You know that flat bit you get between New Year and February? Well it’s the same here in Biddermouth on Sea. All we’ve had to look forward to so far is the announcement of the spring programme of entertainment at the community centre for the Over 60’s. And to be honest after last season’s offerings even that wasn’t guaranteed to be up to much since Councillor Bella Bynge has decided our minds needed stimulating to ward off dementia.
‘I blame global warming,’ said my neighbour Beattie as she turned her nose up at the pile of choux buns that had been on display in the Silver Lantern Café for the last week.
‘There was a time when people dropped dead by the dozen in January but now? There’s not one funeral tea in my diary for January and if somebody doesn’t die soon we’ll be looking at the first week of February before we get so much as a free ham sandwich. I had high hopes of Gloria Chang passing but apparently the antibiotics have worked and they say she’s breathing again. Now does that look like a chocolate chip muffin to you Vera or is it a burned fairy cake with a dead fly in it?’
Vera said, out of malice, it was a chocolate chip muffin and Bernie Heffernan who runs the place and doesn’t have the same history with Beattie came clean and admitted it was probably a fly.
‘The extermination machine’s been on the blink so it has it,’ she said. ‘You know the one that’s supposed to go ‘phtzzzzzzz’? Well it’s never really been the same since that sparrow flew into it the day Noreen left the back window open trying to cool down the Apple Turnovers. The feathers smelled something dreadful so they did. Now would yourself be wanting me to scrape it off for you?’
‘It’s all this mild weather,’ Beattie went on choosing to ignore her and settling instead for three bourbon creams that came in a sealed wrapper.
Apparently, before the advent of aerosols and carbon dioxide the steps next to the old wool shop that lead down to the promenade used to be good for at least a couple of fatalities when it turned icy.
‘That’s true,’ piped up Lila Morris. ‘One year we had three at once, Jean Mollison, Nella Hargreaves and Pat Whithers. Down like ninepins they went. One after the other.’
Vera said that wasn’t ice. They had all rolled under a number 47 bus. Although she still had no idea whatever possessed three grown women to attempt the Lambeth Walk in sub-zero temperatures like that.
‘All the same,’ replied Lila, ‘if Pat hadn’t lingered we’d have been hard pushed to have managed three funerals in one day. We only just made it to St Anne’s in time for Nella’s ‘ashes to ashes’ after that vicar with the stutter caused Jean’s do at St Mark’s to overrun.’
‘He had trouble saying ‘Mollison’ you see,’ Vera explained for my benefit because I hadn’t been living in Biddermouth at the time. ‘If you ask me he should have just stuck to ‘dearly departed’ and shovelled a bit faster. Anyway what have we got here?’
Pulling a leaflet out of her handbag and adjusting her glasses she read,
‘Biddermouth on Sea Community Centre Spring Calendar. Dear God! Surely not?’
‘What,’ asked Beattie?
‘More female explorers,’ Vera said. ‘Only this time it’s ‘Borneo On Foot’. Why can’t they just get proper jobs and stay at home? If you ask me they’ve got too much time on their hands.’
In Lila’s opinion it sounded much better than last year’s couple who had rowed the Atlantic single handed. In Vera’s opinion they had done no such thing.
‘How can you row single handed when there’s two of you,’ she asked?
‘All the same,’ replied Lila struggling with the metaphysics of it all, ‘they still had to drink their own urine when they ran out of water.’
‘And seemed very proud of it too,’ said Beattie, adding that if she ever found herself in a similar situation the last thing she’d want to do was broadcast the fact to members of the Town’s Women’s Guild.
‘Some people have no shame. Now whatever happened to that nice woman who used to give the demonstrations of decorative icing,’ she wondered?’
‘Cataracts,’ said Vera.
Lila said she thought she’d had them done and Vera said she had. On the National Health.
‘Now she can’t see a thing. Ah! This looks interesting. ‘Annual Sex, the last bedroom taboo’.
‘That’s ‘anal’,’ said Lila craning her neck to read the leaflet at the same time as handing Vera a serviette so she could clean her glasses and although whilst she had no idea what it meant Lila was certain it couldn’t just be something that happened on her Keith’s birthday. And to be honest if it was I have to say none of us wanted to spend two hours sitting on hard plastic chairs to hear about it.
‘How about Pilates,’ asked Vera? ‘There’s a talk on that for beginners.’
Lila said that was no good as none of us spoke Greek, or was it Latin? Anyway since when had Vera been interested in ancient philosophers?
‘I think it’s something that Sylvia Protheroe does with those women in leotards,’ suggested Beattie. ‘You know the ones. They can’t eat anything with egg in it or sit on chairs covered in man-made fibres. ‘
Was it an exercise then, Lila wanted to know?
‘Attention seeking more like,’ replied Beattie whose low opinion of Sylvia and her fitness classes had its roots in the time when they took ballet lessons together after school.
Apparently Sylvia was chosen to become a cygnet in the class production of Swan Lake and Beattie was chosen to open and close the curtains. But we don’t mention it, even now.
‘Well,’ said Vera, ‘looks like we’ll have to spend Wednesday afternoons changing our library books.’
And I think, unless there’s a cold snap or an undiagnosed case of antibiotic resistance she may well be right.
To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’, ‘A Festive Falling Out’ and ‘Turkey And All The Trimmings’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE
All Things Biddermouth ©Ian Ashley 2017