They have put a large television on the wall in The Surfeit of Lamprey. Now, I am not a man to stand in the way of progress. I have enjoyed the advent of the internet, mobile phones with cameras and the blue-ray DVD recorder/player as much as the next man. The problem is not the presence of the thing but that it is on every time I go in, blasting out the election programme at full whack.
The reason, of course, is that Ronald Mildpint is backing Robert's campaign and his wife, Jane, even more enthusiastically with her glittering purple rosette with "You have to luv Bobby" emblazoned on it above "VOTE UKVIP", and yes, in capital letters. I'm not surprised that Jane is bubbling over with Robert for MP. After all, rumour places her pretty firmly under him on a number of occasions in the distant past.
And there's nothing wrong with good old Auntie's presentation but I like to get out of the house for a quiet pint and chat. Poor old Ted Gracecrease has been crammed into the corner on the other side of the bar and still can't hear word spoken to him.
In protest, on Wednesday, when Maddy let me know she would be late in for lunch as she was at a meeting of the Allbright & Beautiful Singers, I walked down the hill to the Waggon and Tax Break. Pushing open the door, I stopped and listened. Such bliss. A few murmuring voices around the bar and the sound of jugs and bottles. I came around the corner and what do you think? Leaning against the bar, talking politics were Robert Awfullybuff-Headstrong with the Colonel, who is local Conserve-It chairman, of course, Maurice Dufferly and Jeremy Enjoyse-Silk. Robert was still sporting his stupid gold and purple monstrosity, beside which, Maurice Dufferly's restrained orange job looked like a quail set against a Norfolk Turkey.
'Townshend!' boomed Robert, waving me over, 'you just missed Merton and The Charlatan.'
'Who no doubt will be pillorying you along with that supercilious Nigel Barrage on this week's "Have I Got Some Views From You"'. I replied.
'Well, yes, there is a chance I might feature but they were jolly interested in my campaign. Merton even made a contribution. That is to say he bet me a fiver that I couldn't pull Viola Jane Singleton, my campaign manager and the ex-Olympic horse rider who just moved into the area.'
'You mean the one with the laugh like a drain and the sort of smile that sent Lord Nelson to sea?'
'That would be her.' he laughed, 'she is a bit of a drip isn't she? Thing is, I'd already had her twice after we went to the Borderfolk & Sheepshire Constabulary Dinner Dance the other night. Easiest fiver I ever won.'
'And you told Merton that?'
'Well how else was I to win my fiver?'
(I should explain at greater length, I see. Merton Herflop and Charlie Brownsoup were always the jokers. At Warboys, they put on the end of term rag and review. At Peterville & Gonwylde, they wrote that University magazine "Open Eyes" that went on to become a national publication. Now, Merton is editor but spends more time writing for and appearing on TV in a hugely popular Saturday night show that pokes fun at politics.)
'I suspect,' I said with a mock folorrn air, 'that they will put paid to any chance of you winning the election, here. Or anywhere else.'
Jeremy Began to laugh his snorting laugh, 'oh dear, Robert, looks like they saw you coming.'
'I can't see what the problem is.' Robert shrugged, 'Everyone knows what I'm like. Jenny's past caring, long ago.'
'Ex England Rugby Hero caught with his shorts down again' I spread an arm wide, "UKVIP candidate lets down wife and electorate with local campaign manager." Or maybe something less subtle from The Globe like; "Bonking Bobby gets Viola's vote." The accompanying speculation should nail it.'
'I might even come second this year' Maurice Dufferly's said from somewhere behind us.