By Teigh-Anne Toast 

My friend Muriel recently visited me from the Antipodes. One particular day, she was a little fatigued, having spent the previous evening at Bexhill’s newest sex dungeon. “I’m bushed, T”, she told me over crumpets. “The Bexhill crowd is just so…” she hesitated. “Old?” I offered. “Energetic”, countered Muriel. Well, I thought, never underestimate the vigour of randy septuagenarians. As I, ummm, believe someone once told me. “How about a cheeky shopping trip to St Leonards?” I suggested. “We could have lunch and pick up some gewgaws afterwards. You’ll feel much better.” Muriel agreed and off we went.

When we reached Warrior Square, we popped into Hijack, a new cafe-bar-eating-complex. “Strewth! It’s pricey!” noted Muriel. “Yes,” I agreed. “It reminds us of London!” I told her that when you’re ready to pay, you simply hand over your credit card and they don’t give it back. And if you can’t find your money, they have a very helpful man out the back. He will hold you upside down by the ankles, and shake you until all the coins fall out of your pockets. “Bonzer!” said Muriel. So after we had spent our life savings on cider and chips, we headed out for some retail therapy.

First of all, we strolled up London Road and stopped at a boutique called Whatever Are You Wearing? The lovely ladies therein asked us if we needed any help. “I’m looking for something versatile,” I explained. “Something that will take me from exploring the mud flats at low tide to cock-tail hour at The Tipsy Turbot. Do you have anything in a size tent-y?” “Absolutely!” replied the proprietrix. She proffered several yards of diaphanous fabric featuring a hole in the middle for my head. Everyone thought that this garment was just right and very ‘me’! I grabbed the emergency-running-away fund stashed in my bustenhalter and paid.

Next, we enjoyed that most traditional shopping experience of St Leonards, and went looking for second-hand furniture. Letting our eyes adjust to the gloom of each emporium, we heard the scuttling of tiny creatures escaping our tread as we poked around, digging for treasures. Muriel chose a couple of knick-knacks, marked at £15 for the
pair. “Would you take £10?” she bargained. The charming owner blushed prodigiously. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly accept that,” he quivered. “£5 would be more than sufficient.” Muriel dug out a fiver from the lining of her handbag and he insisted on giving her some change.

By now, and with a hard night on the rack behind her, Muriel was flagging. I suggested a quick brightener. However, as it was a Wednesday afternoon, most establishments in the town were closed. We stumbled into The Salty Codger on Western Road. And though we noted the distinct lack of Farrow & Ball exterior paint colours, we ignored this warning on account of our raging thirst for gin. Sitting down with our drinks, we saw that the pub was holding a meat raffle. This was evidenced by numerous plates of glistening brawn, suppurating under cling film. We had scarcely gathered our wits before the red-eyed landlord was upon us. The saucy oaf enquired, “Would you like to put yer ‘and in my tombola?” “Certainly NOT!” I rebuffed, “I’m a vegetarian.” I instructed Muriel to drink up and we demolished our G&Ts, pronto. We felt very lucky indeed to get home in time for Gogglebox and a soothing pint of Baileys.

Not long afterwards, Muriel’s sojourn in East Sussex came to an end and she departed for Oz. She had a wedding
to attend, and I had further adventures to plan…

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