This was the most wonderful time, and our first return to Brighton since our honeymoon three years ago, when we were there for our birthdays before. It was great, and very special.
We stayed at the Royal Albion Hotel, and room 212 was our home for five days. We loved it with our four poster bed, a jacuzzi big enough to share, and a balcony overlooking the pier and the sea, that we could sit and look out at from the open french doors. There we sat, talked, communed, smoked, drank, watched TV and gazed out at the life ebbing and flowing around the pier, and at the sea, beach and sky.
We were going down for Brighton Pride also, as this always seems to fall close to our birthdays in early August. We got the train down pretty early on Saturday 1st August and after we’d checked in we went and had coffee in a small park opposite the hotel that has a large ornate fountain in the shape of three fishes. The pride attendees were around, either at the café (including a family of two dads and children near us), sitting on the grass or wandering farther away. Occasionally a drag queen would teeter off down one of the streets.
As the sound of the Pride march got closer we went looking for a place to watch the parade from, and found a spot about a quarter of a mile down the route from the café. There was a very nice lady in front of us with a really sweet dog called “Wolfie”, who was as tiny as he was enthusiastically affectionate. Wolfie got a lot of attention from the Pride Parade as it passed! The Parade itself was not too long but very enjoyable, a lot of fun and very good natured. My favourite sight was a small float playing the Stones’ “Satisfaction” that literally bounced to the music as it went by. The sight was heart warming and comical, and the music was good (which is a rarity at gay events!).
After the end of the parade went on its way to Preston Park and people dispersed, we headed back to our hotel room for a leisurely rest, and then headed out for Preston Park to meet a friend. The event at Preston Park has lots of stalls, several dance tents and different enclosures, food stalls and a fair ground, and it’s free to get in. I’ve enjoyed it a good few years past when going there with friends before I met Phil, and we had a nice but brief visit three years ago. On Saturday we got the bus straight there and walked down towards the celebrations. Pretty soon it really felt like the energy was not so good though. I mean, not good at all. Already there was the odd youngsters near collapsed from one kind of excess or another. As we downed our burgers and coke a guy walked past with a collection bucket and a black eye. He seemed to be taking it in his stride, but I have no idea what might have happened.
We wended our way through people sitting on the grass towards the bear enclosure where we were meeting our friend, and practically had to fight our way in while people just pushed and shoved as some kind of oblivious sport. Meanwhile it started to rain. We found our friend, together with two other old friends of mine, and it was good to see them, but the energy just wasn’t getting any better, and neither was the weather. It took us about ten minutes to say “let’s just get back”.
So off we went as the heavens opened, and after about 15 minutes of sheltering under trees we headed for the “special bus service”. After about half an hour in the pouring rain with masses of other people a bus arrived. We managed to get on the third bus that eventually arrived, by the skin of our teeth, Phil’s tenacity and the unconventional use of his walking stick, in the face of really appalling behaviour by young adults that should have known better if they’d even been eight years old. Loud, selfish, uncaring – if this was “pride” and “community”, then please, something just isn’t happening here. But back to town we got, sodden and mightily unimpressed, got ourselves a bottle of Jack and some nibbles and retired to our room for an evening of warming back up and relaxing, hot jacuzzis and stretching out.
First lesson of the holiday, and the only one that was unpleasant. We hadn’t really wanted to go to Preston Park but thought we should do it to meet up with people. Wrong! Follow your feelings. We put that right pretty quick, with the help of our friend Jack , and our magical nest at room 212.
As the week progressed Pride evaporated from Brighton, and I have to say, it was a bit of a relief. It’s great to see LGBT people about, especially different kinds of couples and families, but I can only take so much of a certain kind of attitude, and some gay folks in large concentrations really broadcast it. I mean, give me that over a football crowd any day, but all the same. Though as Phil said, it was also like the people who stayed after Pride adapted to the energy of the place, or maybe it’s just that the people with attitude don’t stick around after the “main event”. In any case, seaside Brighton is my preference, much as I’m glad that Pride happens there.
Sunday came with mixed weather, and we had an easy going day wandering around the Lanes, buying presents for a friend at Lush (mad bathroom products), and various exotic stuff that would drive any creature with an acute sense of smell crazy. Bizarre critters that we are, we loved it, and it’s certainly remedied the sometime dankness of our bathroom in London! While getting our daily coffee outside we watched a girl called Carly Bryant perform with an acoustic guitar on the pavement, quite a few songs from the sixties, and really very good.
When we first got into Brighton and were sitting waiting for Pride to assemble, Phil said that he’d felt the presence of a Norse sea god, I reckoned he must be picking up on Njord, the god of coastal waters and the shore, father of Frey and Freya. At Summer Solstice Njord had come through our meditation and energy raising work, and now we were at Lammas here we were by the sea, his domain, and yes, I could feel his salty freewheeling presence. I was being taught to open up and let go as my 51st birthday approached.
