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Monday 22 February 2021

Further Tales From The Village

     It was a day much like any other, and it brought with it a new interim No.2, who having attended to his ablutions, dressed and ate a hearty breakfast. He was just about to leave his room when the grey teleprinter began typing out a message, he stood in front of the machine and when it stopped typing he tore off the message and read it. It was not simply a message, but an instruction. Crumpling up the piece of paper he crossed the room to the door which lead into a corridor of the Town Hall, from there he made his way down to the grey walled underground corridors. At the end of one corridor was a dais upon which was a black global chair, he sat in it and the dais moved upwards through a hole in the ceiling which then became a hole in the floor of his office in the Green Dome. A man of medium height with dark hair, wearing a dark coloured piped blazer, stood by a desk.

    “Good morning Number 2” the man said.
    “A good morning is it?”
    “Something wrong sir?”
    “You might ask, who are you anyway?”
    “I’m Number 20, I’m here to assist you in any way sir.”
    “My assistant you say, good” he said still grasping the screwed up piece of paper “Well I should like some tea.”
    No.20 checked the time of his watch “Its rather early sir, a good 2 hours before elevenses.”
    “I……should care for some tea if you do not mind.”
    “Is there something wrong sir? If I may say you seem to have got out of bed the wrong side.”
    “I received an instruction this morning from our masters.”
    “Not from Number 1?”
    “Number 1?”
    “Yes, he usually gives instructions via the red telephone.”
    No.2 looked at the over-sized red curved telephone, then handed No.20 the crumpled sheet of paper who opened it and read the crumpled instruction.
    “And you received this, this morning sir?”
    “A few minutes before I came to this office.”
    “You know what this means sir?”
    “I’ll ask the butler to prepare some tea” and with that No.20 crossed the floor and walked smartly up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors.
    It was at that point the red over-sized curved telephone began to bleep, it took him a little by surprise, but then he picked it up “Number 2 here…………yes sir I have received the instruction…………..will you be there?........That is a pity sir, I had wished you could have been with us……yes sir I’m sure it will.”
    The pair of steel doors opened and No.20 entered the office followed by the diminutive butler pushing a breakfast trolley.
    “Well Number 20, I have been brought here to organise a village fete!”
    “Yes sir.”
    The butler busied himself putting out the tea things on a small table which has risen up through a hole in the floor.
    “Tell me Number 20, do we have any coconut shies, or hoop-la, hook a duck, and tombola stalls in storage?”
    The butler poured out two cups of tea then wheeled his trolley across the floor, up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors.
    “We do have a side show artist in our little friend” No.2 suggested.
    “And me as a bearded lady I suppose!”
    “Do not tempt me Number 20. What about amusements, slot machines and all that?”
    “I’ll have to check, but where exactly will we hold this fete?”
    “Its traditional to hold such an event on the village green is it not?” No.2 asked sipping his tea.
    “Yes it is” 20 said stirring his tea “but have you seen the size of our village green?”
    “Well it will be a very small village fete that’s all.”
    “Why do we have to hold a village fete at all?”
    “You read the instruction.”
    “Yes but I still don’t understand.”
    “It’s all the fun of the fete, cake stalls, homemade wine, tea and scones, shocks and surprises.”
   “For who sir, you, me…..Number 6. Now drink your tea, we have a great deal of work to do, or rather you do.”

 “Good afternoon everyone, good afternoon, I have some exciting news for you. A village fete is to be held three weeks this coming Wednesday, there will be stalls, games, entertainment, thrills, frolics, and excitement for all.”
    “Here Number 234 have you read this in The Tally Ho?”

