I’m too old for Twitter, but I’m just about the right age for twittens. They now seem a very good thing: even the cute name is bearable. This wasn’t always how I felt, of course. Twittens are something you come to later in life, like wheely luggage and easy-fit jeans.
When I moved to Sussex back in the last century, I casually dismissed Lewes as just too quaint. From the distant perspective of groovy Kemptown, where I was the only non-gay in the village, Lewes appeared middle-aged, staid and overly reliant on a couple of half-timbered buildings for interest. How young and glib I was. Now it is I who am middle-aged, staid and overly reliant on… I do believe that metaphor’s served its purpose.
Later, we lived in Cooksbridge, and on our first Saturday night headed into Lewes, looking for trouble. The streets were eerily silent, apart from some bustle near the bottle-neck. We raced up the high street to investigate, and arrived out of breath to discover a coach party of old ladies just about to leave. Nowadays I would unashamedly ask them where the action was, and tag along, but back then it seemed a sad indictment of Lewes: the Town that Never Wakes.
Since settling here, though, I find that Lewes is teeming with cosmopolitan excitement and happenings. Well, compared to Cooksbridge anyway. My changed view is mainly thanks to old-style social networking, the face-to-face sort with alcohol included. Stroll the streets with Born-and-Bred Boy and you see ghosts everywhere: down the Cliffe he’s away in a reverie of Wyndham’s shoes and the Granada telly shop; pass Monsoon and he’s back when it was a butchers, watching his mother buy chump steak. Surely that can’t be a tear in his eye?
Grange Girl’s Lewes is an eco-town of nature reserves, communal do-gooding and ladies cycling to communion. Accompany her up the high street and she can instantly source the cafe with the freshest scone. Aging Lad, naturally, is the man to show you the best pubs – ‘best’ meaning those likely to contain women tolerant to his chat-up lines, rather than those serving the most authentic Harveys.
Visitors, too, find their own version of Lewes. When Country Mouse stayed earlier this month she effortlessly located a Lewes awash in Cath Kidston aprons and expensive rustic candlesticks. Yet when Uncle Adultery was here he managed, in just a couple of days, to unveil an unexpected dark under-belly of swingers, Satanists and fleshpots. Played havoc with my bridge night, so it did.
Me, I’m just thankful to be moving gracefully into the twitten stage of my life. I no longer need to seek excitement in clubs and crowds. These days, there is no greater thrill than strapping Thing Two tight into his buggy and pushing him really fast down Church Twitten, from School Hill to All Saints, hearing his joyous cries of ‘YEEEE-HAH’ echoing off the ancient flint walls.
Beth Miller, 17th March 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, September 2009.