Vicar

by HAL

Copyright© 2019 by HAL

Erotica Sex Story: Due to unfortunate circumstances involving too much communion wine, Michael Tobay is sent to a remote parish which is slowly eroding into the sea. The result of that is the church and accomodation are in the girls' school there. He rapidly learns why there has been a rapid turnover in vicars in this delightful place.

Caution: This Erotica Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Ma/ft   Consensual   Spanking   Slow   .

“Ah, come in Michael. Yes, now. How are you?”

“Hello Bishop, I mean Your Grace” the bishop waved a hand, such niceties were immaterial. “I’m, well I’m not that good I suppose.”

“No, no. Understandable. A sorry business. What are we to do? It does seem a shame, but I fear we must move you somewhere less ... less scandalous shall we say?”

“Yes, I did offer to resign”

“Pish!” does anybody say pish these days? “Pish and tosh, you are a good priest; the church cannot lose you”

Michael Tobay was the Reverend Michael Tobay, DDL MDiv. Around forty, maybe slightly less, he had had an interesting career as a priest. Before that he had spent five years in business, and been rather good at it. Officially he was still married, they used the fact of her job working away a lot as the excuse for the lack of an harmonious, wee wifey helping with the teas. In his, so far, brief career he had been propositioned by the vicar when he was a curate, propositioned by the choir mistress at St Judes, been accused of propositioning a choir boy (who was later found guilty of blackmailing two teachers and a scout master – Michael Tobay stood against the wrongful accusations and the boy’s money-making scam collapsed around him) and been offered drugs by an undercover policeman in a sting. They had targeted the wrong vicar in the town, it was Rev. Smythe, a geriatric who, it turned out, had been making substantial extra-curricular income from drug supply. Rev. Smythe had realised they were onto him (once they picked the wrong vicar) and legged it to Columbia where he now offered unction to errant drug lords. In all this Rev. Tobay had sailed through with reputation unblemished; until the DaD – Drink and Drive – conviction. It happened like this:

Attending St. Maximus and St Sloan for morning communion, the usual congregation was there of 30 or so, the suitable amount of wine was poured into the chalice and blessed. In a wholly unexpected event, young Richard Dwyer had rushed in just after and whispered to his Nan that his Mum and Dad were having another barney. This happened about every two weeks. People kept score of who won, Mrs Dwyer was no shrinking violet, she could knock seven bells out of her husband if she landed the first punch, but then Mr Dwyer was not some weed either. So their marital tiffs were more WW3 than simple arguments. Nan Tosker left with Richard, followed by her second husband Bill Tosker, followed by Aunt Marjie (Dwyer), followed by Edie and Eddie Brown (nosey bastards), followed by the off-duty PC Sharon Tatler and her husband-to-be (Sharon thought she might help and Pete wanted to be the protective boyfriend), followed by Dr Terry and Nurse Adelaide (not married, at least not to each other), known to be having an affair by everybody, including Dr Harriet – Terry’s wife (who was a Methodist and so not attending) – and Jim Callaghan (Adelaide’s estranged husband). The two medical people thought they might be needed. So the congregation had dropped by a third.

Then, when communion was being given, it transpired that half of the remainder went for a blessing or didn’t go up at all! Michael was left with a lot of wine. It is well known that church law forbids leaving blessed wine lying around. It might get used in Devil worship or something. And you can’t just put it in the fridge for next week. The rules say the minister has to finish it off. So he did.

When he left the church, he went for a pint with his parishioners. Just the one, it was one of the traditions he had introduced to be seen as part of the community. And the police crackdown that weekend was targeting The Brown Pig – the local pub being used for post-church service libations. They picked on a different pub each week as part of their “Zero Tolerance for Drink Drive Year”

One pint would have been fine, but one pint plus a load of communion wine meant he was over, and ‘bish bash bosh’ as a very annoying TV chef would say, he was up before the beak and pleaded guilty. There was no option really, he was over the limit. No question. The magistrate heard the mitigating circumstances and said he was sorry but the allowable mitigations were “didn’t know I had drunk alcohol” - he did, “worked in a life saving profession” - not a soul-saving one, or “knew the chief constable” - he didn’t. Driving licence gone, Daily Telegraph headline (7th page) “Vicar accidentally drunk”, Sun headline (3rd page, under semi nude eighteen year old) “You’re Nicked Vic”, Daily Mail headline (page 1) “Mail campaigns against Alcoholic Clerics”.

