from Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY

Thursday, February 15th

With my wife in York at her parents’, helping out in the wake of her mother breaking an ankle (allegedly: for all I know it might be a ruse for her to spend a few weeks away. I don’t care.) I am just getting used to having the run of not just the place but also of my day. If I choose, I can stay in my pyjamas until bedtime if I’m not going out anywhere, and I am not shaving: I have never had a beard- I have never been close to being “hirsute” – so I am going to experiment while there is nobody to nag me about how I have forgotten to shave or how scruffy I look. I shall be interested to see how it turns out. After two or three days I am already beginning to look tougher than usual, and Kristina, behind the bar at The Wheatsheaf, has already said she thinks the rugged look (her words) suits me.

I bumped into Miss Tindle outside the village shop this morning, and we had quite a long chat about the Parish Council and village affairs, especially whether or not there really is a threat of the government trying to send us a lot of illegal foreigners to live in the village hall once it is back up and running. Frankly, we do not know, but as she said, we should not put it past them because they are very daft and without decency. She said that, in her opinion, recent meetings of GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) – the group we have set up to counter and resist the government’s plans – have been very depressing, and more about personalities than any kind of useful strategic planning or decision making. There is more to Miss Tindle than meets the eye, and I think she is wasted on just making armbands and helping with the tea and biscuits. I told her that John Garnham had been pushing me to stand for Parish Clerk at the elections in the Spring – or had been until our minor disagreements over last week’s shambles with The Ipswich Players and the hall – and she said she thought I would be excellent at the job, which has made me think again about standing. I was really not interested, but perhaps I could do it. Miss Tindle could be my deputy. Or maybe my stubble is just making me feel like Clint Eastwood. I think I do look a bit like him in a certain light, and from a distance.

Friday, February 16th

John Garnham telephoned and was somewhat beside himself – I think “apoplectic” might be the word –  on account of The Ipswich Players have sent him a formal written claim for £500 compensation for the late cancellation of their “Waiting for Godot”. I have to admit I laughed. I am no theatre or literary critic, but I am pretty sure the play only has 4 or 5 characters, requires next to no scenery, and The Ipswich Players are not exactly professionals. I looked them up on Google and their “leader”, it turns out, is also their “founder”, who established the company in 2015 “after a long and distinguished career in the insurance industry”. So he is definitely not Kenneth Branagh. I told John to reply to them by laughing in their faces, although I am not at all sure that the writing ­­­of mocking laughter is the kind of thing he has in his skill set. As far as I recall, John used also to work in insurance, which explains a good deal, come to think of it.

He also told me that the GASSE meeting with the village youth, to allow them to air their views and, I suppose, to take the moral high ground and prattle on about human rights before we ignore them and plough ahead anyway, is now scheduled for next Friday evening in the old cricket clubhouse. There are apparently loads of chairs in there, which will be needed because the youth are likely to once again send a large posse (that is, I think, the term they use)  so they are not outnumbered. That we may freeze to death because all there is in there is an old Calor gas heater seems not to be of any concern.

Sunday, February 18th

After lunch at The Wheatsheaf (they do a v. good Sunday roast, but my wife says it is a waste of money to go out for a Sunday dinner, so we never do, but today I did) I was at a bit of a loose end, so thought I might Google to see exactly what a Parish Clerk does, in case I decide to be one. I have a vague idea of what John Garnham does, which includes that people send him little problems and he pretends to try to do something about them, plus he has also been the village Father Christmas dishing out gifts to the children each year, but I thought there must be an official description of the job somewhere. I discovered that a Parish Clerk is a bit like a Chief Executive in a County or District Council albeit on a smaller scale, which still sounds pretty important, and that he (or, I suppose, she) is the ‘engine’ of a Parish Council. I can be an engine! It also said that Parish Clerks usually have a lot of common sense, the confidence to handle administrative work, and are good organisers, are IT literate and able to get on with most people. That is me “to a T”, as they say. I also stumbled over a website with all there is to know about Parish Council elections and how they work and all the legal technicalities and what-not, but it looked really boring and I shall have to have a look at it properly another day. Then I discovered that “Fiddler on the Roof” was on the television so that was my afternoon sorted.

Monday, February 19th

Bob Merchant’s crew were back working in the village hall today, and the word is that they expect to be finished with the repairs and refurbishment probably some time next week. Then we will just have to wait for the County Council to send their inspector in to give it the all-clear for health and safety and public consumption.

My wife telephoned this evening to see if I am alright. I told her I am alright. She said she thinks she may have to stay with her parents for at least a month, or perhaps more, because it seems that not only did her mother break an ankle but her accident brought on some problems with a hip and her general mobility. I managed to sound suitably concerned, sent everyone involved my best wishes, opened a fresh bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and settled down to watch Dana Andrews in “Curse of the Demon”.



James Henderson





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