‘I miss Wards,’ said Cycle Girl, squinting in the unfamiliar spring sunshine. ‘Do you?’
‘No, I don’t like hospital dramas. Not even keen on Nurse Jackie really.’
‘Wards the school uniform shop.’
‘Got you. I miss it too. Thing One needs a plain white PE t-shirt, but the closest I can find is pink with “cute cuter cutest” on it.’
Someone tripped over my chair. Yes, we were sitting outside Bill’s, but there was no need for them to call me that. I am not even posh.
‘Blimmin’ heck,’ said Sweary Mary, crossing her legs and kicking over a crate of apples. ‘You’re not banging on again about the flipping gentrification of the high street and the concomitant lack of basic goods and services therein, are you?’
‘I don’t know, I can’t understand what you’re saying.’
‘It’s very simple,’ said Hoxton Mum, swishing papaya juice round her glass. ‘Lewes is perfect for darling little pressies. For everything else, there’s the internet.’
‘But what about people who can’t access the internet?’
‘As they obviously haven’t got the money to shop anyway, it’s hardly a problem.’
With reasoning skills of that calibre, can the role of Big Society Tsar be far from Hoxie’s grasp?
‘Mind you,’ she continued, ‘I struggled to find a mid-price frock for the party Lysander and I are hosting.’
I was about to insist she define ‘mid-price’ for the comic value, when I realised I hadn’t been invited. She warbled heedlessly on: ‘It was either cheap tat or far beyond the absurdly restrictive clothes allowance Lysander deems sufficient.’
‘We used to have Next here, you know,’ said Cycle Girl.
‘I don’t think Next would have been quite right, dear,’ said Hoxie pleasantly. ‘I called in a London favour; Oscar sent me the most gorgeous little taffeta thing.’
The rest of us telepathically exchanged the message: don’t ask who Oscar is.
‘Blokes’ clothes are even trickier,’ said Eco Dad into the silence. ‘Especially if you want fair trade. I have to cycle to Brighton to get my tighty whiteys.’
Cycle Girl mouthed at me, ‘What did he say?’
There were now so many elephants lumbering about Bill’s Pavement - the identity of Oscar, Eco Dad’s smalls, Hoxie’s resemblance to Margot Leadbetter - I decided to launch the distracting ‘shops we used to have’ conversation.
‘Who remembers Roberts Electrical?’
‘I could have done with them last week,’ said Grange Girl, ‘when I wanted a lead to connect my iPod to the stereo.’
‘How have you even heard of an iPod, Grangey?’
‘Or a stereo?’
‘I am large and contain multitudes,’ Grangey said mysteriously. ‘Currys only sell tellies, so I had to shop on the interweb thingy.’
‘Okay,’ said Cycle Girl. ‘Quick list of things we can’t buy in Lewes.’
‘Shoes for the larger-footed lady.’
‘Don’t worry,’ cried Sweary Mary, biting into a fallen apple. ‘We’ll be able to get almost all those things when the blimmin’ big Tescos comes.’
Beth Miller, 23rd March 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com. Picture by Alex Leith