Walking past the station the other day I ran smack into Aging Lad holding a placard. You could have knocked me down with a, well, a placard. Lad protesting about something? Never. Other than the lack of presentable totty down the Volly. I picked myself up off the pavement and studied his sign.
‘Don’t Go Runaway’, it read, obliquely.
‘Think there’s something wrong with your grammar, there, old chap’, I said.
Lad explained that National Rail, or whatever they’re called, were thinking of replacing the Runaway Café with some other eaterie.
‘They can’t do that!’ I cried, outraged. ‘Dear lord, please, not a Lemon Tree.’
The Runaway is my most favourite Lewes landmark. In fact, when I started writing a column for Viva all those years ago (I’ve just checked and it was 2009, seems longer), the very first one was a love letter to the Runaway.
‘I’d be gutted’, Lad agreed. ‘Vic’s always good for a spot of romantic advice along with the bacon sarnie.’
‘Why are you the only one protesting?’
‘Got here a bit late. I’m doing the lunch shift while the others have scrambled egg downstairs’.
He shifted the placard awkwardly. ‘It’s quite heavy. Would you mind holding it for a sec while I, uh, tie my lace?’
I fell for it, and was soon protesting by myself. I decided to put more welly into it than Lad, who’d just stood there sheepishly with the placard held dangerously low. I raised it above my head and started shouting, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’, and other snappy chants. The taxi-drivers seemed impressed and joined in, bibbing their horns and yelling, though I couldn’t catch the words. A few passengers asked me what was going on, and were appalled to hear the rumours. I couldn’t help noticing that they were all clutching lattes from Costa Coffee.
When the two real protesters returned from lunch, they suggested I send a concerned email to email@example.com, which I promised to do. Then I popped down to Platform 2.
In the Runaway, Classic FM was playing something soothing. Fresh flowers adorned the tables. The usual elderly lady was sipping absinthe in the corner. All, as ever, was calm.
‘Is it true, Vic?’ I asked, trying not to weep. You start dabbing your face with a tissue in that place, you get Trevor Howard leaping over tables to poke you in the eye, and I wasn’t in the mood.
Vic ladled milk into my tea. ‘It’s not over till the fat lady sings’, he said. Classic FM rather annoyingly chose that moment to sample Beth Ditto in the middle of a Beethoven sonata, but Vic switched to Radio 3.
‘I’ve written a poem’, he said, handing me the tea. ‘Let us raise a cup of good cheer/ for the Runaway to still be here!’
Here’s hoping, Vic.
Beth Miller, 16th March 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith