In lieu of a social life, Grange Girl has hobbies. She’s always embroidering cushions, or pasting faded Record Mirror articles into her scrapbook, or whittling toothbrushes. There’s never any tempting her out to a pub or party: she likes to keep a seemly distance from what she refers to as ‘the Majority of People’. She is interested in others, though. She’s even able to have a good gossip about her neighbours, based of necessity on pure speculation. I was round last week, sipping camomile while Grangey twitched the nets.
‘Here’s the Estate Agent’, she muttered, watching her neighbour go into his house. ‘Back early I see.’
I noticed an invitation on her mantelpiece. ‘Street party! Are you going?’
‘Good heavens, no. There will probably be people there. Ooh’, she raised her binoculars once more. ‘The Pashmina Woman’s going into the wrong house again. She’s having an affair with the Estate Agent. She’s always round there.’
I gave Grangey a brief lecture on the importance of human connections, of getting out and making an effort. She protested that she had plenty of friends (‘two is two too many’). But I spoke from the heart and felt I had impressed her.
Yesterday she summoned me in a state of distress, and I found her distractedly dusting her musical snowglobes collection, always a bad sign.
‘It’s all your fault’, she said, but as this is a normal Grange Girl greeting I just nodded and put the kettle on. After some fortifying sips of chicory – desperate times, desperate measures – she told me my homily had indeed induced her (‘against my better judgement’), to attend the street party, and thus enter a vortex of confusion.
‘He really looks like an estate agent’, she moaned. ‘And there was once a Lewes Estates van outside his house. But he was playing the guitar, and when I complimented him, he turned out to be a professional musician. I asked how that fitted in with selling over-priced houses, and he thought I was mad.’
I choked slightly on my chicory. Grangey said, ‘The Pashmina Woman kissed him in front of everyone! The brass front! Then I heard they’d just celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary. They weren’t having an affair at all, and I’d got her house wrong.’
The most amazing thing about the story was such a long-term couple still kissing, but Grangey continued, ‘the woman with the baby is a single mum, though I was sure she was married to number 15; turns out he’s gay and lives at 28; and the policewoman is actually an aromatherapist but I saw her the night she went to a fancy dress party…’
Poor Grange Girl. She doesn’t like change. It takes her three months to adjust to Greenwich Mean Time.
‘They were all surprised to see me’, she said. ‘They thought I was a hermit.’
She drew the curtains, and took up her candle-making kit. ‘That was the only thing anyone said all night that made any sense.’
Beth Miller, 8th September 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith