Ooh ladies, isn’t it beastly when you open your purse and find that the house-keeping will barely cover a large sirloin for the Man of the House and a stale crust for you and the kiddies?
That was almost exactly my situation last weekend, except for the 1940s setting, and the fact that actually my purse was full: of crackling green local tender. This was the inevitable result of all those times I’d felt obliged to say yes to a Lewes Pound in my change; saying no gets you into a lengthy explanation which is bound to make you miss the bus.
I bumped into Grange Girl en route to Tescos to see if they accepted the Pound, but she whacked me with a rolled-up Guardian and told me it was my chance to Shop Local. I protested that Tescos was jolly near, but she hit me again.
‘Here’s a challenge, you apolitical ostrich’, she flattered. ‘Can a family survive a weekend only on items bought with the Lewes Pound?’
‘I don’t know, can they?’ I said, not realising it was an order. She turned me firmly towards Cliffe High Street.
‘Keep calm’, she said, giving me a shove that rattled my teeth, ‘and carry on.’
I’m scared of Grangey so I dutifully edged crab-like down the Cliffe, the roadworks having expanded like a hefty Yank about to win an eating competition. Many windows displayed a friendly ‘We accept the Pound’ sign. I popped into Landsown Health Shop and although they did have lots of nice-looking food, something about my mission turned me into Felicity Kendal, except without the pert bottom, and I bought a bag of spelt flour. They happily took my Pounds and gave me change in real money.
Emboldened, I visited May’s, Ben’s Butchers, Harveys and Bills. Then, laden with hessian bags, I staggered into the Lewes Arms, thinking I could cobble together the price of a gin with my change. But lo! They take Pounds here too. Marvellous. I used nearly all my wedge, and much later weaved into Catlins to spend the rest. Well, someone’s got to buy our way out of this recession.
The Man of the House’s upper lip stiffened as I emptied out the bags. He smoothed on more Brylcreem and asked what we were meant to do with a hatching alien and a pair of pink lurex gloves. I explained that despite all the food in May’s, I’d got distracted by the fascinating section at the back. He harrumphed.
‘I got some fruit in Bills’, I said, ‘Two Rambutans for a tenner.’
He went pale. ‘What are they made of, gold?’
I sat him down before revealing that the rest of my purchases were wine from Harveys and Revels from Catlins.
‘Did you’, he said, trying to control his emotions, ‘actually buy anything proper to eat?’
‘Of course’, I slurred, proudly waving the sirloin I’d got at Ben’s. Forgetting, of course, that my dear Man is a vegetarian.
That’, he said grumpily, as he fried some spelt flour pancakes, ‘is the last time I let you do the shopping’.
And that, ladies, is what we call a result.
Beth Miller, 3rd March 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com.