Too much publicity, he had to be moved.

“How about this? Lower Comptney? We’ve had trouble filling the post, three vicars have retired after a year; I don’t know why. It’s on the coast, lovely spot. Yes? Okay, Nice to see you. Stay in touch.” And he was ushered out. The bishop had a lot on his plate. There was the Round Table dinner (‘Five courses, we do hope you can come, rather a nice claret from Mount Servoi to try’), the boys’ school prize giving (‘thank you so much for agreeing to attend, we hope you can attend lunch; we have a good cellar’), the sermon on avoiding excess to write.

By Wednesday, Michael Tobay had packed his things, kissed the housekeeper goodbye on the cheek and watched the pantechnicon take his furniture and worldly goods. Then he cycled to the station, got on the train, travelled to Munchester, the nearest station to Lower Comptney since Beeching did his rape and pillage, and cycled along the old railway track to the parish that was to be his home. He noticed the three pubs “Good, I do like a good pub, sadly centre of the village now, not the church”, he noted the closed Methodist church (a sign told people the nearest Wesleyan chapel was now Upper Comptney, five miles away), he had admired the Norman entrance of the (locked) parish church there. And then he asked for directions to the rectory.

“OOo, I’m not sure. The last vicar stayed down Lowes Lane I think.” He cycled down Lowes Lane, mentally kicking himself (again) for not having checked, not having GPS, being in a virtual 19th century in fact. Lowes Lane had a long high wall, and a door in the middle ‘Lady Longborough School for Girls, Tradesman’s Entrance’. He cycled back to the centre of the village and asked someone else.

“Sorry, don’t live here mate”

The policecar drifted past, clearly in no hurry to catch anything. He flagged it down, they called HQ, who checked with someone who knew the area, who said “Lowes Lane, can’t miss it. There’s only one door and then fields at the end”

“But the only door I saw said Lady something school”

“Aye”

“Eh?”

“What?”

“Yes”

“I don’t understand.”

The voice at the end of the phone repeated the instructions, slower. “Just knock” it finished.

He went back down Lowes Lane and pressed a doorbell, waited, pressed again and again. Then he knocked. The door opened a crack “Hello? I’ve been told to ring but there was no answer”

“There wouldn’t be”

“I’m sorry?”

“S’alright, it didn’t disturb us”

“Oh dear, I’m finding this confusing”

“Bell don’t work. You should have been told to knock”

“Oh, I see, I was told to knock”

“Well then...”

“I’m the new vicar, I was told -”

“Name!”

“Pardon?”

“Name!”

“Michael Tobay”

“Ah, yes, come in, come in. We have to be a little careful who we let in you know. I’ll let the Head know” An old bent man staggered off.

Michael was feeling less than charitable ‘Looks like you’ll be my first funeral here’ he thought, and then mentally apologised to the man and to God. ‘I’ll try harder’

“Rev-er-end To-bay? How ... nice ... to ... meet ... you” An old women of at least a hundred and fifty was looking up at him. He did a double take and realised she was probably ninety, then lowered that to seventy and settled there. She spoke slowly and deliberately. “We ... exp-pec-ted you ear-li-er with your fur-ni-ture” This was the Headmistress – they still called her that – Miss Samphire. She was a relative of the founder, perhaps a niece, no one was sure. She stayed remarkably on top of what was happening in her little realm, even though all the administration was now done by others.

“Ah, yes, I caught the train and then cycled. My cycle is outside, may I bring it in?”

“Of ... course. Of ... course. Young ... Mike ... will ... get ... it” Young Mike, it transpired, was the doddery old gent who was security at the back entrance. He had been at the school for fifty years, Michael heard, and was called Young Mike because his father, who passed away three years ago, had also worked there until he was eighty-two and retired.

