Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 10

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

It was Angela Pendle-Burton the owner of the village shop who enlightened Ginny as to what had been going on at the church the previous day.
“Bats,” she said, elbows on the counter clearly enjoying her role as passer-on-of-news. “You’ll see a piece on the telly about it today I expect. They’ve found some rare bats in the belfry of the church. So we had conservationists in, ringing.”
Ginny thought about that a moment. It sounded rather unlikely.
“Why would they be ringing the bells with the bats there? Wouldn’t that scare them away? And, besides, why not get in campanologists? I’m sure they’d do it better.”
She was just wondering if there was some special way of ringing bells to affect the bats when she realised Angela was struggling not to laugh.
“Ringing the bats,” she said, “not the bells.”
“Ringing the bats? But how…?” Then Ginny realised what she meant and felt the colour rush into her face. “Oh. Yes. Of course.” For a moment she wished the floor would open beneath her or she could just vanish into thin air. But neither option was available and Angela was looking at her with amusement, but backed with kindness not the secret malice the likes of Lucinda would have displayed.
Angela also suggested she might like to have a cleaner in once a week, something that hadn’t occurred to Ginny. In her London apartment the cost of hiring a professional through an agency was prohibitive.
“Oh everyone does it around here,” Angela said airily, making it sound as if Ginny would somehow be odd or letting the side down if she didn’t. “It’s only people from the village so you help boost the local economy too.”
So it was letting the side down if she didn’t. Not quite sure she really wanted to, but very sure she would lose social points if she refused, Ginny agreed to ‘interview’ someone Angela knew who would be perfect to work for her, that afternoon..
On the short walk home, Ginny passed the church and took the time to walk up to the door. To her surprise it was not locked and she let herself in to the cool and quiet of a very pretty typical English church.
Having looked around and admired the architecture, she tried the door to the belfry and found it was locked after all. Which was a shame as she would like to have seen the bats. One of the reasons she had moved into the countryside was so she might get a chance to see more wildlife. So that badgers and hedgehogs and – well, all those other animals, would stop being pictures in articles and start being real in her world.
She picked up a copy of the parish magazine which was for sale with a trust-tin at the back of the church, added a donation to the box for the restoration fund and let herself out, closing the heavy wooden door behind her. It was then she noticed a path that led from the church into the small wood that backed onto her own house.
Sure enough the path turned out to be a shortcut. She decided there and then that when it got on to the end of the afternoon she would take a thermos and a blanket and sit in the edge of the churchyard where she could observe the belfry and maybe catch the flight of the bats as they set out on their nightly hunt for – for whatever it was bats ate. 
She had just finished clearing away from lunch and was making herself a cup of tea, wondering idly if her vague plans to write the Great British Novel which would explore and explain the intricate weave of heritage and modernity, the rich palette of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity, yet embrace the undercurrents of alternative eco-aware counter-culture, needed to be amended to something a bit more prosaic.
The tap on the door distracted her, for which she felt oddly grateful.
“‘Ello, you Missus Cropper?”
It took Ginny a moment more than she liked to remember where she had previously seen this scrawny girl in leggings and a long T-shirt emblazoned with some cultural symbols of the USA. It was Chloe from the Ladies Association meeting, the one who had spoken of the evictions happening on her estate.
“Er, yes,” she admitted. “Can I help you?”
“Missus Pendlyburt  from the shop said you was looking for a cleaner.”
Ginny managed a smile.
“Come in, I’m just making tea.”
“Thanks. White no sugar please. I’m Chloe. You wus at the meetin’ last night too.”
Ginny was glad that since the initiation she had received at the hands of the removers she had taken to keeping the makings of what most people in Little Botheringham seemed to think was meant by tea.
“I was and I’m Ginny,” she responded automatically as she found the needed teabags. 
“Yes, Missus Cropper,” Chloe said brightly. “You just moved in?”
“A couple of weeks ago now.”
“You from London? You must miss it bad. Nothing here like that. Just fields.” She sounded almost wistful. Chloe looked to be in her early twenties. Few people of that age were going to see the benefits of living in a village.
“I love it here,” Ginny told her presenting the mug of tea. “It’s so peaceful. Makes me feel bucolic.”
Chloe had started to slurp at her tea but put it down quickly and stared at Ginny in horror.
“You need to see the doc about it then. My gran used to have to take tablets for that.”
Ginny smiled weakly and agreed she really should register with the local GP.
Chloe left a little later saying she would ‘do’ Ginny every Tuesday afternoon but she had to leave at half-two sharp to pick up Kanye from the primary school where he was in the reception class.
A gnawing certainty that she was being trained into the ways and expectations of the village by the other residents, Ginny felt almost rebellious when she grabbed a blanket, topped up her travel cup with a fresh brew of ginger root and lemon, then with ear-buds playing Vivaldi she set out to go bat-watching.

Part 11 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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