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Episode 13: Volume XXXII, No. 33

Saturday, October 2, 1999             50p.

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Cuppa with Shirley
Ann's Letters
Simon's E-mail
House and Grounds
Site Map
Letters to the Editor
Lost and Found Lovers
The Wednesday night Singles' meeting at the Bell  was interrupted when, with the passion of true romance, Nigel Winter burst into the pub and declared his love for Mary Summers.  As their story tearfully unfolded, others attending the meeting learned that the true love of this couple was stymied by the loveless marriage of Nigel. Unable to keep apart, they had communicated through the classifieds in the Puckering Gazette, arranging meetings through the Lost and Found column.

After several months, Nigel called the affair off, unable to deal with the guilt of infidelity. It was this that sparked Mary to populate the village with mementos of their relationship, something which unfortunately affected the outcome of the Best Village competition. Still, for Nigel it was the sign that she truly loved him. When his wife left him last week to move in with an  insurance salesman from Crawley he knew what he had to do.

This reporter's eyes misted over when Nigel, hair carefully parted, came into the pub with a bunch of flowers and dropped to one knee in front of the emotional Mary. The couple were later seen sitting in the corner holding hands, sharing a bag of cheese and onion crisps and poring over past classifieds - together. --Lumpy Gaites


Guild Gathers to Honour O'Rall

Crowds gathered at the Upper Puckering Community Library on Tuesday night to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Helena O’Rall’s bestseller Last Taxi to Kensington. The library, in conjunction with the South Downs Writers’ Guild, hosted a gala evening.  This included a lecture by noted literary critic Eugenia Dowley, a dramatic reading from the text by librarian Katherine Crowder-Switts as Loretta and Guild member Ian Sonderleigh as Arthur, and a fine reception.

Miss Dowley traced the history of the book’s success, noting that whilst originally dismissed by critics as "just another romance novelist," O’Rall has come to be recognized as a pioneer in feminist literature. Her heroine, the young heiress Loretta Princeton, denied her heart’s wish, Sussex farmer Arthur Kingsley, to answer the call of God and country as an RAF nurse. "Through her young lovers, O’Rall profoundly influenced a generation’s understanding of the complexity of women’s experience during that troubled but triumphant period of our nation’s history," concluded Dowley. "Loretta Princeton became a guiding light for later feminist authors."

After a half century, the identity of the author who adopted the pen name of Helena O’Rall remains a mystery. Her most famous novel, set in wartime Britain, reveals the author’s deep understanding of the West Sussex way of life. Indeed, much of the story unfolds during Loretta’s fortnight with her aunt in Puckering, and features local shops and businesses, as well as scenes set at the Upper Puckering Parish Church and in the surrounding countryside. Following the success of Taxi, O’Rall authored three additional novels, the last published in 1963.

"Based on the overwhelming success of our program tonight, we’d like to host other events honouring authors who write about local themes," said Miss Crowder-Switts. "We’re in the planning stages for an afternoon program highlighting Miss Betsy Winches’ Ten Cups a Day: A Tea Drinker’s Guide to Health, and have begun discussions on an evening built around Nigel Rockmorton’s Horses, Hounds and Hedges: Rides through Puckering and the South Downs.—Lumpy Gaites

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Puckering Paper Published No More
After nearly 100 years of covering local, national and international news, the editor is sad to announce that this will be the last issue of the Puckering Gazette in the foreseeable future. Founded in 1898 by the very late Nigel E. Twicks, the current editor's great grandfather, the paper has served the community in war and peace, adversity and prosperity.  Over the last five years, competition from other news sources, including electronic media, have significantly affected the profitability of the paper. The newspaper does not bring in enough revenue to pay for costs, and with the loss of talented reporter and writer Lumpy Gaites (see Puckering Profiles) the editor is unable to continue alone.  Unless a new owner is found it seems likely that Puckering will permanently lose its only local newspaper. --Nigel Twicks

Puckering Profiles:  Gaites to Close Career at Gazette?
Reginald "Lumpy" Gaites has announced his resignation from the Puckering Gazette to pursue a career as a novelist. Gaites, best known for his gutsy coverage of the Irregulars, but also a regular contributor to the news section, leaves the paper with mixed emotions.

"I’ve really enjoyed my time here," he notes, "but I’ve always wanted to concentrate on my fiction. I have a bit of a romantic streak in me, you see, and it can’t be expressed by covering the Irregulars. Not that they’re not a fine group of lads."

Between stories of valiant efforts on the pitch and the steady rise of local crime, Lumpy found time to write his first novel, an historical work set in pre-war Germany. "Daybreak in Dresden," the first of a series, has been accepted by a major London publishing house, and is expected out next year. The receipt of an advance for the second book, "Noon in Nimes," has provided the budding author with the financial freedom to pursue his passion full time.

Fittingly, his love of the historical romance genre began when, as a young lad, he began reading the work of Helena O’Rall, the novelist who penned such classics as "Adrift at Sea" and "Last Taxi to Kensington." Long rumoured to be a resident of Puckering, her identity has remained a mystery.

"I’ll never forget the last scene in Taxi," sighs Gaites. "It can still bring a tear to my eye. If I could write like that, I would."

Gaites has outlined two additional books, "Sunset in Sargosa" and "Midnight in Milan" to round off his fledgling series. "The books will give me a chance to do some travelling, to see the world. I’ve always wanted to go to Spain, and the missus is a pasta fanatic. Write something about Italy, she keeps pleading. I think I will." --Nigel Twicks

Excerpted from Last Taxi to Kensington 1949 - Helena O’Rall’s
"She came to him, heart fluttering beneath the thin gauze that stretched across her ample breasts. He wrapped her in his arms, burying his granite features in the soft curl of her luxurious auburn hair. "I’ll never let you go, m’love," he whispered. "You must," she sighed. "You know this must end…" And, tearing herself from his embrace, she turned to the taxi driver. "Kensington," she sobbed, stepping into the maw of the black behemoth. Within seconds, she had gone, and all that remained was the bittersweet memory of a warm summer evening."

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