So I was with a few friends in a Lewes restaurant the other day, celebrating my birthday. No, I never mind presents being late, it's fine. Chocolates, flowers, anything glittery and expensive. Just send them care of lewes.co.uk. Anyway, the pink champagne was flowing (actually the pink Cava, in these straightened times), and Cricket-Girl said, 'I nearly gave you a Lewes pound as part of your present'.
Oooh, the rest of us said, have you SEEN a Lewes pound? Well knock me down with a chollah if she didn't whip one out of her purse there and then, and it was passed round the table to general amazement.
Blackberry-Man offered to buy it from her for a fiver, but Cricket-Girl is honest to a fault and told him there were now many more pounds in circulation, thus dampening the previous ebay-generated hyper-inflation.
The note got passed to me and I examined it closely, though that was mainly because I could see two of them, a 100% increase caused by too much pink Cava. It looked like real currency if you held it up to the light, and like toy money if you didn't.
'Do you know', and here Cricket-Girl dropped her voice to a whisper, which was awkward as the restaurant had foolishly agreed to play my new birthday CD which was blasting out 'Part Time Punks' at top volume, 'Do you know that I went into X Shop and they had been bullied into accepting the Lewes Pound?'
She didn't say X Shop, obviously, she was more specific, but I'm being discreet, like. 'How do you mean, bullied?' we all gasped.
'The owner had loads of people coming in and being rude about them not taking the Lewes Pound, and people even saying they wouldn't shop there unless it was brought in.'
I was so appalled at the thought of our town, famous for its democratic insistence on democracy, behaving in such a fashion, that I gulped down considerably more Cava in one go than I should have.
'Ordinary punters were saying that?' I spluttered, 'Or was it whoever's in charge of the Lewes Pound?'
I've never been very good at knowing who's in charge of things. I still have no idea what the difference is between the Town Council, District Council and County Council. For all I know, our bin collection is organised by the British Council.
Cricket-Girl put me straight. 'Transition Town Lewes brought in the Pound', she said, 'And there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that they have been hassling people into accepting it.'
Well, that's all right then.
'But here's some really good gossip', she said, and lowered her voice still further, though by now the manager had ripped my CD off the deck and reverted to Mantovani, so I could hear just fine, 'Rumour has it that not only were no shopkeepers surveyed about whether they wanted the Lewes Pound, but there wasn't even a vote taken amongst the members of Transition Town.'
'Allegedly!' everyone yelled hurriedly, mindful of the dreadful import of any implication that the proud town of Thomas Paine should be involved in such an un-constitutional business. We all took a slug of Cava to wash the very thought out of our mouths.
Then Cricket-Girl made me give her back the pretty Lewes Pound. I wasn't going to keep it, honestly. Even if it should have been my birthday present.
Beth Miller, December 2008. Published on Lewes.co.uk