My, my, that trip was delightful. It took me a day or so to relax – still quite stressed out running around London on the first day, but I soon chilled out when I saw the view from our hotel window: the sea.
We spent most our time enjoying the sun & the sea, reading, and having fine food. We picked up 3 books for 15 pounds, a summer sale: Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love, a Bridget Jones clone called ‘The Trials of Tiffany Trott’ and Frank McCourt’s autobiographical Angela’s Ashes. (“Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood,” writes Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes. “Worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”) That last title had me in tears by the end of the first chapter – it’s one of the best and most moving books I’ve ever read. Read it!
Brighton is quite wonderful – they call it London by the sea, it’s got a slightly french tinge to it. It was booked out, but not overcrowded – there was plenty of room on the beaches (pebble) . I got quite a tan.
We enjoyed the gay ‘Pride’ parade on the Saturday although it wasn’t half as impressive as the ones we have in Amsterdam. Took lots of pictures of trannies – and worked the whistles a friendly couple gave to us. Brighton is tolerant like Amsterdam – and the whole town seems to cater to its gay customers – shops, bars, hotels… one was called ‘The Queen’s Head’ and it had Freddie Mercury’s face painted on its signboard.
On the first night we strolled down to the (ugly) new Marina – a disgrace of a place, Virgin cinema cum multistorey parking lot blocking the view of the sea! We passed an obvious cruising spot opposite the naturist beach – very British: they’d built a pebble dike to protect the innocent. A mad, fat old man was walking up and down the promenade shouting ‘you faaaaking queer baaastaaards’.
On the Sunday we visited the town of Arundel, 25 miles to the west. The local bus took two hours getting there in the heat – but the castle was wonderful – it’s been the home of the Dukes of Norfolk for 700 years. The current Duke is Queen E.’s right hand, 83 years old and desperate to retire (not allowed!). His 30-something son and heir to the title lives in the castle, we were told by a gap-toothed drunken O.A.P. on duty in the family vault… ‘you probably saw him messing around,’ he said rolling his eyes in despise – Duke jr. apparently not in his favour.
In the town’s second hand bookshop I bought a copy of Melvyn Bragg’s book ‘Rich’, a biography of Richard Burton. Bragg’s style is leaden, repetitive, pompous and myth-making… but still the story fascinates, for Burton is such a compelling character. It is funny how male biographers cannot stop emphasizing their subject’s good looks. Bragg brings it up every 10 pages – it is as if they – the biographers – are over-compensating. ‘Look at us,’ they seem to be saying, ‘we’re not afraid to say another man is handsome, let’s say it twenty million times!’. He keeps referring to Burton’s sexual appetite as well.
I have always admired Burton as an actor, for his voice and presence, but reading this book I cannot help but be in awe of his amazing intellect Even in death, and in writing, he is the most enchanting figure. I even have come to respect and more or less admire his miss Taylor… bleeding all over the book!
Bragg claims Burton could make any woman feel he was in love with her or would soon be… within minutes. Charm oozing from his tainted pores… charm as well as alcohol. I know someone quite like that – though not quite as self destructive and not quite that erudite. They make for fascinating, impossible, adorable and utterly forgivable boy-men.
Today, at work, I was photographed for one and a half hours, for a portrait in Dutch magazine IQ, a rag for ‘young professionals’. I enjoy being photographed professionally, but can imagine it becomes a bore after a while! Later on in the day the interview took place by phone. A few simple questions… I volunteered more information myself! It will be on the shelves next month.
I enjoy my “15 minutes” once every while.