As the smoke lazily eddies off into the evening twilight and the Little-Frigging-In-The-Wold Brownies begin to dismantle the still smouldering wicker man apparatus, we older villagers can look back on previous Estate Agent public immolations in comparison with this latest one. Old Feebletrousers and Grand Old Uncle Stagnant can remember very little of what happened earlier today, but their recall of previous interloper immolations stretches right back to the inter-war years when villagers were quite prepared - eager even - to set fire to any stranger who happened to pass too close to the village pub, The Pervert’s Appendage.
Old Feebletrousers and Grand Old Uncle Stagnant have both often spoken bitterly of their experiences during WWII. In particular, the failure of the German paratroops they - and everyone else - were expecting to descend from the skies at almost any time. The whole village had got together to build several bonfires and wicker man cages in the full expectation that potential inhabitants of those cages would - quite literally - fall from the skies into the waiting arms of the village Home Guard.
The Little-Frigging-In-The-Wold Home Guard unit did, however, have one moment of glory during the war. This happened when they ignited a strange man who the rest of village had denounced as a Nazi spy. Unfortunately, just as the fire was beginning to take hold in his vest, they discovered that the man was a rep from the local brewery checking up on the seemingly exceptional beer consumption of such a small village. Once they had put his vest out and disentangled him from the apparatus, they did offer him half a pint of weak shandy by way of compensation for his slight singeing. But the salesman declined as he rapidly exited the village, claiming he was eager to be on his way to The Queen’s Gusset in Greater Spadgecock to check whether their supply of pork scratchings had arrived safely, despite the air raids on the strategically vital pork scratching factories deep in the heart of Tipton.
These days, though, both Grand Old Uncle Stagnant and Old Feebletrousers admit to a deep concern that such harmless old rural traditions such as setting fire to strangers, sexual relationships with close relatives and/or domesticated livestock and so on, are under threat. They strongly believe that this threat comes from a metropolitan elite and its government who seem to care little for the rural way of life. It seems, both claim, we have a metropolitan elite who have even less understanding of how a simple harmless pursuit like igniting a bonfire under an outsider to the village can bring people together as one* in this increasingly atomised and solitary world.
Maybe - instead of condemning practices and traditions they do not understand - the government ought to take a look at how rural communities bind themselves together with such traditional pursuits. Maybe - rather than banning and outlawing these pursuits - they ought to encourage them as a way of re-introducing community spirit into - for example - the inner cites and the suburbs.
What finer way can there be for reconnecting with your neighbours than in front of the warm friendly flames rising up from a slowly roasting estate agent, social worker, or - if you are lucky enough - lawyer?
* If only for the provision of mutually-supportive alibis.