Famed Norfolk explorer Richard Meek (recently placed an astonishing but well-deserved sixth in a list of people having the most influence on life in Nelson’s County) has brought a moment of great significance to my attention.
According to an item in the usually reliable Eastern Daily Press, he points out, Hingham’s disused Scout Hut is to be converted into a house.
This may not strike many people as a noteworthy phenomenon, but this is no ordinary Scout Hut. It is the very hut that provoked the launch of what became known as Hingham Democracy into an unsuspecting world.
Some years ago now, in the last century, there was a dispute over whether the hut should be sold or not. It was decided to take a poll of residents and to abide by the result – as long as 300 votes were cast. The result went the wrong way, but as luck would have it, only 299 votes were cast – once it was established that the 300th was a spoiled paper (I believe it was hanging chads, or something like that). So the referendum was set aside.
So impressed were New Labour by this pioneering new form of democracy that they adopted it wholemeal, which is why today everything is put out to consultation and the result of the consultation is ignored. It is not just New Labour who have benefited, of course. Most local councils fell in line, so did the health service and so did the Post Office. I think it is safe to say that Hingham Democracy is now the generally accepted way of proceeding when you know that your policy is unpopular or just downright silly. Which, it seems, is more and more of the time.
It would be nice if converting the hut into a house might signal a return to honest and fair-dealing in politics, but research shows that this is unlikely. Prospective owners should be warned what they are getting into. Some experts, including Professor V A R Scheinlich, believe that the wormholes and time-space distortion with which the Autonomous Republic of Hingham has been afflicted over the last decade are a punishment from God for the horror that Hingham has introduced into the world, but the Rev Nick Reppscumbastwick, a radical cleric tipped to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, has gone on record as doubting this. Norfolk legend Henry (Fred) “Shrimp” Houseago blames great crested newts, which is consistent of him.
I personally feel it is significant in this context that a coypu has been sighted on Beeston Common, according to local correspondent and walker “Badger” Crusoe, who prefers to remain anonymous.
It is known that coypu always occur at times of great social change, especially in the Beeston area. But since the only previous coypu sighting in the last few years was in the Hingham republic, time-space distortion could be at the root of it.
Len “Kissme” Hardy, a consultant and comet-chaser now working in Beijing for the Olympics commentary team, believes the coypu sighting is a publicity stunt to promote the relaunch of the outstanding Norfolk martial arts film, Crouching Badger, Hidden Coypu. He is often correct, if a little tiresome.