Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Birmingham to Brighton, UK (May 25–26, 2013)

This post was posted late due to the Copthorne Tara Hotel’s ridiculous Wi‐Fi usage policy. More on that in the upcoming post that will be live later on today. Stay tuned.

After a cold, often rainy, day in Birmingham, woke up east around 8:00am feeling fantastic. Admit it: you were expecting me to whine about how tired I was, as I am in the habit of doing recently.

But no. I slept very well. That made me think that maybe my recent tiredness had to do with over‐consumption of caffeine. Once you consume more caffeine regularly, your body becomes dependent on it. As a result, changes in your caffeine consumption (for example, not having your coffee “on time”, when your body expects it) can lead to extreme tiredness, which opens a can of all sorts of worms—when you’re constantly tired and unrested, your immune system weakens, and if there’s one thing you want to avoid while following a concert tour, it is exactly that.

That led me to decide that, from now on until the end of the tour, all coffee that I consume is going to be caffeine‐free. Tea‐wise, I’ll try to stick to low‐caffeine variants. Time to get things back under control.

Breakfast at the hotel, and by 10:30am I was on the train to London Euston. This time it was the Virgin train. Virgin (the same company that owns the airline by the same name) boasts fantastic 1st class cabins, but it comes with a price: riding their trains isn’t a cheap endeavour. For short haul rides, the price difference might not be worth it.

One hour ride to London Euston, then the Tube to London Victoria to catch the Southeastern train to Brighton.


Southeastern’s trains’ 1st class cabins, in contrary to Virgin’s, are not really 1st class by any measure. The only difference between 1st class and 2nd class there is this piece of textile over the headrest:


Everything else is the same. If you happen to take a Southeastern train anywhere, don’t bother paying extra for 1st class.

As I arrived in Brighton’s central railway station and went outside, I realized that, at least weather‐wise, this is going to be a pleasant experience. It was sunny and—listen to this—warm. Yes, it was warm. So warm, that shortly after starting the mile long walk towards the hotel, I had to stop, remove my jacket, remove my buttoned shirt and remain with a T‐shirt—an activity that I had thought I’d never get to perform in England this year, as England is going through a terrible spring season.

The streets were flooded with people. Brighton’s sidewalks aren’t exactly huge, so that rendered navigating through a sea of people a rather tricky endeavour. At times, I was jumping sideways and sneaking between people (walking in both directions) in order to maintain my pace.

Felt like the character of George Costanza in that unforgettable Frogger episode, only I didn’t crash into any truck at the end.

In London, there’s an unwritten rule whereby, if you take the escalator from a train station to the train’s platform and choose to stand your entire way through, then you should align to the right hand side, so people with better things to do can easily bypass you and get to their destination sooner. How about we apply the same rule for sidewalks?

After a long walk…


Finally arrived at this place:


A sign said that this place is called “Brunswick Square”. I remembered that the hotel was located in “Brunswick” something, so I was very happy. How pleasant, to stay in a hotel in such a beautiful complex.

Alas, my joy was short lived. Turned out that the hotel, Bow Street Runner, is located in “Brunswick Street”, which is one short block away. It’s actually a pub that owns a few rooms in the same building, upstairs. There are a couple of restaurants adjacent to it, and they all happen to be throwing their garbage through their back doors; those back doors face the narrow street that lead to the hotel. The result? as you approach the hotel, you feel like you’re in garbage galore.

The staff is very nice, but the actual facilities… well, let’s put it this way: it’s not a hotel. More like a Bed & Breakfast. The rooms are tiny: good for one person, way too small for two. The “Breakfast” part of the “Bed & Breakfast” term consists of a dried croissant (placed on your desk a day in advance), two packs of cereal, a miniature fridge containing a jug of milk and a jug of orange juice, and a basket with semi‐fresh fruit.

The idea here is to have your breakfast in bed. That is, since the room is so small, you can’t possibly sit at the desk to have breakfast—you need to sit on your bed.

Altogether a rather questionable experience. The price? sit tight: £97 a night, and this is for a questionable place located about a mile away from Brighton’s city center.

I have been to Brighton before, during the 2010 Get Lucky tour. My recollection of this city was generally positive, which made me look forward to visiting it again. That’s why I chose to spend Sunday night—a day off—in Brighton instead of in London.

I don’t know what I was thinking.

So here’s the deal about Brighton: it is, when all is said and done, a seaside resort town.

It boasts a beach, which many consider to be the best in England (my foot. I’d take Bournemouth’s beach over Brighton’s any day of the week)—although it is made up of gravel rather than sand, which makes it look fake.

Along King’s Road—which crosses Brighton from east to west, along the seashore—you will find gazillions of pubs, bars, dance clubs, restaurants (mostly substandard), cafes… you name it. As a resort town catering mainly to the young and the restless, most establishments you’re going to be seeing will be leaning more towards serving alcohol and cheap food than serving anything else.


I am not entirely sure what’s the deal behind picking two nouns—at least one of which is the name of an animal—and naming a pub after them. I think I have seen all possible combinations already: Fox & Fiddle; Duck & Goose; Sheep & Lawnmower; Fish & Spoon; Monkey & Banana; Fiddler’s Elbow; Pianist’s Pancreas; Violinist’s mitre valve.

