Tag Archive: Brighton


ImageNavigating the transition from school term to holidays is never easy, and I am grateful right now for my two hours in a cafe while Jude is at the low cost Women’s Centre creche. As many of you know, I finally made the decision to go with my gut and keep Jude out of school for at least this next year and home educate. The root of this decision lies back in his babyhood when I began to read about the philosophy around home education and the problems with schooling. So the impact of suddenly seeing the shape of my life without 15 hours of nursery per week is, to say the least, quite startling.

I often find that once a decision is made, the other side – the path not taken – seems to stand out in bold relief. I know that if I had made the decision to send him to school, I would be seeing all the flaws of that path in minute detail, so I can rest in the middle here, taking it all with a pinch of salt.

A few things have come to pass and to end lately. The vision of my son at school, joining the ranks of the vast majority of our society – there is a kind of loss and grief in that, even though I feel right about the choice; the end of a significant relationship; my decision to not take my place on the Creative Writing MA to start in October after all. Instead of the massive undertaking and financial commitment of a 2 year degree I am doing manageable little bits and pieces that nourish my writer self: such as the Sark ‘WINS’ course, which I started a month ago and am absolutely loving!

Sark is one of the most insightful and inspiring writers I’ve ever had the luck to come across. I loved her book ‘Succulent Juicy Woman’ and have aspired to be one ever since. Her program for writers, WINS, has in the space of a few weeks transformed me from a chronic writing procrastinator to someone who is doing something to do with writing almost every single day. I hope this keeps up! I know that if I get stuck there is abundant support to get unstuck again.

I have some interviews lined up with amazing creative and soulful mothers for my non-fiction project, and have already gratefully received some written material answering my questions from those who are not able to do face to face interviews. I am going to send a proposal to an agent who I have a connection with through an author friend. I am so excited about this project!

My son and I have spent 2 weeks camping this summer so far, one week at Midsummer Camp in June and one at Dance Camp East in late July – a week blessed with the most stupendous unexpected sunshine. We met lovely people, re-encountered lovely souls we’d camped with before, and generally unwound ourselves into the space of blue sky and the simplicity of cooking over a fire.

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But I noticed something different this year: the camps don’t feel like the be-all and end-all of my life, as they did the last two years – the first two years in which I discovered them. It may sound sad to say that only a couple of weeks out of a whole year would have such an impact, but they did. I was woken up to a way of living that resonated deeply with me: a way of being in community in freedom and mutual respect that I recognised with my bones. I came home from them absolutely overflowing with love and openness.

This time, though, I found myself almost impatient with the seeming irrelevance of the camps to my everyday life: after all, living on my own with my son barely resembles a situation of sharing cooking, childcare and songs with 30 other people. It’s as if there seemed no point in surrendering into an experience that, beautiful as it is, is not going to last and cannot be translated into my life in Brighton. Some kind of cynicism or disappointment had taken root in me, to my sadness. This didn’t stop me from enjoying the experience as best I could while there: I discovered some wonderful new things, like Taize meditative singing, which had me in tears every time, and circle dancing, and loved singing my way through a 60’s and 70’s songbook with a guitarist in my circle, and performing ‘I’m Alive’ with a small acapella group in the cabaret at Dance Camp East.

But I wonder if the community is simply evolving more slowly here, but happening in its own subtle way nonetheless. Several people I know through the single parenting community in Brighton have supported me recently with both practical and emotional issues – mostly online or via text, but it helped tremendously. Another single mom is looking at setting up some single parent houseshares, and I am dabbling with the idea. I am loving the home education community already, and am so grateful for things like the forest school at Stanmer Park which is like a mini-recreation of camp life for me, once a week, where Jude can make a stick man to celebrate Lammas and also run around with a sword with other boys. I also love my various women’s circles, which nourish me and connect me to my femininity, and am so excited about the collaborations in the form of yoga and creativity workshops I am brewing with other talented women. And it seems that various acquaintances are setting up new social events and gatherings almost every week.

Dance Camp has also renewed my determination to learn guitar. In the style of Sark’s micro-movements, (where you take actions that last no longer than 5 minutes, to move you steadily towards your goal), I have taken my guitar out of the cupboard and put it in the living room, looked at tuners online and peered in the window of a music shop.

I encourage you all to look at the little steps you can take towards your dreams, and see how these little seeds take root and flower. I am hoping that the roots of community and music will slowly spread right underneath the foundations of my life here in Brighton. Who knows where they will come up to light and flower next.

