The story of Blue Velvet last time involved the bishop and the church service for which the church hall events below follow on. It all began back in September.
After the service, the connected Church Hall and back of the church became frantic with activity and people. Many had come into the church hall through the opened fire escape door at the back. People were pouring in from the outside, as well as from the service, so that some church people couldn't get in, and it was standing room only and some opting for standing outside, just leaving enough room for events at the very front near the door.
The priest-in-charge, Rev. Alan Peart, 51, now wearing a "Charles Gore" hat as a fashion statement with the fashion events to happen, asked people close by to make more room so that an introductory dance could take place. The Blue Velvet Dance Group were ready and made up to do a dance on the appropriate theme of Salome dancing before Herod, the dancer, Sarah Excel (41), one of the candidates in the Perfectly Fitting Bra contest, whose day job was a appropriately an accountant who was often cleavage revealing.
People outside were breathing on the windows from both sides of the church hall, those outside wanting to see inside, the top panels of the windows opened so that no one inside would suffocate and people outside could hear. The toilets were doubling up as changing rooms, with the dancers emerging first, and thus the dance began, though Stella Wedgwood (39) and Julia Peart (45) used the vestry as a dressing room, not just to disrobe but to change their outfits.
Bishop Neville Timothy Williams (51) found Alan Peart to say, "I want to go first, then I want to leave."
"Well the dancers are ready. You get your equipment, and they'll be done. I'll delay the song competition until after you."
"You should arrange these better. I had given notice for my assistants. Got the MP to help me, as well as this new minister woman," said the bishop.
"Sheila Stone MP? Yes I saw her on the front pew. Why didn't she join the procession?" asked the priest.
"She confessed to me that she is not a Christian. But I have invited her to use the vestry to change, with some others. She's taking part in my worthy tricks, and in the fashion parade."
"I hope she doesn't win: the fashion prize is a meal with me," said Alan Peart.
Sheila Stone (39) was thus in the vestry, changing from her jacket to try on a dress that many a fashion seeking woman might kill for. Indeed, as said, to join in fully, she had earlier volunteered to take part in a fashion display that would accompany the Perfectly Fitting Bra presentation, although the newspapers had just discovered that her new wardrobe had been put down as constituency expenses of appropriate clothing. The MP was a locally born and bred girl, a Tory but one known for laissez-faire attitudes towards just about everything. And thus when Stella Wedgwood asked, with an eye for the controversial, if she was taking part in the bishop's presentation, she decided she would, all for more newspaper publicity.
The dance completed, people clapped, and the hymn and Sheila rewriters were told to wait, as the bishop and some helpers arrived with equipment.
The Bishop had directed some people to his van, to bring this time a "bunsen burner looking thing" with a blow up life-size doll to couple with a clothes hanger on wheels already available. He also had got hold of the same teenager as before to do his opening trick. So the three legged, hollow round topped contraption with a wood effect floor platform on wheels came in through the doors, delayed by so many people in the way, to take its place, with Sheila Stone acting as its assistant, and then a clothes hanger on wheels, like in clothes stores, with costumes hangling along its length, including a special super large black cloak at one end, the thing wheeled in by Julia Peart at one end and Stella Wedgwood at the other, playing his assistants. From the entrance area people could see how the trick was being done, but those in the hall were given the attached microphone delivered narrative that this three legged, platformed and wheeled contraption was "like the inside of a tomb", said this Bishop N. T. Williams, "like the Trinity with its three legs," he added. The two assistants with the MP waving her arms about brought across the black cloak, sweeping the ground and brought it around the contraption, to which the bishop and MP attached the cloak around its top ring. "This could be a burial cloth, like the Turin Shroud," he said, and Stella brought him the blow-up doll, which he placed up above and down through the top ring. He then fastened the cloak with its three large buttons so it concealed the blow up body and the contraption all around, and then he rolled the contraption around on its wheels so that everyone could see all parts around it, and as he did it there was a large bang sound. "Ooh he said," still spinning it, we'd better look inside!" He then brought the buttons back to himself, opened them as Sheila Stone tackled the ring attachments around the buttons area, and there displayed with also her head emerging above the ring was the girl who'd performed in the service earlier. Then she ducked and came out through the enlarged gap of the cloak. Even those outside the hall, who'd seen the girl move from behind the costumes and the cloak and gone on to the platform inside the three legs could not see where the doll had gone. The remains had simply been put, with the pin, into a peel away flap that was part of the platform she was stood on.
The people who had seen nothing but a girl appear from nowhere in a tripod and platform on wheels above the ground clapped.
