This page contains most of the content from the main 'story line' characters. It is designed to allow an easy way of keeping up with the story on slow connections (or for reading later). It is, of course, no substitute for the real thing!
Cuppa with Shirley
Cuppa with Shirley (or Martin)
Its been a long time since Ive seen you at my door! Come in and have a seat. What brings you to Puckering? Let me tell you, things have changed! Do you remember Jerry Anderson, the bloke who ran the antique shop down in the Village? You know, Betsy's friend. Hes been convicted of burglary. The two as bought this house are responsible. Youve heard of them? Im not surprised, theyre always doing something to get their name and face in the newspaper.
Jerry hit on some hard times, you see, and was knicking the odd piece from the attic here. Nothing of value, so to speak, just a few bits that no one really cared about. Okay, so he got greedy and took the owners desk. It was a daft thing to do, but we all make mistakes, dont we? Anyway, he was caught by that Archer fellow who fancies that hes 007 himself. The trial was about a week ago. I tried to do my best for him, but Im afraid it did no good. Oh well, what can you do? Mrs. Morcombe tells me that he might get time off for good behaviour, seeing as its his first offence. Though she also said he should be locked up for good. Silly cow.
What are the owners like? Well, hes the local hero right now. Seems like he can do at least one thing --won the bloody match for the Irregulars. First win of the season. Used to be doing other things as well, if you take my meaning, but right now his girlfriend is colder than Martins feet in December, and his "researcher" has shacked up with Frank Churchill. If Miss Ellen was alive to know the goings on in her house!
Ive opened up a shop for myself down in the village, now that Jerrys gone. Selling a few bits from time to time. You should pop round and see it. Its called In Olde Things Forgotten; its on the High Street. With all the to do around here, I thought to myself "Shirley, youve got to be prepared." Im building up a nest egg in case something happens and Martin and I have to leave. You know Mr. Montgomery promised us we could stay for as long as we wanted, but Im not sure anymore. The owners have run out of money, and if they have to sell, whats to become of us?
Now then, why hasnt the darned kettle boiled yet? Let me go check it, I wont be a minute
Antigua was great! We sailed, snorkeled, went to a few bars (not too many!) and rented a car and drove around the island for a day. You have to come visit and see this stuff lots of windmill ruins and old buildings and broken-down wallsjust the kind of place youd love.
Sorry to hear about the old guy. I guess when you live in an old house, you must get used to the idea of people having died there, but you still dont expect them to keel over in your dining room. Glad to hear that Simon didnt join him. No, seriously, Im glad hes better.
So, Tia was able to help? Cool. She goes to England once or twice a year, and I told her to look you up the next time shes over there. Im definitely on for October. Its pretty quiet around here at that time of year. Thanks for extending the invite to James. Were going to take you up on it. Hes psyched. We're thinking of coming for 3 weeks. I want to look into booking some ticketswhere should we fly in to?
Hope youre keeping the cream tea set in line. Cheerio.
Thanks for your card. Im glad to hear that James is coming too. I look forward to meeting him. You should plan to fly into Gatwick--it's much closer and much less congested than Heathrow. What kinds of things does James like to do?
Im glad Emma is back. It has been tense and quite lonely here. Simon and I have separated, at least temporarily. Im so tired of trying to figure him out. We had a big fight over a Harley (it seems stupid, but it really wasnt), and I told him I needed some time off. As usual, he seems oblivious to what a mess weve made of things. He told me to let him know when I got over it. Apparently, he thinks Ill wake up one morning and feel better, like you do when youve recovered from a bad cold. Anyway, while Ive been rearranging things, hes been strutting around the house, quite pleased with himself for having won the local cricket match.
Although we're apart, I'm still living here--I've got nowhere else to go, and besides, it's my house too. Im camping out in the study until I can fix a space upstairs thats far enough away that I dont have to see him every time I go to bed or get up in the morning. Simons staying in "our" room for now. Weve only managed to make a few other rooms livable. One is occupied by his dad, who seems destined to outstay us all, and the other is housing Emma and Frank until the Hermitage gets repaired. Hopefully theyll move back before you come. If not, Ill figure something out.
Shirley is also upset with me and has been fairly miserable to be around. I had to testify in court against her friend, Jerry Anderson. Hes an antique dealer who was stealing stuff from our house, and got caught when he tried to take my desk. His trial was on the 18th, and both Simon and I were called for the prosecution. Shirley, who has known him for years, testified for the defense. In the end, he didnt stand a chance, since he was caught red-handed. Hes been found guilty. Somehow this is all my fault in Shirleys eyes. I dont see how...
My friend Dave Redmond teaches at Elgin College and has been encouraging me to apply for a job in his department, and now I'm beginning to wish I had. I am so attached to this place, but I can't stay here forever if things between Simon and I continue as they are.
