The cricket match leaves me blurred around the edges but safe in knowledge that I will never again be asked to score although I have to admit to being somewhat worried as to how Brightstone, King of the Pandas, will avenge the team's defeat at the hands of such an inexperienced score keeper. In my defence I really do have to point out how hard it is to see which way up the numbers are from behind the board and, I am convinced, someone laced my lemonade. The unkind and, some might say, paranoid thought crosses my mind that our deviant policeman may have arranged the spiking of my refreshments. The Rev, who is at times diplomatic to the point of sycophancy, puts it down to bad luck. "Then why do I have a headache?" I ask him.
"Do you know Stanley, I get a headache as soon as I enter the churchyard and sometimes I have only to look at the church from my bedroom window to bring on one of my migraines."
We cross the car park of the Thorns and I am relieved not to see Brightstone's Panda, from the public bar comes the sounds of the match being replayed. The Nam, Little Nancy, John and the Snorter are seated around the usual table; each of them wearing a pin badge bearing the inscription 'Join the RAGBAG'. The Rev and I each deposit twenty pence in the jam jar marked 'RAGBAG' Fighting Fund' and pin on our badges. Rising to my feet I exclaim, "In my capacity as Chairman of the Regulars Against Benches Action Group Committee I hereby declare this inaugural meeting open."
"Point of order Mr. Chairman," shouts the Snorter, " we don't have an agenda."
"How can we have an agenda ''til we start. Right, Mr, Secretary ready with the pen. Item one, tonight's agenda." I say whilst glancing at the Nam who is smiling into his beer.
"First a report from our mole, second a plan of action, third fund raising. Anyone else want to add anything to the agenda?"
"Yes I do," says John, "I want to put this whole thing into historical perspective."
"You bloody would."
"I want to bring up my position in all this," says the Rev.
"And I want to discuss the basic assumptions that have brought us all together." The Nam adds.
"Right, item four basic assumptions, item five the Rev's position and item six the historical perspective. Who's round is it?" I say, turning to the Snorter.
"Point of order Mr Chairman."
"Would it not be a good idea to discuss the basic assumption first?"
"Well, as Chairman I think that we should stick to the agenda."
"Bloody hell, we only just invented it."
"Ok," I concede, "We had better have a show of hands. All in favour in abandoning the agreed agenda in order to discuss basic assumptions raise their hands." The Nam, John and Little Nance raise their hands.
"All those in favour in sticking to the agenda." Besides mine the Rev's is the only hand raised. "So that's three in favour, two against and one abstention." I announce, ignoring the Snorter's glee at his tactical non-voting. I give the floor to Gordon.
The Nam cleared his throat, gave each of us in turn the benefit of his open gaze and then began, "As you all know, whatever I may have been in the past, I am a man of peace; I do not regard the prospect of doing battle with the Parish Council with relish. In fact I have been thinking about the basic premise of our campaign, that is the undesirability of a bench on the Green right outside the pub. Consider, if you will, the following scenario; it is early evening on a hot summer's day and you leave home to walk here. On arriving you glance at the church clock and realise that there is half an hour before opening time. You are hot and sweaty and what you need is a seat in the shade, consider the seats outside the pub - are they in the shade? No, they are not.
Now consider a bench in the shade of the chestnut right across from the pub, a bench on which you could recover and watch for Sam unlocking the door. I propose the following, one - we abandon the aims of the RAGBAG, two - the RAGBAG should be retained as an ad hoc organisation for future contingency, three - we maintain the fighting fund and the Committee, four - a vote of thanks to Little Nance for producing our badges and finally, Mr. Chairman, I propose that we put these points to the vote."
Not since VE Day had the Crown of Thorns resounded to such cheers and claps as followed the Nam's speech. I alone did not join in the applause because there seemed to me to be a mystery - what had happened to the Nam of yesterday, the instigator of moles and the detector of conspiracies? I was sure that he had been got at but had no time to explore this line of thought due to the general clamor to exercise democratic rights. All the motions proposed by the Nam, and seconded by Nance, were passed by a majority of five to one. The Snorter proposed that if the bench had a plate commemorating Herman Kranzig we should remove it, carefully. This motion was set aside for further discussion, meaning when neither the Rev or Little Nance were around. To give Snorter his due he realised my intent and proposed a vote of thanks for the Chair and I felt duty bound to get a round in.
It was whilst standing at the bar and gazing at the Nam that the name Susie Reedleman came into my head - she was secretary to the PPC and it was rumoured that Susie and the Nam had a little thing going and, as the old country saying goes, love nobbles all.