'And here it is, the piece de résistance.’ I step back and do a rather fabulous flourish with my bat sleeves. American Rose peers at the wall.
There’s a short pause.
‘That’s it, is it?’
‘Sure is,’ I reply proudly.
We both look at it: a black and white stencil of a man’s head, repeated three or four times.
‘Yer actual Banksy, luv. Only one this side of Brighton.’
American Rose touches the painting carefully. She takes a photo with her phone, and looks at that instead of the wall.
‘Wow,’ she says eventually.
‘Saved the best till last, didn’t I?’ I’d like to get some credit for this cracking denouement to my Grand Lewes Tour. We’ve done the castle, Anne of Cleves, the Priory, the Lewes Arms, Bills and now this.
‘Ye-e-e-s,’ she says, walking slowly along Graffiti Tunnel as if a real Banksy, oops I mean another real Banksy will appear. But the walls are mostly sprayed in that large bubbly writing which you can’t read if you’re over twenty-five.
‘I was thinking it might be, I don’t know, more profound, somehow.’
‘Ah, if it’s profound you want, look no further! Banksy also wrote this.’ I show her the roughly scrawled message on the opposite wall.
‘I just want to tend the rabbits,’ reads Rose. ‘Amazing. I wonder. Does it mean he wants to be left alone with his art, away from the distractions of money and acclaim?’
American Rose was in fact born in the UK, but moved to the States for lurve twenty-something years ago. She is really a hybrid rose. There’s a twang to some of her words and she finds England small and quaint; but she retains her peaches-and-cream complexion and a slight cynicism.
‘Or,’ she continues, demonstrating this latter quality, ‘is this just a random quote from Of Mice and Men?’
‘Very well-read, is Banksy,’ I say, ‘So you could be right either way.’
We walk through the tunnel into the sunshine. I’m growing weary of my tour guide shtick but I do my best. ‘Rugby field, cricket field, football field. I think. Bunch of fields anyway, where people do, you know, energetic ball things.’ I’m starting to think fondly of cool glasses of liquid and shady gardens.
‘I don’t need to see this, do I?’ AR asks. I swiftly turn her round and back through the tunnel.
‘Fields are not on the official itinerary, no.’
‘And it’s so hot. I packed for my memories of May but carbon emissions have obviously improved the temperature since I lived here.’
She removes her fur-lined trapper hat.
‘Luckily,’ I say, as we emerge into Cockshut Road, ‘there’s a quaint ye olde hostelrie nearby where you can partake of a draft of mead such as has been drunk since Shakespeare’s time.’
‘You can drop that now,’ says AR, pushing open the door to the King’s Head. ‘I’ll have a nice cold American beer, thanks.’
Beth Miller, 11th May 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com