Grange Girl and I were wandering along the Farmers Market going ‘ooh’ at the raspberries when a pleasant-looking middle-aged lady asked us for directions to the nearest toilet.
‘Of course,’ I said, always keen to offer comfort to strangers, ‘there are some just behind Lloyds in that car-park.’
The woman thanked me and started to move away, but Grange Girl slapped a vice-like hand on her arm and said, ‘Wait a minute! She can’t go in those!’
‘They’re the nearest, Grangey. And they’ve been done up.’
‘That’s as maybe but I still wouldn’t want a visitor to see them. I do have some civic pride. And they have those batty automatic sink things which give you ten seconds of sticky soap, then the water doesn’t work.’
She turned to the woman, who was looking a little worried. ‘The nicest toilets in Lewes are in Shelley’s Hotel, madam. You’ll obviously have to buy a drink or scone but they’re well worth it; gorgeous little ante-room, scents and plush furnishings, entire thing reminiscent of a nineteenth century boudoir…’
‘Grangey, that’s practically a mile up the road!’
‘She can hold on for a bit. Can’t you?’ Grange Girl addressed the woman. ‘You won’t regret it.’
‘Er, no, I…’ the woman began looking round anxiously.
‘Look,’ I said helpfully, ‘there’s some more near the station…’
‘For heaven’s sake!’ cried Grange Girl. ‘You mean those ones opposite Lager Bench? Don’t go there missus. Try the library – very clean. Though the drier makes a dreadful racket, hardly appropriate given the setting.’
The woman thanked us again and tried to back away but Grangey was in full flow.
‘Course if you fancy something alcoholic to accompany your penny-spending, the loo in the Snowdrop is much improved.’
‘I think the Grange Gardens ones are closed for Winter,’ I contributed. ‘But they’ve got those all-in-one-don’t-work-properly sinks too.’ I reflected on the many hours I had spent there with Thing Two. ‘And they can be very cold. So you ought to give those a miss, really.’
‘I hate it when you get caught short at the Friday market and have to use the Tom Paine toilet,’ said Grangey. ‘Everyone can hear what you’re up to.’
‘The ones at Pelham House are lovely and very sound-proof, you can’t even have cross-cubicle conversations in there.’
‘Ooh and I’ll tell you another good one: at the County Court. Art Nouveau, I believe.’
‘It’s not open to the public though, surely?’
‘No but you can visit every September for the Architectural Open Day.’
‘That’s probably too long to wait, isn’t it?’
I turned to the woman but she had gone.
‘All this talk has made me want to powder my nose,’ said Grange Girl, and started striding up the hill in the direction of the Shelleys. ‘Might as well have a scone and a cup of tea while we’re there.’
Beth Miller, 25th November 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Katie Moorman.