Wednesday, 1 May 2013
It is said that in every town however small, something noteworthy happens at least once. The town of Stillby-on-Frass could be said to be the exception to that rule. Everything seemed to happen there, often all at once.
"It is becoming tiring and frankly tiresome," Miss Sprickett observed at the weekly town council meeting.
"But at least we have a high profile in the region, Marilyn," Mr Cogsworth said a little lamely.
It would take too long to explain the number of natural occurrences that had occurred at Stillby-on-Frass in the last few years alone. Volcanoes, a dragon, a host of locusts and at the local garden festival and thereafter, a swarm of bees among other things. Nobody in the town was in the habit of saying 'It could be worse' because at one time or another, it had been worse. Nobody in the town ever said, 'Worse things happen at sea' because they did not believe that for a minute. If anything, worse things happened at Stillby-on-Frass that ever happened at sea.
The town meeting was a quiet and muted affair for everyone was rather tired of the sixth rainfall of fish. Herrings in particular for some reason. The smell of them had attracted birds and cats. Lots and lots of birds and cats. The people had kept children indoors and burned the herrings despite those that were eaten with considerable greed by the seagulls and the cats. There were not usually many cats in Stillby-on-Frass, but that week the town was full of them.
"Just for once," Miss Sprickett said snappishly, "It would be nice to know that nothing out of the ordinary had happened here."
Nobody argued with that. The council members sat quietly. Mostly tired and utterly sick of the smell of fish. A tabby uncurled itself from the window seat of the council chamber, yawned, stretched and leapt to the floor. The sense of gloom about the chamber did not stop it meowing to be let out. Miss Leaf, a young member of the council got up to let the cat out. As she opened the door Mistress Hardwyck dashed in past the cat.
She was a short, thin, elegant woman dressed in lilac. Her glasses hung by a chain and her eyes were lit up. In her hands she carried a sheaf of papers and it was these that seemed to have excited her as she waved them at the council members.
"I've found actual proof!" she cried, "Actual proof!"
"For heaven's sake Mistress Hardwyck, pull yourself together. Proof of what exactly? A pirate ship in the high street? A tiger in the delicatessen? Five lobsters in Mistress Thompson's gazebo? What?" Mr Latimer exclaimed tugging at his shirt front for want of a waistcoat.
Mistress Hardwyck stopped and took a deep breath. Her eyes still shone with excitement but she came to the council table and placed the documents before Miss Sprickett who was, after all, head of the counci.
"Mr Cogsworth, I believe you have a memory for the history of Stillby-on-Frass. Does 1785 mean anything to you?" Mistress Hardwyck asked.
Mr Cogsworth leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his belly. For a moment there was silence only broken by the simultaneous exclamations from that worthy gentleman and Miss Sprickett.
"Good grief!" from Miss Sprickett.
"Eureka!" from Mr Cogsworth.
"I know, isn't it marvellous," Mistress Hardwyck said.
"Isn't what marvellous, Mistress?" said Miss Leaf crossly.
"Mr Cogsworth, if you would be so kind," Mistress Hardwyck murmured.
"Um, yes, yes of course. In 1785, after the pirate ship arrived in the High Street and before the arrival of Daniel Defoe on an elephant, nothing happened at all. Especially before the stable yard of the World Turned Upside Down tavern," Mr Cogsworth mused.
"Nothing happened? Nothing at all?" Mr Strident said quietly.
"Nothing happened at that spot just outside the stable yard of a tavern!" Mistress Hardwyck said, unable to hide her delight.
"In Stillby-on-Frass? But wasn't 1785 full of events like every other appalling year?" asked Miss Leaf.
"Oh of course lots of things happened, but there were a few blissful days when absolutely nothing happened. Especially outside of a tavern. No fights, wagers, dramas, nothing," said Mr Cogsworth almost dreamily.
"I move that we put up a sign to mark that non-event," said Miss Sprickett, "As an inspiration to our town. We can be as quiet and uneventful a town as any other. Even if it was over two hundred years ago."
So it was that a sign was made and put up on a fence outside what would have been the stable yard of the World Turned Upside Down tavern. There was some delay in it being installed due to bad weather that ended with precisely a hundred cheeses falling from the sky into a herb garden. Also, the death of a much loathed Prime Minister that occasioned twenty street parties in Stillby-on-Frass. But the sign went up and nobody, to anybody's amazement left the town for a more uneventful home town - like London where little of note ever happens.