Last year I took a bit of stick as the poster advertising the TW Christmas Fete was a pitiful. The general consensus being "it resembles something the Labour Party would put up to promote their jumble sale". This year, still smarting from the deserved criticism, I decided to push out the boat. I sent our printer a copy of our full colour 'flyer; and asked him to produce a "giant poster-sized version" to erect outside the church hall.
I have a strong relationship with our printer and he never lets me down, so having given him the brief I thought no more of it. I glanced at the proof to check for errors - as always there were none, so happily replied "ok to print". The following day he told me it was ready. I stopped by en route to the office yesterday and picked it up. The poster was tightly rolled into a protective tube, as they always are. I popped it into the back of my car and thought nothing more of it. Until today.
Having recruited a volunteer in TW who was going to assist me mount the poster onto a board and erect it outside the hall, I thought I should hang it up to allow it to fall flat. Then I spotted the problem. It was somewhat larger than I anticipated. In fact - it was over three times larger than I anticipated. When pinned to the picture rail the bottom was trailing on the floor. The giant smiling face of Greg Clark MP peered at me at a jaunty angle, surrounded by baubles and holly and amongst offers of "chocolate galore" and "infused oils and vinegars".
I arrived at the home of Brian, in one of the more distinguished roads in TW, not far from where Montgomery had his secret underground command post. Brian's wife had wisely escaped for the afternoon. He showed me into the kitchen. "Is that the poster?" he enquired, pointing at the 7ft sail which I was towing behind me, "it's bigger than I was anticipating!" "It's bigger than I was anticipating, too", I said. I draped the poster over his large kitchen, its ends dangling either side, attracting the attention of the cat. Brian and I stood looking and scratching our heads - Laurel and Hardy's Dance of the Cuckoos was my ear-worm. "It is quite large" he said, "let's pop into the cellar, see if I have an offcut from the days I designed sets for the local amateur dramatic club." We were out of luck.
Back to the kitchen we made various false starts. We tried gluing it to old correx posters, but that didn't work. Brian suggested he unhinged a door, but that idea was quickly dropped when I asked him what his wife would say. We gathered up all his 2x2 as he thought about making a frame, but the sheer engineering required frightened us off that plan (thank God). Finally, after probably two hours of aborted efforts, I relaised that Homebase was just down the road - and they cut timber to size.
I headed off to Homebase, and within 10 minutes I had not only found what I needed, but it was cut to perfect size by Dan. Then another problem; there was no way I could get a piece of 7ft x 3ft hardboard into my car. Back to Brian empty-handed, he looked at me with an air of disappointment "you've let yourself down, you've let the Party down..." He had a friend with a hatchback, unfortunately he wasn't in. Another friend had a Volvo, but he wasn't well. Time ticked on. It was now three hours since I had arrived. "There's only one thing for it, well cut the poster in half and put the two halves up 'side-by-side'."
Back to Homebase in the hope than Dan would saw my 7 x 3 into two pieces of 3.5 x 3, but upon arrival my 7x3 had vanished. I had left it tucked behind the trolleys with "do not touch" written on it, but someone had touched it - it was no longer there. I asked a man in a Homebase apron if he had seen it. "Ah yes, did it have DO NOT TOUCH written on it?" he enquired, completely oblivious to the irony. "I saw it and thought 'someone has forgotten that', so I took it inside." He escorted me inside to where I would find board, but it was not there. Then Dave appeared. "Are you looking for a large piece of board with DO NOT TOUCH written on it?" he enquired. It was like Groundhog Day. "Yes", I said. "Ah, I assumed it had been left, so I put it back into stock." Fortunately, no-one else had touched it since Dave - it was still on top of the pile.
I lugged it back to the "we saw your timber to any size you want" counter and pressed a red button, with an attached sign that read, "if no-one comes within two minutes you will get 10% off". No-one came. So I pressed it again. Still no-one came. I lugged it over to the Customer Service Desk. "I've pressed the two minute discount bell twice and no-one has come, do I get 10% off?" I enquired. She looked at me as if I was a cretin. "Not after 4pm on a Tuesday", she said. "It doesn't say that on the bell" - by now I was a bit peed off. "Ah, it does say 'terms & conditions apply' - and that's one of the terms and conditions", she said, triumphantly. Apparently I was out of luck. Dan had gone home, and there was no-one left who was trained to use the sawmill. By this time I was heading into despondency. Here I was, back to square one - I had a seven foot long piece of board which wouldn't fit in the car - and it was now getting dark. I decided I needed to get a grip. I bought a roll of extra strong gaffer tape, placed the 7 x 3 on top of my car and stuck it down by rolling the gaffer tape around and around, passing it through the open windows of the car to secure it. I then attached the front of the board to the windscreen wipers also using gaffer tape - and I headed back to base. Thankfully I could take the side roads and nothing went wrong.
Once back inside I found Brian sitting at the table with the staple gun in a hundred pieces around him. "It was jammed so I took it apart and now I have no idea how to put it together again", he said, looking as despondent as I had felt 20 minutes earlier. Fortunately, Brian's nephew also had a staple gun, and he lived 5 minutes away, so we drove around to borrow his. Unfortunately, it was out of staples, and the staples Brian had were a different gauge and did not fit. Back into the car to borrow staples. Finally, five hours after first arriving in Tunbridge Wells, our poster was mounted onto board, wire was threaded through the holes and we headed off to Rusthall to erect it.
And here, Ladies and gentlemen, it is !