Chapter 18 Yet more toast under the bridge

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Chapter 18 Yet more toast under the bridge

Fundraising. They should remove the word 'fun' from it, thought Christopher gloomily as he stood by the tombola stall. So far he had sold three tickets to people who had grumbled regardless of whether they won a prize or not; he had already developed a hatred of people in general, and particularly people en masse such as you got when you organised a fund-raising table sale in aid of the Village Hall Restoration Fund (no snazzy acronyms this time). Of course, the amount of money they were likely to raise from this event was nothing, a drop in the ocean. They just had to do it to prove they were serious so that the Council and other donors would provide them with the real money that would be necessary for the project.

Christopher was surprised at how quickly PLIF had managed to organise even this tinpot event, held in the Scout Hut - a venue which didn't even live up to the level of comfort implied by its name. In his previous experience of committees, their main purpose was to debate endlessly what they were for, how they could get money from the national and local authorities to carry on with what they were doing, and who they could rope in as treasurer. But now that Amaryllis had been accepted as a bona fide member of the PLIF steering group, she seemed to have inspired them. And then there were Maisie Sue and her quilting 'girls'. Perhaps all the original PLIF stalwarts had been waiting for was a project to work on. Or perhaps they had needed Amaryllis or another outsider as a catalyst.

One thing he had never expected to see was Jock McLean dressed up as Santa Claus. Christopher had tried hard to dissuade him from this course of action.

'It's nowhere near Christmas! And I thought you didn't want to have any more to do with children.'

'I'm not entirely without Christmas spirit,' Jock had said, his words flying in the face of all available evidence. 'And people expect to see Santa Claus at this kind of thing.'

'But not in the middle of July!'

Sweltering in his fleecy suit and false beard, Jock was now dishing out presents to children in an improvised grotto constructed from a tent he had borrowed from the Scouts and decorated with cotton-wool balls.

Meanwhile Mrs Stevenson had produced a cornucopia of home-baking and presided, woolly-hatted, over her own stall. Apparently Big Dave had been up till all hours the night before icing the fairy cakes. In the corner Amaryllis ran a game involving yellow plastic ducks, an old tin bath and a couple of fishing rods.

Two PLIF steering group members were missing for reasons beyond anybody's control.

Darren had come along faithfully to all the meetings and had thrown himself into organising this event. It was just a pity that he had been arrested the day before, caught in the act of stealing three tins of Quality Street to give as raffle prizes. Christopher recalled that they had all been pleased when Darren had offered to get hold of prizes, and had taken it as a sign that his involvement in the steering group had been really beneficial.

Young Dave had sent word a couple of weeks before that he was leaving the group on the pretext of being overworked and not having time for it any more. One school of thought believed it was because he had been miffed about missing out on the excitement of the car chase and Christopher's rescue. Mrs Stevenson said she had heard at the paper shop that Dave was helping police with their enquiries into something to do with his mother-in-law's pension. Christopher and Amaryllis kept their inside knowledge to themselves.

Maisie Sue's quilting group, on the other hand, had taken over three tables, now swathed in various printed fabrics which made Christopher dizzy with their patterns - small sprigs of blossom, tiny checks, spots and stripes vied with fluffy kittens for predominance. They always had plenty of customers so Maisie Sue hadn't had time to come and bother him, fortunately. He didn't have the energy to speak to her today.

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