The first daffs push their way through the chalky soil, the signal for Uncle Adultery to embark once again on an annual reconciliation with Emmanuelle. Even I am weary of this ritual by now, so lord knows how they feel. Here they are now, stepping off the London train to share the joy of their re-kindled romance, enveloping me in clouds of Gucci scent (her) and Versace Homme (him). “Ah, lovely Lewes,” gushes my uncle, tipping his panama hat at the unsmiling ticket inspector.
Emmanuelle dumps her Vuitton weekend bag in my arms and totters off sulkily on her six-inch heels. She’s never felt at home here, which is fine by me, because Uncle Adultery loves it too much; last year he nearly bought a pied-à-terre on South Street. Emmanuelle’s distaste for all things Lewes – she calls it ‘Beige Town’– is all that stands between my uncle keeping a respectable distance in South Ken and him living up the road and driving me to commit avunculicide (that’s the correct term, fact fans). So as we walk up the hill I carefully direct Emmanuelle’s attention to shop window displays I know she’ll hate, things which you or I might call tasteful understated elegance. Her sneer grows until it is larger than the chihuahua she carries in her handbag.
When I meet them that evening in the Pelham House bar they are sipping Hemingway daiquiris and Emmanuelle IS SMILING. I didn’t know she could do that. I put it down to cocktail supremo Sam’s skills with the old silver shaker but when I’ve ordered a Dark and Stormy, Uncle Adultery leans forward and says, ‘Marvellous news, Niecey!’
Oh god. Luckily my cocktail arrives extremely quickly for the purposes of a smooth narrative and I glug half straight off, then put on my big go-on-tell-me-your-news smile.
“Let Emmanuelle tell you,” beams my uncle and for one gasping moment I think, hell’s teeth, could she be pregnant? I try and remember how old that Italian lady was, or even other mature mums closer to home, but surely Emmanuelle is… hang on, she’s speaking and it’s about shops not babies.
“For ze first time I feel welcome in zis crazy beige town,” she coos, and kisses me on both cheeks. I can barely take in her words, but it seems she has been captivated by new clothes emporium, Mimi, and its un-Lewes-like stock of rock-chick chic. “I bought zo many beautiful zings!” Emmanuelle continues in her implausible accent, showing off her new outfit: skin-tight pink leopardskin dress teamed with a diamante-studded leather waistcoat. “And next door to Mimi is zis darlink nailbar…” she spreads out her fingers: pink leopardskin nails to match the dress.
“But that’s not the best bit,” says Uncle A, and something in his smile makes my blood freeze, “My dear fiancée is now willing to consider a move which would make me very happy.” And they toast each other with their daiquiris: “To Lewes!”
Beth Miller, 1st March 2012. Published in VivaLewes.com. Photo by Alex Leith