from Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY: Friday, September 1st

They say that a week is a long time in politics. I do not know who ‘they’ are, but I can tell them that a week can also feel like a long time here. This afternoon the Parish Clerk, John Garnham, had a telephone call from Whitehall intimating that the government’s plan to donate a load of illegal foreigners to the village and put them up in the village hall is likely to be back up and running as of next week. It seems that the Home Secretary, compassionate as ever, thinks sleeping on a bunk bed in a hall with a hundred or so other people also sleeping on bunk beds is absolutely fine and if they can handle being in a crowded boat then a village hall in Suffolk will be comparatively heavenly. Needless to say the news went round here like the proverbial forest fire, and Bernie Shepherdson convened an emergency meeting of GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) which I have only just this moment arrived home from. I am writing this diary entry while I have a late night mug of cocoa to calm me down. It was not a very good meeting, to be honest, and cracks are beginning to show in what has been a pretty united front up to now.

Disturbingly, we have also had a taste of what it is like to have a load of unwanted guests in the village hall. It turned out that the reason Reg and Irene Farmer (whose daughter got married on Saturday) booked the hall for the entire Bank Holiday weekend was so that hordes of young people – wedding guests! – could take over the hall for the next two days and have a very noisy time of it, and as for what they got up to . . .  Well, Miss Tindle said she is still not sleeping properly after seeing some of the things she saw and hearing some of the things she heard. The music blared out and never seemed to stop, and the whole fiasco played havoc with the 24-hour security for the hall I am in charge of in my role as the GASSE Advanced Round-the-clock Security Executive (ARSE), and my sentries abandoned their posts and went home. On top of which, words fail me when it comes to describing the mess the partygoers made – inside the hall and outside. Mrs. Tatlock, who goes in a couple of times a week to sweep and dust and so on, refused to have anything to do with it. Long story short, John Garnham called in a professional cleaning company, and the costs will have to come out of local funds. Speaking of which, and this did not at all help the mood of the meeting, Bob Merchant let slip the cost of the security fencing he has ordered, the exact details of which he had somehow managed to keep to himself. We now know why.

All this coming at the same time as the news that the government might try to send the foreigners here after all meant people were not happy, and there was more grumbling and finger-pointing than constructive conversation. Michael Whittingham, who is more and more vocal at these meetings, and not always usefully if you want my opinion, said we should summon Reg Farmer, and I quote: “to stand trial and be held to account” and be made to pay for cleaning the hall, and then someone, I forget who, pointed out that cleaning the hall was Parish Council business and not GASSE business, but Michael ignored that and went on to say that Bob Merchant should pay for the security fencing himself since he had taken it upon himself to buy it, and anyway he is rich enough what with the prices he charges – (we all know about the argument the two had about the Whittingham conservatory) – to which Bob Merchant took unsurprising exception, and then we were completely sidetracked in a convoluted discussion about how GASSE was or was not acting on behalf of the Parish Council, and I lost track of who was saying what and why to who, and at one point John Garnham nipped to his cottage and came back with a copy of the Parish Council’s constitution, but the upshot was that not much was achieved as regards what to do about the foreigners, and everyone went home much later than usual in a very bad mood and I have no idea what is going to happen. I think there will be another meeting on Sunday afternoon, when hopefully people will have calmed down a bit.

Anyhoo, I will sign off now as my wife has just arrived home from her weekly jaunt into Stowmarket to have supper with her friend Jan. She has told me to put away my writing because she has something she wants to talk to me about, and by the look on her face I think I had best do as she says.



James Henderson






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