By Dawn M. Sanders
After Jasper went off with Graham (his main support worker) I set about getting my own ass in gear.
Life had been too full on and stressed for far too long and I was at breaking point – I mean, reaeaeally ‘losing it’!
I had looked forward to just striking out on my own after the botched trip to Wichita in May, hassle free, with only “my needs” to think about and not surrounded with Jasper havoc…
So, got to London and, had the usual night of setting the world to rights with Maryanne and Lawrence – it pisses me off that, they always walk away without me in conversation though.
Maryanne and I surprisingly stayed up till 2 something in the morning, just gabbing – was great.
The next day I had to jump start from a sleepless night.
I was on the train though, clunky bag and all – on my way to Brighton – the city by the sea and my place of Pagan roots.
The hostel I checked into, was cramped and, the gay pride party outside, even at 5 in the afternoon, was already mounting.
I took a taxi to what was supposedly the nearest Co-op shop to get a few provisions and, on the way back, the uncaged animals in the street, really were like headless chickens – throwing themselves in front of the taxi, without an inkling.
The taxi driver bleeped and swore.
I was too tired to really go out. I just wanted to eat something, get somehow reenergised and then maybe…
After the curry and a couple of glasses of red, I walked the lanes I had so many years ago.
There was a funky street band playing and the pavement was thronged with people; sitting at tables, walking stridently in couples or packs or dancing in front of clubs.
The party was fully underway.
It wasn’t just Pride, it was bloody Saturday night in Brighton, mild and with every horney bastard out on the streets, gay or straight.
I packed it in after the dishevelled atmosphere at the White Rabbit pub fight, where the guy kicking off spoke right in my direction after I shouted for him to shut the fuck up.
“Come with me you fucking pussy!” he said directly at me, several times.
I went back to the hostel, the kitchen was locked and,
I was surprised to find two guys in the dorm where I was sleeping – they hadn’t told me it was mixed.
Needless to say, the next day I changed hostels back to where Jasper, Josie and I had stayed last December.
Met my first assistant, Pippa and had a blissful day.
She’s a warm down-to-earth lass and we got on instantly.
I took my stuff to the 2nd place and then we just lunched out on the beach.
I spent the next several days looking at areas, had a massage at the Dolphin clinic where I used to take Jasper as a toddler.
The same receptionist still worked there and remembered me – sweet.
I ate lunch at the unemployed centre – again a blast from the past and there were only a few from when I knew it before.
I walked through the lanes several times, but this time I was determined to check out other areas out of town.
The hostel was just as I knew it would be; full of good natured Europeans, but all they do is eat – constantly in the kitchen, so I didn’t have a chance cooking, fucking no chance!
I spent far too much on eating out, because of the kitchen situation, but c’est la vie…
The most striking thing about being down there was how much they’ve whitewashed the place into some corporate capital.
I really knew this to be what was going on when I visited with Jasper and my mate last December for Jasper’s 18th, but I think I was trying not to notice.
It’s hard not to notice though, you can ‘smell the affluence’ – bouncing from the pavement like the summer sun and sea air itself…
I was shocked to discover the old café, the Brighton Bi Standard near the train station, hadn’t been turned into a Costa coffee joint.
They’re building a tower to look out onto the sea and I was told families would be charged just under £40 – just to look out to sea from a bird’s eye view?
The woman I spoke to about it in the pub said: “It’s getting bigger and uglier by the day.”
The tourist trap mentality has gotten more blatant and, I was put right off how much the place has out priced itself (and the poor).
It really does now live right up to its name, little London by the sea, just now stylishly sports London prices, from everything to pub drinks to taxi fares.
So am I moving there after my Master’s is finished?
Well, I will if I can get a transfer within social housing to one of the nice suburbs I saw.
I’ll have to learn all the cut throughs and back streets to avoid the unruly, sheer numbers of people out on the streets every day.
The last day I was there I did some walking on my own (or tried) and the old familiar yet infuriating knocking my stick out of my hand happened – which used to happen all the time.
I’ll have to make a case that: my son isn’t getting the right support here and I’m struggling to get around Sheffield, because it’s true.
But, Sheffield has many things going for it – despite its crazy layout, incompetent local authority and somewhat backward/macho-ness.
It’s gritty, down-to-earth and has good universities.
The main thing is, it’s affordable and hasn’t been taken over by young urban professionals.
It celebrates its working-class heritage with pride and has preserved its industrial history, again with pride and in good taste.
While life is full of big dilemmas, this will certainly be one of those…
The age old tug-of-war between north and south, just manifesting in mine and Jasper’s own choices – weighing up the pros and cons.