“Oh, when did he retired?”

“As ... I ... say ... three ... years ... ago”

“Oh, I see”

“Well ... here ... is ... the ... house ... Shall ... we ... see ... you ... at ... prayers? Miss ... Dainty ... will ... be ... along ... to ... welcome ... you” She hobbled away and Michael Dobay had his second uncharitable thought. He believed he was patient, but now had met the limit of his patience.

“I suppose Miss Dainty will also be nine hundred years old” He said out loud

“Would you be the Reverend Today?”

“Tobay!” he responded sharply as he turned, then he found himself facing an attractive young woman of thirty or so. “I’m sorry, it’s been a trying day; and please, call me Michael”

“I shall, thank you. My name is Dorothy Dainty. Technically Dr Dorothy Dainty, but I hope you’ll call me Dot. Everybody does; everybody over eighteen that is. The sixth form are allowed Dorothy, the rest call me Doctor Dainty. And make fun of me behind my back. Each intake invents a new nickname. Occasionally someone comes up with a new one. Clod, I thought original.”

“Clod?”

“Opposite of Dainty being Clod-Hopper, that was too long, so it became Clod. Other less inventive ones are Fairy, Deirdre, Dotty, Any-Dots, and ... oh never mind”

“What?”

“No, I can’t, you’re the new vicar; maybe, if I get to know you well enough, but not yet.” she whispered “It’s rather rude”

“I’m intrigued”

“Well, you’ll have to stay that way for a while” She could see he was trying to think what it might be. That was a mark in his favour, the last vicar but one was lacking in any humour, imagination or tolerance. That was his downfall.

“I took the precaution of leaving a list of the services in the village and in the school for you ... you look confused”

“Good, that’s how I feel. Tell me, why am I staying in this school”

She sighed, as if she was used to regurgitating the history “In 1535 the monastery here was finally closed. The parish church had shared services with the monastery and, when the land and buildings were sold to Sir Roger Savery, he opted to build a small church in Lower Comptney” he was about to ask a question but she held up a finger “That church was in Sea Street, which would be located approximately 30 yards out to sea now. The Savery family did not provide a parsonage, instead they provided a second son to be the local vicar. This unusual relationship continued through several generations, sometimes a daughter was married to a parson and he became vicar of Lower Comptney. The Great Storm of 1789 accelerated what had been happening – the coastline erosion. The church was by this time on the edge of the low cliff. Sea Street had already been washed away, with many of the graves, and the church had to be entered through the choir as the main doors had warped in subsidence. 1789 and the church vanished into the waves.

The whole village had moved inland and deliberately left a space for a new church. New graves were already being dug there. The Saverys provided some money and then lost the rest in speculation. You can still see, to this day, where the church building was stopped, - in Church Street, there is a ruin. It always has been a ruin since it never finished being built. Meanwhile the manor had its own chapel, like Brideshead? No? Oh you should read it, very good book. By this time the Mourney family owned the manor and had no intention of providing either a vicar or accommodation in their house, nor finishing the church when their chapel was big enough for the village. There were labourers houses on the land and two of these were knocked together for the vicar. In 1920 the Mourney family ran out of male heirs. Miss Harriet was a spinster of fifty when she inherited a tumbledown house and lots of debt. She turned it into a school and it turned into a successful school. Building work has steadily connected all the old buildings together into the complex you see today. We are raising funds for the new Science Block.

That last is the appeal for funds which parents have to listen to if they want their girls to attend. And many do. We are well on the way towards out half-million appeal.”

“I see, I thought I detected a well-rehearsed speech there. But still, it explains a lot. Thank you. And the services in the school?”

“A hang over from the Saverys, they insisted on the private chapel, which is now the de-facto parish church; the Mourneys kept it up and the school foundation provides accommodation rent-free in exchange for some private services for the girls.

An interesting fact is that the ruin is still the official parish church”

“I see. I’ll study the information you have provided. I’ll be at prayers tonight”

“Yes, about the girls...”

“Yes?”