In any event, I'm not going anywhere soon, and certainly not before your visit. Let me know when you plan to arrive. Im really looking forward to seeing you.
Your father and I are in Seattle for a long weekend. Yesterday we took a ride up the Space Needle. This morning we did some shopping, and after lunch are headed to the Frye Art Museum. Id like to go on a whale-watching trip, but you know how your father gets seasick. Tomorrow were heading north to visit Penny and Edward, and then its back home.
We were thinking of a trip to see you, maybe sometime this fall. What do you think?
|Dear Miss Simmons,
I so enjoyed meeting you on Saturday following my lecture. It is always a pleasure to discover a fellow historian in the audience.
As we discussed, I have a post-graduate student , Evelyn Prosser, who is quite interested in post-medieval archaeology; most specifically Georgian and early Regency garden design. I am writing to enquire if it would be convenient for her to visit Stoney Grove in the near future to see your gardens and to discuss the possibility of an archaeological survey of your grounds.
As I have agreed to act as an advisor to the team that will begin investigations of the UPPC church yard in the near future, I am certain that we will have the opportunity to meet again soon. Until then, I wish you all the best.
Basil Hardcote , B.A., M.A. , D. Phil.
|Dear Miss Simmons,
Thank you for the beautiful wreath you sent for my uncle Roderick's funeral. It was very kind of you to think of us at this time.
I am sorry that you called to cancel you recent order for the game birds. The Twelve Days of Christmas gift package would have been an ideal starting group for your estate. I do hope that we will be able to serve your needs in the future.
From your feathered friends at
Pleasant Pheasants and Other Game Birds
Greetings from the firm of McBeal, Cage and Thomas.
No news on your case, but I thought I'd send you an email anyway so I can bill you for the time. Kidding.
Other things are happening here. I've got foster parents suing the natural mother of the child for sleep disorder and emotional distress. I turned out the birth mother got rich, and now the foster parents want some. We're representing the foster parents. I think we'll get a offer.
But don't worry - we won't forget you, how could we? You're rich!
Sorry to hear you were sick, I had the runs once in Majorca. Terrible it was, three days sitting on the loo with the world dropping out of your bottom. I knew we shouldn't have eaten at a local resturant but Caroline wanted to try something different. But you can't trust foreign food, can you? They say British food is boring, but at least it stays put.
Do you remember celebrating your eighteenth birthday in the Lion? We'd been going in there for so long we had to tell them it was your twentieth! On the way home you fell over the hedge and I couldn't find you for half an hour because you crawled into the dog kennel. Then we got you home only for you to thow up on your front doorstep, which we tried to clean up with the milk that had been delivered that morning - which was off - and then I threw up. We had some laughs, didn't we!
Sorry if I was a little un-jolly in the last email. Men can be so stupid and my boss is one of them. I need a reckless adventure to loosen up my life - let's meet in London again. W can go to a posh hotel and order outrageous cocktails and say things like "Darling, this is so Divine!" and do the Lisa Minelli thing under railway bridges. And when is this party of yours? I won't be bringing anybody at the moment since my boss was one of the aforementioned lovers, but don't take too long or I'll be filling the place!
Love and stuff
Was I amazing or what? I've been replaying that shot all week and I think if I'd really got hold of it I could have hit it for six. Morcombe nearly wet himself when he saw me take a big swing at it, but he couldn't say much afterwards except "Well played young Tinsley, well played!" It's such a shame it was the last game of the season but hopefully I can play more regularly next year.
That's if we're still here. I don't know why Ann's so mad at me, but if she leaves I can't do this place on my own unless I get some major grants from somewhere. We did get some more stuff back from the trial of the guy that was knicking stuff but I don't know if any of it is valuable. Anyway we can't sell stuff --we have to bring it all back here to its home! What I want to say is life goes on, things change, but Ann seems intent in recovering the past. Jackie's not like that, she's so into now.
And I'm just left wondering about tomorrow, poetic eh?
Sorry to hear you're playing solo again but you do have rather a habit of losing men recently. I think you ought to be more careful, remember there's more chance of finding alien life in the next five years than there is for women over 30 to get married!
I havn't broached the party idea thing to Ann yet. She's a bit tense these days what with the money and all. To be honest we're having a few problems but I hope we can work things out soon. Keep in touch though, I'll have you here in that flapper dress before too long!
Dining Room Conversations
Morning, 25 August, 1999
Ann: I think we need to talk. It's been awhile.
Ann: You did great at the cricket. I'm sorry I missed the beginning.
Simon: Thanks. (pause). Ann, I just don't get it still. Why are we fighting?
Ann: I feel like...I feel like we want different things. I feel like you don't know what you want.
Simon: Well then, what do you want?
Ann: I want to be committed to something important. You, this house, this place, it's all connected. I want to build something lasting here. And then you...you keep changing direction. With me, with the house, I can't keep up.
