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)
Well, I'm glad somebody has come to visit me. Seems like everyone else is leaving this house. Frank's gone back to the Hermitage with his tail between his legs. Was skulking around the garden for a few days, talking to Martin, and then he moved out. Don't know what that was all about; don't suppose its any of my business, really. Then Mr. Tinsley took off like Easy Rider the other day and hasn't come back. Not that I blame him, mind you. His girlfriend running up to London for an overnight with another man! You know, Chester Vyse, the building inspector. I can't imagine running around with him, can you? Still, she's an odd one, and maybe talking about mortar joints and dry rot does more for her than most folks. She also took that Emma Knytleigh with her. Good riddance, that's what I say to her. Nothing but a common muckraker parading as a historian. If she's a historian, the Sun is a serious newspaper. She lures Miss Irene and Miss Gladys out here with the promise of a cuppa and a cake, and before you know it they're telling all kinds of tales. Even pulled out an old photo of ...well, never mind. None of it's true, and more to the point, none of its anybody's business. Especially with John here. He doesn't need all that dragged up from the past. I've done what I can to help. And now, talking about Betsy like she's common trash! I could throttle that little weasel, I could.
Yes, I suppose I should calm down. Good idea; a cup of tea is just the thing. I always say there's nothing like a pot of tea to soothe the nerves.
Since that old Mr. Darnell passed away in the dining room, SHE's been quiet. There's been the occasional slamming door, and the other day I came into the kitchen and my bread hadn't risen, but mostly things are back to normal. I hope they stay that way.
I'm off to the shop in a few minutes to put out some new stock. Fancy a walk to the village with me? Let's just have that tea before we go...
In Olde Things Forgotten
No need to rearrange the furniture for me and James. Well sleep anywhere you want us to. Hopefully theres a demilitarized zone somewhere in all the thousands of rooms you call home! (Only kidding.) Just keep me away from the barIm on the wagon right now, but more about that when I come. James is an easy guesthell do almost anything and enjoy it. Were both just looking forward to some time away together, and of course, to seeing you!
Ive been a writing fiendanother chapter done and two more outlined. Dissertation hell may not be eternal after all. Ive been thinking about what I might actually do when Im finishedI never really believed there could be an "after" until recently. Maybe Ill stay here and work. Im becoming attached to the place.
Ive booked our flight to Gatwickwe need to take a puddle jumper to Antigua and then have a direct shot across. Ive forgotten the detailsthe travel agent still has the tickets, so Ill write again before we come to let you know flight times, numbers, etc. In the meantime, keep me posted on the ins and outs of life at Stoney Grove, so that I dont put my foot in my mouth and get poisoned by the housekeeper.
Be good. Try to make friends with the world
As always, thanks for your card. The plot here thickens. If youre worried about saying the wrong thing, right now I dont think youll be safe talking to anyone. Scandal abounds, and unfortunately, Im in the middle of the worst of it.
The good news is that our financial woes have been solved. The state was forced to pay up--which they have--and now our lawyers are pursuing them for damages. So, we could end up with more money rather than less after all this.
Money, however, hasn't made everything alright. Ive made such a mess of things!! The portrait of Fanny Rawlins Blake was auctioned off at Christies last Thursday, and I invited Emma and Chester to come up to London with me. I knew Simon wouldnt comehes taken a real dislike to even the idea of the portrait, and anyway, were still barely speakingand I wanted some moral support. Since the auction finished late, I booked us three rooms at the Savoy for the night. I got the painting for a great price, and shes wonderful. I love her! As a matter of fact, shes hanging up now, and I can hardly keep from going to look at her a hundred times a day. Whatever Simon says, I think she belongs here.
The bad news, unfortunately, is that Chester got it into his head that I invited him along for a night of passion. The three of us went out for a few drinks after the auction, and we were a little tipsy. Emma left us to go to bed, and Chester volunteered to help me up to the room with the painting. When we got there, he leapt on me. Chester! Can you imagine? No, I suppose you cant, since you havent met him yet, but youll understand when you do that the whole notion of passion between us is absurd. Hes been a good friend, but to be honest, hes too much like me for there to be a spark. I told him no and he got all huffy and said he was in love with me. Im afraid I wasnt very sympathetic. How could I be? I think Im still in love with Simon, in spite of everything. I criticized him for believing I could just "get over" being angry with him, but in a funny way, he was right. As soon as Chester made a pass at me, I realized that I wanted Simon.
