Community Spirit – Episode 01

THE sign for Much Mucklebury appeared around the bend; a painted wooden marker over a flower-box filled with pansies. Nate slowed the car.

“This is more like it,” he said, driving past a quaint old church opposite a triangular village green edged on one side by whitewashed cottages, a village shop, and a box-hedged pub.

Cally opened her eyes and took her earphones out.

“Wow, Dad! This is great,” she said, eyes landing on the pub with its climbing rose in full bloom around the door, arch of honeysuckle over the gate and leaded windows sparkling in the sun.

“Isn’t it?” Nate replied, looking around. “It’s like I told you, a fresh start. The good times are coming.”

He turned right into the lane that edged the green and pulled up.

“I thought you said it was a traditional village pub on its knees. I can’t see why this place needs rescuing.”

After many years running a thriving pub, Nate had become a troubleshooter for the brewery, which resulted in a lot of moving around.

“That’s not the Mucklebury Arms.”

“It’s not?” She frowned.

“No, that’s the Goose and Gander,” Nate replied, pointing up at the sign.

He gently turned her head until she was looking through the driver’s side window.

“That’s the Mucklebury Arms.”

They both looked across the green. The grey roof was more moss than slate, cracks in the render had been repaired but not repainted, and the once-gold lettering below the roof-line now spelled MUCK-BURY A-MS.

Nate jumped as a face appeared outside the driver’s side window and a man in bowling whites tapped on the window.

“You can’t park here,” he said as Nate rolled down the window. “The entrance to the car park is on the main road.”

“Oh, I’m not parking here,” Nate told him. “We’re just getting the first glimpse of our new home. I’m Nate Hopkins, new manager of the Mucklebury Arms, and this is my daughter, Cally.”

“Arthur Regis, captain of the bowls team, pleased to meet you. I live at number three,” he said, pointing to the row of four terraced cottages. “The Mucklebury Arms, eh? You’ll have your work cut out there. Last chap used to close at eight-thirty.

“Reckon he drank most of the merchandise if the singing that floated over the green most nights was

anything to go by. Ran off about two weeks ago.”

“Has it been shut since then?”

“No, I think Rita’s been opening it up. More for show than anything.”

“Rita Payne?” Nate asked.

“That’s her. She keeps everything going between managers. I think she’s there now.”

“It’s open?” It was three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and the pub was supposed to be open but the door looked firmly shut.

“Yes. Door’s a bit stiff. Give it a good shove with your shoulder.”

“OK, thanks,” Nate replied. “Maybe see you later?”

Arthur chuckled.

“Maybe,” he said. “Welcome the new boy, and all that.”

Nate circled round and pulled up outside the Mucklebury Arms.

“Come on,” he said to Cally. “Let’s see what we’re up against.”

Alison Cook