Maureen and I are working on the Village Treasure Hunt scheduled for Sunday May 4th.
There's no actual treasure to be found of course. Seekers will have to be satisfied with the warm and cosy glow of a plate of supper eaten at the right destination and won by following 70 of the dodgiest clues known to man or beast.
We have a plan - a route - and we follow it through the winding lanes, noting potential clues as we go. Maureen has decided that doggerel will be our motif and thus it is that we can be found sitting with pencils poised and mouths open trying to whistle up a suitable rhyming couplet using the words 'humpbacked ' and 'bridge'.
We have great fun. It is a nosey-parkers' charter, the opportunity to stare over fence and hedge. Surprisingly we were only asked what we were doing 4 times today - the euphemism for 'Why are you staring at my front garden?' being 'Can I help you, are you lost?' Eventually with nearly the right number of clues and nearly the right number of miles on the clock the opportunity arises to address the day's other burning issue: the potential closure of the Post Office, and in its wake, the loss of the Village Shop. A shepherd on a quad bike shares his views with us on this potential blow to the community. He has, bless him, already written to his MP but asks that we drop off some leaflets at his house across the way. He'll make sure they get distributed.
We take a sharp right up a lane lined with cherry trees towards a neat and prosperous looking farm where we leave a campaign leaflet and a questionnaire. The lights are on but there's no one home. Our shepherd's farm, a stride away, tells a different story. Here, tumbledown shippons with slipping slates and barns wearing rusted corrugated roofs like crazy drunken hats edge a muddy yard. (Wonderful, wonderful buildings - terrific potential. My inner property developer can already see the sales' particulars...) A shiny horsebox is parked incongruously amongst this dereliction.
We pull up at the back of a cottage. Maureen has some morbid fear of farm dogs - once bitten twice shy I imagine - and elects to stay in the safety of the car. I am sent to the door with the leaflets.
This low red brick building, an amalgam of additions and subtractions, is timbered here and there. It reeks of rust and rot. The short back path is dank and shaded and on the damp mossy pebbles lies a dead starling. The key plate on the door is upside down.
'Is she blonde?' shouts Maureen from the car when I say there is someone in the house watching us. She may well have been once I guess but the figure that shuffles to the door is spectre-like and grey. 'I'm out of sorts' she says through a suspicious crack. 'I can't hear very well. I've got bronchitis.'
The crack widens as I explain the reason for our visit and the door is thrown open when she realises who Maureen is. I relay a shouted dis-jointed conversation between them. Maureen, bright and jolly and Mrs J shouting ills and woes, bereft of companionship, snatches sympathy from company perhaps. Her gaze follows us from behind dark frames as we pull away.
However, on with the motley; we have 2 final clues to devise and head for the main road leaving this shaded little house in the shabby concrete yard and its lonesome and wraith-like inhabitant behind. It's been a curious detour. Its almost as if in the midst of all the silliness there is something deep, dark and profound going on. To coin a well known phrase or saying: an 'Et in Arcadia ego' moment.
5 minutes later we have composed the 2 lines of dreadful verse which will lead our Treasure Hunters to their supper. Sorted, as they say. Job done.