Its all so embarrassing. I just hope Chester doesnt say something stupid to anyone. Not that anything happened, but Simon doesnt need to know about any of this. Hes never liked Chester and has a habit of threatening to beat up men who upset me.
Emmas also stirred up a bees nest. She interviewed two little old ladies that have lived in Puckering since the Flood, and they let slip that Shirleys daughter had an illegitimate child. Emma triumphantly confronted her with this little piece of family history, and Shirley has been spitting mad ever since. Now shes not speaking to me, not only because I sent her friend to jail, but because I employ a "sneaky little weasel."
Emma and Frank have also had some sort of falling out. I havent had to energy to pursue it with her yet, but hes moved back into the Hermitage, and shes steadfastly remained here.
Its all getting to be too much. Simon is distant, Emma is pouting, and Shirley wont speak. In fact, the only one who does want to talk to me is Chester, who keeps earnestly suggesting that we get together and "sort this out". I dont want to talk. I just want him to back off.
I am looking forward to a long talk with you. Come as soon as you can!
Gone to see a friend. I fancied a change of scenery. Have taken the bike out for a few days to see what it can do. Don't wait up for me-HA!
How can I begin to apologize for the ungentlemanly way I behaved in London? I understand completely why you haven't wanted to see me, but I really do believe we need to talk. Please, please come down to the Idiot tonight and we'll work through this--like friends.
|Dear Mr. Tinsley and Miss Simmons,
Please find enclosed your second installment check (for July) of $178,750.32 from the Grand Slam Lottery.
|Dear Miss Simmons and Mr. Tinsley,
We are delighted to inform you that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been ordered to continue regular payments of your Grand Slam lotto winnings and to pay all legal fees to date. Additionally, the firm of McBeal, Cage and Thomas is continuing to seek damages against the Lottery Commission to compensate you for actual costs incurred during the period where payments were not forthcoming, and for pain and suffering incurred by the interruption of said cash flow. We expect this portion of the case to be resolved shortly, and I have no doubt that they will communicate the outcome directly to you.
Congratulations on the successful outcome of your litigation. I have enclosed an invoice for our services to date.
P. Endicott Krasman
I think you might have been drunk when you sent the last email, and I think it might have been meant for Jackie.
I never knew about her visiting you at University and I think you were very mean about Caroline. She has always been very nice about you, even when you went off to America.
What's up with you? Your last email was very odd, and I think you meant to send it to Phil!
Love and stuff
ps. I agree with you about Caroline.
This is to confirm your order for two tickets for the Nottingham Merry Monks Beer festival. You may pick up the tickets at the Robin Hood tent.
This year's event promises a spectacular time for all. We have a wide selection of Ales--all served by the pretty wenches of the forest-- whilst you are serenaded by Will and the Scarletts with their repertoire of bawdy drinking songs. The food is cooked on open air fires and the finale of the evening is the Sheriff of Nottingham roast.
Join us with your Maid Marion for a rollicking good time!
I've been to the Idiot having a few more bevvies with my cricket mates. We're mates aren't we? Good to have mates we've been mates for a long time, long time mates. Why did you marry caroline? I mean she's great and all that and quite good looking but she's a bit - I cant spell preten-shus! I tried but I cant. Anyway she's really nice but I just thought you could do better. You need someone who brings out the fun in you because you can be a bit dull. You're not dull it's just that you need to be encouraged to have fun. Like Ann, Ann doesn't know how to have fun. Ann and I had fun I really like Ann. Why does she hate me? She's gone to London with Chester to buy a bloody painting. I really hate Chester. He a pompous twit and he's losing his hair. He is no fun. Why won't anyone have any fun?
I think I better go now.
Hello old thing, I'm just back from the Idiot went on my bike which was great I love my bike. They have this really god beer at the Idiot Nun's Habit which is quite funny if you think about it. There's some good blokes at the pub, nice to go where someone will talk to me.
