Because science into life doesn't go

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Five Nights in Bri(gh)t(o)ney

The bleak midwinter was enlivened this weekend by the arrival of mates from Budapest. Or rather, the arrival of a mate, singular. Out of the anticipated set of Nick, Dean, and Mark, only Nick managed to get here--and that wasn't without his own share of difficulties that I won't go into....

Magical Brighton

Of course, as any orgygoer knows, a twosome is a rather different beast to a foursome. Instead of the brash, outspoken hurricane of testosterone that characterises any gathering of men larger than three in number, a party of two is a far more civilised affair. As a general rule, the behavior of three or more guys is governed by the group's psychological centre of gravity with individuality subsumed into a meta-identity. Conversations are tidal, and often breakdown into 'banter' and 'taking the piss'. When out in public there's a safety-in-numbers attitude that allows the group to do things no one on their own would even think about doing. I'm not knocking it--it doesn't always have to involve downing pints of your own vomit, or visits to A&E--it's just it wasn't that kind of weekend.

Regency Rainbow

One problem that I did have was the two spare tickets to the Pompey-Watford game on the Saturday. How could I save Dean and Mark shelling out forty quid each? More on that later.

So, Nick and I slipped into a schedule more suited to two girlfriends, but hey, we're metrosexuals so that was fine. First night, we cooked, got pissed on wine instead of beer, and had frank, deep, constructive conversations about relationships. What we ate and talked about I've largely forgotten, but I definitely remember the wine. And the shot of Unicum from the bottle Nick had so kindly given me as a reminder of Hungarian hardships.

Next day, the Friday, saw us hit the highstreets and exclusive boutiques of Brighton like a pair of celebs without the paparazi, bling, or cash. Nick found a fashionable woollen cardie that looked like something my gran might have knitted in the mid-eighties and pounced. A gent of an assistant spotted loose stitching near the zip and offered Nick the garment for half-price. Bargain! I succumbed to the zeitgeist and bought ready-faded-and-creased jeans and a couple of T-shirts with meaningless squiggles daubed on the front. We were ready for the weekend like a pair of fashion jackals high on lines of the cutting-edge.

Come back! My gran could never knit that...

Shame we ended up in 'The Gloucester' then. For those not in the know: 'The Gloucester', or TBG (The Brighton Gloucester) as it's been cunningly re-titled, was an early nineties hangout for the freaks of society--you know, the nerds, the goths, the metal-kids--basically anyone not from the standard-issue cookie template of short hair/white reeboks (boys) and highlights/wonderbra (girls). It was always dark, always dingey, and whatever grip you had on your shoes was always lost by the end of night from the still drying laquered floor of spilt beer and alcopops. They played a lot of angsty music and talking to girls didn't carry the double risk of humiliation or a glassing. I had many a good night there.

Now, over ten years later, despite an extensive revamp, the original magic of the place hadn't been lost. There was sweatiness, there was flailing limbs on the dancefloor, and there was negotiating the Labrinyth-esque layout. So, apart from looking a little out-of-sorts in my achingly hip clothes, I felt right at home. And, I can only imagine that since Nick grew up in Germany, where David Hasselhoff was and still is a genuine legend, he felt the same.

In fact, the night took a turn for the better when Nick found the cojones to slide up to an olive skinned beauty and dazzle her with his linguistic fireworks. "Where are you from?" he asked, hands behind his back like an army major. The simple question and passive body language worked, and soon Nick was on a rollercoaster of a conversation, discovering facts such as what she was doing and what were her feelings towards Hungarian-American men who'd grown-up in Germany. The girl's name was Maria, she hailed from Espana, and she was out with her Spanish girlfriends.

I spied an opportunity and elbowed Nick in the gut. "Would you and a friend like to watch a game of Premiership football tomorrow?" Nick asked, while I made weird shapes in the air. "Steve and I are going to see Portsmouth against Watford and we've got a spare pair of tickets."

"Who's Steve?" one of the other girls asked. Nick pointed at me. The girl hesitated.

"Do we look like a pair of murderers?" Nick said.

"You, no." The girl eyed me suspiciously. "Him, maybe."

Charming. That's what long hair and bad dancing gets you these days. Fortunately, another of Maria's friends, Lidia, was willing to take the chance that I wasn't the next Peter Sutcliffe, and agreed to make up the foursome. Game on! Outside, we exchanged numbers and made plans to be in the contact the following morning, before saying our goodbyes in a fashion that tried to hide our relative anonymity to each other. Don't you hate goodbyes? I hate goodbyes. I'm a bad good-byer, especially with acquaintances.

Next morning, after sending a meticulously composed SMS, we got our rendezvous-point and set-off. We'd agreed to meet at the Clock Tower in Brighton at midday--an iconic meeting place, full of romance and history, only let-down by the fact it was impossible to get to by car. I parked and waited while Nick walked the last hundred yards alone. 12:05 and he's still not back. 12:08, still no show. Had the girls had a last-minute change of heart?

Stop frontin' and start navigatin'!

Of course not! At 12:11 Nick came round in the corner, sandwiched between two gorgeous women. Obviously the delay was due to their wanting to look their very best for Fratton Park, that bastion of high style. Kisses on the cheeks all round, and we were on our way. As we drove along the seafront road, the crisp sunlight glimmering on the waves beyond the esplanade, I remember spending an inordinate amount of time staring into my rear-view mirror. Was there really two women, two stunning women, sitting with big grins on their faces in the back seat? I trusted my eyes, and decided not to pinch anybody to make sure....

Mirror...mirror...mirror, signal, manoeuvre

We stoppped at home to shower (since we'd crashed at my Dad's place and hadn't brought a change of clothes), and arrived in Portsmouth just in time to make kick-off. The game wasn't great, but it did follow a nice pattern for the home supporters--fall behind, equalise, and then go onto win in the last five mins (from a very dodgy penalty). We joined in, and joked that we'd look out for the girls celebrating on MOTD.

Lidia y I

Chopstick Classes

On the drive back we got invited to a tapas bar, but on arrival the restaurant was full so we ended up in a sushi joint. And that was the last we saw of Maria and Lidia. I think there's a mutual desire to see each other again, but circumstances may conspire against us. Even if there's no feelings beyond camaraderie, I'd definitely like to hook up again.

Nick's big plan: win the jackpot and fly us all to Budapest

Sunday found us strolling on Brighton's pebbled beaches and up and down the pier. Afterwards we tried to catch the new Bond film, but it was sold out so we bought tickets for 'The Prestige' instead and killed time having a smoke while sitting in the car overlooking the marina. The film was far-fetched though still enjoyable, and working out the twists and witnessing the foreshadowing events was fun.

Who's up for a pot of gold? Ready, steady, go!

On the last night, after spending the day getting through the first two series of 'Peep Show', we went to a Rancid concert at the Brighton Dome. Strange venue for a punk band--teenagers dressed all in black, cosying up to the glass panelled, brightly lit bar and then being id'd. We people watched and then swayed a little at the back. Rock on!