Monday, April 16, 2007

Complicated Lives Seem Less So By Candlelight

“She knitted a jumper, it was child abuse…”

Nick Sheldon, 2007

If only I had been carrying a notepad with me in which to record the many inspired, insane and occasionally profound utterances of my friends over the last few days, I would have enough material for my own (admittedly, surreal) stand-up show. Not that there’s ever a shortage of witty banter amongst my social group, but this weekend’s spontaneous assemblage afforded some of the most quotable yet. I discovered Nick’s immortal words scribbled in my barely legible handwriting on a piece of paper in the garden this morning, having no recollection of writing them or indeed of the context in which they were spoken (perhaps Nick or Harry can help me out?).

It all kicked off on Thursday, when a quick drink after work resulted in accidental tipsiness and the drowning of sorrows between a few emotionally fragile friends, or as we’re now calling ourselves “The Fuckest-Uppest Club”. Then on Friday, Mat arrived back in Brighton with Erika, his visiting Californian friend - who shares with me a penchant for showtunes and sarcasm - and soon there was singing in the street and bonding over chocolate martinis. After a suitably robust hangover brunch in the garden on Saturday morning, the three of us spent the day soaking up the sun on the beach, catching up with other friends, and consciously staying sober (on my part, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s beer-bender-fuelled antagonisms). A highlight of the day was a tour of Embassy Court - the recently refurbished art-deco building on the seafront (previously referred to as ‘Sarajevo Heights’ - before its restoration) in which Mat’s friends Sue and Paul own a flat with the most amazing view over Brighton. Then I discovered that Erika had never tried (or even heard of) Pimms, and my desire to provide the complete British seaside town experience outweighed my not-drinking-until-after-7pm resolve. We sat out in the garden back at home, joined by Damien - who kindly brought with him the essential Pimms accoutrements – and so began another evening of jollity and inebriation.

A quick pint at the Barley Mow was followed by a session at the (not nearly so nice) Sidewinder, at which virtually everyone I know in Brighton, plus a generous supply of non-native weekend visitors, appeared at some point. Being such a balmy night, we took over the beer garden and sat bantering by candlelight until we were forced back inside (the perils of pubs in residential areas). I did feel for Erika, being parachuted into a melange of random strangers - a significant percentage of whom are currently sporting the emotional scars of recent romantic vexations (although one or two embody the exact opposite – you know who you are, lovebirds!). But in typically laid-back Californian style, she charmed her way around the assortment of casualties, distracting us from our complicated lives (thanks love!). An abortive mission to go dancing (we’d left it too late to get in anywhere) was substituted by a brief session on the beach, during which Matty Mo was on one of his bonfire missions. I’m still chuckling to myself at the mental image of him walking towards us with a 12 foot scaffolding plank, then enlisting the help of passing strangers in finding further kindling, including an entire tree – roots and all. Further hilarity ensued when one of these conscripts compared Matty’s fire-building determination to that of Frodo the Hobbit, taking the ring to Mordor (it’s not the first time Matty’s likeness to a Hobbit has been pointed out). Feeling chilly, and slightly nauseous thanks to the toxic fumes from melting tetrapaks, Erika, Mat and I left Matty/Frodo with his new-found friends and made our way back up Freshfield Road. In his intoxicated state, Mat rather endearingly described the sensation of walking uphill as “like walking along a flat surface, but with your head inclined at an angle”, or words to that effect. Also feeling pleasantly altered, I found myself physically attached to Erika the entire way, but luckily she was cool about it.

Sunday entailed the inevitable after-effects of over-indulgence, but was much improved by a decent brunch at Café 32, followed by paper-reading in Queen’s Park all afternoon - during which we were joined by Damien and his current (rather lovely) squeeze, Gavin. Mat & Erika deferred their reluctant return to London and stayed to partake of the roast dinner that I’d drunkenly promised Nick and Harry the night before - and a civilised start to the evening (vomit anecdotes notwithstanding - thanks Harry) descended into the expected rum-swigging session, and further noteworthy sound-bites (see above). My sorry physical state today is more than compensated for by an underlying sense of wellbeing brought about by the love, humour and kindness of those beautiful people that I feel honoured to call my friends. Photographic evidence of this lovely weekend, and those gorgeous folk who absolutely made it, is online at: www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar.

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