Picture credit: Hannah Tobin.
The day dawned bright and early, the sunrise was planned for 0643 but the first glimmerings could be seen over the canal at 0642. Either the sun was a little early or, more unlikely, it was a computer error in the Met Office although it seemed a little strange to have the London police involved this early. They proved their worth and expertise as they had Dawn charged and locked up before their first doughnut delivery of the day.
Ben was up and around early as he had a long day ahead of him. He was looking forward to the big match. He was a fan of Dwile Flonking and had been known to place a crafty bet through the far east syndicates as he watched a game on one of his favourite programs, ‘Dwile of the Day,’ hosted by Garry Walker. Ben also kept a close eye on the team positions in the Flonking Konference League. As he bustled around the bar, he listened with half an ear to John Humthrees having his usual bust up with one of the Government ministers. This time is was a brexiteer who was getting the sharp end of John’s tongue. ‘If we are going to leave the EU, why don’t we just get on with it?’ asked John with a faint air of reasonableness.
‘I can understand your impatience, John, but you are seeing it from a journalist’s viewpoint, you always want dramatic events to take place so that you have something to talk about whereas we in government have the responsibility of getting the best deal for the country so we don’t want to rush into it.’
‘So you are saying, Minister, that we journalists need to have something to to talk about but you politicians can talk about nothing at all?’
‘Ha, ha, are you planning on moving into comedy soon John? If so I would advise against it.’
‘Sorry to interrupt Minister but my producer has just passed me an urgent message through from the control room.’…
… Sorry about that Minister, if I could just pass the news flash on to our listeners then we can resume our chat. We’ll just go across to the newsroom where Seb Somes is waiting to enlighten us – over to you Seb.’
‘Thanks John. Our business desk has just alerted us to the fact that one of the biggest breweries in the country, Turgid Ales of Bedford has made a takeover bid for Wattknees of Stoke on Trent. This will be referred to one of the two monopoly commissions to ensure that this takeover will not reduce competition in the brewing sector. This has led to a sudden surge in the share prices. Turgid have emphasised that they have no plans to reduce the combined workforce although they will obviously looking for cost savings. That’s all the information we have at the moment. Now back to you John.’
‘Thank you Seb. Do you like beer Minister?’
‘Well, I have been known to partake of the occasional half of Old Mouldy, John but I have no experience of Turgid’s brew.’
‘Right, I glad we have managed to clear that up Minister. We have lost time because of that news flash so we’ll have to resume this interview some other time. Thank you Minister.’
The news went around the village very quickly. A quick word with Mrs Gumblewitch in the post office, general stores, greengrocers and hardware store crammed into one room was better than spending two hours on Google. What Mrs Gumblewitch didn’t know wasn’t worthy of entering into Mr Google’s algorithm. A further attraction to the store was that she seemed to stock everything – a tentative enquiry of, ‘err, have you got any…?’ was always answered with a firm, ‘Yes, of course, just over there, behind the…
There was an old fashioned stove in the centre of the room with a few chairs scattered around. There was always a kettle simmering on the stove in the winter so there was a constant availability of tea – or ‘Witches Brew’ as it was inevitably known in the village.
All the chairs were occupied by villagers cuddling a cup of tea as they discussed the news. They optimistically came to the view that nothing much would change. Then Jack stormed in, demanded a cup of tea, stirred it with some ferocity – and a teaspoon – and then dropped his bomb shell.
‘I’ve just heard a press release from Wattknees brewery in Stoke. They are saying that their shareholders have accepted the takeover offer of a share for share plus 28p from Turgid and so the takeover will go ahead. Turgid plan to close 27 pubs across the country, “in the interests of efficiency and cost savings.” A total of 117 jobs will go in the reorganisation. They refused to name the pubs they have selected for closure but I’m sure either the Strangled Ferret or the Bald Badger will be one of them.
I think we should cancel the Dwile Flonking match tonight and form an action committee to see what we can do to fight this. Do you agree?’
The vote was unanimous. It was agreed that there would be a village meeting in the Strangled Ferret at 8 o’clock that evening. This was the nearest pub to the centre of the village so the decision made itself.
Ben was delighted. He opened his upstairs meeting room at no charge, he knew he would get greater than normal beer sales that evening.
