Four months after my brain haemorrhage, I am still recovering but I seem to have more moments when I am free of most of the symptoms if not the perpetual feeling of concussion.
I am really the sort of person who likes to do things quickly especially when I am having fun but giddiness, which has been one of the main characteristics of my condition, keeps stopping me in my tracks.
Yesterday, maybe because it felt like Spring or maybe just because the sun came out, I just could not resist going on a photographic walk round the beautiful and interesting town where I live.
I came home feeling dizzy, of course, but the feeling passed and, anyway, what the hell!
They are just pretty average shots of the streets a round where I live but they will give you some idea of how lucky we are, the residents of this nearly perfect town.
We have a high street full of independent shops, hordes of pubs and restaurants, we can walk into the country in five minutes and talk to people on a pretty regular basis knowing that they are not full of reactionary prejudices and, on top of it all, our buildings,including a Norman castle, go back to the 11th. Century and they are a rich record of English history.
That history began for me a bit later, when I was sixteen and I just hated the place.
My best friend from school lived here and I used to visit pretty regularly during the long summer holidays when we weren’t hanging around in the far saucier town, now city, of Brighton, just down the road.
For him, and for me, this was the most reactionary, puritanical and narrow-minded place anyone was unlucky enough to find himself.
I vowed that I would never live here.
Well, the town, rather than me, I hope, has changed.
It is now a liberal haven flavoured by its proximity to Sussex University and its easy train lines to Brighton and London and I just love it.
Just take a walk round snooping and you will see that practically every house has a piano with opened music on its stand, coffee tables stacked with books and broadsheet newspapers with posters for local chamber music concerts in their windows – the scruffiness liberal-minded intelligence.
Are those reactionaries still here I wonder? Hiding behind trees when I walk by, waiting to spoil my fun? I don’t think so. Thank you Grim Reaper because I do believe you have taken them all to Hell. Woops, sorry about that, I am sure they are somewhere much more respectable and much less entertaining.
Well, in so many ways, my adult history began here.
I bought my first packet of cigarettes in the intoxicating tobacconist shop on the High Street, I became addicted to coffee too in an atmospheric wooden paneled tearooms full of shining brass and the smell of furniture wax. Also, to my shame, well maybe not, here on a memorable fireworks night, I also got uncontrollably drunk for the first time. It became less memorable after I woke up in a shop doorway with only the haziest of ideas about how I got there.
This was also the town, a couple of years later, where I learnt that making what I considered witty remarks to Irish merchant sailors, when they have been drinking, can end in a beating up.
Well, I have grown up since then – I have given up smoking and I avoid drunken sailors.
It was here too that I converted my school friend to the genius of Verdi’s operas and where he failed to turn me on to Gilbert and Sullivan. We argued, as you do, about which was the best. He championed Rigoletto, I argued for La Traviata. Maybe, I was weird – probably but, even now, I think I own La Traviata and still love the whole canon of Verdi’s work.
It will come as no surprize then to anyone who knows the show that Frazier is my favourite television comedy with its brilliant portrayal of those two culture vulture brothers, Frazier and Niles Crane.
If they ever want to visit, they would find a warm welcome here.
My school friend’s father, long dead, still haunts this place with his rants against foreigners, liberal ideas and the ludicrous impracticality of even thinking of spending your life working in the arts.
He would be so unhappy here now and that, in a nutshell, is exactly why I love it so much.