“Well, everything seems to be going to plan,” Simon said to John as they observed the crowds of happy visitors looking at the different stalls on offer in the St Gerald the Damned churchyard.
“Yes, it’s almost as if the pandemic never happened,” John said.
“Indeed,” Simon replied.
The Lower Strangling Village Fete had been a regular staple in the village’s calendar for several years.
Each year the villagers showcased their produce; Robert sold beer, Hans sold meat, Paul sold wine, Dave sold various Banana electronic items with his colleague Liam Davies, Jo talked about the Botanical Gardens and careers in Horticulture, John talked about the history of the village, and Simon promoted Christianity.
There were also several games available to play; pin the tail on the donkey, guess the name of the teddy bear etc. Etc.
The Fete had happened every year without fail, except for last year when it was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, but this year it was able to happen with full capacity.
The Fete had always attracted vast crowds of people from all over the country and the world, except between the years 2012 and 2015, when several people were put off by a string of reported disappearances of visitors to the Fete who stayed at the nearby Bates B&B.
But after the disappearances stopped following the convenient opening of a new Premier Inn nearby, more people felt confident enough to visit the fete, and suddenly it attracted vast crowds again.
Until this year, as some people were still cautious about COVID that they decided not to come. But the crowds were big enough anyway.
Simon stood underneath the large “Lower Strangling Village Fete 2021” banner and started the proceedings.
“First of all can I just say how lovely it is to see all of you here after a year’s absence.” Simon said.
The crowds cheered.
“You can expect the same stalls and games that we have every year, as well as our two plays The Conversion of the Heathen’s and Welgrot Aldberoth and the Holy Grail which will be on inside the air conditioned church at 12:30 and 14:30 respectively. Now then, without further a due, let the fun begin!” Simon said.
The crowds cheered once more before walking off to see what was on offer. Simon then walked towards his stall.
“Hello. Are you interested in turning to Christ?” Simon asked a stern looking woman who’d come up to his stall.
“Hmm. Kidnapping people didn’t work, did it?” The woman asked.
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.” Simon said.
“My friend came here nine years ago. She never came back.” The woman said.
Simon suddenly realised what she was getting at.
“Oh right, yes, that. We weren’t involved,” Simon said, “we’re not in partnership with Samuel Bates or the Bates B&B.”
“You could have taken the victims from him in order to prop up your church.” The woman said.
“Oh for goodness, sake. We were not connected with the disappearances.” Simon said. “The victims were visiting here and decided to stay at a local B&B run by a mentally disturbed young man who had a unhealthy relationship with his mother.”
“You could have asked him for them, and he could have obliged.” The woman said.
Simon was getting very angry at this point.
“Fine. If you think we were somehow behind the disappearances, look around. Is your friend here right now?” Simon said.
The woman looked around her for a moment.
“I don’t see her here, no.” The woman said.
“Then we didn’t take Samuel’s victims from him then, did we?” Simon said.
“You may have done,” the woman said, “you may have taken them to Rome.”
Simon scoffed. “Oh really? You think I, a Church of England Minister, was in cahoots with the Catholic Church?”
“You may have done. You’re all Christian.” The woman said.
“This is getting ridiculous now. Take a Bible and leave.” Simon said before thrusting a King James Bible into the woman’s hand.
“Mark my words, the truth will come out one day.” The woman said before walking away to another stall.
“Jesus loves you,” Simon said in a passive aggressive manner.
“What was that all about?” John asked Simon.
“A friend of one of the people who were kidnapped years ago somehow thinks we were behind the murder, when it is well known that the one thing that connected them was the Bates B&B.” Simon said.
“Oh right,” John said, “to be honest I’d forgotten about them.”
“So did I,” Simon said, “in fact everyone did after the Premier Inn was built. Even the police thought that was a satisfactory conclusion.”
“Yes.” John said. “Is the Bates B&B still around?”
“I don’t know.” Simon said. “I assume it is.”
“If it is, then Samuel’s been there by himself for 6 years, never leaving.” John said.
“Well, if he’s still there he must be paying for the renovation of the place. Otherwise he’s living in a crumbling ruin.” Simon said.
“Perhaps he’d prefer to live in a crumbling ruin.” John said.
“Hmm.” Simon said. “Personally I hope he isn’t still there, and is getting the psychiatric help he’s sorely needed since he was born.”
“So do, I,” John said, “so do I.”
“Right, we better get back to work,” Simon said.
“Sure,” John said.
And so the two men resumed running their respective stalls.
All in all, the Fete was a success as it always had been. Mostly everyone was happy, and the two plays telling the story of Joseph of Arimathea converting the heathen’s in the patch of land which would later be known as Lower Strangling and the story of when he gave the Holy Grail to St Gerald the Damned first priest Welgrot Aldberoth were received with rapturous applause and standing ovations.
In the end, over £30,000 was raised for the church and pub fabric and various charities. All in all it was a very successful day.
“Well, I think we’ve got the fete off to a flying start,” Simon said after the visitors had either gone home of to their various accommodations.
“Indeed.” John said. “Well, same thing tomorrow I guess.” John said.
“Of course, same thing tomorrow.” Simon said.
And so Simon and John went to their respective homes, ready to start the proceedings all over again on the second day of the Fete.
And once again, nobody cared about the string of disappearances that occurred down the road nine years previously.