When my contract with OXFAM came to an end in 1992, we decided it was time to come back to the UK. We spent a year in Norwich, where Linda did her teacher training and I studied for an MA. We then had to decide where we were going to live. (One year in Norwich is enough for any one lifetime!)
Some friends invited us to spend a weekend in Brighton, and the town showed off royally to us. The sky was blue and cloudless, the sea sparkled and the sun warmed our bones after a freezing winter on the steppes of Norfolk. We were hooked and the rest, as they say, is history.
Someone once described Brighton as a town that looked as if it had been up all night helping the police with its enquiries but we love it. It has everything, easy access to London, an ever-changing seafront, fish and chips on the pier and candy floss. What more could you want?
It also has a large gay community, which adds an element of, well, gaiety and glamour to the place, especially during the annual Pride celebrations. Yesterday was that day and the town was suitably dressed for the occasion. There were rainbow flags, balloons, feather boas and outrageous costumes everywhere.
The day started off with a big parade, which we unfortunately missed, owing to a previous lunch engagement. However, in the late afternoon we took a walk into town to share in the excitement and the spectacle.
By the time we arrived, the festivities had already been in full flood for about five hours and a great deal of alcohol had been quaffed. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was bright and cheerful, like the weather, and everyone was out to have a good time.
And I mean, everyone. There were apparently over 300,000 people thronging the narrow streets of Brighton and, apart from the one minute silence to remember the victims of the Orlando killings in America last month, the whole town was gripped by one big, happy party. By the end of the afternoon, my smiling muscles were aching and my hand was sore from the endless ‘high-fives’ exchanged with total strangers.
Even the Co-op took part.
The police and ambulance services were very much in evidence, some of the wearing garlands and rainbow insignia. Precautions had obviously been taken to ‘keep the party polite’ as Sky Masterson said in ‘Guys and Dolls’ and security was everywhere. However, when we were there.at least, everything was very light-hearted and good natured – inebriated, but good natured.
The festivities were centred on Preston Park, which we can see from our front room window.
The music thundered on into the evening, when, at 10.30 sharp, it all stopped and everyone went home.
Well, most people went home. From what I saw at around 6.00pm, my guess is that, although most people will have made it home and will be surfacing this morning with a sore head, a raging thirst and a somewhat incomplete memory of yesterday, there will be a significant number who may well be waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, either in a police cell, a hospital ward or a bed that they don’t recognise!
After all of the atrocities and the hate that has filled our TV screens over the past few months, it was great to see thousand upon thousands of people coming together to have fun and to celebrate diversity, tolerance and a sense that it is OK to be who you are.
Well done, Brighton. Good on yer!