Given that I spent New Year’s Eve alone at my computer keyboard tidying up my remote UNIX home directory, this is going to read like a middle-class white guy wibbling on about how “vibrant” the local “community” is as he moves into a flat in one of London’s tiny ethnic war-zones instead of the Georgian square he’d far rather be living in if he had Russian oligarch money. But I was thinking today how much I love the not-always-queer-but-usually-shameless, un-English sexual buzz of this place.
British seaside towns have long been licensed to explore the limits of the nation’s sense of propriety: dirty weekends, saucy postcards, pantomime dames, naked ankles and open-toed sandals. They’ve been near enough to the ports to attract filthy foreigners, dense enough with venues to attract disreputable theatrical types, close enough to moderating ocean currents to attract exhibitionists.
Brighton has extended its seasonal permit into an all-year-round attitude. You can’t walk the direct route from the clock tower that is the unofficial centre of town to the railway station without encountering a larger-than-life burlesque crotch plastered across a full-size street-level hoarding. (It’s an advert for the sex shop round the corner.) The gigantic fibreglass stripey-stockinged Moulin Rouge legs that used to loom over one of the art house cinemas in Oxford—“Not The Moulin Rouge” in fact—when I lived there have now found their rightful home in Brighton. Even the local radio station has the nudge-nudge name “Juice”. It broadcasts ads for a car repair garage where all the mechanics are women and for a fencing company that promises “firm, long-lasting erections”.
One evening just before Christmas I’m in Tesco and several of the staff are in fancy dress. The entrance is being patrolled by Darth Vader from Star Wars and Neo from The Matrix. As I’m on my way out with my shopping, a young woman walks up to “Neo” and slips a hand inside his soutane. “Hello,” I thought, “here comes a bit of holiday hanky-panky already.” Neo smiles, opens the garment up further, and declares camply, “I know! It’s completely lined!”
On a related note, check out at least one of the episodes Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager at YouTube. Or preferably, and if at all possible, have sex with someone you love. If the World ends tomorrow you won’t regret it.