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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!


Well, you’ll never guess where Mr. Tinsley has gone to. No, not the dad; he never goes anywhere interesting. Simon. He’s off cruising the Arctic Circle with his mate Phil. I tell you I wouldn’t fancy it, all those Russians and nothing but ice for miles, but Ann thought he’d enjoy it. To tell you the truth, I think she wanted him out of her hair and someplace safe for a spell. Can’t say as I blame her. He’s not the most trustworthy man, you know. Still, if she’s sending him to the Pole now, what’s she going to do after they’re married and his eyes start to wander? Siberia? I suppose he must have picked up a few useful words by now, so even that wouldn’t be safe!

The house is so quiet now that the film crew has gone back to London. Doesn’t seem natural. I mean, Simon and Phil are away, and even Mr. Tinsley Sr. has taken to nipping off to the pub of an evening. Chester was poking about on some fool’s errand for a bit, but he’s gone home with his tail between his legs again. You’d think he’d learn. He’s a grown man, isn’t he? Making up feeble excuses to come visit and smearing my good name in the process… Infestation indeed! Well, never mind. With the wedding coming up, the house will be full again.

What was that? Martin? Is that you, love? Hold on, I’ll just be a minute. Did you fall? You ought to be careful, you silly fool. You’re not getting any younger. Martin? Oh good God! Call an ambulance! It’s Martin! I don’t think he’s breathing…

Simon And Ann  

To: Ann
From: SimonTinsley

Ann, it’s at times like this that a man knows his true feelings. Believe me when I tell you that I love you dearly.

But I have to tell you also that I may not be coming back.

It’s not that I don’t want to. Believe me, I actually quietly prayed that we would return and I don’t do that very often. I just don’t think that we are going to make it. Did you know what Phil had planned for this ‘fun’ stag holiday? I can’t believe that you did because, surely, you would have stopped him. Surely you would have said to him Phil, that is not a good idea. We got on the plane and I’m thinking Corfu, Jamaica, Greece? Those would have been good ideas.

We are on an official Russian naval ice breaker in the arctic! This is a very, very bad idea.

Everything is gray! The sky, the sea, the ship, the food. The contents of Phil’s sick bag. It’s all gray. We’ve been on board for about ten hours and I just found out I can email – at least for the next hour before we go out of range. So I get a final word. Treasure this note, it may be my last for, if we survive the ship, I doubt we will survive Ivan and Ruggy.

There are actually four of us. Me, my used-to-be-best-man- now-great-fucking-pillock Phil, Ian, who is into wildlife and stares expectantly at the sea, and some bloke who came with him who we just know as ‘the anorak’ because we’ve never seen him. I mean, I presume that there is a bloke in there because the anorak moves and stuff, but it’s just this huge coat that huddles in corners. This is all part of the Russian government's new policy of paying for military expenses through tourism, although they are also promoting it as a new openness. ‘No secrets anymore’ the Russian captain said, as we came on board. I felt like telling him, let me get back alive and I’ll never tell anyone anything.

Anyway I’m losing the point, the point is Ivan and Ruggy. They are our guest services contacts. Ivan has a face like a rat, he speaks a little English and can also poke and prod in English. I’m sure he is very dangerous and carries a switch-blade that opens without even a tiny click. I bet he was a Soviet assassin and now has to do this because they don’t kill spies anymore. Ruggy is too big to be a spy, though he could be an embassy because he’s the size of a small building. He’s just this huge monster of a man and he has befriended Phil. I think he called Phil ‘Babooska’, and Phil and I agreed that this was not a good sign. Phil is no longer saying anything, though I think he’s wishing he was me and that being knifed in the middle of the night by a rat faced Russian is a much better fate than the one facing him. Don’t say anything to Caroline, we can tell her that Phil was lost at sea. So far he’s adopted the ploy of locking himself in our cabin and throwing up constantly for four hours, but we both know that at some point in the next ten days he’s got to come out, and anyway there can’t be much left in his system for him to expel.

The communications officer is telling me I have to send this now so remember that I love you and I did want to make the wedding. Phil wanted me to be sure to tell you to tell Caroline that he loves her and that he’s sorry about the curtains (some argument they had before he left).

Anyway I really have to send this

Love Simon.

To: Ann
From: MRichards


We were so excited to receive an invitation to your wedding! Congratulations, best wishes and hopes for all good things in the coming years! We’ll send back the formal rsvp, but I wanted to drop you a quick line and let you know that Byron and I will be attending.

Maybe you could come back with us and spend your honeymoon on Nevis. We could have a good visit then. Still, I don’t suppose you’ll be wanting to spend that time visiting with us!

