Along a country road that can only be England with woodland that arches over and shades of green never to be found on a painter’s palette, you come upon the town of Lewes. There’s a lady walking up the street wearing plaid pyjama-like pants, Doc Martins, a colourful top with orange and purple key hangers around her neck and a jaunty looking purple hat. My friend assures me,
“This is Lewes. You think England’s full of eccentrics and then you come to Lewes.”
This is a town, not a village, and it pretty much has everything you can possibly want or need. The ancient bookshop, the food market where you can buy a healthy, salady wrap or a pork pie or something in between, the Needlemakers – a conglomeration of quaint shops and a café that serves a homemade muffin with all the crunch and softness you’d like to sink your teeth into and then of course the usual chains. The Harvey’s brewery nestles next to the River Ouse and the beer produced is way up there amongst the favourites in this area and beyond. We go into an antiquarian bookshop and its owner is as dusty as the books it contains. A gentleman walks in with 3 thick, hard copies.
“I was wondering whether you’d be interested in these first editions of The Art of the Antarctica?”
“First editions you say?”
“Yes they are. Complete works.”
“Hmmm, I would be but that binding on this one looks dodgy.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Hmmm, I could offer you £100 for all three.”
“I was hoping for £120”
“But it’s the binding you see.”
“Well, alright then.”
Shuffling around for a pen and a chequebook, yes, they still use chequebooks, he writes out the cheque, and there’s a kindly and terribly polite closing of the deal and parting.
Now I get it! My friends in their supremely British way really belong in this place, it’s the dinner party in Lewes where no one will care whether you live in a two-up-two-down and where the conversation will not be about your latest acquisition but rather touch on the subjects of the last gig you attended, where the laughter will ring in your ears and the histrionics will take their place in your memory.
“This is Lewes.” Or at least it’s how I imagine it to be.