NIGHTLIFE: Since the demise of The Royal Oak (about 25 years ago,by most reckonings) there has been no natural, regular outlet for social inter-action in this village, although several people have tried to do their best to spark some sort of leisure activities. After the fire that finished off the pub amid rumours that it was a put-up insurance job that failed, an imaginative group of villagers formed the Royal Oak Survivors Club to present occasional social events such as Quiz Nights, Irish Nights, Culture Talks, Discos and exhibitions, most of them in the old village hall (a smart house and courtyard/garden now stands on the Royal Oak site and the residents have been there 22 years). People can remember the hard work put in by Andy Hill and his late wife Sue who also played a key role in keeping St John’s Church going before her tragic death. There was also Bill Weir, Peter Gould, Valerie Mellor (the village historian) and later Penny and Neil who threw parties and Carolyn and Den who booked comedy shows, refurbished the hall and tried to get it extended. Not all of those people are still with us and although Film Night has been running, once a month, for about seven years now (often to tiny audiences) and Vanessa and Christine put on a lovely concert for the Newhaven Food Bank in the church recently other events have become few and far-between. There are still some people who mourn the passing of Open Gardens in Piddinghoe (it was in early June usually) which was abandoned following undeserved and hurtful criticism of the brilliant organiser. There is still The Big Barbecue or Big Tea (usually late June) run by Sheila and Mel and we have had the odd musical act come and play in the Village Hall, but bad weather ruined a revival bid of the Skipping and Pancake Race in February and March. The two Davids still get together with Debbie and Mel now and then to put on a pop-up bar for a fun and charity social night but there seems the clear impression of things drifting away as far as sociability is concerned. It is perhaps harder than ever to bring people together in a small place, such are the diversities of folk through different age-groups, ambitions etc. As far as pubs are concerned, we have three lovely ones in easy reach and that’s a blessing. The Sunday lunch roast is a treat at Rodmell’s Abergavenny Arms who also have a decent steak-and-a-drink night on a Thursday. The tiny Jolly Boatman, just up the hill towards Newhaven, might not look much from outside but they have a lively jazz night once or twice a month on Thursdays where the atmosphere, with some great characters, is a slow-burner plus open mic and other theme-evenings. And a little further afield is The Flying Fish at Denton. Like the Abergavenny it has been through a few ups and downs but is now on the up again with Vicki and Sean in charge for the past two months and looking for the long haul. We are lucky to be able to call all these our ‘three locals’ because we haven’t got one of our own.
CYCLEMANIA: All power to the legs and arms of the British Heart Foundation fund-raisers but the huge gang of cyclists who careered through the village early last Sunday morning in the name of that charity were more than a little bit out of order. They came swooping in packs, more than 200 it was reckoned, round the narrow bends, frightening a few residents, and these days none of the riders seem to have warning bells attached to their machines. Possibly it is thought to be less than macho. The proposed cycle track through Egrets Way is still a delicate subject in Piddinghoe and this episode will not have done the proposers any favours. Proper cyclists are one thing but this was just an unruly mob, by and large, and there is a body of opinion the BHF, as worthy as it is, should be alerted - and advised.
HIGH CHURCH?: Not really, as last Sunday’s 8am service at St John’s, led by Rev Mary, attracted just two parishioners, one of them her husband. At least it gave the excuse to hold the homily in the smaller Ladies Chapel which since her arrival just a few months ago Mary has worked tirelessly to convert from a hidden gem to its full glory. Surely more will attend the next service on the fourth Sunday of the month (August 26).
BOOK CLUB: Next meeting is Thursday September 16 (at 7.30pm) when Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Casey will be the publication under discussion at Halyards, The Streeet, Piddinghoe. Full details of the group are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
PILATES: Tomorrow (Saturday) in the village hall with Rebecca from 8.15am.
INDOOR SPORT: All equipment supplied free for darts, table tennis etc from 7.30pm on Wednesdays in the village hall. Just turn up.
ART AND KNITTING: The brush and needle ladies meet from 2pm in the village hall for tea and biscuits and sometimes cake on Thursday afternoons.
YOGA: Tim Blair’s class starts at 6.30pm in the village hall on Thursdays.