from Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY Friday, September 8th

I am not really in the mood to write this week but I suppose I should. Since my wife dropped what I can only call a bombshell on to me when she came home from her regular Friday night out with her friend Jan in Stowmarket it has been difficult to keep my mind on the government’s intention to lodge so-called illegal immigrants in the village hall, and on my GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) responsibilities and duties. I have never met Jan, and I always understood her to be a former work colleague of my wife’s from when she worked for Axa in Ipswich. I say “she”, but my wife has informed me that Jan is a man! I consider myself quite modern in my approach to life, and have no objection (within reason) to my wife having male friends, but when she told me that Jan is, and I quote, “very special to her” I am sure you can imagine my feelings, and the kind of conversation we had afterwards. I do not intend to go into details here. Suffice it to say that this evening Jan has not gone to Stowmarket as usual on a Friday because she has been there since Saturday. I have told friends and neighbours that she has gone to stay with a friend who is poorly, and I am doing my best to act as if nothing untoward is going on. I think my thespian experience with The Polstead Players several years ago – my Jack Worthing in “The Importance of Being Earnest” is still talked about – is standing me in good stead.

But enough of that. On Sunday afternoon a gathering of the GASSE management team in the Shepherdson’s summerhouse, hot on the heels of last Friday’s rather acrimonious meeting, went off much more smoothly than I had anticipated. This was mainly owing to the fact that Michael Whittingham was unable to attend because he was laid low with a bout of food poisoning. That will teach him to have the seafood platter at The Blue Lion – he should know better. Bernie Shepherdson said he had tried to contact our MP but without success, which did not surprise any of us. (Update: as of this afternoon he still has not been able to get in touch with him. He is probably back in the Caribbean, playing golf.) There was some fairly lively discussion around the cost of the security fencing Bob Merchant has committed to purchasing, but since we are not likely to see it any time soon because of supply and delivery issues it was agreed to put our concerns on the back burner for the time being. But I think it is fair to say that Bob is not now regarded by some in quite the same light as of yore.


The high spot of the meeting, although I say so myself, was my suggestion that we tell the people in Whitehall that the village hall has Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in the roof and is unsafe. There were some objections, the main one being that we would probably have to find a tame surveyor/engineer person to certify that there is RAAC in a Victorian village hall that does not have a flat roof. In my opinion, the twits in Whitehall are incompetent enough to fall for it. Also, I think it would mean two or more government departments communicating with one another, which is almost certain to cause them plenty of confusion. I think it is a far better idea than having t-shirts printed with some kind of slogan, which as far as I can see would achieve next to nothing, and also better than what someone else said about putting up big signs on all the roads into the village to the effect that we have nothing against foreigners in principle but feel very strongly that we rather hope they do not come here. I for one do not know how we would get all of that phrased succinctly enough to put on a sign by the side of the road for passing drivers to read, and actually there are only two roads into the village and we do not get a lot of through traffic. Anyhoo, my RAAC suggestion was not thrown out completely, and I have been delegated to see if I can find a surveyor or engineer or whatever we need willing to help us out by falsifying documents and potentially committing professional suicide.

I am going to bed now, although to be honest I am not sleeping very well since my wife dropped the Jan bomb. I have spoken with her a couple of times on the telephone but I do not know quite what is going to happen or, for that matter, how I feel about her thoughtless and hurtful duplicity, downright dishonesty and terrible treachery. But life goes on, and this weekend I shall be in the vegetable garden and the kitchen to take my mind off things. There is a hefty crop of apples (cookers) on and around (windfalls) the tree, and I am planning to get a load of them cooked and put in the freezer. Stewed apples and custard is my favourite afters on a chilly winter evening, and my wife makes a very good apple pie. Oh . . .      




James Henderson


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