I don't like to talk about this much in public for fear of waking up one morning to find a horse's head in my bed, but my husband is a member of a big North Walsham gang. I blame his friend Dennis for getting him into it. He came home one day a few years ago and told me he was going to a Rotary meeting. I thought this seemed harmless enough at the time but how wrong I was. It has taken over his life and is much more than the innocent fund-raising jamboree which it presents itself as. That is the acceptable face of Rotary. I am going to take you into an underworld of politics, back-biting and pavlovas that you never knew existed.
To begin with I managed to keep out of it but then the phone calls started. These mainly came during the afternoon at about 3.30 when the advert break during Countdown was on. Sometimes I was home from work by this time and would see the 01692 area code on my caller display and know it was one of them. "Oh hello my dear, Cedric here. Is Geof in? No? Oh, you're his secretary are you? Ha ha. Could you just take down this message for him please." On other occasions I would be out, but pick up a message. It is worth mentioning at this point that many Rotarians are ex services and old habits die hard. "Geof! Reg here.Thursday 3.01 pm. Just phoning with some figures for you to look at so maybe you could get back to me. Message ends Thursday 3.02"
Next came Geof's involvement in various events, with pieces of paper blu-tacked to the kitchen cupboards. My personal favourite was in the early months of his membership when he was called upon to help put up a stall for the Rotary stand at the Christmas Fair in town. When he joined he was 50 and managed overnight to halve the average age of members. Therefore, being a 'youngster' he would get called upon for any jobs which involved physical activity. As I glanced up at my kitchen cupboard I could not believe what I saw. There in bold font were instructions for the Christmas Fair under the heading 'ERECTION TEAM'. Perhaps this was going to end up being one of North Walsham's more memorable events?
Anyway, the years passed, the Rotary Chairmen died and were replaced. Then in December last year things took a nasty turn. The new Waitrose had opened here and it was time for the Christmas collection. Naturally our Rotary wanted to collect outside Waitrose but the Bure Valley branch had already bagged that spot, and so the Turf War began. By now I was the North Walsham Treasurer's Bitch and was worried that I might start getting death threats from the Inner Wheel (that's the one they let the little ladies join apparently). How would I meet my end? By eating ricin-laced lemon curd? Maybe I would be found with crochet needles in my eyes or get bundled into the boot of a Honda and driven off Cromer Pier?
However, there's not much that a change of name and identity and a bit of help from the witness protection programme can't resolve. They still haven't caught up with us and I even managed to make a public appearance at the Lord Mayor's Banquet earlier this year. I nearly gave the game away what with being about the only person there who could walk un-aided but I think I got away with it ...