    “No, 235 I haven’t, when do I ever have time to sit about reading the daily broadsheet?”
    “Well your tea’s ready.”
    “Oh good, any biscuits?”
    Suddenly the office door opened and the figure of No.20 stood framed in the doorway.
    “There’s no time for biscuits” he said entering the office “in fact there’s no time for tea.”
    “Here who are you to just walk in here?”
    “I know him, he’s No.20, the new No.2’s lackey!” 234 said
    “Well he’s got no right coming in here laying the law down….what do you want?”
    “There’s to be a village fete” No.20 said.
    “I was just reading about that in The Tally Ho” 234 said.
    “Village fete, what’s that to do with us?”
    No.20 looked about the office, then out of the office door into the warehouse where a number of men were working “How are you fixed for tents and fairground stall type things, you know.”
    “We’ve got  some striped changing tents, I dare say we could knock up a few stalls.”
    “Coconuts, what do you want those for?”
    “And plastic yellow ducks with numbers painted on them, for the hook a duck stall, and rings for the hoop-la” 20 ordered.
    “Look where am I to get coconuts from?”
    “That’s not my problem, there’ll need to be some amusements slot machines and the like.”
    “Slot machines, where am I to get slot machines?”
    “I know where we can get some slot machines” 234 said.
    “You do?” 235 asked.
    “We could borrow them from the Palace of Fun” 234 replied eagerly.
    “Now that’s what I call initiative” No.20 said.
    “That’s all very well” 235 said “but we’ve got other urgent work to be doing you know, the cottage 109 Private has to be fitted out and some of the fixtures and fittings have to be hand-made here by my lads, as well as the procurement of some of the more unusual items of antique furniture, silver ornaments I’ve got a list as long as your arm here, and the stagecoach is in for refurbishment….”
    “Well you’d better crack on then, hadn’t you!” No.20 ordered.
    “That’s what I call initiative, well you’d better crack on, I’ll give him crack on…..put the kettle on!”

    The pair of steel doors opened and No.20 marched smartly down the ramp.
    “Well Number 20?”
    “As well as can be expected sir, bit of a twinge on my right knee this morning…….”
    “I’m not asking about you, how goes it with the village fete progress?”
    “They are a surly bunch in Warehouse and requisition, if I had my way…..”
    “I hope you haven’t been antagonizing them, they do good work, can’t afford to have those lads upset.”
    “No sir, certainly not.”
    “The village fete will take place on time sir, you have my word on it.”
    “I do not wish for words, only deeds!”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “But why bother about a fete in the first place?”
    “I have not the foggiest idea. But there was a further instruction this morning, Morris dancers?”
    “I beg your pardon sir?”
    “Are there any Morris dancers in the village?”
    “Not that I’m aware sir.”
    “Well find some, and get them practicing for the village fete.”
    “Why sir?”
    “Because it has been decreed in instructions, that’s why. If you asked less questions we might get more done!”
    “Sorry sir, I’ll attend to it straight away…..Morris dancers, I don’t know!”

    “Good morning, good morning, congratulations on yet another day. The weather will be fine and dry, although a fresh breeze will pick up by late afternoon, and there is the possibility of intermittent showers this evening. For your information the village fete is but two days away, candy floss, toffee apples, there will be side shows, Hook-A-Duck, Hoop-la, test your strength, and amusements aplenty, and the excitement of Morris dancers. Come one come all, be seeing you.”

    The village green was taped off, and there was great activity as workmen erected stalls and colourful striped tents, bunting fluttered in the breeze and the village fete was beginning to take shape. The test your strength machine was in place, and the amusement arcade was filled with one-armed bandits borrowed from the Palace of Fun, there was even a Palmist tent where one could have one’s fortune told.
    “Here 212 have you heard?”
    “Heard what, here pass me that hammer” 212 said holding out his hand.
    “That the village fete is going to have Morris dancers” 134 said picking up the hammer and passing it over.
    No.212 looked at 134 “Morris dancers, where are they going to find Morris dancers?”
   “Beats me!”

   “Well I’ve put our names down!”
   “You’ve done what…..!”

    “Good afternoon everyone, good afternoon. The village fete is now open, peruse the stalls, win a coconut, hook-a-duck and win a prize. Candyfloss, hot dogs, and ice cream are now on sale, and later we are to be entertained by the village Morris men…..come one come all, roll up and have fun, be seeing you.”

