Picture credit – Hannah Tobin.

This was our first ever post, and the first of a series of stories  called, ‘Tales from the Strangled Ferret.’

The Referendum

 He opened the creaking door, pushing hard against the self closing spring. Young Jim heard the creak, jumped up from his perch next to one armed bandit and pulled the door open for him. He slowly walked in, leaning heavily on his ash walking stick.

‘Hi Jack.’ said Ben, the barman, looking up from the lemons he was slicing.

‘No,’ said Jack, ‘just got held up by the traffic coming down through Long Shorting. Ever since they built that housing estate on Fred Gile’s ten acre, there’s been traffic jams. It’ll only get worse, just you mark my words. Pint of Old Mouldy please Ben and one of whatever he’s drinking for Happy George here.’

‘Thanks mate but what are you so chipper about? It’s not like you to buy someone else a drink, your arms are usually shorter than your pockets are deep.’ said George, looking pleasantly surprised at the prospect of a free pint.

‘Haven’t you heard? There’s going to be a referendum.’

‘No, I haven’t seen the forecast today. Won’t that be bad for the harvest?’ asked George.

‘ Don’t be so daft, a referendum is nothing to do with the weather. It is a chance for everyone in the country to have a vote.’

‘A vote on what?’ queried George. ‘How will that change the weather?’

‘A binary decision of national significance,’ pontificated Jack.

George stayed quiet, he didn’t believe in fiddling around with things that might change the weather.

‘And what would that be?’ asked Ben, joining in what he thought was brewing up to be an interesting discussion.

‘It’s to decide whether to stay in or leave the European Union.’

‘It won’t affect me then,’ said George, ‘I’m with the other lot, the Farmer’s Union. Did I tell you about the good price I got from them for my insurance last year?’

‘Yes, several times,’ groaned Ben , ‘but I don’t think that’s what Jack is on about. He means the European Union, whether we leave or stay in.’

‘Well, we haven’t been part of Europe since the sea level rose, drowned Doggerland and cut a channel through the chalk between us and France. I don’t see how we are going to change that, even if we wanted to. We don’t get on with those Frenchies very well anyway.’ George fancied himself as a bit of a palaeohistorian. ‘At least the Farmers Union don’t mess around with the weather.’

‘But surely we are better off in the European Club than on our own outside it?’ queried Jack.

‘Yes, I think you are right, we are better of with the remanians but don’t call me Shirley,’ protested George.

‘But why do the Romanians want us to stay in?’ queried Ben.

‘No idea, I don’t even know where Romania is.’ said George.’ Does anyone know where it is and why they want us to stay in? What about you Jack, you’ve always been a bit of a political animal?’

‘I think it’s in the centre of Europe and they want us to stay in because we want them to join the EU so they think we will help them if we stay in. I don’t have much sympathy with the Romanians. I’m supporting the Beleavers myself.’ stated Jack firmly.

‘Well I go to church most Sundays but what has that got to do with Europe?’ asked Ben.

‘Europe is rapidly becoming a secular super state, except for Islam which is, of course, expanding because of the recent rise in immigration so the Beleavers want us to vote to come out and get back to the Church of England.’ explained Jack

‘But the English Catholics are ruled from Rome, in Italy, which is in Europe,’ protested Ben. ‘That doesn’t make sense.’

‘Since when did religion have to make sense?’ asked Young Jim, who thought of himself as a bit of a seventh day iconoclast.

‘I think the Romanians are Catholics’ muttered George darkly. ‘They could be some sort of Papist fifth column. I’m a Welsh Tobacconist myself, always have been – and my father and grandfather before me. No one’s going to tell me I can’t go to the Bethesda Chapel.’

‘I think it’s you who wants to be careful Ben,’ warned Jack. ‘I’ve seen how thin you slice those lemons. Did you know that there’s an EU directive that says each slice should not be less than 5mm in thickness?’

‘No, I didn’t know that, when did that come in,’ said a wary Ben.

‘It hasn’t, you muppet, but it just shows what people think Europe is capable of doesn’t it?’ laughed Jack as he took a deep pull on his pint of Old Mouldy.’They’ll be changing our pints to half litres soon but I’m sure you’ll charge us the same even though we will be losing 27ml.’

‘Never crossed me mind,’ protested Ben. “That’s a good idea,” he thought.

The door opened and in limped Lame Faulks – the local MP – for his traditional Friday night pint. ‘Helps me connect with what the grass roots are thinking’ was his excuse.

‘Hi Lame. You’re a bit late tonight, was the train delayed’? asked Ben

‘No, I was tired after all that shouting in the House, so I stopped at Paddington and had a cup of Tai Chi in the Costa Lotta coffee shop before catching the later train, and…’’

‘…Do you support the Romanians or the Believers,’ interrupted George. Poor George, he suffers from intellectual rigor mortis, he hadn’t had a new idea in twenty years.

‘Eh?’ said The Honourable Lame Faulks MP. For once in his parliamentary life he was lost for words. ‘What are you talking about, you have to explain that to a simple person like me.’ He hung his walking stick on the rail in front of the bar and perched2 on one of the stools. He wasn’t really lame and didn’t need a stick but it was a useful sympathy gainer and a prop to divert attention when he was lost for words.

‘We’re talking about the EU. Are you for staying in or coming out?’ asked George aggressively. ‘If anyone should know what to do it should be an MP.’

‘I think we politicians should leave it to the people to decide. I personally don’t have much time for either the Remanians or the Beleavers. I haven’t had much chance to think about this recently. One of my friends is in prison. He killed a man after taking two aspirins. He’s been charged with premedicated murder.

George looked a little worried, ‘that could happen to any of us, it’s a good job I’ve got the strength of the insurance companies around me. Did I tell you I use the Farmers Union?’

‘Yes George, all the time,’ they chorused.

Picture credit – Hannah Tobin                                                                             Eorðdraca

©Richard Kefford 2016

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