“They ... well they like to test new members of staff. And that includes you I’m afraid. We try to keep them under control, but girls are devious”

“Is that why three vicars have left?”

“Partly, well, one anyway. Reverend Eldridge certainly was tried to the extreme. He umm...”

“Yes? Please, forearmed is forewarned”

“Yes, Well he lacked circumspection.

He took some pupils to task for their dress. After that the girls made his life hell. Oops, can I say that?”

“I don’t know, what do you mean?”

“Well, he objected to the shortness of their skirts. After that they would bend over to tie their laces as he walked down the corridor, revealing -”

“Yes, yes I see”

“That’s not all. They would deliberately walk passed him in their gym kit. No? Very short pleated skirts, or even just gym knickers. We tried to stop it, but if they are legitimately going to or from gym it isn’t as though we could punish them for walking in the school. And if your lace unties then you must tie it and ... well you see?”

“So he couldn’t take the strain. It sounds like his complaint was the result of his desire, not his desire to see them more demurely dressed.”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.

I’m not stupid, I don’t expect vicars to be made from sugar and spice and not blood; unless of course you are -”

“Gay? No, sorry. That would be easier wouldn’t it? But no, I’m not. Rest assured, I’ll be on my guard”

He was left to unpack and consider his position. The house looked out onto a grass lawn on which a couple of girls sat in the evening sunshine. They were only eleven and not a problem, but he could imagine that older girls lying out there could be a distraction. Going upstairs he found a bedroom that looked out over the outside wall. This would be his study.

As he came down again, there was a knock at the partially open door. “Hello?”

“Ah, yes, hello. Can I help you?”

She was also young, perhaps twenty. She wore a smock. “I’m the cleaner, is now a good time?”

“Ah, I don’t know. Good time to... ?”

“Well, to clean. I usually give the house a quick once over Fridays, and a proper do on Mondays, will that suit? I come in each evening to wash up, though often the vicars eat in the refectory of an evening. Will you be doing that?”

“It’s Wednesday isn’t it?”

“Yes, I’m not here this Friday, me and my friend are going to DullEdge. I’m so looking forward to it!”

“Dull edge is a... ?”

“Not Dull edge, DullEdge. Grunge Heavy Metal with a hint of Country. They are so wicked! So washing up?” she talked quickly, and jumped subjects easily.

“I hadn’t thought; well, I didn’t know. We’ll have to see. I do quite like cooking, so I might prepare some meals myself. But then if I do I’ll clear up after.”

“Oh, no need sir. That’s my job, ‘Appy to do it.” She started her ‘quick clean’; he went upstairs, looking out of the stair window he saw three sixteen or seventeen year olds walking across the lawn in games slips and airtex shirts. Yes, he could see how that kind of view might unhinge some men. He was made of sterner stuff.

“By the way, what’s your name?”

“Oh, sorry, I’m Jackie.”

“Pleased to meet you Jackie, I’m Michael.”

“I know, Reverend Tobay” Jackie was careful to keep to the required standards, a cleaner is addressed by her first name; a ‘cleanee’ is given their title and surname.

Prayers was at six and he left the house before realising he didn’t know where the chapel was. He stopped a girl and asked, she stared blankly at him. “The chapel, surely you know where it is?”

“You mean St B’s” said a voice behind him he found himself looking down slightly onto a girl with a tight blouse stretched over her well-developed bust.

“Do I?”

“Yes, it’s called St B’s in school. I’ve been sent to take you, Clod realised you’d be a bit lost”

“I think you should refer to her as Doctor Dainty to me”

The girl looked taken aback; she had thought he’d be confused and wouldn’t ask. Instead he was ahead of the game. One up to him.

