Brighton Baby – British writer Mo Fanning on moving city

Writing in Brighton with writer Mo Fanning

Writing in Brighton with Mo FanningSo what’s going on with the weather then? Don’t judge the writer for this weak opening gambit. I’ve spent almost eight years on the wrong side of the channel and now I’m back in Britain, my aim is to fit back in. To that end, I gather weather talk is essential. For those who don’t know, the Fannings upped their Dutch sticks and returned to life above sea level last year.

It was no easy job. The removal truck was easy to book, boxes quick to pack, but then came the question of canine cargo. Although Bert has flown (solo twice) before, he’s knocking on and very much set in his ways. We knew this would need to be a road trip. No longer owning a car was a bit of a bind so we called upon Hertz and Avis for help. One-way hires are extortionate – you basically have to buy the car off them, so I agreed to fly back to the UK, hire a car, schlep to Amsterdam, pick up my precious charges and drive them back through the tunnel. All was well until the Icelandic volcano decided to have one last cough and I was forced into making emergency ferry bookings as a back-up plan. I’ll say one thing about the North Sea ferry operators. They may not offer luxury or anything vaguely approaching an experience you’d ever want to repeat except under enemy fire, but they do know how to screw extra money out of a crisis. The fare was almost three times what it had been the day before when I booked.

Long story cut thankfully short

Long story short, I spent twelve hours in a sardine can surrounded by unruly French school kids and stag/hen parties travelling to Newcastle to pick up a car and drive straight back to the port and ensure a further twelve hour crossing back to Holland. Then a drive through Belgium (hell) and France, a tunnel under the channel (wonderful) and after a night in Folkestone’s Holiday Inn Express (I preferred the ferry) we made it back home.

And after a summer of living in a renovation project that made Sarah Beeny’s Restoration Hell look like child’s play, we moved to Brighton. To be beside the sea.

After there months living in the shadow of Merry Hill – where everyone looks to have showered in Cuprinol and thrown themselves into skips full of body glitter before venturing out, Brighton is a breath of fresh air. Far fewer dodgy neck tattoos and much less of the dyed black hair that drains a face of every flicker of life.

Brighton in winter

It’s our first winter in a town that I’m assured bustles in summer. At first, I loved the quiet. I’ve always been a fan of seaside towns in winter. I love the chipped paint and run-down faded glamour that sets in when the sun stops shining. Seems I love this in small doses, and by February, the whole charm thing wore thin.

Writing projects have come and gone. A revision of The Armchair Bride is due out to take account of the numerous typos I spotted shortly after it hit the shops. It’s earned itself a new cover too. I get to look at designs and pick fault until my designer cries and tells me to do it myself if I think I’m such a design genius.

I’m hoping to have a second book out later this year after a hiatus that has gone on three years longer than planned.

I’m starting to work on something new, but I don’t want to say too much about it yet. The last three projects came to nothing, abandoned at the 20k word mark and this latest attempt hasn’t yet come close to that.

Television addict

In other news, I’m totally hooked on Homeland. It’s not just wonderfully filmed and acted, but the plot is seamless. Whole episodes pass with seemingly little happening and then at the end all these tiny threads are tied up in one huge ‘what the fuck’ moment and you realise everything has moved on and the whole landscape has changed. That’s great plotting. And if I’m honest, you can’t help but have the slightest crush on Damian Lewis, despite the whole slightly mad due to being trapped-in-a-hole-for-years-and-beating-his-best-mate-to-death thing he has going on.

Mr. Fanning has become something of a genius with sour dough bread. He’s always had baking ambitions and I can’t help thinking his breadly ambitions were sparked by finding out that Saint Alex of Polizzi was hitched to a baker. For two months, I’ve been trying to coax life into a mix of flour and water in a jam jar. Finally it worked with organic rye flour and water. I nicknamed it Sarah the Sourdough Starter (Mr. F indulges me in this) and so far she’s four loaves to the good. The first one was mine and while tasty and chewy, felt a bit underwhelming. Mr. F took over and produced bread of infinite beauty – mainly due to his secret weapon – the misting attachment on our steam iron which is used to periodically spray the baking loaf. Top tip there. They’ll be doing it in top bakeries soon.

So, with the sincere hope that my next update will come much sooner than this one, I’ll sign off.

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