The members of the Lower Strangling Village Council; Dave Peterson, John Granger, Robert Sherman, Paul Stiller, Hans Hoggunhoffer, Janet Foster, Bruce Richardson, and Simon Abernathy, were once again sitting in the Village Hall, albeit in a much wider circle with each councillor two meters apart.
“Right, I think everyone is here. Shall we begin the meeting?” Simon, the Council Chairman, asked the other councillors.
The councillors agreed in unison.
“Ok, then. Welcome, everyone, to the first in-person Village Council meeting since March,” Simon began, “now, I think we should address the elephant in the room that we’ve been avoiding for quite some time now; and that is the statues and monuments that are currently in the Village.”
Following the toppling of notorious Slave Trader Edward Colston in Bristol and various other statues of people with disturbing pasts, Simon was very aware of the need to look into Lower Strangling’s own history and the changes that may need to be made in order to bring the 2,000 year old village firmly into the 21st Century.
The topic was never properly addressed in the Village Council meetings, with everyone trying to find ways in order to procrastinate, but now the renaming of Bristol’s Colston Hall to Bristol Beacon made Simon realise that they couldn’t hide away from the topic forever.
The main connection to slavery that the village had was the Gardener Monty Swift, who lived in No. 1 Economy Drive.
The manor itself and the Botanic Garden were built and improved using money that Money had inherited from his fathers sugar plantation in the Caribbean.
“Now, it would be stupid to evict the Petersons and demolish their manor and break up the Botanic Garden, but we could put up a billboard somewhere that makes plain the means in which the manor and the Garden were created,” Simon told the rest of the Council.
“I could discuss it with Jo later,” Janet suggested.
“Yes, you do that,” Simon replied.
Now Simon felt it was time to finally take something off his chest; the controversial topic of taking down a statue that had personally got on his nerves since becoming Vicar of St Gerald the Damned. But it wasn’t a statue connected to slavery or colonialism, oh no, it was something very different.
“Now then, I know what I’m about to propose may make some of you a little uncomfortable, but I think we really should think about removing the statue of the Virgin Mary from the Botanic Garden and replacing it with something…. less Catholic,” Simon inhaled heavily after he had finally put his proposition forward.
The statue the Simon was referring to was a miniscule stature of Mary which sat in an alcove in the central rectangular courtyard in the middle of the garden. It was a statue that people would only notice if they’d bothered to look up after entering the courtyard.
No one knows exactly why the statue was there, considering the village had been Anglican since Christianity first came to the village, but Simon believes it may have been put up as a sort of subtle protest by Monty, who may have been a closet Catholic. The idea made Simon hate the man even more.
The other Councillors sighed angrily.
“We can’t just get rid of the Virgin Mary, Simon,” John exclaimed, “its one of the villages little quirks.”
“Yeah, we’ve been through this”, Janet added.
“The village has lots of other little quirks that are more in keeping with its Anglican roots,” Simon said to Janet.
“Yes, but the point still stands, we can’t get rid of the statue”, Janet responded, “besides, the Pope would never allow it.”1
“Oh, forget about what the Pope thinks”, Simon blasted, “its our village, and we can do what we like.”
“But what about the Spanish Inquisition?” John asked the chairman.
“Do you honestly believe that they’ll somehow find out that I got the bloody statue removed?!”, Simon responded.
“They might do,” Robert suggested, “the Vatican has spies everywhere, that’s how they found out about what you said.”
“Yeah; no one expects the Spanish Inquisition”, Bruce added to the conversation.
Simon sighed exasperatedly. “Can we just vote on it, please?”, he pleaded.
After a while, the councillors agreed, despite already knowing what the out come will be.
“All those in favour of removing the statue of the Virgin Mary, put your hand up”, Janet announced.
Simon put his hand up, then put it down again when he saw that he was alone on the matter.
“All those not in favour of removing the statue,” Janet said, before joining six other councillors in putting their hand up.
“Well, Bruce, what is your vote?”, Janet asked the one councillor who did not vote either way.
“Oh, I’m abstaining. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what happened to the damn thing,” Bruce answered, “can we talk about something that’s actually important now?”
“We will, soon”, Janet reassured Bruce, “but first; the noes have it, the noes have it.”
The councillors cheered, apart from Simon who sulked in his chair.
“Fine, whatever”, Simon said eventually, “I still stand by what I said, Mary was just a vulnerable young woman from Nazareth chosen by God to carry out an extraordinary task. She is not the holy deity that the Catholics portray her as.”
“Just drop the topic now, Simon”, Janet urged the reverend, “even if you had won the vote, I doubt Jo would see it through.”
Simon grimaced, before finally changing the subject, “now that that item has been dealt with, I believe we should now discuss the possibility of finally making the model of Portwenn in the Botanic Garden a more realistic model of the village.”
And so, after finally deciding once and for all what should happen to the miniscule statue of the Virgin Mary, the Councillors continued the meeting.
1The Virgin Mary Statue was protected by Pope Francis following a bit of a dispute the Vatican had with Simon after Simon declared that Mary was ruined by the Catholic Church during Sunday prayers. The Vatican found out after a member of the St Gerald’s congregation who was visiting the village complained to them, as they were secretly Catholic. When the Vatican found out about the statue, they agreed with Simon that he would bless the statue every time he entered the courtyard to meditate, or else receive a visit from the newly resurrected Spanish Inquisition, something Simon had detested ever since.
It was that, more than anything, that was the main reason Simon wanted the statue removed.