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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

THE CATS OF UPPER MINSTER: PART 17 - YUM

The other week, as an amusing one-off , Tim Matthews wrote a silly short story spoofing some of the more ridiculous exploits of various self-styled big cat researchers over the years.

It was so popular that he wrote another one and now - by public demand - it has become a serial. Every few days will see an episode of Timmo's new Fortean soap opera The Cats of Upper Minster. And having read the first few episodes I can confirm that it is bloody smashing and highly amusing. "I'll carry on until it stops being funny," says Tim, and you can't say fairer than that!

Back at home, the children were reviewing the state of play. The village was overwhelmed by tourists, trippers, people who believed in aliens, paranormal researchers of varying hue, the curious, the uninitiated and the totally confused. More t-shirt salespeople and trinket hawkers were peddling their wares to a growing number of visitors and the local village council was in crisis talks. Ellie had reported back to base and was still holding her nose as she shadowed the General but she had little difficulty in looking stroppy as spending time with his troops was becoming more unpleasant as the days passed.

“So what is the next move,” asked Robin, thoughtfully. “I feel like we did well at the meeting in the village but our way of life is under threat. Think about the damage that all this traffic will do to the hedgerows and local wildlife. I’ve seen several animals squashed in the narrow lanes – far more than we usually would expect. Outsiders don’t understand the countryside. They see it as a resource to be plundered and visited. It’s not right. So we must act.”

“Well, it was you who said about making our own film,” said Frieda. “A sort of response to the lunacy that has engulfed us. We have that nice video camera and you can make a film using Windows Movie Maker and put it on youtube. Given all the interest in what’s going on people searching will find the film and we could publicise it locally and tell those rubbish journalists and they’d mention it. That’d be easy.”

“Hold on,” said Florence. “I thought we were like the Secret Seven or Famous Five. Don’t we want to be all quiet and nobody really knows it’s us? I want to save the lovely big cat and get these people away from the woods and fields. The more people there are, the more likely the beastie is to get caught, or killed or something."

“Of course,” said Tom, enthusiastically. “Couldn’t we get someone else to be the public face of it?”

“Maybe so. Hmmm,”
mused Frieda. “There are some older girls at the Minster College who I know. They’re doing some sort of media arts course and all they do is pretend to be newsreaders and filmmakers. OK, so they don’t do much work but they love the village as we do and are probably annoyed to have been left out of this.”

“Good idea,”
said Robin. “I shall ask one of them; that Anna Ridley girl. She always says hello when I see her in the village and even though she seems a bit tarty, she’ll maybe want to help. I need to go and see her but she is older than me so I hope she won’t laugh.”

“Don’t worry,”
said Frieda, “I know her younger sister, Nicola so we can go and see her and maybe speak to Anna if she’s there.”

...........

Twenty minutes later Robin and Frieda arrived at the Ridley household on their mountain bikes and were surprised to see a crowd gathered around the front gate. People were arguing. “You bloody moron,” shouted a red-faced Mr Ridley. “Where did you learn to drive?”

“I am sorry,”
said the driver of a small Nissan vehicle with a large scrape down its side and remnants of Mr Ridley’s garden wall hanging off the side. “I am not used to parking in such a tight space. Normally I don’t reverse when I’m parking in town. I just drive straight into the spot at the supermarket."

“Well, you’re just another one of those bloody day-trippers come down here to ruin things for us locals,“
raged Mr Ridley, whose daughters had come out to see what the large bang had been and what exactly was going on in this usually peaceful part of England’s Green and Pleasant land. “You’re a bloody moron. That wall cost me hundreds of pounds and you bet your miserable life that you’re going to pay for it.”

“Hello Mr Ridley,”
said Robin. “What on earth has gone on here?”

“Oh, hello children,”
he replied. “Well, this idiot here has smashed my wall down because she learned to drive before a license was required.”

“Excuse me,”
replied the careless townie. “I have taught at Bristol Community College for some 20 years and I am not that old. Local people where I live give me the respect I deserve!”

“Bristol,”
said Frieda. “My mummy says it’s an urban sewer and as for teaching in a college, Mummy says that schools and colleges are run by do-gooders who are failed academics and who want to indoctrinate children with their own politically correct views.”

Silence.

“Oh, my God, you people are backward,” said the townie whose name, it emerged, was Angie. “You do not understand the beauty of the urban environment and how different cultures rub up against each other and work within a modern, 21st Century setting; whereas some things, it seems, haven’t changed at all out here in the sticks. I celebrate my urban existence; all the colours of the rainbow work together; black, white, brown, and I am here to celebrate the sightings of a star creature, a creature of divine properties and creation, against the background of the rural mileu.”

More silence.

