Every now and then I get fed up with my house. It is charming and quirky, but it's very small and my dreams of having a workshop, keeping chickens and growing vegetables are impossible to fulfill here, so I find myself scanning the property pages for the perfect home. I need lebensraum.
But, as Phil and Kirsty reminded me on last Thursday's episode of Location, Location, Location, unless you're in possession of a small fortune, you face a stark choice between having a nice house in a horrible town or vice versa. Days like today convince me that we made the right decision. This is the view is we walked into town:
We were on our way to an "eco fair", which wasn't full of earnest people with beards and had some really interesting stalls about community projects and energy saving initiatives. I came away with a free low energy light bulb and a water-saving device for the cistern of our loo. I installed the water-saving bag as soon as I got home, but rather ruined things later by accidentally leaving the garden hose on for an hour.
Events like the eco fair are typical of Lewes. The people here seem more concerned with the quality of life rather than the standard of living. In recent years, two large areas of land have become available for purchase and I've no doubt that in many towns, they would have been sold to developers. But not in Lewes.
The first place - 25 acres of disused railway land - has been turned into a stunning nature reserve with marshes and woodland. The second - a large field - was earmarked by the county council as a car park for their staff, but local residents clubbed together and bought the land, making it available for everyone's use.
Why is Lewes the exception rather than the norm? The history of architecture in postwar Britain makes depressing reading and I was interested to see this article in yesterday's Guardian Review about the critic Ian Nairn, who raged against the growth of "subtopia" (one good thing about the recession, according last Monday's Start the Week, is that there will be fewer building projects).
After the eco-fair, we walked down to a district called Southover, to visit a "Medieval Fayre". I normally avoid anything where fair is written as fayre but this was very good and, to my great surprise, I discovered that I had a hiddent talent for archery:
Admittedly, the woman in blue was a very good teacher, but I wasn't expecting to hit the target, let alone get a bullseye. At last, a sport that I'm good at! As soon as I got home, I seached on the internet for local archery clubs and found one in Brighton at a place called St Dunstan's, which I later discovered is for blind people. I had no idea that blind people could do archery. How does that work?
When I got home, I picked up the local paper and had another look at the property pages. We could sell our house and buy something twice the size in the town where I work, but what would be the point if, the moment I opened the front door, my heart sank? In Lewes, I'm surrounded by beautiful countryside and many people who share the same values. Why would I want to leave?