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 now, Ive been expecting you for the past couple of days. Couldnt you have stopped in sooner? I need a hand moving things into the new shop. You know, the place in the village. Oh, you hadnt heard? Well, Ive done so well selling my bits and bobs here that I thought Id open a shop of my own on the High Street. Martin thinks Im daft, that its all toot, but I have a few bits that might bring in the odd quid. If not, Ill do it for a laugh. Were in need of one these days, you know. Have you heard about old Mr. Dinnell? The queer old gentleman who came calling during the storm? Emma found him dead in the dining room. She was up early one morning, a few days after hed arrived, and went downstairs to have a bite to eat, and there he was stiff as a board, sitting at the table. Hed been gone for a while, poor man. No one knows for sure when, but certainly he hadnt been there the night before. It was terribly sad. He was a nice old bloke. Just goes to show, you never know when your time comes, do you? Never mind.
We all thought Mr. Tinsley's time was coming, years too soon, but he pulled through and seems to be quite himself again. He's been strutting around here like the cat that's swallowed the canary lately. I don't know what he's up to, but whatever it is, he's proud of himself.
Did you hear that they'd found a portrait of Miss Fanny? Christie's has it. They want Miss Ann to buy it. I don't want that thing in the house. After all the trouble she's caused. I get a chill up my spine just thinking about having to look at her every day. It's not right, is it? But Miss Ann will do as she pleases. It's not my place to tell her how to spend her money, is it? I'll not dust the thing though. I won't.
There's the kettle. Oh, by the way, I've got one last dish to sell here before I settle in to the village. It's quite a beauty. What do you think?
I've just made some scones to have with the tea. Sit still and I'll bring you some. Won't be a minute.
Just a quick note todayJames and I are off in a few minutes for a long weekend on a snorkeling trip with some friends, and I need to finish packing. Were sailing from here to Antigua on Evans new boat, and will spend some time at Nelsons Dockyard (drinking, no doubtmaybe thats where the fishes come in!). Its getting near to hurricane season, and Im not too crazy about being out to sea, but they all think nothing of it, so when in Rome
Ive written Chapter 2, dedicated student that I am, and this is my reward.
Hope all is well with Great House gang, and that Simon has gotten over whatever was ailing him. Love for now, more coming later
Another chapter in the continuing saga. The night I last wrote, we were eating dinner by candlelight (the power was still out), and Chester came in with this crazy old man that hed found wandering around outside. It turns out hes the same nut who had been sending Simon and me threatening letters demanding money, and whose nephew had written to warn us that he was on the loose. I must admit I freaked out when he came in (I've never actually screamed in fright before). He turned out to be harmless, and we gave him a pickled onion sandwich and asked him to sit down. He quickly lost interest in me when he "discovered" a woman --quite invisible to the rest of us--in the corner of the room. The two had a quiet discussion, or at least one of them did, until it was time for bed. A very surreal evening.
It actually gets worse. The old codger stayed at the house for a few more days, chatting with Martin and puttering around with Simon's dad, and then one morning, they found him dead in a chair in the dining room. No one knows how long he was there, or why, but they had to send for Dr. Waterfall to take him away. I was really sad to hear about it. Not that I knew him, but he seemed like a nice old man.
Anyway, I spent several days in Puckering while Simon was ill, staying with Nigel Banks (the vicar) so I could be close to the hospital. It took a few days for us to get the roads cleared up and the phones back in working order, and I was afraid that if I went home I might not be able to get back in time if he got worse. Hes much better now, although a bit thin. It was touch and go for a while there. No one is quite sure what was wrong with him. He underwent all kinds of nasty tests, and in the end the best that anyone could offer was that he had some as-yet-unidentified but virulent form of flu. No one else at Stoney Grove got sick, which is odd, but after witnessing what it did to him, Im glad we escaped!
Since coming home, Ive received a letter from Tia, and have sent Emma on a mission to the Essex County archives. It seems clear that there is indeed a relationship between my painting of George Rawlins and your Stoney Grove on Nevis. Emma should be able to tie down the details from this side of the Atlantic. In the meantime, I got a notice from Christies that a portrait of Fanny RAWLINS Blake is coming up for auction. Another connection? Id really love to return it to the house, but Im not sure we can afford it right now. Ill have to talk to Simon and see if we can scrape together some money, or even borrow some. Ive been trying to live frugally here, but everything is so expensive.
So you've gone snorkeling? How was it? Ive been trying to imagine being hot --I mean, really sweaty. I spent at least an hour yesterday remembering when I was a kid and we stayed with my Aunt Elaine in Atlanta and the air conditioner broke down. It was 80 last week and everyone in Puckering was complaining about the heat wave. I went out and sat in the sun, but try as I might, couldnt muster a sweat. I MISS the summer!!
