BANGING BERLIN goes to Brighton
by Mary Katharine Tramontana
I visited England’s wonderfully weird seaside resort town and wrote you this postcard
If Berlin had a beautiful British cousin who lived by the sea, it would surely be Brighton, the nearest seaside town to London, located about an hour directly south of the UK’s capital. Just swap the aloof Bohemians in black for the affable tweed-clad variety, adjust the beer prices from dirt cheap to steep(er), bay windows for Bauhaus, and equate measures of debauchery and creativity.
On the morning of my arrival, I met my host’s roommate, Charlotte, a warm and boisterous woman who immediately made me feel at ease. She was standing in the kitchen, marmiting her breakfast toast in expensive-looking, classic black and pale-pink lingerie. Their tall Georgian flat is located in Kemptown, Brighton’s queer neighborhood, known for its open-mindedness and sexually progressive attitudes.
Charlotte’s a sex worker
She had a submissive client coming that day. She told us there’ll be no sex or talking, but a lot of crawling around and making himself into a table while she uses him to support her laptop as she types. Role playing is a big part of her job. “I’m a 45 year old woman often pretending to be a 39 year old woman, pretending to be a school girl, pretending to be a slut,” she said.
The steep stairway wall leading to the room I’m staying in is strewn with ascending canvases of women in erotic poses – from cabaret to, err, more explicit – paintings from Charlotte’s degree in fine art. My room is bright and airy with a view of the sea and two silver poles from when it was used as a pole dancing studio.
Spanking implements, ranging from SM toys to household objects
Another client of hers brings a collection of spanking implements, ranging from SM toys to ordinary household objects (slippers), each with its own history, which he carefully arranges by material (wood, leather, cane…) and size. Between spankings he recites self-written, narrative poems (about spanking, of course), and he develops an elaborate game around an all girl’s school (she’s “Ms. Primm”, the headmistress). After two hours, not one mark is left on her body. She gave him a fancy fly swatter for his collection. There are also those who want a girlfriend experience, or businessmen and DJs who want an uncomplicated fuck.
That evening, my host (who, by the way, used to co-run a kinky B&B in Brighton and is thinking of opening one up in Berlin), took me to David Bramwell’s Catalyst Club, a fortnightly salon with three guest speakers who talk on whatever tickles their fancy. I learned a brief history of the postcard, how to cook a full English breakfast in a standard hotel room (you keep the bacon in the bible), and some Sussex sea shanties.
David Bramwell is a man of many trades
David Bramwell l is a bright-eyed, bespeckled man of many trades: singer-songwriter of a folk/electronica ensemble; co-host of the Odditorium Podcast; award-winner for a BBC radio show; TED talker; and author of several books, including one exploring fetish, one on his journey through present-day attempted utopian societies, and one of cheeky walks in Brighton.
David escorted me on a walk of my choice. Instead of the “Sex and the City Walk”, I opted for a tour of Brighton’s back alleyways, or “twittens” (which could easily be modified into a Back Alleyway Sex Walk). Highlights were a grocery store elevator which led to a mini fridge lending library and a passageway which was the setting of the sex scene (allegedly reenacted there by loyal fans) from 1979 Mod vs Rockers classic Quadrophenia .
The Little Fridge Library has no website. Borrowers only know of it by word of mouth. Mixed in with the books and some zines we found a brown paper envelope, with a stamp addressed “To you”, containing a handwritten letter for a special someone in the know.
the wee city offers five sex shops and a dungeon bar
On our walk, I learned that the wee city offers five sex shops and a dungeon bar. I asked David about its sexy past. “Brighton became fashionable as a health resort, but in the early 19th century, Prince Regent made it his second home and built the Royal Pavilion as a place for wild weekends with his mates and mistress. He even had a secret tunnel built from her house to his bedside… By the 20th century, it became home of the ‘dirty weekend’, a place for Londoners’ illicit liaisons… Couple this with its reputation in the theatre world (we all know luvvies have loose morals), plus the burgeoning gay scene… and you have all the ingredients,” he said.
I tragically missed the city’s annual naked bike ride because I was lucky enough to be invited to a cocktail party at a big ol’ posh house in the English countryside. I hope I made up for the bike ride loss by drinking champagne (absinthe wasn’t on offer) at the Royal Albion Hotel on the seafront, the place where Oscar Wilde took his lover for some adult naptime, or by having my sex immortalized by Great Wall of Vagina artist Jamie McCartney.
He smeared blue gunk between my legs to make a plaster cast of my vulva
It was a pretty typical first meeting: we greeted at Jamie’s Hove gallery in front of an American flag made from 335 casts of the tip of his penis and then I lay down on a table as he smeared blue gunk between my legs to make a plaster cast of my vulva. Not only will I now get to impress my house guests with a sculpture of my cunt hanging on my living room wall, but my groin will represent the state of Indiana for a panel he’s making, featuring a woman from every state in the US. Miss Indiana, mom and dad!
The best part of Brighton has to be its refreshing frivolity. We could use a little more of that back in Berlin. Fortunately, Berlin to Brighton is less than 5 hours door-to-door (only a 30 minute train trip from Gatwick Airport).
Wish you were here, darlings!
Banging Berlin is a monthly column by Mary Katharine Tramontana.
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Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.