I spent the most pleasurable of afternoons in Brighton yesterday. I understand why, as a friend of mine told me later, it is known as Brightopia.

Brighton is the kind of town where:

  • piercing parlours and coffee shops line pleasantly packed pedestrian promenades
  • it’s cool to dye your unruly lambchops one kool-aid colour, and your quiff another
  • no amount of vintage clothing shops would be considered overkill
  • one in five people carry a skateboard or stringed musical instrument wherever they’re going
  • the ocean rolls up on a seashore that smells of sugary donuts

In short, yeah it’s a nice place to be.

The only disappointment was the Brighton Pier. I approached it after a flaneurly mid-afternoon stroll through the downtown core.

How picturesque, I thought, as I took a picture.

It exerted a magnetic pull on all the foot traffic. And the closer I got, the more each one of my senses were stimulated. And I was far from alone. Couples and groups of bikers, pensioners, families, joggers, hippies and every conceivable demongraphic were all caught up in the eddy.

The smells of coffee, hot dogs, and hot sugary donuts wafted out from the stalls hovering around the foot of the pier. A mixed scent of fairground deliciousness. Nostalgic and mouthwatering.

I drifted over to the railing and watched the late-afternoon waves rattle up onto the rocky shore.

The sound of screeching gulls mixed with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy. And not just in my mind. On the loudspeaker they were bumping the feel-goodingest song of all time. The right song for the right place. A place of postcard perfect seaside bliss.

I carried on towards the carnival lettering, of the Brighton Pier sign, and entered the Pavilion of Shattered Calm.

The Brighton Pier Pavilion contains what would be classified as an arcade. I guess its prime use is recreational enjoyment. But I couldn’t tell what was going on. I was too busy being startled and terrified.

It was a cacophony of screeching children, ringing bells, flashing lights – like a rave with no music (but in a bad way). A party with no joy.

It was a rude awakening from the seaside daydream I was enjoying. Such was my good mood that I even briefly considered trying to find myself some fun at one of the… overcrowded money-eating noise machines. But before I could even tell one machine from another I found myself hastening towards the exit.

And then I was back into the pleasantly offbeat and sunny environs of Brighton. Rendered even more lovely by comparison with the horrors I had witnessed. I don’t even know what was so terrible about it, press me for details and I would have none. But I do know of that of all the things that they could have chosen to house underneath that iconic sign, they chose the worst.

As near as I can tell, the border of Brightopia lies under the sign for the Brighton Pier.