After the NPP series, here’s lighter fare.

My thanks to Llew of Lleweton’s Blog for calling my attention to another cracking post by the Revd Peter Mullen, a priest of the Church of England and former Rector of St Michael, Cornhill and St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London. He has written for many publications including the Wall Street Journal and has a regular column in the Telegraph.

In ‘A Fete worse than death’, Dr Mullen describes English village life, prompted by a Telegraph news story about a parish councillor who was suspended for threatening a man who criticised his wife’s handling of a tombola draw.

First, an excerpt from the news story:

The unsightly spat occurred at a parish meeting in the picture-postcard village of Long Melford, with its listed Tudor mansions and quiet country pubs, near Sudbury, Suffolk, in July last year.

Members of Long Melford Parish Council, first formed 118 years ago in 1894, gathered to discuss the upcoming annual street fair.

Cllr Michette’s wife, Carole, had been tasked with helping organise the event for the fourth year running.

But when Mr Roper used his address to take exception to an error over raffle and tombola prizes, Mr Michette, who has sat on the local authority for 30 years and runs Long Melford opticians alongside his wife, flew into a rage.

His conduct was so shocking that another member of the public at the meeting, Christopher Buckley, later complained to Babergh District Council. The incident was then referred to Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Standards Committee and a hearing was held in February following an investigation.

Earlier this year the sub-committee concluded that Mr Michette had failed to treat Mr Roper with respect and had brought the office of councillor and the parish council into disrepute.

Mullen has a few reminiscences to share from his time as a country parson in Yorkshire:

I love the story of the near punch-up at the parish meeting in the holy and venerable village of Long Melford. “Shut your mouth!” and “One more word from you and I will thump you now!” And all over a villager’s criticism of another villager’s handling of the tombola draw. Forget the turmoil in the Middle East – the real aggro goes on in the English countryside …

I ought to have gleaned some hint of what I was in for when I went for the appointment and my interview by the Parochial Church Council in the big house next to the common. I imagined I would be asked whether I was High Church or Low, did I prefer the old Prayer Book to the new Noddy version, or even did I believe in the Apostles’ Creed and subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles. Not a bit of it. They talked for an hour about money and how much those “swine” in the diocesan office were swindling the parish out of every year.

Then there was a long silence before a lady with a big hat and an eminent moustache said, “I have a question for you, Vicar: do you think whist drives are sinful?”

… “only the reason I ask is that our last Vicar preached against whist drives. Said it was gambling. He turned up at one and started a rumpus during the prize-giving at the end.”

She appealed to the assembled PCC for support and addressed the chairman, “You remember, Fred, it was Connie Hardcastle who’d won the bottle of sherry. Our last Vicar was against booze as well. Anyhow, he kept blathering on until he’d right got Connie’s goat. She just flung the bottle of sherry at him. Missed. And it smashed against the wall. Glass everywhere. And you can still see the stain on the wall.”

I tell you, recent events in Long Melford were tame compared with some of the rural aggro I’ve witnessed first hand up i’Yorkshire …

He has a few more anecdotes if you need a smile and a chuckle today.