem, whilst positive, suggested the acts might be seen as repetitive or less than impressive. I can assure you that from the perspective of a Cirque du Soleil first-timer, this was not my experience. I can only assume that these reviewers are used to better (possible) or are of that ilk of armchair reviewer, casually complacent about the ease with which a performer should achieve such feats as those on display here. Either way, I walked away smiling, with a resolution to get myself down to the gym…

Joe Bageant

Try stomaching this article from the BBC

Find your answers to questions about the man here

“Ya know, I don’t think you Brits understand that when the last blood of dinosaurs is drained from the Middle East, we will bomb the fuck out of you in the competition for the last drop.

As for Bush getting elected, it’s the same as Hitler. Bush represents most Americans, or at least a slim majority. But it’s a mean majority and we can expect a Reichstadt fire sometime during the next 10 years. Bush may be gone, Kerry may get elected, but we’ve got an oil habit kiddo, and a lust for empire and you will be roadkill if you get in the road.”

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. The folks over at Lovefilm keep putting his work through my letterbox, and neither myself or Lucy have been disappointed so far. I found his portrayal of crack addict schoolteacher Dan Dunne in Half Nelson particularly inspirational, despite the apparent desperation of his situation throughout the film.

See this interview from The Guardian