Hope you and Simon are keeping well, and we’ll see you soon.



To: Ann
From: Partygirl2


Janey asked me to write and tell you she might not be able to come to the wedding. Sorry. She met this guy (Todd, he actually works with me) and has left to go hiking with him in Yosemite. It sucks that she might not be back in time for your wedding, but you know, she doesn’t get out much. Ever since she and Greg split up two years ago, she’s been off men. It’s crazy timing. Anyway, she was wondering if you knew if she could bring the dress back. I told her I didn’t think so, after it had been altered, but she thought maybe they’d take it. I told her to hang on to it in case she’s back by then. If not, I could bring it with me and maybe you could ask someone else her size to be in the wedding. Let me know what you think.


PS. Don’t forget she’s put on a few pounds since last time you saw her. Oh, Mom said to let you know she and Dad are coming. As if you thought they wouldn’t.

To: Partygirl2
From: Ann


Tell Janey that once the dress has been altered, you can’t return it. Don’t bother to bring it with you unless you bring your sister as well.



Name: Withheld

ID: BlueLady

Age: Forties

Occupation: Housewife

If you could describe yourself in but a few words…..

Oh my goodness, this is the hard part, isn't it? I mean how can you put it all in just a few words? My late husband used to tell me that I can't say anything in five words when I have fifty at my disposal. Well I guess that tells you one thing, I'm a widow. I think that really I'd like my Eric back, but you've got to move on, haven't you? Actually I wish Eric had moved on, because he was hit by a taxi on a pedestrian crossing. Oh you have to laugh at life, don't you, otherwise it gets too much. Still Eric was a lovely man, quiet, loyal and a good listener and that's rare in a man in my opinion. Now it's not the money I need, not that I'm well off, I don't want to attract that sort, but Eric's life insurance left enough to pay the bills. No I miss the company at night. I stay active, well you have to don't you, I help with Meals on Wheels and we have a residents association and we do a lot there, organizing trips and things. We went to Scarborough last month. Had a laugh, I can tell you. But when you get back, the house feels so empty. Now Kate, she's my sister, she said I should get a cat, but it's not the same, is it? Oh dear, now I've gone and run out of space and I haven't really said anything about myself, have I?

To: Ann
From: CVees

Dear Ann,

I have terrible news. There can be no doubt-- Xestobium rufovillosum at the UPPC. Classic case. Now the question is, how much damage has been done? With the wet spring and summer, the conditions are perfect. We should have replaced more, but I’m always loathe to remove original fabric, as you well know. Hindsight is 20-20. Obviously this has grave consequences for your wedding. I’ll be back in touch as soon as I know more.


PS You know, with the danger so near, maybe I ought to do a thorough inspection of the house. I checked the obviously places two years ago, but may have missed something.

To: TheReverend
From: Ann

Dear Nigel,

What’s going on at the church? I got some muddled email from Chester talking about damage and original fabric and, well, I don’t know what. Is there a problem?


To: Ann
From: RedDave


Congratulations! We’ll be there with bells on! Looking forward the wedding and to getting caught up. You’ll never guess who got denied tenure…If you have an email address for Amy Brice, would you mind passing it along? She might be interested in this gossip as well.

Dave Redmond

To: Ann
From: TheReverend

Dear Ann,

We’ve got death watch beetles! There were about fifty of them scattered across the floor. Mrs. Beveldine had been in and swept up, so we don’t know where they came from, or how many she might have moved. Anyway, I went back last night, heard the ominous ticking, and called Chester in for a consult. The ticking comes from them bashing their heads against the beams, apparently after they’ve had a bellyful of wood and are in need of some amorous attention. We’ll need to get a structural engineer in here to assess the damage, and obviously will have to fumigate the sanctuary. Some days the Lord places a heavy load on our shoulders.

Nigel Banks

To: Simon
From: Uncle

It's your uncle Henry again!

Haven't seen you in a while and we was missing you. Let me know when you'll be around or I can send down your cousin Ernie to catch up on your news.

Yours affectionately

Uncle Henry

To: Simon
From: LoverLinks

Name: Withheld

ID: Iris

Age: Mid-forties

Occupation: Office Manager

If you could describe yourself in but a few words…..

"Many a desert rose is born to bloom unseen."

To: AmynJames
From: Ann


Everything is falling apart! Simon is being held hostage by former Soviet hit men in the Arctic, and middle-aged women are sending him e-personals through something called LoverLinks. My flakey cousin and former bridesmaid Janey has run off to Yosemite with some man she just met and doesn’t think she’ll be back in time to come to the wedding, and the church is full of some wood-crunching insects that may mean we’re in danger of having the whole roof come crashing down on our heads when we say "I Do." Chester is gleefully crawling around the basement of Stoney Grove now hoping to find the same bugs in our house, so that he can heroically save us by timely fumigation. Help me!


