We were crouched grumpily behind a bush.
‘I can see Tony Benn’s elbow’, said Grange Girl, squinting up at the library. ‘Ooh no, hang on, it’s someone else’s.’
We’d been prevented from closer proximity to the statue-unveiling action, on the grounds of not being important enough.
‘Hardly in keeping with Tom Paine’s equality for all, is it?’ muttered Pells Boy.
Feeling disenfranchised – if only a radical pamphleteer would come and mobilise us! – we repaired to Laporte’s and sat in the glorious sunshine, sipping cordial.
‘Nearly missed making my own elderflower cordial this year’, Grange Girl said, laughing at her own craziness. ‘There was a run on citric acid. Got the last tub in town from that little chemists up the road. The pharmacist recommended I add orange zest to my usual recipe.’
Photographer Girl laughed. ‘I love Lewes.’ She’d not long moved here. ‘When we lived in Brighton and I tried to buy citric acid, everyone assumed I was a junkie and sent me away.’
‘What do junkies want with elderflower cordial?’ Grange Girl asked.
‘They mix citric acid with heroin to make it more injectable’, said Pells Boy. Adding, into our raised eyebrow silence, ‘so I’ve heard.’
‘And there you have the difference between Lewes and Brighton in a nutshell’, said Photographer Girl.
‘Or in a dessert spoon’, said Pells Boy.
‘Every morning I give thanks I’m here, not there’, Grange Girl said, remembering her own, rather implausible Brighton stretch with a shudder.
From down the street came the sound of distant clapping: presumably the statue being revealed.
‘Brighton of a weekend is crammed with marauding hen and stag parties’, said Photographer Girl. ‘And fifteen year old Goths being sick on the pavement.’
‘Lewes of a weekend is speckled with elderly gentlemen in Glyndebourne cummerbunds, and middle-aged couples gasping at the prices in Lewes Estates’ window’, I contributed.
‘Don’t you sometimes worry though…’ Pells Boy stopped.
‘If the sentence you have wisely self-censored includes the words dull or complacent, feel free to borrow my spare citric acid and start an exciting new life in the big city’, said Grange Girl.
Pells Boy became very interested in the ice cubes in his glass.
‘I know what Pells Boy means’, I said, ‘were he allowed to have finished his thought.’ I’m not scared of Grangey. Okay, I am, but I was inspired to speak up by almost having seen the elbow of that old tea-drinking firebrand.
‘Don’t you ever miss the thrill of Brighton?’ I asked Photographer Girl.
‘Lewes is just as exciting’, she smiled. ‘In a lower-key kind of way.’
Tony Benn walked past. I thought I heard him say to an aide, ‘Get me on the first train to Holland Park, lad; can’t handle the pace here.’
‘Crowds will have gone’, Grange Girl said, standing up. ‘Let’s check out the statue.’
‘Ooh yes’, we cried delightedly, and hastened to finish our drinks.
Beth Miller, 7th July 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith