They sun is out, there’s a gentle breeze, and we are taking the dogs out for a stroll around the parish. There is a very pleasant, reasonably flat walk from our front door that more or less flanks the outer perimeter of the Parish. From various points along the way it is possible to survey the landscape of my entire (soon to be) jurisdiction, whilst getting slightly burnt from the under-estimated spring sunshine.
The group is larger than usual. As well as me and the boys we have my brother and sister in-law. The wife has popped off to the shops to re-stock the lemons and tonic water from the night / early morning before. As we allow the fresh air to cleanse our heads and souls, I feel compelled to point out various ‘landmarks’ along the way. Parish boundary points, street furniture for which the council holds responsibility for maintenance, sites of recent/ongoing planning permission applications. Just twenty minutes in, I feel the interest of my follow walkers starting to wane (quite understandably).
About half way around our loop the conversation has stalled, and the hangovers are not clearing. The sister in-law has donned her earphones and commenced the next module of her intensive language course. The tranquil British countryside is torn by sporadic over-emphasised, borderline aggressive Dutch phrases. I hope that our route doesn’t take us past any other walkers, who I’m sure will be startled and alarmed by this strange group. My brother’s recent facial hair experimentations and closely fitting trousers do nothing to help us blend in as we enter the centre of the village.
With purdah in full swing, I notice the subtle signs around the village centre. The Parish noticeboard is woefully out of date, the village hall sits locked and lifeless, I convince myself that potholes are growing in size and number. The church clock (the upkeep of which received significant coverage during my first Council meeting) maintains its resolute assertion that it is 0830 or 2030. I reflect that in just a few short weeks, my fellow Councillors and I will embark on righting these and numerous other wrongs.
For now, however, I need to address the immediate challenges confronting me and my fellow walkers. The temperature is steadily increasing, and the limited provisions we have brought with us were consumed some time ago. Whilst the boys enjoy a drink from the dog bowl outside the local shop in the custody of my brother, the sister in-law and I pop inside to procure some ice lollies. The cooling effect and artificial flavourings have a positive impact on our spirits as we close in on the home straight. Our focus switches from Parish matters and useful Dutch verb structures, to the upcoming evening’s entertainment.
The wife has re-stocked the fridge, and we move diligently from Aperol Spritz to straight Prosecco. It has been an extremely enjoyable visit and we pass the remainder of the afternoon and evening making plans for a return trip, ear marking potential karaoke duets, and avoiding mention of our imminent returns to work. As the sun sets across the parish I notice that we have moved onto the Gavi, which I am delighted to enjoy on the deck with a Cuban cigar gifted to me by our visitors. I think my guided tour of the Parish was a strong first attempt, and if nothing else gave a welcome distraction to the craziness of normal life, which I am sure will be waiting for us all in the morning.