from Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY Friday, September 15th

Things are not going at all well. As if were not bad enough that my wife is currently absent chez nous but shacked up in Stowmarket with her Jan fellow, when there is a meeting of our village’s action group that aims to put a stop to the government’s plan of shipping in a load of illegal immigrants to make their home in our village hall – GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) – it feels like we are not doing much apart from talking. We do a lot of that, and sometimes argue (especially if Michael Whittingham has had a few beforehand in The Wheatsheaf), but positive outcomes are almost non-existent. And I have landed myself with an irksome task.

Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, I am worried that I may have bitten off more than I can chew by suggesting we should claim that the hall has RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete). Because it was my idea I was given the task of finding someone who could help us with paperwork to back up what I thought was a pretty clever ruse. I found out we need a chartered building surveyor, and not surprisingly it turns out that it is currently a very busy period for chartered building surveyors, and trying to find one who has the time for you is a bit like trying to get a dentist to take you on as a new NHS patient, except in this case you do not get offered an alternative and far more expensive option. After a few telephone calls it has become obvious that at the moment all these surveyor chappies are working round the clock and, as one rather bad-tempered lady informed me, they cannot be everywhere at once. The upshot is that the chances of my getting one of these people to dish out a fake declaration about the hall seems unlikely because arranging even just a preliminary chat has so far proved impossible. I have reported this to the GASSE management team, but I have not yet given up. It occurred to me that surely Bob Merchant, our local builder and GASSE committee member, should know someone in that line of business, but Bob is not in the best of moods at the moment, and seems to have taken criticisms about his purchase of expensive security fencing to heart. When he was asked if he knew any surveyor chaps he replied rather brusquely that he doesn’t, and got up and asked if he could use the Shepherdson’s loo. (He was allowed, albeit reluctantly. We have our meetings in their summerhouse, but we are never asked into their actual house. I am not sure why.) But today I remembered that my wife’s brother’s wife’s brother (I am not quite sure what relation that is) does something in the surveying line, although I am not quite sure what. If I can get in touch with him it might prove useful, but this may not be the best time to contact anyone in the family. I do not know what if anything my wife has told them about our current situation.

Michael Whittingham says we should – to use his words – “bluff it”, by which he means tell the people in Whitehall that we have RAAC and wait for them to respond. Probably they will eventually ask for documentary evidence, by which time Michael says he will have had time to knock up a few fake documents and the civil servants will never know the difference. I admire his confidence, however misplaced it may be. Miss Tindle was quite vocal, for her, on insisting that she believes we should not be considering deception of any sort, and I am beginning to think it would be easier all round if we forget the idea. But it was my idea in the first place, so it will not do for me to go back on it just yet. The whole thing is complicated by the fact that Bernie Shepherdson told us that our MP wants to “Zoom” with us on Monday evening to discuss the situation. I am pretty sure he would not approve of the RAAC plan, and we are currently split 50/50 on whether or not to tell him about it, which surprises me no end, to be honest. This is surely what people call a no brainer.

As you may be able to tell, things have become more than a little complicated. The GASSE team has not actually squabbled yet, but squabbles do not seem far away. This evening one or two people began to murmur about there being nothing we could do and we should instead think about how to make the foreigners welcome in the community and see it as good for the local economy. That the local economy is one general store, a part-time coffee and tea shop, one pub, and an ice cream van from somewhere else that sometimes takes the trouble to drive through if he can be bothered, I am not sure how that is a sound argument but we may have to accept it. Between you, me and the bedpost, I am rather weary of it all. I suppose the trouble with my wife is not helping. I am still not sleeping well, and perhaps the strain is beginning to tell. I hate ironing, hoovering is another nightmare, and while I am not a bad cook I do not have a wide variety of dishes in my repertoire. I tried out one of those delivery services you see advertised on the television for a dinner on Tuesday evening and I am still waiting for the food. I have been trying to get my money back, and was told it may take a while because they have to ask the delivery chap about what happened and apparently they are not always easy to track down. I suppose it is because they are young, and live on the street on their bicycles instead of in proper houses. The lady on the telephone said my order should never have been taken because they do not deliver, and I quote, “that far out in the sticks.” Bloody morons, excuse my French. I am tired, and my clean pyjamas need ironing.




James Henderson



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