Brighton Life

Sirena Bergman
Sirena Bergman

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Christmas. It is such a wonderful time of year. There’s no limit on how many treats you can eat; unless you’re unfortunate enough to work in retail you usually take your work holidays; then there’s the presents – as enjoyable to buy other people’s as it is to receive them; and, of course, the whole loving family gathering around a fireplace cliché, which brings me much non-sarcastic happiness. Then again, I do find that people are often very sad around Christmas. I know this is nothing new, it is notoriously the time of year which sees the most suicide attempts, but what is it about Christmas that depresses and yet elates people in equal measure?

The snow – for all its romantic glory – is not convenient. It is fabulous on the first day, when St Anne’s Well Gardens has turned into a picturesque park, children make snowmen and couples lie in bed feeding each other porridge under a sheepskin blanket. But after the first thrill and the first day off work, it starts to lose its charm. This is especially true of Brighton. It’s difficult to live in the West Hill area and not be subjected to the steep upward walks to get home. I know that last year, when the weatherman graced us with the meteorological phenomenon that defines a Christmas, I spent two weeks barely leaving the house. If you live on a hill which is icy for two months each year, the Odyssey to Sainsbury’s for a turkey becomes a Christmas host’s worst nightmare.

However, having spent last Christmas in Brighton I can honestly say that there is nowhere I’d rather be this December. Despite being subjected to the Boxing Day plight of the shop assistant I had the most enjoyable Christmas day I could have imagined. Situations change each year and I’m sure that this Christmas day will be a world away from my last, but I have no doubt that it will be made all the more magical for living in such a festive place.

Snow on Brighton Beach by Mark Baynes
Snow on Brighton Beach by Mark Baynes

I think that if next July, everyone in Brighton decided to make it Christmas, we would be the only town in the world that would pull it off. I can just picture the sun blazing outside a blacked-out marquee spanning the length of Brighton Beach, with snow machines, mince pies and It’s a Wonderful Life playing through a vintage projector.

Of course, people have families all over the country – and in some cases the world. Half of my family lives in London and the other half in Ibiza and yet somehow, being the lone ranger based in Brighton, I have found a way to convince the Spanish side to come and stay with me over Christmas. I’m still not quite sure how I managed it but it must be just another one of those cases of Brighton magic sprinkling some happy dust over everyone that steps out of the station and into the world of snowy fun and hedonistic atmosphere.

For all the Christmas-haters out there I would invite everyone to Brighton. If you have had an image of what Christmas should be like but have never experienced it, this is the place. And if you’re a Christmas lover you know not to leave your West Hill flat in favour of the cold bleakness of London. Oh, and one last word of advice. Delia is not the Christmas Queen. I have been practising some classics and I have to say, either I’m not so good at measuring cloves or she wrote the bread sauce recipe with a cold. I think this year is definitely going to be a Jamie Oliver Christmas and I, for one, cannot wait.

Sirena Bergman

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