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
Puckering Gazette

Cuppa with Shirley

If you’re another one of them answering the advert for cleaning, quit your knocking, we don’t need you here. You heard me, get on with you….Well, hello! Sorry about that. Have a seat. Don’t mind me, I’m that worked up about Miss Simmons and her grand ideas about hired help. Can you image—I’ve been the housekeeper at Stoney Grove for over fifty years, and she comes in, and without a word to me writes in the paper that she thinks I’m not up to cleaning this house. I’ve cleaned it a million times, I reckon. The nerve…I’ve half a mind to cancel my subscription to that good-for-nothing rag after the last issue. First there’s her highness making me look useless, and then on the front page—bless me—little Eddie Waterfall is all but accusing me of being a poisoner.  Well, many’s the day he sat at my table when he was a child, eating my good cooking, and asking for seconds. He wasn’t afraid of a good meal then, was he? Now that he’s a doctor, it’s another story. He takes his middle name and moves in with the Upper set. You’d think he’d have grander things to do than attack my cooking. Ooh, there’s the kettle. I’ll just be a minute…

Here you are, dear. Digestive? Go on, take two. What was I saying? Ah, yes, little Eddie... Oh, that reminds me, I’ve got some news that I wouldn’t share with most folks. Yesterday, just after lunch, Martin came in looking paler than one of them onions he loves so much, and trembling like he had the palsy. What do you think? He saw HER, didn’t he? Said she came up out of the lake, all dripping and slimy, crossed the lawn, and headed into the west door of the house. Wouldn’t you know, less than a minute later, out comes his lordship, Tinsley, whistling a tune—never saw a thing, or at least that’s how Martin tells it. She’s back though, that’s sure enough. And you can be sure no good will come of it. Oh, there’s the door again. If it’s one of them cleaners, I think I’ll spit.

Yes Miss Simmons? What do you want? Are you ill? You look like you’ve seen a ghost…

Ann's Letters

From Ann:
Stoney Grove
West Sussex

Dear Amy,

What an extraordinary few weeks we’ve had…a bewildering mixture of the mundane and the bizarre… I’m finding it hard to keep track of everything. Maybe putting it on paper will help.

Where to begin? Simon is being wonderfully efficient. He’s taken charge of the repair work, and has sent off for the building inspector to make us a comprehensive list of what needs to be done, and in what order. Once we have the list, we can get started.

I think it would really help if we knew more about this place. Simon says I can’t cross the street without knowing when the pavement was laid, and by whom, but it does seem that we should find a context for the house before we start hacking it to pieces. I've started to do some serious reading about 18th-century landscapes, and am going up to London in a few days to the British Library (in that horrible new building) to see some original site plans drafted by Culpability Heath. While I'm there I'm going to meet up with Emma Knytleigh, a graduate student at Cambridge, who is doing a degree in post-medieval history and has agreed to research the property. She’s coming to Stoney Grove in a few weeks to get started. It will be good to have someone here that’s under 60 to keep us company!

We actually have a staff of two, Shirley Johnson, the housekeeper, and her husband. They came with the house—literally. We’re legally bound to keep them on, and I don’t mind, except that I always have the feeling that I’ve done something wrong when I’m around Mrs. Johnson, and I haven’t managed to get much more than a grunt out of Mr. Johnson.

Puckering is an odd little place. It’s split into two villages, Upper and Lower. Upper seems to be filled with what passes for old money in this area of Sussex, and everyone is very—polite. Lower Puckering seems more of a fun place—there’s a great pub there that we’ve gone to a few times, and a good Indian take-out, but it’s also quite poor. I thought maybe we could hire some people that live at the local council estate (a sort of government-backed lower income housing area), at least part-time, so I put an ad in the paper a few weeks ago asking for cleaners. No one ever responded, and in the end Mrs. Johnson mentioned that she had some nieces who might come in, as a favor. They did a good job, but I can’t send for them every time we need something to be done. Mrs. Johnson isn’t up to much these days, and seems to spend most of her time grumbling at her husband and drinking tea. A lot of tea too—every time I go near her she’s trying to push a cup my way. Frankly, I don’t care if I ever see the wretched stuff again, or at least not until summer when I can finally make her happy and ask her to make me a big pitcher with ice.

