‘I know what you can write for your column’, said Thing One this morning, startling me twice over. Firstly (causing me to mis-chop a carrot), because, spookily, at that very moment I’d been wondering what to write. And secondly (causing me to drop the knife on my toe), because I didn’t know she knew I wrote a column. Now she’ll find out I’ve called her Thing One, rather than, say, Princess Fluffy Tinsel, and she’ll lose all respect. Must stop helping her learn to read.
‘What’s your idea darling?’ I asked, as graciously as someone can when they’re wiping blood and carrot juice off their foot.
‘You should write about something in Lewes, like the London Eye’, she replied.
Well, out of the mouths of minors, but I’d been thinking I might have to branch out from the sacred enclosure of Lewes Town into the heady wilderness of Lewes District, particularly in my quest for Activities For Small Children That Don’t Involve Watching Telly. So, at the risk of this column eating itself, here is Thing One’s idea, though we didn’t go quite as far as the South Bank (apparently London isn’t in the Lewes District). Instead we went to the Anti-Lewes.
I worked in Newhaven ten years ago and still have a soft spot for the place. I know you’re snorting into your weetabix, Midwife Girl, but we had some laughs there didn’t we? No? Oh. Everything that Lewes is, Newhaven isn’t. Lewes is soft and squashy; Newhaven is hardcore. Lewes is Wickle; Newhaven is Peacocks. Lewes is a leisurely spliff by the river; Newhaven is a hasty snort of Evostick round the back of Somerfield. Metaphorically speaking.
I like Newhaven’s gritty realism. I used to enjoy watching the expressions of squeaky clean French teenagers off the Dieppe ferry when they first saw the High Street. And I absolutely love Paradise Park. Today, my kids spent the happiest five minutes of their little lives in the Park’s arcade, spraying water from high-pressure hoses at some plastic figures that didn’t do anything, 20p a go. You can’t put a value on memories like that.
Paradise Park is great for kids because they can be scared witless by the unconvincing animatronic dinosaurs. Adults like the astonishingly huge landscaped garden, where it’s possible to get properly lost. You just keep going further away from the café until you start to hear real jungle noises and get a bit freaked out. Aaargh! And then, when you’ve clawed your way back to civilization, there’s a huge garden centre, and plastic toys, and jam in little oblong packets still for tea. What’s not to like?
Disclaimer: The Park’s management has not paid me for this cornucopia of praise. Though they can if they like.
After today’s Newhaven visit, Thing One said, ‘If we lived here, we could go to Paradise Park every day and have fun all the time.’
It’s encouraging that, despite being called Princess Fluffy Tinsel, she appreciates a bit of the old urban grit too.
Beth Miller, 22nd June 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com