Literary delights to be had at The Dark Horse

By Charlotte Hofton

Published on Friday, February 22, 2013 - 13:55


Literary delights to be had at The Dark Horse

MEP Daniel Hannan, left, with The Dark Horse owner Haydn Wheeler and Jacqui Rimini, at opening of Post Office. Picture by Laura Holme.

THE VIEW FROM HERE IF only Jane Austen or Mrs Gaskell were still around, what excellent chronicles they could make out of our Island spats.

When it comes to parochial folderols, there is surely none to beat us and I am particularly enchanted by the recent goings-on in Brading Post Office.

From the start, this story possesses all the ingredients of a wonderful social romp, with stalwart villagers initially united in saving a much-cherished community facility.

Back in the 19th century, Jane Austen would have quite understood the consternation had the penny post been withdrawn and would today be writing elegant paragraphs about the Bennett sisters’ anxiety over whether they could still renew their TV licence at the post office counter (the Bennetts would undoubtedly have embraced telly with a fine spirit — Lydia especially would have adored Jeremy Kyle, while I see Elizabeth as more of a Paxman fan).

Arrangements were eventually made to house the new post office at The Dark Horse pub in Brading High Street. Our authors would have found rich material in this exciting new location, with hitherto respectable pensioners falling prey to temptation as they waited to collect their weekly benefits.

"Why, Mrs Cornberry, I declare I saw with my own eyes Mrs Everglade crouching behind the parcel scales with sneaky little gin and tonic and a packet of pork scratchings.

"Did you ever, Mrs Cornberry! Well, yes, just a small sherry would be delightful — this queue doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter and I only want a book of half-a-dozen second-class."

Austen and Gaskell would be well into their stride at The Dark Horse before being presented with a gem of a twist in the plot. This, as reported in last week’s CP, involves accusations against Brading town councillor Mary Collis, who, it is alleged, "hijacked" the opening ceremony for the new post office.

Brading residents were furious at not being told in advance what arrangements were in place and positively spitting when they discovered some Tory politician (and he wasn’t even a proper MP, but Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament, pah, boo!) performing the opening ceremony.

Brading mayor Deborah Gardiner accused Cllr Collis of "piggy-backing" the event. Cllr Collis denied any such thing.

Resident John Hollond, evidently taken with the mayor’s turn of phrase, jumped on the verbal bandwagon.

"It seems to me you are piggy-backing on something," he told Cllr Collis.

Piggy-backing on something? What, exactly?

Actually, I’m not sure Miss Austen and Mrs Gaskell would wish to include this piggy-backing on "something." It doesn’t sound at all nice.

Still, I expect Lord Byron could write a poem about it. He was rather into that sort of thing.

Cllr Robin Attwood sensibly averted his eyes from the piggy-backing. He just said someone else should have cut the ribbon.

"I do not see what the people of Brading gain by an MEP conducting the opening. It’s got to be a local event," he said.

Exactly. And how splendid of Cllr Attwood to bring in the subject of the ribbon, a commodity which would have been seized on by Austen and Gaskell. Would the ribbon be in fine English satin or had the MEP brought some fancy foreign stuff from Brussels?

As for Mr Hannan, there has surely not been such a cause for swooning at the unexpected appearance of a posho bloke since Mr Darcy climbed out of the lake.

Yes, it’s a real shame the grande dames of English literature cannot get out their quill pens and do justice to the great post office palaver. But there’s a possibility the scriptwriters of The League of Gentlemen might be interested.

"It’s got to be a local event." Ah yes, shades of Royston Vaysey and its "local shop for local people".

I can just see it. Dark mutterings in the Dark Horse and an MEP found under the floorboards with a passport application form and the Euro exchange rates thrust down his throat.

The kind of people who wed matters

IN addition to the Brading brouhaha, the gay marriage hysteria continues on its merry way. I like to make sure all good reactionaries are awake and suitably spluttering, so here’s another thought to boost your blood pressures.

You’re constantly telling us children whose parents are married are more secure, happier and generally better in every way. This is held up as an argument for marriage between a man and a women being a marvellous institution.

But suppose it’s not marriage but the kind of people who get married which makes the difference?

It may, indeed, be that married people have happy children but that’s not because they’re married. It’s because they’re good parents and those kind of people tend to get wed.

If all the feckless, unmarried couples were required by law to get married, would that make their children any better cared for? I very much doubt it.

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