The chapel was packed. He learnt later this was partly down to him. Midweek prayers were optional for seniors, those in the fifth and two sixth forms, sixteen to eighteen year olds broadly. The rationale was that they needed extra time for work, but really most of the time they would sit around and chat. This night though there was curiosity at play. The news that he wasn’t an eighty year old codger had already gone round the school. That he was a Pierce Brosnan look-alike was discounted by most girls as likely to be exaggeration, but they were all still keen to catch a glimpse. He was ushered in to the seat reserved for the vicar, and the head read a, thankfully short, prayer; which still took her ages. They had an uplifting reading, prayers for sick, dead, poor and unfortunate people. He wondered what unfortunate meant. Really a kind of catch all; why not just say “God, do your best, amen”. The consensus was that he was late 30-ish, good looking, and smiled. He passed their first test, but to some that meant they had to test him further. He didn’t know the Pandora’s box he was looking into. He was asked to give the closing prayer. Instead he asked them all to join them in the blessing “I always think we should all be blessing each other, not asking for a blessing from ‘the religious guy at the front’” he explained. Some joined in, some did not. He would work on this.

The next couple of days, he settled in, having little to do, them not being Sunday or Wednesday – the service days - he decided to have a look round the rest of the parish on his trusty bicycle. The immediate village had an unusual layout because if its position and history. What should obviously have been the village square, the centre and focus of the village, overlooked the beach. A pub was situated at the landward edge, a dip indicated where there used to be a pond, a patch of ground at the end of a row of cottages showed where that particular house had collapsed as its foundations slipped the 20 feet down to the beach. Erosion had been stopped, or delayed, by various protection methods. West Gate led, appropriately, west from the square, down it where many of the shops were situated: a butcher, a baker, a (candlestick maker? Wondered Michael, no, a grocer) grocer selling the usual higher priced essentials that people ran out of and could not be bothered to drive to the town to the supermarket.

Much of the village economy relied on the school. The farms, locally, provided some work, but most of it low paid. People commuted, but few people moved to the village if they weren’t working locally, due to the danger of losing land/property to the sea. In short, the village was in decline. It had been a regional centre of commerce a few hundred years ago but had lost the protected estuary behind a bank of sand dunes in the great storm of 1670 – probably that was what allowed the storm of 1789 to be so devastating - and the decline had begun; accentuated by erosion until the current village was an odd-shaped artefact of a past that had long vanished. Down the ‘hill’ (really a ridge, so arrival along the road hid the fact that the village and manor were on a low rise), the river flowed into the sea over shallow and unnavigable sands. These sands were walkable at low tide and dangerous as the tide returned, turning them into soft sands that could trap the unwary. The Sucking Sands had been the subject of three legendary stories and had featured in an unpublished Sherlock Holmes story “The Curse of the Sucking Sands”. Nevertheless they claimed victims with surprising regularity – most were rescued these days, the last fatality was four years before when a drunken man went for a walk in the dark and was found up to his waist in sand when the tide receded.

Michael’s forward-thinking mentor at theological college had said there were two centres to a village: the church and the pub. He opted to visit his competition, or was it collaborator? He wasn’t sure. “Good morning, what do you recommend?”

“For what? Gout? Growing potatoes? The next government?” The bar man was either surly or a wag.

“Well, we can talk about those three if you like, but let’s start with the beer here. Are they local?”

“Aye. You could try the Skirt Lifter, but that’s more one for the ladies, or the Brown Bear. Athorn is off at the moment.”

“Well, I’m not sure I should be asking for Skirt Lifter anyway, people might get the wrong impression of their new vicar. I’ll try the Brown Bear.”

“Ah, new vicar? I thought you might be. Seems the school gets through vicars like some of us have breakfast. What happened to the last one? Get caught in bed with a pupil did he?” He was definitely pushing, seeing how far he could go.

“No, he never got caught!” Michael laughed and then added “I’m joking, don’t start any rumours”

“S’alright, I know he couldn’t stand the strain. He came in quite regular towards the end.”

“Hrmph” seemed a suitable non-committal response. The beer was good. And he was starting to warm to the man behind the bar, he was gruff, cynical, straight-faced, and humorous.

“ ... and the other nun said -”

“‘yes it does wear the soap’. I’ve heard it, and you shouldn’t be trying to shock me with jokes like that” he laughed despite himself and repeated the one about the vicar, the policeman and the prostitute.

