Andy KJ Cragg


A small English country village

I'm in the middle of this, not sure what to do now really. Perhaps move it along a bit, get things going. Going to my advantage, yes, now let me see. Hmm. Ok, right, so here's the thing, where are we likely to end up? Is it where we all want to be? I think so, but first we have to sort some things out. One, I'd say, is to get rid of Barry, two, get Alice more involved, and make me, yes me, chairman. Or chair, more properly. What do we think?

Resounding cries of support for Barry, sniffing at Alice and a vote to get rid of me! 6 votes to one. So I'm out then. Ah well, too good for them, I'll find another club where my talents are recognised. Where to start? The bowls club, they seem to be a nice, gentle sort of lot, I'll ring Brian, he's a decent fellow. Ring, ring, Brian James speaking, how may I help you? Ah, hello Brian, it's Alan, Alan Browning, remember me? Yes, hello Alan, we were just talking about you as a matter of fact, Maggie and me, apparently they threw you out of the bridge club, is that right? Not entirely, I left of my own accord, Brian. Not what I heard, and I suppose you're ringing me to join the bowls? Yes, Brian, exactly, I think I could do great things with the bowls, so I was wondering ... Stop right there Alan, we have our quota of members right now and we're not looking to take any more, sorry Alan, out of my hands. Click buzz. Well.

Cricket club, there was definitely an advert in the local rag about it, wanting more behind the scenes help. Now, where is that paper? Rustle, rustle, here we are - right, an Ian White, ok, ring ring ring ring ring, click answering machine - yes, I shall leave a message. Hello, I'm calling in regards to your advert in the Herald last week and I would like to join in the, er, the um, behinds the scenes lot - give me a call back on 07700 900766 when you get a chance, it's a Mr Alan Browning. Click, should do it.

Ring ring ring ring. Hello? Is that Alan Browning? Yes, that's me, ah good, I'm Ian White and I run the cricket club and got your message. Ah good thank you for ringing back Ian, good of you. Yes, well, er it's bad news for you I'm afraid - but good for us, as we now have all the help we need backstage as it were, a terrific response to the advert. I must write to the Herald and let them know, yes, terrific response, but sorry to the the bringer of bad news, Alan. We'll keep your number on file, as they say, and if anything pops up, well, we'll be sure to let you know. I don't suppose you're fit enough to play, though, are you? Ah, no, not really, bit of a dodgy elbow, actually. So that's it then, I can't join? Not at the moment, Alan, I'm really sorry. Ok, well it was worth a punt, thanks for ringing back and letting me know. No problems, see you, goodbye. Click buzz.

Wow - that's three clubs who don't want me. Maybe word has got around, though I didn't think it was that kind of village, maybe it is after all. So now what? Charity shops - always want volunteers! Ok, yellow pages, flick flick. Ring ring, chat, ring ring, chat, ring ring, chat. Bugger.

Right, I'm off to the Barley Mo, surely someone will chat to me in there.

Alan my old mucker how are you doing? I heard they threw you out of the bridge club! What an earth did you do - feel up the ladies or something? Ha ha ha! Good god, no I didn't, Johnnie, I just wanted to move it in a more profitable direction that's all, and they wanted it to remain exactly as it was, so there. Anyway Johnnie, how are you - fancy another pint? Yes, I do, thank you very much Alan - same for you? Yes, I'll have what you're having, two pints of Smiths please! May I join you here by the fire? Yes, by all means, tell me your news Alan! No, it's not all good, tell me yours. I know this is a good tack, because Johnnie will talk for hours and all I have to do is nod occasionally, and at least it looks like I'm being sociable to all these gawping people in the pub.

Bit squiffy, can't quite remember what just happened, but I think I'm barred from the Mo. Oh well, such is life when you are a go-getter like me, rough with the smooth, that's it, take it on the chin. Zzzzzzz.

Something must be up, then, something very odd. Not long ago, I was a pillar or the community, well respected, well liked and now here I am, none of the above. Something odd is going on. I shall find out and see if I can sort it. Sort it - yes, Mary at the Post Office knows what is going on around here, being a proper gossip and busy-body. I'll be nice to her, and see what she says about it all.

It's not that you've done anything, exactly, Mr Browning, or ruffled any feathers, or anything like that, really, it's more a case of, oh, hang on here's the vicar with a parcel, will need to sort him out. Ok, no, Mr Browning, call me Alan, please, ok Alan, it's not that, it's more of what else is happening in the county, you know, all the goings on - and well, to be perfectly frank Mr Browning, Alan, you're one of them aren't you, really deep down? One of them? One of whom? You know, bat for the other side? I most certainly do not, if that's what you are all thinking - I was married for 36 years! Not that, Mr Browning, we wouldn't care if you are as gay as a lamppost, it's the other thing.

Ok, so I did storm out of the Post Office, nearly knocking over the very reverent James Cleverly, poor chap, will go and apologise when I next see him at church. The other thing indeed. Christ Almighty god, not that again. All done and dusted I thought, and none of it has anything to do with me at all, I was born into a Russian family, but born here in God's own country England - as English as the Very Reverend, though I did have doubts about him, sometimes.

I'll go and see him, have a word.

Ah, Mr Browning, you've come to apologise I assume? Yes, I have and I deeply regret the scene at the Post Office and I wanted to say how very sorry I am. Well, the Good Lord will forgive you, and so must I, part of the job description I suppose, come in and have some tea. Yes, that would be lovely, thank you. So what's it all about Vicar? The bowls, the cricket, the bridge and any number of local charity shops don't want me here, what do you think? It's a tricky one, I must say, Alan, I can call you Alan? Yes, of course, ok, so tensions are rising here in Walthingstone, and it's beginning to be a bit of a problem. Church attendance is going up, though, I must say, so I have some power of suggestion, maybe calm people down, but come Monday morning, my words are forgotten. What do you think, Vicar, I can do about it? Well, Alan, the only thing to do really is lie low, don't get up people's noses, and wait, just wait until it all blows over, as I'm sure it will, Alan, it will.

~ * ~

That little transcription was from more than a year ago. I daren't go outside my house now. My supermarket food deliveries are erratic, sometimes I have nothing in the house, I'm not nearly as portly as I once was, and nobody, nobody, not even the Very Reverend will talk to me. My house is up for sale, I've had no prospective buyers, apart from some sharks who want to pay half what it's worth, and I am very depressed. I have to go to a hospital in the next county to get to talk to an NHS nurse or counsellor, and even then the sessions are very short, and hopeless. At my wits end does not describe it. Who'd have thought, in England, in the United Kingdom we see such prejudice as never before, worse that when the Jamaicans, the Indians and the Pakistanis came over in the 50's. And I am English! My passport has expired, so I can't even flee abroad - of course the Russians won't have me anyway.

What to do?