Every year there is a harvest festival at Pavers Primary, old tins of beans are routed out from the back of cupboards and the odd packet of cuppa soup turns up on the display, which adorns the stage in the main hall. Along with the letter requesting donations there is a cut off slip at the bottom asking for names of people who would benefit from the food.
I overheard Mrs Parks, the head teacher, talking to Baz about last year’s offerings, ‘It was a particularly poor show, someone had sent in a bag of offal which seeped all over the vegetables and one child brought in one Oxo cube. By the time the hymns were over the kidneys had begun to smell, the whole scene looked like a macabre art exhibition that had reached out to the other senses; three of the children were sick and one of my junior members of staff fainted.’
Baz nodded his head in sympathy, she had no need to worry this year, he had reassured her, as ambassadors of the school he and Shirl were planning an impressive gift that could be exhibited centre stage.
More than one of us in the street had a fair inkling that Tom had been the offal offerer, he often managed to get a buy one get one free bag from the butchers in the high street, they seemed keen to offload them on Saturday afternoons. He had tried to pass a bag onto me on more than one occasion and I know he had forced some on Suzy, even though she had tried to tell him she was a vegetarian.
I managed to dig out a tin of peas and some of that reconstituted mashed potato that had been hanging around at the back of the cupboard for years. It was past its sell by date but surely if can’t go off, it’s a powder! I did toy with contributing a bath and talc set that I had won at the school fete in the summer, but I suppose that is hardly harvest themed, I’ll save that to donate for the Christmas fair.
The people in the street had some strange views on the food to donate although all doing so in kindness, Ken had offered a couple of cans of tinned goat, Jacinta was making a large batch of samosas and Margaret was sending in a couple of knitted tea cosies.
I could think of no one to name as someone needing to receive the food so did not return my slip to the school, however I found out from Ian that Tom knew a number of people and would be grateful if I would pass on my letter to him. I was happy to do this but admit to being more than a little suspicious when later that week Tom was writing his name over and over in different pens and in different styles on a pad in the Spar.
‘Tom, I keep that pad in case I need to note something down from the customers, what are you doing with it?’ Harry was always on the ball with Tom, having been subject to a number of his scams over the years.
‘Just practising’, said Tom, ‘I’ve never been happy with my handwriting, and they do say it’s never too late to change’.
On the day of the festival Baz and Shirl turned up with the biggest basket of fruit you have ever seen. It was very generous of them but not one of the offerings could have been harvested in Britain. Mrs Parks was very gracious in her gratitude and sure enough the fruit took pride of place centre stage. The rest of the display was rather meagre and the staff had done their best to bulk it out with foliage from the school garden.
After ‘We plough the fields and scatter’, Mrs Parks got up to make a speech thanking the children, the staff, the parents and anyone else she could think of, she was going to hand over to Shane the vicar for a few words but before she did so she made a surprise announcement.
‘Unfortunately this will be the last year that we will hold a Harvest Festival at Pavers Place in which we distribute foods. We have had significantly more names of people who would benefit from the donation than actual food to give. We shall however still hold a Harvest Service.’
She sat down looking a little flustered and Shane took to the stand.
Jacinta is on the PTA and she revealed later that there had been 50 names in the hat for donations, however, once they had been looked at properly there were in fact only 41 different people, a certain Tom Evans had appeared 10 times.
‘It was annoying’, admitted Jacinta, ‘ but at least there was no blood on the cauliflower this year’.