Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I was so upset that I cried all the way to the chip shop

‘You know what? I was actually going to buy that. I came here in good faith, money burning a hole in my pocket, all ready to spend. But your shocking customer service has put me right off. GOOD BYE!’
Well, slam if it’s a good old-fashioned wooden-framed door, such as the pharmacy on School Hill, or Bright Ideas, not that I am implying for one minute that I would ever have cause to storm out of such outstanding emporia.
You can forget your raindrops on roses and your whiskers on kittens. For me, there’s nothing quite as pleasurable or energising than a no-holds-barred, honest-to-God, pipe-clearing argument in a shop. My favourite was in a bank-which-used-to-be-a-building-society, where they refused to issue Thing Two with a baby account because his surname was different to mine. They didn’t quite say, you need to marry the father of this bastard child, or get thee to a nunnery - because their staff-training manual said not to - but they came pretty close. I expressed amazement; I laughed; I pleaded. But they foolishly held firm. So I gently remonstrated. I forget all the details – though presumably there’s some cracking CCTV footage – but I do remember my final line was, ‘IS IT IN FACT 1950 I DON’T THINK SO!’ delivered loud enough to make the clerks’ ears bleed as they cowered behind the bullet-proof glass.
My friend Grange Girl instigated a Big Lewes Row, just before Christmas. An entry-level novice, she achieved the rare double of dragging the thing out over several visits, plus a glass-shattering slam to finish it off. It was a top class fracas. Then she threw me completely by saying, ‘But where am I going to get this job-which-I-can’t-name-for-fear-of-identifying-the-shop done now?’
‘Well, Grangey’, I said, shaking my head slowly at her naivety, ‘You can’t. Not here. You’ll have to go to Brighton.’
Lewes is a small town, and mostly there’s only one of anything. Have a rumpus in one of the many knick-knack shops and you’re laughing. But make a tiny scene in a useful shop and you will have to eternally Go To Brighton for your shoes, your photocopying, your wristwatch repairs and your fresh mackerel (these are merely examples and have been posed by models).
Grange Girl’s story has a happy ending, as she discovered that tucked away in the Needlemakers was another shop that could do what the first shop couldn’t, and cheaper.
My story is less edifying: my passage along Lewes High Street these days is regularly punctuated by having to drop to my haunches and scurry past at a crouch with my hat pulled down over my face. But who needs these businesses anyway? I put Thing Two’s money under the mattress, and given the state of the economy, he’s done rather better than expected.

Beth Miller, 20th January 2009. Published in Vivalewes.com. Photo taken by Alex Leith.

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