What a strange League of Gentleman place Lewes seems when you read about it in the papers. All right, there’s no need for that. A town awash with burning crosses and people looking at you sideways if you run out of Lewes Pounds: it don’t seem like the Lewes I know. But when I pondered how else to sum up the place in a sound-bitey way, all was blank. So I undertook a small survey of what residents consider to be the very essence of Lewes.
‘Easy’, said Cycle Girl. ‘Only this week I went to a disused foundry to look at some chairs. Not Chippendale or anything. Just ordinary stacking chairs. One of them’, she went on, ‘had brown clay splodged onto the seat. It looked exactly like our chair at home after Cycle Kid’s happened to the playdough. But we all admired it anyway.’
‘Quintessential Lewes?’ said DJ Mama. ‘Crossing the Bell Lane rec and meeting that woman who walks a ferret on a lead.’
‘The window of Crumbs’, grumbled Maximum Diner, ‘with “cakes” made of cloth. Sums up the whole blinking place – twee, useless and pretending to be creative.’ This was, it must be said, one of his better days.
‘Taking the Beast to the cinema to watch a Buster Keaton movie’, said Pells Boy. ‘She kept asking when the colour and sound and action were coming in, but otherwise she enjoyed it. Course she did. She’s a Lewes kid.’
‘Seeing Hoxton Mum in the window of a cafe, mouthing “I’m very busy”’, said Born and Bred Boy.
‘My essential Lewes’, said Honesty Girl, ‘is watching the Rooks lose at home.’
‘The smell of hops and Arthur Brown in Neros’, offered Viva Girl, and I was just about to ask what Arthur smelled like when Grange Girl said, ‘I had a long conversation in the parking shop today about what happens to recycled batteries.’ This was quintessentially Grange Girl for sure, but was it typically Lewes?
‘I was able to tell them about batteries in great detail, plus recycled milk bottles.’
It’s not often I feel sorry for the people in the Parking Shop. Grangey is well-informed because she reads the council’s Waste & Recycling Link avidly. That is very Lewes: the fact that everyone (except Grange Girl) dutifully recycles their Recycling Link without reading it.
‘Walking to the Friday market and buying mud-covered vegetables’, Decaf Man contributed, ‘and lugging them home in a used plastic bag with spindly handles.’ Despite only having been there five minutes, the Friday market is already very Lewes. ‘Then having to go to Waitrose by car to get a proper amount of vegetables.’
I was writing up my findings in Costa when Hoxton Mum sat next to me with a big phew and ordered an almond Americano. ‘Just a quick one’, she said, ‘I’m very busy. What? What’s so funny?’
Beth Miller, 22nd September 2010. Published in VivaLewes.com