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Leeford Village episode 89: The Fate of the Fête

Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.

We're back in Leeford Village
We're back in Leeford Village

Previously in Leeford Village: Revd John Peterson tries to get out of Jack Simmons where he buried the helmet for the competition - it’s a case of the missing rosebush. Jason Owens has some devastating evidence about the past life of George Dennis – a photograph of him as a German army officer. Edward turns up at the café to see Ethel, as John and Hilda Peterson continue to search for the helmet in the vicarage garden.

~

The fête is upon us once more. Only the second in the history of Leeford Village. Preparations have been, to say the least, disjointed, even described by a grumpy Frank Watson as ‘aimless, directionless and disorganised’. Frank, of course, has had a few distractions, none more so than the proposed bypass that threatens to obliterate a huge piece of the marketplace and several shops in Banfield Council’s pursuit of progress. Not one villager wants a huge traffic island at the top of Spring Hill. Not one villager wants to lose half of the marketplace, the Oxfam shop and the Community Centre. Not one villager wants to lose Billy’s Café. Frank Watson had promised to fight the Council ‘with our history, our people, our strength as villagers.’ The villagers, however, lost faith in Frank, but he proved his love and loyalty for Leeford as he fell from the Banfield Council roof during the protest rally. Frank is now back in charge of the protest movement, fighting off the bribery and threats from the Banfield Council leaders, and has always intended to save the integrity of the village even if it takes him to his last breath. Frank, however, is no longer in charge of the fête. That is now the domain of Revd John Peterson and the Community Centre manager, Nick Allthorpe.

‘Right, Nick, let’s run through it one more time.’

‘A few stalls missing this year, John. Just as well – we wouldn’t have room for all of them with the folk festival.’

Jessica nods, casting her eyes down the running order. We’re opening with Long-Haired Reginald, she thinks.

‘Is everything ready, Jessica?’ asks John.

‘With two hours to go, I hope so. The first act is ready. He was at the Hippodrome in Brum last year, apparently,’ she replies.

‘What stalls do we have, Nick?’

‘Jack’s not doing his Pound Challenge this year - he’s concentrating on his coup de grâce, as he calls it – the ‘Find the Helmet’ Competition. Mel and Steve have taken over the bookstall from Agnes and Cody, who are otherwise occupied.’

‘Are Steve and Mel… you know?’

‘Yes, John, they’re back together.’

Nick continues with his final fête report.

‘The rest are pretty much the same as last year – Suptra’s helping Ethel with the cake stall, Dr Jeremy’s doing the Tombola, soft drinks by Ted and Sally, and we’re doing “Chuck the Sponge”.’

‘Always a laugh,’ says John.

Jessica stares at him, with mock menace.

‘You’re our first victim,’ she snaps, eliciting a look from the vicar that says, ‘no chance’.

‘Anything else, Nick?’ John asks.

Nick picks up his cup for a slurp of tea, as if for dramatic effect, and he smiles.

‘There’s the football skills demo – I’m in that, for my sins – but we’ve lost Meredith’s Home-Made Cards stall.’

‘Not surprised after last year,’ says Jessica.

Nick gives her his can-I-please-continue look.

‘Jason says he’s too busy to do the Coconut Shy, but we do have pies and pasties from Nigel and Mandy.’

‘You’ve not mentioned Frank Watson,’ says John.

‘Yes, surprisingly, he’s still running the Best Cucumber Competition. Pretty low-key this year. Suppose he’s been busy.’

‘Anyway,’ says John, pushing his chair under the table, ‘let’s get out there and see how the preparations are going.’

~

An hour to go before the official opening of the Second Leeford Village Fête. It has been decided that John Peterson will make the opening speech – it is, after all, his garden – but a concession has been made to Frank Watson. As leader of the Leeford Village Parish Council, he will be allowed to say a few words and announce the winner of the Best Cucumber Competition. To warm things up, Jessica has persuaded Nick and John that the Folk Festival should start early. Long-Haired Reginald is raring to go.

Not everyone in the village has yet made their way to the vicarage garden, but there is a reasonable crowd. Fifty, maybe sixty people are seated at the front of the makeshift stage as the locals slowly make their way to the event, with small groups of people meeting up just inside the main gate. Agnes and Cody, reunited at last, are standing by Jason and George. Agnes fidgets with the catch on her handbag.

‘You okay, love?’ asks Cody

‘Yes, just a bit tired.’

‘Go back if you want. We’re not doing a stall this year.’

‘No!’ Cody almost lurches backwards, shocked by the sharpness of her reaction.

‘Sorry love,’ says Agnes. ‘I didn’t mean to snap. No, you’ve looked forward to this. Things are different now, aren’t they?’

