The youngsters are called Hannah, Oliver and Toby and all three are about 12 years old. They have made the mistake of venturing into the Church during Church Watch. Nobody warned them that they might be pounced upon.
I take them to see the restored memorial to the men of our parish who died during the Great War and tell them how, at the Sunday morning service, all the names were read
out in turn, accompanied by the solemn tolling of the Church bell. I show them the Coronation Bible, presented to the Church by the local Old Contemptibles Association back in the1950s. Have they ever heard of the Old Contemptibles, I ask them? They shake
solemn heads. I tell them how Kaiser Bill mocked our troops as “that contemptible little army” and how we managed to turn an insult into a badge of honour. How very British! My own Grandad was an Old Contemptible, I boast. They do their best to
look suitably impressed.
Bless them, I am quite sure they never anticipated, on wandering through the Church door, that they would end up being given an impromptu
history lesson and harangued by the descendant of an Old Contemptible. They listen so politely, so respectfully. After they leave I note that they have written: “Good. Very interesting” in the Visitors Book. The Visitors Book does not leave
a lot of room for more than visitors’ names and addresses but some people do manage to squeeze in a few comments. Just above the youngsters’ entry is one from a family who had visited a few days earlier on a trip down memory lane. One member
of the family wrote that she remembered listening to her grandfather – or Nandad as she called him – play the organ for a wedding in the 1980s and how proud of him she had felt. I imagine her sitting in a side pew, open-mouthed and starry eyed
as her Nandad plays the Wedding March with aplomb.
Talking of weddings, Betty is putting together a floral display for a wedding taking place tomorrow. She is
worrying that it won’t be exactly what the bride is wanting but it looks very beautiful to me and I am quick with my reassurances. I am always full of admiration for flower arrangers being worse than useless myself at anything that requires more
than cutting off the ends of stalks and plonking into a vase. I busy myself with a dustpan and brush, sweeping up some debris on the floor around the font – in order to do this, I have to find the cupboard containing the brushes and brooms and
the flower cupboard (for use by Betty and the other flower arrangers) where the dustbin is stored. My energetic sweeping disturbs the folds of a Union Jack draped around the base of the font. I do my best to put it right...
Back home, you will be pleased to hear that the house is not quite so messy as yesterday. I have been able to restore a modicum of order in the kitchen because Dave, the Most Cheerful Gasman in the
World if not on the Planet, has finished work on our new boiler a whole day earlier than expected. I tell him that his colleague had estimated that the work would take two and a half days and ask did this mean that our bill would be commensurately less. Dave
thought this was very funny indeed. Everyone was always told that the work would take two and a half days, he explained. I wanted to ask why but I had the distinct impression that I wouldn’t get a sensible answer. Dave knocked a whole £72 off our
final bill, the cost of two lengths of pipe he had not needed to use. With that, I had to be happy.
I still have to replace all the photograph albums in the wardrobe
cupboard but I can’t quite bring myself to consign them to the darkness again. I pick up the album marked 2004 and find photos from what must have been one of the very first Family Seaside Days. My niece had thought we had been getting together for seven
or eight years – but here’s the proof that our annual get-together started even earlier.
That’s the thing about estimates: they are usually wrong
and rarely reliable. Dave the Gasman – he of the ready chat and constant cheer – could have told us that.