People in our village tend to be of two distinct types: the joiners-in and those who stand aside. I choose my words carefully, here, since members of the ‘standing aside’ group are not, as is often claimed, necessarily apathetic. On the contrary, very often they are among the most vociferous in favour of village life. They just don’t actually do anything to promote it or support it, except live here and talk about it. The joiners-in, on the other hand, do just that. They join every committee that’s going, start up any that aren’t, and support the activities of any others they’ve missed.
While I try to do my fair share of committee work, I can’t profess to be the most dedicated joiner-in. That dubious honour must go to Janet and Brian, aka ‘Mr and Mrs Committee’. Between them they chair various Parish Council committees, along with being Brown Owl and Akela (respectively). They both belong to the Church Hall committee, where Brian is treasurer. They each head up the village pond committee and the gardening club committee, while participating actively as members of the cricket club committee (in summer) and the football club committee (in winter). In their spare time they throw in a spot of handbell ringing.
I joined the gardening club myself when I moved to the village. They are dog friendly, and so Tramp and I trot along to each meeting in the Church Hall on the first Thursday of every month, at 7.30 pm sharp. Speakers are advised not to dim the lights too far during their slide shows, or they will face strong competition from snoring from the audience. The talks are well attended on the whole – especially on the tried and tested topics of pests and diseases in the garden, or pruning of any kind. None of us, it seems, has succeeded in conquering the demands of either.
Janet times her announcements for just before the inevitable raffle, for no-one leaves until it is drawn. When it comes time for the raffle, you could cut the tension in the room with a sharp spade, with prizes like packets of seeds, donated tomato plants or a box of Milk Tray up for grabs. You have to buy five tickets at a time, as each strip of five is laminated for re-use next time, saving costs of course. Woe betide anyone who fails to return their strips at the end of the evening – as it is, we are missing several runs of numbers from the draw.
When Janet took to the floor last Thursday, clutching her handwritten list of announcements, I could see she was more than usually determined in what she had to say. Brian moved to stand beside her. Even Tramp stood up and gave a little wag of his tail, by way of encouragement.
Janet ran through the arrangements for the forthcoming Spring show, emphasising that entries for all classes had to be submitted by 12.35 p.m. as judging would commence at 12.40. She explained in vivid detail the difference between a daffodil and a narcissus, and gave us the acceptable dimensions for the round bowl and the tall vase arrangements, respectively.
All this was well and good. But when it came to the final announcement about the regular, annual fundraiser for the club, reading between the lines I could see Janet and the committee had not finished up fully in accord at their last meeting.
Every year, the club holds a summer BBQ, and this year is to be no exception. Club members usually pitch in with providing sausages and home-made burgers, along with salads, coleslaw, jellies and trifles. They are dished up, school dinner fashion, by the committee behind long trestle tables, as everyone passes along the line. We all bring along our own drink. Janet and Brian organise quizzes and games to while away the afternoon, many of which former cubs and brownies have played before. But, given fine weather, it is a friendly, sociable event and usually well attended.
But there has been an influx of new joiners-in to the committee this year. They are hell-bent on making this a village-wide event, and on raising real money for the club through ticket sales and takings from a cash bar. Through visibly clenched teeth, Janet announced that “the committee had decided” we are to have a hog roast, provided at cost by a local caterer known to one of the new committee members. There will be no quizzes or obstacle races; instead a live band will play throughout the afternoon and evening.
“It could be a rather loud affair,” she added, her sole diversion from the party line.
“Will there still be a raffle?” someone asked, behind me.
“Yes,” Janet said, “but I expect that will change, as well”.
“I suppose more books will need laminating”, said the voice behind me, in all seriousness.