Some days, home is like a prison.
The four walls I exist within hold me back. It could be any four walls in the house – none of them alleviate the stir crazy. Because my mum works at the school during the week, my dad dislikes going outside unless it’s to mow the lawns, and Heathfield is so isolated in the countryside with a single expensive bus and an hour-long journey to take you out of the damned place, I often find myself stuck at home. But then the weekend comes, and mum will shuffle up to me and tell me she is taking me out somewhere. The journey I took a week or so ago was to Lewes.
Lewes is a town I rarely visit; in fact, usually I’m driven around the outskirts of it to reach the tunnel that takes me to Brighton. When I last visited it, I was a little curly-haired cub who probably screamed and cried the entire way round because I wanted to go home and have a nap. Mum sold the idea of mooching around Lewes by promising to visit a few record shops in the town.
We set off with humidity thickening the air, warning us of the impending storm. When we got there, the clouds were closing in on us. After parking the car, we clambered up the first hill (one of many) to Union Music Store.
Unlike most record stores, Union specialises in certain genres I have only ever touched upon, never actively listened to – folk, country and Americana. Stepping into the shop, creaking around on old floorboards, I was transported back to my travels in the Deep South (of America) with the family, trawling around old record shops in Nashville where the light streams in through the window in such a manner that you think you are seeing the world through a sepia filter.
While I found a Frank Zappa Joe’s Garage picture disc for a relatively pleasant price, I had to tear myself out of there empty-handed because there were many other places we had yet to explore.
Lewes is a place with many winding roads. Standing on one cobbled street, staring up a hill with the houses crowding in either side, I am reminded of the Laines in Brighton. They say Lewes is the place where actors and art-folk come to retire, and this is evident through the many eccentric shops I found along the way.
Also we got lost. A lot.
The town has a lot of history, that much is true. Old adverts still adorn the sides of older buildings, the bricks crumbling away.
A castle stands on a massive hill. I would have travelled up to see it, but there was an entrance price and rain seemed to almost be upon us.
We stopped off at the local Costa for an icy drink, and watched the world pass us by in the pouring rain. At one point several businessmen walked past holding brand new briefcases; unlike most businessmen, they appeared to be smiling and having a friendly chat with one another. I guess I am just used to London’s smart-suited species with their permanent frowns and perfected tutting.
In the rare moment the clouds parted, mum and I raced up the nearest hill, and wading through the various ‘vote Remain’ posters, we came across the most spectacular view. I have seen Norwegian fjords and stared down at the Paris cityscape from the tallest building in the city, but for some reason the tops of the trees and the few buildings scattered in the valley below made me feel as if I had travelled back in time, making me feel almost peaceful and awestruck.
The sight I saw upon turning away from the view did nothing to put me back in 2016…
Just before heading home for dinner, we stopped off at Si’s Sounds, an independently run record shop which has all of the classics as well as a few obscure vinyls. Unfortunately, I was unable to escape this one empty-handed, and instead left Lewes with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ album, the poster still neatly folded up inside.
And even as I sit here, many days later, typing up this article, I find myself looking back at my time in Lewes and wondering if it was real. The town just seems so strange, so small and storybook-like. In my opinion, Lewes is the town Brightonians retire to. I already want to return to the twisty-turny town that took me away…