Having told magister I'd rather do things than have things as presents, he arranged for us to go visit his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Hove, for a long weekend.
Yes, nowhere near my birthday. I knew it'd be in the new year. March was the first time everybody's schedules coincided and trains conspired against us then, so it got pushed back a month. Which seemed devastating at the time (my ambitions for this year having led me only to frustration and the conviction that nothing was ever going to get better and I wasn't capable of any of the tasks confronting me...in other words, I really really needed a break), but probably meant we had nicer weather for it than we would've otherwise. Which is good since our interests are mostly wandering around, looking for bookshops and nice pubs and parks to sit in and suchlike.
We arrived not long before James's sister and brother-in-law finished work on the Thursday. I'd seen their house extremely briefly when we were there for their wedding last summer, but this time it really left an impression on me. I loved almost everything about it: the black-and-white paving on the front walk which I said reminded me of dazzle ships, the wooden floor, even how white all the walls were painted.
Having helped and talked with my friends a lot about decorating lately I am compulsively noticing the color of everyone's walls, but I think this would've been striking anyway: everything was white. Which my fellow DIY friends have both described as "cold" or "clinical" lately, but to me this looked simple, clean and elegant and bright, especially with the ridiculous amounts of sunshine that greeted our arrival. I spent the whole weekend admiring this and wanting to make it work in my house, though I fear we, and our house, are too scruffy to pull it off.
I do want these shutters, though.
This isn't a great picture of them (oh look, there's my finger in the corner of the shot; I am so good at this) but hopefully you get the idea. They can be folded over the windows, and the slats on each section can easily be turned to whatever angle you want, too. It'd get rid of the horrible net curtains (which Andrew insists on but I hate), would keep us from slowly pulling the horrible curtains off the horrible curtain hooks, and just make me really happy, I think.
Our white room had (in addition to more of these shutters) a lush white duvet and white towels neatly laid out on it when we arrived. I could easily have believed I was staying in a B&B. Only it was, for me, way better than a B&B: it wasn't bed and breakfast, it was bed and dinner. I got my own cornflakes and tea for breakfast, but I couldn't help with dinner beyond the extent to which hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and chatting was help. Of course there are few things I love more than someone else cooking for me, but even so I luxuriated in the food and drink I got this weekend.
magister and I even managed to find a great Italian restaurant that gave us simple food made from amazing ingredients at a price that didn't make our poor northern wallets cry. (Poor James was horrified at the price of the beer we got while waiting in London between trains, and at everything in Brighton. I knew Brighton was as bad as London but this kept coming as a shock to him.)
That was on the Friday, when we were on our own while normal people were working. We walked from Hove to Brighton. Having been given the directions "go to the seafront and turn left," we only realized when we left the house that no one had exactly told us what direction the sea was in. James said we could stop and ask anyone and I said I was not going to go up to a stranger and say "Where is the sea?" Anyway we struck out and found we were heading in more or less the right direction.
We walked along the seafront until I started recognizing stuff from the other time I've been in Brighton, Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2012. I loved Brighton then: getting up at eight to be on the LGBT+ Lib Dems stall by nine, talking to people all day who thought we already had equal marriage or wondering what the acronym stood for, wanting all of Jen's badges (especially "Vince was right" and "coalicious," though), getting Jeremy Browne's photo taken in front of our banner holding a little teddy bear, forgetting to eat, arguing with people on one subject and agreeing vehemently with them on the next, shouting Awkward-Squad things in the debates, having someone (probably diffrentcolours remind me to eat, going back to plumsbitch's where I was staying, where he'd have likely made something amazing to eat and we'd stay up until four in the morning drinking wine, listening to music, chatting...and then I'd wake up at eight again the next morning and start the whole process over again. I was almost dead by the end of it, especially after Glee Club that last night, but I loved it.
So anyway, I knew by the time we walked past the cinema it was time to turn left again, off the seafront, because after that it was just tat and fish-and-chips shops, so we walked down what I now know is Queens Road and found a secondhand bookshop and two chocolate shops on the same road. I bought myself a book there on the history of women in the Middle Ages, and then I bought a bunch of chocolate -- I didn't know Montezuma was based in Sussex but having learned this I now think they're keeping all the best stuff for themselves. We bought white chocolate for miss_s_b and mint chocolate to share because that's my favorite, and oh man it was the best mint chocolate I've ever had in my life.
After the lovely Italian lunch, we went to the toy museum.
It was only little, and I was expecting a lot of stuff-I-didn't-recognize, but they had a bunch of trains too so that was all right.
But I got nearly as excited about the freight trains as the passenger ones; my sentimentality about trains knows no limits.
