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)

Hello!  Glad to see you're out and about--did you have any trouble getting here?  John said that most roads were still impassible. It's a mess, isn't it?  We sent him to the village last night on his bike. Tinsley's been very sick,  you see. We couldn't get on the horn, with the lines down, so he went and fetched Eddy Waterfall. Eddy (I suppose I should call him Doctor, but I just can't get used to the idea) took one look at Tinsley and called an ambulance. He's got one of those cell phones.  you'd think with all the money floating around this house that someone would have had the sense to buy one here. But no, it's all fancy cigars and wine and such...We had to carry him down to the main road on the back of Eddy's motorbike. Luckily Miss Ann had spent most of the afternoon clearing branches and such, so he could get through, but it was too narrow a path for the ambulance to get up to the house. She went with the lot of them, to be near him.  Mr. Vyse offered her a bed 'til Mr. Tinsley is out of hospital but she's staying with the vicar. Not that that won't set people to talking--Mr. Banks being youngish and a bit of a looker, you know.  Still, he's a safer bet than that other one...Ooh, I think I hear the kettle.  Like the sound of angels, it is, after a whole day without power.  Won't be a minute.

Go on, help yourself.  There's Stilton and pickled onion if you fancy some. Nothing like a good Ploughmans. Leftovers from our Dining Room picnic, what a commotion that was. There now, where was I? You know, I've been selling a few odds and ends, clearing the cupboards, really.  Martin thinks I should keep the stuff for John, but what's a young man want with my Mum's old plates?  We could do with a few bob.  Let me show you what I'm selling this week.  If you fancy it, you can bid.

Well, all these goings on and I haven't been able to get to the village myself.  Missed out on the numbers last night.  Could you pick me up a ticket at the newsagents on your way home, and I'll come 'round tomorrow and collect it?  Ta very much.

Ann's Letters

To Ann:

Dear Annie,
Sorry to hear about you and Simon. What’s the deal with this Chester guy? Are you interested, trying to get Simon ticked off, or really just friends? I feel like I’m watching a soap opera. No offense. My advise –not that you asked this time, smart girl- is to have it out with old S. one more time. If he’s moving on, at least you’ll know…of course, that does leave you an enormous house to deal with...

Well, I got a report from Tia. She’s done more research on this Stoney Grove stuff than I have on my dissertation…Here’s the scoop. In the 1690s, Edmund Rawlins, an Englishman, created a sugar plantation on Nevis, just outside of Charleston (on the Caribbean side of the island). He died in 1703 and left the estate to his son, Edmund, who built a house there and visited periodically while maintaining an estate somewhere in England. When he died in 1719, his son George inherited the West Indian property and moved in, marrying a local planter’s daughter named Priscilla Worthington. They lived at Stoney Grove until 1750, when he and his family moved back to England. His son, whose name was —you guessed it, Edmund— was raised on the island and as an adult went back and forth between England and Nevis until he moved permanently to Stoney Grove in 1771. He’s buried at St. John’s church in Fig Tree. His son George inherited the property in 1780. He lived in England, never married and apparently didn’t come out to check on the place very often. At his death in 1800, he left the estate to his younger brother James, who ran it from England until 1833, when he died.  One of his sons, Henry, kept the property for a decade or so, then sold it to an American businessman. Apparently the sugar market dissolved after emancipation in the 1830s and Rawlins was lucky to find a buyer. The American, Francis Matthews, lost his shirt and basically abandoned the place.  The government took it over during the later 19th century and it is still owned by them today.   The sugar works are still visible, but the rest of it is gone.

Tia sent me a bunch of dates and lists of children and such, but that’s essentially the story.

I’ve made it through yet another jar of olives, and have given three away. I’m now craving those little after-dinner mints—you know, the chocolate ones with the green stuff inside. They’d all melt long before they got here, so I won’t ask you to send me any. Maybe when I come in the fall I’ll feast on beer and mints…I’m thinking about sometime in October. Is that good for you?