Another consequence of this city catering to the younger generation is that most hotels here are of quality that is just enough to be bearable. When you’re a 25 years old human whose definition of a “good time” is to convert beer to urine, tip‐top hotel experience isn’t normally your highest priority. This is why so many hotels here can get away with offering junk rooms for an insane amount of money.

For me… I don’t know, it just didn’t click. It’s not that I am past the stage in my life when I’m looking for parties, drinks and crap like that: I simply have never set foot in that stage to begin with. I’m not exactly sure how people find emotional outlets by partying and drinking in extremely noisy places; I tried it a few times in the last 35 years, and in all times I felt… well… stupid. Not something I wanna take a part in.

Saturday was a concert day, so I didn’t do much. Rested for a bit and then took a walk to the city center. Last time I was here, I came across a wonderful coffee place called Marwood Coffee, located in Ship Street. This place is as strange as they come: as soon as you enter the place, you get the feeling that you’re in some sort of a bizarre fantasy world. They have tables there made of old desktop PC’s. Things hanging down from the ceiling. Really groovy. And their coffee is top notch. If you are ever in Brighton, pay them a visit.


Then, back to the hotel through Brunswick Square which looked lovely:


And then off to the venue.

The venue, Brighton Center, is the largest conference center in southern England, also used for concerts. It is located in King’s Road, adjacent to a movie theater, a beautiful Victorian hotel by the name of The Grand and the fancy Hilton—hotels that cater to a slightly more adult (and rich) clientele.

I usually try to avoid spending too much time in the venue before the concert because I get somewhat anxious when surrounded by millions of people. Therefore, until 15 minutes before the concert, I was still outside the venue, sipping tea in the adjacent Costa Coffee with the Dutchman and with my friend James Morris who lives in Kent and made it to the concert.

Concert started about 10 minutes later than posted, and featured an identical set to the one played in Birmingham just the night before, except for Our Shangri La replacing So Far Away at the encore. I definitely prefer the former, especially when Nigel Hitchcock is involved as a saxophone adds a lot to that song.

Due to where I was seated—directly facing a loudspeaker—I had to watch Speedway at Nazareth from the door. Sound throughout the performance was very loud where I was seated, so I preferred to not take the risk.

Leaving the venue, I came to realize what Brighton is like on Saturday nights—essentially, representing everything I’m trying to get away from. I then opted to give up a gathering in a nearby pub and went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

Well, I was going for a good night sleep, but I didn’t get one. The cheap spring mattresses at the hotel didn’t allow for a proper sleep, so I woke up Sunday morning a bit off. It was a day off that was planned to be spent in Brighton, so still, I tried to make the most out of it.

After a quick breakfast, took the bus east to see the Brighton Cliffs. Now this is something that should never be missed if you happen to be in the area.

These cliffs are designated as a “Site of Special Scientific Interest” for their geological characteristics—an interesting Wikipedia read; for us mortals, the cliffs provide a magnificent view of earth the way it could be had mankind opted to not fuck around with it.

Many pictures were taken and I’m not going to omit any of them:


There are a few things in life I can never get sick of, and one of them is natural bodies of water nature. The main reason I moved to Canada’s west coast to begin with was that I fell in love with nature there. Walking along natural bodies of water in naturally‐blessed settings is such an invigorating experience that it can do wonders to my well being, both physical and spiritual: fortunately, British Columbia certainly doesn’t suffer from a shortage of lakes, rivers, creeks, mountains, cliffs—you name it, it’s there.

Hence, when I travel, I can’t miss on the chance to see nature at its best; the sea, specifically, attracts me. I must have been a starfish in one of my previous lives.

Or a freshwater eel.

Definitely not a Mantis Shrimp, though.

Long walk east along the cliffs until reached Peacehaven. Lunch consisted of a short visit to the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket, a few bread rolls and croissants for the staggering price of just under £4, consumed by the sea.

Half an our past due, the bus back to Brighton finally arrived and we made our way back to the city center. The closer the bus got to Brighton, the more people could be seen flooding the area and the less I wanted to be a part of this crowd. By the time the bus arrived at the city center, it became extremely crowded.


The Royal Pavilion is right at the city center. Its building started in 1787, for the Prince of Wales—just a nice seaside, you know, so he could sometimes just “get away from it all”; <sarcasm>it’s tough life, being a prince</sarcasm>—until Queen Victoria decided that Brighton doesn’t provide enough privacy anymore (once Brighton became accessible by train via London in 1841). A few years later, the land was sold to Brighton. A part of the pavilion was turned into a concert hall, nowadays referred to as the Brighton Dome.


Tourists, as well as locals, frequent the place. It’s a nice environment for a walk, and the green there serves as excellent spot to just sit down, chill out with a good book (or, better off, an e‐book of some sort. The end of the printed books can’t come soon enough. I guess I’m a tree hugger now).

Back to the hotel, dinner in a Lebanese restaurant called Kambis, another walk along the shore and back to the hotel for a good night sleep.


1 comment:

  1. Glad you found some warm weather Isaac. Further north this has been the coldest UK spring summer I can remember...not to mention the rain.