"Thus can Jesus become transformed and alive again," he claimed.
"Conjouring trick with a blow up doll," said Julia to Stella's ear in front. Like Sheila, Julia started to do some assistant's poses, for fun.
"Now," said the bishop, "Er... Do you normally dress like this," he asked Reverend Wedgwood, looking at her more closely. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is, er, Stella?" She nodded. "Wedgwood Benn who is..."
"Wedgwood," she said. "Only."
"Wedgwood without the Benn, who is going to be apparently a new Unitarian minister here. And I never knew there was such a place here. So I bet she really would like to lock me up, a Christian bishop who proclaims the gospel, and handcuff me many times. So, Stella, please put these on and check they lock on solidly." Given to Julia by a male assistant and handed on, Stella did as asked, one after the other. Sheila was still grinning with poses. "Satisfied?" asked Bishop Williams?
"Yes, but there isn't one for your mouth," she replied, causing Julia behind them to burst out laughing from her grinning while she also did some poses. Sheila didn't react.
"Ah but take me back into my contraption," he said, as he ducked and stepped on to the platform, to then bend over and show himself straining with his forearms. Sheila closed the buttons, and then within thirty seconds heard a "Let me out!" as she thus opened the buttons again and the bishop emerged with all the cuffs in a bundle held from his hands. All he had done was use one of the legs of the contraption to push a level concealed button in each set to open each of the cuffs at the back. Each having been pushed back together inside, he now took the key from Stella and started to open one to the applause. "You cannot imprison the Lord," said the bishop, adding yet another corny theological message.
And then his contraption was removed by those who had brought it in, and the bishop seemed to leave behind it, saying, "Thank you very much! Enjoy your Christian celebrations!" and indicated to Alan Peart to follow him.
So Julia came forward and said, "We have a short hymn and carol rewriting session. It can be humorous, but the winner can write a hymn for the choir to sing. Who have we got?"
"I'm Johnny Levrithe, the local milkman. And I rewrote 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear'."
"I'm Dr Valdamar Pons, a History Lecturer, and I rewrote 'Away in a Manger'."
"Oh, two carols then. Anyone else? No? Well, yours first, Dr Pons. Do sing it."
"Away in Blue Velvet,
Some land with a shed;
Choices in our shops, a town centre it made;
And along came that Tesco,
To the shed, car park hosts,
So now shops close down
Makes the town one more ghost."
"That's happening our way too," said Juliet. "And your favourite milkman, man about town, has It came upon etcetera - well you sing it too."
"It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious time so bold,
When Janice joined me in my bed,
Just thi-irty one years old.
She taught me things I didn't know,
and grew my confidence;
So then we knew ju-ust what to do,
And invi-i-ited in Florence.
The three of us, we heated up,
Enjoyment a-and pleasure,
But there was now an imbalance
So-o Jim on board made four.
We moved so much, we had no space,
The whole thing lacked 'street cred',
To solve the prob' we-e all went out,
A-and bo-ought the largest bed.
And so we shared wi-ith little care,
Bouncing and stre-etching out,
With room for neighbours to join in,
An e-ever greater weight.
And one fine time, midnight again,
The bed fell through the floor,
All six dropped into-oo hospital,
The-e ro-omping was no more."
People cheered and clapped (including the raised arms of Janice herself). "Oh crumbs," said Julia. Is there anyone else at all? Oh, there is, the coalman for your town and mine too sometimes. Yes, like you. Jim Black - That Jim? - yes? Oh dear. How old are you Jim?"
"Sixty I am."
"Sing for us, Jim. Tune of, oh I can see, Once in Royal David's City. Go on."
"Once when feeling ve-e-ery dirty,
Stood under a show-ow-ower head,
When it came on, boi-oi-oiling water,
Made me jump, and bu-u-umped my head.
Mary came, with first aid kit,
Me curled up, wa-a-a-as that it?
She bent down, to try and ca-are for me,
Turned me round, and sa-aw an effect,
I'd become too o-over excited,
I was stiff, not de-ead but erect.
Mary yet, still gave her hand.
I stretched to life, like a ru-u-ubber band.
I was bruised, and he-ead was still painful,
Mary took me to-o-o her bed,
Rang my wife, and sa-aid what had happened,
After I'd filled up he-e-er coal shed,
Now my wife tells customers for cash
Check the heat, 'fore giving me a wash."
"Crumbs. Well, three carols rewritten there. Does that actually happen Jim when you deliver coal?"