“Why, vicar! I’m shocked!” laughed the barman

“I used that at a Men’s Meeting, it broke the ice and demonstrated that we should not judge people by their appearance. Tell me about the village.”

“What’s to tell? We get tourists in the summer, come to see the disappearing village; some claim to hear the ghostly bells from the church out to sea. Thing is, I know for a fact that the church only had one bell. There’s an old engraving in St Poll’s Next Sea, in the museum. It shows the church tower, clearly a one-bell tower.”

“And why would a village have more than one bell anyway”

“Precisely. Butcher sells good meat, Baker sells good bread. Mrs Gob – sorry, Mrs Turnova, she’s just a terrible gossip, so I calls her Gob – well, she’s not known for clearing the shelves of out of date stock, if you catch my drift. My pub [which was called The Kings Head] sells good beer. The Manky Duck – the Brown Swan to you – it sells awful beer.”

“‘Course it does”

“The other pub – the Black Boy - sells Girtles, and gets very rowdy on a darts night; if you like darts then fine, otherwise, you’ve come to the right place for refreshment.”

“I can see that, hive of social interaction” Michael replied, surveying the empty pub with a smile. “Which pub do the girls sneak out to? Oh come on! I’m not stupid”

“They come here, but they use the Saloon.”

“I’ll stick to the Public Bar then.”

“Your opposition – Methodists – closed up three years ago and merged with the one at Upper Comptney; Catholics meet in Samphire Meadows, there’s a couple from here that go. So, you have the village to yourself, all the other God-Botherers have given up”

“Sam.” This being the name of the bar man, the pub landlord was his wife, Lucy, “You are an old cynic. I shall have to work on you”

“I’ve had too many years of practice vicar, you stand no chance. So tell me vicar, you always ride a bike? No car?”

“Ah, well, funny story about that ... but it will have to wait for another day. I have to go I’m afraid” Actually he wasn’t sure making it known he was banned for drinking too much communion wine was a good idea. Funny, but not a good way of starting a new job.

Off he went and explored further, then a little further and then further still. Before he knew it, it was evening and he was cycling narrow lanes in the dark whilst people drove at dangerously high speeds and narrowly avoided him. He would mention that in his sermon somehow.

He made his way back and let himself in. A silhouette in a ground floor window caught his eye. The rooms were the common room for the sixth forms, he knew. He had been given a quick tour the day before. There was something ... He couldn’t put a finger on it. He walked across the quad, aware that to an observer he might seem to be a Peeping Tom, creeping around at night, and hoped no-one saw him. When he peeked through a narrow gap in the curtains he was even more sure he could be mistaken for a voyeur. Now he knew what struck him about the silhouette, the upper body was sharp, not fuzzy. Five girls were playing some kind of drinking game, a chair had been wedged against the door to avoid surprises. Two girls were naked from the waist up. As he watched a third failed to answer a question (which he could not hear) satisfactorily and raised a bottled to her lips, swigged and then removed her shirt. One of the topless girls was next and again failed the test, she took a gulp of red wine and dropped her skirt. He was transfixed. He knew he should not be, he should rap on the glass but... “You should give them a fright and rap on the glass” a voice said

“I know I sh- oh! Shit! I mean. Bugger. No! I mean -”

“Shh! They’ll hear you. I want to see how far they go”

“But Miss Dainty, I mean Doctor Dainty ... I mean Dot, I mean is it appropriate?”

“Look, they started it, you just happen to be in the right place at the right time, or the wrong time. I’m not sure which. I can see you weren’t too keen to stop the game too early. Oh look!” A girl dropped her bra to the floor. Three were now topless. Michael was grateful for the dark. He tried to appear not to be watching their young bodies too fervently. But a man is a man, with or without a dog collar. As they continued to watch, a girl finally was evidently the loser, and a pair of panties dropped to the floor. She raised her arms and turned 360 degrees. Dot said “right, I suppose that will do. Goodnight Michael, off you go.” As he sped across the lawn, she knocked vigorously on the window. In 2 minutes, five girls found themselves standing half-covered being given an urgently whispered dressing down.