The weather is beginning to warm up, and I have to admit that I’d much rather be outside than indoors wiping cobwebs off of everything. I can’t quite get used to the size of it all, and also to the fact that the house is curiously public. Yesterday I bumped into a total stranger, a man named Jerry, carrying furniture down from the attic. He told me Mrs. Johnson had asked him to take it to be restored—I didn’t even know we owned it. I asked him to show me what else was up there, and we poked around for awhile and found a great oil painting of a little boy.   It looks really old.  I had him help me bring it down, and I've got it propped up in a corner of the study.

The grounds here are so beautiful. We’ve got sheep, and huge fish in the lake, and lots of ancient trees in the woods. We desperately need to hire at least one groundskeeper, but in the meantime, I've started clearing some of the old walks. You can still see them, although they’ve started to grow over. Yesterday I borrowed a chain saw from Mr. Johnson and spent a few hours opening up a path that leads down to the River Puck.

This is where the bizarreness comes in. As I was working, I kept hearing crunching sounds in the woods around me. At first I thought it was squirrels, or birds, but every time I looked up, there was nothing there. At one point I could have sworn I heard someone singing in Latin. (I told this to Simon and he said maybe it was one of my nuns…). Anyway, I left the chain saw out and went in to get lunch, and when I came back, it  was gone. I looked everywhere for it, and finally decided I'd just have to go and confess to Mr. Johnson that I'd lost it. But about halfway back to the house I heard some more rustling around, and when I went to investigate, I found the saw under a tree—full of gas. When I returned it, I asked Mr. Johnson if he’d been down by the river at all, and he said no, he’d spent the day picking peas. So—our first mystery. It makes the place feel almost gothic.

On a more mundane front, there’s still no sign of Simon’s family visiting. I'm beginning to think he’s ashamed of me.   I've asked him several times if he’s called them, and he keeps changing the subject—usually to sex (the house has inspired him).  Sometimes he’s so hard to talk to. This is especially true when I mention his family. Do you think you could manage a visit sometime soon? It would be great to talk to you!

Hope everything is going well. I’ve enclosed some pictures to give you a  sense of my new world (and to lure you here). I still haven’t figured out  how to be a millionaire, and I certainly don’t want to be patronizing, but  any time you’d like to come, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want,  and I’ll happily pay your airfare.

Write to me soon.


P.S.  I've enclosed some pictures of the house and grounds so you can get a sense of Stoney Grove.

To Ann:
Annie (or should I call you madam??),

Way to go! Are you drinking tea at 4:00 p.m. and playing croquet on the lawn? What a scream! I can’t wait to come see it all. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like it’s going to be any time soon. I 'm going to St. Kitts for a few days to look through the archives there, and that’s about breaking the bank at this end (and no, that’s NOT a hint).

It’s been a fairly productive couple of weeks. My favorite bar is closed (the owner was extradited to Florida  recently for some shady deals that everyone apparently knew about except his wife), so I’ve had nothing to distract me. Haven’t even been to the beach for a few days—I must be getting jaded.

Well honey, keep me posted on the life of the rich and famous. Give Simon a kiss for me (he sounds great—you literally have all the luck). Be good.



Simon's e-mail

To Simon:

Mr. Tinsley,

Thank you for your letter detailing some of your plans. Yes, we do have e-mail working and I would be happy to communicate with you in this manner. Despite the historical nature of what we do, we are open to new technology.

Your initial plans seem very ambitious. I hope you appreciate the seriousness of the task you have taken on.  I must caution you that, as the owner of a listed property, you are restricted in many ways as to what you can do to that property so that its historical integrity is maintained. I will be willing to work with you, however, within the limits of my power to accommodate some of your ideas.

I suggest we meet. I did once have the privilege of viewing Stoney Grove and would welcome another chance to go over it with you and discuss where careful modifications may be made.

Yours sincerely,
Chester Vyse

So how much are you actually worth?

Not sure who you remember from the pub crowd, few different faces now but I wondered if you were willing to put up some funds for the darts competition. Do you remember your bull finish? You should come over, I'm sure you never got any good beer in America.

