The Village Pub is all but empty.
Clearly my moving out has had an adverse effect on trade. I perch on my usual favoured barstool and engage the Well-Spoken Barman in conversation.
“Are you in here tomorrow?” he asks. “Ann Widdecombe is booked in for lunch.”
I stare at him. My brain ticks over at speed. I cannot recall a mutual friend called ‘Ann Widdecombe’, nor do I know of anybody in the village who goes by that name. Perhaps one of the regulars is unkindly known as ‘Ann Widdecombe’ behind her or his back. It does not sound particularly likely.
It might be a euphemism. Like in the theatre when the manager runs around shouting ‘Inspector Sands is in the building!!!’ it is a coded phrase designed to evacuate people in an emergency without panic. There is no reason why there would not be the same sort of thing in the catering trade; ‘Ann Widdecombe is booked in for lunch’ is probably just something restaurateurs use to clear the area as quickly as possible in case of, say, a really bad chip pan fire.
An elderly couple are the only other people in the bar; they sit unevacuated, picking at their cheeseboard. There is no sign of smoke, flames, al-Qaida etc.
It was Sherlock Holmes who said that when you have eliminated all the probable possibilities then whatever is left even if it is really, really unfeasible is likely to be a goer. That is the typical reasoning of somebody on drugs. But he was quite successful by and large, if a bit full of himself, and I am forced to adopt his methods.
“Ann Widdecombe?” I ask.
“Ann Widdecombe,” he replies.
I finish my pint, thoughtfully.