Why, when one sees things amiss, it is sometimes best not to notice.

(At least when in the Toppled Bollard.)

Like most institutions the Toppled Bollard public house has its own officially designated reverend gentleman who oversees the well-being of the flock that gathers in the hinterland between revolutionary Rutland and bankrupt Northamptonshire.

Thus, representing the Church of England we have as our man of the cloth the Extremely Rev Alexander “fighter” Forge. Being of the reverend persuasion he is not, of course, able to use many of the words which most of his flock within the Bollard use, but he is compensated in this regard by his use of what we may best call “the look”.

In the case of Rev Forge, it is a look is one that has been known to dampen the ardour of both ticket touts outside Premier League football matches and prop forwards within professional rugby union games, within a fraction of a second.

Indeed many of his victims, if we may call them that, are known never to have spoken again after a single glance from the Reverend gent. And thus, upon his entering the Bollard, generally speaking, silence falls and glances are, as one, averted.

Thus it was with much surprise this week that those of us who like to use the demarcation of “regular” when it comes to our attendance at the Bollard noticed that, rather than entering the public arena with all the delicacy of a herd of MPs leaving the chamber for the five month summer recess, the Rev had more of the look of one who had swung the sock full of wet sand and mistakenly allowed it one swoop too many, thus resulting in a solid thwack on his own face.

To be clear, the Forge looked aghast as if Prometheus, with the crows assaulting his inner organs, had been asked if he fancied a swift half because it was, after all, his round.

However, recovering somewhat there emanated from his inner soul a howl of fury which caused even Dr Billy the Dog McGraw, senior psychologist at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road, to return from the gardens at the back of the Bollard (the self-same gardens which, you may recall, the “Personality Shop” were now using to sell their wares) to see what was afoot.

I think that for myself the best I can say is that at this moment the world must have gone slightly out of focus, for I started laughing a laugh which was both throaty and guffawing, and which could not be stopped despite the horrific danger I thus put myself in.

What could be stopped, of course, was both the Reverend Forge and Dr Billy, who as a man turned to look at me with what I can best describe as third degree disdain.

Now as many have noted before me, the fascination of other people’s misfortunes is almost entirely down to the fact that they are not your own misfortunes, and part of my amusement at the Reverend gentleman’s vizure was the fact that, as far as I know, I was doing alright, thank you very much, while it was he that was troubled.

But then the world changed as these two senior members of our community turned as one to face me, with four shaggy eyebrows raised to reveal looks best described as “piercing with a side dish of enhanced raw venom”.

Dr Billy spoke first. “You sir, look like a bereaved tapeworm and you sound like a sink that has decided it does not like the taste of tapwater.  Explain yourself, or be banished from these premises forthwith.”

“I regret I cannot,” I said meekly, “unless it was another case of aliens from the alternative dimensions taking over my body.  We have had a number of cases like this within the gardens, and the revered gents from the Personality Shop are, as we speak, attempting to oust the devilish creature from our midst.”

As you may have guessed I was quoting directly from Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” but fortunately neither gent was a sci-fi fan and did not spot the allusion.

And thus the gents were distracted and went back out once more to see what was afoot in the gardens, allowing me to sidle up to the bar where a rather fetching young lady who I guessed was perhaps on vacation from sixth form college and had not yet been introduced to the wicked ways of the Bollard was knocking back a couple of pints of Guinness.

But no sooner had I begun my usual repertoire of bon mots and whatnots than the pair stormed back in, Forge demanding to know what I was doing.

“My apologies sir,” I said with all the dignity I could muster, “I was just ensuring that your daughter was being properly looked after, what with this being her first visit to the Bollard.”

“Daughter?” he cried in amazement, “daughter? That sir, is my wife.”

Upon which point I decided to test out my athletic skills, heading rapidly up the hill and back into Corby wherein I am glad to say, I live to fight another day.

More anon.

Footnote and explanation: This is one of the weekly Toppled Bollard stories that Schools.co.uk sends out.  We do it because it helps us be remembered by potential clients who are perhaps also seeing advertisements from our competitors.  The idea being they will remember us because we are, as some potential customers say, “the guys who send out those crazy stories about the pub”.

It is of course true that some people don’t like the stories – but we make it clear they can unsubscribe from the Toppled Bollard series but still receive our regular commentaries.  And overall we get far more positive comments than we get unsubscribes.

If you would like to know more about this approach to advertising please do call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk 

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