We had a playwright living down the road for a time. She was very talented and wrote a murder mystery for the Legion to rake in funds for the roof.
The roof was old. Laced with asbestos, it was at the end of its life. It had been painted repeatedly for a great number of years, but the wind whistled through the main hall and we were getting mildew on the ceiling tiles every time it rained. There was sporadic insulation in the attic. Some of it was fibreglass, itchy and eye watering, the rest was old straw, almost certainly a fire hazard, if it wasn’t so damp and infused with asbestos.
For reasons which now elude me, the Club, although merely tenants in the building, had to find the money for a replacement. We worked our socks off, begged our Members and received some funding from the National Lottery as well as the local and recently folded Women’s Institute.
The WI used to have their monthly meetings at the Clubhouse. For this, they paid a hire rate of £25. Their Chairperson, Secretary and I think I’m right in saying Treasurer, had all been in their positions for some years. They were ready for fresh eyes, and a new direction. Nobody offered themselves up. Meetings came and went, some pleading was done. The ladies who were in charge, frankly, wanted some of their retirement for themselves. Not a large request. They would be willing to assist their replacements, until such time as they were confident in their own abilities. As one, the assembly sat on their hands. The ladies in charge were exhausted, their impassioned pleas for assistance went unheeded, and the WI folded.
It transpired they were sitting on an unexpected gold mine. At the close of their last meeting, their outgoing Secretary brought an envelope to the Legion’s Treasurer. Enclosed was their £25 hire fee, snuggled up against a cheque for several thousand pounds, and a thank you.
We got our new roof, shiny, fully-insulated and bound to outlive me, and the ladies got an offer that if they ever reformed, they could hire the Clubhouse for free.
They did attempt a reformation, but a decent selection of ladies, who would later become the Women’s Ninjas, enquired rather readily about a less prescribed syllabus. Perhaps they could be a little more avant-garde. A little more maverick. The WI came to the conclusion that perhaps now was not the time, and the Women’s Ninjas started up.
Back to the writer.
She and her husband were new to the area, and very keen to become active in the community. Deadly glamorous, they had lunch with myself and Ivor, and spoke about scriptwriting over whiskeys and coffee.
I gave her a title – ‘Asbestos and Old Lace’ – I was quite proud of that, and Ivor took the role of producer. He would be the organiser, he would source actors, and schedule read-throughs, I would email my Movie Nighters.
The lovely Laura was co-opted and became creator of the menu and curator of programmes. She’s a whizz with clipart and has better organisational skills than anyone currently living. She’s also remarkably generous with her time and talents.
Ivor had a broad spectrum of friends, among them were a slight collective with hundreds of years of AmDram experience between them. He collected up these four like pebbles from a beach. With endless, effortless charm, he also swept up two of our Members who were keen on murder mystery weekends away in Southampton, our Branch Chairman and one of our barmaids, who basically played me. The writer’s husband portrayed ‘gay barman’ as if he was born to it.
The murder mystery was a wild success. It is still spoken of with great affection. We took a heap of money behind the bar, and were looking forward to the next one.
And then they moved. The writer and her husband found nothing much to do in the area. They were correct. There was very little in terms of entertainment in the locale. Although unconfirmed it is rumoured that Roger Moore used to live round here, but only for a couple of months before he realised there was nowhere to go and nothing to do.
The writer and her husband’s rapid disappearance from the local scene did inspire a great line from me for our advertising – “Think there’s nothing to do in the village? Join the Club.”
Oh, but I was proud of that.
They moved further down the coast, a little more lively, more shops, more people. Seemingly still not enough to do, because now they’re back.
They were barely through the door before I assaulted them with hugs, and they offered up a play.