The Level will always be Brighton in its purest form to me.
This is it I think, not the beach, the piers, the lanes, but this roughly set out park. Maybe because I used to live near it and walked through or round it on many moon and street-lit evenings. The way the light shifted as I walked under the floodlights gave it a mystical quality that survives in my mind. Maybe I liked it so much because it was a world apart. The crowded roads enclosing it, with their narrow, jam-packed houses and streets full of parked cars, then the huge flat space, the trees that lined it cutting you off from reality.
When you walked across it late at night, from the diagonal corners between Viaduct Road and Southover Street, it seemed huge and the walk took forever. The noise of the traffic faded and the city seemed still. Even though you knew it was unlikely, it felt like everyone was asleep. You could have been walking on the moon. I loved everything about that walk. The moment always felt private, a fleeting secret pleasure in the busy town.
One of the paths used to have these words painted in bold white paint on the grey tarmac: ‘how could you do this to me?’ It was brutal. It never failed to set off a long train of thought, essentially boiling down to who had done what to whom? When I first saw it I assumed it was new, raw, an open wound for all to walk over, treading their disregard into the pain. It started to fade, then was covered up and it was only after it had gone that I realised it could have been written at any time in the past thirty years. Unchanging, the things we are capable of doing to each other.
Then there are the things I did there. Chatting with a group of now-scattered friends as night fell. Throwing up on the waltzers at the fair after one too many. Watching a new boyfriend play football in the rain, as I spoke to a friend I hadn’t seen for too long on my mobile, getting steadily drenched. Mostly it is the solitary, past-midnight walks I remember, with the Level to myself and only the moon and Elm Grove keeping watch over me, as I crossed the park to home.
Photograph by very kind permission of the wonderful Scarlet Traces (@scarlettraces on Twitter)