"Yeah. Not every coal bunker. But thanks to Mary, like. She's here somewhere. Can't see her."
"You weren't the Jim of the bed; was that you?"
"But the big bed didn't fall through the floor."
"Oh. Oh. Well it is up to me to declare the winner, and it is the first one about our town centres," said Julia, to instant booing. "So Dr Pons can write a hymn."
"He's a Unitarian," said Stella from nearby. "Chapel trustee and all that."
"So?" said Julia. "We might all be able to sing it."
Then in came Alan Peart, saying to Julia directly, "Even now he's having a go. Wants to see me tomorrow no less." From the crowd emerged Sue Clark (40), after the Sheila event and realising the bishop had gone. She was Julia's actual partner in Norton Velvet. Even though he knew all about them as a couple, the bishop had instructed distance in public occasions. Of course they wished to ignore him, mainly, except when he was present. "How's Tina?" asked Alan of Sue.
"All right, with a babysitter," she replied.
Stella came forward, and Julia said, "Stella, this is Sue. Right, I'll begin with this one now as well. The models seem to be ready, including our MP? Oh, she's doing fashion only. What? Oh she's not! Can one of those lads get the chaise longue in front? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to our next event now, which is the Perfectly Fitting Bra display..."
"Hang on," said Alan, "I need to introduce you."
"I've been doing it," said Julia.
"I know, but there's a point. Right, everyone, here's my wife from the next parish, who's been with us already, and as you might know she used to be into underwear..." Some laughed. "And that's when she worked in clothes retailing. So what we are doing is having a little display about best underwear and Julia can introduce a representative who's kindly come here from Bravado. Julia. Again."
"Thanks to my husband," said Julia Peart. "Outside in the street I understand they're having - oh, they've had - a wet T-shirt contest, but here we are the Church of our town and far more responsible. So a representative here from Bravado, Carolyn, who will, she tells me, take your orders afterwards and they'll help church funds, will first judge some of our girls and women on the bras they are wearing, and then introduce some wearing a range she has brought along, and, right, then she'll take your orders as she moves through the crowd. Please Carolyn."
Thus a whole glamorous show took place, with volunteers coming on and bravely receiving commentary about what they wore, and surprise surprise the wearers of the brand received the best reports from Carolyn into the microphone. Faces were pressed against the window to see some familiar faces in such a show. Each contestant walked in, took centre stage so to speak, twirled, sat on the chaise longue, and then stood and walked off to the side. There were plenty of male, and not a few female, wolf-whistles throughout. The flashguns went crazy when the Member of Parliament so appeared and in the most expensive of the Bravado lines. And it was equally unsurprising that she was in the last six in line, with the others leaving to the toilets to change, the six standing in line each in their bras and matching briefs, but the MP also had shiny black and silver fashionable shoes that many of the locals suspected they could never afford. Four of the final six wore Bravado products. Once the display of showing the characteristics of properly fitting bras was over from two Bravado models was over, the winner would be announced. So it was up to the Vicar to choose a winner, and so Alan Peart said, into the sound system:
"Thank you Carolyn, and please now make your orders as she comes round. We get fifty per cent of the profits. I think we really appreciate this good advice at what makes a good fitting bra, and the answer is never too small and plenty of support. You cannot have inadequate support! And I think, really, our Member of Parliament does win the competition we had, because she has all round attractive and fully supportative underwear, and so Sheila Stone MP is our winner! She wins a one, two or three piece Bravado set of her choice and a modelling session for the Bravado range that will appear in the next catalogue."
There was mild applause. He grinned because he could hardly see her being a model, being an MP, and reasoned if she won this then she should not win the fashion competition. So then he approached Sheila Stone MP, grasping her bare arms either side, and gave her a kiss on each cheek, to a somewhat second reluctant round of applause.
"And now I think Sheila here and a number of our ladies are going to participate in a fashion competition, if I can hand back to Julia. If those who need to go and change."
"This one is different," Julia said, "because we'll go on a show of hands, so I will try to be fair in seeing how many hands are up to choosing the best dressed. The prize for the winner is once again this year a meal with my husband and your vicar Alan in the Italiano Restaurant, and thank you to Mr. Medici for donating a four course meal of their choice, should they want to eat that much, for the prize."
"Oh, a show of hands?" asked Alan Peart.
"Democratic for a change," she replied. "So it's not me or you deciding."
