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Places I remember

by J. C. Greenway
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The Level will always be Brighton in its purest form to me.

This is it I think, not the beach, the piers, the lanes, but this roughly set out park.  Maybe because I used to live near it and walked through or round it on many moon and street-lit evenings.  The way the light shifted as I walked under the floodlights gave it a mystical quality that survives in my mind.  Maybe I liked it so much because it was a world apart.  The crowded roads enclosing it, with their narrow, jam-packed houses and streets full of parked cars, then the huge flat space, the trees that lined it cutting you off from reality.

When you walked across it late at night, from the diagonal corners between Viaduct Road and Southover Street, it seemed huge and the walk took forever.  The noise of the traffic faded and the city seemed still.  Even though you knew it was unlikely, it felt like everyone was asleep.  You could have been walking on the moon.  I loved everything about that walk.  The moment always felt private, a fleeting secret pleasure in the busy town.

One of the paths used to have these words painted in bold white paint on the grey tarmac: ‘how could you do this to me?’  It was brutal.  It never failed to set off a long train of thought, essentially boiling down to who had done what to whom?  When I first saw it I assumed it was new, raw, an open wound for all to walk over, treading their disregard into the pain.  It started to fade, then was covered up and it was only after it had gone that I realised it could have been written at any time in the past thirty years.  Unchanging, the things we are capable of doing to each other.

Then there are the things I did there.  Chatting with a group of now-scattered friends as night fell.  Throwing up on the waltzers at the fair after one too many.  Watching a new boyfriend play football in the rain, as I spoke to a friend I hadn’t seen for too long on my mobile, getting steadily drenched.  Mostly it is the solitary, past-midnight walks I remember, with the Level to myself and only the moon and Elm Grove keeping watch over me, as I crossed the park to home.

Photograph by very kind permission of the wonderful Scarlet Traces (@scarlettraces on Twitter)


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7 comments

Finbar 19 February 2011 - 10:08 pm

Lovely!
Those words remind me of a tagger/ graff artist/ poet who would scrawl devastating statements around town in manchester- The one that got me (soon to be the subject of a PFY as Ive been thinking about it lately in a moment of odd synchronicity) was written down a back street and simply said “you never ever really loved me”.
Ouch.
Off to check out you abc tales now…

Reply
Julia Smith 19 February 2011 - 11:11 pm

Thanks!

The grafitti was there in the park for about a decade while I lived in Brighton, I must have walked over it a thousand times and I never took a picture, perhaps because I thought it would be there forever.

There’s a lesson to be learned there.

Reply
Finbar 19 February 2011 - 10:08 pm

Lovely!
Those words remind me of a tagger/ graff artist/ poet who would scrawl devastating statements around town in manchester- The one that got me (soon to be the subject of a PFY as Ive been thinking about it lately in a moment of odd synchronicity) was written down a back street and simply said “you never ever really loved me”.
Ouch.
Off to check out you abc tales now…

Reply
Julia Smith 19 February 2011 - 11:11 pm

Thanks!

The grafitti was there in the park for about a decade while I lived in Brighton, I must have walked over it a thousand times and I never took a picture, perhaps because I thought it would be there forever.

There’s a lesson to be learned there.

Reply
scarlet 20 February 2011 - 7:15 am

the messages/grafitti people leave around brighton, on pathways, walls wherever really, are one of my favourite things about brighton……..I never saw this piece of grafitti, but i wish i had, you’re right about the thoughts it brings……….
And thanks for using my picture too! I really enjoyed reading this post.

Reply
scarlet 20 February 2011 - 7:15 am

the messages/grafitti people leave around brighton, on pathways, walls wherever really, are one of my favourite things about brighton……..I never saw this piece of grafitti, but i wish i had, you’re right about the thoughts it brings……….
And thanks for using my picture too! I really enjoyed reading this post.

Reply
Julia Smith 23 February 2011 - 10:24 pm

Thanks for letting me, Scarlet! Your picture’s perfect, it’s exactly what I had in mind when I was writing.

I loved that about Brighton too, hated the way the council would endlessly scrub every last piece off. It’s part of the fabric of the city, I think – people taking control over their own spaces.

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