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, hello there. Come on in, dont be shy. I hope you dont mind if I sit for a minute. Im knackered. Been cleaning the house all day, getting ready for some company of Miss Simmonss. Two friends from the West Indies, mind you. Theyll be complaining about the drizzle and damp, mark my words. And the food, no doubt. None of them funny fruits and beans and rice coming out of my kitchen. Well, okay, beans in a tin maybe, and some of Martins apples and pears. Theyre delicious this time of year.
My goodness, did you see that?
The place is crawling with mice! Makes me skin crawl. Get a cat, says I. Get a mousetrap and break their little necks, says Martin. But no, "we cant discuss the house right now," says Miss Simmons. "Itll upset the balance." Like were the bloody United Nations. Havent seen much evidence of balance around here! Sort out your problems by yourself and let us get on with it, is my advise. But as usual, no one is listening.
Johns gone back to Uni. Hes such a good lad; I miss him already and Martin is quite worked up about it. Hes got a lot of work to do by himself now that Johns gone, and with the cooler weather his rheumatism gets worse. Were all getting older, arent we? Not too much longer now, I said to him the other day. He doesnt like to hear it, does he, but theres no escaping. He'll be compost for those bloody vegetables one day.
Did you read the Gazette this week? Whats the world coming to, when grown adults are acting that way? Next thing you know theyll be scratching cats.
And then the piece about Miss Simmons. Well, shes not the best hostess or the most interested in the affairs of the village, but I did think old Twicks was a bit nasty, didnt you? I mean, really. Accusing her of spending all the money, when any fool knows its Tinsley who cant keep 5p in his pocket. And as to being outspoken, I think thats a bit much. Half the time the girl doesnt speak at all. Anyway, she said something the other day about having some sort of house party to make a gesture. All I see is a week of scrubbing floors and dusting furniture. And my cookings apparently not good enoughthey want to hire a caterer. And Martins flowers; apparently not quite the thing. Theyre bringing in a florist. She said it was to promote local business. I told her you cant get more local than Martin and me. Still, it means less work on some fronts, so I shouldnt complain.
Well, theres the kettle. Please stay for a cuppa. I havent mentioned my sales at the shop, and I want to hear all of your news. And have you been down to the Idiot lately? Havent gone myselfthe publican is getting quite nosy asking all those questions about folks! Everybodys minding everybody elses business these days
In Olde Things Forgotten
Here are the flight details. Were coming into Gatwick on BA flight 2156 on October 1st, and should arrive around 8:40 a.m. James hates to fly, and Ive been getting motion sick lately, so it should be tons of fun. Still, once we hit the ground well be fine.
Well, I guess its hasta la vista, baby. See you real soon!
Thanks for the flight details. Im really looking forward to seeing you on the first. It will be great to have you here!
Simon and I are on the mend. He took off for a few days on his motorcycle when I was in London, and I wondered if that was it for us. It turns out that he went with Phil to some drink-fest in Nottingham. He was happier when he came back, so I guess it was good for him.
Since then weve been getting along much better. Weve actually started dating again, which is sweet and romantic. Last night we went out for an Indian meal and the night before saw a film. All discussions of the house are off limits. That has helped a lot, except that there are some minor issues in need of resolution that we are steadfastly avoiding.
One that were going to have to face soon is a recent infestation of mice. Hopefully theyll all be gone by the time you get here. Id like to get a cat. Simon will probably be for dropping poison all over the place.
Emma is still living here, but Ive sorted out a bedroom for you and James. Shes furious with Frank, and hes looking quite wretched. I still havent asked why. Its better not to know, I think.
Shirley has relented in her campaign against me. I gave her grandson a ride back to University last weekend, and that seemed to placate her somewhat. Hes a great kid; really funny and smart. I hope that all our eccentricities didnt scare him away, and that hell come back before next summer.
Ive also had a brief chat with Chester. He wanted me to meet him for a "heart to heart" at the Idiot, but was willing to settle for a cup of tea on the High Street one afternoon. I told him again that I wasnt interested in a romantic relationship and he said he understood. Well see what happens. And by the way, he is tall and pale, but definitely not balding.
