We drove to Brighton from Forest-on-Edge last night and I had a renewed sense of the otherness of place: in the village, on forest terrain, there is a sense of going inward, lighting the candles, literally and metaphorically, to keep the inside bright while everything on the outside grows darker. The village itself is lively with many goings-on of an artistic or community-building nature, a film society that is second to none, pubs and restaurants, a proper village hall that is bang in the centre and a church that is actually attended. But forest is all around, breathing its presence, claiming the terrain. The nights are dark – you can go out at night and properly see the stars.
In Brighton everything feels lit up in comparison and people do not draw their curtains against the dark. You can walk along the streets looking into rooms with no sense of being intrusive. We walked from our flat down to the seafront, the windows into Saturday nights of so many others open to view, one couple languorously couch-potatoing on a wide sofa with crisps and rugs, gawping at the TV so they never noticed us gawping at them, not that they would have minded. There is not such a clear division between inside and out. Down we went until we reached the Melrose fish restaurant. I give the name because if you ever go to Brighton and want fresh seafood cheap as chips, with linen on the table and a dash of 1960s retro, you will thank me for having mentioned it, as we thank Simon Hoggart who mentioned it in the Guardian as being a reason he was pissed off not to be in Brighton for party conferences. After our meal (mussels in wine, plaice on the bone, crème caramel) I had a double espresso. And here's another tip you might one day thank me for: if you have an espresso after a large evening meal it will act as a digestif and not keep you awake. It has to be espresso, the real thing, and preferably a single one. I had a double because I wanted a caffeine blast to get me back up the hill.
And up the hill I went, thinking: if anyone saw me now they wouldn't believe I had M.E., they would think I was an impostor. Good – the misapprehensions notwithstanding. I need the good moments, drain every last bit of them to the dregs. Something to set against the darkness.