If you thought eight months was a long walk for Straker this coffee has been cooling for thirty! Our writers are ready for their inaugural meeting, probably, but they aren’t actually a group yet and someone else is in the library.
If you want to catch up on how Westley Writers got here, they have their own section here: https://gfarrish.wordpress.com/writing/westley-writers/
PEACE IN OUR TIME
June blew a short shrill blast and brought the meeting to order.
‘Bloody hell June!’ Ashby said wiggling his finger in his ear. ‘Can we go back to the bell?
‘No. Nobody’s going to end up in A&E if I lose control of this.’
‘Might end up in audiology. I’ll be deaf as a post if you keep blowing that in my ear.’
‘Pardon?’ Bill asked
‘I said…’ Ashby tailed off as he caught the twinkle in Parker’s eye. ‘Very funny, Bill. Maybe I’ll go and get that bell myself and give you another bash with it.’
‘Now you two, behave! Veronica snapped.
The two men raised their eyebrows at each other.
‘Yes ma’am.’ Ashby said.
‘Well, I’m sorry but violence isn’t a joke and I don’t think I’ve recovered from the EGM yet. I still can’t believe we’ve split from the readers section. ‘
‘No, you’re right Veronica. We’re all sorry it happened. John and Bill were just playing but we should remember how close it came to being very serious for Bill.’ June blushed a little at the memory of what she’d done to Parker at the EGM and pulled her papers closer to her before continuing. ‘Now we’ve got to decide a few important things today. Like what we’re called, what our purpose is and how often we will meet. And of course elect officers. Diane, you were secretary, any thoughts?
‘I’d be happy to carry on as Secretary of the writers. Or did you mean about what we should be called?’
‘Both I think.’ June said.
‘Are we quorate?’ Veronica asked.
‘I’m not sure we can be Veronica. Technically we don’t actually exist yet.’ Straker pointed out.
‘Okay’. June said heaving a sigh. ‘Do we want to form a writers group? Raise your hand if you do.’
Seven hands went up in various states of embarrassment.
‘Good. Now what are the purposes?’
‘Of a writers group?’ Ashby asked. ‘Do we really need to state that?’
‘Do we want to read each others’ work? Do we want to hear it read? Are we supporting the members writing only, or writing in the area more generally? Do we want to publish our work? Anthologies? Is it creative or all genres? Are we…’ Stephanie was on a roll.
‘All right, all right. Point taken.’ Ashby conceded.
‘Writing in the Westley area’. Diane said firmly, writing it down. Whether she was secretary or not she wanted a record of things. ‘That gives us wiggle room to stretch to Ravenbury if needed.’
‘To encourage writers in the Westley area develop their talents and skills by providing a forum for discussion, reading and performance of their work and offering written and verbal feedback as required.’ Parker suddenly intoned.
‘Bloody hell Bill, that were a bit good.’ said Ashby who gave Parker a small round of applause.
‘That way we keep the council on board and make it easier for the library to host us.’ Parker said, winking extravagantly at anyone unfortunate enough to catch his eye.
‘Maybe add something in about helping publication within our means and as appropriate? Straker offered. ‘I know quite a few people were keen on the anthology we did, and that way we don’t have to squeeze the meaning of the word ‘performance’ too hard to accommodate another volume if anyone wants to go down that road.’
‘Could you repeat that?’ Diane asked. ‘From “…by providing…”‘
There followed a few minutes intense cross talking while everyone offered their version of Parker’s mission statement with or without amendments. June decided to try and bring the meeting to some sort of order without using the whistle but despite her best efforts no-one seemed inclined to cease putting their point forward. The shrill blast had Ashby wiggling his little finger in his ear again and everyone else silent.
‘What was that for?’ Veronica Goodman asked.
‘Nobody could tell what anyone was saying. It was all talk and no listening. It was just too loud.’
The door opened and a librarian’s head appeared in the opening.
‘Is everything all right?’
‘Er, yes, thanks. I’m sorry about the noise.’ June said
The librarian blinked and stared pointedly at the whistle in June’s hand.
‘Perhaps a gavel may be less piercing. There are people concentrating out here.’ She said and shut the door, gently, before anyone could reply.
‘Maybe I’d better find a gavel or something less carrying.’ June said, red faced from the admonishment of the librarian.
‘There’s never anyone in there reading anyhow.’ Ashby said.
‘There are people using the computers though.’ Straker observed. ‘Not that I’m criticising, June.’ He added hurriedly.
‘Should buy their own bloody computers.’ Ashby said. ‘Feckless lot.’
The conversation turned to the price of computers and how everything now was done through them from banking to benefit claims and buying groceries. Straker snatched a glance at Stephanie and raised his eyebrows. She smirked back. The implicit bet was on how long before someone said ‘When I was young’ or some equivalent. Straker harboured a view that hardly anyone every really said this. Stephanie had a more jaundiced, or as she called it, realistic, view of her fellow writers.
‘Well I was trying to get a TV aerial fixed the other day and could I find a phone number with a human being on the other end?’ Parker was saying.