The local paper did a story on me for their last issue, and the reporter was merciless. It seems I havent been fulfilling my manorial duties, or that Ive been too opinionated, too profligate, or just too American. Simon was incensed when he read it, and I was a bit hurt, but we decided to be gracious and invite the editor to our house party anyway. Oh, did I mention that were planning a party while youre here? One of those lavish Great Gatsby type affairs with a string quartet, lots of food and drink, and half the village invited. Something seems to be expected of us, and this will be a fun way of complying.
I'll see you both at Gatwick. Have a safe flight!
As always, thank you for a delightful morning. I am glad we had the chance to talk and "clear the air." Please accept my apologies once again, and be assured of my continued wishes for a lasting friendship.
I can't believe what I read in the Gazette. I was appalled at the utter lack of regard for your generosity, or understanding of your essential nature, that Twicks exhibited. The piece was full of scurrilous hearsay and unwarranted accusations. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Can we meet for lunch to discuss this further?
|Dear Miss Simmons,
On behalf of the Upper Puckering Parish Church, I wish to thank you for your recent donation and express my sincerely gratitude for the role you have played in the restoration of the church. I will, of course, respect your wishes in keeping this donation anonymous, but I could not let such a generous gift go unacknowledged. Your support of the UPPC at recent lectures, and through gifts, has been noticed and much appreciated.
Reverend Nigel L. Banks, UPPC
Why did you tell Phil about us meeting at University? I had this pathetic call from him, all hurt about what happened years ago. Phil is a sweet man who shouldn't be bullied by brutes like you. Anyway I lied to him and said we didn't sleep together so try to remember that! I have no patience for people that think women are the weaker sex. Men are so feeble!
Sorry I couldn't make the Nottingham thing.
I had to tell Caroline you kidnapped me! Not that it was far from the truth. Up and down the street you said, just a little ride. Next thing I know I'm clinging to your back on your bike nearly peeing mysef as we do 80 up the M1. Caroline is beginning to think you are a bad influence - good job you're rich. Anyway I'm in the dog house but that's pretty much the norm these days.
But we had a great time!
I can't believe you bobbed for apples between Maid Marion's breasts. And I thought we put Will Scarlett to shame with our rendition of 'Down in The Valley'. Anyway you're forgiven. I talked things over with Jackie too. I know it's past history but I thought I needed to clear the air. We're friends again.
So when's the party? I think we should plan to do a number!
Your tickets for Cats will be waiting for you at the New London Theatre box office on Saturday, 2 October. Payment for £88.20 will be billed to your Barclay Card. We hope you enjoy the performance.
New London Theatre
Greetings from the firm of McBeal, Cage and Thomas.
Everything's fine on the lottery thing, but I was thinking. How are things with you? In love? In Debt? Eyes wandering? If all's well, great. But if you need help getting out from under an emasculating partner we're here for you. Really. Just don't move out. The agreement you have is probably full of holes. I'm sure we can get you the house.
Just a thought. Let me know.
Why did you come and see me when I was at University? I was still in love with you then and you shamelessly took advantage of me by sleeping with me. You were the first, as you well know, and that always means something special - a least to me. I was really jealous when you started going out with Phil. I knew we were over, but I just couldn't understand why you'd go out with Phil.
Still, it's all history now, isn't it?
Life here is on the up, if it wasn't for the damn mice that have invaded the place. Ann and I are 'dating'. No nookie, but at least we're friendly and we go and do things together, which is fun and gets us out of the house. She has friends arriving soon and we'll have the party when they're here. The boyfriend is West Indian so at least I'll be able to talk cricket. Not sure about the friend. She seems a bit much.
That was fun, wasn't it? You know you were glad you came. And I promise I will never tell Caroline that Sherwood Sally spent much of the evening in your lap. I think we can both agree that green tights look much better on a woman!
