It was bound to happen. Not even three weeks into my trip to England I've turned into a great big, fat English cliché. The moment of realisation came yesterday. It was a dull, stereotypically rainy English day. A Carry On film was on television. At the weekend I was eating fish and chips. I hate clichés as much as a mixed metaphor in the head.
At just over the halfway point in my stay I'm beginning to look forward to getting back to returning to Kraków. The honeymoon is officially over. Luckily I have a guest visiting very soon, so the last few weeks in Brighton should pass very quickly.
The reasons for having an extended in England were manifold. Previous trips in the last twelve month were made on the flimsiest of excuses. My trip in May was made because my debit card had expired and I "had to" come to England to get the replacement. As a bonus I met up with my Polish friend in London. It was my birthday too. August's trip was for no particular reason, it happened to coincide with the Gay Pride festivities, but in the end I didn't partake of the gayness on offer. September coincided with my mother's birthday.
I had many plans for this trip. The main mission was supposed to do some work on the house. More of that later. Secondary mission was to see my parents. That secondary mission has been well and truly accomplished. So much so, that I might not even need to come back for Christmas. The primary mission hasn't fared quite so well. Lack of money was the main problem. I've managed to tidy up the garage, but that's about as far as it went. Even the garage tidy-up wasn't completely successful, due to the fact that one of my previous tenants had left all their crap there. The objective was to clear a space so that I could get a car in there. Objective almost achieved (give or take a very important couple of centimetres).
I've nearly overdosed on England now. The next trip probably won't be for several months and then it probably won't be for very long either. First problem is having somewhere to stay. Foolishly I decided to rent out all three rooms in my house, so on this trip I've been sleeping in the lounge. Not much of a problem, but slightly annoying for my tenants. Funnily enough all my tenants are Polish. So, I am officially an ethnic minority. Luckily I never need to speak Polish at home. Hopefully I'll remember how
Then there is the problem of finding things to do in Brighton. Back in Kraków I devote quote a lot of time to finding events to go and things to do. While staying in Brighton this time I was hoping to write a novel as part of NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel Month). The idea is that instead of just talking about writing a novel you actual sit down and write 50,000 words in 30 days. My word count (twelve days in) isn't exactly impressive. I have written the sum total of 0 words (that's right, nil, nada, zilch). Last November I actually managed to complete the challenge. This year I just couldn't come up with an idea for the novel. I even attended the Kick-Off meeting fully expecting that I would be able to come up with an idea. As time passed I realised that I wasn't even going to manage come up with a good idea, so I decided to quit. Now, with 18 days left until the end of the challenge I doubt that I'll come up with an idea. I've almost given up trying. That won't stop me attending the social meetings though.
I have managed to do a few things that I wouldn't normally manage to do. After a very long break I've managed to do some drawing. Life drawing to be precise. I went along to a couple of themed drawing sessions. The first one was Halloween-themed and the second was Circus Noir (though in practice it was more like the musical Cabaret). The results weren't too bad for someone who hasn't drawn for the best part of five years. The Halloween drawings were particularly good. Drawing is something I should definitely do more of. When I get back to Kraków I'll definitely look out for a drawing group (or possibly start one of my own).
I've been to a few gigs as well. The first one was my friend's jam night in Eastbourne. This was on my very first day back in the UK. Jam nights are one great big cliché. You can almost guarantee that Sweet Home Alabama will be played at some point in the evening. The only redeeming factors were that I had cider and the fact that I know most of the musicians and singers. The second gig I went to was Blackbeard's Tea Party. Folk music, with the occasional shanty thrown in. This is the short of thing Brighton excels at. Quirky music. Excellently done. The venue was great too, literally ten seconds walk from my house. My beloved Strongbow cider at three pounds a can too.
Brighton almost has too many memories for me. Ghosts everywhere. I can't really go anywhere without being reminded of the good times I had there with Kasia. If I were to give you a tour of Brighton it wouldn't focus on the usual tourist attractions. And not just Kasia too. Lots of other great memories too; most of them involving alcohol and/or some girl or other.
Trips to my hometown have been successful on the whole. Whenever I go to Eastbourne I have very low expectations. This is fortunate as not a lot goes on there generally. But it's nice to hang out with my old friends and down a few ciders. Conversation usually revolves around how crappy Eastbourne is. A certain friend likes to complain about the number of immigrants, Polish immigrants in particular. I just listen patiently and make occasional jokes about how I had to go Poland just to even the numbers up.
My life in Brighton looks very different to my life in Kraków. Normally in Kraków I would eat in restaurants five or more days a week. In Brighton everything is so much more expensive. An average meal at my favourite restaurant (the Terraces Restaurant which overlooks the Brighton Eye) normally sets me back twenty five pounds. Back in Krakow I would normally spend twenty five zloty (ie one fifth). For economic reasons I have cut back on my eating out. I seem to eating an awful lot of microwave ready-meals. They are cheap and tasty. I've had six lasagnas in the last seven days. It would have been more if those seven days hadn't included a weekend in my home town. Going out drinking in Krakow is cheaper too. Thirty zloty (six pounds) is enough to get me hammered in Poland. Here is it barely enough to get me slightly merry.
Brighton is an excellent place to live. It seems to revolve a little bit too much around so-called café society. It's almost too cool. Too many fucking hipsters everywhere. Kraków always has plenty of events going on. Ok, so they are normally for the benefit of the tourists. It will be interesting to see what happens in winter. It looks like I'll be there for Christmas and New Year. My first experience of Poland was in winter, in Warsaw just before Christmas. It was cold and grim (apart from being kept warm by girlfriend, who I hadn't been with for long). Sure, snow is pretty (well fresh snow is pretty). But, weather, although we don't like to admit it, does influence your behaviour. For me, Poland is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Luckily the lower cost of living is enough to outweigh the climatic considerations. Another annoying thing about Poland is the mosquitoes. Sure we have plenty of little blood-suckers back in England. Bloodsuckers (better known as Her Majesty's Customs and Excise) and plenty of parasites too (in the form of the workshy and asylum seekers).
(written in November 2013)