Monday, September 24, 2012

Want some seafood, mama

We were having one of those discussions you have at work, about where to buy fish in Lewes; obviously a matter of considerable importance. Terry’s Riverside fish stall was first on the list, but then the conversation flagged slightly, because Tescos and Waitrose are all right, but they’re not exactly Billingsgate, are they? Then I said, “Well of course there’s the fish van,” and everyone cried, “What fish van?”
“Why, the Wednesday fish van, of course,” I said, “the one that goes round all the streets.”
“Not mine, it doesn’t,” said everyone, Greek-chorus style, and as their geographical spread runs from Cliffe to Nevill, I was forced to wonder why my street seems the only one blessed by the fish fairy.
The van comes every Wednesday morning – it’s done so for years. It signals its arrival by subtle use of a klaxon that used to wake my babies from their morning naps, when I had babies who had morning naps. On hearing this noise I leap into my shoes from the third stair and run outside to buy three fillets of salmon. I’m not very experimental in the matter of fish. “Three fillets of salmon, please,” I always say, queuing with Betty from up the road, the only other person I’ve ever seen at the fish van. The friendly fishmonger opens the back of the van where the fish lie fishily on ice, and chooses a fillet. “Like this?” he says, and I always say “yes.” I don’t know what either of us would do if one day I said, “No, not like that.” I’m not going to risk it. He wraps them, charges me a small amount of money, and remarks on the weather. “Hot enough for you?” he asks, or “Getting cold, isn’t it?”
I reply appropriately, take my fish parcel, and go back indoors. Man of the House doesn’t like salmon. So I really ought to buy a different fish that he does like. But then the children probably wouldn’t like it. You see the dilemma. Wednesday evenings me and the kids have roast salmon. I’m not sure what Man has. Bran flakes, probably.
I hesitated under my colleagues’ sceptical gaze. “I’ve lived in Lewes all my life,” one said, “and I’ve never heard of a fish van.” Eventually l I started to doubt myself.
Last Wednesday, the van didn’t come. Or if it did come, I missed it. Maybe I was back too late from dropping the kids, or I’d got Neil Pringle on BBC Sussex turned up too loudly to hear the klaxon. Now I’m worried that it was the Old Curiosity Shop of fish vans, and by discussing it with outsiders I’ve made it disappear for ever. I’m missing the salmon, and the weather discussion, and Betty, and everything. I hope he was just on holiday, and it’ll all be back to normal next week. I’d like to ask if he’s considered trying any other streets in Lewes.

Beth, 20th Sept . Published in and Viva Lewes magazine, November 2012

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