After just five minutes in the Stewarts cluttered cosy living room I wished I was tackling the mound of washing up I’d left David to do. It was that bad. Frank expressed extreme delight at the sight of me on his doorstep but admonished me for forgetting my agenda. “You’ll have to share!” he boomed as he frogmarched me into the living room and all but threw me on the sofa next to Alice Three Doors Down. Things had changed since my last meeting: the committee (Frank, Marjorie, Mike Robinson and Jill With The Purple Door) sat at the dining table and peered down at the rest of us. It seems that I have relinquished my role of Deputy Community Activity Organiser to Jill. And I didn’t even notice. I’d just about given up on Jane Opposite and Jack Next Door turning up (Ruby Over The Road was neatly ensconced in the corner with the yukka) when they arrived, like naughty school children, with a bag of pick n mix sweets from the corner shop.
Frank fixed us all with his beady eyes and welcomed us all. “Lots of familiar faces” he crooned as he took in Amy On The Corner, Scary Bloke with the Rottweiler, Mary Three Doors Down, The Woman with the Hat, Timid Tina and Susan at Number 30 with the baby. “And some old faces returning!” he boomed at me, Jack, Ruby, Jane and Mrs Satinder With the Persian Cat. Marjorie fixed the room with a death stare “And a new face” she hissed, just like James Bond would have greeted his arch enemy. The new face turned out to be Belinda Hall (“she’s moved into end house on the corner” Alice Three Doors Down said and simpered “welcome!” to Belinda which earned her a filthy look from Marjorie.
Frank thought it best to move swiftly on. The minutes of the previous meeting were touched upon and thanks passed to Old Mrs Lazenby who had provided fairy cakes for the meeting. Agenda item one was the increase in litter in the area – “additional road sweepers seem to encourage people to drop more litter because they know it's going to get picked up” twittered Susan at Number 30. Agenda item two, parking issues, was a touchy subject. “People with more than one car,” Frank began eyeing me a little too beadily “Should respect those with just one car and not park both of their cars together”. Jane Opposite snorted with derision. “Listen darlin’, I’ve got a 4 x 4 and my Bill’s got a Porsche, we want them where we can see ‘em”. Jill With The Purple Door, who was obviously still simmering over the recent incident, suggested that Jane show more respect for the rest of the Avenue by “not revving your monstrosity up each and every morning”. Just as it looked evident that the fingernails were coming out, Frank changed the subject, telling Marjorie to mark it down as “ongoing” in the minutes.
The summer outing was touched upon briefly and got little or no support from the gathered masses, especially when Scary Bloke with the Rottweiler (he’s actually quite sweet, Mac adores them both) asked if he could bring Messiah with him. As Messiah is a ten stone Rotty with halitosis I was hoping the answer would be no. Marjorie averted the certain storm by saying that it would be addressed “at the next meeting”. Alice Three Doors Down sniffed “No wonder nothing is achieved at these things” as she shoved a macaroon into her mouth.
The newsletter was equally well received. Frank’s suggestion that he write, produce and distribute it was met with complaints that it’d then be extremely biased and how the hell could one person reflect the views of the entire Avenue. It was a pity then that there were no volunteers when Frank asked for volunteers. I kept my eyes down at this point: he knows we have a colour printer and scanner. We then discussed various random things, including the possibility of setting up an Avenue Ramblers Association which would “take in local walks of interest”. Timid Tina seemed quite intrigued at this and said she’d investigate further and report back. Marjorie reported that, as no-one had won the last three Saturday Bonus Ball Lottery games, she would put the money towards the summer outing. Ruby Over The Road had beaten me to it and looked as if she were asleep.
All through the dreadful hour and a half Marjorie didn’t exchange words or looks with Belinda Hall, other than the hissed comment at the very start. Once everyone had gone and Jane and I were making our own escape, Marjorie let rip. Apparently Belinda Hall is trying to muscle in on the Stewarts territory by arranging coffee mornings and doing odd jobs for the elderly residents. “Twice she’s been to Morrison’s for Old Mrs Lazenby and she’s only been here since last weekend!” Marjorie huffed. “I wouldn’t mind but she shouldn’t have even been here! Her garden only backs onto The Avenue, her house sits on The Road. Cheeky upstart, who does she think she is?” she continued as she expertly wrapped a macaroon each for David and Mac in yards of clingfilm. Frank patted her on her shoulder and leered at her heaving bosom.
There may be trouble ahead!