At this very point, there was a loud slapping sound and louder "Ow!" heard through the hall, and then coming through the crowd, pushing peopole out of the way, came Mrs Janice Capron, 31, the subject of that song, the recent keeper of the town's priest's chickens and one time warmer of his bed. She stomped out of the church hall, and her husband, the dentist, Eugene, 40, followed through the gaps, while Julia Peart shook her head in the direction of Alan Peart, in effect telling the Vicar and her recent lover to stay put and do nothing.
With a slight delay for all to be ready, the fashion show began, with more women (and again only women) taking part than in the underwear competition. Julia kept the microphone and simply gave the names and repeated the women's own self description of what they were wearing. There were again some, if not as many, wolf-whistles, but once again it was the Member of Parliament who set the flashguns going.
Julia commented, "Once again it is a welcome to Sheila Stone, our Member of Parliament, what? This is an Ellen Terry Fashion House shiny turquoise shoulder puffed one piece dress. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Ellen Terry brought up in my parish down the road? I'll have to visit her London shop."
Yet it was the appearance of Janice immediately after her that set the vicar in uncomfortable dilemma, as it was her very appearance some years back that had led to their on-off affair beginning. Her dress was, as already seen in her storming out of the church hall, and obviously to join the queue of competition entrants, ravishing and revealing, intended to win, and it started to look like Janice's means to reconnect with her recent lover.
Julia commented, "Well this is a light, low-cut and revealing, simple white dress that brings out the wearer to its best advantage and contrasts with your naturally curly hair, Janice Capron."
So it came to the contestants and the vote. Then Julia approached her nomimal husband. "Who do you think?"
"Please, not Janice," said Alan, "I don't want another unpleasant trip to the dentist's."
As the hands went up, it was clear that the Member of Parliament had a block vote in her favour, provided by members of the local Tory Party and Conservative Club. As everyone turned around, to check for themselves the voting, it looked obvious enough that the general public were voting for Janice, eagerly led by those who knew her more intimately.
Julia announced, asking hands to raise for Janice Capron and Sheila Stone several times, "Well I really think our Member of Parliament has won this one too. Sheila Stone MP, well done!"
There were some boos and very mild clapping. The flashguns went mad again.
With this, however, Janice Capron stared at Julia Peart with an intense gaze, and then walked out of the church hall to where her husband stood, and produced a second almighty swing of her arm and slap across his face, so that he went straight down on to the floor. She pushed her way out, to leave altogether, and her husband got up to follow. Alan Peart put his head into his hands.
"Oh dear," said Julia Peart, "the competition must have got to her. Well it's definitely our MP who won and she will be having a meal with your vicar of this parish. And don't stay out too late," she said across to her man of sorts, switching off and placing down the microphone. He then gave his house keys to Julia, but she gave them to Stella Wedgwood, as Julia and partner were going to their own home.
At which point music began to play and coloured lights flashed, and some started to dance, as the crowds began to disperse inside and outside.
The MP went to the vestry and emerged wearing yet another outfit, thus providing yet more interest for the photographers. Mr Medici had a car arrive to take the MP and the minister waiting outside, pictured together, to his restaurant, only a few streets away, but getting in it, being in it and getting out of it provided a backdrop for his own publicity photographer, and plenty of other photographers following on too. In the restaurant he first placed them at the window with his logo above, and only then offered them the opportunity to move and go upstairs to a small private room reserved for guests. Up there his photographer was the only one to capture the couple, with wine to begin.
"I go along with this," said Alan Peart. "It's good for the church, this publicity, popular stuff, but is all this the sort wanted by an MP like yourself?"
"I'm not standing at the next election," said Sheila Stone. "It's not worth it. The whips made it clear I'm going nowhere because I'm too independent, and a few secrets, so I want to get into some TV, lots of fashion, presenting, advice: no publicity is bad publicity is it? My dad made more of a career of being an MP. Everyone thought he was completely corrupt, and owned the seat, and he was and just about did. But I'm more like the town as it is, and more like my career as it was. Hey and what about that slap - that dentist and his wife?"
"The less said about that the better," Alan Peart said, as the pasta arrived for both and the photographer appeared and took another picture.
"Ah, she's the affair one then. The rumour about you," said the MP. "And the chickens. You know what they say about chickens walking?"
"Oh shit. No?"
"Poultry in motion. Was she poultry in motion? Better still, are you?"
Mr Medici arrived to ask if the food was good and to have him in yet another photograph.
"I don't eat grain," said the ordained minister.
"It's not a grain," Mr Medici said.
"No, she likened me to a chicken," the minister said.
"Oh, I leave you two alone," he responded. "Anyway, I have a musician playing for you in the background. Do enjoy a the music."
