from Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY. Friday, August 25th

There is some big news from our masters (and mistresses) in London. The plan to ship a load of what are officially called “illegal immigrants” into our village hall has been put on hold. But there is no indication about exactly what “on hold” means, and the GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) management committee, at a hastily convened meeting in the Shepherdson’s summer house yesterday afternoon, decided that we should not let our guard down, and carry on as if the threat is still very much ‘live’. Major “Teddy” Thomas said that the first rule of combat is to not take your eye off the ball. I thought that was more for cricket, but I did not say anything. Be that as it may, the decision was unanimous because nobody wants the armbands Miss Tindle made for us to go to waste.


This news came 48 hours after our Member of Parliament showed up in the village to talk to the members of GASSE and other villagers, and explain what he might do to help us. It turns out he had been on a golfing holiday in the Caribbean as the guest of a merchant banker he knows from his days at Eton, and had kept it a secret so as not to be disturbed. One can see his logic. It was an indication of our elected member’s usefulness and how close he is to the people he represents that he got lost on the way here, and was an hour late. I had never actually seen him in the flesh before (not many of us had!) and if you can imagine a damp used tissue with legs you won’t be far off the mark. Also, of course, he does not actually have any opinions of his own, and borrows them from whoever he is trying to please at the time. The upshot of the meeting was that he went away assuring us that we could rely on him. Rely on him to be useless, said Michael Whittingham. Anyhoo, we enjoyed watching him drive off in the wrong direction. He probably ended up in Norfolk or, as we call it, The Waste Land.


It is a near certainty that he had nothing to do with the government’s rethink, if that is what it is, but of course he is claiming it as a personal triumph. Bernie Shepherdson said he had telephoned to say he had “had a word with Rishi and Suella” and fixed things. I bumped into Michael Whittingham in the village stores and he called that claim “absolute ******* bollocks”. (No expletives here!) The following day the East Anglian Daily Times finally picked up our story. Their report was on the inside page where it took up significantly less space than a piece about the closure of a haberdashers in Ipswich that has been there for more than 50 years but trade is now almost non-existent and 69 year old owner Betty Higgins is selling up and going to live with her son and his family in Hemel Hempstead. Bernie Shepherdson is very upset because the paper called him Mr. Shepherd. Apparently he has asked them to print a correction, which I think is quite optimistic.


As the end of August approaches we are getting a lot of runner beans. We always have a glut of them, and this year looks like being no exception. Every year my wife and I spend what seems like hours blanching the pesky things. I quite like them, but I am not sure they are worth all that palaver. However, my wife says we cannot give all our surplus produce away because people will start to take us for granted. The greenhouse is also now beginning to yield lots of tomatoes, and I think most of those will get frozen too. The freezer in our kitchen is not big enough, but we have an old one in the garage which we kept on purpose for all the things we grow too much of. We had a look in it today to see how much room there was, and there are still some of last year’s runner beans in there, and something we have no idea what it is and will not find out until we pluck up the courage to defrost it.



James Henderson





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