Beside the seaside: sun-soakers on Brighton pier during the 2013 heatwave
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Squeezed Middle: should we sell up and move to Brighton?

A town where my fantasy of Georgian terrace and Ottolenghi expense account can finally intersect with Curly’s rural idyll.

I heave the buggy out of the station and stop to inhale the complementary fragrances of stale chip fat and fresh sea air. Gulls swoop overhead and I think to myself: hmmm, Brighton. In days of old I came here on many a student bender. More recently, it has been the site of several jolly family days out.

But today Brighton is not about fun. It is Serious. Moe and I have come to look around a house. It is time, Curly has informed me, that I started thinking seriously about moving out of London. There is only so long we can bring up two boys in a slightly-too-small flat; our downstairs neighbours have suffered enough. Besides, there must be more to life than this grubby, overcrowded, overpriced city. Larry is starting school in September, so if we’re going to move, we should do it now.

Curly has in mind a rural idyll in which he will brew beer and fashion wooden spoons out of sticks and where the years on end he has spent sitting in a dark room doing data entry will seem nothing but a long-distant nightmare. I’m holding out for the lucrative, high-profile media job, wisteria-clad Georgian terrace and Ottolenghi expense account. Brighton, we’ve concluded, is the very place to reconcile these two wildly irreconcilable visions.

Moe points at things as we walk along the seafront, which has put on its Sunday best for us. Look! The sun glinting off the sea! A row of dinky pastel-painted houses! It’s all so lovely, bracing and fresh. We approach the house. So far, so good. It is on a pleasant street not far from the centre of town. It is of an ample size, and not noticeably derelict. A little flight of steps leads up to a nice green front door. Is it possible that Curly and I could live somewhere like this?

Inside, the pleasant surprises just keep on coming. The house has a fully functional kitchen and bathroom. It has enough bedrooms for the whole family. It has an almost leak-free roof and double glazing. It is, in other words, a fully fledged Family Home. The owner, a friend of a friend, escorts Moe and me to the local park, where a selection of ruddy-cheeked children are feeding the ducks. Am I getting carried away, or do they actually look healthier than children do in London?

Afterwards, Moe and I sit and throw stones into the sea. We eat some deliciously soggy chips and I turn the Brighton plan over in my mind.

There are two discernible flaws. One: neither Curly nor I have any means of earning money here, though perhaps that is not insurmountable. Two: Brighton does not have the people I love in it. Could I survive without them? It’s a terrifying question. I pop another chip into my mouth. Food for thought. 

Alice O'Keeffe is an award-winning journalist and former arts editor of the New Statesman. She now works as a freelance writer and looks after two young children. You can find her on Twitter as @AliceOKeeffe.

This article first appeared in the 26 February 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Scotland: a special issue

Photo: Getty
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Gerald Kaufman dies aged 86

Before becoming an MP, Kaufman's varied career included a stint as the NS' theatre critic.

Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and former theatre critic at the New Statesman, has died.

Kaufman, who served as the MP for Manchester Gorton continuously from 1970, had a varied career before entering Parliament, working for the Fabian Society in addition to his flourishing career in journalism and as a satirist, writing for That Was The Week That Was and as a leader writer on the Mirror. In 1965, he exchanged the press for politics, working as a press officer and an aide to Harold Wilson before he was elected to parliament in 1970.

Upon Labour’s return to office in 1974, he served as a junior minister until the party’s defeat in 1979, and on the opposition frontbenches until 1992, reaching the position of shadow foreign secretary. In 1999, he was chair of the Man Booker Prize, which that year was won by JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.

His death opens up a by-election in Manchester Gorton, which Labour is expected to win. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.