It's always refreshing to visit Brighton, Britain's pleasure capital by the sea, where the vibe is so funky you can cut it with a knife and have it on toast, and the atmosphere so tolerant that every kind of queer identity can just hang out and be.
All things trashy and kitsch are served up with an ooh la la twinkle in shops that specialize in turning the detritus of yesteryear into the hippest of gold for today. We saw chocolate eggs so big they made the eyes water and vibrators that looked like modernist sculptures (or was it the other way around?).
Where else to feast on a succulent cream tea with homemade scones, proper doilies and a double helping of chinz?
Brighton is made for idling, for sitting in a cafe in the North Laines and watching the people parade by. The carnival is in perpetual motion and everyone is on the look. Trouser-flapping techno spills from the shops and clashes with buskers' skanky bluegrass. Above the din, an almost blackbird: a man selling bird whistles, ersatz like everything else.
We squandered pockets full of two pence pieces on the sliding, grinding slot machines, easily succumbing to a gambler's greed and feeding our occasional winnings straight back in again. We sat on the beach and listened to the sea.
Back in Oxford, calm. The first dead nettles of spring were shaking out their foppish cuffs, a ruddy sun set through the haze, and out on Port Meadow the blackbirds sang so loudly that they almost drowned out the distant burr of traffic.