‘Do you see feathers?’
‘Um, a Tudor lady?’
‘For goodness sake!’
‘Hang on, it’s on the tip of my tongue’, I said unconvincingly.
Hoxton Mum, looking cross, stood before me draped in a long hooded brown cloak. ‘I’m obviously a monk’, she harrumphed.
I gestured wordlessly to the scarlet corset and purple bordello skirt she wore under the open cloak, which had thrown me off the scent somewhat.
‘A tad late in the day getting to Ann’s Attic’, she said airily. ‘There wasn’t much left.’ Then she sniffed. ‘Anyway, on its own, the monk’s costume is just too brown. And brown is very last season.’
Hoxton Mum was dead excited about her first procession. ‘Last year, of course, we went away. Django was too little for all the bangy noises. And the year before…’ she sighed, ‘we were still in dear old Shoreditch, the world’s art, culture and food on our doorstep.’
‘Still’, she shook herself, ‘Bonfire’s the thing, eh? Got to get in the spirit. Corset’s a bit bally tight, though.’
It struck me on the way home that Hoxton Mum hadn’t even been to Bonfire as an observer. I gave Born-and-Bred Boy a call. He’s not been keen on fireworks since he was six and his uncle shoved a sparkler down his trousers, but he always participates out of family duty. And a chance to return the favour to his uncle.
‘It’s Hoxie’s first time. She thinks it’s going to be like the Notting Hill Carnival.’
‘It will be like that’, he said, ‘Except with less William Hagues and more flaming torches.’
‘Will you keep an eye on her?’ I asked.
‘Sure’, he said, with an evil chuckle. ‘There’ll be a few rookies with her name on.’
Clearly, Boy had been permanently scarred by his youthful experience. I rang off and called Supermum and Therapy Lass to an emergency summit in The Patisserie.
‘Been making torches in our back garden with the Society’, said Supermum, who was liberally doused in Eau de Paraffin. ‘Lovely community feel, the babies rolling around on the grass whilst all around people make incendiary devices.’
‘Hoxie’ll be all right if she looks like an old hand’, Therapy Lass soothed. ‘There’s always someone – not Society – who likes to startle new recruits.’
‘Rookie the rookies, you mean’, said Supermum thoughtfully, stirring her latte. ‘Still, you say she’s keeping it simple with a monk’s costume. Long as she doesn’t add anything, she’ll pass unnoticed.’
I ran back to Wallands at speed. Hoxton Mum answered the door, still in her corset. ‘Lysander rather likes it’, she said bashfully. ‘He’s suggested I wear it to cook dinner.’
I brushed her domestic peccadilloes to one side. ‘Listen Hoxie, about your costume…’
Then I noticed she was brandishing a small blue flashlight.
‘What’s that for?’
‘I’m so prepared’, she laughed, ‘I know everyone carries torches so I’ve put fresh batteries in my Maglite.’
Beth Miller, 4th November 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, November 2010. Photo by Alex Leith