We used to have a good time didn't we? You should never have broken up with me. Why did you go out with Phil? I mean he's a nice bloke, I mean he's a great bloke really my best friend is Phil but why did you go out with him? He is a bit boring, I mean he can be whn he's not with me. And caroline don't get me started on Caroline. Stick up her butt the size of china! Still we had our fun didn't we? Remember when you came up to see me at universoty. When you were still going out with Phil. That was wild, we did everything! You are a wild, wild lady.
So I just wanted to say, you know, thanks cos we had fun didn't we.
I'm so sorry. I think I was a bit drunk when I sent the email which of course was meant to go to Jackie. That stuff about Jackie... she just came for a visit and we had a bit of a laugh. And Caroline's great, I really mean that. I'm glad you two are happy. I wish I had that with Ann but she's gone off to London to buy a painting and Chester has gone with her. I really don't like that man.
Give us a call or something,
Dining Room Conversations
Transcript: "Conversation with Irene Kent and Gladys Rutherford , 1999." Present IK, GR, EK
Emma: I want to thank you both for coming by and helping us.
Gladys: Oh, thank you for inviting us. We don't get out much now, do we Irene?
Irene No, well with the arthritis, it gets hard doesn't it?
Gladys: And it's hardly safe on the roads these days, everyone drives so fast, don't they?
Irene: Road Rage, that's what it is. I heard about it on the radio. They shoot each other in America!
Emma: Could you tell me about life at Stoney Grove when the Halls were here?
Irene: Oh, he was a nice man wasn't he? Monty was very quiet, but a gentleman.
Gladys: Well class will show. It's all in the blood really, isn't it?
Irene: Breeding. Aren't these cakes nice. We don't have cake much now, do we Gladdy?
Gladys: Well, when you're on a pension you have to cut back. We don't all live in great houses, you know. We used to get invited here when we were younger. After the war Monty gave a number of small house parties. That was nice. There was rationing you know, but they usually found some meat here. Still you're much too young to know about all that.
Irene: We have some photographs, if you'd like to see them.
Gladys: Yes, thank you. Do you know who these people are?
Irene: Why that's Mr. Monty Hall and Shirley Johnson.
Emma: Shirley? Shirley who is still the housekeeper here? Did she attend the parties?
Irene: Oh, yes. There were those who said it wasn't right, her being 'below stairs', but Miss Ellen never had any time for private entertaining, and he had to have a lady host didn't he?
Gladys: Shirley was a quite a looker in her day, you know. There were several men after her, but of course she was married to Martin, with that poor baby Elizabeth.
Emma: Elizabeth was her daughter?
Irene: Yes, born right after she married Martin. I'm not one to drag up old gossip, but one day she was gone to her aunt's and we never saw her again.
Gladys: She died, you see. A real shame, wasn't it?
Emma: Who Shirley?!
Irene: No, Elizabeth, her daughter. Terrible it was, and that child of hers never knowing his Father.
Emma: Shirley never knew who her daughter's father was?!
Irene: You don't listen very well for a researcher, do you? Shirley is another story, not that there wasnt some gossip there too, but I was talking about Elizabeth.
Gladys: She never recovered from the pregnancy they said...
Irene: ...And the shame.
Gladys: ...So after her son was born she stayed with Shirley's sister Vera, but she never recovered and when the poor thing passed away they looked after the son, John. He's working here now too, isn't he?
Emma: So Elizabeth never told who the father was?
Irene: Well there were suspicions of course. She was young and a wild one. She had the run of this place as a child, spoilt by the Halls when she was a baby. Treated her like one of their own they did.
Emma: And none of the Halls married?
Gladys: Well they say Monty was disappointed in love as a young man. Ellen had her writing, of course, she never had any time for nonsense like romance, and Basil lost his fiancée. Very tragic it was.
Irene: We think Basil had friends.
Gladys: Not that we're ones to gossip are we Irene?
Irene: No, I wouldn't gossip, but people talk, and they said he had friends in London.
Irene: Now before the war there were parties here. Politics, I think, but we were just girls then. They even said he might join Parliament, Basil, that is. But with the war, I think he was with the wrong camp.