‘You can’t get anyone on the phone now, it’s all automated systems and if you do get through it’s a call centre with people whose accents you can’t understand.’
‘Indian you mean?’ offered Ashby.
‘Northern Irish. I can make out the Indian fellers now after all that business with the garage roof but I can’t tell half of what the Ulster one’s say.’ Diane said.
‘Course it was different in my day.’ said Ashby. You could ring a local office and have the thing sorted in minutes.
Stephanie smiled and Straker hung his head. His faith in human nature his downfall again.
‘What’s the matter with you?’ Ashby said.
‘Nothing John. Just the vicissitudes of fate.’
‘Hang on a minute,’ Ashby said, ‘never mind the vicissitudes of fate. Who is in there “concentrating”?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean the library’s normally closing as we start. That’s why you said you’d be all right with that thing.’ Ashby jabbed his finger in the direction of the whistle.
‘You’re right John. I wonder what’s going on.’
Straker rose from his seat and walked out of the room.
‘Where’s he going?’ Ashby asked.
‘Going to see what’s happening.’ Stephanie said. ‘You know what he’s like.’
‘Nosy bugger you mean?’
‘I was thinking more proactive, but it often amounts to the same thing I suppose.’
‘Oh I do hope he doesn’t upset anyone!’
‘When does Jules upset people June?’
‘I can think of one or two he can wind up when he’s in the mood.’ Ashby said looking at Stephanie.
‘Different kettle of fish John. As you well know.’
‘Well we’ll soon find out, here he is now.’ Ashby said as he saw Straker approaching through the glass panel in the door.
‘Who’s in there?’ Veronica asked before Straker was in the room. A smile flickered across Straker’s face as he shut the door behind him.
‘Our former selves. Well, our alter egos.’
‘Meaning?’ June asked.
‘Well bugger me! The readers section isn’t it?’ Ashby guffawed. ‘They’re stalking us.’
‘What are they doing?’ Stephanie asked as Julian sat down at the table.
‘Without meaning to sound sarcastic, reading.’ Straker paused ‘I suppose it should be “Reading Group” shouldn’t it? As they’re an entity in their own right now.’
‘In the library?’
‘Yes, June, in the children’s section.’
‘We should do that.’ Veronica said.
‘Move to the children’s section?’
‘On alternate weeks, yes. That’s what they’ve done isn’t it?’
‘We could ask the librarian I suppose.’ June said.
‘Was Lilian Dobson there?’
‘I believe she was John. Being rather forceful about cancel culture and an author’s right to say what they mean.’
‘Bit of a cheek considering how she moaned when I put her in a story.’
‘I suspect that is a different issue than the one she has with publishers John. Why did you want to know?’
‘I was thinking we could ask about the money. As they’re using the library, I presume for free, it would be a good time to sort out getting our share of the balance. They don’t need to hang on to more than their share do they?’
June looked around the table for support.
‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea in the middle of their session is it?’
There was a muttering, the meaning of which was hard to determine
‘Middle of ours too!’ Ashby said ‘It’s not the money it’s the principle of the thing.’
‘No John, with you it’s the money.’ Straker sighed and walked out of the room again.
‘We’ll end up in a fight again. I can feel it.’ Veronica twittered nervously.
‘No, he’ll sort it out. He’s not belligerent.’ Stephanie said. Bill Parker raised an eyebrow.
‘Remember him playing rugby?’
‘Dunno, I can see Lilian as a prop forward myself.’
‘Uncalled for John’ June said trying to hide a smile. ‘Although I take your point.’
The door opened again and Straker walked back in followed by Lilian Dobson. Tight smiles flashed across faces.
‘June. Everyone. All well I trust?’
‘Yes thank you Lilian.’ June said
‘Very kind of you to send your best wishes to us. Nice to know there’s no hard feelings. I don’t want to disturb you now, I know how much some of you put into your work. If you want to see me after in the library I’ll sort out a cheque for you. See you later.’ And with that she left.
‘Bloody hell, what did you do?’ Ashby said.
‘You hypnotised her didn’t you?’ Parker said. ‘I’ve read about it, the power of suggestion. Your lot are trained to do it aren’t you?’
‘You know, who you worked for.’
‘I was a civil servant Bill. I was trained to write reports and make tea. Not hypnotise stray women,’ he glanced at Stephanie, ‘unfortunately.’
‘One problem.’ Stephanie said, a sweet smile on her lips, ‘who does she make the cheque payable to? We haven’t decided on a name yet, never mind opened a bank account.’
Everyone clucked at the oversight.
‘Perhaps I was a little premature in my subterfuge.’ Straker admitted, but I think we can trust June or Diane to accept the money on our behalf and pay it in as and when we open an account.’
‘And you think Lilian Dobson is going to go along with that do you? Ashby offered.
Well, we’ll have to see won’t we John.’ Straker looked at his watch. ‘If we hurry we can appoint a treasurer so they can take the cheque as an official. Then maybe we can read some of our writing this week. I believe Steph has been busy.’