The Five Per Cent


The moon looks very remote to me, and I speak as someone who lives in Norfolk. Also, although it sounds obvious, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landings among a bunch of people who don’t believed they happened is not an easy thing to do. Still, it was a situation that Joe and I found ourselves in last Friday, having supplied sandwiches and nibbles to a Flat Earth Society lecture at Runton and, afterwards, watched the Apollo 11 footage with the lecturers themselves. Having now had a good look at it, I can safely say that I’m going to the moon until they sort it out a bit. Very dusty. However, that doesn’t mean that Neil Armstrong and ladies’ favourite ‘Buns’ Aldrin weren’t there, bouncing about, playing golf and driving their little space car hither and yon. I was born long after the event, but was nonetheless morbidly curious about what would’ve happened if ‘Buns’ had pranged the lunar module while parking it and they ended up stranded in space, dying the loneliest death imaginable, because I was a barrel of larfs as a child.

Nid’s main argument against the moon landings is that the moon itself looks ‘very heavy’, but he is not yet three years old. The main Flat Earth argument against the moon landings – apart from the earth being flat, which it isn’t – is that the technology for such a venture was not available at the time. The thing is, as impressive as landing on the moon is, it is a surprisingly unsophisticated procedure: you get a rocket, put a couple of fellas in it, light the blue touch paper and, as long as it’s pointing in the right direction, blast off will get you there and gravity will get you back. This prompted Joe to point out that this is why I work up the council a couple of days a week and not, for example, as Professor of Aeronautics at Cambridge University. I also wondered how weird it must be for the Flat Earthers, watching this stuff which you are convinced is a massive hoax with people like Joe and I, who are convinced that it isn’t, but they were friendly enough and mainly sat there eating Pringles, wearing Farahs, looking pleased with themselves, and saying ‘And people believe that!’ every time anything happened on the screen.


Our main business of the day, however, was planning Runton’s only wedding of the summer thus far. The last one involved narrowly avoiding a brawl after going to the considerable trouble of turning the Forest School dormitories into the pub from Lord of the Rings at the bride and groom’s request. I was therefore relieved to learn, from a wedding planner called Hugh, that this would a small affair with a vague Star Wars theme – which is why I was trying to book Princess Leo, a Stowmarket-based cross dressing Rebel Alliance cabaret singer, a couple of weeks ago. Incidentally, Joe and I once considering becoming the world’s only non-gay wedding planners and, speaking with Hugh, I was reminded of why this was. He was charging an extraordinary amount for everything, including his taxi that day to and from Wroxham for which he had billed the bride and groom £80, although Joe did in the van for £50 cash because he needed to pop into Hoveton to pick up some ear drops for some of his kids. Hugh had also billed them £40 for his lunch with Joe and I, even though this consisted of sandwiches left over from the Flat Earth lecture.* Joe and I also briefly considered setting up an agency to provide cover for people having affairs, an idea concieved one January afternoon en route to an animal feed supplier in Saxlingham. It would have been a highly questionable enterprise – ‘We’d be like the Robin Hoods of romance, except it would be fucking horrible and everyone would hate us, including ourselves’, as I remarked at the time. The idea had been ditched by the time we got to Swanton Morley.

2017-07-10 13.51.57

The Flat Earthers would be staying in the Keeper’s Cottage, adjoining and leaning somewhat into the Old Servant’s Quarters, which function as Runton’s marital suite. I wondered if the wedding buzz might be harshed by having a bunch of people around who believe that human consciousness is an artificial construct bought about via mind control techniques and the media, and mentioned this to Hugh. I had worried about this a couple of years ago, too, when we had our first Runton wedding, but that all went rather well – indeed, credible reports suggest a Flat Earth Society member fingered a cousin of the bride in the woods near the Hermitage, indicating a reasonable amount of admittedly highly localised conviviality. I imagine that Hugh is billing the bride and groom for the cost of a spaceship to fly the Flat Earthers to the moon, if only to jump out and say ‘There – fucking happy now?’, but in any case there will be no funny business by the Hermitage this time. As I write this, Confederate re-enactors are tuning banjos and a-hooting and a-hollerin’ there as part of their annual visit, which involves living in 1863 for three weeks with no disturbance from the outside world. We’ve had to divert work vans bringing in stuff for the new stables for the duration and everything. Nid will be disappointed that we can’t play Hide and Seek there, but as this only involves me counting to ten and him immediately shouting ‘Found you!’ I am less devastated. We have another version where he shouts ‘Hiding, Daddy’, I reply ‘Where?’, and he replies ‘Here, Daddy!’ and jumps out of the telly cabinet. He’s a fine boy, but he’s no Anne Frank.

Anyway. It had been an enjoyable afternoon, all things considered. We finished our sandwiches, agreed a price for the wedding for Hugh to treble and pass on to the bride and groom, and took him for a tour of the petting zoo, during which a goat stood on him. As he climbed into Joe’s van for the lift home, I realised I now know how it is that 5% of the population hold 80% of the wealth. They’re wedding planners.

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*Forty quid for six sandwiches? Who did you get to make them? Paul McCartney?’ as ‘Anton’ later remarked.


Main: North Finchley public library. Of every single building in the world, this is my current girlfriend’s favourite, even ahead of the bouncy castle next to the Eiffel Tower, as discussed last time.

Top inset: the lovely beach at Cromer.

Middle inset: the rubbish beach at Sheringham.

Lower inset: my dog eating a rib cage.

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