Friday, March 6, 2009

Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy

Ooh ladies, isn’t it beastly when you open your purse and find that the house-keeping will barely cover a large sirloin for the Man of the House and a stale crust for you and the kiddies?

That was almost exactly my situation last weekend, except for the 1940s setting, and the fact that actually my purse was full: of crackling green local tender. This was the inevitable result of all those times I’d felt obliged to say yes to a Lewes Pound in my change; saying no gets you into a lengthy explanation which is bound to make you miss the bus.

I bumped into Grange Girl en route to Tescos to see if they accepted the Pound, but she whacked me with a rolled-up Guardian and told me it was my chance to Shop Local. I protested that Tescos was jolly near, but she hit me again.

‘Here’s a challenge, you apolitical ostrich’, she flattered. ‘Can a family survive a weekend only on items bought with the Lewes Pound?’

‘I don’t know, can they?’ I said, not realising it was an order. She turned me firmly towards Cliffe High Street.

‘Keep calm’, she said, giving me a shove that rattled my teeth, ‘and carry on.’

I’m scared of Grangey so I dutifully edged crab-like down the Cliffe, the roadworks having expanded like a hefty Yank about to win an eating competition. Many windows displayed a friendly ‘We accept the Pound’ sign. I popped into Landsown Health Shop and although they did have lots of nice-looking food, something about my mission turned me into Felicity Kendal, except without the pert bottom, and I bought a bag of spelt flour. They happily took my Pounds and gave me change in real money.

Emboldened, I visited May’s, Ben’s Butchers, Harveys and Bills. Then, laden with hessian bags, I staggered into the Lewes Arms, thinking I could cobble together the price of a gin with my change. But lo! They take Pounds here too. Marvellous. I used nearly all my wedge, and much later weaved into Catlins to spend the rest. Well, someone’s got to buy our way out of this recession.

The Man of the House’s upper lip stiffened as I emptied out the bags. He smoothed on more Brylcreem and asked what we were meant to do with a hatching alien and a pair of pink lurex gloves. I explained that despite all the food in May’s, I’d got distracted by the fascinating section at the back. He harrumphed.

‘I got some fruit in Bills’, I said, ‘Two Rambutans for a tenner.’

He went pale. ‘What are they made of, gold?’

I sat him down before revealing that the rest of my purchases were wine from Harveys and Revels from Catlins.

‘Did you’, he said, trying to control his emotions, ‘actually buy anything proper to eat?’

‘Of course’, I slurred, proudly waving the sirloin I’d got at Ben’s. Forgetting, of course, that my dear Man is a vegetarian.

That’, he said grumpily, as he fried some spelt flour pancakes, ‘is the last time I let you do the shopping’.

And that, ladies, is what we call a result.

Beth Miller, 3rd March 2009. Published in


  1. Dear Beth
    I think you must have been distracted when we met by the-supermarket-who-must-not-be-named the other day I didn't say survive a week on local shopping, I said 40 days. This of course is in order to follow the admirable example set for us by the lovely Pippa Archer.
    By the way I have you to thank for an acrimonious divorce, so not sure you deserve any further comments.
    Yours Grangey

  2. Dear Grangey
    I'm still so sorry for any part I unwittingly played in your appalling divorce proceedings. Is there really no hope of reconciliation?
    On a lighter note, when does the cafe in the Grange open this year?
    Yours, Co-Respondent

  3. Have sent my spies out to find out when the cafe is open. From my extensive experience I find that the cafe usually opens two weeks after there has been fantastic garden weather and one day into the change into appalling rain (and possibly snow as in last year). Given this criteria I would say anytime soon.
    Your fan

  4. Well what I was trying to say is that in spring time the cafe isn't open when the sun is shining and then seems to open when the weather turns bad and under these criteria it should be open this weekend. But actually it probably is opening first weekend of the Easter holidays. See you there - barefooted toddlers in tow. I will be the one reading a copy of green parenting...

  5. Those of us avidly following this column from afar certainly sympathise with Beth over Grange Girl's puritan tendencies. I've just been ticked off for sending her a 20 year old photo of me smoking. More to the point, when are we going to here more about her mystery (now ex-)husband?

  6. Hey there Bucksboy, good to hear from you. Glad to hear you quit smoking, even if so very long ago.

    Grangey certainly does have her stricter side, though I believe that's something men find rather attractive.

    There's more - much more - to say about her ex. Perhaps there's in fact as much as a column's worth to say.

    Hmmm. I feel inspiration about to strike.

  7. I don't know where people get the idea of my strictness and puritan tendencies, after all I have been known to take mulberries off the tree from the wrong side of the fence in Grange Gardens - but I kind of feel I have a right somehow.

    Those of you who have followed my vigil closely in awaiting the opening of GG will notice that my aforementioned comment was entirely correct - i.e. the gardens opened in the rain. I was the one sitting on the steps below the magnolia eating a sandwich in the rain.

    Keep up the good work Beth - I am a big fan of your writing (and not just because of my odd appearance).