Ann has come around a bit. My charm is winning through and we've started dating, so before long all will be right in the world. Ann's friend is coming soon (actually she sounds a bit pushy) but the boyfriend is West Indian so, Mon, I'll be getting in some rum and hearing that reggae sound! I only hope we can get rid off these bloody mice by then.
No woman no cry, no woman no cry!
Dining Room Conversations
Emma Knytleigh: In an attempt to record the current history of Stoney Grove a number of interviews and conversations will be recorded with some of the people who have connections with the estate. Accordingly the Dining Room has been supplied with hidden microphones and recording equipment to allow the process to take place in as natural a setting as possible. Participants are, of course, aware that conversations are being recorded.
AS and ST, 5/9/99
Ann: Simon, you're back! Where have you been? I've been really worried about you!
Simon: You have?
Ann: Yeah, I have. I missed you.
Simon: You did?
Ann: Yeah, I did. Where were you?
Simon: I went up to see Phil. We took off on the bike and went to a fair in Nottingham. You missed me?
Simon: Not to kill the mood here, sweetie, but...why?
Ann: I don't know. I guess I've been thinking about us and, well, I think maybe I was wrong. Maybe we don't have to be so similar to get along. I mean, we have gotten along before, right?
Simon: Course we have. You're great, Ann. I've always thought so! A bit of a bitch on occassion, but...
Ann: Yeah, I know.
Simon: So what do we do now? Are we still fighting? Is this a truce?
Ann: It's a truce. Maybe we could go into negotiations. Call a council or something.
Simon: Could we do it somewhere else? Go out?
Ann: Like on a date?
Simon: Yeah, why not. We've never really dated, have we?
Simon: I suppose this should be platonic, or shall we skip that bit?
Ann: I think it should be platonic. At least for now, until we're sure.
Simon: Bloody hell, Ann. We're stinking rich, we've got everything, and we can't have each other?
Ann: Well, we could, but...
Simon: No, you're right. We'll "date." How 'bout I pick you up tomorrow at 8:00 o'clock?
Ann: Sounds good.
Simon: Let's set one more rule. No talking about the house. Think you can do it?
Ann: You're on. See you later!
EK: You have been at Stoney Grove for fourteen years, correct?
FC: Not really sure, it all rather blends in the middle.
EK: But you were friends with Monty Hall and came to stay here after leaving your job as a English Literature teacher.
FC: Do we have to do this Emma? Why don't you just come back to the Hermitage?
EK: Let's keep this professional, shall we. I'm just interested in the life of the people at Stoney Grove. Oral history is very important, you should know about that. If you won't talk to me privately then I'll appeal to your sense of history.
FC: But I can't tell you what I know. Mr. Hall told me things in confidence.
EK: Frank, I want to understand something about everyone that was here. It doesn't have to be published, but it's important to know about the people that spent their lives here. Did Mr. Hall know who John's father was?
FC: He said she had many gentlemen callers.
EK: Any that are still in the village?
FC: Well Bobby Archer, now Sergeant Archer, of course. Nigel Banks too, as well as Jerry Anderson and Lumpy Gaites.
EK: What did he say about them?
FC: Well Nigel was always fond of the wine. Lumpy was a hopeless romantic, writing her love poems and things. I think they thought Bobby Archer was nicking things. Jerry spent as much time looking at the paintings as he did at Elizabeth.
EK: Did Mr. Hall know the father, or were they considered the cast of possible suspects?
FC: He suspected who it was, but they all called at the house. Elizabeth was a bit spoiled, and I think things got a little wild with drink and drugs.
EK: You know my opinion on that front! But why did she go away?
FC: Mr. Hall said he thought it was the right thing to do. I think he always regretted it, but he thought it was the best thing for her. He was very fond of Betsy and her death was a great shock to him.
EK: Did he help John when he was born?
FC: He said he could hardly bear to see him, but I know he sent money and John visited the house as a boy.
EK: Does Shirley know the father?
EK: Frank are you drifting off? Does Shirley know the father?
FC: Oh yes. Shirley knows the child's father.