I took this picture thinking I don't know what the Great Dorset Steam Fair might be, but it sounds like I'd like it:
There were dolls and toy kitchen appliances and baby buggies there too, but we of course ignored all that stuff.
We got a bus back and spent a quiet afternoon with TMS on the internet-phone-radio. Helen came home from work, we all went to the pub and then had Lebanese takeaway, which was gorgeous. And an early night, because we're rock-and-roll that way.
Saturday morning we walked to Brighton again, going a different way so that we could look in on Sussex Country Cricket Ground, which we'd seen signs for the previous day and we'd even checked if they had cricket we could go see, but the last match had ended on Wednesday. Still we walked up to it and poked around a bit, took a peek at the grounds through a fence, found an open door and admired some action shots of cricketers and plaques with the names of all the chairmen and captains and England players for the county until someone heard us and told us in the most polite British way to go away, so we did.
On to Brighton, then.
We walked through some markets that seemed half-Camden and half-Longsight to me. There was a shop with a couple of t-shirts I liked, though; one James suggested I get for Andrew that said "Normal People Scare Me" (which would've been true but not at all in the sneering-goth way it was intended by the look of the rest of the shop) and one I wanted for me so much that I'm really sad they only had one in a tiny size.
"It's not about how you look, it's about how you see" seemed particularly apt with me using my still-novel white cane a lot and making tons of comments about how the numbers on buses were easier to see and James noting that I got a lot of double-takes when I walked down the street with my cane in one hand, looking down at my phone in the other. He said he really wanted to stage-whisper at me "You're supposed to be blind!" but didn't because he knows I don't have much of a sense of humor for these things. But we both agreed that's a shame, because it would've been really funny. I worry enough about being thought a scrounger or faker as it is anyway, though, because I use it some-but-not-all the time and because I do stuff (like stare daggers at people who sneak in front of me in queues thinking I won't notice) that "gives away" that I can see at least a little.
We did eventually walk down the pier, either because we hadn't before or because the amusement arcade in it featured toilets we could use; I can't remember which. I didn't take a picture of the almost-life-size plastic cows or the tables with legs that look like cow legs this time, because I was pretty sure I had done that last time, but I couldn't resist a photo of the tin-can-knocking-over game which was decorated with minions.
(For anyone who hasn't seen Despicable Me, this video will illustrate why I wouldn't think you'd want to remind carnival-game players of that movie:
Also, at the end of the pier, there was a wagon with steps leading up to it wherein, apparently, you could get a tarot reading.
Ivor. Ivor the tarot wagon.
I bought overpriced doughnuts because they smelled so good, and we ate them walking back up the pier and watching people in those bungee-jump chairs which I'm always tempted to try, but I didn't think they'd be very good on a day when I was wearing a dress.
I did enjoy Brighton, but I felt a bit out of place, too. It's very white and very middle-class, and I'm...not. I mean, I am white, of course, but I feel uneasy in such overwhelmingly white company. I know Brighton prides itself on its diversity but I also know people who find it frustrating or damaging because they're too far from the white, straight, cis, non-disabled norm: being gay is okay but being anything else seems less so, and heaven help you if you're more than one other thing. I had a nice visit and I'd happily return, especially to the generous and accommodating company of James's sister and her husband, but it did make me appreciate my scruffy, beloved Levenshulme all the more on my return.
Plus, the water doesn't taste like metal here.
Saturday night we had a barbecue: lamb koftas for the others and mushrooms and halloumi and corn on the cob for me. Well, I think they all had all those things too! Then we watched a movie from a set James had picked up in CEX that day. It was called Homecominmg and it was completely amazing. Very funny, in that way that horror movies sometimes are which may or may not be intentional. It's about a thinly-veiled version of the U.S.'s recent wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, full of cynical, bald-faced lying politicians who are shown up when soldiers start coming back from the dead as zombies who want nothing more than to...vote for someone else to be president. I thought I'd seen every possible take on zombies but zombies voting absolutely charmed me. I loved it. And considering how much my horror-loving friends overlap with my politically-involved friends, I think a lot of people I know would like it too.
Then we went to bed early and woke up early and spent most of yesterday traveling back. Getting the trains to and from London via Brighouse was ace -- the Grand Central trains there are cheaper and better than the Virgin trains from Manchester in every conceivable way, except it does mean it's a long day for me if I make the whole journey back at once. But we broke it up a bit with an hour in Brighouse, with a late lunch from the chippy and a nice pint of beer in our favorite pub there, basking in sunshine the likes of which we'd not seen in the last couple of days by the seaside, no doubt an indication again that Yorkshire is God's chosen county.