Desmond Godd was very well liked. The residents of Bethlem on Twinge never had a bad word for Des and his much loved spouse Deidre Godd. After all, Desmond had made Bethlem what it was. His construction firm – motto ‘Give us seven days, and we’ll get it done’- had made the Bethlem known today. Deidre, meanwhile, had spent happy hours creating Eden Park, a delightful place to rest and recuperate – save the one time when a pet anaconda escaped and devastated the heritage apple crop. Sadly for such a law abiding place as Bethlem, the snake’s owner never came forward, even though police confirmed that they had knowledge of who it was. In truth, after such duplicity people wondered if things would ever return to the previously much lamented innocent times. There were some who wanted to impose rules on behaviour, to dictate how things were done but Des and Dee spoke at a town meeting, emphasising the learning opportunities of encouraging good behaviour while maintaining a free wheeling approach to life (which sadly, due to a myopic type setter appeared as ‘maintains free will’ in the next edition of the Bethlem Gazette).
Comfortable in his flowing beard and beige kaftans, all should have been rosy for Des Godd and his wife, but there was a cloud on their horizon. They couldn’t have children. Dee put on a brave face as treatments and procedures were tried and found wanting. Des would do anything to make his Dee happy and fulfilled. So it was one day, while having a bite to lunch at Gabriel’s tapas bar in the High Street that Des confided in Angel, the manager. ‘I’m at my wit’s end, Angel.’
Angel had lived in Bethlem for years, having emigrated from Andalusia following an unfortunate incident with a novelty bolas. He was perhaps more worldly wise than many who lived in Bethlem and Des used him as both a sounding board for ideas and supplier of goods otherwise hard to acquire. Locally, people called Angel Gabriel ‘Godd’s fixer’, an epithet Angel enjoyed and did his best to live up to.
‘How,’ lamented Des, ‘can we start a family?’
Angel gave this some thought. ‘What about using a surrogate?’
Desmond pondered this suggestion. ‘We’d need to know who.’
‘Of course. What about Joseph and Mary Virgine? They’re keen on helping others and they’ve done it before.’
‘And how, erm does the surrogate become, erm…’ Des struggled with intimate conversations.
‘Several ways. You could have…’
Des waved furiously. ‘No that would never do. With Mary? There can’t be any, erm relations involved. Dee would not countenance it.’
It took Angel a moment to realise the reference to ‘relations’ was not to Desmond’s brother, Barry. ‘No sure. Look that’s not a problem. Do you want me to have a word?’
‘You said they’re keen?’
‘Oh I know this will be fine. Give me a day and I’ll set you and Dee up with a Virgine birth.’
And things did go okay until in the final weeks of her pregnancy the Virgine’s circumstances changed and they moved to the neighbouring town of Jeruslem on Twinge. However, before moving they agreed to return so the baby could be born in Bethlem, something which both Dee and Des had long wished for.
The trouble was the Census. This Enviro-rock Rubber Band had a loyal following and starting their new tour in Bethlem on Christmas Eve seemed like a good idea. If you were in the hotel, hospitality or AirBnB business. If you were in the business of finding a room at the last minute when your hosts announced their spare room was out of action on account of a small plague of politician ants you were out of luck. Thus it was that the Virgines found themselves scrabbling for accommodation. Angel Gabriel had the answer. ‘I can probs get you into the Dog and Bollock. Harry’ll have a room, if I ask nicely. Just pop in, say I sent you and if he fails to come up trumps, I’ll name one of my tapas dishes after him.’
Jo wasn’t sure but Mary persuaded him. ‘Come on. If Angel says it’s okay, it’s okay. Let’s face it, we all know Mr Godd’s got his back.’
Harry wasn’t happy but after a bit of juggling they found themselves sharing a large four bedded suite called the Barn on account of its cavernous size and rustic theme. The three brothers who agreed to share with them, the Shepherds were life long fans of the Census and didn’t expect to be back till late. ‘We’ll be as quiet as we can.’
As they left, all dressed in smocks and straw, Mary said she’d have an early night while Joseph did want surrogate fathers to be are wont to do: he took the TV remote and flicked through the channels seeing if he could find any sport/comedy/softporn. In the end he dozed off during a four year old episode of Gogglebox.
At two am, two things happened at once. Gabriel, who’d taken evening classes with the eldest Shepherd and was delighted to bump him at the concert, agreed to come back for a quick drink and Mary felt the need to get up for a pee. Her surprise when the door flew open and four young men staggered in was too much and in an instant Mary knew things were imminent in a way that wasn’t the case moments before.
Joseph was a calm practical man and organised the Shepherds to sort out towels and warm water and chilli and pineapple crisps which Mary just had to have RIGHT NOW. It took quite a bit to get them to calm down, their default setting faced by the prospect of a birth in their hotel room being to panic. ‘Not the wisest bunch,’ Mary shared with Jo.
‘True but their hearts are in the right place.’
‘What’s Angel doing?’
‘He’s on his hotline to Mr Godd, trying to get you into the cottage hospital but I doubt the ambulance will make it. But he says not to worry, he’s got it covered.’
Mary sighed. ‘I suppose we will cope.’
And they did. A little boy was born, a healthy little fella with a twinkly pair of eyes and vigorous hand movements. Those caused some confusion when one of the Shepherds asked if they’d chosen a name, just when Mary was telling Jo how much messier than her first this little lad was sure to be. Hearing ‘he’s messier’ Ranulph Shepherd looked confused. ‘You’re calling him Messiah?’
Oh how they laughed….
‘Of course not,’ Mary wiped away a tear. ‘I’m pretty sure the Godd’s are planning on calling him Kevin.’
As you do.