Police Drug Force Fails to Uncover Leads
Puckering Police admit to being no nearer in discovering the source of cannabis plants found at the recent Upper Puckering Late Summer Flower Show. Officers have laid traps, including advertisements in the local newspaper, but so far they have come to nothing. "I think we are dealing with a devious criminal mind" was the opinion of Sergeant Robert Archer. "We need to stamp out the weed at its source, lest it destroy the very fabric of village life." --Lumpy Gaites
Man Bites Dog
Controversy surrounded last weekend's game when defender Knobbly Lyles of the Puckering Irregulars apparently bit a dog that had interrupted the match.
Just before the end of the first half, a bull mastiff escaped from its owner's control and ran onto the pitch, disrupting the game. Knobbly dropped to his knees and began barking at the dog. He appeared to lunge at it, causing the large beast to whimper and run off. Knobbly was non-plussed by the event with his only comment being, "You have to show them who's the bigger animal." The game did not progress well for the Irregulars after that, with Knobbly being sent off in the second half and Cattering coming back from 3-0 down to draw the game. (Full report in Sports section). --Nigel Twicks
Anonymous Gift to Church Restoration Fund
The Reverend Nigel L. Banks has reported the receipt of a significant donation to the church restoration fund. Through this anonymous gift, the church has reached the half-way mark in its fundraising effort. "I am not at liberty to say where the money came from," Reverend Banks enthused. "I can say it was a local donor, and was a very generous gift. This will help enormously after the damage we suffered in the recent storm."
The Reverend went on to add that other gifts are still being sought. "God has seen fit to move through this particular donor, but His work is not yet done. Others may feel the call soon, and should heed it. Manna takes many forms-- donors are encouraged to send cash, cheques or money orders," he joked, "or simply to head for the Idiot and down a Nun."
A portion of the donation will be used immediately for repairs to
the church tower, whilst the rest will be applied towards interior restoration and
conservation of the church's noteworthy collection of misericords.--Nigel Twicks
Puckering Profiles: Simmons Hits a Six
Six months have passed since American lottery winner Ann Simmons and her British boyfriend Simon Titsley purchased Stoney Grove. It has been a busy time of adjustments, both for Miss Simmons and for the village community that she has joined.
Miss Simmons, the daughter of an English Literature professor and herself a college instructor for a brief period prior winning the lottery, has tried to bring a scholars perspective to her new life at the Great House. She has instituted a research agenda for the restoration of the mansion that currently involves architectural consultant Chester Vyse, who speaks very highly of her, and trainee historian Emma Knytleigh. She also has plans to employ an archaeologist next spring to undertake investigations of the estates grounds, although this writer knows of no Roman sites in the area. Miss Simmons is also an active participant in the campaign for the restoration of the Upper Puckering Parish Church, and has generously contributed furniture and appliances to local charities.
Still, some in the village feel she could do more. "We could have used her help in the Best Kept Village competition," argues Colonel Bratherton. "Support from Miss Hall at Stoney Grove clinched the title for us several times in the 1950s and 1960s. With a woman on the premises again, we had hoped to reclaim that honour."
Miss Simmonss outspoken attitude towards womens participation in local sport has also drawn fire. "We dont need any of those American libbers burning their brassieres over here," grumbled Nigel Morcombe. "Not that I advocate wearing them, but if theyre going to, they should know their place. And its not on the pitch, its making the teas. We dont want any women bowling bouncers."
Others have noted that, after six months, Miss Simmons still finds her American habits hard to shake. Like most of her countrymen, she is an avid consumer. Even when her income seemed threatened, the new proprietress of Stoney Grove took pleasure in weekend jaunts to Italy, the installation of a costly satellite dish, and most recently, the purchase of an antique portrait valued at thousands of pounds. Plans for a golf course on the grounds are also rumoured.
What will the next six months bring? Miss Simmons was unavailable for comment, but Frank Churchill, whom she employs as a hermit, offered these insights. "When I picture Ann in six months time," he predicted, "I see sunshine, bright colours, and new discoveries."--Nigel Twicks