Back to Brighton for Sparks Night

I spent a lovely long weekend in Derbyshire.  I visited ChristmasWorld (photos to follow), read, and fed the ducks with my niece – or, rather, fed bread to the ducks with my niece.  I feel wonderful after the break and seem to have brought some of my calm back with me.

I returned yesterday in time to go to Sparks Night at the Three and Ten.  Sparks night is a short story night which distinguishes itself from other local nights by adding a visual element.  A photograph is commissioned for each story and projected behind the reader.  I've been wondering for a while about the addition of musical/visual additions to spoken word and it seems to work very well indeed, helping to focus attention on the reader. 

The standard of the stories and the readings were high.  The night started with Joel William's story about dwarves (as seen in Penumbra #3 – full text also available in this PDF).  There was also a brilliant story about physics and grief, but my favourite was Porn Mallow by Sara Crowley (full text available here).  The reader said she was nervous, but did a brilliant job.  The photographs were also very good and had a range of different styles.

It's exciting that Brighton has so many live literature events at the moment and that they're of such a high standard.  I'll definitely be at the next Sparks night in four weeks time.

Restorative yoga

From an interview with Toby Litt:
"Q: Is there a secret to writing?
A: Yes. There are no short cuts
"

It's been a fun day today.  It started with a run followed by coffee with a friend at the Meeting Place ("open 7am till dusk") where I had rock cake for breakfast.  I love being back in Brighton and having time to enjoy the seafront. 

At lunchtime I went to the restorative yoga drop-in run by Yoga with Socks On with Rosy, Kitty and L.   This is a relaxation session involving pillows, bolsters and blankets, recommended by a friend.  I wasn't sure what to expect but was very impressed.  The session involved lying in a variety of positions and relaxing – self indulgent but worthwhile.  One of our group unwound so much they had dropped off to sleep at the end.

Then I came home and did some writing.   I sometimes wish for shortcuts, that I could magically produce an exciting novel with no mental effort.  But if it were that easy then everyone would do it.  So I make a little progress each day, reminding myself to appreciate that.

PS – I love the trailer for Synecdoche, NY

Brighton Barcamp 3

I spent this weekend at the Brighton Barcamp 3, which felt like a good music festival in that there was a wide choice of things to do and everyone had completely different experiences. The schedules kept changing so you sometimes missed something you planned to see and ended up being surprised by something else. There was also an incredibly friendly atmosphere and I met some great people.

I saw a number of different talks, some of the highlights being:

  • Premasagar from Dharmafly gave a good introduction to content aggregators for both technical and non-technical folk, covering Planet, lifestreams, Yahoo pipes and hAtom – definitely things I plan to play with.
  • Coding in Yarn by eam31 was one of those sessions that opens your mind to something you'd not considered before. The talk compared computing, knitting and engineering, as well discussing the impact of the web on knitters. It may not have made me into a knitter but it is making me think about some very different subject.
  • Copywriter Ellen de Vries gave a workshop on branding and product naming, leading a group through an example. The session was a lot of fun but also managed to teach a great deal in a short time.  Ellen's business website is here.
  • Tom gave a talk on how SCRUM has worked for him over the last year. He crammed a lot into a short presentation and it worked well for those who knew about SCRUM and those who didn't.  After my six months of SCRUM it was good to compare the experiences I'd had with someone else's.
  • Rebecca Cottrell's talk on typography was so packed it had to move into another room. This was yet another session where I learned a huge amount about a subject I knew nothing about beforehand. Thanks to Rebecca and Jeremy Ketih I now have a pile of links to check out over the next few days.
  • I also attended David Hayward's talk on the Uncanny Valley in AI ("checkers has been solved but not King Lear"); Relly Annett-Baker's talk on 'Content without restriction' – what happens when people are not held back by copyright (the number of Prince of Tennis spin-offs blows my mind); and an introduction to the life of Hedy Lamarr by Jeremy Keith
  • I managed to miss loads of talks I wanted to attend, such as the session on Scratch, a talk on band homepages since MySpace, and sessions on Death and Social Networks, the history of the right angle, and GTD & meditation.

I was impressed with the amount of work that went into the event. Meals were provided by a range of sponsors, from Brighton and beyond, and the university gave us the run of the union building. I learned a lot over the two days while having fun. Thank you to all the sponsors, organisers and volunteers. Hopefully there will be a Barcamp4 soon.

Settling back in Brighton

I've now been back in Brighton for the best part of a week. Most of my things are still in Coventry meaning I'm camping out in my new house.  I feel very settled despite that. I've caught up with lots of people and am slowly rebuilding my mental maps of Brighton, connecting locations together again.

Friday night was Club Smooch.  There were over two hours of acts, most of which were very good.  Kitty's pirate aerial performance was superb, despite working with a shorter rope than she was used to.  We also saw a couple of performances by Diva Hollywood whose Evolution of Woman was a fantastic burleqsue act. 

The night also featured Mr. B. the Gentleman Rhymer, who was as good as Tom had promised – some of his songs are available on the Myspace page.  I particularly liked  Straight out of Surrey (his version of Straight Outta Compton) and Timothy.

