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
Right on time, come in. Ive just put the kettle on if you fancy a cuppa. Bit of a dreary day, isnt it? Martins out planting his tomatoes, so Ive been on my own all morning. Still, its nice to have a few minutes peace. Its been one thing after another lately, hasnt it? I cant complain about the place being too quiet anymore, what with all the screaming and running around thats gone on here in the past few weeks. Still, its nothing to do with me, I keep telling myself. Just do your job Shirley, thats what they pay you for. Im not one to talk out of turn-- you know that--but well, let me just give you a taste of the goings on. Mr. Tinsley is all in a tizzy about fixing up the place. He met Mr. Vyse and, if youll pardon my French, all hell broke loose. I never heard such a spate of bad language since Nigel Morcombe fell in Martins compost tip. Apparently, Mr. Tinsley has great ideas about remodeling and Mr. Vyse is telling him he cant do it. I dont remember Mr. Montgomery having such troubles. In his day, he did what he wanted and nobody made such a fuss. Still, the to do with Mr. Vyse was nothing compared to the day they found out that Frank Churchill is about. You know, the young friend of Mr. Montgomerys who came to live in the old house in the park? Bless me, they were a pair; I never saw such good friends. Hes gone a bit odd what with living out there all by himself for so many years, but he would, wouldn't he? Anyway, how was I to know that his being here was such a secret? I thought the new folks had looked over the placehow could they miss a house in their park being lived in? They've been paying his wages and bills. Only goes to show that money don't mean brains...Anyway, as I was saying, Frank jumped right out of the bushes at Miss Simmons and nearly scared the poor girl to death. Now Im not saying that Im fond of her, a bit prissy for my tastes, but theres no excuse for what he done. She came running in here white as a ghost. In fact, I thought shed seen one, if you take my meaning. Took three cups of tea to calm her, and then Mr. Tinsley starts bellowing about how nobody is going to scare his girlfriend like that, and that the bloody bloke could clear out. Frank had the good sense to lay low for a few days, and it all blew over. While I was wondering whether I should mention John coming for the summer someone else turns up! Theyve hired a "historian"odd little thing, all very serious and likely a feminist. I dont know what Mr. Tinsley is playing at. Two young women at his beck and call is what it looks like to me. And you know, Miss Simmons is going awayout of the country! Wheres it all going to lead? To the bedroom is my guess, but nobodys asking me Ooh dear, theres the kettle. Sit tight and we can have a proper natter. I'm sorry to say it, but She's been making her presence felt again!
The olives are on their way. You didnt say how many you wanted, or what kind, so I've send a case of green and a case of black (unpitted). Hopefully your craving hasnt passed.
I'm going to Italy for a few days next week (really only an extended weekend). The trip will help me finish some research for a paper I've just agreed to give at the MRH conference next fall. I'm going to take a quick tour of several museums and churches to confirm some ideas I have about symbolism associated with 13th and 14th century saints. Im heading to Assisi to visit the Basilica di Santa Chiara, and then will drive across to Tuscany to look at works associated with St. Barbara and St. Catherine.
Simons too caught up in the house right now to tear himself away, so I will be traveling by myself. He has taken an intense dislike to the local building inspector (who is only just trying to do his job politely). Their next meeting, on Friday, is to discuss the plan Simon has drawn up for the master bathroom. To tell the truth, I'm glad Ill be out of the country. Im fairly sure Simons plan doesnt conform to the Listing regulations (any of them!), but hes intent on pushing it through. (He can have a stubborn streak).
Our researcher, Emma Knytleigh, arrived last Monday. I like her--shes straightforward and serious about the job. The Upper Puckering library has a collection of Stoney Grove papers, and shes started sorting through them. Nothing exciting yet. I'm quite jealous, but with everything else going on right now I decided I should leave her to it. We need to know about this place and arent going to get anywhere with me picking at it in between trips to Italy and endless meetings. I have found out some interesting things about the original landscape designer here, but I'll spare you the details for now.