At the next prayers. The same five girls ‘volunteered’ to hand out and collect the hymn books. They would do this for the rest of term, or the Head, and their parents, would learn why. The girls trooping in all smirked, it seemed the bush telegraph had told them what had spawned this sudden spirit of religiosity. The girls would have been mortified to know it wasn’t just Clod who had seen them from the window.

Michael prayed for strength to resist all temptation; or not to be put into temptation he could not resist. He was a man of God, but also a man of flesh, and the recent escapade kept recurring to him; both in his dreams and his waking hours. When he saw Sadie – the girl who had lost the competition that night – one morning a few days later, he could not help contemplating what a fine, firm young body nestled under her school uniform. He prayed harder.

“Good ... Morning ... Reverend ... How ... are ... you ... sett-l-ing ... in” said a voice behind him, the small ancient figure looked up at him in what he assumed was a smile.

“Oh yes. Very well thank you Miss Samphire”

“I’m making sure nothing is hidden from him” Doctor Dainty had appeared “We are laying bare all our little foibles” She smiled innocently, he spluttered slightly

“Good ... good ... good ... yes ... good” the old lady toddled off. Michael looked at Dot.

“That was naughty. I’m a vicar! You mustn’t put me in difficult positions like that”

“Sorry, just my bit of fun. Anyway, you have a group of willing volunteers. I thought you’d be pleased.”

“Except that I’ve seen one naked and several topless. It isn’t the best thing to remember in church” He was starting to think he might not last long either. “Do things like this happen a lot?”

“Not a lot, just in waves. The girls get bored and then do things like you saw, or midnight skinny dipping. I’d rather they go for the drinking competitions to be honest. Less dangerous. But I’d appreciate it if you kept an eye out for late night escapes, especially to the beach”

“I shall”

“I’m sure you will” she replied archly “Now you know what it might entail”

“You’re positively incorrigible”

“Well, it isn’t only the girls who get bored. And I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think you could take it”

Wednesdays consisted of a small congregation of women over seventy and one wheelchair bound man who was in what his wife hoped was the final stage of dementia. She explained in a quiet tone to Michael that she had cared for her husband for the last five years as he worsened. She knew she couldn’t care for him much more, as she became frailer and he became more needy. She wanted him to die in his own home. Michael felt entirely inadequate to dealing with such brave and yet desperate souls. Angela Britton’s parting comment to him was “It’s taught me to be grateful for what I’ve got, and to make the most of it.”

Sundays, by contrast, found a very full church. Not just the locals, but many of the teachers and pupils came. Sunday service wasn’t actually compulsory, but it was always felt that some benefit accrued from attending; or at least disadvantages accrued from not attending. This was what the girls thought and the theory was handed down from year to year. It was true that those who didn’t attend on a Sunday were often found to be given minor punishment tasks during the week, but did that mean there was a connection? And if there was, was it as simple as cause and effect? It might also be that those who did not attend were more likely to be the less compliant pupils, and therefore in any case likely to get into more trouble. All this was invisible to The Reverend Michael Tobay; who was used to only half-empty churches being a sign of success these days. He had once conducted a whole morning communion service for one parishioner in his younger days. He had matured and relaxed now and saw many of the Church of England rules as guidelines rather than laws; so he had adjusted the service on occasion when few people attended to make it more companionable, more accessible. And this had been successful in that his attendances had improved ... to the point of him being over the limit on that fateful day.

Now he found himself with a large congregation made up of 20% old people from the parish, a smattering of younger parishioners (ranging from Mandy Rice and her husband Davies and their three children all under five – Mandy was a stunning twenty five year old, in his secular mind he felt he could see why she had so many children so soon – to Colonel Douglas Carswell, formally of the Royals Scots and Irish – a recent merger of two venerable regiments for financial reasons. The Colonel was around sixty, but looked at least ten years younger), and the rest largely made up of young girls aged from 11 to 18. Eight teachers (also in various ages) attended regularly, Colonel Carswell always managed to sit with one or other of them.