Simon: What do you mean?
Ann: We're together but you're trying to connect with your old girlfriend. I want to put the house back to the way it was, and you're cutting down trees and putting up satellite dishes. I want to buy the painting and you...
Simon: That bloody painting again. Why is it so damned important?
Ann: It belongs here. It's meaningful. I guess I want to do something meaningful.
Simon: Why is this painting meaningful, but my Harley is not?
Ann: The Harley, the cigars, the "Wine Online." It's...frivolous. You keep spending all this money on stuff that doesn't matter. Maybe I've spent too much time studying St. Clare. Maybe I envy her and her followers their poverty.
Simon: You hypocrite. You talk about poverty and fundraise for the church like some tweedy society matron. Is there some switch in your brain that gets stuck so that you can't make the connection that's so bleeding obvious to the rest of the world?
Simon: How can you study this woman and not get it? She didn't see some virtue in poverty. It was the freedom she was after. By giving it all up--money and marriage and stuff--she was free. Do you even have a clue what freedom is?
Ann: Of course I "get it." In case you don't remember, I made my living by "getting it," or at least as far as St. Clare is concerned. And for your information, I do understand what freedom is. I'm free now. I can choose how to spend my time, and who to spend it with. I can choose my research...
Simon: That's it? That's freedom for you? Christ, you live in a narrow little world! This house has us by the balls Ann. Wake up.
(sound of door slamming)
Transcript: "Interpretation Committee" meeting , Afternoon, 25 August, 1999. Present AS, ST, EK, FC, SJ, MJ, CV
Ann: Emma, is the tape on?
Emma: Yes, I just turned it on.
Ann: Thanks. Well, as you know, there's been the suggestion that we open the house up for tours on some sort of regular basis. It would allow us to apply for some tax relief, and to get more of the place restored. I thought before a decision was made whether to go ahead or not, we should start by talking about what we'd want people to learn here if and when they come.
Simon: Why do they need to learn anything? Give 'em a cup of tea and a cake, let them wander around, sell a few postcards and provide a loo. What else do we need to do?
Ann: We can't just have people wandering around aimlessly. There needs to be a point to it.
Simon: Ah, yes. A point. Getting out of their own houses seems point enough to me.
Emma: Well, you're paying me to do research. You might as well use it. It's already out there on the web.
Frank: Are you happy with the story so far?
Simon: As a matter of fact, no. From what you've told me, you've got a pampered "lady" who poisons her husband, her daughter who lives forever and was probably a royal pain in the ass, a playboy who ran off with his secretary after mucking up the house, and then the most recent lot--a fascist, a God-awful looking old maid, and a homosexual. Why don't you just cut through the historical BS tell it like it was instead of dressing it up?
Emma: We don't know any of that yet.
Shirley: I know for a fact that Mr. Montogomery wasn't a homosexual.
Frank: And if he were, it's nobody's business.
Ann: I agree with Emma completely. She's just starting her research. We don't know anything for sure about where Fanny Blake came from, or how her husband died, or much at all about the family in the nineteenth century. Emma's got a long list of questions about the last owners. We can't just start making assumptions! Emma, where do you think we should go next?
Emma: That's up to you--it's your project. Frankly, I don't really care about any of this stuff. I haven't had a chance to touch on the people who really mattered here--the gardeners, house servants, tenants. They're the ones that kept the place going, who built the place so that the William Halls of the world could play.
Martin: Yes. The gardeners. You should find out more about them.
Simon: You think people are going to come all the way out here to learn about the gardeners? Why?
Martin (to himself): Well, we've grown some pretty fine vegetables ...
Shirley: I think Mr. Tinsley is right. Who cares about the house servants? We're always under appreciated.
Ann: I agree with Emma. We have to look at everyone who was here. It just seemed easier to start with the owners. People need to understand them to appreciate Stoney Grove.
Frank: I think you're all missing the point. Go stand out on the lawn at dusk, or by the lake as the sun is coming up. Smell the earth. Listen. That is what this place is. It's everything that happened here, and everything that will happen. If you pay attention, you don't need a guidebook or a web site. Having holidaymakers wandering around to learn about William Blake or Miss Hall is not going to change them, or it. If you want people to know Stoney Grove, ask them to listen, to feel.
Ann: I see your point Frank, but not everyone has your, well, sensibilities. I do think there's value in talking about the past, in learning about it. We're all trying to pin down something intangible--the uniqueness of a place, the importance of being connected to something larger than ourselves. I just think people need some tools.
Chester: I think Ann's right. I don't see how you can miss it; the story is the house. This is a magnificent piece of architecture, with a rich story of eighteenth-century design to tell. People will flock to hear it.