Before I go I need to start interviewing architects. Simon and I are desperate for a new kitchen and downstairs bath. The master bath plan looks doomed as well, although its disloyal of me to say so! We also should hire a contractor (besides the new projects we need substantial masonry repairs done, some new windows, and several rooms need to be replastered ---not to mention the heating system....), groundskeepers (our gardeners enthusiasm begins and ends with vegetables) and a farm manager. Im thinking seriously about finding a secretary to keep this all straight.
In a fit of idiocy Ive agreed to help out with a fund-drive for the local church. Part was built in 1299, so how could I resist? Simon thinks I'm nuts...I'm tempted to just write them a check and hope theyll leave me in peace, but that wouldnt be in the spirit of the "cause."
Im fascinated by the Stoney Grove you found on Nevis, although I doubt the two places are connected. It seems so unlikely that the people who built our house would have had time to go to the West Indies and establish a plantation before the bottom fell out of the sugar trade. Still, there are some odd tropical motifs running through this house. Can you find out the date of the Nevisian plantation for me? It will certainly make an interesting footnote for Emmas report. Thanks.
Thats all for now. Be good and enjoy your olives.
P.S. The mystery of the missing chain saw has been solved. We have a hermit. Seriously--he has lived here for years and is considered a member of staff (which means a life tenancy is guaranteed, at our expense). Hes taken to wandering in a most un-hermitlike fashion, and I finally met him in the garden. He nearly scared me to death. More on him next time.
Ive been to St. Kitts (I hit up Aunt Meredith for the fare). Not much of interest there in the end--most of what I need was shipped to England before Independence. I heard that on Statia a group of soldiers in the 18th century used their archive for toilet paper! At least my luck isnt that bad! So, between your invitation (thank you!) and my need to visit the library, it looks like I may be stopping by your neck of the woods sooner rather than later. Let me know when you think it would be a good time for me to come.
I took the ferry over to Nevis while I was away. Youll never guess what I found--another Stoney Grove!! Now its just another "suburb" of town with a cricket stadium, a school and some houses, but supposedly it was named for a sugar plantation. I wonder if your house has any connection? Maybe they had a second house in the West Indies? That would be wild!
Hope alls well with you and Simon, and that youve stopped seeing ghosts (or rather NOT seeing them) and started seeing family members. Hope the help is friendlier too. Be good.
P.S. I know its a strange request, but could you send me some olives? Ive been craving them for weeks and cant get any here. Thanks!
To whom it may concern,
I am Roderick Dinnell. I live in Shrewsborough which is not far from your estate. I read in the newspaper that you were very rich and I would like to ask you for two hundred sixty quid to help me pay my bills. Thank you for your assistance.
April 26, 1999
Dear Mr. Tinsley and Miss Simmons,
I regret to inform you that your check for $178,750.32, representing the second installment of winnings from the Grand Slam Lottery, has been unavoidably delayed due to a minor discrepancy detected in the GSL account during a recent audit. The check will be mailed out to you, with interest, within 10 working days. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience resulting from this matter.
J. Archibald Dixon
Department of Revenue and Taxation
May 5, 1999
Dear Mr. Tinsley and Miss Simmons,
Please find enclosed your second installment check of $179,025.43 from the Grand Slam Lottery.
J. Archibald Dixon
Department of Revenue and Taxation
Your father and I are enjoying the warm weather here in Tucson. We arrived on Saturday morning and spent Sunday shopping in Nogales. Yesterday we visited the Sonora Desert Museum in the morning and planned to golf with the Andersons later in the day, butyou known your fathers bunion. Were both hoping well be able to head for Phoenix in the morning. Were looking forward to speaking to you when we get back and hearing about your trip to Italy. Give our best to Simon.
We have our own resident nutter!
Ann met him wandering the grounds. He was actually employed by the previous owner as a 'hermit'. I knew there were some outbuildings in the grounds, but they were described as 'in poor repair', and I hadnt gotten the enthusiasm up to have a look at them. But there he is, in this bloody house or hermitage, (which is basically two rooms with a cold water tap and electric), living in our back garden. Shirley knew all about him, takes him food and stuff, and says he's harmless, but I can't get any sense out of him! Thing is, I'd seen him in the village pub, sitting in the corner and muttering. Now I need to find out how much we pay him!
