"Have we got time for a walk? There was a queue all along the M60 slip road so I'm later than I expected."
"If you don't mind eating later, it's already 19:20."
We find the torches and set off. It will definitely be dark before we get back.
The sun has already set and the last red glow is beginning to fade. Over the valley ribbons of street lights look like distant fairy lights. A few birds are still swooping overhead. Crows. Maybe Jack, Marjorie and their mate! It is too dark to see them properly so no chance of even pretending to recognise them.
"L has finally managed to use the new application to re-register" said the Webmaster. "The problem was that when she tried to reactive her old membership the information was automatically sent to her registered email address but she'd changed it, so she didn't get the message. But then she just registered for a new membership and entered her new email address and all her details."
"So it all works?"
"Yes, except for the pl*nk*rs who think I should know the personal relationships between all the members so I can ask their third cousin four times removed when I need to get a telephone number of someone signing up."
"We don't store that type of information except for parents of juniors. It isn't relevant or necessary so why should you know?"
"Exactly. And apparently using an on line membership application is 'ridiculous' and 'long winded'. Anyone who says that should try dealing with all the illegible membership forms and incorrect payments. It isn't as though we would turn away anyone who genuinely doesn't have a computer. There are a few but not many, but it isn't complicated to use the app if you know your own name, email address and date of birth."
"It would be better to do away with cheques. Why don't you encourage people to pay by BACS or Paypal? If they give their membership number as the reference the club bank statement will record who has paid."
"Yeah, we use BACs and that is what we do. The treasurer can log in and mark off those who have paid. You can register one or more people in one go and the application will calculate the fees due based on number and type of membership, for example junior, affiliated, family and display message explaining how much needs to be paid, the BACS details and an address if they prefer to send a cheque. In the old system people were forever sending in the wrong amount and mixing up county and country."
"Oh well, you can't please everyone all the time, or even some people ever!"
We emerge, over a stile and out onto the lane. It is dark. We switch on our head torches and head back towards home, passthe pub which seems particularly quiet. Maybe it is too early for the regulars.
"There's the man with the key" says the Webmaster as we approach the road into the carpark.
"At least it is dark, well after dusk so he isn't early."
"Oh no, it isn't him. The gate is already locked and he has just gone round it."
There were no cars on the car park. We walk over the hill, picking our way in the light from the head torches.
"Shall we risk it?" asks the Webmaster, indicating the narrow path towards the meadow, through the field with the bullocks and straight down off the hill on a route that was often rough and muddy.
"Why not?" But the Webmaster hesitates. "Oh, OK let's go back the road way."
"It's more romantic the road way" claims the Webmaster, without giving a reason, other than adding "There's less cow muck to walk in."
We hadn't gone back the road way for a few weeks, not since the time when there were frogs everywhere and we had to walk carefully, shining our lights to the ground, to avoid walking on them. If one car had driven there, it would have been carnage.
We could see bright white and red flashing lights at the bottom of the lane, just before the 90 degree bend. As we came closer we could make out a couple of cyclists repairing a puncture. They seemed as surprised to see us out walking in the dark as we were to see them.
"I think we've fixed it" said one of them. "At least this is a quite road and there are no cars."
We finish our walk and the fluffy cats run to greet us.