Community Spirit – Episode 14

AS head of the Much Mucklebury WI and keen saviour of the Mucklebury Arms, Pamela was always capable and happy to take charge in a crisis.

Jeannie grasped Pamela’s arm.

“You could say that,” she said, looking over to where Debbie and Fergus had another member of staff trapped between them behind the bar.

Pamela followed her gaze.

“Say no more,” she said. “They’ve been having a go at you, have they?”

“Sort of.”

“Divide and conquer, that’s their motto,” Pamela said, squinting at them. “I know Debbie of old.”

“Really?” Jeannie asked. “I thought they moved here from London.”

“I wasn’t brought up round here,” Pamela told her. “Debbie and I went to the same high school.”

Jeannie was surprised. She had been in the village for 20 years and Pamela had been there all that time. She assumed that had always been the case.

“Debbie was in the year above me at school and her gang enjoyed picking on the weaker ones.”

“Did she pick on you?”

“No!” Pamela laughed, waving to her lunch companion, who’d arrived at the door. “I’m tougher than I look, but I could tell you things about Debbie I’m sure even Fergus doesn’t know.”

“I bet she was surprised to find you here,” Jeannie said.

“Had the shock of her life.” Pamela smiled. “And to find out I was head of the WI, married to a local businessman and quite influential in the village nearly finished her off. The only reason I come here is so that she feels I’m watching her.” She gave Jeannie a wink. “So don’t let her and her husband push you around, OK?”

Pamela’s no-nonsense approach always made Jeannie feel looked after. When her husband left, it was kind, resourceful Pamela she had called on for support.

Jeannie served her tables and enjoyed feeling useful. It was nice not to have to think about loans and repayments and debt. As long as she could avoid Debbie and Fergus she could get along quite well here – until something better came along.

“Jeannie, hello! I thought that was you,” a voice said from behind her as she placed two plates of food in front of a couple.

“Mrs Boswell!” Jeannie smiled. “How are you?”

“Please, call me Lorna. What a surprise! I was just telling my friends about your wonderful food.” She indicated the other three ladies at the table. Jeannie had catered several dinner parties for her. “I didn’t know you worked here. We’ll definitely be back more often now I know it’s your food we’ll be having.”

“Oh, I’m not the chef,” Jeannie admitted, trying to keep her voice even.

“Aren’t you?”

“No, I’m waiting tables until I can get the business off the ground again.”

“You’re not catering any more?” Mrs Boswell’s voice rang out across the restaurant and several diners turned to look.

“Not at the moment,” Jeannie mumbled.

Two tables over, Pamela caught her eye and signed to her to keep her chin up.

Jeannie straightened her shoulders and gave the table her biggest smile before moving away.

Alison Cook