Archives for posts with tag: Lewes

Sun slotting in through venetian blinds: I get up and shower. Aching from a day’s humping of gravel bags, digging, planting, easing Arthur into his hole (see previous post), we’re going to spend this last golden day cycling. At the station we can just get the three bikes between standing passengers in a 2-car train: the woman in a wheelchair could squeeze between us to the toilet, if it was working.

It’s a relief to burst out at Polegate, and finally we find the Cuckoo Trail: an 11-mile cycle and walking path that once was the Polegate to Eridge railway line, torn up in 1968. It’s a lovely ride between the big oaks, still with their leaves on. And it’s not strenuous, I’m glad to find! We come to junctions with other paths and roads, gateways that are really unusual: bullet-nosed bollards with a simple cast iron shape on top, or a big serrated steel arch, imaginatively-wrought – it’s a sculpture path as well. It’s a beautiful day, warm too: we eat our Co-op sandwiches sitting on a bank, looking at the gradated layers of landscape stretching back towards Firle Beacon.

We’re aiming for the 4.02 back to Lewes, but we’re a bit tired now and miss it, so have a pint of Old in the pub (also tired). Cycling the 100 yards to the station, we’re separated by the crossing barriers rattling down between us: I wait obediently till I realise that it’s our train. Pedal furiously towards the footbridge, hoist my bike onto my shoulder, and leap up the steps into the crowd coming down. At which point my perfect day becomes, well, less-than. My ankle turns over and I go sprawling across the steps, bike clattering, and the crowd parts around me, avoiding eye-contact. Battered and wincing, I lurch across the bridge dragging the Ridgeback, but it’s too late – our train pulls out. I curse that pub’s dreary embrace. Apart from that, though…

Sweeping up in All Saints. Again. I’ve done this many times – after gigs, mostly, but these days, it’s after the Lewes Junior Film Club events. At 7.30 on a Sunday morning I really do not want to get up: I arrive at the arts centre feeling grumpy and sluggish, and sticking things up rather slowly. Then you realize we’ve got an hour to get the crepe decorations up, the A-board sorted, the banner ‘Third Spectacular Season: SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN’, hung from the lamp-arch outside (takes much longer than you think), the ‘red carpet’ stuck down on the path…

The audience starts arriving early  – we’re still gaffer-taping the red carpet down – and Midge has rigged up a hose to shower them as they come through the gate. They don’t like to walk on the carpet, even though it’s for them – and they walk round it respectfully, as Jeremy and Ellie greet “Meryl Streep!”, “Welcome, Robert De Niro!”, and  “Oh, here’s little Tatum O’Neal!” over the PA, and we clap and whistle. Then the young dancers burst through the gate to the punch of ‘Good Morning! Good Mor-ning!’ and perform their choreographed piece up and down the path, and inside, in a mini-Busby-Berkeley routine – with chairs.

I used to find this film really cheesy, corny, embarrassing, dominated as it is by Gene Kelly’s crinkly big grin. Now it’s definitely in my top ten. It’s joyful, vibrant, dynamic, corny, sentimental, cheesy – and wonderful. It has the biggest audience so far at LJFC events – and the kids love it. I, of course, wipe away a silly tear as it ends. And start sweeping up.

‘With Shimano EZFire controls shifting gear is quick and accurate’ says my brochure. And it is until I shift my new bike’s chain quickly and accurately off the cog. Rear Derailleur Shimano TX55 Chainset  Shimano FC-M171 48/38/28 Bottom Bracket Cartridge Chain UG51 – I don’t know what this signifies either. The reality, though, is changing down on St Pancras Road, determined to get up that steep bend. And – ka-chang – off.

I’m out at 6.30 on Wednesday morning for my first ride and, for a non-cyclist, this is the feeling I wanted: rush of cool breeze, spinning along wooded lanes, quiet fields, pink sky behind Firle Beacon. I’m singing at the rabbits scattering before my tyres – ‘RubyRubyRubybaby’ and imagining I’m in a Frank Patterson drawing – an Oxford-bagged fellow with pipe-stem jutting from manly jaw. One of his chaps, foot on a five-barred gate, surveying the peaceful 1920’s landscape under towering cumulo-nimbus, exquisitely-inked, his cycle propped against a densely-cross-hatched elm trunk.

A Gresham Flyer when I was five, a second-hand Hercules at 11, a used Raleigh Wayfarer at thirty, a mountain bike (the latest thing!) when I moved to Lewes twenty years ago (promptly nicked): bikes – I’ve had a few (but then again etc); now I’m going places. Just get this – ugh, greasy – chain back on, and then…

Friday evening is so much more exciting than Saturday evening, because it’s the edge between work and play.

Gill calls: she and Carmen are getting off the train at Glynde – do I want to join them in the Trevor Arms? It’s a lovely evening, and I set off up Chapel Street (the hardest part of the walk for the computer-bowed). I gasp up to the Golf Club and onto the overgrown knoll to look over the town, back-lit by the sun, and then left along the path. It’s a golden evening, and I’m alone with the sheep, bleating piteously (the sheep, that is), and I descend down and across, past the dew pond towards Oxteddle Bottom.

Then through Caburn Bottom, and up the steep path onto the ridge that leads to the summit on the right. The paragliders hang like surprised eyes, and slide behind the edge of the hill fort. As I get to the ridge’s brow, the sun behind me makes me a hundred-foot shadow, and the fields to my right are salmon-pink. Then singing, shirt flapping, I’m clumping downhill towards Glynde, thinking of drinks in the Trevor Arms, and of this perfect Friday evening.

Monday evenings are jazz nights at the Snowdrop.

It’s a bit of a secret gem despite my best poster efforts. Terry Seabrook, the excellent jazz pianist, hosts it, with guest musicians each week. They’re top jazzers: tonight it’s Mark Bassey, trombone maestro, with Tristan Banks on drums. Terry’s on organ, his left hand a walking bassline. They swing hard from the start, punching out the tune of Cherokee, then chasing each other’s solos over the form. It’s riveting: a powerhouse trio, three top musicians, playing the Great American Songbook.

A young boy and his grandmother, absorbed, are at the next table, and a young woman on her partner’s lap cradles her pregnant belly. Mr Thompson joins us, quietly: John’s recording the gig on his Tascam and filming with his other hand. The one not holding his Harvey’s. Paul, Lewes’s famous IDM, comes in, attracted by the live sound; he dumps his gear and swings into his moves. And he’s a good dancer: it’s great to see jazz being danced to. He comes into his own on the band’s funky The Chicken, and the young couple smooch to Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.

The Snowdrop would be my local, if it wasn’t at the opposite end of town. But I don’t mind walking so far to see music of this quality. You jazzin’?