‘What are you on about?’ I looked round to try and pinpoint the source of this newness. Sure, we were in Baltica, which had only been open a few weeks, but I couldn’t see what was so 2.0 about it. We were there because Hoxton Mum had put a temporary veto on Bills, her habitual hangout, owing to a recent skirmish over the amount of tapenade in a goats cheese and sunblushed tomato panini.
Hoxie waved the July issue of Viva at me. ‘Have you not seen this?’ She flicked through the pages. ‘Hush-hush cinema? Can’t believe that’s come here. We used to go to Secret Cinema in Shoreditch.’ She sighed. ‘Happy days. Even though we saw rather a lot of Andy Warhol films. And lookie here: this Hollywood red carpet thing with cabaret and burlesque.’
I scanned the magazine. ‘It seems to be taking place in the bus station, Hoxie.’
‘Yeah, totally edgy. And then there are all those parties down at the Zu Studios.’
Hoxton Mum, Cycle Girl and Absent-Minded Girl exchanged little smiles.
‘I tell you’, Hoxie went on, delicately slurping her Polish soup, ‘Lewes wasn’t gritty and cool like this when I first moved here.’
‘That was less than two years ago’, Cycle Girl pointed out.
‘So? That’s a lot longer than plenty of people who think they own the place. Why, there’s a mum at Django’s school who’s still unpacking, and she keeps banging on about the creeping gentrification of the High Street. There’s another family who have yet to sign the contract on their Wallands house, and they’re already big in Transition Town.’
I asked Cycle Girl how long she’d lived in Lewes. ‘Ten years. Practically a native.’
Absent-Minded Girl spilled tea onto her shoes but didn’t notice. ‘We’ve been here six years but of course, we’ve got cousins in Brighton so we’re as good as indigenous.’ She might be a bit vague but she knows some big words.
‘I’ve been here since 2005’, I joined in, ‘But we were in Barcombe before that for seven years and that counts double. And we used to come to Brighton on holiday when I was a kid, so I’ve basically always lived here. Apart from twenty years in Essex.’
There was a silence.
‘How long’, asked Hoxton Mum quietly, ‘do you have to live here before you’re accepted as a Lewesian?’
‘Ten years’, said Cycle Girl.
‘Six years’, said Absent-Minded Girl.
‘Three generations’, I said.
‘Anyway’, said Cycle Girl, ‘the correct term is Rook, not Lewesian.’
‘I knew that’, Hoxton Mum said quickly.
Then Born and Bred Boy walked past, saw us sitting at the window table and came to join us.
‘What are you talking about?’ he asked.
‘Nothing’, we chorused, in agreement for once.
Beth Miller, 29th June 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, August 2010.