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“Every city has its own internal logic” – Angela Carter, “The Kiss”.

I knew my city from the first time I saw it. Strange that it is ‘mine’, now, when I was born in Cape Town, but there’s something different about a city that you have chosen to live in. And Cape Town seems increasingly distant and abstract to me now, after six years in my adopted country.

I first ‘met’ Brighton in June 1998, on a gap year holiday to England filled with pubs, pool and boys. It was only for one summer’s day, but it reminded me very much of the seafront in my home city, and I felt instantly at home. I saw it in an idealistic way, and Brighton stayed in my head for long after that.

I spent longer in Brighton during November 2003, when I came up for my best friend’s wedding. The unaccustomed cold didn’t put me off: I was in love with the place, taking photographs of the beautiful University buildings, the Pier, even the pebbles on the beach, to show eagerly to my then boyfriend when I returned home (I was trying to convince him to join me when I moved to England).

Brighton is both more and less innocent than Cape Town with its laundromats and rastafarians competing on street corners with glue-sniffing little boys offering to clean your windscreen. When I first moved to Brighton I thought it was a haven compared to the perpetual threat I felt in my home city. The lurching Big Issue sellers with their cheeky or frozen smiles depending on how much hope is left in them, and the clink of change in Londoners’ pockets as they walked past beggars under Trafalgar Street bridge – all seemed harmless in comparison. All I really saw were the lights and bonhomie of the North Laines, the way people could wear any hairstyle or costume without it attracting ridicule – unlike in conformist Cape Town – and the sunshine glinting off the pebbles on the beach which were still a novelty then.

In Cape Town there was no way I’d walk through the centre of town at night without a man at my side – so when I first came here the freedom was intoxicating. I walked everywhere without fear. Recently, though, I’ve been noticing the underbelly of Brighton a lot more.

Maybe it’s having a child, and an awareness of what I don’t want him exposed to – but the gap between the ‘ideal place to live in’ and the place I actually live in, seems to have become ever wider. Every time I walk down Western Road or North Street there seems to be a fight going on – even in the daytime – and I have to positively gird myself up to face London Road and the Level with the perennial alcoholics at midday.

It’s also the sheer unstoppable force of the city – the way there’s always something stimulating happening, and finding peace in the face of that can be challenging. I feel like I’ve become hooked on it, though, because everytime I consider moving somewhere quieter – like Totnes in Devon, a recent bee-in-my-bonnet, I feel paralysed with fear of boredom, and something missing.

I know that the sheer amount of choice I have on a day-to-day basis in this city is something to be tremendously grateful for. There are centres where we can connect with others in similar circumstances, have access to communal organic allottment gardening free of charge, many different parks to choose from, some of them beautiful, and of course the unchangeable sea – having grown up by the sea, I’ll always have a bit of an attachment to it.

I know that my long term dream is to live communally and close to nature. In the meantime, though, and until I find the right people to do that with, I’m faced with the question of where’s best for a growing boy and his mother? How do we meet both of our needs? It’s clear that Jude loves the city and thrives on the excitement. He’s not yet noticed the things that make me cringe. And I have to sit in the gap and know that sometimes peace has to be cultivated regardless of my surroundings. After all, as meditation teachers say, wherever you go, there you are.

Lately I’ve managed to touch that, but it was only when I decided that I could and eventually would leave Brighton, despite my love for it – that like a relationship with a lover, you don’t have to wait till it’s all falling apart to see the sense in moving on – it was only then that I started to feel the peace even walking down the busy streets with the shouting teenage mothers and the clamouring shoppers. Only then did I start to re-discover all the things I once loved about Brighton, and still do. It had to be a special place to become my adopted city, and often what I hear in people’s voices when they criticise the place, is a cynicism I don’t want a part of – a lack of appreciation for what we have here.

Sometimes it is about accepting that nowhere is going to be perfect. Obvious as it sounds, this is something I really struggle with! For now, it’s about just taking baby steps towards my vision – and right now, that looks like it may be moving to a smaller town or village in Sussex, where Jude can still easily see his father and I can still see my friends here.

It’s not perfect – it’s not rural idyll, and I would be giving up a lot, and facing the uncertainty of having to build up a network of friends all over again. But I’m reminded of the huge risk I took moving countries six and a half years ago, and how I have never truly looked back since. In the meantime, I’m hunkering down for winter and aiming to enjoy this city as much as I can while I am still here.