I miss tree frogs and fireflies and cookouts and peanut butter sandwiches. I tried to get Shirley to make some iced tea, but after she tasted it (under extreme duress), she spat it out and said that nothing that vile was coming out of HER kitchen. Martins managed a few fresh fruits in the spirit of the season, but its not the same as watermelon or corn-on-the-cob on a sultry summers night. Still, the flowers are glorious here, and the lake is a vivid shade of blue
Im looking forward to a full account of your weekend jaunt, and to seeing you (and James?) in October. Any time that month is fine with us--just let me know.
|Dear Miss Simmons,
In response to your recent enquiry, I regret to inform you that we are unable to shed much light on the provenance of your eighteenth-century oil painting. Members of our curatorial staff believe that the piece was executed sometime between 1755 and 1770, and suspect it is the work of either Roger or Samuel Coleburne. The two were brothers who created a respectable body of work during the third quarter of the eighteenth century. If you are interested in pursuing this further, I can suggest the names of several reputable art historians who would undertake additional research for a small fee.
I would, however, like to call your attention to another item that is part of a sale scheduled for our South Kensington gallery on September 2. The item, an oil on canvas by John Williams, is a portrait of Mrs. William Blake (Fanny Rawlins), commissioned in 1782. Mrs. Blake, as you are no doubt aware, was the wife of the first owner of Stoney Grove. The market for Williams portraiture is a bit slow these days, so weve estimated that the piece will fetch in the range of 12500-13500 pounds. I have enclosed an image of the portrait, and the sale catalogue, for your perusal.
I am yours sincerely,
|Dear Miss Simmons,
I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and hospitality to my uncle Roderick when he intruded upon you in your home, and your efforts to revive him. The doctor said that he went quickly and without much pain. I know it must have been a quite upsetting for you and your family, and I apologize for not having come for him sooner. Id been away from home, you see, and no-one was able to contact me until it was too late. The funeral is tomorrow. If youd like to make a contribution or send flowers, I know hed have appreciated it.
Enclosed please find an outline of the history Ive researched for the Rawlins family of Nevis. I have not documented all of the family line, but instead have concentrated on those who took ownership of the Nevisian estate at some point in their lives. I hope this helps you in your search for information about your home in West Sussex. If you have additional questions, please contact me directly at Sugartree Estate, Willets Bay, St. Kitts, Eastern Caribbean.
Thank you so much for your recent order!
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Our Sly really was a naughty boy and not too bright it seems, which actually is a shame, since if he had a little more up top he might still have some money left. Poor Sly, he's now confessing and offering everything he has to avoid jail. Trouble is, all he had was given to a Las Vegas lady called Wendy Whoppers. Unbelievably they cannot find her, how hard can it be! Sad, sad, sad.
So now the State is our sole target, we've added on requests for emotional distress caused by the problems (can you be distressed for me?) and then figured in some for interest lost based on the inflation rate of the seventies (since they are in fashion).
The State moves slowly, and the courts slower, but we have an action for immediate resolution next month. Hang in there, and remember, you are emotionally distressed!
Sorry to hear you were sick, I had the runs once in Majorca. Terrible it was, three days sitting on the loo with the world dropping out of your bottom. I knew we shouldn't have eaten at a local resturant but Caroline wanted to try something different. But you can't trust foreign food, can you? They say British food is boring, but at least it stays put.
Do you remember celebrating your eighteenth birthday in the Lion? We'd been going in there for so long we had to tell them it was your twentieth! On the way home you fell over the hedge and I couldn't find you for half an hour because you crawled into the dog kennel. Then we got you home only for you to thow up on your front doorstep, which we tried to clean up with the milk that had been delivered that morning - which was off - and then I threw up. We had some laughs, didn't we!
Sorry to hear you were ill. I thought I'd scared you off again. A party would be fun right now, I'll either be bringing two dates or none. Guess I can't get this love thing right. Not sure about you on a bike, not exactly the Hell's Angels type are you? How about an MG, you could take me through the countryside with the wind blowing and a scarf around my neck. Of course, that's what happened to that society woman right. Sorry, bad day, call you later.
Love and stuff
So I'm waiting for my Harley to arrive! I'm been thinking about getting a bike for a while and I guess I succumbed to advertising pressure in the States. Time to have a little fun. I'm going to surprise Ann with it but I think she might flip! Still, I figure we need to get away from the house for a while and wander down to the South of France and not buy a bathing costume.
I was sick, no not alcohol or even a bad curry but some weird flu thing. It was wretched but I'll spare you the gory details. Anyway I'm thinner than ever and in need of sun and some good cooking.
The party is a great idea. I'll keep you posted. I could come and get you on my hog and we could fly down the M1 with 'your hands strapped around my engine'.
