First Impressions: Brighton & Hove

I wrote many words about my first impressions of Brighton & Hove yesterday. They were centred on my first morning waking up in this British seaside city on the southern English coast and finding the city's marathon taking place outside of my window just off the seafront of Brighton. I got up, got dressed and stood with strangers watched the runners flow past.

My words described how organised races through cities are when you see a place at its best. Having run in more than a handful up and down the UK I've always had my faith in humanity boosted by seeing who people run for and why - family members lost to cancer, near-extinct animals, clean drinking water across the world. But you don't fully appreciate the magnitude of what you're part of until you are on the other side watching it pass you by. I finally did this as a spectator on Sunday. Not only were there thousands of plodding souls, panting and pushing their way around possibly familiar-to-them streets but there was a growing group of people trickling out onto the streets to watch, clap, cheer and urge these people on. I soaked up the atmosphere and let the marathon provide me with the perfect opportunity to observe and absorb how this city works, how its people interact with each other and how the gentle whooshing of the waves behind us serves as a backdrop to it all.

These observations feel a little feeble and inadequate in the light of what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon. Yes, bombs are going off all over the world and yes, western media is biased in how much attention it gives atrocities in different corners of the globe, but allow me if you will to use my very fresh experience of watching a marathon in Brighton on Sunday - watching folk of all ages and all abilities put themselves through one of the toughest physical challenges to raise money for charities supported by families and strangers who made their voices hoarse and their hands sore by clapping in a cold, damp wind - to explain why Boston's bombings immediately made me sad when I saw the news. May they never stop cities coming together to celebrate running, facing personal challenges and the beauty of humanity.

So, instead here is an abridged version of my first impressions of my new home for home for a few months.

Brighton, I can tell you are an accepting, laid-back yet forward-thinking city loved by those who live here and you are made beautiful as a result of this, though your white and cream Regency buildings lend a generous helping hand too.

Your seagulls do their best to wake me up each morning and I have loved mingling with your dog walkers along Marina Parade on my mile a day runs.

People smile, all  couples hold hands and thanks to their incredibly cool parents children are little trend-setters that I have started to take notes from.

I have a view of your whooshing waves from our kitchen, which has made doing the washing up a wonderful thing. I already find comfort in knowing that they'll be not only a backdrop to my stay here but they'll remain a constant for the years and years and years that follow after.

And now here are the photos I took, which I hope capture some of my first impressions and perhaps a hint at the atmosphere only the kindness of strangers can create.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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