“Here you are, sir. The bread you ordered, all ready to go.” The miller said to John, the owner of the Hangman’s Noose.
“Thank you,” John said as he picked up the bread and went back to his car.
John always felt daunted whenever he set foot in Lower Slaughter, which was far more exclusive and upmarket than Lower Strangling, which is saying something as Lower Strangling was quite exclusive and upmarket in itself.
Simon, the vicar of Lower Strangling’s church and the chairman of the village council, had on many occasions called for some villages-with-gruesome-sounding-names-but-are-actually-quite-nice-really alliance with the Slaughters. But the Slaughters had pushed back against the motion, stating their reason as the fact that the Slaughters got their name from the Old English word for wet land, whereas the Stranglings got their name from the infamous Strangling of the Hethans in 670, an incident that was swiftly brushed under the carpet and remained there ever since, despite the large elephant that was created as a result.
The Slaughters therefore believed that uniting with the Stranglings based on the nature of their names was offensive and ill informed, and so did not want to form an alliance.
As well as this, Upper Strangling considered themselves a separate entity altogether, and did not want to jeopardise their independence by forming an alliance. So the alliance never came to be, but Lower Strangling continued to persevere nonetheless.
Their animosity towards the Stranglings aside, John was grateful that the mill in Lower Slaughter was willing to provide local bread for his small family business as well as the two luxury hotels down the road.
John looked up at the large ornate manor to his left. It made him realise that Lower Slaughter and Lower Strangling actually had a lot in common; except that everything in Lower Slaughter was on a much larger and grander scale. Both villages had a manor, for instance. But the manor in Lower Strangling was a relatively small family home, whereas this manor was one of the luxury hotels, the other one being across the river.
The only thing the Stranglings had that was comparable to these hotels was the Golden Pheasant in Upper Strangling, although that hotel was owned by a rival chain and so was in stiff competition with the hotels in Lower Slaughter, another reason the alliance fell through.
John looked at his watch, it was lunch time and he wasn’t expected back at the Hangman’s Noose for another few hours, so he decided to treat himself and have lunch in the hotel.
John surveyed the restaurant as he had his soup. The room was clean, spacious, and sophisticated. He liked it, but he preferred the personal nature of his own pub back in Lower Strangling.
The food was nice though, so that was ok.
Later on, his peace was interrupted.
“John!” A familiar voice said.
John looked up. Gabriel Acorn, the proprietor of the hotel who John knew well, spotted him.
“Oh, hi, Gabe.” John said.
“Fancy seeing you here.” Gabriel said, walking up to him and greeting him before sitting down. “What brings you here?”
“Oh you know, just stopping by to get some bread from the mill and decided to have lunch here before going home.” John said.
“Ok. Well, glad you could join us.” Gabriel said. “How’s the food?”
“Very good.” John said. “As is to be expected.”
“Of course,” Gabriel said. Laughing in that way that people do that make other people hate them.
“I should visit the Noose sometime,” Gabriel said, “when I have some free time, which is a very rare occurrence if you know what I mean.”
“Hmm.” John said, really wishing Gabriel would get back to work and leave him to have his lunch in peace.
“Look,” Gabriel said, “we would be willing to have an alliance with the Stranglings.”
“You would?” John asked.
“Yes.” Gabriel said. “So long as Simon convinces us that he seriously believes an alliance would be a good idea besides the fact that we have similar sounding names.”
“Right,” John said. “I’ll let him know.”
“Good.” Gabriel said. “There’s also the issue with Upper Strangling having a hotel owned by a rival chain.”
“Of course.” John said. “The Golden Pheasant.”
“Yes.” Gabriel said.
“I’ll discuss it with Simon.” John said.
“Good,” Gabriel said.
“Well, he’ll be delighted that you will finally be open to an alliance.” John said. “All that’s left is whether Upper Strangling would be willing to co-operate with Lower Strangling or continue to be a completely separate entity.”
“Sure.” Gabriel said. “Well, enjoy your lunch, and I’ll see you soon.”
“Ok. Bye.” John said.
Gabriel walked back to his office, and John continued to have his lunch.
After his quite sumptuous three course meal, it was time go back to Lower Strangling.
Before going into the pub to put the bread away, John surveyed the village.
Yes, he thought, Lower Slaughter had it’s appeal, but home is home.
With that, John went into the pub to put his bread away, and continued with his working day.