Hope all is well. If it is, give my love to Simon. If not, kick him for me.



Dear Amy,
Thanks for the news!  In an amazing stroke of luck (said Simon), coincidence (said Chester) or cosmic resonance (said Frank), your letter arrived within hours of another from Sotheby's identifying the painting I found in the attic. Guess who he is?  George Rawlins! Your George?  I'm not sure yet, but I can't believe there are two roughly contemporary George Rawlinses with connections to two Stoney Groves.   I know, I'm jumping to conclusions--I need to get more information about the Nevis family.  Can you send it, or send me Tia's address and I'll contact her directly?   This is so exciting!

Hello again, got sidetracked for a few days. It's turned into a dreary week.  Simon is sick as a dog; he's been in bed for three days now and is running a fever.  He won't let me call the doctor--says he's fine, but obviously he's not.  If he's not better tomorrow, I think I'll drag him into Puckering to see someone.

Getting there is looking like quite a challenge however.  I'm not sure what the roads look like outside of Stoney Grove, but I'm quite sure that we can't get out of our entrance drive.  All this is the result of a terrific thunderstorm that struck last night.  The wind and rain tore through here about midnight in such a fury that I thought we were going to lose the roof.  It was an incredible storm.  There are branches down everywhere and we're currently without electricity (no pun intended).  We lost six ancient trees around the house and several more down by the lake.  Frank and Emma had an oak come crashing through the roof of the Hermitage, so they grabbed what they could and have come to stay with us in the main house.  Luckily, no one was hurt.

I'd been plugging away at getting the walking trails cleared and John, Chester and I had nearly finished cleaning up around the Temple of Venus where we found Fanny's memorial.  Now everything is buried again...what a mess!  I haven't had the heart to go and look at the flower garden yet.  Martin tells me that almost everything is flattened from the intensity of the rain and wind, but I'm hoping if I give it a day or two things will spring back. 

Well, I've got to head back upstairs to see how Simon is doing. He really looks dreadful and hasn't been able to keep anything down. After that, I fear it's an afternoon with the chain saw clearing the road.  Living here has certainly kept me on my toes...I'll write again soon...



Other Letters:

Dear Miss Simmons,

I am delighted to inform you that we have been successful in identifying both the artist and sitter in the portrait of the young boy that you recently discovered at Stoney Grove. The painting is attributed to Samuel Coleburne, an amateur portraitist who lived and worked in London from the 1750s through the 1780s. The subject, George Rawlins, was the eldest son of a well-to-do Essex merchant, Edmund Rawlins. He was eight years old when the painting was commissioned in 1766.

The portrait was auctioned at our London gallery in 1953 at the direction of a descendant of Edmund Rawlins. Mr. Basil Hall of Stoney Grove purchased the piece for 457 pounds.

Whilst it is difficult to be sure when viewing a photograph, it appears that the frame is not the original, and has been replaced subsequent to Mr. Hall’s purchase. Given that the painting has been stored in less-than-ideal circumstances for an undetermined period of time, I would advise you to have a conservator evaluate its condition and take the appropriate steps to preserve it. If you are in need of further guidance, I am proud to add that we do employ an excellent staff of curators, conservators, and appraisers.

I look forward to being of continued service.

Most sincerely,
Edward Breight-Laughton
Assistant Curator of Fine Arts


Just a reminder that your paper is due to the discussant (Erol Greeson) by September 1.   Hope it is in its usual brilliant shape.  Mary and I have had a wonderfully quiet summer.  I went to Sacramento in June to the WMH meetings, and caught up with all the usual suspects. We've been to the beach house and are now back home where I've spent the past few weeks polishing off my manuscript for the U. of Toronto Press.  I imagine you've had a relaxing summer as well...enjoy.


Am dying of curiosity here.  Did you apply for the job?  Have you heard back?  

