The Parish Council met to plan reopening on a Thursday.
Sitting at two rickety trestle tables in the Fellowship Hall, at precise intervals, we curled over against the cold. Two of us were armed with coffee in travelling mugs, one brought knitting, and another a yak’s wool pashmina. We did not touch.
“Important thing is” said Albie Duncan “fitting us all in at once”.
Albie Duncan was the sort of man who always spoke first. Retired farmer. Red face, blue plaid work shirt, gumboots, telegraphic style. Emphatic. Minor. Sentences.
“Only if you want to kill us all!” said Moira, flipping her long greyish-red hair equally emphatically, the pashmina heaving. “The building only seats 50!”
“I think you’ll find” said Dan the retired lawyer “that is not provided for in the guidelines from the Diocese”. He steepled his hands, and leaned both elbows on the guidelines, a solid hundred pages or so, with spiral binding for easy and last minute changes.
“Sod the Diocese!” said Ben the Builder. He isn’t really called that, but he has a truck, like the Mad Butcher. He is a Baptist. Sometimes, unkindly, the rest of us wish he had stayed one.
“I don’t even know what a Diocese is” mouthed Moira at me.
“I don’t even know what a Diocese is!” exploded Ben.
We watched Edith wilt visibly. When she dies, they will stamp “Anglican” on her bones, lest she gets mixed up with the riff raff, and they will bury her with her feet pointing toward Lambeth Palace like a lost homing pigeon.
Simon the youth rep gave her hand a squeeze, and Edith undrooped.
“I should like to know” she said, squaring her shoulders “what the arrangements will be for Holy Communion. Someone will have to sanitise the hymn books”.
“Actually, Edith, we were thinking of using Powerpoint” said the Vicar.
Edith’s jaw dropped open in pure shock, her knitting ceased, and the Vicar hastened to fill the silence.
“I’ve got here the COVID Committee’s report. Someone is going to have to distance all the chairs. Ben, would you happen to have a tape measure?”
Ben produced a tool box with a thump. The table shook alarmingly.
“Have you been carrying that around?” asked Simon, awestruck.
“Comes in handy” said Ben. “What distance?”
“1 metre” said Moira.
“1.2 metres” said Dan, opening his binder.
“2 metres” said the Vicar, waving the clergy directive.
“Next question” said Albie Duncan. “Which of us can get down on the floor?”
“I can” said Edith, surprisingly. “It’s getting up again I have the trouble with”.