The Way We Lied

She was very surprised that the Reverend Richard White had not mentioned the flower festival idea at the parochial church council meeting the previous week. That was where important events were planned and discussed and Sarah was noted for always making an enormous contribution, in terms of new ventures and strategies for enticing more people into the parish church.
Mother’s Day had been a great success because she had persuaded a local florist to donate bunches of daffodils which were distributed to all the women in the congregation, whether they had children or not. Then, for last year’s Harvest Festival, she had liaised with the village school and they had brought in pumpkins and vegetables grown in the school’s own garden. So she began to think about this new challenge as she swam, alternating between breast stroke and crawl. She concluded that Richard must have been approached by Mary or someone else, as he was most unlikely to have had such an original idea by himself.
After ten lengths she realised that the vicar might have met Mary on one of his outreach visits, when he called on newcomers to the area. After 20 lengths, she came to believe Mary had probably persuaded him to exhibit her work in the church in the interest of personal gain and after another five turns of the pool she jumped to the conclusion that Richard may have been subjected to bohemian behaviour unbecoming to a man of the cloth. By 30 lengths, she was convinced that this woman was an immoral influence who had to be prevented from displaying herself and her work at all costs. And after a final five lengths Sarah had decided that she had a much better idea for the Harvest Festival and would contact Richard as soon as she was dressed and her hair was restored to blonde perfection.
Driving back from the club, Sarah’s mind busily sketched out her plan for a Harvest Festival to celebrate local produce. It would mean contacting farmers and food producers in the area, but there were plenty of those who regularly took stalls at the bi-monthly farmer’s market and they would all welcome the opportunity to draw attention to the high quality products they created. She would present it to Richard as a return to the roots of the harvest; a reflection of the true spirit of the festival and the phrase ‘harvest home’. That should convince him.
“Sarah, how simply delightful to see you,” Richard said as he ushered her into the threadbare surroundings of his study in the rectory. “What can I do for you?” He removed some church magazines from the old sagging armchair so she could sit down while he sat at his paper strewn desk and peered at her over his half-moon spectacles. She ignored the stained coffee mug by his side, knowing that he would never think to offer her refreshment.
“I just dropped by to see if I could do anything else to help with the rectory garden party next month.” Sarah had ensured there was another pretext for her visit and knew that the party was always an irksome tradition for Richard whose busy doctor wife had little time for such preparations.
“I’m sure the usual suspects have the catering well in hand,” she continued, “but I wondered if you would like me to organise a little task force to make the garden look especially nice for the day.” The Rectory was a small modern detached house, the old Victorian vicarage next door having been sold for a substantial sum in the 1980s, and its large garden bore little of interest apart from some spectacular old magnolia trees, which would no longer be in flower by the time of the party.
As Richard vaguely smiled and dithered, Sarah jumped in with her clinching argument. “And I thought I could plant up some colourful pots and hanging baskets and, if you wanted, we could raffle them at the end of the afternoon?”
He assented to this charitable offer immediately and then she plunged in with the primary object of her visit. “And I’ve also been thinking more about all you have said recently about making the church more accessible and relevant to the area. So I was wondering whether we couldn’t organise a local farmers market type of Harvest Festival this year?” She went on to list the participants she had already considered and the impact of the event on the community and the village school. By the time she had finished describing how it would celebrate the origins of the festival, Richard was in full agreement with the idea.
“Well Sarah, there have been a couple of other suggestions already, but I must say your proposal would seem to be the most suitable. You really have thought it through splendidly. Can I say yes in principle and confirm with you when I have run it by the church council? I am absolutely sure they will agree that it is a simply marvellous idea. Leave it with me for now, will you?”
Sarah was more than satisfied. She had no doubt her theme would be adopted. But as she left the rectory, she thought there might be one more little precautionary measure she could take to ensure that there would be no unconventional or unsuitable sculpture on display in St Michael’s Church. And she smiled to herself.


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