Sorry it's been a while but I was sick! Not even the result of a good night out, or even a bad curry, but some weird flu thing. It was wretched, the entire contents of my body headed for the nearest orifice and I ended up on a drip in the hospital. Still the nurse that looked after me was really pretty and kept my spirits up! It's all passed now.
We're hosting a cricket game! Seems that in the 19th century the bloke that lived here liked his cricket too, and had several games played at the house including one between the 'Friends of Stoney Grove' and Australia just before the Ashes game! W.G. Grace played and it all ended in a draw after the umpire refused to give Grace out after a caught behind. Ours will be a more modest game, but they've asked if I would play as a bowler. Brilliant, eh!
Bike hasn't come yet, but I've got Champagne on ice and I plan to surprise Ann with a special dinner in the dining room to tell her my plans.
Dining Room Conversations
Transcriber's note: There appears to have been a faulty tape in the machine; the second party in the room, who remains unidentified, can only be heard erratically from time to time.
Roderick Dinnell: Well, hello. Um, good evening, Miss.
Woman's Voice: [Unintelligible, EK]
Roderick Dinnell: I've been hoping to have a word with you again, since we didn't finish the other night. I haven't seen you. Have you been busy with all the repairs from the storm?
Woman's Voice: No. I .... be here.
Roderick Dinnell: I see. Can I get you something to eat? Mrs. Johnson fixed me some beans on toast. Here, help yourself.
Woman's Voice: [Indistinct, EK]
Roderick Dinnell: Don't be barmy, woman. Everybody eats! I can get you something else...
Woman's Voice: No, I never.... not for years. Yes, years ago I ate. But not from a tin. Ugh. Never from a tin.
Roderick Dinnell: Well then, how do you get along if you don't eat? You look like a healthy woman to me.
Woman's Voice: [Unintelligible]
Roderick Dinnell: Of course you are.
Woman's Voice: Don't you start. I am!
Roderick Dinnell: But you look so...vivacious.
Woman's Voice: I am NOT.
Roderick Dinnell: Well then, why are you here? Don't you have better things to do? Or is it a case of too much time on your hands? If you'll pardon my asking.
Woman's Voice: There is sickness in this house. I sense death is near. It makes me stronger.
Roderick Dinnell: You mean the young man? The one they brought to hospital? He's not here anymore...
Woman's Voice: No, not him.
Roderick Dinnell: Oh, I see. I see. Well, hmm. Well, I can't say it's unexpected. I only wish...never mind. I see.
Woman's Voice: I am sorry.
Roderick Dinnell: Never mind.
Transcript: Drinks in the dining room, 11 August, 1999
Ann: This is very nice. What's the occasion?
Simon: Nothing much, just thought we could treat ourselves now and then. I sometimes forget we're rich! Champagne?
Ann: Wow, sure. Are you up for this?
Simon: I feel fine, Ann. Really.
Ann: I know what you mean about the money. You know, sometimes I think maybe we should give it all away, and then I think that this place really needs us and there is so much we can do here. And for the first time in my life I can control my research and go places I want to, and do what I want to do.
Simon: Right. But some days it seems like this place has been such a drain. I never realised how much money it would take, and we're really only scratching the surface of what needs to be done. And there are places I want to go, too. So I thought, how about a holiday?
Ann: That would be wonderful. Maybe when winter comes, and we can't get as much done, and the garden dies back, we could take a trip. How about Italy? I could show you my dead Nuns. It was really beautiful in Tuscany this spring, and I missed having you there.
Simon: I was thinking a little grander in scale. Look at this baby!
Transcription note: Several moments of silence...
Ann: A motorcycle?
Simon: Not just any bike-- a Harley Tourer. We could do Europe for a few months, maybe take it to South America. Hell, we could do a road trip in the States and go see your parents. "Head out on the highway, do do do do do-do, looking for adventure, do do do do do-do. Born to be Wi-ild!
Ann: You bought a motorcycle.
Simon: What, it'll be a blast. We'll get you some leather and a big helmet, you can be a biker babe!
Ann: Simon, what are we doing here?
Simon: What do you mean?
Ann: I mean what does all this mean for you? Us, the house, living here.
Simon: It's great, the house is brilliant, you're really into the history and stuff, I get to play cricket on the lawn, Shirley cooks her bloody awful meals for dinner, and we pay Martin to grow prize vegetables and a Hermit to have sex with our research assistant. I just thought it was time for a break. Do what we want to do. Spend some money on us.
Ann: But this is what I want to do. And have you seen any money recently? Despite the assurance of the comic book lawyers you hired, who knows when we'll get another check. How much was the Harley? You know, I've spent all week agonizing over how we can possibly afford to buy the portrait of Fanny, which we talked about, and you bought a Harley?
Simon: Well, it's not like it was top of the range or anything. But we talked about travel, I thought that was something we both wanted to do. I mean, is it the bike? Jackie said I should have got an MG.
Ann: So you spring this on me, but you discussed it with you ex-girlfriend?