Irene: Is there more tea?
Gladys: Perhaps I could have just one more piece of cake. You have to have a little indulgence, don't you?
Emma: Well perhaps we've had enough for today. Maybe we could meet again another day.
Irene: That would be lovely wouldn't it, Gladdy?
Gladys: Oh, yes, lovely.
Emma: Thank you.
Irene: Thank you.
Gladys: Tell Shirley thank you for the lovely tea, too. I hope we didn't say anything we shouldn't have. It's all old news now, isn't it?
Emma Knytleigh brought the tape recorder to London to record the auction proceedings. By mistake, other proceedings were also captured on tape...
At the Savoy (evening, 2 September 1999)
Ann: I cant believe we got her! Shes so beautiful! The frame is in rough shape, but we can have that restored, and the canvas can be cleaned and
Chester: Good job!
Emma: Its amazing what you can buy if you have some money to spend.
Chester: But it was ever so cheap. Well below the estimate. Well done!
Emma: Well, Im shattered. Too much excitement, and wine, for me. Heres my stop. Breakfast downstairs at half past eight?
Ann: Yeah, that sounds great.
Emma: Chester, arent you staying on this floor too?
Chester: Im just going to help Ann carry the painting back to her room.
Emma: Fine. Oh, Ann, can you take the tape recorder? Im afraid Ill drop it or something. Oh, damn, Ive been recording all of this. (tape stops)
Ann: hope I didnt break anything. Let me have a look.
Chester: Leave it Ann.
Ann: This has been the most exciting day! What shall we do to celebrate? Could you face another drink? Id like a nightcap.
Chester: Mmmm. Yes, a nightcap sounds like just the thing.
Ann: Let me see what Ive got is Scotch alright?
Chester: I fancy a G&T. Is that too demanding?
Ann: No, thats fine. Here you are.
Chester: Great. Thanks very much.
Ann: Cheers. Lets have another look at her. Oh, Chester, shes great!
Chester: So beautiful
Ann: Yeah, she really is. Beautiful and mysterious.
Chester: Ann, I wasnt talking about the painting just now. I was talking about you. Come here, I have an idea
Ann: Chester? Did you hear something? I think I might have turned the tape on by mistake.
Chester: Oh, Ann. Forget about the tape. I want to turn you on (long pause)
Ann: No, no, stop. Chester, please. Oh, no. (sound of giggling).
Chester (quite loudly): Ann! Stop laughing. Whats so funny?
Ann: Im sorry. Oh dear. Oh, really, I am. You just caught me by surprise.
Chester: And my kissing you was funny?
Ann: Dont get all defensive. Im sorry. Its just you and me kissing in front of Fanny. Sort of incestuous.
Chester: Incestuous? Hardly. Go on, kiss me again. (longish pause).
Ann: (Giggles.) No, no. Weve got to stop this. I cant. Whats come over you?
Chester: Nothings "come over" me. Give us another kiss
Ann: No, seriously Chester. This isnt right. Stop it.
Chester: Oh Ann, I think you wanted this too. (singing) Savoy the home of true romance. Da da, give happy feet the chance to dance Dance with me Ann. Isnt this what you hoped for when you invited me to come up to the auction and spend the night?
Ann: No! I wanted you to come because youre a friend, because you like this sort of thing. I dont know how you could have thought.... Really Chester, this is absurd.
Chester: Do you think its absurd that Im in love with you?
Ann: Youre in love with me? Wait a minute. Since when? What?
Chester: I think since I met you that day in Puckering. When we talked over breakfast about your work, about medieval history and about Stoney Grove. I thought you felt something too, but didnt want to pursue it, not then. As long as you and Simon were together, I never would have said anything, but now
Ann: Now-- what? Simon and I are still together.
Chester: Well, er, technically, but youre not really together, are you?
Ann: Chester, hang on. How do you know whats going on between me and Simon? What possible business is it of yours?
Chester: Of course its my business, damn it! I just told you that I was in love with you. Is that so incredible?
Ann: No. No, its not. Its quite sweet.
Chester: And youve got to admit, Simons not the sort of bloke youll be happy with. I think in your heart, youve admitted that.
