If you've never witnessed Brighton Pride (and Pride is the perfect title for what is on display), then the best description I can offer is to find some footage of the Rio Carnival and watch that. The whole town is completely subsumed with giddiness, excitement and love.
It was lost on no-one who'd seen any news in the last week, the enormous contrast with the riots in London and elsewhere. Here the streets were thronged. Tens of thousands of people, all smiling, all happy, all ages, cultures and creeds. The only police I saw the whole time were walking down to head off a group of Christian protestors - Christians are always the last people, in my experience, that one should expect to embrace Christian values - and the representatives of the gay police of Brighton and Hove in the parade, who as ever got one of the biggest cheers of the day.
It's hard to write about Pride without coming over all peace and love. But it's hard to experience it without that happening, too, even for the most hardened misanthrope (hello). It's a day of high emotion, but every single emotion is a positive one.
It was an emotional day. My friend is looking to move to the US to begin an exciting and richly-deserved new life. It was via her recommendation that I first got into the Pride experience. I found how much the whole parade touched her particularly moving, a reminder for me that she's not leaving to get away from us - from all this - but instead to add something extra. A reminder that it's things like this which stay with you always, inform the person you are.
When someone moves away - especially if they are a special friend or important person to you - there's always a contrast of emotions. In this particular case, I feel a great deal of happiness and excitement, but of course there is also a sadness. I'm increasingly aware as I walk around town how many places remind me of her, of my friends and the times as lovely, funny and joyful as this weekend that we have spent together. I'm aware that in time, these will become rather painful memories as I adjust to having to cross an ocean in order to add another caper to our shared experience rather than just picking up the phone. I'm also aware, though, that with a little more time these will be places that I treasure for their power to remind me of good things, of the things which have made me a better person. It's an awareness that I hope will allow me to recognise and grasp moments like this as they happen, to make the most of what is truly special to me.
It's these contrasts which are so important, so important to embrace where you can. Keep hold of the good because there will be bad. Things will always change, but that's no reason to forget the times in the past which meant - and mean - so much because you're fixated on an uncertain or a different future. When I look back at Pride 2011, it will hopefully always be in context. They were turbulent times, a time of upheaval both for me personally and for society at large. The fact that it was so wonderful was not in spite of this, but rather because of it. This weekend everything came together in one perfect crystallising moment. I'm writing this now because I never want to forget it.