Thursday, June 30, 2011

The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive

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.’

‘Any left?’

‘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, or sign one of the paper copies around town.

Beth Miller, 15th June 2011. Photo by Alex Leith. Published in

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just another victim of a trainwreck of emotion

Late Spring, and up pops Uncle Adultery for his biannual visit. At the station we get off on the wrong foot immediately as I try and wave away a brassy blonde who is inexplicably hanging round. Far from naffing off however she yanks me into a hug of such bosomy intensity that I’m instantly transported back to my childhood, a non-stop round of cleavage-clasps from my numerous interchangeable Mittel-European aunties.

Uncle A beams at me. ‘Niecey, may I present Charlene?’

Charlene calls me ‘Niecey’ too, and giggles when I try and formally shake her hand. I miss Uncle A’s previous austere lady-friend who would soon as wear cheap underwear as clasp me to her narrow chest.

‘What’s happened to Emmanuelle?’ I whisper later to Uncle A, as Charlene powders her nose in the little girl’s room. I didn’t even know I had a little girl’s room.

‘Ah, mysterious are the whims of the fairer sex,’ sighs my Uncle, flinging his panama hat across the room to indicate that mere words won’t suffice.

‘Dumped you again did she?’

‘Like a hot frittata. But am I downhearted? I am not. Met Charlene on a rival dating agency’s books. She’s such fun.’

Charlene enters, her va-va-voom ratcheted up a notch, and sits on Uncle A’s lap in so fun a style than I discreetly leave the room. I suppose this is Uncle Adultery’s mid-life crisis; he’s recently become a grandfather, which must challenge his belief that he’s in his early forties. I give them a little time – I take the opportunity to put together an IKEA rocking chair – and when I return Charlene is painting her nails leopardskin and watching GMT with George Alagiah. George is on the telly, I mean, not watching with her. My uncle is fast asleep on the sofa.

‘Niecey hon,’ says Charlene, ‘Girl to girl, I need me some cowgirl boots.’

‘Why, sure you do Missy Charlene.’

‘I hear Lewes don’t good for essentials, so lets vamoose to Brighton.’

‘No need - you can get them here!’

‘You can?’ Charlene’s mid-Western drawl veers into Wigan but she recovers quickly. ‘Well whadda we waiting for?’

I don’t see what she does to him but Uncle Adultery wakes with a squeak and we head off to the Union Music Store. A delighted Charlene buys a pair of midnight blue Daisy Cowgirl boots and strides proudly ahead, yee-ha-ing at passersby. She has obtained a lasso from somewhere.

‘So what are your fun plans for later, Uncle A?’ I ask. ‘Eagles Tribute Night at the Komedia? Curst Sons at the Volunteer?’

Uncle A grabs my arm and pulls me into Church Twitten. Charlene, oblivious, saunters away up Friars Walk, swishing her fringed hotpants. My uncle’s eyes are wild, and very tired. ‘Niecey, how about this? I buy you cocktails and dinner at Pelham House, and in return we lose Charlene for a bit?’

‘That sounds like fun,’ I say, and he shudders at the very word.

Beth Miller, 8th June 2011. Published in Photo by Daisy Martin

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vexed again, perplexed again

Aged seven, Thing One is already perfectly capable of sighing, ‘give it here,’ when something goes wrong with my smart(arse) phone. She taps a few keys and bish bosh, it’s not only mended but has a terrible new ring-tone. It’s a tired old cliché, the inability of middle-aged people to cope with modern life, but as I never mind tapping a cliché with a spoon till the shell breaks to reveal a mouldy egg, I will proceed.

Pierced Boy and I were in town when we passed East, latest inhabitant of the 197/Artisan/Si/Leonie’s premises. Noticing it was open despite the incomplete shop-fitting I chirped, ‘ooh, it’s one of those pop-in shops!’ P-Boy slapped me down with a flick of his pierced wrist, informing me that the correct phrase was ‘pop-up.’ So what if I got the preposition wrong, quoth I. I understood the principle.

But as I sat in Tizz’s waiting for Boy to find an blank space big enough for his latest tat – again, please note my familiarity with the vernacular - I realised I didn’t actually understand it at all. Surely pop-up implies a fly-by-night operation, like the mad Christmas wrapping paper shops that used to take over every store in Ilford on December 23rd, staffed by terrifying men in sheepskin coats keeping an eye out for the rozzers? East is a nice ladies’ clothes shop, which has set up in the building it’s going to occupy permanently. So why then is it a pop-up rather than a normal shop?

Pierced Boy chose the back of his knee as an appropriate site for his memorial to Elizabeth Taylor. As he settled face-down onto a bench, and a girl scarcely older than Thing One advanced with the needle, it occurred to me that I didn’t really understand tattoos either. Or piercings. Sure, I understand having one or two of each, to decorate otherwise boring parts of the body. But more than that and I am properly bewildered, adrift in a world which also contains shots instead of proper drinks, paying utility bills by standing order, vajazzling; a world where Lady Gaga is cool yet Dana International is not, where parking attendants have to be mean rather than pleasant and where young men may wear their underpants and trousers as two separate items rather than the conventional one-over-the-other formation.
Pierced Boy asked me to distract him from the pain, so I held his hand and asked what he found puzzling about modern life. ‘Nothing,’ he said, gritting his teeth. ‘I am totally twenty-first century.’

My phone rang with Thing One’s new ringtone: ‘And I’m like baby, baby, baby, oh, like baby baby baby no.’

‘Ooh Justin Bieber!’ squeaked the tattooist, looking at me respectfully. P-Boy raised an eyebrow at me, no mean feat considering the attached metalwork. ‘Maybe some aspects of contemporary life are a trifle incomprehensible,’ he conceded, adding, ‘ow,’ as the tattooist began to fill in Liz’s violet eyes.

Beth Miller, 30th May 2011. Published in and in Viva Lewes magazine, July 2011. Photo by Alex Leith.