Dear Miss Simmons,
You are hereby requested to appear as a witness for the prosecution at the trial of Gerald Anderson scheduled for Wednesday, 18 August 1999 at 9:00 a.m. at the Magistrate's Court in Hove. The prosecuting attorney will be contacting you shortly to review your testimony.
Dear Mr. Tinsley,
You are hereby requested to appear as a witness for the prosecution at the trial of Gerald Anderson scheduled for Wednesday, 18 August 1999 at 9:00 a.m. at the Magistrate's Court in Hove.  The prosecuting attorney will be contacting you shortly to review your testimony.


Simon's e-mail

To Simon

"Suppose time takes a picture-one picture that represents your entire life here on earth. You have to ask yourself how you'd rather be remembered. As a pasty, web-wired computer wiz, strapped to an office chair? Or as a leather-clad adventurer who lived life to the fullest astride a Harley-Davidson? You can decide which it is, but think quickly. Time is framing up that picture, and it's got a pretty itchy shutter finger." - The Harley Davidson Web Site

Your order from Harley's Of London will be ready for you to pick up in a fortnight. The Road King Classic, with a fuel-injected chrome-and-black Twin Cam 88™ engine, crafted leather and Aztec orange colouring will fulfill your every fantasy. Life, the road, the babes - you're a travelin' man.

Payment of 16000 pounds is expected when you pick up the bike. We'll throw in a t-shirt, but the babes are up to you.

It's all right for some. I spent my last holiday painting the spare bedroom.

I'm not sure if Caroline would let me get a bike, I mean I don't think she'd be interested in taking a trip with me on one. The accident figures for bike riders are horrific, you know. So who gets the money of you come a cropper? Just joking!

How was Jackie? It's been ages since I've seen her. She was at the wedding, of course, she bought us a lovely set of cocktail glasses and a mixer. Caroline and her didn't really hit it off though. Well, Caroline is very anti-smoking and Jackie was still on a pack a day. After Jackie moved to the Midlands it gets hard to stay in touch, doesn't it? What with the the distance and the roads being so bad. If you see her again say hello from me.


Greetings from the firm of McBeal, Cage and Thomas.

Little problem, no biggie, but they don't want to release any of the money. Evidently it's gone. 'Sly' Jackson stuffed half up a Vegas showgirl's panties and drank the rest. Not your concern. They owe, they'll pay. Otherwise we get no money, and where's the fun in that? If necessary I could go to Vegas and look up girl's panties myself. Joking.

To cool us down, they've offered a low interest loan.  Can you believe the nerve?

Stay with us, court date coming.

Philip Cage       

Hello Simon,

It was fun seeing you again. I never figured you for the country squire but you seem to have really taken to it, all that stuff about the house and people who lived there. The present is enough for me, history is yesterday's problems.

So are you going to have one of those weekend house parties that they all had in those films? I have a wonderful flapper dress that I could squeeze into if I could persuade my breasts to flatten out a bit. You should organize it, it would be a blast. I'll come with beau's in tow and fill the house up. And I'd really like to meet Ann. She sounds quite special. Is she the one?!!!

Love and stuff

From Simon:

I've bought a Harley! I saw a convention when I was in the States. Hundreds of bikes, gleaming in the sun. So, I thought, what's the point of having this money if you can't do something fun with it? I haven't told Ann yet, I thought I'd surprise her. I figure we need to get away from the house for a while and take a round trip, maybe Europe, but South America sounds like great fun too.

Part of me really loves the house. Everyone in the village knows us and we get invited to stuff (and asked for money). Ann's really into the history and architecture and I love to learn new things. It's getting a bit intense though, bills keep coming in and there is so much to manage. Ann's started worrying about the money side of things, and maybe we've bitten off more than we can chew.

So, take a break, go on a road trip. I'm gettin' me a hog!


Dining Room Conversations

Transcript: Dinner in the Dining Room, 24 July, 1999.

Ann:  Emma, could you give Shirley a hand getting the food brought in?  I'm still hunting for more candles.

Emma:  Right. 

Frank:  I've got some lamps and oil at the Hermitage.  Shall I go get them?

