One thing I have learnt from my many, many years in a quiet, almost introverted, village is that nothing renders anyone quite so Silent as confrontation over a rumour of which they were both author and publisher.
This is a small area. We live in each other’s pockets. And there’s never anything good on the telly. So, we take solace in the lives of others; their decisions, their demons, their oddness, are not our own, but are situated close enough to bring on a decent bout of speculation and a frisson of excitement.
However, when the subject of the bush telegraph appears at a Christmas Carol concert, faces turn away in dread, whispers are masked by cupped hands, and no-one knows whether the way they stand gives away their collusion.
It’s relatively easy to tell who heard it from who started it. The gossip-monger attempts a conversation with their subject, he shuffles through the crowd and makes a point of playing the hero – the one who will still speak to her.
However, his efforts are in vain. He will try to speak, to play Captain Kindness, but the words will dry in his throat, the cold wind will choke the intention, we’ll be grateful for the interruption of ‘The Holly and The Ivy’.
And I have to be there. Because, you see, not all of it is about me. Some of it is, and I’ll need to address that. I’ll offer up a challenge of a thumb war or something. All things being equal, I have friends who have been subjected to far more merciless suggestions. As it happens, I’m too busy making up stuff about people who don’t exist to listen too carefully to the donkey sputum others have made up about my friends.
Tonight, I will be the drinking buddy once they have taken their public forum vengeance. If they don’t fancy a slanging match in the car park, I’ll be the drinking buddy after the singing.
It should be quite an evening.