She slips her hand into his. There is a sudden crackle from the PA system and a noise that sounds like someone being thumped as John Peterson takes to the stage.

‘Testing, testing, one-two, one-two.’

‘Show ‘em off, lovely boy, shoulders back!’ shouts Cody.

He is about to shout something else, but an elbow in the ribs persuades him to think better of it.

‘Can you hear me?’

It’s George’s turn to shout.

‘Can you hear me mother? Where’s me shirt?’

‘Yes, thank you, George. That’s the sound-check completed,’ says a flustered John Peterson.

‘Now, I will officially open the fête in about half an hour, but in the meantime, I would like to welcome our first folk music star, all the way from Pasadena.’

‘Pass-a-what?’ George mutters to his brother.

‘Pure folk,’ continues the vicar, ‘and “nothing but folk” is his motto. I give you, and give him a big hand - Long-Haired Reginald!’

Reginald opens with The Blue Cockade, a traditional folk song about a young man who gets drunk and ‘accidentally’ enlists in the army. All the folky people in the first few rows are lapping it up, and when Reginald plays the first few melodic chords of Caledonia, he has them in the palm of his hand.

‘Going well, isn’t it, Jessica?’

Peter Redman is proud of the artistes they have introduced to the village, and relieved that, at last, everyone can listen to some ‘proper’ folk music.

‘I’m impressed,’ says Jessica. ‘He’s very good. You say he used to do other stuff?’

‘Yes, but not these days.’

Long-Haired Reginald picks out the notes in a beautiful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. At the end of the song, he places his guitar on its stand, unplugs it from the connection to the PA system and leaves the stage.

‘What’s he doing, Jessica?’ asks a worried-looking Peter Redman. No answer.

He is about to find out. Reginald returns to the stage, dragging a keyboard and its stand, and he has donned a baseball cap. After plugging the keyboard into the PA system, he then takes a spare chair from the side of the stage, places it behind the keyboard and sits down. The next few minutes are a blur for Peter Redman. Reginald thumps out a few chords and starts to sing – or rather, shout. The words of Crocodile Rock resound across the vicarage garden, out into the street as far as the library. This is not folk music, thinks Peter Redman.

Long-Haired Reginald continues to sing, and Peter Redman has to sit down, his face as pale as vanilla ice cream.

‘Peter, are you okay?’ asks Jessica.

‘I’m not sure, Jessica. I’m not sure.’

~

The short break in the Folk Festival, during which John Peterson is launching the Village Fête, gives Peter Redman a chance to recover. He turns to speak to Jessica, but she has picked up her bag and left the garden. Bemused, but too busy to look for Jessica, he sets about organising the rest of the festival.

‘If I could have everyone’s attention,’ blasts John through the overenthusiastic PA system.

‘Thank you, and welcome to the second Leeford Village Fête. And, ahem, thanks to Long-Haired Reginald for kicking things off, with a…, with a, er, song or two.’

As John continues his opening speech, Cody and Agnes have found a couple of plastic chairs near the back of the garden.

‘Let’s sit here, Cody. There’s two more chairs in case we see someone we know.’

‘Who, like?’

‘Steve and Mel? Ethel and Suptra…’

‘Okay, got your point,’ says Cody.

Once again, Agnes takes his hand, and this time slides her arm round the chair onto his shoulder.

‘I do love you, Cody.’

‘What’s all this?’

‘Do you love me?’ she asks.

‘Of course I do, Agnes.’

At that, a quiet voice from behind causes them to freeze. Just for a moment.

‘Mom, it’s me.’

Agnes grips Cody’s arm and pulls him to his feet.

‘Jasmine, my love,’ she says. ‘Oh, and you’ve brought Kim. Come here, my darling.’

Agnes takes the little girl in her arms, as Jasmine moves towards Cody.

‘Lovely to meet you, Cody.’

‘Tell you what, Jasmine, call me “Dad”.’

‘Really?’

‘Well, you’ll be staying with us for a while, won’t you? You’re part of my family now. Part of our family.’

She smiles, and places a kiss on his cheek, winking at Agnes. The penny drops.

‘I thought I’d arranged for Jasmine to come here as a surprise, but you knew, didn’t you, Cody?’ giving him a playful dig in the ribs.

‘I did love. After what happened in Leeds, we managed to sort it all out, and I couldn’t be happier!’

~

It is finally Frank Watson’s turn to take the microphone. ‘I’ll keep this brief,’ he says.

‘You all know what has been going on with the bypass and Banfield Council. I have just come from an emergency meeting of the Council, and I have an announcement to make. The bypass will not go ahead!’

~

Catch up on all the episodes and find out more here:

For more information visit the authors at michaelbraccia.co.uk and jonmarkes.com

For more information visit the authors at michaelbraccia.co.uk and jonmarkes.com

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