Shirley (entering with large tray): Never mind, never mind.   Martin's got a whole box of candles.  Go fetch the candelabra from the Library, will you? 

Frank:  Which one?

Ann:  The silver one--I don't want to risk the crystal.

Frank:  (leaving) I live to serve.

Shirley: How's Mr. Tinsley feeling?  Is he better?

Ann:  No.  I've never actually seen anyone look green before.   He looks awful, and is still running a fever.  I'm going to try to get out tomorrow. 

Simon's Dad: He's alright.

Martin: Do you need any help Missus?

Shirley: Run and fetch us some clean glasses, will you?  I can see the dirt on these, even in the dark.  And give Emma a hand with the sandwiches. Ta.   I could send John down to the village on his bike to fetch Dr. Waterfall if you'd like.   It wouldn't take him long.

Ann:  Thanks.  Why don't we eat dinner and then see how he's feeling?

Simon's Dad: I tell you, he's fine. Just a bit of upset tummy. You're all making a fuss over nothing.

Shirley (to Frank): Here, let me take that, there's a lad.  Won't take a minute and...light at last.  Nice, isn't it?

Frank:  Quite romantic, actually.  Where's Emma gone to?

Emma:  I'm here.  Take these plates for me, will you?   I'm fagged.

Frank:  Sit down love.  You look done in.  Who fancies a glass of wine?

All around:  I do.  Me. Ta very much.

Shirley: Now where's Martin gone to?  Can't have a drink without a glass, can we?

Martin's Dad:  Probably tastes like vinegar anyway.  Not a decent drop of liquor in this house.

Martin:  I'm coming woman.  Couldn't find a thing in the dark; had to bring out the paper cups from the loo.

Shirley:  Martin, you old fool!  I'll go myself.

Ann:  Sit down Shirley.  The cups are fine.  They go well with...pickled beetroot and luncheon meat sandwiches?

Shirley: There are some cheese and pickle there too, and some plain bread and marmite.  And a bowl of pickled onions.  Did anyone bring in the mustard?

Simon's Dad:  What a load of rubbish.  Where are the beans?? Aren't there any crisps?  Salt and vinegar? I only like plain.

Frank:  I could go for a tin of beans myself.

Emma:  He eats them cold you know.  So Ann, how is Simon feeling?

Simon's Dad: Oh, for the love of God, not again.  He's fine.

Ann:  Actually, I'm really worried about him.  I don't think he is fine. He hasn't been able to keep anything down for three days, and he's still got a fever.

Emma: You know, they say that's what happened to William Blake.

Simon's Dad:  Who the hell is he?

Emma:  The man who built this house.  He was ill for about a week, and then died.  No one's sure why, but they think his wife poisoned him.

Ann:  Well lucky for Simon, I'm not his wife.

Muffled voice (quite faint):  Get out of my house, you whore!

Ann:  What was that?

Frank:  Dunno. 

Shirley:  I didn't hear anything.

Simon's Dad:  So somebody did the old man in, eh?  What was he worth?

Emma:  Quite a lot, really.  He was a wealthy man, and his entire estate went to his wife.

Simon's Dad:  And what happened to her?

Emma:  She lived another 20 years, and then apparently drowned in the lake.

Simon's Dad:  Silly woman.  Mind yourself near the water, Ann.

Ann:  Could you pass me the wine please, Martin?

Martin:  Anyone else fancy a glass?

Frank and Emma together:  Yes please.

Muffled voice:  I hope you choke on it.

Simon's Dad:  I wish you'd all stop muttering.  I can't hear a thing.

Ann: I want to thank all of you for working so hard today.  The place was a mess this morning and I really appreciate you pitching in and helping to clean up.  It means a lot to me. And to Simon. I realize you are busy people, and I can't pay you for all you've done...

Frank: For God's sake woman, it's our house too!

Martin:  We've lived here for more than 50 years, isn't that right, Shirley?

Shirley:  Indeed it is.

Ann:  I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insult anyone.  I'm just, well, glad to have friends like you.