I still can't see you as Lord and gentry,  you hated all that stuff, didn't you? We were going to come and visit you in the States, but I guess that's out now. To be honest Carolyn wasn't keen on coming to Washington, what with all those murders, but I thought that maybe we could have driven down to Florida for the weekend, and seen the Baywatch crowd! We took the caravan and went to the South of France last summer. Those European women are amazing, knockers all over the place. We went with a bloke from work whose wife Carolyn knows from her job. It's nice if the wives get on, isn't it?

If you come back this way you're welcome to have a Sunday dinner with us. Maybe we could get in a swift one at the Coach beforehand and thow a few arrows! Hope to see you soon.


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From Simon:

Sorry about the Jackie mistake. I did know, but somehow I always thought you'd marry Jackie. How's she doing by the way? It's actually weird being back in England, I notice peoples' accents! I've not got back in touch with many people yet but I've been so busy. I thought this rich stuff was the life of leisure, but I have all these people coming in, including a guy who's still moving stuff around from the sale. I am now negotiating about what repairs I'm actually allowed to make since it's a listed building. The government guy I've talked to is definitely public school, no sense of humour and full of academic crap. I tried to send him an e-mail and his server is down for a month! We had this absolutely bizzare conversation about the loos.  All I want to be able to do is pee at night without having to descend the stairs!  I guess the gentry can hold it together but the local curry house and a few beers had me making the Vindaloo dash, so I thought en-suite might be nice. Ann's been great though and I've been reading a bunch of stuff on architecture and landscape so I can talk Palladio with the best of them.

I don't think I could manage this without Ann here, there's so much to do and I can talk to her about anything. I called my Dad last week, we talked sport and I told him about the house, to which he said 'Thought you'd get a fancy new place.' My mother's travelling with Ken. The house is actually big enough to explore and I'm trying to get Ann to explore it all with me, if you see what I mean! The grounds are a mess and I'm still not sure what we own. It's a mile to walk to the village, which is really pretty. Upper Puckering that is, Lower Puckering is a bit of a dump, but they've got a great Indian. Looks like they might need some help with the cricket team, so I may be turning my arm when the summer starts.

Got to stop, Ann's calling me, from the sound of it I think she found something nasty in the woodshed!

Puckering Gazette

Lead Story

UPPC Launches Ambitious Restoration Scheme

To kick-off a year-long celebration honouring the 700th anniversary of the founding of Upper Puckering Parish Church (formerly St. George’s), the Reverend L.N. Banks yesterday announced plans for an ambitious, multi-year restoration of the structure. Exterior work will include masonry repair, cleaning, stabilisation and re-roofing of the building’s 14th century bell-tower. Additionally, funds are being solicited for interior work to update the antiquated heating system and to preserve the important collection of 15th century misericords and bench ends. Those interested in learning more about this important projected are invited to attend a lecture and tea at the church hall on Saturday, the first of May.

The project cost is estimated to be in excess of L500,000. Whilst the assistance of the Sussex Preservation Trust and several unnamed private donors is currently being sought, church members and area residents are encouraged to lend their support for this important undertaking.--Nigel Twicks

Other Stories...
Puckering Hedgehogs?

At yesterday's bi-annual meeting of the Puckering Irregulars CFC, the issue of the name of the team was raised. The suggestion was made that Puckering should have a team name similar to that of the modern counties. Whilst many possibilities were put forward, such as the Puckering Tigers, Puckering Elephants and the Puckering Salmon, they were rejected as having nothing to do with the team or village. Both the Puckering Rabbits and Puckering Hedgehogs were also rejected as not having the right connotations.

In the end, tradition prevailed and the team will remain the Puckering Irregulars, though there were those who vowed to raise the issue again at the end of the season. The club also made a plea for new players for the cricket team which had its first game this week (see sport).--Lumpy Gaites

Attempted Robbery Foiled

An attempted robbery was foiled yesterday by the quick wits of Mrs. Olive Harris, who works in the Barnes newsagents. Mr. Norman Bates, of Lower Puckering, pulled a pair of women’s nylons over his head, barged into the shop, and, brandishing a chicken bone, asked for the contents of the till. "I’ve known Norman since he was a toddler," commented Mrs. Harris, "and I wasn’t giving him anything." When pressed on how she was sure it was him, Mrs. Harris added that he still had on his garage overalls with "Norman" sewed on the front.   Mr. Bates, who has been in trouble with the police in the past, left empty-handed.   Local officers picked him up at the garage later where he denied the charges.--Nigel Twicks