Simon: Phil, maybe Phil said an MG. Jackie just sent me an email so I replied. She's an old friend, that's all.
Ann: An old friend who you went to see in London.
Simon: Dad told you, right? Interfering old bastard. I didn't say anything because I knew you'd get mad. We just had a drink and talked about England and stuff. Nothing happened.
Ann: Simon, maybe this has all been too much. It's been less than a year and we have a house, a staff, and ex-girlfriends in the way. Maybe we should just take some time to think about what we want for ourselves. I feel like all I've done lately is fight with you, or make up, or think about fighting and making up.
Simon: O.K. that's fine. Taking time is fine. That's what the Harley's for. Where do you want to go?
Ann: Simon, you're not listening. You, me. Let's take some time off. Apart. Whatever.
Simon: Wait a minute. You can't just say time out and walk away. Where are you going?
Ann: The sad thing is, I'm a millionaire and I can't afford to go anywhere. I'm going to bed. Let's sleep on all this. Alone. Goodnight.
Eclipse: Nothing to Fear?
Residents of Puckering should have nothing to fear from the coming eclipse according to Frank Churchill, resident hermit at Stoney Grove. "Ancient people saw it as a sign of the end, but so far it never was. They would fall to their knees and pray for the the Sun to return and so far it has, which they then saw as sign of redemption."
The Reverend L. Nigel Banks was also unperturbed by the coming solar event. When asked if he saw it as a portent for the coming millennium he laughed. "All this stuff about the end of the world is pretty silly really," he said. "We create our own dates, and our own crises, as proved by the Y2K problem. I rather think God uses an altogether different calendar."--Nigel Twicks
Litter Problem May Ruin Chances for Best Village
A strange collection of litter may have ruined the chances of Puckering in the Annual Best Village competition this year. Colonel Bratherton was taking his early morning constitutional when he came across several small piles of keys up and down the High Street. He moved them out of sight, but worse was to follow. Residents reported finding empty wallets outside of the pub, a collection of old purses by the Post Office and almost a hundred old and broken watches scattered by the village pond. "I have no idea where these came from, or why they are here," said a clearly exasperated Colonel Bratherton. "This individual has brought disrepute on the village. It's desperately disappointing after we did so much to put things back in order after the storm. I hope the local police will find this hooligan and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. We should bring back the birch!" Whether or not the litter was observed by Competition judges remains unknown, since the date and time of their inspections is a closely guarded secret.--Nigel Twicks
Simon Tinsley - Ever a Commoner?
Is there no class in English society? One can now look at Simon Tinsley who, in buying Stoney Grove, has taken upon himself a role in village society to which he was not born. Despite a broken home--his mother and father divorced when he was a teenager--he remains a family man. Recently, he brought his father to live with him at the house he shares with fellow lottery winner Ann Simmons. While Tinsley sometimes seems dismissive of his position he has become very aware of the importance of the great house in England." In a way it was leaving England that made me appreciate it, that and meeting Ann and becoming excited by her deep love of history. After leaving college I just wanted to see something different and the States seemed to be where it was happening." Tinsley worked in computers and was dealing with the Y2K problem. It was there that he met Ann Simmons and there that they purchased the fated lottery ticket that bought them their current success.
Tinsley is becoming more used to the expectations of the village-- "we help where we can"-- and the Reverend Banks can be assured of his helping the church restoration at the Village Idiot. "When I was in the States I really missed good beer and curry, that and cricket of which there was absolutely no coverage." Still interested in technology Simon is working with Emma Knytleigh, a young student, to put information about Stoney Grove on the World Wide Web, which he describes as a way of making the house public and giving people some access to it.
As for future plans, Tinsley isn't making any. Fate has shown itself to have a very capricious hand, he says. "Look at us, who would have thought it!" Who indeed. --Nigel Twicks
And the New Beer is....
Order a pint of Nun's Habit and you'll now be helping the Upper Puckering Parish Church. The Reverend Nigel Banks declared himself delighted with the whole competition. "We had a number of suggestions and many of them were even publishable," he enthused. "The money is needed more than ever and I really hope that the Village Idiot will see a lot more trade and that we'll all benefit as a result."--Nigel Twicks
Cricket at Stoney Grove
Even in a great storm there can be a silver lining and for Nigel Morcombe it showed in a chance conversation at the Idiot. "We were discussing the lack of suitable spaces in England to play cricket when Nigel Twicks pointed out that in the 19th century several games were played at Stoney Grove. A call to cricket enthusiast, and present owner, Simon Tinsley ensued, a groundsman was dispatched and with some hard work it appears that the last game of the season may yet grace the lawns of the great house. "--Lumpy Gaites
For the edification of our readers this week the Gazette carries an account of a famous game played at Stoney Grove in 1882, the 100th anniversary of the house being built. (see Sports).