It wasn't our sun that slipped, unmourned, behind Sturminster Parva church tower, but the ghost of a long-dead star.
It was a vindictive January dusk and the wind was laced with frozen razor blades. Big Arthur grimaced as he battled across Market Square, drawing his suede car coat closer about his generous midriff. The bleakness of the scene suited his mood. For he knew that in less than an hour, Sturminster Parva Branch of the BSAC would cease to exist.
It was with a heavy heart that he banged with his gavel to begin the final Extraordinary General Meeting of a once-proud institution.
"My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen," he began in the tradition honoured by branch chairmen for almost 50 years, "Doctors, Ministers of The Cloth, Officers of Her Majesty's Armed Forces (Serving and Retired), Chartered Accountants, Bookmakers, Advertising Executives, Sellers of Patent Medicines, Barkers, Hawkers, Spies, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Pornographers, Estate Agents and Divers - I declare this meeting open. Without further ado, I'll pass you over to our joint Treasurers, Ronald and Reginald, who will explain the cold, hard facts."
"Thanks, Arth. Er - we're broke." Stunned silence. "Flat broke. Skint. Borassic. Done for. Buggered."
Eventually, a lone figure rose from a frozen ocean of dumbfounded faces. "I wonder, Ron, if you'd like to explain how it is that we find ourselves in this parlous situation, when only three months ago, at the AGM, you stood on that very spot and painted a rosy picture of financial stability bordering on indecent affluence."
"I think I can answer that," said Reggie. "There have been mistakes. Miscalculations, shall we say. We're not denying that."
"Good!" called a voice from the back. "So why did you go ahead with the hardhat course at the Women's Institute Summer Fair, when it was such a disaster last year?"
"If you remember," Reg parried suavely, "we didn't do the hardhat course last year. We did the explosives."
"It's obvious why we're in the s**t," shouted another. "Nobody goes diving anymore!"
"Quiet, everyone! You're quite wrong, Colin - diving is a cost to the branch. Not a source of revenue. That's why we've been actively discouraging our members from diving. Not that they needed much discouragement. You see, the real problem is PADI."
"How do you work that out?"
"Do you know the three most popular destinations among British divers? Sipadan Island, the Gulf of Bayamuckerjilikotakinabulu, and the Japanese battle fleet wrecks in the Sound of One Hand Clapping."
"Well, the three dive sites most visited by Sturminster Parva Branch are Swanage Pier, Stoney Cove and the wreck of the BSA motorcycle sidecar combo in the brick pond at Bletchley."
"I still don't see."
"You don't need a club to dive in Borneo," continued Reggie, sadly. "You need a little plastic card with a number on it. Everybody's taking up diving these days - but they all want to be Jacques Cousteau, swanning about in the coral with hammerhead sharks and manta rays. Poking lobsters with a snorkel on the Kimmeridge Ledges is like, well, black and white television.
"When you're up against a whale shark off the Turks and Caicos, a farting contest in the Bovisand dormitory doesn't really get a look in."
The minutes of the meeting record a two-minute silence, followed by a motion to close. The motion was unopposed.
For more in a similar vein the book Blackford's Diving Life and Times can be ordered from Underwater World Publications, price £7.50 (tel. 0181 943 4288).