At the town hall

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

The response was better than they’d expected, and now there are forty people sitting round tables in one of the town hall’s grander meeting rooms.

The people who called the meeting know that these people will be looking up at the ornate plasterwork and imagining themselves here under different, happier circumstances – a wedding, say, or perhaps a gala ball. The men and women sitting at the tables, though, are not people you’d be likely to encounter at a gala ball. They work with old folk, or organise crown green bowling tournaments, or encourage young people away from indolence and towards purpose. They’re only ever half-visible, but now here they are, sitting expectant before the council officers who they know will be saying what nobody wants to hear.

The woman has already been up in front of them, brusque with her praise as she presents the graphs that only say how much these people do, what a difference they make, and how it costs too much. The people have murmured and shaken their heads, stirring sugar into the tea that the council officers hemmed and hawed over providing.

And now here is the man in charge of the money, and as he takes the podium he can see the arms folding, the jaws setting. He starts on his presentation, and when he is telling them about the things he does when he isn’t here, his allotment and his community association, it is plain to anyone who’d care to look that his expression offers the apology that his lips aren’t permitted to form.


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