The cheapest ticket I could find down to Brighton today was in First Class. I genuinely don't know how I managed to swing that one! I'm also somewhat bemused, however, as to why the experience I had was defined as "first class." First class in a Southern Rail train seems to involve sitting on a fairly uncomfortable chair, which is only different to the chairs in normal class by dint of its having a little doily where you might rest your head if you didn't think said doily was a Mecca for grease and hair lice. There was one other person in the little boxed-off, fish bowl style first class carriage. She appeared to have copper woven into her scarf. I decided that she was somewhat more accustomed to the high life than me! When the train pulled into the station, I learned that her sort don't rush to get up. They stand up when they choose and expect the other passengers merely to part like the Red Sea. Or was it the Dead Sea? Which sea parted? I've swum in the Dead Sea. I read Regeneration by Pat Barker whilst floating like a buoy.
I'm in Brighton to focus on writing and nothing else for a few days. There's something about the sea air which makes me feel quite inspired. Sitting in the cafes down here certainly beats writing in cafes in North London. Im sure I don't get any more work done, but I feel more refreshed. I got in a right pickle upon arriving here because EE's 4G network exploded just as I really needed to be sending a load of emails. I tried to tether my phone to my laptop and couldn't tell if it was my fault, or if there was bad reception in the cafe I was in. I finally got back to Fiona's and its glorious wifi, phoned EE and realised they were struggling with their networks.
I worked at Fiona's sitting room table all afternoon until about 8pm, when I decided it would be pathetic to be by the sea without actually being by the sea, so I took myself out along the hazy sea front. I think it must have rained. The pavements were entirely dry but there were large spots of rain on the cars. The sea was pitch black. Like a Northamptonshire gothic's velvet hooded dress. I think Dylan Thomas might have called it bible black. It was lovely to be out and about breathing in the chilly air.
Just before bed, I entered a YouTube cul-de-sac and watched a video of ABBA being inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. It took until 2010 for them to be so appropriately honoured, which is somewhat shameful, but Benny and Frida made delightful speeches. Frida, I think is possibly the most beautiful and graceful woman on the planet, but it was Benny's speech which made me really think. He spoke for a while about the various influences on the ABBA sound which were all born out of the fact that Swedish radio in the 50s played a weird smorgasbord of Italian opera, crazy Swedish folk music, German Oom Pah Pah, and, very occasionally, a rock n roll song from America. Benny believes that the ABBA sound was furthermore hugely influenced by the Swedes tendency to be melancholic. It's something, he says, you can see in Ingrid Bergman's eyes. Many people who only know ABBA in a surface way will find that hard to believe, but actually melancholy is peppered throughout pretty much every ABBA song. It's in the writing. It's in the vocal delivery. And I actually feel very strongly that it's the single thing which raises ABBA songs out of the realm of great pop and into the zone of mini-masterpieces.