Summary Page

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
Ann's Letters
Simon's e-mail
Dining Room
Puckering Gazette

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

Ann's Letters

To Ann:
Hey Annie,

No need to rearrange the furniture for me and James. We’ll sleep anywhere you want us to. Hopefully there’s a demilitarized zone somewhere in all the thousands of rooms you call home! (Only kidding.) Just keep me away from the bar—I’m on the wagon right now, but more about that when I come. James is an easy guest—he’ll do almost anything and enjoy it. We’re both just looking forward to some time away together, and of course, to seeing you!

I’ve been a writing fiend—another chapter done and two more outlined. Dissertation hell may not be eternal after all. I’ve been thinking about what I might actually do when I’m finished—I never really believed there could be an "after" until recently. Maybe I’ll stay here and work. I’m becoming attached to the place.

I’ve booked our flight to Gatwick—we need to take a puddle jumper to Antigua and then have a direct shot across. I’ve forgotten the details—the travel agent still has the tickets, so I’ll 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 don’t put my foot in my mouth and get poisoned by the housekeeper.

Be good. Try to make friends with the world…

Love ya,


Dear Amy,

As always, thanks for your card. The plot here thickens. If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, right now I don’t think you’ll be safe talking to anyone. Scandal abounds, and unfortunately, I’m 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.  I’ve 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 wouldn’t come—he’s taken a real dislike to even the idea of the portrait, and anyway, we’re still barely speaking—and 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 she’s wonderful. I love her! As a matter of fact, she’s 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 can’t, since you haven’t met him yet, but you’ll understand when you do that the whole notion of passion between us is absurd. He’s been a good friend, but to be honest, he’s 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. I’m afraid I wasn’t very sympathetic. How could I be? I think I’m 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.

It’s all so embarrassing. I just hope Chester doesn’t say something stupid to anyone. Not that anything happened, but Simon doesn’t need to know about any of this. He’s never liked Chester and has a habit of threatening to beat up men who upset me.

Emma’s also stirred up a bee’s nest. She interviewed two little old ladies that have lived in Puckering since the Flood, and they let slip that Shirley’s 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 she’s 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 haven’t had to energy to pursue it with her yet, but he’s moved back into the Hermitage, and she’s steadfastly remained here.

It’s all getting to be too much. Simon is distant, Emma is pouting, and Shirley won’t 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 don’t 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!


Other Letters:

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!


Dear Ann,
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.

J. Archibald Dixon
Deputy Treasurer
Department of Revenue and Taxation

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
Director, Krasman and Werthnow, Philadelphia


Simon's e-mail

To Simon

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.


Hello Simon,

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!

From Simon:
To Jackie

Hey Phil

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.



To Phil


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 wasn’t 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.

Gladys: Friends.

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 can’t believe we got her! She’s 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: It’s 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, I’m shattered. Too much excitement, and wine, for me. Here’s my stop. Breakfast downstairs at half past eight?

Ann: Yeah, that sounds great.

Emma: Chester, aren’t you staying on this floor too?

Chester: I’m just going to help Ann carry the painting back to her room.

Emma: Fine. Oh, Ann, can you take the tape recorder? I’m afraid I’ll drop it or something. Oh, damn, I’ve been recording all of this. (tape stops)

(tape starts)

Ann:…hope I didn’t 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? I’d like a nightcap.

Chester: Mmmm. Yes, a nightcap sounds like just the thing.

Ann: Let me see what I’ve got…is Scotch alright?

Chester: I fancy a G&T. Is that too demanding?

Ann: No, that’s fine. Here you are.

Chester: Great. Thanks very much.

Ann: Cheers. Let’s have another look at her. Oh, Chester, she’s great!

Chester: So beautiful…

Ann: Yeah, she really is. Beautiful and mysterious.

Chester: Ann, I wasn’t 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. What’s so funny?

Ann: I’m sorry. Oh dear. Oh, really, I am. You just…caught me by surprise.

Chester: And my kissing you was funny?

Ann: Don’t get all defensive. I’m sorry. It’s 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. We’ve got to stop this. I can’t. What’s come over you?

Chester: Nothing’s "come over" me. Give us another kiss…

Ann: No, seriously Chester. This isn’t 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. Isn’t 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 you’re a friend, because you like this sort of thing. I don’t know how you could have thought.... Really Chester, this is absurd.

Chester: Do you think its absurd that I’m in love with you?

Ann: You’re 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 didn’t 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 you’re not really together, are you?

Ann: Chester, hang on. How do you know what’s going on between me and Simon? What possible business is it of yours?

Chester: Of course it’s my business, damn it! I just told you that I was in love with you. Is that so incredible?

Ann: No. No, it’s not. It’s quite…sweet.

Chester: And you’ve got to admit, Simon’s not the sort of bloke you’ll be happy with. I think in your heart, you’ve admitted that.

Ann: No I haven’t! Why should I? What’s wrong with Simon and me?

Chester: Oh come off it Ann. Stop playing with me. You’ve been fighting, you’ve moved into a separate bedroom for God’s 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 didn’t.

Chester: Why not?

Ann: Because I’m in love with Simon. I always have been.

Chester: That’s just crap. Don’t use Simon as an excuse. You can’t be in love with him. He’s so…

Ann: So what?

Chester: So—common. He doesn’t give a toss about anything really meaningful. He’s botched up the house, he’s not serious about things, he didn’t even care about the painting. You can’t love him.

Ann: Chester, I think you’d better leave.

Chester: No, listen…

Ann: Chester, don’t push me. Get out. Now.

Chester: Alright then. We’ll talk tomorrow. Good night.

Ann: Don’t hold your breath. Good night.

(Long pause)

Ann: Oh, shit. (tape shuts off).

Puckering Gazette

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 Vegetables
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