“Do you live lately” she asks.
“Huh? Where’s that?” I reply.
“Do you live around here? I seen you around a couple a times.”
The barmaid gives me a pint of Brooklyn, a red ale imported from New York, having let me taste the Akima Red and is making small talk.
“Oh, ok, yeah. I’m staying in Westmeston. Just visiting awhile.”
I go back to my corner table with a bemused smile to continue reading the fascinating stories of “Lady Missionaries in Foreign Lands” by Mrs. E.R Pitman. Written in 1886 and published sometime in the early 1900’s its an extraordinary find at the local pub, The Bull which has been a pub since the 16th century by the way. Did I mention that before? I still can’t get over it. I’m becoming a local at the local. Soon they’ll start calling me by name. Must remember to go with my business card next time and pin it on the ‘Friends of The Bull’ board. ‘Lesley was here.’
They have an amazing collection of old edition books. Leafing through the books I’m transported to my childhood in my village in Imo state. The books I used to read in my uncle’s library were the same age and written in the same style. I also come across “The Races of Mankind” written by Robert Brown in 1873. Admittedly a very racist book but instructive of the opinions held in the days of British imperialism. Then again so is Pitman’s book but of course they probably didn’t think so. Great material for my research into 19th century Nigerian life.
While enjoying a coffee earlier (I was there at 11am, opening time, to enjoy the books) I was surprised from my reading to hear a old country gentleman say he had lived in Nigeria! I mean! I quickly introduced myself saying, with some inordinate pride I will admit, to being from Nigeria myself. He introduced himself as Richard. Every time I been in the local pub in Ditchling (population 1,802) I have met someone that has some sort of connection to Nigeria!
First time it was the vicar’s wife, Sally, who lived there with her photographer father in the 60’s as a child, then there was Duncan a cute and dutiful golf professional from Hove visiting his mother that been to Nigeria as a British Airways crew and now Richard! Nigeria is a great country! I can’t imagine anyone will talk about ‘Arewa’ or ‘Oduduwas’ in quite the same way. ‘Biafra’ is memorable only for the terrible suffering of its children during the civil war.
Richard was in Nigeria in the 50’s first as a soldier and then as a worker with the British Bank for West Africa. Of course I chat with him awhile. He had been stationed in Zaria, Gissau, Jos, Kaduna and Lagos and used to fly money to branches all across the country, he even knew Owerri! He had a twinkle in his eye when he told me he had been a bachelor in those days and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Oh ho ho and hubba hubba hubba, the local girls must have given him something to smile about in his old age! Sweet.
Walking home at sunset on century old bridle paths I’m overcome by the beauty of life in this quaint little English village and so grateful to be able to enjoy it for a while. Air planes draw wispy tails in the sky to remind me this is still the 21st century. The only jarring emotion I experience is a pang of envy when a couple of women ride past me … on horses. I mean. I seem more than a few Porsche’s too but its the horses that tickle my green monster. Can you beat that? I think I must invest in those riding lessons after all.
I think I may be getting my mojo back, which is what this trip is all about anyway.
Life is beautiful!