“Well, you are obviously completely bonkers, lady,” said Anna Ridley. “What are you on about? All I know is you can’t drive and you talk rubbish. I bet you’re here for the big cat story, aren’t you? I think you should just turn around – this time without smashing our property – and go back to your oh-so-wonderful urban life with its pollution, noise, filth and crime, and leave us backward stick-dwellers to our own devices.”

“Brilliant,” said Robin.

At that the Rainbow Warrior from Bristol turned to her car and shoved a dog-eared business card into Mr Ridley’s hands. “That,” she postured, “is my business card and you may send me a bill for the damage but make sure you send me several quotes so I know you’re not trying to rip me off. I shall park elsewhere and hopefully find people who are more friendly, and more with it.”

“Bye bye,” said Nicola Ridley. “And don’t come back. Anyway, you smell.”

All present wept with laughter.

Robin, completing the scene, said to Anna, “Hey, Anna, we need your help with this big cat thing. Can we talk?”

“Of course,” she replied. “Come right in but mind out for the bits of wall. Dad will be well angry about that; the work was only finished last month and he had to work extra shifts to pay for it. Haven’t seen him that mad for years. Anyway, knowing your family I bet you’re none too pleased about all these people coming here to ruin our way of life. You spend ages wandering around the lanes and fields and woods. I’ve seen you, and although it’s not so much my thing I can’t stand not being able to go and visit my friends without bumping into people peering over the garden wall or dropping litter or leaving a mess. You know the village green? Well obviously, but because there’s no car park the visitors have chewed up all the verges and one idiot has churned up the whole thing, turning his car around, doing a handbrake turn. I had to go and stop him from running a family of ducks over. Unbelievable.”

“Yes, it’s no good, is it?”
Robin replied. “So we need to do something and we’ve started to do little bits but I must tell you something first and we shall have to trust you first. Can I?”

“Weeell,”
Anna considered. “If it stops anyone else’s wall being knocked over and returns Upper Minster to normal, then of course you can. What do you know then?”

Robin explained about the big cat, how it was real and how it had been seen locally over the years. He also explained about The General, the meeting and all that had gone on until now. He also used the emotional card about Florence and her love of the big cat. If it works, he thought to himself, then it’s worth it.

“And this brings us on to one idea we had,” he continued, “And that is that you and your mates at school are doing that media course and like making films. We thought it would be nice for the children and young people of Upper Minster to make a film telling the world about their lives here: what it’s like to live in the country, in a place like this; include some nice scenery and some decent information about what has been going on.”

“Wow, that sounds ace,” said Anna. “But, errrm, could I be the presenter? I want to work in the media business eventually. It is true, I’m not like you. I don’t read as many books or know as much and you probably think I’m a bit of a bimbo but my looks are important to me – image is everything you know – and I think I’d do the job well.”

“Ha,” exclaimed Robin, “I didn’t call you a bimbo but you obviously like wearing designer clothes where a charity shop T-shirt will do for me. But it doesn’t matter. Our village is under threat and we think that minor differences in looks and interests shouldn’t stop friends and their friends, and their friends, working together.”

“You’re right,”
said Anna. “My little sister’s more like you, and she has this poster on her wall with pictures of people on, wearing really different clothes and it reads It Doesn’t Matter How You Wear Your Hair It’s What’s Inside Your Head.”

“That’s kkkkkkuuuule,”
said Robin. “That really makes you think doesn’t it?!”

“It does, indeed,”
replied Anna. “So were you going to put this film on the internet or something?” she asked.

“Aha,” said Robin. “Great minds think alike. Or, at least, you’re ahead of me. YES! We wanted to make a low budget film fairly quickly and although we’d do all the leg-work you’d present it and you could use your friends from school for technical assistance but they’d need to be trustworthy and do what they’d promised to do. Would they do that?”

“I think they will and I’m pretty popular at school so I think this is a good idea and a project I’d like to get involved in but judging by the headlines and the television, we’d better get on with this, as in now, today. Look, let’s make some calls.”

Anna went next door to get her sister, who was talking to Frieda and then the four of them sat around in her room while she made a few mobile phone calls to chosen friends.

Half an hour, later the YUM Project (jokily named after Young People of Upper Minster) was up and running. A camera team consisting of Robin (who owned a lovely Sony Digicam that was perfect for the job in hand) and Anna’s school friends Jason Smith and Jonathan Wilson, was arranging to meet Marj Seaton - the poor lady whose chance sighting of something had set the whole thing going a week ago - later that evening to film the first part of their YouTube documentary, which would tell their side of the story and hopefully get the thousands of visitors, who were tearing up their neighbourhood, going back to where they came from.

1 comment:

Esri Rose said...

Cute! "Youth of Upper Minster" would have fit the acronym more tidily.

Hey, I once said there was no rhyme for "Google," only to have "frugal" and "bugle" pointed out to me.