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Local colour

Becky B called today. She’s an honorary little sister — I’ve known her since she was 14. Definitely my friend, but somebody I particularly try to look out for; who’s had her lifetime’s allocation of crap already. Actually, it was her I went to see one morning recently to talk to about the then relationship crisis, and I think Becky was really pleased to be listening to me for probably the first time.

Anyway, tonight she called to calm her nerves because she lives in Lewes. The County Town of East Sussex appears, to the tourist, to be a pretty, castellated example of an ancient South Coast stronghold. But under the surface it is bizarre, and not always entirely salubrious. Home of the NF, a fascist organisation, and endowed with rumours about inverted crucifixes, and such-like, its crowning glory is tonight: the world famous Lewes Bonfire Night celebrations. The town, swelled with most of the population of Sussex, goes completely mad. There are at least four main, massive bonfires. Not fireworks for the kiddies, but mass hysteria. Processions of locals in almost tribal segregation, all in costume, carry large and dangerous fire torches through thick crowds, prevented from escape by incredibly unreasonable closures of roads. The heads of these columns don’t just burn Guy Fawkes, either. Politicians are common, but always present — the Pope, burnt by tradition from our less noble heritage.

Many residents, Becky included, plan to stay at home but fear for their chances of escape! Most parts of the town are filled with insanity and crowds bearing missiles and mortars, torches and exuberance. Some shops open late with a blitz-spirit style of tea-serving; others close early and set up the shutters. Traffic is impassible for several miles, parking unheard of. Trains are full to the point where people fall out — and there are massive queues at the University station en route from Brighton. In fact this year, the people of Brighton were asked not to come!

Local colour.