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Wednesday 10 February 2021

Further Tales From The Village

    It’s funny when you think about it, and when I think about it I realize just how funny it is. And if it wasn’t funny it would be tragic! They got the wrong man you see, I shouldn’t be here at all. There I was, feet up in front of the telly, bottle of pale ale watching Armchair Theatre. The next thing I know is I wake up here……in this place. But the joke’s on No.2, because they got the wrong man!
  “The joke will be on you if you don’t get a move on; we’ve got to give the Stone Boat a refit today. So get about up there in the rigging!” No.212 ordered.
    There were five men in overalls who set about painting, re-rigging, fixing a new ship’s wheel, giving her a fresh lick of paint in order to make the Stone Boat ship shape and Bristol fashion. She was to have a new sail, and be decked out with bunting, and have a new dingy hanging from her davits. And No.29 found himself amongst the work gang taking down the old rigging.
    “Come on lads look lively” 212 ordered “we haven’t got all day.”
    A man in a white cap came walking passed.
    “Nice to see the old ship getting a refit, she’s good in any weather, sailed her many a time” and he carried on his way humming the tune “what shall we do with the drunken sailor” as he went.
    “Silly old fool” said one of the workmen.
    “A little eccentric perhaps” I said and climbing the rigging I busied myself securing a red and white life belt.
    The refit of the stone boat took us a couple of days, but by the end of it she certainly looked the part, even though the stone boat was part of the quay and couldn’t sail anywhere!
    The next day I was given the job of draining and cleaning the pool in the piazza, the Free Sea it was called. I never could make head nor tale of that sign, it was like the one inviting citizens to walk on the grass, that seemed a bit on the contrary side, surely that should be don’t walk on the grass. Anyway I switched off the fountain and let the water drain away by opening the two drain holes of the pool, then taking a brush I scrubbed the empty pool and swilled away the green algae which had begun to accumulate. This was all the time citizens whiled away their time promenading in the Piazza while I was working! Had they nothing better to do with their time, when it might have been better spent in attempting to escape? But perhaps they had once upon a time, perhaps no-one had come up with the perfect escape plan, meaning there was still such a thing as to find a perfect means to escape. I allowed my mind to drift but was quickly snapped back to reality by the voice of No.212 the foreman.
    “When you’ve done there 29, you can help 110 with the drains, alright?”
    “Okay” I heard myself replying, then I heard myself thinking about the drains, surely there must be a sewage outlet pipe. Coastal holiday resorts usually had sewage outlet pipes leading out into the sea.....I bet no-one’s thought of this before!
    Drains and sewage can be a very nasty, dirty, foul smelling business as No.29 soon found out spending time with 110 clearing a blockage. In fact the next day he volunteered to work with No.110 maintaining the drains on a permanent basis. No.29 found stooping along the drains an education plus he was free from surveillance, and the attention of the guardians. Then one day when he was carrying out an inspection of a main sewage conduit he stumbled on the main sewage outlet pipe that led out to sea. The far end of the pipe was covered by a rusty old grill, rusty yes, but still sound, he would need a hacksaw to cut his way out. And there was also the danger of the sea, a high tide filled the pipe and effectively flushed it out. His escape plan would take careful timing, but first to lay his hands on a hacksaw.
    Later that afternoon No.29 lingered about the maintenance workshop, and when no-one was looking he helped himself to a small hacksaw which he easily hid in his overalls. It was close to knocking off time and the foreman was eager to lock up, so No.29 went round to the back of the maintenance workshop and waited, he waited until he was sure the village was quietening down. It was early evening when he finally made his move, he quietly made his way through the woods to the other side of the village, and at the back of the Town Hall he raised a square manhole cover, and eased himself down into the sewer, replacing the manhole cover above him. He took his torch out of his pocket and made his way along the sewer in the direction of the main sewer outlet and then along to the rusted old grill. Cutting through those four rusty bars cemented in across the end sewer outlet pipe was hard work, but eventfully the grill was cut free, and with a kick of the foot it fell into the water.
    No.29 emerged from the pipe to breathe the fresh clean air of freedom, before dropping into the sea and swimming a short distance along the coast before crawling out of the water to rest on the rocks. There was a path leading up to the top of the cliffs, from there he made his way inland across open fields of green pasture. Crawling through a private hedge he stumbled on a narrow track way which led the way in either direction. Either way was as good as the other, and so he walked on for a couple of miles until he reached a wooden gate across the track. Climbing over the gate he walked on a little further and then saw a plume of smoke in the distance.     “Hello” he shouted at a man tending a bonfire.
    The man looked up at a man standing on the track.
    “You’re trespassing, didn’t you see the sign?”
    “No, I’m sorry, but can you help me?”
    “What do you want?”
    “Some food, water, and directions if you would be so kind” he asked.
    As it happens the farmer’s wife was kindness itself, she fed him stew and boiled potatoes, bread and butter pudding, and a large mug of hot tea.
    “Where have you come from?” the farmer asked.
    “Don’t bother the man Josh, he’s a raggedy man who looks like he belongs nowhere but in need of a helping hand.”
    “I know but he could be anyone, an escaped prisoner perhaps!” the farmer suggested.
   And yet the farmer’s wife told her husband not to be so daft, and continued to look kindly on this raggedy man. After a bath and clean clothes he began to feel himself once more, and less like an escaped prisoner! He thanked the farmer and his wife for their kind hospitality. It was then that the farmer turned on the television, and the face of a middle aged man appeared on the screen, he was sat in a black global chair.
    “I’m sorry to have to tell you this Number 29, but the farmhouse is an outpost of the village” No.2 told him “That was rather ingenious of you, no-one has thought to try the sewers as a means of escape. If you will remain where you are please, village transport is on its way to pick you up.”
   No.29 stood there in shock, then glanced about the room and saw the coal in a scuttle by the fire place. He leaped at the chance and threw himself forward then a piece of coal smashed the television screen. The farmer’s wife was brushed aside, as the farmer went for his shotgun. At the door No.29 found his way blocked by two burly set guardians, who with the help of No.12 escorted the prisoner to the waiting white Mini-Moke.
    “You were right my dear, he was an escaped prisoner” the farmers wife said standing at the farmhouse door.
   She watched as No.12 got in the taxi and started the engine as the guardians helped No.29 into the vehicle, and then drive off out of the farmyard and back along the track.
    “And you are too generous with your kindness” the farmer told his wife.
    “Yes but he was so raggedy, and looked to be in such desperate need of help, and I believe he still is. Where are you going?”
   “Back to the bonfire, I’ll take my gun, might bag a rabbit or two.”

Be seeing you

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