First cuckoos, hosts of golden daffodils, yeah whatever. For me there’s only one truly reliable sign of spring: Uncle Adultery’s annual attempt at reconciliation with Emmanuelle, his on-off lover. Every year it’s the same. The clocks go forwards, the sap rises, and Uncle A dusts off his courting jacket and whisks Emmanuelle away for a romantic mini-break. She steps out in sky-scraper stilettos, her tiny Chihuahua tucked in a Fendi bag; he floats in her wake decked out in foolish optimism and an ill-advised Panama hat. A mere weekend later they’ve fallen out spectacularly enough to vow never to meet again. It’s part of the cycle of life.
Last year Uncle Adultery rang for ideas on new locations for the latest détente. I said there was no love song finer than Lewes in the Spring, and when he quibbled, suggested that as he’d tried everywhere else, it was worth a go. I helped plan the itinerary: stay at Shelleys, cocktails at Pelham House, dinner at Shanaz (Emmanuelle is oddly susceptible to dark curry houses).
I met them at the station and accompanied them to the hotel, because I knew they’d need help getting past the charming bewilderment of the staff (‘You want to check in? Here? Er, hang on a sec’). Once the turtledoves were safely ensconced, unpacking their toiletries and small dogs, I discreetly took myself home, to await the inevitable bloodbath.
Poor Uncle A. The next morning, Emmanuelle took the fast train back to London, and it was a broken man who met me for a restorative smoothie at Bills. It was now definitely Spring as there were non-smokers at the outside tables, but Uncle A was in no mood for poetic musings. Lewes received the full force of his wrath and it wasn’t until he finished his second juice - garnished with a pineapple and six tulips - that I discovered everything had gone well until they’d left the restaurant. Uncle A admitted he had sunk a few Cobras, and had fallen in with some local lads who’d persuaded him to come on a bender. Ever the gentleman, he’d escorted Emanuelle back to the hotel, but it wasn’t the romantic weekend she’d been anticipating when he rolled back again at four in the morning, covered in chilli sauce and singing ‘I know I am, I’m sure I am, I'm Lewes til I die’.
He was hazy on the details but I filled them in for him. ‘You went to the Charkie, didn’t you?’ I asked him sadly.
‘The last thing I remember, dear Niecey, till Emmanuelle poured a bottle of Evian over my head, was ordering the biggest donner in town. The rest is a blank.’ A few stray bits of lettuce still clung to his beard.
Spring’s here again. The first barefoot toddler’s been spotted in the Grange. The grass has riz, the birdie’s on the wing, and Uncle Adultery just called to say he’s planned a terrific weekend in Venice. This time, he reckons, it might just work.
Beth Miller, 24th March 2009. Published in VivaLewes. Photo by Alex Leith