After the long, hard winter it’s going to be a bumper spring: flowers and birdies and whatnot bursting out all over. So say the Met Office, and they’re never wrong. You can already see, in the Grange Gardens, the first signs of the sap rising. There are daffs, and cute purple crocuses, and those regimented rows of primroses the poor gardeners are contractually obliged to plant each year by the megalomaniac Primrose Consortium. Young people in their black school uniforms lie snogging on the damp grass. Grange regulars step delicately over them, clutching their thermoses, for the café won’t open for a little while yet. And ladies of all ages roam uncomfortably, for the toilets, too, are not yet unlocked.
Hoxton Mum and I basked on a sunny bench, watching our small boys battling the Forces of Primrose Evil, armed only with destructive urges and large pointed sticks.
‘Where’s the nearest loo?’ I pondered. At present, it was merely an idle enquiry, but would doubtless become less theoretical at some future axis. ‘Kings Head’, I continued, ‘They’d probably let me use theirs if I buy a bag of crisps.’
‘Alternatively’, said Hoxton Mum, rummaging in her bag, ‘You could borrow my shewee.’ She showed me a pink plastic funnel which came in its own velvet bag.
‘It’s a portable device for women so they can stand up and…’
‘Yes, I get it.’ I glanced round. Two women were frowning in our direction, and I felt a surge of embarrassment, but they were just glaring at Thing Two and his flowerbed redesign. That’s all right then. I turned back to Hoxton Mum.
‘Where on earth did you get it?’
‘Lewes Outdoor Shop.’
‘It’s the most marvellous invention. I bought it last year for Goodwood. Frankly, the facilities there… well honestly.’
I looked at Hoxton Mum with new interest. She sat calmly, sipping coffee from her Burberry flask. In her chic outfit and spiky heels, she was the epitome of whatever a shewee woman is not. I confessed my surprise.
‘It’s hygienic and convenient. No more ruined shoes. And it’s totally empowering. Look!’ She opened her Stella McCartney jacket to reveal a t-shirt in suffragette colours of silver and purple, emblazoned with the legend, ‘Stand up and take control’. Then she said, ‘Blast. Chipped a nail.’
I put the lid on my thermos. Too much tea.
‘Are you telling me, Hoxie, that behind the majestic trees of the Grange, women - including you - have taken to micturating in an upright position?’
‘Quiet, the children can hear you.’
The situation was now less hypothetical and more pressing. I stood up, though only as a precursor to perambulation, and not as a, well, stand, against biology. ‘Can you keep an eye on Thing Two?’
I tried the Kings Head, but being only 9.30am, it was shut. I returned to the Grange. Hoxie handed me the little bag, and a disinfectant spray. I chose a suitably broad-trunked tree, and disappeared behind it.
Beth Miller, 24th March 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, March 2011