I may be back to buying lottery tickets the way things are going. My 'basic' repairs (which I'm obligated to make, and then pay VAT on) are going to cost a fortune. There is one saving grace--the toffee-nosed twit who's the local inspector apparently isn't going to 'allow' me to make any other changes to the house. Since the house was built, they have changed walls, added rooms, even stuck a whole bloody wing on one side, but now since we've moved in I'm not allowed to put up a garden shed without a Congress of World Architects discussing it. Actually a garden shed may be O.K. since he didn't seem to care about the landscape as much, just the house. We can't do anything that would "materially affect the character'' and he decides what that is. He obviously thinks I'm an idiot, ready to tear down the building and put up Disneyland. We bought this place because of what it is, but I think buildings are organic, they grow with their owners. Why should it fossilize now? My one revenge was asking the guy, Chester Vyse, if his name was American. He was quite put out, and said it was an old family name.
Anyway write back soon, its nice to have you to talk to again.
We never talked! Except about football and stuff, I mean men dont, do they? Anyway, I cant write much now. You do realize that I have to write this at work. Its a bit much you complaining about money troubles, some of us have to work for a living!
We talked all the time when we were mates! Anns great, but sometimes I feel like I need to be intelligent and get it right with her. I cant just say that the inspector is a stuck up pimply youth with the flexibility of an iron pole because shell say that hes only doing his job, and it is important to keep the integrity of the house, and any changes should be made carefully, and were just caretakers. I know shes right. Anyway, I think she likes him.
Theres another new person here as well as the hermit. Emma Knytleigh, a graduate student from London University. Fairly pretty, all very compact if you know what I mean. Shes doing post-grad stuff and will be doing some research on the house for us.
The more money you have the more you spend, Ive always thought, and its still true. I dont even know who we employ. Last week I met this nice bloke called Jerry moving some stuff from the attic for Ann. He was really knowledgeable about what remaining furniture we have. He does some antique restoration in the village, so we may get him to do some stuff for us. He mentioned security too. Evidently people nick garden statuary as well now (bit of a step up from pinching garden gnomes, eh), so we may need motion detectors. Anyway, nice bloke, Im going to have a beer with him later in the week.
Things are getting a little weird in the house.
Sorry, but Im not the Jackie Collins youre looking for. I didnt go to University though I could have. I married my Jimmy and we had a great life together until the accident.
I really hope you find her. Good luck.
Local Author Speaks Out
In response to a recent report by the Department of Education urging teachers to include reading materials more suited to the tastes of boys, Col. N. Bratherton spoke out recently on the subject of suitable stories for boys in school. "Boys need to read good, stirring yarns of adventure," stated the Puckering author of My Life in India. "My book is full of real men and good morals, where people know their place. Ive got kidnappings, Big Game hunting, and some great battle scenes. Its no good expecting boys to read all that stuff about love and romance, theyre just not interested."
The government report issued last month concluded that boys should not be required to read works by authors such as Jane Austen, whose writing they characterized as "girlish."--Nigel Twicks
Student to study at Stoney Grove
Puckering Sees Start of New Business Venture
Puckering has a new young entrepreneur in Wendy Smith, owner of Pet Love. For a fixed fee, Miss Smith will come to your house and look after your beloved Rover, Rabby or Ratty when you are away. "Ill feed them, clean litter, take them for a walk, but Ill also give them some love and attention to ease their loneliness." Before starting Pet Love, Wendy had done some babysitting but noted, "There are some really horrible kids out there, and I find that animals are much nicer."
Miss Smith currently operates Pet Love from her home in Lower Puckering, but hopes that business will allow her to expand into a facility for boarding pets. "Some people don't feel comfortable opening their homes to outsiders. In the future, I hope Pet Love will be an option for all the dogs, cats and other creatures in the village."--Nigel Twicks