Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chirpy chirpy tweet tweet

Is it commendably laid-back or annoyingly affected to be a late adopter of technology? It’s well known that, while people under ten can work any gadget instantly, most adults judder to a techno-halt around their mid-forties. Except Stephen Fry.

The sticking point for my mother’s generation was the video-recorder. I don’t even mean programming it, but rather, the entire concept of watching something that’s not on telly right now. I have older friends who have managed to move onto DVDs without realising you can pause and re-play bits in True Blood featuring Eric.

When I replaced my Mum’s stereo recently, it had to be a deleted model with a tape-deck and buttons big as side-plates. But even so it remains unused, other than as an interesting new object to dust. ‘I don’t want to break it’, was her defence. ‘If I have to listen to music, I’ve got this’. She wound the gramophone handle and I listened to Our Gracie banging on about aspidistras, while Mum caught up on some light dusting.

I fondly imagine I am up on newfangledness, but suspect I resemble those sad dads with south-facing hair who pretend to like Dizzee Rascal. Just today I had the following conversation, which shows what a modern hipster I am:

Pells Boy: ‘So I got a dondle. I don’t suppose you know what that is.’
Me: ‘Why, yes I do, fine sir. It’s a portable thing you put in the thing and then you don’t need to bother with the other thing.’
PB: Speechless with admiration.

I understand Facebook, iPhones, podcasts and blogs. Compared to Grange Girl, who persists in referring to the ‘interweb’ and thinks Blu ray is a type of fish, I am like Maggie Philbin from Tomorrow’s World.

However, and this is where I am heading, and I’m sure you’re only too pleased to be offered a signpost, even at this late stage: till now I have considered Twitter to be my video-recorder. Twitter is where I veer away from the fast-moving information highway, muttering about how pointless it is when one has email and texts and feather quills. And Viva Lewes, bless it, has been right there with me, a fellow journeyman on that dark and overgrown one-track lane to social network exclusion.

Then last week, I discovered that Viva was ‘on Twitter’. In addition to a sense of betrayal, my overwhelming emotion was irritation. Now I would have to put my glib prejudices to one side. As no-one likes to give up their glib prejudices without a fight, I essayed a last few: Who cares what I had for dinner? Who gives a fig what colour shirt John Cleese is wearing? Isn’t the name Twitter super-annoying, and aren’t the people who use it just Trying Too Hard?

Then I gave in, and got tweeting. It was easy. I keep a six year old child about the house for this kind of eventuality, and she showed me how to use it.

Beth Miller, 14th July 2010. Published in

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Oh, it's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spent it with you

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 Photo by Alex Leith

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oo-hoo, everybody’s talking ’bout the new kid in town

‘I’m really liking this hip new Lewes’, said Hoxton Mum, raising a blue and white patterned cup to her lips. ‘This Lewes 2.0’.

‘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.’

‘What parties?'

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 and in Viva Lewes magazine, August 2010.