Friday, May 18th, 2007 http://adamkhan.net/rambles/shite-on-brighton
ince we’re having to move, the very fact of being in this particular town Brighton has risen in my attention. What, am I ready to leave already? Such a non-committal hand at this particular fishingboat should probably disqualify me from being listed on the Brighton Bloggers website. Nonetheless, we’re still here, even if my most common notion at the moment is partzifluchan. What does that mean? Weenie, I guess. Hollow, soft, airy-fairy, effete, goodygoody. Vapid.
This doubting of the place may partially be due to walking from Euston to the Strand for the first time. What a woosh! The park along the way (Russell Square) then Southampton Row becoming Kingsway: it’s a London artery I’d never seen before as one length.
And there’s this, a review in Private Eye (1184) of Made in Brighton by Julie Burchill and Daniel Raven:
But anyone actually tempted to buy the book is likely to be disappointed, not least because of the gap between its grandiose intentions (nothing less than a grand survey of the state of the nation, “using the seeaside vista of Brighton as a focal point”) and the idle fatuity of the result. Just like Brighton itself, appropriately enough.
Ouch. But what does he really mean? That Brighton itself has intentions? And is the place really idly fatuous? That is, does it do nothing to lift itself out of weakness and imbecility? I’d almost buy that, actually. Except then he goes on to say that they haven’t been idle: they’ve been reachers. Can’t be both.
Like many provincial towns, Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing, though it charges London prices. It’s not a city, though it wants to be, or at least its council wanted it to want to be, and after merging with its more genteel conjoined twin, Hove, saw its/their wish granted in 2001. Having spent £100,000 on attaining city status, the council then frittered away another £150,000 on a failed bid for European City of Culture status (the winner was Liverpool).
Bidding to be European City of Culture may be fatuous, but it’s not idle.
A provincial town? I don’t think it has been provincial for a long time, ever since the ties began to London with the King’s residence. Rather, it’s more like London’s most outlying surburb, especially having the train. It grew substantially at any rate due to its connections with London. Which the reviewer so saucily points out. And it doesn’t charged London prices. He goes on:
Nor is Brighton the saucy seaside resort it used to be, its famous West Pier having been allowed to crumble into the sea and its once seedy side streets now gentrified to appeal to the London commuters who push up its house prices without adding to the local workforce.
Eh? Surely people earning money in London and spending much of it in Brighton are contributing to the local economy. It’s not as if someone working in London rather than Brighton is taking away a job that already existed in Brighton. If it did, she’d be quite glad to skip the hour-long train ride, pleasant as it is.
Nor, finally, is it particularly gay any more, the pink pound proving fickle, and the public bogs having all been closed to avoid offending the new population of “breeders” relacting from Nappy Valley. In short, there is nothing particularly special about it, and its attempts to draw attention (and funding) to itself, sedulously documented in this book, are as ridiculous as those of any other provincial town full of chainstores and carparks and puking chavs.
So the book does have some content at least, even if just as a history of the town fathers’ attempts to ride the Cool Britannia wave. Wouldn’t they be derelict in their duty if they were not attempting such things? And drunk arsim? Well, yes, but only on the weekends.
But the piece struck a nerve, because it’s clearly written from a London point of view that dismisses any small town as being small town, and ridicules any posture otherwise. And there’s no getting around that.
I think the nicest way to view Brighton is as London-on-Sea (the Brighton Wikipedia entry mentions this). Certainly, when you walk to Brighton Station then a pleasant hour later get off at Victoria or Blackfriars and walk anywhere you like in central London, it can feel that way. I really like doing that and perhaps it’s time to recognize such pleasures and just get on a train one day and just wander London all day.
Monday, February 26th, 2007; Brighton, East Sussex, England
Speaking of happiness, Daniel this evening brought to my attention an interview with the great yogi Bikram Choudhoury, whose beginners yoga method I follow. Here’s the bit he sent me:
Julie: Do you teach meditation?
Julie: Why not?
Bikram: Because, hatha yoga is their meditation. Western people can’t meditate.
Julie: Why not?
Bikram: Because they are born in the wrong place, they grew up the wrong way and they live their lives the wrong way. People in the western world don’t understand what the meaning of meditation is.
Julie: Is it wrong to try?
Bikram: Trying the wrong way is wrong.
Julie: So trying is a waste of time?
Bikram: Waste of time. In India people really can’t meditate either. Nobody can meditate, if they know what is the true meditation. What do you understand, what meditation is?
Julie: Give me the definition of meditation, please.
Bikram: I will tell you! Of course I’ll tell you! Listen to this very carefully, one billion dollar answer… to achieve nothing but concentration power. The whole life depends, success or failure on one thing: how much you can concentrate. And, you can’t meditate, until you do hatha yoga first. My class is the meditation. If you don’t do hatha yoga, you cannot do raja yoga. If you do not finish high school, you cannot go to university, same thing. If you don’t want to do anything, just go home, turn the lights off, listen to music and chant, you get higher blood pressure, cholesterol up, overweight, that’s not meditation.
Despite his shenanegans he’s such the real deal! I’m a fan and am proud to have been spoken to directly by the man. He made fun of my yoga pants in class, saying it looks like I got them off a dead Vietcong.
Yes, the great man spoke to me! Have a lovely Shabbes.