The house being full of estate agents particulars and over-excited uncles, I took myself off to Baltica. But before I’d managed even a sip of cordial, a rose-silk suited Uncle Adultery was lowering himself into the chair opposite me and ordering a latte. “Saw you through the window Niecey!” he exclaimed, and, closing my magazine, he placed six houses in front of me. Not the actual houses, obviously, that would be silly, but their paper representatives. I groaned quietly. I didn’t want to be unhelpful, but to be fair to me, I had spent ALL WEEKEND looking at descriptions of well-appointed kitchens and gardens with potential. I just wanted a teensy break, a chance to read about Cheryl Cole’s latest heartbreak and find out why Kerry Katona’s taking it slowly this time. But instead, once again, here I was perusing granite worktops, dual aspects, and mainly laid to lawns (or ‘manly’ laid to lawn as one of them said confusingly, making me think wistfully of Sean Bean playing Lady Chatterley’s lover).
Ever since Emmanuelle astonishingly agreed to Uncle’s proposal to relocate to Lewes, he’d been in a house buying frenzy, trying to exchange contracts before she woke from her trance and remembered that she hated it here. Poor Uncle. Even his eyes were semi-detached with lack of sleep. But still, it was a bit much to lose my precious Heat-reading time to yet more large bay windows and picture rails. I waited until he nodded off in the middle of an anxious monologue about Grade II listings, then I dashed out. Where could I hide? As I dithered on the corner of Station Street, eyes darting about like a hunted deer’s, Grange Girl walked up and said, “What gives, Bambi?” I hurriedly explained, and she seized my arm and steered me into Fisher Street so abruptly we left Road Runner-esque scorch marks on the pavement.
“Presumably he doesn’t know about Pleasant Café,” she said, pushing open the door, “because you’ve not been here yet.” Grangey’s brilliant at guilt. I apologised for my remiss-ness and ordered tea and cake all round. Sara behind the counter said she was just taking a carrot cake out of the oven and would we prefer it with icing, or without? I crammed delicious warm cake into my face until my cheeks bulged like Chip ‘n’ Dale’s, and properly relaxed for the first time since Emmanuelle kissed me Frenchly (on both cheeks, I mean), and said Lewes was her kinda place.
Everyone who came in said ‘hello’ to the entire café, like we were in an imaginary American town in the 50s. I turned to Grangey and uttered the fateful words, “It’s charming here, so friendly and just that little bit off the beaten…” when the door pinged open and in bustled Uncle Adultery. “Hello ladies! Followed the scorch marks,” he beamed, adding, “serendipitous really, because I found another estate agents. Look!” and he tipped a hundredweight of Fox & Son’s details onto the table.Beth Miller, 22nd March 2012. Published in VivaLewes.com. Picture is a detail from a shot by Colin Bell