I was barely paying attention, as is my wont when Aging Lad starts banging on about some boysy thing such as QPR’s chances or the comeliness of the Dagenham Girl Pipers. I was playing Wordable on my phone under the table the whole time he droned on about cars, till he snagged my attention by mentioning a road near where I live.
‘Bell Lane’s brilliant. Nee-yow! Nee-yow!’ He accompanied these racing car noises with such violent arm swoops that he fell briefly off the Baltica sofa.
‘Can you go back a stage Lad? Think I missed a bit.’
‘Let’s have a live re-enactment. This salt shaker is the mini-roundabout at the Swan, ok? And this sugar-bowl is the recreation ground.’
‘It’s nothing like the rec. Where’s the slide, for starters?
‘And this jelly-tot is my Jeep Wrangler.'
‘Where’s that jelly-tot from?’
‘Off my cupcake.’
‘Only this one. So, here I am in my jelly Wrangler. I come down Southover High Street, don’t stop at the mini-roundabout cos stopping’s for losers, go screeching round the top of Bell Lane and then…’ He grabs a smartie off my biscuit and enacts a near-miss with the jelly-tot, ‘…I meet a massive Freelander coming up the middle of the road. So what do I do?’
‘You give me back my smartie?’
‘No! Without missing a beat I pull onto the pavement like I’m in Top Gear, I’m James May by the way, and thanks to my superb quick thinking the head-on is avoided and I’m at the prison traffic lights before you can say Clarkson-jeans.’
‘And what if a small child is walking along the pavement at the time?’
‘Why is it always a small child? It’s so emotive. Why can’t it be, say, a large middle-aged man who likes Pink Floyd?’
‘Lad, what if anyone was in the way when you sped along the pavement?’
‘Actually the scale’s wrong; no way is a Freelander that much bigger than my Jeep.’ He bites my smartie in two. ‘No-one was on the pavement. But in future, well I’m afraid either I take them out or I have a collision. Someone has to make a sacrifice.’
Bell Lane used to be wide enough to fit two lanes of traffic simultaneously. But it’s been cluttered with parked cars since everyone discovered it’s the Last Unregulated Parking in Lewes; and drivers and pedestrians face thrilling near-misses every day.
‘Here’s a joke I’ve just made up,’ said Lad. ‘Why is Bell Lane so called? Because it’s shaped like a bell: narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.’
‘That reminds me of another joke I’ve just made up. Why is Bell Lane so called? Because the people who use it thoughtlessly are bell-e…’
Lad interrupts. ‘You know I don’t like rude language.’
I swipe his jelly-tot and pop it into my mouth. If only the real cars were as easy to deal with.
Councillor Ruth O’Keefe will present a petition to ESCC in July to request double-yellow lines along Bell Lane. To add your name to the petition email Ruth on firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign one of the paper copies around town.
Beth Miller, 15th June 2011. Photo by Alex Leith. Published in VivaLewes.com