She said, "Funnily enough, I've met your bishops several times for events, but never actually spoken to you. The previous one, Bishop Shamton: I thought he was OK but this one is really shallow isn't he? Does he think he can do tricks to spread religion?"
"Conjouring tricks with blow-up dolls. Bishop Hugh was better than this one, yes. You wouldn't think he's 71, and just brought out a book called All About Doubt. So what was your career then before an MP?"
"So this new one burst that blow up doll, but then what?" asked Sheila Stone. "I was outside."
"Oh. I've seen it before. The girl goes in behind the clothes and that wraparound cloak. There's a peel back panel on the base she stands on. She bursts the doll and what's left goes inside. And those handcuffs that get locked up just spring open at the back. He started buying tricks before he was at theological college. He did some tricks there. He doesn't actually think any differently from me. The difference is, he puts on a show. It's all a display, conjouring tricks and after the one who said it was all more. Career?"
"I was an Events Organiser. I organised businesses getting together either with themselves or with others. So it was sort of doing the things that made businesses more social or around conferencing. I still speak at them, for a good fee."
"How does one get into that?" he asked. "After all, I have no job security and might be thinking of something else after he sees me, tomorrow," said Alan Peart, wondering if he was half-serious.
"I sort of arrived there by who I knew. Everything I've done has been by who I knew. My father said I had to earn my living, and he was always away. So I followed a couple of friends and became a model, at a local studio, and that's how I afforded university. I could have done it just for extra money, like a night out, but I did it properly and carried on afterwards. Thatcherite days for my dad meant nothing mattered, so long as it got paid, and also I was one of Blunkett's Babes, the first of the undegraduate sex workers to pay the introduced university fees. One of my regulars at the studio, who must have spent a few thousand taking the same pictures of me over and over again - I eventually did what you shouldn't and went out for a meal with him - got me into escorting, because he had plenty of money and needed a woman he pretended was his glamorous catch while he attended all these meetings. So I ended up travelling with him and being presented at all the events he went to, and accompanying him overnight. You know. So I got myself properly into an agency, and eventually dropped the modelling. Then there was another chap I accompanied, in a bigger business, who also hired me continuously, and he thought I could actually organise the events he was in, and that's what I did, and so that way he me into his exclusive escort client, which is what he wanted. I like my hair long and down, but he said cut it and put it up. It just wasn't me, in the end. But then my father said I should be an MP to keep it in the family and thus I replaced him at the last election, as he recommended me to the local party and they just did what he said. So that's why I was at such ease doing the stuff tonight, and what I can do. I'm not being an MP any more with the new expenses regime, and anyway there are too many letters and especially emails to answer, all the travelling for no pay, and the double speak. There is something good about a nice life and lots of money. You can have a nice life."
"I should have. Should have job security. You are on call all the time, like, but you can work from home, and some people call our work having a chat. But there is more and more admin and keeping the show on the road. Sabatticals are good. But I can get sacked any time. They won't give freehold like they used to do."
When the food was over, he asked the MP if she might join him at the vicarage.
"I will, to look, have final drink say, but not to stay," she said, thinking of the very recent conversation.
"I didn't mean that," he said, wondering what people did think of him.
When they went in, Stella Wedgwood was reading on the sofa.
"Oh hello," Stella said. "Enjoy the meal?"
"We did yes," said Alan Peart. "And just back here for a final drink. Our MP is resigning."
"Retiring," said Sheila. "Not standing next time. From this, going into the media I hope. Tonight will all be going in the tabloids, I hope."
"Sheila was an Events Organiser," said Alan, editing out the history. "And Stella - you've met already - is to be a new minister in town, non-conformist in every sense!"
And after the ubiquitous coffee, Sheila Stone left to walk and find her car in a nearby street and drive home. The ordained minister was left wondering whether, if Stella Wedgwood hadn't been present, whether the one time escort might have stayed, given that she knew very well that his own so-called wife was in her own real relationship in the next parish as part of the ongoing morality deception so essential for the Church.
"I have to meet the bishop tomorrow morning," said Alan to his staying guest, as it was clear bed time was approaching.
"That's fine," said Stella, "because you know I'd want you to come to the wood with me late tomorrow afternoon and I'll leave in the evening if that's all right. It's just I'd like you to accompany me."
"Fine. It's very pleasant there. Lots of paths, clearings, some ponds. Very attractive. Shall we call on Julia and Sue?"
"No no. But we'll meet some friends. Tell you more tomorrow."
"I'm intrigued. Nice to have a bit of excitement in your life. So much is so boring these days. Sounds interesting."