“Do you remember when we couldn’t eat South African oranges?” Hoxton Mum asked me, as she picked over the citrus fruit in Waitrose.
“Um, vaguely. Why?”
“And remember when we had to boycott a certain company because of something to do with baby milk in Africa?”
“Um, vaguely. Why?”
“Well, I’ve got those same guilty feelings about the May festivals.”
We moved over to the organic tomatoes. I raised an enquiring eyebrow at Hoxie, which was all she needed to expound at length.
“You know I usually go to everything. But this year it’s a minefield. Do these look vine-ripened to you? For instance, Charleston. I can’t go see Mark Lawson because he’s under a cloud re. bullying.”
“He’s not appearing now, anyway.”
“Fallen on his sword, has he?” She consulted her list. “Pork sausages. And I can’t go to Richard Dawkins because the Chief Rabbi accused him of anti-semitism.”
“Doesn’t the Chief Rabbi accuse everyone of that, including some other rabbis?”
“Grayson Perry’s over-exposed, Carol Ann-Duffy is disappointingly un-radical, and Alan Bennett’s national treasure status is surely about to be rocked by a scandal of no-coming-back-from-it proportions.”
“So much for Charleston. What’s wrong with the Brighton Festival?”
“I don’t like dance.”
“What, all dance?”
“Yes. It’s just people wobbling about. I need Nigella seeds now. They’re named after Nigella, you know.”
“They’re not. But anyway, Brighton’s not all dance, is it?”
“It’s dance-heavy. And aside from that, I’ve had all the thrillingly inventive Slovenian productions of The Cherry Orchard I can handle.”
“Too whacky. Too much chaff, not enough wheat. Reminds me, I need bread flour for sourdough. I refuse to take Django to one more so-called ‘children’s theatre’ in a basement in which the only suspense is which of the under-rehearsed theatre studies students will forget their lines first.”
“We seem to have moved away from guilty feelings and political boycotts and onto more general artistic criticism.”
Hoxton Mum shrugged and put eleven jars of pesto in the trolley. “We’re currently mad for mozzarella chicken with pesto.”
“Hello? Recession? Lysander’s consultancy business is dry as the Sahara.” She consulted the list on her iPad. “Prosecco.” She sailed off to the booze section, leaving me trotting behind in her wake.
“They sometimes have cheap standing tickets.”
“I’m not standing through Der Rosenkavalier, thank you. To be honest,” she whispered, looking round to see who was nearby, “I wouldn’t sit through it, either.”
We reached the checkout. “Looks like May’s going to be a quiet month for you, then.”
“Not at all,” she said, pulling out numerous Bags for Life from her handbag, “I’m intending to shop local and give my patronage to the marvellous Battle of Lewes celebrations.”
“Re-enactments? Plays about military strategy? Won’t you feel bad celebrating the suffering of all those people who were killed or injured in the battle?”
Hoxton Mum bagged up her pesto and gave me a withering look. “That’s just silly,” she said.
Beth Miller. Published in Viva Lewes May 2014, and in vivalewes.com. Illustration by Michael Munday