“It’s not really a coven, really. I mean, for heaven’s sake, this is the twenty first century, there ain’t no such thing as black magic. We’re just a small bunch of friends who get together once in a while to eat and drink and, you know, dee da, dee da, if the vibe is right, and, as these things go, to chat about this and that, politics local and politics wider, the price of beans, grandkids, and, of course, about who has done any sort of harm to our little group.
“Well, it’s pretty normal for good friends – friends from way back when we were all at Lancashire studying Religion and Spirituality – apart from Lawrence who was doing a course in Business Economics and who played rugby for the local team and actually tried for North of England but wasn’t selected – and living in rented accommodation in houses all within a few blocks of each other and all within five minutes walk, more or less, of the Singed Cock, which incidentally served a great rabbit pie and still does – to watch out for each other, to watch each others’ backs, to take umbrage at offence done to any of the group, the clan, the tribe, the …. whatever is the collective noun for when like-minded, intelligent, gifted people like ourselves bond and form a unique relationship with each other.
“So yes, we do take umbrage at slights to our own. We take umbrage AND we sometimes get angry. And naturally we sometimes talk about getting our own back, of tilting the scales of justice, and this is usually jokingly but sometimes seriously. But none of us, either individually or as a group, would go out and put poison in someone’s porridge, or cut through their brake pipes, or reveal their infidelities to their partners. That would be wrong. As well as not being very subtle.
“But I wouldn’t say we’ve never had any nasty thoughts or wished for minor harm to happen to someone on our collective blacklist of the day; after all, we are simply human, subject to all the usual temptations which ordinary people face from hour-to-hour, from day-to-day. Yeah, so sometimes we wish that so-and-so falls off their bike or that Mr or Mrs so-and-so bus driver gets stuck under a low bridge, but we really don’t expect anything to happen.
“So it’s always a surprise.
“One of the earliest was when a couple of the North-of-England rugby selectors were travelling to a match and their car skidded of the road on a sharp bend and they were quite shaken up but no bones broken, and we had actually been talking about them and how they should be given a little scare for not choosing Lawrence and a minor car accident was one scenario we joked about, and this made us think that maybe we did have some powers that we could use to change things and we all felt a bit weird, but we sort huddled together and did mock spells and things aimed at us all passing our final exams which we all did even Elizabeth who really hadn’t done that much work because she was so into level two M&S in that last year.
“And not long after we did spooky-wooky stuff around Alice’s bloke because he was really really giving her a hard time and being not very nice and the very next week he was fired from his cushy job in Preston and had to move down to Birmingham – Birmingham! – to get work. Coincidence? Hard to say.
“Naturally the course we (apart from Lawrence) were doing touched on religions and quasi-religions and we were exposed to the concept of magick and spells and all that. It was just course work then and it was only later – certainly after the Alice boyfriend episode – that we started taking it more seriously and started exploring witchcraft as it’s practiced nowadays, partly because Nathan did his long essay on that sort of thing and he came up with all sorts of interesting stuff in the uni archives when he was doing his research. So we met a few people from those “witchy” circles and they said that we’re something quite special and that, hooray, could easily qualify as witches subject to some training and induction and the passing of some quite substantial sums of money and the granting of a few sexual favours to some old fart dressed in a smelly shepherd’s smock and carrying a long stave with a goat’s head stuck on the top. So we said no thanks and decided to carry on as we always had done, and anyway we didn’t see ourselves as being tied down by rules and structures and facing the odd disciplinary. That wasn’t for us. So, there you have it, as you can see we aren’t witches as such and there’s no way that our little collective could be called a coven. No way.
“But people do ask us if we can make things happen and that’s a really difficult question to answer because how on earth can you prove or otherwise this sort of thing. For example, one night last week we were all sitting around with a jug of mead to keep us company having a go at the smug and priggy little ball boys and girls at Wimbledon and how they represent all that’s straight-laced and anal about our society, but we wouldn’t wish them any harm, and indeed no harm has come to them. On the other hand, we’re waiting to see if Murray wins because we chanted one of our mock spells and did things to a tennis ball that would make a sailor blush. We’ll see.
“Ah, Pendle! This is where I get off. Enjoy the rest of the journey. And put fifty quid on Murray. You won’t lose.”