Monday was beautiful, blue skies and sunny weather, and we went in search of a magical shop we’d found online called Dragon’s Gate. This turned out to be in the gay quarter, and the gay quarter turned out to be a really pretty part of town. Off we headed up St James Street and found a place to have coffee outside a little café opposite the Bull Dog pub, which was decorated in rainbow flags that looked pretty wonderful in the sunshine with the blue sky above. A Chinese lady walked past several times with her pug and was very friendly. Another lady stopped and asked “hey guys, where’s the pet shop?” – we had no idea, but she found it and told us about it on the way back, kitty’s pleasure apparently assured! After coffee and a smoke we made our way on up the street, but still couldn’t find Dragon’s Gate. So then it was back down the other side of the street, where a card shop owner assured us it was to be found. And right down near the first part of the road freshly lit incense hit us and there it was, a shop without a sign, some choice books and paraphernalia in the windows but quite shadowy and sheltered looking.
Dragon’s Gate was great, a pretty old fashioned occult shop, not a big stock but I think quite carefully chosen by the people who run it, and some relatively rare books too. It became clear pretty quickly that the girl in there had a considerable commitment to Aleister Crowley, which made me smile and took me back a few years to my youth. We looked around here for things, and Phil was looking for things for my birthday present, and the first thing was runes! They had runes in bone, obsidian and quartz, and I had to choose. So I tried for the feel of them all. The bone runes were an immediate miss for me. The obsidian runes my mind was thinking I would like as I do like obsidian, but nothing was clearing for me. The quartz runes when I picked them up had a lighter energy and yes, my mind was clearing and a peaceful energy was flowing. I tried between the obsidian and the quartz runes a few times, and it was definitely the quartz. So I chose one of the quartz rune sets, made from quite smokey quartz. A purple velvet bag completed that. We also got some star anise to put in tea, and some incense granules, stick incense and an incense tray to burn them on, and a small candle (Pagans in hotel rooms, what can ya do?!). But Phil wanted to get something else for me, and I had to leave the shop for that as it was a surprise.
Dragon’s Gate was interesting, because you don’t see so many shops like that anymore. It was pretty dimly lit, not overtly advertised, and geared strongly towards the “serious” end of occultism rather than the “new age”, and I happen to like both. The energy was quite intense, cool (almost “musty”) but good. And the Crowley association took me back. I used to be very into Thelema when I was younger, and it reminded me of the good that could be found in Thelema, and in old fashioned occultism. It reminded me of the necessity of individual truth, and being true to the person that you are. It’s a great thing to be who you are regardless, and there has to be a part of you that just stands your ground and doesn’t give a damn. Phil joined me outside the shop in the sunshine, under a blue sky, and we headed back to our hotel room with our bag of Pagan goodies.
On Monday we also found a great 50’s style American Diner on the sea front called JB’s American Diner. Wonderful interior, really authentic looking, great food and shakes like they used to do them in the States (according to Phil), giving you the metal mixing cup along with the shake so you can pour yourself all the extras into the shake glass! Marshmallow was my favourite.
Tuesday, my birthday. 51 and now on to a new part of my life. Letting go, moving on to the new. We’d worked hard to get where we are – legally married, with rights, in the UK, staying put! Now life really begins.
What Phil got me from Dragon’s Gate was a beautiful Cernunnos pendant. Cernunnos is a Celtic God with the antlers of a stag, and he is a wonderful deity, which Phil has brought increasingly back into my life. The pendant was of a bearded and antlered male face with a circle at the brow, which could have been a chakra, a Sun or a Moon, depending on how you saw it. I love it and I wore it for all the rest of the vacation, and am wearing it now. We went on our usual leisurely walks through the lanes of Brighton, and found another magical shop, this time more at the “new age” end of the spectrum, lighter, prettier, more crystals and wind chimes and fairies, tarot cards and scarves etc. We liked this shop a lot and had a good chat with the young woman there. More incense granules! A rune book for me to go with my runes, a present for one of our daughters, a little swinging incense burner that we’ve needed for a while, and a fibrous-crystaline white rock for Phil as part of his present.
Now I was pretty tired on my birthday but happy, and when the choice of what to do came up a movie was a definite, and it had to be Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. We got the 12.30pm performance and that was great! I enjoyed this film, though could have done with Helena Bonham Carter hamming it up a little less, and I think I’d have tweaked that ending (if I could even make films!) but it was a very enjoyable movie and got my thumbs up.
In the evening we went to Old Orleans restaurant for my birthday dinner, and it was good food and really nice Long Island Iced Tea, but man was I tired that day, and so we didn’t stay out, but headed back to our room. And our room was lovely. That’s all I needed, just time back at home with my husband. So we opened up the windows and sat there gazing out at the now visible, nearly full Moon, much to my delight. It was a partly cloudy sky, but there was the Moon over the sea and the pier.
