In need of a splunge sprocket for my bike (yes, I had definitely understood the Cliffe free bike repairman), I ambled off to Court Mowers. On the way, I reflected that no matter what strange commerce has lately come to Lewes, Court Mowers’ unlit cavern of scraps of metal is eternal. It’s run by kindly gentlemen who don’t mind how many bits your bike is in; they will happily spend hours pottering with spanners and other manly accoutrements, then hand you an itemised bill as long as this sentence, ending with a gloriously specific and tiny sum such as £2.48.
But, as Sidney Sheldon reminds us, nothing lasts for ever, and to my consternation, I discovered that Court Mowers had burned down. Now I would never again watch the staff shrug on leather jackets and break into a rendition of Greased Lightning. And who would fit my flange spracket now?*
* Well, Court Mowers’ mobile service would, but such easy resolution does not fit this narrative.
As I reeled from the senseless cruelty of the universe, I noticed a new shop next door. Called the Homelycake, it was not just another victoria sponge vendor: it was the last straw, the critical mass, the tipping point. Lewes had entered a Café Event Horizon, where it’s impossible to open anything other than a café, and no-one outside can see the town for the steam emitted by espresso machines.
I began an urgent survey of Lewes refreshment rooms. It took a long time, because, not wanting to be mistaken for a snooper, I forced myself to have a steadying cuppa and an iced bun in each one. First up, Buttercup Café, newly inserted into an antiques shop, iced bun, rather good. Oh look, this isn’t a review – take it as read that the iced buns were good everywhere, through they did seem to get less appetising the further I went.
Next, Le Magasin, a newsagent/furniture shop/bakery, where I listened to Hoxton Mum telling me how ‘vair, vair, busy’ she was, until someone bought the table we were sitting at. Onwards, to Doorsteps Café, then Bills, where iced buns are garnished with loganberries, and where I saw Hoxton Mum across the room, wiping cappuccino froth from her lip and mouthing, ‘so vair busy’.
The Riverside – upstairs and down; Costa Coffee, followed by a little breather in Boots, sniffing shampoo. Steamer Trading and Wickle (both contain cafes, you pedant); Robsons, Artisans (is it café or restaurant? I don’t know but I took a pleasant iced bun there, as did Hoxton Mum, who waved merrily from a chaise longue); Needlemakers, Lewes Patisserie (hi Hoxie!), Fillers, Neros, and finally, the CasBah.
By now I was sick with anger, and rang our MP to complain.
‘I know a good place to meet and discuss it’, Mr Baker said, ‘Laporte’s Café – have you tried it?’
I was going to cycle there, but considering my broken flunge spricket, and broken spirit, stayed at home to read the latest Sidney Sheldon instead.
Beth Miller, 30th June 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith