Brighton Life

Brighton Life

Sirena Bergman

Sirena Bergman

My first experience of Brighton was getting locked out of the completely unfurnished seafront flat that was to be my home for the next three weeks, and being rescued by an incredible stranger wearing a 1940s overcoat, a green cord hat and huge army boots. Having left my suitcase on the doorstep and my sense somewhere by the lift, we walked in the rain to The Cobblers Nest, on the way up to Seven Dials. A couple of hours later my key was fixed and my intellect stretched to its maximum ability after spending the evening talking about art, music and books. The lack of any furniture made cooking dinner for my knight in shining armour rather complicated, not to mention that we had to sit on the windowsill and share a plate. And yet, what would perhaps elsewhere seem like some cruel joke from the Universe or karmic revenge for all the times you called in sick because you had a hangover, in that strange, empty flat in Brighton it was the most magical thing that ever happened to me.

Guildford Road to Brighton Station Jan 2010. Photo by Mark Baynes

As much as I would like to think that it is just me who experienced such fairytale madness, I can’t help but notice that this little town seems to hold the power to draw people in and never let them leave. And I include myself. During this past year in Brighton I have shared a room overlooking a funeral home which was so small that we had to pull down the single mattress every night and rest it against the wall during the day. Then I moved into a slightly larger room overlooking a funeral home, where you could actually fit a bed. I became disgusted at the thought of wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day and grew a fringe that makes me look like an extra from Dallas. I acquired a record player and an apron and I moved into a house with two writers, an artist and a guy who only eats Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. And now I’m learning to knit.

And day after day, as I adorn my wrists with fake pearls and pile on the eye liner I wonder how one place can change people in such a way. I know that the answer lies here, in walking the streets of the West Hill and overhearing conversations. It lies in meeting people who have lived here all their lives and never want to leave, and people who have moved here with no money, no job and no house because it is the seaside land of inspiration. Because if you come here with a dream and a talent; if you come with a guitar or a notebook you will be touched by the magic that you need to make it all come true.

But does it? The other day someone said to me that Brighton is the place to go if you like being a singer or a poet, but you like being a waiter more. I am taking it upon myself to prove him wrong. I will wander the hills of Brighton and speak to businessmen, students, pensioners, single parents, manic depressives, indigents, superstars and toddlers to find what lies beneath the surface of vintage clothes and ironic tea parties.

I have walked up and down Seven Dials countless times. I have run to the Co-op at 11pm to buy milk for breakfast, I have found abandoned books on doorsteps and walked home with charity shop shelves and a car-boot sale mirror. I have cursed the steep hills more times than I care to remember and walked past cross-dressers and car crashes. This isn’t just my home, it’s everyone’s. The moment you step off the train and start puffing your way up Terminus Road you are bitten by the Brighton bug and good luck to you if you ever wear trainers again.

This is the first in a series ‘Brighton Life’ by Sirena Bergman

Categories: Brighton Life

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