It’s another rainy day in Baltica – the rain’s outside, to be fair – and we’re discussing greengrocers, and how they’ve almost disappeared.
'When I were a lass,’ says Cycle Girl, ‘there were greengrocers everywhere. They had little signs stuck into the fruit which said ‘apples’ or ‘bananas’ for their slower customers.’
Born and Bred Boy says, ‘I remember before The Flood, when Bills was just a large scruffy greengrocers.’
‘The Flood starring Noah?’ asks Absent-Minded Girl, the sort of person who would benefit from those ‘apples’ signs.
‘Greengrocers used to bag up your fruit themselves,’ says Aging Lad. ‘None of this self-service malarkey.’ Lad, as his full name suggests, is getting on a bit. Probably used to date Mrs Noah back in the day.
‘The greengrocers at the top end of town still bags up your fruit,’ says Grange Girl.
‘Where?’ asks Absent-Minded Girl.
We all point up the road.
'You mean up at St. Annes,’ says Sweary Mary.
‘St Annes is just the church.’
‘No, it’s the whole blinkin’ area.’
‘I call it that bit where the butchers is,’ says Cycle Girl.
‘I call it Western Road, ’ says Aging Lad.
‘But that’ll never catch on, Lad,’ I say. ‘Because there’s a school called Western Road that isn’t in Western Road. So if you say you’re going to Western Road, no-one knows if you mean the school or the top end of town.’
‘To be honest, no-one cares where you’re going,’ says Aging Lad.
I hit him with one of Baltica’s fine painted teapots.
‘Born and Bred Boy should decide,’ says Grangey magnanimously. ‘After all, he does live up there.’
‘Top end of town,’ he says.
We huddle round a piece of paper to draw the boundaries. A small fight breaks out over whether it should begin at the Shelleys or Lewes Grammar, but after some rough work with the teapot we compromise on the bottleneck. It’s clearer where it finishes: at Morris Road Garage (which isn’t in Morris Road).
‘Not at the prison?’
‘The prison is in the next area along.’
‘Which is called?’
‘That bit with Baron’s Down Road in.’
‘That’s not a very slick name.’
‘You know what’s interesting about the top end of town?’ asks Grange Girl. ‘It’s small, but has everything a person needs. Pubs, churches, school. A greengrocers, chemists, butchers, takeaway, sandwich shop and an undertakers.’
‘And a paint-your-own-pottery place.’
‘Oh yes, that too.’
‘I’ve often thought I’d be fine if Lewes flooded again, but you know, much worse,’ says Born and Bred Boy. ‘I’d grab supplies from the shops and climb to the top of the Council tower. They’ve probably got water coolers, so I’d survive for weeks.’
We all think about that.
‘I wonder how I’d go if the Grange Road area flooded,’ says Cycle Girl.
‘That’s part of blimmin’ Southover,’ says Mary.
‘It’s clearly in Winterbourne,’ says Grange Girl.
‘You’d be stuffed, whatever you call it,’ says Born and Bred Boy happily, pouring another cup of tea.
Beth Miller, 16th Feb 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com and in Viva Lewes magazine, April 2011. Photo by Alex Leith