Jim Henderson’s A SUFFOLK DIARY

Wednesday, January 24th

My wife came back from the yoga class she runs (Oh Yeah! Yoga!) and wanted to know – in fact, demanded to be told (she is not in a great mood these days) – when they could expect to move back to the village hall, because the old cricket club pavilion is cold and horrible and her ladies are revolting. Plus, she says, all the other groups who use the hall and are currently having to make do elsewhere, like the Under 4s Playgroup, the Christian Youth Club, the Young Mothers’ Knitting Society, the weekly Scrabble Lunch, the Book Group, and Watercolour Art for All Afternoons, are also asking and losing patience. Do not these people realize there was a fire, and we are fortunate to still have a hall at all? Do not they realize it takes more than a couple of days to repair a severely fire-damaged building? I can understand that it might not be very pleasant knitting sat on garden furniture in the open air in January next to the War Memorial, but it will not be for much longer, probably. And surely daubing a few (dreadful) watercolours en plein air is good practice, is it not? Anyhoo, I told her, in no uncertain terms, I did not know for sure, but if her friend Michael Whittingham is to be believed the hall will be up and running again in early February, in time for The Ipswich Players to come and wait for Godot. I should probably not have said that thing about “her friend”, because after several other words we are now not speaking, apparently.

Friday, January 26th

At the behest of John Garnham, the Parish Clerk, there was an emergency meeting of the Council this evening in the light of recent developments vis-à-vis the government’s ongoing plans (if “plans” is the right word for what is so obviously a shambles) for what to do with their unwanted visitors from abroad. It was agreed unanimously that the village’s group set up to prevent them sending their unwanteds to sleep in our village hall – GASSE (“Go Away! Stay Somewhere Else!”) – should be taken off stand-by and put on “Red Alert”, even though at the moment Bob Merchant’s bunch of ne’er-do-wells are still in there restoring things after the fire – or at least, they are in there when they are not propping up the bar in The Wheatsheaf.

There were some administrative matters regarding GASSE that had to be dealt with, one of which was that Bob Merchant, who had previously been the group’s Supplies, Housekeeping and Internet Transactions officer (SHIT) was no longer a member of the group and so had to be replaced. After about a minute’s discussion it was decided that the role was completely meaningless and could be discarded. More importantly, it turned out that not everyone still had their armband, which they needed to wear when “on duty” to let the villagers know they were GASSE officers. (I find this particularly important because in my role as the Advanced Round-the-clock Security Executive (ARSE) I had often to be out in the village late at night, and my wandering around after dark could be construed as suspicious without the necessary identification to produce if and when challenged.) Anyhoo, Miss Tindle has undertaken to knock up new armbands for those who are without.

Finally, Albert Ridley, who has always been a very quiet and sometimes invisible member of the group, has tendered his resignation. He says he cannot be bothered any more, and also his wife does not like him going out in the evenings or, for that matter, in the mornings, or the afternoons. They are both getting on a bit, to be fair, and he will not be missed. He never did anything anyway.

Sunday, January 28th

Saturday evenings in The Wheatsheaf are usually fairly busy but also very amiable. A few “outsiders” pop in on a night out but generally people know each other and get on well enough. So last evening was rather out of the ordinary. It was occasioned, apparently, by Michael Whittingham and some of his cronies returning from the afternoon’s football match in Ipswich, and a bit worse for wear owing to their alcohol intake. I gather Ipswich Town were beaten in an important FA Cup tie by Maidstone Rovers or Town or United or something, a team they should not have been beaten by because they are not even in the Football League (I do not really know about all this, but I bumped into Miss Tindle by the War Memorial this morning, and she “filled me in” – she is something of a football expert, it turns out.) Anyhoo, Whittingham and his pals were in a foul mood because their team lost, and it seems one or two of them got into an argument with a couple of non-villagers and things got out of hand to the extent that there was mild violence in the car park and the police were called. I gather John Garnham took the opportunity to tell Whittingham that his behaviour was unbecoming of a member of the Parish Council, and that by way of reply Whittingham suggested John do something anatomically very unlikely and unhygienic. There is a meeting of GASSE coming up in a few days time, and with Messrs. Garnham and Whittingham both members and officers I am really looking forward to it.


James Henderson





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