First Saturday of each month, Pells Boy gets up early and goes into town, wicker basket on his arm. Decked out in his finest shabby-chic gear, he walks purposefully, heading towards the bustling Farmers Market. It’s become something of a tradition.
Then, abruptly, at the very last moment, he veers ostentatiously to the left in front of Boots, and goes to Tescos. He buys a few trifling items there, puts the carriers in the basket - Tescos logo uppermost - and returns to the Cliffe to parade up and down, swinging the basket for all to see. If he doesn't quite chant, 'Ner ner ner ner', it's only because he hasn't thought of it.
It’s hard to pinpoint what troubles him about the Farmers Market, because he’s incoherent on the subject.
‘It’s just, so, you know!’ he rants.
‘So, so, so, so!’ he splutters, then resorts to specific abuse of the customers:
People buying gluten- and dairy-free cakes (‘Pointless. Chipboard tastes better’)
People eating courgette pakoras messily on the street
People queuing to buy cherries (‘When there are perfectly nice cherries in Tescos’)
People saying, ‘You can’t beat the quality of Boathouse pork’
People buying chutney (‘Why, Pells Boy?’ ‘Because chutney is completely smug’)
People saying ‘Ooh look’ at the Pretend Parmesan stall
People buying produce purely because it’s seasonal (‘Even chard, and no-one likes that’)
People doing all this in the cold and rain because of the warm, dry, virtuous glow they get from not shopping in a supermarket
Grange Girl is appalled. ‘I love the Farmers Market’, she cries, trugulently swinging her trug.
This is why I keep my friends separate.
‘It’s perfect for catching up with people’, Grangey says. ‘I just stand in the middle of the Cliffe, and sooner or later everyone I know passes by. I can do all my socialising in one morning, then I don’t have to do any for the rest of the month.’
Aging Lad is also pro-market, because his second-favourite past-time is chatting. ‘That’s fascinating’, you can hear him say to the attractive young hippy at the Transition Town stall, as he leans in a little closer. ‘So buying Colombian coffee with Lewes Pounds cuts right down on carbon emissions? Tell me more.’
But Born-and-Bred Boy is anti. ‘Lewes is too crowded nowadays’, he says. ‘When I were a lad, it were always nice and quiet on a Saturday in’t town centre. You could hear the tumbleweed blowing across t’street, and that’s how I like it. Ay-oop.’
Boy holds the belief that a cod-Yorkshire accent strengthens his argument.
The other night when Pells Boy dropped in unexpectedly at supper time, all I had in the freezer was a splendid spinach and lamb pie from the Farmers Market. He scoffed it down happily. Once I’d cooked it, obviously.
‘Is this a Tescos Finest?’ he asked indistinctly, mouth full of pastry. To avoid a terrible scene, I told him it was. He nodded.
‘Thought so’, he said, ‘Excellent. Is there any more?’
Beth Miller, 14th August 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com