I’d become in urgent need of a child’s fishing net, such as the Famous Five carry when nipping off to Smugglers Island for a spot of shrimping, villain thwarting and getting mashed on ginger beer. Damn those pesky kids and their easy access to seaside paraphernalia. Nets there were none, even on the net (ha!) Actually there were tons on the internet, fellow net-needers, but I’d left it so late that casual delivery promises of ‘three to five days’ were simply taunts, designed to drive a person insane. Say what you mean! Is it three, or is it five? And does Saturday count as a working day yet? (Voice rises to a scream.) My wrangle with the semantics would have impressed Wittgenstein, especially if he too had been forced by his five year old to score a net, by Wednesday.
I scanned Lewes with the desperate air of a person without a, well, safety-net. Once again, I fear not for the last time, I mourned the passing of my favourite store. We’re the last generation that will say, ‘A net, by crikey? Get thee to Woolworths forthwith.’
Then I began to brood upon all the other shops that had let me down by closing, taking their net potential with them. The mitherers on Lewes Forum are always reminiscing about the fabulous shops here in 1903, but we’ve lost some cracking ones more recently.
Big Kids, where were you in my time of need? Turned into another really useful estate agents, that’s where. And what ho, Ransomes? I never knew how much I’d miss you. Bet you had a whole fishing section for kids, with pretend bait, and mini-waders, and dear little buckets to keep your crabs in.
Crèche Manager was little help. With the air of Archimedes after an enlightening bath, he exclaimed, ‘It’s obvious: Woolies in Brighton.’ He’d failed to notice it was a national cull – he’s become kind of parochial. Then stirring himself, he suggested the scary hunting ‘n’ fishing shop on the Cliffe where women aren’t encouraged.
I bravely went there, after not shaving to try and blend in, and it sure was a manly place. There were knives, and wellies in size 14, and frighteningly macho tools for, I don’t know, removing the windpipe of a young chit foolish enough to go where she ain’t supposed to.
‘Have you any children’s fishing nets?’ I whimpered, peeping over the top of the counter. They were kind enough to laugh rather than do anything more Deliverance, but it was a narrow squeak.
And so the deadline of pond-dipping with the school drew ever nearer. I stopped sleeping, and took only such food and water as necessary to keep alive the flame of net solutions. Finally, like desperate parents since time immemorial, I cobbled something together from a stick and an old pair of tights. It’s what Julian and George would have done, had they ever lost their fishing equipment during a bacchanal of hard-boiled eggs and fruit cake.
Beth Miller, 28th April 2009. Published on VivaLewes.com. Photo by Absent-Minded Girl