A little known subsection of the unwritten British constitution concerns rules specific to Lewes. These are rarely discussed and remain largely untested. I’m only going to commit them to paper, or whatever this webby thing equivalent is made of, because last weekend I discovered there are two more than I realised. The standard rules, which we all know, are:
(1) We won’t be druv.
(2) Druv is an elusive concept, but essentially means our right to object if anyone does anything we don’t like.
(3) We have to not be druv a lot, because despite living in one of the most prosperous areas of one of the richest countries on earth, rotters are always trying to push us around with regard to our beer and whatnot.
(4) Talking of beer, Harveys is the best in the world. End of.
(5) There is no fence-sitting here. Lewes will not tolerate wishy-washy middle-grounders. You’re either Waitrose or Tescos. You’re either a Tory who votes Tory, or a Labourite who votes Liberal. You either hate DFLs, or you are a DFL. You either think the parking scheme is the greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man, or you say things like, ‘But I can always get into the Needlemakers car-park now and anyway you only get a ticket if you break the rules.’
(6) Bonfire Clause 1. If you’re not for it, you’re against it. Vaguely non-committal is not an option. Anyone who says, ‘Fireworks are pretty aren’t they? Mind you, seen one parade and you’ve seen them all,’ will be drummed out of town.
(7) Bonfire Clause 2. You are not allowed to say anything critical about Bonfire Societies. Unless you’re a member of a Society having a pop at another Society; this is an essential element of Bonfire experience.
(8) No useful shops are allowed to move in. They must all go to Uckfield.
Two weeks ago I went to the Southover Priory May fair thing and found I was falling in line with the hitherto unknown but clearly well-established rule number 9:
(9) Everyone who is within a ten mile radius must attend the May Fair.
Every woman and her husband was there. It was marvellous. I said, ‘hello,’ so many times I ran out and had to substitute the less satisfactory, ‘wotcha’ instead. Thing One was in her element, shooting plastic crossbow arrows, making plastic soldiers out of a mould, and interrogating me as to why there was so much plastic around in the Middle Ages. Thing Two was only interested in climbing teetering piles of Priory rubble, which have stood unmoving since time immemorial but began looking a bit crumbly after he’d happened to them.
Then the drumming started.
(10) There is often drumming at Lewes events. Do not ask why. You will like it. Or if you don’t, get you gone quietly, perhaps to a comfortable hostelry.
You will be pleased to hear that we rule-abiding Lewesians followed this one to the letter.
Beth Miller 18th May 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com and Viva Lewes handbook, May 2012