Ann: No I havent! Why should I? Whats wrong with Simon and me?
Chester: Oh come off it Ann. Stop playing with me. Youve been fighting, youve moved into a separate bedroom for Gods sake, and I think you made it pretty clear to everyone that he was on the way out when you asked me to come up to London with you. Did you really have no intentions of making love to me tonight?
Ann: Really, I didnt.
Chester: Why not?
Ann: Because Im in love with Simon. I always have been.
Chester: Thats just crap. Dont use Simon as an excuse. You cant be in love with him. Hes so
Ann: So what?
Chester: Socommon. He doesnt give a toss about anything really meaningful. Hes botched up the house, hes not serious about things, he didnt even care about the painting. You cant love him.
Ann: Chester, I think youd better leave.
Chester: No, listen
Ann: Chester, dont push me. Get out. Now.
Chester: Alright then. Well talk tomorrow. Good night.
Ann: Dont hold your breath. Good night.
Ann: Oh, shit. (tape shuts off).
Village Flower Show raided by Police
Village police were called to the scene of the annual Upper Puckering Late Summer Flower Show yesterday afternoon where they confiscated several exhibits. To the horror of local floral enthusiasts, the displays in question contained cannabis plants.
"Once we got a report of what they were, we acted quite quickly," said Sergeant Archer. "However, after interviewing the exhibitors, I don't think we will be pressing charges at this time. Mrs. Beetle is 94 and she says she got the plants for some greenery when she was walking. She was surprised because she hadn't seen anything quite like them before and admired the leaves."
Another exhibitor, Morris Pendlethorpe of Meads Cross, believed the greenery in his display to be a rare Austrian meadow grass. He has so far refused to reveal his source, admitting only that he "pinched it from private property." Police have not been able to track down where the plants were originally grown. --Lumpy Gaites
Village Terrorized by Mad Biker
Local police have received several complaints lately concerning a motorcyclist who seems to have little regard for his fellow travelers. "He was a great big man," said Louise Wilton. "He just came out of nowhere and nearly ran me down. It's not right. I'm 73 years old and I can't go hopping back over the curb. I could have done myself a mischief."
"All I saw was dust. All I heard was a roar, like the roar of the sea in a bad storm. Then it was over," said Mrs. Stenhouse, who was on her way to the post office when she had her close encounter.
Sergeant Archer admitted that at the moment the police have no suspects, but feels that most probably the biker was someone from the council estate in Lower Puckering. The bike has been tentatively identified as a recent model Harley. --Nigel Twicks
Puckering Profiles: Martin Johnson, A Man and His
For Martin Johnson, this time of the year is one of excitement and trepidation. It is now that a year's work can come to fruit when he lays out his best for all to see. For his entire adult life, Martin has been the head gardener at Stoney Grove and much of that time has been spent growing large vegetables for competition.
A quiet man not given to many words, Martin can get quite agitated when it comes to the 'Big Vegetable' contests. "It's cut-throat," he warns. "When I first got started, I lost a lot of aubergines to some hooligan who crept into the garden at night and smashed them to pieces. It broke my heart. Several years later a bloke from Birmingham hopped over the wall on the estate to try and sabotage my courgettes. This time I was ready for him. He won't be causing mischief no more. I wouldn't leave my babies at this time of year."
Martin has won prizes in several categories over the years, including carrots and turnips, but he feels it's with courgettes that he's making his biggest mark. "It's not just size," he explains. "They look at many things like colour and shape too. They're really beautiful things, courgettes are. Most people don't look at em. They just eat em."
Martin is proud to work at Stoney Grove where he has been able to pursue his passion for large vegetables. He's recently been finding out more about the history of the landscape at the house, but says that much of it is a little disappointing. "It's all show and design, I don't think they really loved the plants, they just used them like furniture. But I do like feeling that there is a history there, that seeds have fallen and germinated over hundreds of years."
This summer, Martin has been pleased to have his grandson John White working with him. John grew up in Somerset but came to spend this summer in Puckering after completing a degree in drama at University. "I believe he could become a good gardener if he put his mind to it," says Martin proudly. Perhaps it's in his roots. --Nigel Twicks