Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 5

‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

It wanted five days to the start of the new month and Ginny spent most of them trying to find all the things Stan and his pals had laboriously hidden in the wrong places.
She had got back from the shop to find them already in their van and about to go.
“Don’t worry about that cuppa,” Dan/Ian/Stan told her, as though he was doing her a big favour by letting her off making it. “Me and the lads’ll get going right away.” 
So she had tipped them and they were gone before she’d walked back into the house.
She had been careful to mark each box with its destination room, but they still seemed to have decided for themselves where each should go.
The room she planned to make into her study-office-come-reading nook, which had a wonderful view over the back garden, was so full of boxes she couldn’t even get through the door, whilst her bedroom had nothing in it except her bed – not even the bedding, which was presumably somewhere in the study under the boxes of her books. Fortunately, she had a sleeping bag in the boot of her car which meant she didn’t need to excavate frantically that evening, but she did ponder whether she might have been deliberately misled by Stan the removal man when he suggested she went to the shop.
The next day she was sorting the kitchen, unpacking things into drawers and cupboards whilst singing to the radio about how the sun always shone on television, when a shadow fell across the threshold of the kitchen door, left open to let in the fresh air.
Like most dwellings, the cottage had a front door which opened – via a short path and a fringe of grass – onto the road and was where visitors were expected to present themselves. The kitchen door was in the side of the house, accessed by a path with a high hedge that led to the back garden and was blocked by a gate at the front. So the sudden appearance of the shadow was startling and unexpected.
She spun around heart pounding and found herself looking into the eyes of the man she had bumped into on the way to the shop. Only now he was fully clothed. Jeans and a short-sleeved black Armani shirt, with a white dog-collar.
“Hello there,” he shouted. “I’m your vicar, Doug Turner. I did knock but the music… ”
Blushing furiously, Ginny grabbed at the DAB and turned it off.
“Sorry,” she mumbled and then managed to get out something about making tea and would he like one.
He accepted with a dazzling smile and for a few moments she was able to consume herself in finding and rinsing two mugs and dropping a regular tea bag in each.
Could you even give a mug of tea to a vicar? Didn’t it need to be bone-china cups and saucers and a teapot of Darjeeling not a ‘Happy Price’ teabag from the local shop?
By the time she was done he had leaned his muscular frame against the wall and he graciously accepted the proffered mug.
“What, no cucumber sandwiches?”
Ginny gaped at him blankly.
“I-I’m sorry?”
He shook his head and grinned at her and she noticed his teeth seemed a little large at the front.
“An old joke. One we vicars often get.”
“Oh. Right. I’ve not met many. In fact, I can’t think of any. I don’t think I’ve lived somewhere that had a vicar before.”
For some reason he found that hilarious and Ginny watched the tea in his mug slop dangerously close to the rim as he laughed.
“Everywhere in the country has a vicar,” he said when the laughter subsided and as if that explained why he had been so amused. “You’ll’ve had a vicar before but never knew it.”
Ginny tried to take control of the conversation again.
“Do you call on all your…” She fell at the first hurdle. What did vicars call their community? Flock? That sounded archaic. “…on all new people?”
Vicar Doug took a slup of tea and pulled a face. Ginny wasn’t sure whether that was a response to her tea making or her question.
“I try to get to meet new parishioners when I can, but I did want to apologise for running into you the other day. I thought you were a tourist.”
He made it sound as if running into tourists was perfectly acceptable behaviour. And perhaps it was in a place like this where tourists were no doubt seen as an annoying fact of life.
“Oh. I see. Well, I’m not.” She realised belatedly she hadn’t introduced herself and stuck out the hand not clutching her mug. “Ginny Cropper. Pleased to meet you.”
His hand stopped half-way as if he was having second thoughts about the shake.
“Not the Ginny Cropper?”
Her heart sank. She found herself resorting to an old line.
“Depends what you mean by that. I’m certainly a Ginny Cropper.”
“I meant, are you the woman behind the Virginia Creeper lifestyle brand?”
His hand completed the journey to hers but barely touched her fingers before withdrawing, the intensity of his gaze upon her.
You couldn’t lie to a vicar, could you?
Could you?
Ginny dropped his gaze and turned to look out of the small kitchen window, through it she could see the wheelie bin and a cat sitting on the recycling box. There was nothing to offer her an escape or inspiration.
“I was,” she admitted. “But I’ve retired – sort of.” 
There was a long silence behind her and in the end she had to turn around.
Vicar Doug was gone.
His unfinished mug of tea sat on the floor where he had been. 
As startled by his departure as his arrival, Ginny picked up the mug and emptied it into the sink, washing it out without really thinking. It was, she realised, her British Wildlife Society mug, which had a picture of an endangered species of native bats on the side.
Sighing, she decided she was going to find it more trying than she had realised to get used to life in Little Botheringham.

Part 6 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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