Sunday May 17th 2015. An inauspicious day for most of you, I expect. Not for me. My decision to go to The Folky Pub that night opened up doors for me, as if I was Alice falling down a rabbit hole, or Sarah, embarking on her journey through a labyrinth . . . Only the effects were not as immediate or obvious. A year ago, I had been dating The Dude for a month. We had a blast, frankly. For the second half of our relationship (as in 2 weeks), we had indulged in a mutual love of the arts and blown our hard-earned cash on quirky films with subtitles and unknown bands that had created their own genre, in the Brighton Fringe. This particular weekend, I had travelled up to London to meet up with Wimbledon Man, just as friends. The Dude confessed to feeling hurt and I was disappointed. But, I appreciated his honesty and suggested we arranged something for Sunday night so as to regroup and smooth things over. I had wanted to check out the local music scene and I’d seen an advert for Open Mic in The Folky Pub, so that’s where we met.
I had been to The Folky Pub once or twice in the past, but never on a ‘live music’ night and always at someone else’s behest. I wrote a whole blog post on this night, so I wouldn’t want to repeat myself and shortchange you, my reason for blogging, but I feel the need to recap with a potted version for the benefit of newcomers. Evidently, The Dude was still licking his wounds from my meeting with someone else of the opposite gender (albeit as friends) as he brought a friend along to The Folky Pub and rather than the latter being that awkward third wheel, it was I who assumed that uncomfortable role. My attention wandered and I met Titian Toby, who became the driving force behind my frequent trips to The Folky Pub thereafter. You see, I lost Toby. He came, he saw, he conquered. And I left. I know . . . ‘Tis a travesty. I can’t remember having that instantaneous attraction for . . . ever, actually. And it seemed mutual. But at some point, whilst wrapped up in the music, I thought that he’d left but as it transpired, he hadn’t.
I rather liked The Folky Pub, because it was quaint, the music was good and people were welcoming. I hoped to bump into Titian Toby too, so I started going there regularly, particularly on Open Mic nights, and got to know Original Blues, who became a good friend. He introduced me to a plethora of other musical venues – all pubs – and of course, the Rastafarian, who has been my only relationship since (soon-to-be-ex) hubby left. In turn, he took me on a magical, musical tour lasting several months, as, like Original Blues, he was a musician. He took me for a ride too, but I have exhausted that avenue in my blog.
So my decision to check out the local music scene that night would turn out to be pretty far-out . . . There are new facets to my life that feel as rooted as life-long habits. Just a year ago I didn’t venture into pubs alone; I rarely went to gigs; I knew nothing of Brighton’s dynamic, diverse music scene which is ridiculously soaked in talent; I hadn’t discovered the delights of Guinness and black; I could list people I didn’t know but I’ll stick to the blog favourites like Original Blues, the Rastafarian, Open Mic guy; I had never stopped and chatted to a homeless person (I had, of course, dropped my change their way but had never thought to spend time with them); I hadn’t sat, lazily, on the boardwalk in the summer till the sun went down, listening to live music and having the occasional dance. The last of those, and arguably other items on that list, is also a reflection of living on my own. Of course I’d wandered along the boardwalk in the summer, but to let time pass you by in that fashion is an indulgence one can only experience when one lives alone. A bittersweet indulgence. Every parent, I’m sure, would rather be on a time limit to cook the Sunday roast for the family, than to dally in the sun with no curfew. So, just to clarify, my life wasn’t wanting at all. I have two wonderful children, I’ve pursued many interests, I’ve educated myself, I have a fulfilling career, I’ve indulged in aesthetic and awe-inspiring experiences both within and outside of Brighton and I have many friends; but it is only in this last year that I’ve fully appreciated my home city. I’ve sampled plenty of Brighton’s wares but in this last year I’ve reached out and sampled wares from a different platter. ‘That’s so Brighton!’ I have had said to me on more than one occasion. As a comment on my necklace which opens up to reveal a watch . . . When I went to a cabaret show at The Warren, as part of Brighton Fringe and spent so long queueing for a drink to take in with me, that I bought myself 2 glasses of wine, although I was alone . . . About my penchant for hats and silly shoes. Brighton provides a safe house for diversity, eccentricity, outlandishness, whatever you wish to name it and the more you engage with the city, the more you feel you can do what pleases you, which has to be a good thing. And my decision to start going out alone, which stemmed from a playful quest to find The Auburn One, was one of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever taken. Company is great but so is solitude, so I am undeterred by lack of company. If I’m seeing a movie or a film, or going to a gig, I’ll enjoy the experience . . . And if I’m going to a pub to listen to live music, likewise, but chances are I’ll see familiar faces. I can be spontaneous, I can be early or late, I can change my plans, I can tailor-make my trip out for me and I can be frugal if I’m broke without worrying about buying a round. Lest any of my friends or my children think their company is unwelcome, it really isn’t – I fall in the overlap of a hypothetical Venn diagram with one circle of ‘people who enjoy going out alone’ and another of ‘people who enjoy going out in company’. I’ve widened the net, so I’m not missing out on experiences just because I couldn’t find a kindred spirit with whom to share them. And it is a great way to make new friends. Apparently, it has become ‘in vogue’ to venture out alone! The only experience I haven’t sampled alone is visiting a restaurant. The jury is still out on that one, for me.