I got out my runes and pulled a rune from the purple bag for the question about why I was so tired. “Laguz”. I got out my little rune book and this really spoke to me:
“The L-rune represents fluidity, and is associated with the power of the ocean tides and the force of rivers and waterfalls. It’s energy is one of going with the flow, because to struggle with it is to drown in its depths”.
That, and the full Moon in front of us gave the answer. Let go, go with the flow. My tiredness evaporated. We looked out across the sea, and below the Moon there was a luminous strip of light reflected in the water near the horizon. As we watched, that strip of light grew deeper, then ever so gradually changed to an undulating triangle of light and dark, lengthening to patches of luminous light and sparkling darkness, and then to a road of light hanging across the sea, some hazy and phosphorescent near the horizon, undulating waves nearer, interspersed with spangled darkness, mesmerising, pulling and drawing, all the way down to the shore and under the pier. Timelessly we watched and let ourselves drift, and above the sounds of the pier we could hear the sound of the tide crash gently and then drag back pebbles in slides of water and rock, clearer than they had seemed before, and crash gently and draw back, crash gently and draw back …
Gently as the clouds shifted above, and the Moon rose higher, the road of light drew back, glittering and luminescent, drawing back, until the glow was back beneath the Moon near the horizon, and we were timelessly back in time again.
Wednesday, Phil’s birthday, and not 50 yet! I gave Phil his main present of a clear quartz pendant in a gold coloured setting that wrapped itself round the crystal in the shape of an oriental dragon. It seemed really right for Phil, and he looked great wearing it! We spent a good part of the day at Sea Life, the big aquarium in Brighton. This was lovely, we spent a lot of time looking at one tank after another, so many different forms of fish and sea creatures, and some beautiful aquarium settings. I just felt overflowing with affection for these varied sea animals of all shapes and sizes, each bright with life and individuality – I felt like we were communing with these creatures and it was such a privilege.
My favourite was probably the rays who would swim up to the top of the tank and put their faces through the surface of the water having a look at us! We tried giving some of the animals Reiki through the glass as well, and some did seem to respond, though as ever, the Reiki drawn and the response was very individual. In Sea Life we also got to see Lulu the 70 year old Green Turtle who has the same birthday as Phil! We must have spent a few hours in Sea Life and then went and got a slurpie to drink on the edge of the beach before heading back to our room for a lazy time.
In the evening we went to Café Rouge for Phil’s birthday dinner, which was lovely. We always have a good time at Café Rouge in Brighton and the waiters and waitresses are usually very good. After our meal and a coffee Phil took us off to the beach for an ice cream, and there was the full Moon, but really full and in a clear sky! We got our ice cream cones and went down to the darkened beach to sit together and watch the Moon over the sea, with the surf crashing and flowing and ebbing. And off to the left of the Moon was Jupiter shining brightly. We sat there a long while, together, under the Moon by the sea, with the odd sea gull wheeling overhead in the Moon light, those that felt the pull of that palely drenched twilight of night, mewling and wheeling, some quite low, some silently high, high up in the sky.
We headed back to our room for the last night in our nest in Njord’s domain, flung open the French doors and looked out on the waters, now returned to dark, quiet sea, while the Moon had moved off south. On the beach a bonfire burned, and the whole sky above had a luminescence more like the time before dawn than midnight. Such is the magic of the Moon, bewitching gulls and teenagers, husbands and lovers alike, and such is the magic of the sea and shore.
Next day, with the Sun risen in humid heat, we gathered our things and spent a last morning in Brighton, graced by a close up visit from a gull outside Starbucks, who with enormous dignity, pride and comic sense, determinedly consumed a muffin wrapper, tossed away a coffee cup with derision, and took off powerfully.
A vacation full of blessings.
And that rune I drew? It also said this:
“God/Goddess: Njord – Father of Frey and Freya. Njord was the god of the sea and winds, of summer, and calm, friendly weather”.
Njord was with us in just about everything I felt, and opened us to the flow of things. And he gave me hope. When I looked out on the sea I saw this is our last wilderness, and there is hope. We can save this, and if we can save this, we can maybe save the rest. If we can save and care for the seas, and for the waters of our world, what miracle can we not be part of? And Njord washed my heart with his easy going ways. Open up, let go. For if we can open up and allow the flow of our inner oceans, our deepest feelings, dreams and wishes, what miracle, and what magic is not running and flowing through us? Beyond necessity, in freedom, what other to do than love?
Salty and easeful, compassionate as the open hand, handsome as the weathered smile, natural as quiet laughter.
A more wonderful holiday with my loving and wise husband I could not have asked for. I could say “I want to take this back with me”, but you can only lose “letting go” if you grasp for it, and then not really. Just let go. But if the time is right and you feel the call, take a walk by the shore and learn from the sea and sand, the sea weed and pools of life, the gulls and the wheeling sky, the spirits and gods of this blessed place.