SECRET meetings in parks are usually the stuff of John le Carr novels, but after the unexpected results of this month's council elections they seem to have infiltrated the normally dull world of Welsh local government.
At Bridgend County Borough Council, where Labour unexpectedly lost overall control, rival groups have been jockeying to take the reins of power.
Yesterday a leading independent councillor revealed how he had been asked to attend a secret meeting in a country park for talks that could have installed him as mayor.
Driving instructor Ralph Hughes, who represents Nantymoel in the Ogmore Valley, said he took a phone call from Labour's Mel Nott, who before the election was the council's deputy leader.
Mr Hughes said, "Mel suggested that I meet him and councillor Colin Teesdale in Bryngarw Country Park for a chat. I found the idea a bit Secret Squirrel and Ian Fleming, and said I didn't like the idea of such a meeting. It was all so cloak and dagger.
"He then told me that if my group of councillors would back Labour's bid to keep control, I could be the Mayor of Bridgend. He also said we could take the chairmanships of all the scrutiny committees if we wanted.
"I may be totally naive, but I was totally shocked by the offer. So far as I am concerned, I was elected on an anti-Labour ticket. To go into partnership with Labour would be completely wrong.
"I told Mel that I wasn't prepared to do a deal of the kind he was suggesting."
Mr Hughes added, "I'm not so stupid as to think that I was the only councillor to be approached. We won't know which way things are going to go until the annual meeting of the council."
That meeting goes ahead in the civic centre this afternoon - and the final result was still difficult to predict last night.
Although the combined opposition have more councillors than Labour, the situation has been complicated by two further factors. The independents have split into two factions, one of which is likely to back Labour - and Mr Nott himself, who before the elections was widely expected to assume the council leadership following the decision of former leader Jeff Jones not to seek re-election, finds himself in limbo.
The tragic death on duty of firefighter Richard Jenkins, who had been nominated as Mr Nott's Liberal Democrat opponent in the Sarn ward, meant that the election there has been postponed until July 22.
The fine balance has made the rival groupings desperate to pull in waverers.
Carl Rees, a new councillor who was elected under the Alliance for Change banner in Blaengarw, is seen as holding the key to both the mayoralty and the council leadership.
He said, "I have only been in local politics for just over a week and have never experienced anything like it.
"I've been deluged with propositions from Side A, Side B and Side C. One day the phone didn't stop ringing from eight in the morning until a quarter to midnight. I've been told that I could have a senior paid position which would mean I wouldn't need to work for four years.
"But I'm not succumbing to anything like that. I'll be making my mind up based on what I think is best for the people of Bridgend."
Mr Rees revealed he was likely to split his vote two ways - supporting the "Independent Democrat" candidate with Labour backing for the post of mayor and Liberal Democrat Cheryl Green as council leader.
Mr Hughes, who said he had left Mr Rees to make his own mind up about who to support since talking to him last Thursday, revealed his Independent group was complaining to the council's chief executive about the rival designation of "Independent Democrat".
He said, "The name they have chosen could give the impression they are either Independents or Liberal Democrats. It's very confusing and we think they should come up with something different."
Mr Nott confirmed that he had approached Mr Hughes, but said, "I don't think there's anything intriguing about this. There have been meetings and negotiations up and down the country since the elections.
"We've attempted to speak to everyone involved, but that should be no surprise in the circumstances. As it happens, Ralph Hughes refused to have a meeting with us."