Copse and Doggers (2)
On my annual Christmas shopping trip to Harrods I thought I had avoided the attentions of Mr Al Fayed when he suddenly appeared from behind some York hams and thrust a tin of Gentleman's Relish into my hand.
"Nobody buy this posh fish paste anymore", he said, rather undermining the generosity of the gesture. "Five hundred fuckin tins in store room and no bastard want them....... Willie, why you not write nothing about inquest? You lost your fuckin bottle?"
"If I had not written nothing, then I would have written something. But, as I think you were implying, I have indeed written nothing."
"Don't get smart, Willie", he said, poking me in the chest. "I'm just ordinary bloke. That's why Establishment hate me, innit."
"An ordinary bloke who happens to own the country's most famous emporium and whose son, by your account, was going to marry the Princess of Wales."
"Is true, Willie. She crazy about him. He crazy about her."
"And, with the greatest respect, a lot of people think you're crazy too."
"Because they're lying fuckin bastards. But now we got jury. Twelve true and good men. And women. Ordinary people like me. They won't pull wool over their heads. And if you want to bury your head in an ostrich, Willie......."
"It's eyes. And it's sand."
"Fuck off, Willie, and Happy Christmas."
And with that he rushed off to deposit another tin of Patum Peperium in Joanna Lumley's Prada handbag.
Preparations for the Middle England Pagan Alliance's celebration of the Winter Solstice are well advanced.
Sadly, we have lost the services of Brenda. Her negotiations with the dogging community two years ago led to a liaison with a building contractor called Wayne. They have now set up home together at a caravan site near Oswestry. Brenda's husband Len is devastated. Some of us saw him in the lounge bar of The Greene Man telling Brian, the landlord, that it was all the fault of "those Wicca basket cases". I had to quickly stifle a laugh when I realised this wasn't a joke and that there were tears in Len's eyes.
"That was a hell of a month", Len continued. "Some prat in a white van shunted the Cavalier at the Three Nuns Roundabout, the cat choked to death on a fur ball and then Brenda runs off with some tattooed park prowler. I've been dogged by disaster all my life."
This time, an involuntary convulsion sent a mouthful of Higgins' Advent Ale down my windpipe. When I'd finished spluttering over the salted nuts I said "It's hay fever."
"In December?" said Len. "Christ, you poor bastard. You must be nearly as unlucky as me."
"It's the flowers on the bar", I said.
"They're plastic", said the landlord.
Nigel, our Webmaster, continues to cause problems. He accidentally removed the password protection from our Wicca website which led to abusive messages appearing in our forums. We think these probably came from Brenda's husband Len, partly because they were posted under the user name of 'Len'. Because of this our website is temporarily offline. Not that anyone could read much of it because Nigel had used a strange Gothic font. It took me half an hour to work out that Len had called me a 'Wicc-head'.
However, some of Brenda's former duties have been taken over by Jocelyn, one of our newer members who works in the library.
She was only recently re-instated there after a disciplinary hearing. An exhibition of Jocelyn's Corn Dollies in the room used by the University of the Third Age had led to complaints when it was noticed that some of the Corn Dollies were rather too graphic in the genital department. In a masterstroke, Jocelyn's union representative produced a book of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs that he had found in the Art section, accusing the Council of inconsistency and prejudice against traditional English folk art. The case collapsed, as did several elderly councillors.
With Jocelyn on look-out duty at Dimmock's Copse, I think our Solstice ceremony will be safe from any disturbances from the dogging fraternity. A tall young woman who favours long black skirts and what I believe is called a 'No 1' haircut, she stomps around in Rockport boots. Some of the local chavs call her 'Skinhead', 'Britney' and 'Bovver Girl', though seldom more than once.
In fact, things were going swimmingly until Jocelyn left some notes about our event in the library photocopier. A few days later a story appeared in the local paper under the headline: SATANISM IN LOCAL PERV PARK. 'Local residents were horrified to discover that a satanic cult are planning to stage a ceremony during Christmas in Dimmock's Copse, the local beauty spot notorious for midnight sex romps. Len Blackwell, 49, said: "These people are sick. Normal families don't want Black Magic forced down their throats at Christmas time." Mr Blackwell said a protest meeting would be held at the Greene Man public house on Friday.'
At an emergency meeting at Jocelyn's flat, it was decided that Nigel would email Brenda to enquire if there were any suitable venues near Oswestry. But he received an obscene and threatening reply, signed 'Bob the Builder', with a short video file attached. This turned out to be a grainy sequence filmed at night through a car window.
"I didn't know Brenda had taken Len's Cavalier", said Nigel. "I recognised the furry dice hanging from the mirror and the Werther's Originals on the dashboard."
So now we're looking for Plan C.
Personally, I'm tempted to just tag along to the 'Christingle' service at St Jude's with Mr and Mrs Skidmore. After all, the Christians appropriated our gods and ceremonies in the first place. Let them do the bloody work. They won't know who we're worshipping. There'll still be candles and music and ivy and holly. And the Rev Simpkins' services are more Disneyland than Bethlehem.
The winter gales sweep through Dimmock's Copse with an icy blast. The thought of standing there as exposed as one of Jocelyn's Corn Dollies brings tears to my eyes.
Apostasy or pragmatism? After recent events, I'm almost past caring.
The first Copse and Doggers appeared here
Any resemblance to real people is entirely accidental.