Thursday, August 18, 2011

We dreamers have our ways of facing rainy days

‘Ok! Starter for ten. Name six places to take the kids when it’s raining.’
‘Monkey Bizness!’
‘That’s one.’
‘Cinema. As Kevin Marwick of Uckfield Picture House says, “If it rains, they will come.”’
‘We’ve already seen Cars 2 and Horrid Henry. That’s four hours of my life I won’t get back.’
‘Swimming pool. Soft play at the swimming pool. Um.’
‘I’m going to have to hurry you.’
‘Oh god. Brighton Museum. Tescos.’
‘Sorry, was getting a bit desperate.’
We were all a bit desperate. Halfway through the school holidays, and my Weatherpro app said the percentage likelihood of rain was 110%. Clearly my phone had watched too much Apprentice.
‘Spring Barn Farm’s got some indoor bits.’
‘Baxter’s Field has big sheltery trees.’
‘Let’s face it,’ sighed Honesty Girl, taking a long drag of her hookah, ‘It’s challenge enough to find forty-two days’ worth of things to do in the sunshine. But in the rain, fuggedaboutit.’
‘Last summer we used up three blinking days in Churchill Square,’ said Sweary Mary. ‘I spent £200 in flipping Build-a-Bear.’
‘Cooking is the answer,’ said Nigella, who had recently moved to Lewes. ‘Morning – get them to bake healthy orange muffins for lunch. Afternoon, chocolate muffins for tea.’
‘Are you trying to shift a muffin-case surplus?’
‘Then let them make sandwiches for supper while you relax with a gin sling.’
‘Now you’re talking lady.’
‘Pay them two quid to clear up and that’s another rainy day sorted.’
We looked at our busty new friend with respect.
‘I find technology is terribly useful for these indoor situations,’ said Hoxton Mum. ‘We make little animated movies on Lysander’s iPad.’
Those of us for whom ‘technology’ meant letting our children play Moshi Monsters all day stared at our toes.
‘I need somewhere new,’ said Sweary Mary. ‘I’ve been every-blimming-where. You know those jackass parenting gurus who say it’s healthy for kids to be bored? I need their damn phone numbers.’
I looked round at my friends’ fraught faces, and made a decision.
‘Okay, I’m going to reveal my secret weapon.’
‘I knew there was a secret weapon,’ cried Honesty Girl happily.
‘Trading Boundaries near Sheffield Park.’
‘But that’s a furniture shop!’
‘Yes - it can certainly fulfil all your dreams of Mexican-inspired wardrobes. But it’s so much more.’ I ticked off its delights on my fingers. ‘Toy shop. Cool restaurant with Etch-a-Sketches on the tables. Veritable warren of rooms to explore. Tolerant staff. And a playground, in case it ever stops raining.’
‘Are you on commission?’
‘We’ve been there four times already these hols and the children are begging to go again.’
Honesty Girl looked out of the window. ‘Quick! It’s stopped raining.’
We scooped up our television-watching children and yanked them, protesting, to participate in improving outdoor activities. When we needed it, Trading Boundaries would still be there.

Beth Miller, 10th August 2011. Published in Photo by Alex Leith

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And there you are without a friend; you pack your car and ride away

“Excuse me,” says the Dutch tourist politely, leaning out of the window of his shiny campervan. “How do we get to the…” he consults his phone, “Lewes Arms?”
“Let me ask you something,” I reply. “How desperate are you to go there?”
“Because not only is the Snowdrop, for instance, very nice, but I can tell you how to find it. Trouble with the Lewes Arms, it’s a bit cut off by roadworks.”
“We are meant to be meeting some people there, you see?”
“There are loads of other places you can get to once you’ve made the forced left turn at the top of Station Street.” Momentarily I can only think of The White Hart.
“Our friends said they will see us at the Lewes Arms.”
“Well I honestly don’t think they can really want to meet you. They’re fobbing you off, mate. That pub is the current, though temporary, winner of the most complicated place to drive to in Britain award.”
“What is ‘fobbing off’?”
“Unless you’re willing to park and walk? Though parking’s a bit problematical. Essentially there isn’t any. It’s been suspended because of the roadworks.”
“I think I will just drive along here, thank you so much…”
I put my hands firmly on either side of his window. “Don’t go up there, crazy man. There are a shedload more roadworks along Priory Street.”
Honesty Girl strolls up. “Ooh, who are your blond friends?”
“They want to go to the Lewes Arms.”
“Nah, forget it, guys. You can’t go up Station Street at all now. Town centre’s a no-drive zone.”
“I am sorry dear ladies, our friends are waiting.”
“They say they are, but they’re not really,” says Honesty Girl. “They’re thinking, blimey what a drag having to host these Amsterdam boys, let’s invite them at the height of Roadworks Open Season. That’ll teach them not to bring any giggle weed.”
I nod in agreement and start to pick off the edge of a large purple flower transfer that’s been stuck onto the van in a sweetly honest display of hippy-ness.
“The difficulty of automobile access in your town is rather stressful,” says the driver.
“It is possible we are the ones who would benefit from some giggle weed,” says one of his passengers.
“Worthing’s very nice,” says Honesty Girl. “Well, it’s not my cup of tea but you can drive into it. Bonus.”
“This whole country can just fob off,” cries the driver. He spins the campervan round on its impressive turning circle and speeds off in a cloud of exhaust, my sweaty hand-prints still visible on the side of the vehicle.
“Phenomenal grasp of English, those people,” says Honesty Girl, and we walk into our newly pedestrianised town for a glass of something cooling at the Lewes Arms.

Disclaimer: Because the roadworks keep moving, the author cannot be held responsible for any inconvenience resulting from this column being mistaken for a guide to road closures.

Beth Miller, 3rd August 2011. Published in Picture by Xavi Buendia