was on a quiet stroll through the village and found myself down on the
quayside. I stood there for a few minutes looking out across the estuary,
wondering whether or not to take to the beach, then I thought to walk along the
sea wall. Ahead of me was the swimming pool, it was a very enticing looking thing
made out of stone, it was sort of triangular in shape, and at the blunt end there
was a fountain. No doubt filled with water from the estuary. I imagined the
coldness of the water added to by the cold stone, the only good thing that
would be worth, would be a cold dip to clear a hangover!
There were three young women in bathing costumes messing about the swimming pool. One was in the pool, but sitting in a small dingy, the other two were at the poolside throwing a beach ball to the one in the dingy. Somehow this scene reminded me of the Free Sea in the Piazza, there was often a young man and his friend messing about with a dingy in the Free Sea pool, that too has a fountain at one end. I bid the ladies a good day.
“Have you three been swimming?”
“What in this swimming pool, not likely!” one said.
“Have you been in there mister, the water’s freezing!” said another.
“Is this like the Free Sea in the Piazza? I asked.
“We don’t know, we’re just enjoying our afternoon off” the third girl said.
“Afternoon off, you work here then?”
“You ask a lot of questions mister, who might you be?”
“I’m new here” I said.
“He might be a guardian” one of the girls suggested.
“Are you a guardian, is that it?” the second girl asked.
“Perhaps we should throw him in the swimming pool!
“That’ll cool him off alright.”
“Why should you think me a guardian?”
“You don’t catch us out Number 46, or whatever your number is. Come on girls were back on duty in ten minutes.”
The three girls left the swimming pool to go and get changed, but chatted as they went.
“I tell you what, he didn’t look like a guardian, he looked rather nice.”
“That’s how they catch you out!”
“Why should a guardian want to catch any of us out, we’re Observers.”
“Oh come on, we’ll be late.”
I made my way up the hill into the village, taking my time as I had nowhere particular to be, or go.
A large chessboard had been set out on the lawn, and a chap approached me
“Do you play chess by any chance?”
“No, I’m sorry I don’t.”
“Well you’re no good to us then!”
Four people then came along carrying mallets.
“Here, what’s the game?” said one of them.
“Chess!” the man said.
“You’ve got a nerve setting out that chessboard on our Croquet lawn!”
“Were those hoops and mallets yours?”
“Well we put them on that bit of lawn up there on the terrace.”
“We can’t play Crochet on that bit of lawn!”
“Not my problem” the man said “Sir, do you play chess sir?”
A passer-by shook his head.
“Do any of you four play chess?”
“Yes I do” said one.”
“You do! Take this and come and be the white King’s Bishop” and he shoved a tall chess pole in the man's hand and hurried him onto the chessboard.
“Now we’re a player short!” said one of the croquet players.
“Never mind that for now, why don’t we go and set the hoops up on that square lawn over there in front of the fish pond?” the third croquet player suggested.
“Good idea” said the first player “Follow me!”
The three players marched right across the chessboard in protest.
A player on a tall set of steps called out the first moved.
“Pawn to King four.”
“Pawn to King four” was the reply.
“Knight to Queen’s Bishop three.”
Two burly set men in red jerseys approached me, one of them took my arm “You were down by the swimming pool a few minutes ago” No.256 said.
“What about it?” I said indigently and struggled against the man’s grip.
“What were you doing questioning the three girls?” No.134 asked.
“I didn’t question them; I simply asked if they had been for a swim.”
“And what’s that got to do with you?”
“Nothing, I was being polite that’s all. I didn’t wish to appear disharmonious.”
“Number 2 wants a word with you.”
I was frogmarched away by the two guardians along a cobbled path, across the road, up the steps and into the Green Dome. In No.2’s office I was sat in a black leather chair. No.2 sat in a black globe chair and waved the two guardians away.
“Now Number 35” No,.2 said in quiet tone “you were seen down by the swimming pool. Why were you questioning those three girls?”
“As I told those two goons of yours, I wasn’t questioning them; I merely asked them if they had been for a swim.”
“What’s that to you?”
“Nothing, nothing at all” I replied.
“I haven’t seen very much of you, have I Number 35?”
“I wouldn’t know. I know I haven’t seen very much of you!”
“I think we must do something to rectify that, don’t you?”
“What would you suggest?”
Over the coming weeks No.2 and No.35 saw a great deal of each other. Sometimes they were seen to attend the regular brass band concerts on occasion. They would sit and talk for hours, and there was talk, talk of their friendship. Then one day the steel doors of No.2’s office opened and his assistant No.21 walked down the ramp.
“What do you want Number 21?”
“Then go away, I’m expecting Number 35 any minute.”
“Ah, Number 35.”
“What about him?”
“Well sir not to put too fine a point on it, there has been talk, and if I can’t say something then who will?”
“Look 21 if you have something to say just say it!”
“I think you’re too close to Number 35, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.”
“I’m trying to get him to talk.”
“And is he talking?”
“Well he’s told me a few things.”
“Yes, and developing a relationship with you at the same time.”
“He may come to rely upon your friendship in more difficult times.”
No.2 thought for a moment “Oh…I see what you mean.”
“I think it’s time for you to go and another interim 2 to be appointed in your place.”
“What would that achieve?”
“It would like a game of snakes and ladders, Number 35 sliding down a snake and having to begin all over again from square 1 with a new Number 2, thus giving him no chance of building a rapport with any Number 2, if he, or she, was replaced at regular or indeed irregular times.”
“That’s a good idea 21, I think I’ll make the suggestion to Number 1.”
Two days later a new No.2 arrived in the village, he passed his predecessor on the way out! As for No.35 he slid down the snake and began from square one again, and life for him in the village became a whole lot harder!
Be seeing you