Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wouldn't it be nice

As we wandered the large airy rooms of Wilmington Priory, I drifted into a happy fantasy in which we were staying here, and not just having a nose round on their open day. At first I pretended we were on holiday, which isn’t completely unrealistic: the Landmark Trust will rent it to you in exchange for a wheelbarrow full of cash. But then I pointed out to myself that as this was a daydream, why not assume that I was the owner? With staff? If you’re gonna dream, dream big, as capitalist poster boy Donald Trump once said.
But hang on a minute, if this was my house, with its wide staircases and criss-cross window panes and crenulated what-nots, who were all these damn people wandering about? Probably friends of my housekeeper. Bit cheeky to be using my table-tennis table, eh what?
The daydream became difficult to sustain in the kitchen, where nice ladies of a certain age were serving tea and Nice biscuits to other nice ladies of a certain age. It was all a bit too nice, so we took off to the Wishing Well Tea Room up the road. I’m not entirely sure why we thought this would be more cutting-edge, but there you are. Sunday afternoons pottering round priories are wont to addle the brain a trifle. And the Tea Room did differ from the Priory demographic slightly, in that it had a nice gentleman of a certain age serving tea to the nice ladies.
As I gradually left my grand building-owning delusion and came slowly to, toasted tea-cake in one hand, cup of strong Ceylon tea in the other, it occurred to me that I recognised some of these ladies of a certain age from Lewes. One, wearing a crown of yellow candyfloss hair, exhibited the classic Lewes trait of extreme outrage at minor inconvenience. On being told that the soup came with bread, not a roll, there having been a run on rolls, she looked as though she would like to throw the nice gentleman into the cold damp cellar of Wilmington Priory and shunt a boulder over the entrance.
‘Can we afford to take a holiday in the Priory?’ I asked Man of the House.
He made a play of opening his wallet and batting away an imaginary moth. We do have a laugh.
‘Can we even afford this teacake?’ I asked.
‘No, we’ll have to do a runner.’
‘Do you think Donald Trump ever did a runner from a tearoom?’
‘You seem very sure.’
‘So did Paul Getty. Fact.’
The nice gentleman came over and I informed him that the Ceylon tea was stewed. He took it away with a smile that showed all his teeth. Then the horror hit me and I turned to Man.
‘I’m one of these ladies of a certain age!’ I cried.
‘Yes you are,’ he said, ‘but look on the bright side. At least you’re not nice.’

Beth Miller, 30th March 2011. Published in and in Viva Lewes magazine, April 2013. Photo by Alex Leith

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