Mrs Sanctimonious surveyed the hive of activity on the sun-drenched village green with satisfaction. It was rumoured far and wide that no village threw a better May Day bash than Bell End, and this year’s fête was shaping up to be the best ever.
Looking around, Mrs Sanctimonious frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. She had spent the last six years organising the village fête committee to within an inch of its lives, so why, oh why, did someone always see fit to do their own thing? And why, oh why, did it always have to be the same someone?
“Mrs Downtrodden,” she snapped, sashaying over to the jumble stall. “Mrs Downtrodden, what did we agree at the last committee meeting? What did we agree, hmm? Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village is dealing with jumble, you’re meant to be in the refreshments tent.”
Mrs Sanctimonious paused. There was an obvious flaw in her plan.
“So, where exactly is Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village?”
“Er, she went to see if the blue dress would fit her Leanne…”
“The blue…” Mrs Sanctimonious spluttered, turned an alarming shade of crimson, then tried again. “The blue Gucci for kids dress? It belonged to my Sophia until she wore it the once and got bored with it. I can’t have it gracing the slums of Gutter Street.”
Beckoning Mrs Downtrodden closer, Mrs Sanctimonious whispered, “Did you know – Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village doesn’t even know who her Leanne’s father is? Or her other seven kids’ fathers, for that matter. The woman’s never heard of marriage.”
“Or contraception,” murmured Mrs Downtrodden.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said, isn’t it time for the maypole inspection?”
“Ah yes. For once you’ve come up with a worthwhile idea. And now,” Mrs Sanctimonious added as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village reappeared through a cloud of cigarette smoke, “you can return to your duties in the refreshments tent.”
“Di’n’t fit,” said Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village, chucking the Gucci dress unceremoniously back on to the jumble stall. With a moue of disgust, Mrs Sanctimonious moved off in the direction of the maypole, thinking that if Leanne Wrong-End-Of-The-Village’s daily diet extended to something more healthy than burgers and pizzas, the dress could have fitted a treat. Or perhaps if she got a bit more exercise. Mrs Sanctimonious’s Sophia was forever active, out and about in the saddle, training for gymkhanas, following the hunt…
“Mr Wolf!” she snapped as the village’s oldest resident hobbled past, making his ponderous way with his equally ancient Yorkshire terrier towards the refreshments tent. “Get that dog out of the full sun. Really, I can’t abide cruelty to animals.”
“I was…I was just…Mrs Sanct…” Mr Wolf attempted to wheeze a reply in his defence, but Mrs Sanctimonious had already moved on.
“Justin!” she called, summoning the self-appointed choreographer. Unbinding himself from the maypole’s ribbons and tottering over (his bright pink trousers way too tight to allow for anything resembling a normal walk), Justin launched into a furious tirade before Mrs Sanctimonious had the chance to speak.
“Where are they?” he demanded. “Where are the little angels? How am I supposed to turn them into a posse of Wayne Sleeps if they’re not even here?”
Glancing around, Mrs Sanctimonious saw that Justin had a point. There was no sign of the local children she’d bribed with endless bags of Haribo to dance round the maypole later that day. There was, however, the Reverend Benign approaching from the east, hands clasped in prayer, eyes no more than slits in a face dominated by bottle bottom glasses and prominent front teeth.
“God bless you, my children,” he intoned.
“God bless you too, Your Reverence,” purred Mrs Sanctimonious, a pious smile upon her face.
“A maypole? A little, er…” Reverend Benign lowered his voice and inclined his head towards Mrs Sanctimonious, “pagan, don’t you think?”
Mrs Sanctimonious trilled with sycophantic laughter.
“Justin,” she said, “perhaps the maypole isn’t appropriate for a Christian environment. You should just nip off home…”
Reverend Benign had other plans for the overtly camp Justin.
“Oh Heavenly Father on high,” he chanted, making the sign of the cross in Justin’s face. “Forgive this filthy heathen for succumbing to the sins of the flesh…”
“You what?” said Justin. “I’m in a monogamous relationship, you holier than thou hypocrite.”
Reverend Benign adopted an expression of serene piousness, but Justin hadn’t finished with him yet.
“I’m not the one who spends his afternoons chasing after Miss Pretty-Young-Thing…”
Serenity forgotten, Reverend Benign glared at Justin.
“I’m grooming her,” he snapped.
“That’s about right!”
“For holy orders…”
“What, in her bedroom?”
“The children have arrived, Justin,” Mrs Sanctimonious cut in, sighing with relief at the timely distraction. A fleet of four by fours had indeed pulled up at the edge of the green, the vehicles’ suspension audibly creaking and groaning as a hefty child got out of each one. Reining in his temper, Reverend Benign recovered his dignity and turned to Mrs Sanctimonious with a contemptuous sniff.
“I’ll let you and this…this…”
“Fairy?” suggested Justin helpfully. “Queen?”
“Gentleman,” hissed His Reverence as though that were more distasteful than either of Justin’s suggestions. “I’ll leave you to get on with your pagan rights. I suppose you’ll be telling me you’ve hired Morris dancers next…”
“Oh dear,” said Mrs Sanctimonious as the tell-tale jingle of Morris dancers’ bells carried clearly on the spring breeze. His piousness fully restored, His Reverence clasped his hands in prayer once again and made his way to the refreshments tent.
“Oh dear,” echoed Justin with a cheeky grin, which faded abruptly as the first substantial child slouched over.
“Hello, er, little boy. What’s your name?”
“Fabulous,” murmured Justin, turning to the next child. “And you are?”
“Chunky,” she replied.
“Don’t tell me,” said Justin, turning to the third child. “Tubby?”
“Nah,” he said, cramming a large piece of cake into his mouth and spraying Justin with crumbs as he spoke, “Sumo.”
“Delightful,” said Justin, rolling his eyes at Mrs Sanctimonious. “If a butterfly’s wings can cause an earthquake on the other side of the world, I shudder to think what damage this lot dancing will do. Come on,” he added, shepherding the children towards the maypole, “grab a ribbon each and let’s get started.”
The smug ball now firmly back in her court, Mrs Sanctimonious smiled sweetly as she surveyed the last minute fête preparations going on around her. The crowds were gathering for the grand opening, everything was in place, and even the bank holiday weather was being uncharacteristically kind.
What could possibly go wrong?
Join me again on Monday to find out exactly what could go wrong…