On Saturday I visited the Tea-Dance at the library.  I love the idea of dancing lessons and cake in the middle of town.  Next time I'll definitely join in.

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Low tide was less exciting than I'd hoped, with the sea not receding as far as it has in the past.  Despite that we loitered on the beach for about three hours, celebrating a birthday, with various people dropping by.  

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It's good to be back.

Brooks Brighton 10K in November

I've taken a break from running since the Morecambe race but I'm looking forward to restarting my training in September when I return to Brighton.  To give me something to work towards I've sign up for the Brooks Brighton 10K on October November 16th.  I'm taking the next couple of months off to concentrate on writing which should also give me lots of time to practise running along the seafront.

Low tide on Brighton Beach

On September 1st, a few days after I return, Brighton has one of the lowest tides of the year.  While some people are cycling along the sand I'm planning to be more relaxed.  I'll be at the West Pier ruins from around six, meeting some friends and toasting the sea.  Last time I was on the beach at low tide was back in 2005 when Mr. Ribot and I stumbled upon the revealed West Pier.  It was quite something.

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Club Smooch @ Komedia, 29th August

To celebrate my return to the South Coast Club Smooch are holding a special night at the Komedia.  Among the performers are Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, Bearlesque, Honey Moon and Kitty Peels with an aerial act.  Tickets are available from the Komedia site – email me if you're coming along.

And afterwards there's a zombie night at the Ocean Rooms hosted by Transition.

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A magical weekend in Brighton

One reason for going to Coventry was that I'd started taking Brighton for granted. The rent was expensive and I wasn't enjoying it. I decided to take some time out somewhere else, concentrate on the writing, and figure out what to do next.

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At its best Brighton is a magical place where anything could happen and this weekend I saw that side of Brighton for the first time in ages. I spent two days walking around, drinking coffee and seeing old friends. I started at Bom-banes, a cafe with mechanical tables that was even better than I'd heard. I visited loads of favourite places, like Sukhothai Palace, Moments and Ethel's Kitchen, where I ate Raspberry and Lavender cake. Looking back, the weekend was mostly cake and coffee.

My main reason for visiting was to check out a flat in Hove. It had a balcony with a view of the sea and was just what I needed. The wait to find out if I'd got it was nerve-wracking but it looks as if I'll be moving-in early September.

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It was the little Brighton things I loved most – the man on the seafront making pebble pictures near the band stand; the odd bits of graffiti (any marker pen message is more interesting than an advert); the terrible busking on New Road; the couple on a doorstep playing guitar and accordian; the height chart outside the Trafalgar Street pottery shop; bumping into a friend I'd not seen for years on the way to the station.

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Sunday was relaxed, more coffee and more cake followed by a gruelling journey home. For once Virgin managed to lay on trains but it was a long journey surrounded by idiots. I was glad to get home and have an early night. Eleven days till I'm back for good.

A visit to Brighton

I spent this weekend in Brighton after three months away. It was good to be back – the town was mostly the same as when I’d left and it was lovely to be near the sea once more. I didn’t end up running around as much as I have in other visits. I spent Saturday with Rosy, watching movies and visiting Pride, where I played the traditional festival game of failing to find people.

Sunday was a grey day and the whole town felt hungover. Everyone I passed on the street seemed subdued, particularly the ones who’d not reached home from the night before. I had an underwhelming breakfast in a favourite cafe followed by a complication of arrangements, then headed home early.

I did find time for some training, running from Brighton to Rottingdean on Saturday morning (a distance of 12 miles). Strangely, the first 8 or 9 miles took very little effort and only the last mile was particularly tough. I’m feeling a little more confident about next Sunday’s half marathon than I had been.

I’m returning to Brighton (for ever) on the 29th, although I’ve not yet sorted a place to live. I can’t wait to be back properly.  More details soon!

A long weekend

This weekend has been a long one, mainly because it started on Thursday lunchtime.  I headed straight from work to Brighton, met Sophy for dinner, then headed to The Enchantment Under the Sea dance.  I had a great time, meeting up with lots of friends, some I’d not seen in months.  The performances included singing from Raquel Merlot (with an accordian accompanied cover of I’m on Fire) and burlesque from Honey Moon and Baby Bones

Kitty Peels did an act based on Back to The Future, for which I was the ‘man prop’.  My job was to sit onstage and act bored as Kitty undressed.  Since I was ignoring Kitty I didn’t see the act, but the audience seemed to like it.  After the dance I returned to Hove, stopping off at the soon-to-be-sold market diner.  Eating burgers at 3am with a friend in a Munroe-style dress seemed a fitting send-off to the place.

Next morning I was up early for my run, then spent the afternoon catching up with friends and doing a little shopping.  I headed back to Coventry yesterday to meet Jo, who’d hitched up from Brighton.  We went to her Aunt’s 50th birthday party, then made the long walk back to the city centre.

It’s been a good weekend.  Not sure when I’ll next be in Brighton, but I hope it won’t be too long.

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