Everyone headed for the ‘Ferret early as they were all incensed by Turgid Brewer’s takeover. It wasn’t just the beer, which they considered to be greatly inferior to the house beers of the existing two pubs. In spite of the famous strap line of Turgid Ales, ‘ Our beer is so clear, you can see right through it,’ it was said it was so clear because the taste had been taken out. The Strangled Ferret’s ‘Old Mouldy,’ was greatly enjoyed by the locals, as was the Bald Badger’s, ‘Black and White ale.’ This was in spite of the fact that everyone knew they were the same brew. Tradition dictated that they were completely different.
Jack called the meeting to order.
‘I haven’t been elected or anything, but if you agree, I’ll just be the chairman for this meeting until we decide what to do and get and committee organised and elected. Could I have a show of hands if you are happy with that?’
There was a unanimous show of hands so Jack carried on.
‘The purpose of this meeting is to decide this village’s reaction to the news that Turgid Ales will be taking over the two pubs in the village and, from what they have said so far, it looks as if one of them will close. Would anyone like to start us off?’
Ben put his hand up. “ I have been talking with my colleague from the ‘Badger up the road and I can now speak for both of us. It seems likely that one pub will close and it would be better if we worked together and decided which one it will be rather than fighting it out as then the brewery with ‘divide and conquer’ and get exactly what they want. We have agreed that, whichever pub closes, the tenant of that pub will be employed by the other.’
‘Thanks for that Ben, I think this shows the solidarity we can achieve if we all work together. Is everyone happy to leave to decision on which pub closes or should we fight the brewery to make the decision ourselves?’
Ben then left the meeting to go downstairs to attend to the bar, he knew that he still had quite a lot of lemons to slice for the expected rush.
George put his hand up. A groan echoed around the room, most people present had tried to grapple, mostly unsuccessfully with George’s logic before. ‘I think we haven’t considered one possibility and thought out our response to it,’ said the pachydermic George, totally ignoring the sceptical villagers present. As some of you may know, I’ve been supporting the Farmer’s Union for more years than I care to mention.’ Another groan went up and someone requested sotto voce, ‘don’t mention those years please George, we don’t care to hear them mentioned either.’
George ploughed on indifferent, ‘I think they will try to close both pubs and I also think that we should have a plan for that.’
There was a silence as everyone thought about what George had said and slowly realised that what he said made sense.
‘I also think,’ said George, emboldened by his apparent crowd pleasing, speech, ‘ that we should make best use of all our strengths in that we should elect our local MP, Lame Faulks as our chairman and spokesman.’
‘Don’t you mean spokesperson George?’ asked Mr Voce from the back.
‘No,’ said George, ‘we don’t need him to be ambidextrous do we?’ My final idea is that we pre-empt the Turgid decision by closing both pubs and then reopening the ‘Ferret as a community pub, run by the village, for the village.’
‘Why the ‘Ferret and not the ‘Badger?’ asked Jack, reasonably.
‘There has always been some rivalry between the two pubs,’ the room rocked with laughter at this understatement, ‘but I think “we are all in this together,” to quote a namesake of mine, so we should work as one team. The ‘Ferret is in a better state of repair and it is nearer to the village and, of course, it has room in the car park for a Dwile Flonking court.
George sat down to a round of applause, he had had his moment in the sun and all he wanted now was some peace and quiet and a pint of Old Mouldy. He took himself down stairs to the bar where Ben was waiting to pounce on any thirsty passer by.
Lame was duly elected as chairman of the management committee with Jack as his vice chairman.
It was agreed that Lame would write a letter to Turgid Ales asking them for terms to allow the community to take over the Strangled Ferret. This would be subject to a beer tasting by the community to see if they could accept the pub being a tied house to Turgid giving them exclusive rights to supply all its drinks. The name would remain the same – this was considered to be non-negotiable even though some diggers tried to get the meeting to accept a conflation of the two names such as the Bald Ferret or the Strangled Badger – neither found enough supporters for a vote.
This was the start of the villagers coming together on anything to do with the village. William Harris would be responsible for encouraging this and ruling on all disagreements. He would be known as The Great Conciliation Bill.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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