Emma: Will they? Do you really think there's something intrinsically valuable about eighteenth century buildings, or are we just trying to convince everyone that they should stay in their place, to show them there have always been hierarchies, and wealthy people that set the rules, so that the rules we follow now are natural and we shouldn't question them?
Simon: I think we're just wasting time. Do what you want. Fill the house with gentlemen--or gardeners. The thing is, figure out a way to fill it with sight-seers so we can make some money. Not that it's so important now. I heard from the lawyers--we're getting some cash out of the lottery after all.
Ann: Really? What happened? Simon, don't go. We aren't finished yet.
Simon: Aren't we?
To Catch a Thief
In a trial that brought many members of Puckering's
"high society"to the witness stand, Gerald Anderson of Jerry's Antiques was
found guilty of burglary and breaking and entering on 18 August at the Magistrate's Court
in Hove. Appearing for the prosecution were Mrs. N. Archer Winston, proprietress of
Silken Treasures and cousin to the thirteenth Earl of Sussex, Colonel Nigel Bratherton,
Mr. Nigel Morcombe, Esquire and Lady Imogene Studley-Smythe. Simon Tinsley and Ann Simmons
of Stoney Grove were also called to the stand. All testified to the disappearance of
prized belongings following a visit by Mr. Anderson, or first-hand knowledge of goods in
his shop that later were found to be stolen.
The defense rallied, presenting testimony by Mrs. Lydia Stenhouse who taught the defendant's fifth form mathematics class, and Mrs. Shirley Johnson whose daughter Elizabeth was a long-time friend of Mr. Anderson. Mrs. Johnson has herself dealt in the occasional antique. "Jerry's a good bloke," she argued, "he never meant anyone any harm."
Upon taking the stand, Mr. Anderson explained what had lead to his life of crime. "I never thought I was really stealing," he claimed, "I just couldn't bear the thought that people owned things and they didn't know what they were. In some cases, they didn't even know they had 'em. Well, I knew. I love old things. I just wanted them to find a home where they could be appreciated."
The magistrates took a dim view of such sentimentalism, sentencing Mr. Anderson to a year and a day behind bars at Brixton.
"Justice has been served," said Sergeant Archer, the arresting officer on the case. "I hate to see Jerry put away, but you can't go around knicking people's stuff. If he's a good lad, he'll be out soon enough."--Nigel Twicks
Lindfield Best Village?
The results of the best village competition bought disappointment for Puckering this week when it was announced that Lindfield was this year's winner. The judges noted its lack of litter, fine high street and well kept pond. "And the Public Lavatories were spotless," opined the prize committee. Colonel Bratherton was sanguine about the result. "I think we did our best but the story about the rat in the toilet (Gazette Volume XXVII, No. 19) got out and I think that hurt us. Next year, with hard work and a little bit of luck, we should win out."--Nigel Twicks
Puckering Profiles: More Can Be Less
The Morcombes, stalwart village citizens for these last forty years, have nothing to hide. At the forefront of village politics, Nigel takes an active role in village affairs and also serves as the captain of the Puckering Irregulars. Honoria Morcombe can readily be seen around the village taking part in church fund raising and helping at the infant school. Some would argue that she can be more readily seen pursing the couple's weekend hobby. The Morcombes are Nudists, spending their holidays in resorts with like-minded people and going to a local club for a break.
Their idea of a relaxing weekend may not be everyone's cup of tea. "People think it's all about orgies and sex," said Mrs. Morcombe, "but that couldn't be further from the truth. Nigel likes to potter in the allotment that he has at the club, and I sit by the pool and knit. Nudism is quite ordinary. There has even been an issue of Gardeners' Question Time from the naturalist garden club in Kent, though I thought they were very focused on the dangers of cacti, roses and brambles. I always wear gloves."
For this article, Nigel Morcombe shied away from such exposure, wanting to talk about traditional values and local pride. "What disappoints me today," he complained, "is that young people have no commitment to the village way of life. Team sports are somehow seen as anti-individual or some such poppycock. We are in danger of losing the things that made this country great. I don't know what will become of us all." When challenged to define naturalism's role in traditional village life, Morcombe sees no contradiction. "English life is about more than tweed and mackintoshes," he claims, "Certainly we should keep abreast of change, but not pursue it willy-nilly. Instead, we should stand firm in support of what's important: God and country." --Nigel Twicks
Cricket at Stoney Grove Again!
In a wonderful return to tradition the last game of the season for the Puckering Irregulars was played at Stoney Grove. For captain Nigel Morcombe it was a marvelous moment of history. "Cricket is our national game," he enthused. "It's steeped in tradition and our sportsmen today with their griping over money would do well to remember their village cricket roots. This is where the real game is played. Those losing whiners on the national team would do well to remember the bulldog spirit and never say die attitude that we have. We had lost every game this season but we never quit. They should have let us compete in the World Cup!" --Lumpy Gaites