(Door opens)

Chester Vyse:  Hello.  I was just stopping by to see how you'd weathered the storm, and I found this old bloke wandering around the place, so I thought I'd bring him in.

Old Bloke:  Hello.  My name is Roderick Dinnell...


Puckering Gazette
Storm Hits Puckerings, Damage Extensive

A mid-summer storm struck with violent force in the early morning hours, downing trees and powerlines and causing extensive damage to homes and businesses in both Upper and Lower Puckering.  Heavy rain, violent thunder and strong winds, clocked at over 90 kilometers per hour, battered the villages and surrounding countryside for nearly an hour before moving off to the southeast.    A spokesman for SouthDowns Electric indicated that 40,000 customers are without power, whilst British Telecom reports that some 35,000 households are without telephone service.

The storm left behind a trail of destruction in Puckering. "The eve of the best-kept village competition is soon upon us," cautions Colonel Bratherton. "We all need to pull together to set the village to rights. What's needed now is a touch of the Dunkirk spirit. The men of both villages need to come together and show what we are capable of."

Others saw more dark portents in the storm. 'It's a warning to change our evil ways and lax morals," said Eva Bailey who recently moved to Puckering from Great Moorah. Long-time local hermit, Frank Churchill, was more sanguine. "I don't think it means anything," he said. "Though I have visions of two horses and a goat,  who will follow the bees."-- Nigel Twicks

Church Struck, 'An Act of God'?
As storm clouds scuttled eastwardly in the early light of dawn, Reverend Nigel L. Banks stood beneath the dripping boughs of a sturdy beech beside the battered walls of the Upper Puckering Parish Church. He surveyed the wreckage of his ambitious restoration plan: the 14th-century steeple toppled and partially burned by lightning, a tangle of twisted scaffolding pulled away from the building by the violence of the winds. One errant length pierced the heart of St. Thomas in the stained glass rosette above the door of the sanctuary. 

In spite of the sight before him and the ungodliness of the hour, the Reverend exhibited his legendary good humour. "It's all a bit of a mess right now, to be sure, but we'll have it straightened out shortly.  What's important is that, miraculously, no one was hurt.  For that I am truly thankful."

Some might interpret the ferocity of the storm and its focused destruction on His house as an act of God, a notice of His displeasure with the worldliness of the restoration project itself.  Banks dismissed this view with a chuckle. "God doesn't give a toss about this church," he said with an emphatic shake of his head.   "There is war, famine, grinding poverty in the world. You'd expect Him to zap Buckingham Palace, the House of Commons, or the American White House if He were interested in that sort of thing.  No.  This project is about honouring our past, forging a stronger community, freeing the creative, beautiful side of the human spirit.  In this way we honour our Maker."

Reverend Banks was unable to comment on how the restoration schedule has been affected, but has already scheduled a tea-time meeting of the consulting architects for later today.   "If folks find it in their hearts to help us overcome this setback, they can send a donation to the Church office.  Of course some might prefer to head down to the Idiot," he added with a twinkle in his eye,"and raise a pint for us."--Lumpy Gaites

Puckering Profiles:  The Reverend L.N. Banks
The Reverend Banks clearly believes that if the mountain won't come to Mohammed then Mohammed must go to the mountain. "Nobody goes to the Church anymore," he laments. "It's a wonderful building, full of some of the most interesting details, but quite frankly, on a cold Sunday in February  I'd rather be elsewhere myself." That's why you can find the Reverend all around Puckering meeting his parishioners where he can. "God's house is all-encompassing. I go and watch the local cricket team, visit some of the elderly that can't get out much, stop into the Idiot for a half. Jesus wasn't afraid of socialising, you know."

Under his guidance, the church has recently sponsored a series of  fascinating programs, including lectures by noted misericord scholar Nigel Mannerly, nationally recognized mason Godfrey Clayburne, and our own Chester Vyse. "I hope to be able to bring more good words to bear on the importance of saving Puckering's church heritage," notes the Reverend, One should, after all, keep one's house in order."--Nigel Twicks