Community Spirit – Episode 49

NATE coughed.

“On those terms, the Goose wins every time,” he said modestly, “but the Mucklebury Arms is very focused on the community.”

“And the Goose isn’t?” Simon asked, pen poised.

“I didn’t mean that. I meant you’d have to talk to Fergus to get his take on things,” Nate returned.

Simon looked over to the Goose and Gander stall.

“Good idea,” he said, then stalked over to the other side of the green.

“Well!” Frank said, letting out the large puff of air he had been holding in.

“Tricky fellow,” Arthur added.

“It had been going so well until then,” Nate replied, open-mouthed. “What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, son,” Frank assured him. “We’re lucky enough to live in a place where a broken traffic light can be front page news, so the thought of a bit of competition between two pubs can be exaggerated into a turf war.”

“It’s not likely Fergus is going to say the same thing I did, is it?” Nate asked. “He’s more likely to say he fully expects us to close within the fortnight.”

“Chin up,” Arthur told him. “No publicity is bad publicity. Maybe it will attract people who want to be part of the drama.”

“But there is no drama,” Nate stated.

“Then maybe we’ll have to give them some,” Arthur replied with a wink. “Now, we have a charity bowls match to get on with. If my team spend any more time rolling up they’ll wear a furrow in the green.”

“Of course,” Nate replied, taking the money belt from Frank. “Let’s crack on.”

As the bowls match progressed, Nate had one eye on play and one on Simon Blevins. He talked to Fergus for about 20 minutes before wandering around the rest of the fête. He spent quite a bit of time with Pamela before finding his way to the pies and pastries stall.

Nate watched as Jeannie lit up when she was asked about her pies and how she responded to the giant Welshman’s charm. He was relieved when he finally wandered back over to the Mucklebury Arms stall.

“All done?” Nate asked as cheerfully as he could. “Fancy a beer? On the house, of course.”

“All done,” Simon replied. “Thanks for the offer, but I’d better not. I sampled a couple from the Goose and Gander and don’t want to be over the limit. Anyway, I’d better be off. I’ve got to file this copy in time for tomorrow’s paper.”

“Really?” Nate asked, confused. “I thought the paper didn’t come out until Wednesday.”

“I’m only joking,” Simon replied, grabbing Nate’s hand and shaking it with enthusiasm. “Journalist’s humour. But I will get it in next week’s edition. No, I’m off to see ‘Swan Lake’ tonight with my wife and woe betide me if I’m late.”

Nate smiled at his retreating back, imagining the woman who could scare such a man and feeling sorry for the person in the seat behind him at the ballet.

From the other side of the green, Fergus raised a fluted beer glass filled with honey-coloured liquid to Nate. All Nate could find to grab was a packet of pork scratchings which he waved at Fergus in return.


Alison Cook