    Number 2 and his assistant No.20 were mingling amongst the crowd of people enjoying themselves, and looking at the stalls.
    “You managed to find them then” No.2 said resisting the temptation to try and win a coconut.
    “Yes, I didn’t want to let you down” No.20 said, he was feeling pretty pleased with himself.
    “The people are enjoying themselves.”
    “Yes sir, it’s a real morale booster.”
    “Where did you find them?”
    “Who sir?”
    “The Morris dancers.”
    A tall man in a dark piped blazer walked passed “It’s all too absurd, don’t you think?”
    “Yes, if you say so Number 6.”
    “You were going to say………”
    “I’m sorry sir?”
    “About the Morris dancers.”
    “Well sir you can see for yourself.”
    At that moment on another part of the green a number of men in white cowled gowns were taking up their positions, one man was playing a flute while at the same time beating a small drum.
    No.2 and his assistant stood watching amid a small crowd that had gathered “These Morris men.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “How did you come by them?”
    “How do you mean sir?
    “They don’t look much like Morris dancers to me…………”
    The Morris men began to dance, their bells jingled and jangled, and they banged and waved sticks in the air.
    “They look more like members of the Klu-Klux clan!”
    “Oh I don’t know sir, they have painted their faces half black half white.”
    “What are those sticks they have called?”
    “They’re wiffling sticks sir, they bang them together like that to ward off evil spirits.”
    “Fascinating, that one there…..”
    “Where sir?”
    “There, the one with the number 1 on his robe.”
    “What about him sir?”
    “Why the number?”
    “I really don’t know sir, he’s probably the boss, the leader of these Morris men” No.20 suggested.
    “I want to talk to him.”
    “Now sir?”
    “No after the dance. So how did you come by these so called Morris men?”
    “Well I put out a call for volunteers for Morris men, then one day I got a call from someone who said he could provide such Morris men to dance at the fete. I didn’t ask any questions and well sir here they are.”
   The dance came to an end, No.2 indicated for them to pick up the Morris man with the black number 1 on his robe, but after a search there was no number 1. And then……
    “There he goes!” one of the guardians shouted and ran off in pursuit with No.20 and others following close on their heels
    The chase was on! It wasn’t easy to outrun someone in a long robe, he hitched it up like a dress and dodged about this way and that between the stalls, then set off running along a cobbled path towards the Town Hall, through the turquoise wrought iron gates, down the steps across the road, up the Town Hall steps only to be stopped dead in his tracks by an electrical force-field.
    “You alright mate?” a gardener asked “its fussy about who it lets in, this is the Town Hall.”
    The man in the white robe began to run when he saw the pursers, up the road, round the bend, passed the café. He thought about dodging into the Gloriette, but they would catch him there so he ran on, on to the Green Dome and sanctuary. Running up the steps he found himself on the balcony, then through the arch and the open front door. In the foyer he brushed the butler aside, then rushed through the pair of French doors, the blast-proof steel doors slid open and he ran through and down the ramp and into the purple domed chamber, the steel doors sliding behind him. Behind the desk was a black global chair, the man turned the chair around.
    “And where do you think you’re going?” asked the smiling face of No.2.
    No.20 arrived on the scene with the guardians, the man in the white robe was seated in a chair, and No.2 conducted the inquisition himself.
    “Do you know who we have here Number 20?”
    “No Number 2.”
    “Go on, have a guess.”
    “The chief inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition?”
    “No, try again?”
    “A Benedictine monk?”
    “Almost, he’s certainly something of a recluse. He tells me he’s Number 1!”
    “Number 1, he’s a bit pathetic for Number 1.”
    “Yes I thought that, he’s a bit of a weasel if you ask me. I would have expected Number 1 to be more of a wit, skilful, intelligent, a big brain to come up with something like the village. But what have we got?”
    “A 5 feet nothing, 9 stone weakling. Who made this poor exhibit Number 1?”
    “Apparently those Morris men that were dancing out there a few minutes ago.”
    “Except they’re not Morris men at all, they are delegates of an Assembly which is responsible for every aspect of society!”
    “Who told you that?”
    “Our friend Number 1 here.”
    “That’s right, and you had better let me go, otherwise…….”
    “Otherwise what?”
    Just at that moment the red ‘L’ shaped intercom began to bleep, No.2 picked it up.
    “Number 2 here……….yes……..I see………..what shall I do with our friend here?............really, very good sir.”
    No.2 replaced the intercom on his desk “That was, well let us say that you have been dethroned. Our friend here has been nothing more than a communications medium through which orders are transmitted. I have news for you, do you want to hear it?”
    No.1 was busy using his robe to wipe the black and white paint off his face “Tell me the worst.”
    The delegates of the Assembly have found themselves a new Number 1, and you’ll never guess what he wants done with you. Take him away Number 20.”
    “And do what with him?”
    “Apparently a new old village custom is to be implemented, a pair of stocks is to be erected on the village green, put him in it!”
    The former No.1 protested “The stocks, why, what is my transgression?”
    “You became involved!”
    “Cooped up in that damned cavern day in day out, and forced to wear this get-up, so would you. So I thought pretending to be Morris men, well why not, a bit of a laugh, but what about the others?”
    “Take him away, I understand the citizens are ready to show Number 1 here their own particular brand of appreciation!”

Be seeing you

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