2016: A Country Village Tale

BY PAUL READ

It all started at the Parish Council Meeting. It’s time the duck-pond was cleaned out, there’s some ‘foreign matter’ in it, not ducks that is. On checking, it seemed to be mainly stuff destined for recycling but blown in by the wind or empty beer cans that visitors had thrown in before disappearing off whence they came.

The pub is next to the duck-pond, opening hours are ‘flexible’, unfortunately, this makes it attractive to visitors.

All we should need to do is fill in a form advising the Council and spend an afternoon wandering around in waders, complete with nets, under the guidance of Old Bob, the local expert.

We were misinformed. The Council deemed it a ‘specialist activity’ requiring a Risk Assessment and a Project Plan. The Pond Clearance Operative would need to provide a copy of their ‘Competent Person Certificate’. We had no idea what any of this meant. Fortunately, the Council offered a grant and a Project Team so we accepted.

In hindsight, a hasty decision…

Anyway, a date was set and, on the Monday in question, two chaps turned up in a van wearing hi-vis vests and white hard hats. A series of stakes were placed around the pond and ticker-tape finished the job. A little later a flatbed truck turned up with two more chaps in white hard hats and hi-vis vests. They had a chat to the first two chaps both of whom then went away. After a couple of hours, the security fence was erected following the line of the ticker tape which was then removed. Signs were attached to the fence warning against ‘unauthorised access’ and the need for hard hats – presumably in case a comatose, overweight pigeon roosting in the only tree plummeted earthwards…

Nothing else happened until Tuesday when a skip was delivered and a JCB dropped off.

On Wednesday, several vans appeared and several chaps examined the duck-pond minutely but nothing else happened until a lady with a red hard hat and a clipboard arrived. Boxes were ticked, heads nodded and the JCB was started.

Now, the only tree is on the little island in the middle of the duck-pond making the pond a ring. This means there’s no requirement for the JCB to go into the water as the bucket can just about stretch across the full expanse. About a third of the pond was dredged and everyone stopped for lunch. When they returned, the pond was empty, of water that is, it had all drained away. The project was stopped. Consultations were made. Two people with green hard hats turned up and examined the now empty pond which had by this time accumulated a small crowd.

Inevitably, with all the excitement, Phil made an appearance. Now, the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book and the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming Phil dated back to that era. Instantly recognisable with his trousers held up by baler twine and trouser legs tied at the ankles he is always accompanied by his two Jack Russells, One-eye and Nipper. Nipper is the one to watch if you value your ankles. Phil is what the Council describes as a Pest Control Operative, we just call him ‘Phil the Rat’.

Hands firmly in pockets, cigarette dangling from his lips, Phil peered into the pond.

“Tha daft sods, tha’s ripped out t’clay lining”, Phil observed to no-one in particular.

A lot of the land in the village centre is mainly sand and gravel, one of the reasons it was built there, it drains well. This means a pond must be sealed somehow.

“Can you fix it?”, asked someone in a green hard hat – pen poised expectantly over her clipboard.

“Nay lass”, said Phil, “Tha’ll need aud Bob. Knows his ponds does Bob”

No further mention of a Competent Person’s Certificate was made.

Nothing happened on Thursday.

On Friday, the lady with the red hard hat and clipboard turned up accompanied by two chaps in expensive suits. They had gold Burberry hard hats. Someone wheeled Old Bob up to the pond.

“Tha’ll need six labourers in wellies and eight barrow-loads of clay from t’bottom field. A coupla milkers wouldn’t hurt”, Bob announced.

No-one keeps cows in the village any more so we settled for the six labourers who walked around on the eight barrow-loads of clay we gradually shovelled in. After a couple of hours, Old Bob pronounced himself happy with the result, the last beer cans were removed and the fire-hose was turned on; filling up the pond.

And the moral of this tale? Don’t mess with technology you don’t understand.

 

 

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