Returning to The Folky Pub . . . I made sure I went there exactly a year after my first proper visit and therefore a year after meeting the elusive, flame-haired Toby. Well, it wasn’t quite a year, but it was the nearest Sunday to that fateful Sunday, so it was Open Mic night. I bought myself a drink and wandered into the musical end of the pub. Original Blues was there with his trilby and braces and wrapped me up in one of his hugs (which always linger for a bit longer than is comfortable but at the same time are very warming and pleasant). I sat on a nearby stool, as there was the usual Sunday night dearth of chairs, and had a lazy look around for familiar faces.
Exactly a year after our last date, we’re both in the pub where it all ended? I knew he was seeing someone and she was with him . . . There were many people between me and him and I’d only just settled into my stool with my drink. And was it protocol to march over and introduce myself to his new girlfriend? I stressed about the situation for a while, then noticed he’d gone. I wandered in the direction of the loos and ran into him en route. It was fine – we chatted and said that we would meet up to practise songs and he said “Come and join us!”
“It’s exactly a year since we were in here together!” I said.
“Is it?” he mused.
He returned to New Girl and I returned to Original Blues and I resolved to leave once my glass was drained, although I felt I should wander over to meet New Girl, as The Dude had invited me to do so. But time was running out, I felt, before the Rastafarian appeared.
The Rastafarian appeared.
An innocent trip to the pub, turning into a social minefield (see what I mean about going out alone? One rarely stays alone for long!)
The Rastafarian had clattered in, with that slightly sinister yet vacant look of someone who has given in to their demons.
I wandered over to The Dude plus New Girl. We met, I asked her name, although I knew it from Facebook and she was as friendly as one can be to an ex-of-sorts. I had no idea what he had told her about me, but we had managed to remain friends after the angry dust had settled after the break-up (if you can call it a break-up when you were only dating) so I figured that probably, my name remained untarnished.
“I’ll be going soon,” I announced.
I explained about the Rastafarian . . . The Dude had been party to my grumbles of dissatisfaction over the poor treatment meted out to me by the former.
I left them in their cosy corner of ‘new relationship’.
I was unnoticed by the Rastafarian for a while, so my resolve remained but then Original Blues started playing. I’ll go when he finishes, I thought. Then I was spotted. The Rastafarian came to sit with me and I was a little trapped. I didn’t want to go halfway through Original Blues, yet I didn’t want to sit with him. It was a little too much . . . The Dude in the corner, the Rastafarian next to me, Original Blues playing. The latter finished and the Rastafarian leapt up.
“Oh! Er – ok – I love the way he just takes the microphone when he’s ready!” laughed the Open Mic guy.
He used to do that when it was getting late and I wanted to go, but wanted to hear him play. I didn’t want to hear him play this time though . . .
A saxophonist had appeared next to me. He was fretting about a lack of a strap for his instrument. I felt obliged to try to help and he said that a shoelace would do. I didn’t want to offer my shoelace, as I didn’t want to wait till he’d played before going home, but I did. I was glad he laughed and turned down my offer and then I realised he had his own shoes, complete with laces. We chatted and he thought I was the Rastafarian’s girlfriend, so I made things clear. He asked if he could have my number and I said, “No – I’ve just met you!”