It was Meriel's birthday on Thursday, so a group of us met today in Rye to celebrate. Rye is an awfully long way away. Ironically, despite being only 30 miles from Lewes where Meriel lives, it takes almost the same amount of time to get there from Lewes as it does from London... If London behaves of course, which it didn't today. On our way down we got stuck in some inexplicable traffic jam on the Ball's Pond Road, which essentially made us an hour late. The journey down was somewhat edgy, not just because Nathan and I hate being late, but because an email arrived about Brass which slightly hurt my feelings. One of the issues about being the writer of anything is that you tend to get a little over-looked. The next time you're out and about in London and you see a show poster, see how often the name of the writer is displayed. Not very, is the answer. At the UK Theatre Awards Brass was billed as "performed by the NYMT, directed by Sara Kestelman." Even the award for best playwright was announced by the name of the show rather than by its writer! It is, of course, part of the writer's duties to put up with this. Nathan reminded me yesterday that being in the limelight is what turns a level-headed individual into a crazy person who craves more and more attention, and I guess there's a massive element of truth in that.
Anyway, once we'd arrived at the harbour at Rye, eaten something, and my godson Will had come bounding over to say hello with a huge pleased-to-see-me smile on his face, the panicking began to subside.
A picnic on a pebble beach in October oughtn't to have worked, but I actually sat for much of the day in just a T-shirt, despite having brought scarves and hats and things.
We had drinks in a little pub overlooking the harbour where the locals ignore the smoking ban in the back half of the bar. The landlord obviously didn't like the cut of my jacket, because he kept me waiting to be served as long as he could, and then charged me a whopping £7.80 for two pints of lemonade! A couple of pints of beer would have been cheaper... In Soho! Plainly he saw me coming. I did the terrible English thing of paying without questioning anything and then whinged for hours afterwards!
We went into the town of Rye which is a mile or so in land from the harbour. It's a beautiful and ancient town, which winds up and down a hill. A curious observation we made about the shopping street was that there seemed to be a lot of shops hanging out in pairs. There were two old-fashioned sweet shops, two shops which sold natural remedies and vitamins right next to one another, and even more curiously, two pharmacists literally sharing a wall. I went in to buy Gaviscon and asked the woman behind the counter how it worked to have two shops selling the same stock next to each other. "It's brilliant" she said, "we share medicines when we run out of stock, and often, if we don't sell it, they do..." Whatever floats your boat, I guess.
Anyway, we bought sweets, ate chips and then went back to Meriel's house in Lewes. The last part of the trip was a bit of a disaster in terms of timings. Nathan, who is off to Belgium in the morning, had booked a hotel for himself in Folkstone (further East than Rye) and yet the journey to Lewes took us over an hour in the opposite direction. There was no way around it, however, as there weren't enough spaces in cars to get me back there any other way.
So essentially we had a quick cup of tea and a gander at Meriel's new house before I had to take a train back to London and Nathan had to drive for a couple of hours past Rye again and back to Folkstone. Frankly, it would have been quicker and cheaper for us both to drive back to London and for Nathan to head to Folkstone first thing in the morning!
Still, it was worth going to Lewes to eat the delicious and highly camp cake which Meriel had saved from the jaws of disaster with some hastily improvised decorating skills! A great day all round.