Old Tom

A novel

Genre: Comedy

Synopsis: Farmers Tye is a small village in South Dorset. Its only claims to fame are an early Christian hill figure depicting Mary and the baby Jesus and the convent established two hundred years ago dedicated to the image. The Parish Council has appointed a triumvirate of local worthies to plan for and execute a garden party to celebrate the bicentennial of the convent: The Reverend Singleton, representing the Anglican community; Father Patrick, representing the interests of the Convent; and Mr. Aziz, local entrepreneur and Chair of the Council representing the community. Observing progress are Hezekiah Morton, ostensibly a retired lawyer but also a local pagan bigwig and his journalist granddaughter, Alex.

The hill figure itself is framed by an ash forest that has begun to look a little dog-eared. Investigations reveal that the trees are suffering from ash die-back for which mandatory felling is prescribed by Government experts. Despite local opposition and the intervention of a small group of new-age travellers, the site surrounding the hill figure is cleared leaving behind a sad landscape of scrub and churned up earth. With the garden party approaching and the prospect of a royal attendance, Singleton arranges a volunteer force to smarten up the site. In so doing they reveal the rest of the hill figure that had been hidden by the forest. It is immediately apparent that it’s interpretation as Mary and Jesus had been erroneous and the figure is actually a depiction of a naked giant – Old Tom. Furthermore, the giant is in a state of some excitement and what had been assumed to be baby Jesus is, in fact, the top of another part of the giant’s anatomy altogether.

Father Patrick with the assistance of two nuns – Sisters Claire and Marie – imposes a literal blackout on the village by cutting the power supply and sabotaging any backup systems while the newly revealed figure is covered temporarily to protect it. Meanwhile Mother Superior realises that the two hundred year focus of the convent and particularly her twenty years of devotion to the hill figure have been corrupted. She is unable to cope with the turn of events and lapses into a state of torpor.

Hezekiah reveals that Old Tom is an ancient fertility God revered by the pagans. The pagan Greybeards are unhappy that Old Tom has bee covered up pending archaeological investigation and Hezekiah, along with Alex and the travellers, plots ways to ensure that the giant is revealed to the attendees at the garden party. Meanwhile, planning for the party is progressing. Unable to afford the Red Arrows, Aziz opts for the little known Green Machine – an helicopter display team operated by the Royal Logistics Corps. Entertainment has been arranged in the form of a local brass band, the convent school choir and an agency-supplied music act for the evening. Stalls will include a farmer’s market in the town square and craft stalls in the convent garden. The whole event will be opened by a Duchess, escorted by Brigadier General Ronnie Singh – father in law of Aziz – and accompanied by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of South Dorsetshire.