With such a range, the sermons posed problems; he had opted to use the modern language service for the 11am service and for Evensong; offering an earlier service using the original Book of Common Prayer service at 8:30am. On Sundays he thanked God that he didn’t have to cook for himself, he would have been rushed off his feet. After a few Sundays, he was able to judge his audience better. In the morning the parishioners formed a larger portion of the congregation; as Mrs Smith once opined to him in an uncharacteristically honest (probably unintentionally honest) comment “It was good to get the church attendance out of the way so the rest of Sunday was available for enjoying oneself”. So his morning sermon (he didn’t do a sermon at 8:30, just a reading) was more conventional, drawn from his book of sermons – like every good vicar and comedian, he kept a book, recording what had been well received and what needed work if it was to be reused. In the evening he felt free to be more experimental, more open.

He shocked his band of listeners when he chose to use the gospel reading as his text one week. It had been about the woman ‘who suffered from a loss of blood’. This, he explained helpfully, was assumed to be referring to her having very heavy periods. He talked about the problems in India where poor women had been unable to afford tampons, the arguments about tax on such products in the UK, the problems faced by women in Africa who have heavy periods. The girls all sat transfixed, some had never heard about periods from their mothers even – except for the basic facts; none had ever heard a male vicar sermonise on the subject in their home towns. And he brought it neatly back to the idea that Jesus cared about the practical aspects of peoples lives, he cared for individuals. And in a male dominated society, he cared for women, talking to them quite a lot in the gospels. One of the schools history teachers challenged him on how unusual that might have been after. The collection that evening was for a charity in Africa that concentrated on women’s problems; and it made much more than the average collection, which made him think he had been right to take a chance. He noticed that after that, Mrs Terky-Lose had switched to the morning service, but that was a small price to pay.

Dot did not attend. Privately she explained that she regarded the bible from creation myth to Revelation as an impressive collection of myths and legends. Religion did not feature in her thinking. Two teachers who did attend were Miss Charity Lomax and Miss Dundas. Michael never found out what Miss Dundas’ first name was; she was a caring and considerate fifty year old, and jumped at the suggestion of an after church club for the older girls to attend, whilst recognising that she was too old to attend herself. Charity Lomax – the unfortunate result of a marriage between a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a Church worker in the West Indies, unfortunate because of her resultant name – was a light brown, shapely woman of thirty. She carried the West Indian full figure gene, having a substantial bottom and an impressive bust; she was dedicated to God, the school and education, in that order. She happily agreed to help organise the after service club to enable girls to explore their faith more. Michael noticed that she was less happy with sermons that touched on practical, worldly matters. Luckily she could not attend every week, she helped at an Evangelical church in Upper Comptney which to be honest was more to her preference, all hallelujahs! And Praise be! On the weeks she wasn’t there, it was essential to find an alternative young adult female, Dr. Dainty was persuaded by her own pupils to come; she felt she had to when one of the girls wanting to attend was one of the girls that had driven the previous vicar to distraction. That another was Sadie, the girl who Michael had seen naked through the window, was more of a problem for him than her (since Sadie didn’t realise he had seen her).

Twenty or so girls would crowd into his sitting room, drinking tea, coffee, or squash, and munching biscuits. Some, he noted, dropped crumbs with alacrity – assuming that someone would clean them up – others were careful of his carpet and furnishings. One actually cried when she spilled her drink on his chair; she came from a very house-proud house (or mother) he gathered, where such things would have resulted in a crisis that would dwarf any famine or natural disaster. Dot sat with her arm round her for some time. He made it plain that such things weren’t a problem; he wanted to be seen as cool.

On occasions they discussed ‘difficult’ subjects like pre-marital sex, was it sinful, or the church’s view of gays. Other times it was an easier subject like modern music, Michael managed to score a point or two by referring to DullEdge – even Dot had never heard of them. Dot began to attend even when Charity was able to come. They were careful not to have too much of a disagreement in front of the girls, but even the densest pupil would have realised that their views on religion were very different – either it was the centre, the essence of ones reason for existence; or it was a load of semi-sensible but obsolete rules based around an impossible concept of an invisible being.

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