I’ve been settling into a new role for the past month or so. On May 2, much to my surprise, I was elected as a City Councillor. It sounds very grand, but in fact the City of Lichfield is really a parish, and most decisions are made by the Lichfield District Council, and matters concerned with roads and education are largely decided by Staffordshire County Council.
However, being a City Councillor, although it is an unpaid position, does carry some responsibilities, and there is a learning curve attached to doing the job properly – and I certainly intend to do that. So far it’s been interesting and exciting, and even though the novelty may wear off, I will always consider this to be a serious and responsible position to hold, and I will do my best to represent the people of Garrick Road Ward.
There are minutes and agenda, the details of how meetings of planning committees, etc. and a few rather nice quaint historical ceremonial events such as the Lichfield Bower, the Sheriff’s Ride, a world champion Town Crier (Ken Knowles, pictured above), who also acts as sword-bearer on ceremonial occasions together with two mace-bearers, and so on. But… learning takes some time, and my writing, including my blog, has been affected.
By way of a little compensation, let me give you a short (untitled) story that I wrote for the Lichfield Writers:
Yes, I was frustrated and annoyed. We’d got on like a house on fire for the whole evening, and I was ready to go home with her, or take her home with me, when she looked at her watch and told me she had to be up early the next morning, so goodnight, thanks for the drinks and see you soon.
So I needed something to cheer me up. Didn’t feel like the chippy, and we’d had an Indian together before we’d settled into the pub for the evening. I knew I’d had enough to drink – too much, if the truth was told, so that wasn’t an option. And then it started raining, so I turned my up collar and kept walking.
It caught my eye from some distance away. A hand, sticking out of the skip outside the department store they were doing up. What looked like a woman’s hand and arm, bare to the elbow. Visions of lurid headlines spun through my mind as I approached. “Lichfield man’s macabre midnight find” was a good one, as was “Grisly garbage in city centre”.
I actually laughed out loud when I got close to the skip. The arm was a mannequin’s arm, plastic or plaster, or something. I pulled at it, and it came away, leaving me holding it like a trophy. “You look armless enough to me,” I said to the now dismembered body in the skip. “Nice of you to give me a hand.” (Don’t worry, I get a bit like this after a few drinks. It could be worse – I could turn into a raving violent monster)
So there I was, walking back home, hand in hand in hand with my new friend (or part of her). When I got in, I put the arm on the table, and noticed for the first time that there was a slim chain round the wrist, which looked like gold. Not only that, but there were three pieces of glass, two red and one white, in gold settings halfway along the chain. Pretty, but not my style. I decided to take it along to my friend Julie who runs the antique and curios shop to see if she’d give me anything for it.
I left it for a few days, and took it in to show her. To my surprise, she didn’t immediately dismiss it as junk.
“Where did you get this?” she asked, peering at the glass with a jeweller’s loupe screwed into her eye. She sounded suspicious.
“I just sort of picked it up somewhere,” I told her. Well, that wasn’t a lie.
“I’m not going to take it,” she said.
“Why? Not worth your while selling it?” I asked.
“Out of my league, dear. If I were you, I’d go down to Birmingham and go to one of those little shops in the Jewellery Quarter and see what they have to say.”
And that was the end of that conversation.
As always happens to me with this sort of thing, I left it alone for a month or two, but one day I was going into Birmingham, and I had a few hours between meetings, so I decided to use the time to do what Julie had suggested.
I had no idea which shop to go to when I got off the train at Jewellery Quarter, but picked a small dingy little place – something in the way Julie had talked had made me cautious about going into one of the bigger more glossy stores.
The man behind the counter asked the same question as Julie had done.
“Where did you find this?” His tone was more accusing than curious.
“I found it on the street,” I said.
“And you didn’t feel you needed to hand it in to the police?” If the tone of his voice was anything to go by, he didn’t believe me.
“A cheap bracelet and a few pieces of glass?”
“They’re not glass.” He handed the chain back to me. “Now bugger off, and be thankful I haven’t called the cops. I’m not touching this.”
I buggered off, as requested, the bracelet burning a hole in my pocket. The next shop I went to was a little more helpful.
“Hmmm… Two rather nice rubies and a very pretty diamond. Nice setting. Are you selling?”
“What’s it worth?”
“I’ll give you a couple of thou.”
Wow. Two thousand pounds for something I’d found in a skip? Which probably meant he could sell it for five. “I’ll think about it.”
“Two five, and I’m not asking any questions about where it came from.”
I had a sudden thought. “Tell you what. I’ll give you five hundred if you do what I ask.”
All this happened fifteen years ago. The two rubies and the diamond now adorn my wife’s custom-made engagement ring. And yes, she was the one who left me in the pub that night I found the bracelet, telling me she had an early start the next day. She really did have an early start, and she called me that evening to apologise for running away. By the time I’d found out the truth about what I’d discovered in the skip, I’d decided, and she was on the point of deciding, that we were going to get married.
The ring clinched the deal.
“How on earth did you manage to afford this?” she asked me when I gave it to her.
“You really don’t want to know.”
But what I really want to know is what happened to the person who threw out the mannequin with that expensive bracelet still on its wrist. Let me know if you find out, will you? I won’t tell anyone else.