'I've had a lovely time’ trilled Country Mouse, kissing me goodbye, ‘Lewes is such a wonderfully smelly town.’
Did the ill-bred little backwater rodent really consider that an acceptable parting shot?
‘Excuse ME!’ I cried, yanking her back into the house by the belt of her Country Casuals mackintosh and interrogating her with an angle-poise lamp. ‘Whaddya mean, smelly?’
She broke down instantly. ‘I don’t mean anything bad’, she squeaked. ‘It’s all the fascinating scents as you walk round – it’s not sanitised, like Milton Keynes.’
I hurled her, whimpering, onto the path and slammed the door. A whiffy town, eh? It was time for some scientific research.
‘Remind me what we’re doing’, whined Born and Bred Boy, standing unhappily outside Streaks Ahead, a black scarf tied round his eyes. ‘When you said something about blindfolds and smells I had a different image all together.’
I explained again. ‘We’re going to walk around the town centre’, I said, putting on my lab-coat and safety glasses, ‘to see if you can identify where we are by nose alone.’
We began with a minor tripping incident, but as Boy limped, bleeding, past Fur, Feather ‘N’ Fins he reared like a greyhound sniffing a rabbit.
‘It’s that pet shop with all the F’s’ he cried triumphantly. We stopped a moment, and breathed in deeply. As a child I used to inhale at the threshold of our local pet shop for hours. There wasn’t much to do in the 1970s.
A little further, Boy yelped, ‘May’s!’ adding superfluously, ‘Eau de hippy’s bedroom’.
Minutes later, and his eyeless face was smiling. ‘The Best! Smell! Ever!’ he exclaimed. It was the unsurpassable perfume of hops brewing at Harveys. Boy overdid the sniffing, hyperventilated, and had to be assisted with a paper bag.
Is Lewes not fragrant? I was starting to think we were truly blessed, when Boy grabbed my arm.‘Oh’, he said anxiously, ‘If we’ve gone past Harveys, we must be about to… Aaaargh!’ He began weaving about, hands cupped over his mouth, bumping into benches. Like Jonathan Ross, that weird cheesy fragrance from Forfars divides people. Some, like Boy, generally avoid it with a circuitous route via the carpark. Yet my dear Man of the House claims it’s so yummy he wants to rush in and fill his pockets with buns.
As we moved up the hill, Born and Bred Boy got into his stride. Dry-cleaners (interesting chemicals); Flint (bizarre perfume); several estate agents (fear). I promised Boy there was just one more, and knew he’d got it when he clutched his throat and fell to his knees.
'School dinner cabbage', he gasped, 'warmed up and piped through extractor fan for all to share.’ I ticked the White Hart off my list, and treated Boy to a good long inhalation of the coffee aroma outside Nero’s.
Later, I rang Country Mouse to apologise. Lewes is indeed a heady town. More so, possibly, than Milton Keynes. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
Beth Miller, 15th April 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith