‘It’s forty four years to the day since I’ve had my tonsils out,’ says Charles, an elderly, but smartly dressed Norfolk man with an impressive military-style moustache. ‘I’m just a remnant, now.’
Together with old friends Barry and Giles, he’s stopped at the allotment gates for a cigar on the way to the Corpusty Village Bonfire.
‘Fifty years ago, we’d be standing right on the railway line,’ says Giles, a row of shiny red badges running down his arm, his hat blowing off his head like a bottle top. If you listen carefully you can still hear the locomotive puffing in the distance. I can’t believe it’s gone.’ ‘There’s change for you,’ says Barry, sinking down into the old kitchen chair abandoned on the grass, swiping a bishy barney bee from his cheek. His trilby almost falls to the ground.
They’re all a little worse for wear, having stopped for a pint or two of Nelson’s Revenge at the Duke’s Head. A robin settles for a moment on Barry’s shoulder, then flutters away.
Charles clears his throat, ‘Well, there’s no sense hanging about. Let’s get this over with.’
‘Do we really have to go through with this tonight?’ asks Barry gently. ‘After all we‘ve been through?’
Charles nods silently, then produces three straws from his pocket. He offers them to the others.
‘Best of luck chaps and all that.’
Giles draws the shortest. He shrugs, then switches his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other.
‘Well, so long,’ he says. ‘You behave yourselves now won’t you?’
They watch him as he ambles off down the lane towards the green, where they are piling up the pallets, preparing for the fire.