To: Ann
From: Simon

Not sure what I said in the last email but ignore it. In fact, don't tell Phil, but it's been a blast! We're back in range to send emails again and I should be home in another 30 hours. Looking forward to seeing you and catching up on what I've missed.

I must say that when we first met our contacts Ivan and Ruggy we were a bit concerned, but they turned out to be great guys. I think the fact that I had some whiskey in my carry-on was helpful (those travel guides are so useful!) and they consumed that while we got roasted on Russian vodka. Their English was a bit up and down but they had some great sailor stories! I tell you these guys live life to the full. The captain was an interesting guy. Young chap, we realised on closer inspection, but from a long family of sea captains. He was incredibly well informed on history, his great grandfather was one of the 'white' Russians but his Dad and Granddad were in the Soviet navy. We talked politics and capitalism and the cold war and naval battles. And we saw whales. And an iceberg. And a sea lion. It was really fun! We played cards (not gambling, male bonding!) and even though I lost my pants I did gain some nice Russian navy gear!

Oh yeah, the bloke in the Parka. It was the wildlife man's wife! He was a nut, but she came out of her shell quite a bit, I can tell you. That was a night!

Anyway this trip has really made me think about what I'm doing with my life. You only get one life, I think, and we've been given an opportunity with our lottery win. Once we are married I'm really going to do something!


love you soon



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Dining Room

Frank: Hello Martin, don’t often see you inside during the day.

Martin: Well, I don’t have much time to be wandering through here. A garden’s never finished, as I tell Shirley. But I like to poke around occasionally, see how things are coming along. John’s cleaning up outside, so I have a few extra minutes.

Frank: There has been some grumbling, but the house really is looking better. I think they like that it’s being taken care of again.

Martin: You know Frank, you really should spend more time outside. In here, listening to all your voices, it’s not good for a man.

Frank: But you’ve been here all your life Martin. You know the memories and people in the house are still here.

Martin: Oh there’s memories all right, but I spend my days in the sunlight. It don’t do to dwell on the past. There’s always another season in the garden.

Frank: And each season as it passes leaves a trace in the ground to enrich the next.

Martin: Well that’s true. All we are in the end is fertiliser for the next generation. Not such a bad ending in my book.

Frank: No indeed.

Shirley: Oh, it’s you. Wondered what was crawling around in here.

Chester: I was merely trying to ascertain if there had been any damage to the floorboards.

Shirley: Oh, so you’ve a reason this time for crawling around the house. I suppose you’re aware that Simon’s off on some ice cruise. Did the film crew harm the floors then?

Chester: No, it wasn’t the crew, and yes, I was aware that Simon’s away. You’ve no doubt heard about the discovery in the church of the dreaded death watch beetle. I though I should come here and check for similar infestations.

Shirley: Well, you can look as long as you fancy, but we don’t have infestations here! I keep this house clean, I do. You come in here suggesting I let bugs in the house! I’ve looked after this place for almost sixty years.

Chester: I assure you this was not a comment on your housekeeping. The Xestobium is a voracious creature, and doesn’t let a duster or a mop stand in his way, no matter how skillfully wielded. He and his mates could be anywhere, and unless you heard them, you’d never know. Perhaps I should check in the basement. If you see Ann, please tell her where to find for me.

Ann: Oh Emma, you scared me. Really, it seems so quiet around here with Simon gone.

Emma: To say nothing of an entire film crew.

Ann: I can’t say I miss them. It was fun, in its way, but it’s great to have the house back again.

Emma: Any word from the frozen North?

Ann: Yes, I had another message. Even in the deepest Arctic he’s having a good time. While we’re in chaos here he’s watching walruses – or is it walri? - frolic in the sea.

Emma: Do you mind him being gone?

Ann: I thought that it would be good timing—that I could collect my thoughts and get organised--but it hasn’t quite worked like that. You’ve heard about the beetles in the church?

Emma: No. Why should I? I don’t live at the vicarage any more, you know.

Ann: You don’t need to be so sensitive. I just meant it seemed to be general knowledge.

Emma:  I'm sorry. It’s just life is getting a bit complicated and everybody assumes things.

Ann: Nigel thinks they may have to close the church for more repairs. After all they’ve already done. He’s pretty upset. Anyway, we’ll just have to wait and see…I have noticed you’ve been around here a lot more since the filming ended.

Emma: Frank was so upset and well…

Ann: Is John talking to you yet?

Emma: No, and neither is Shirley. Is that her now?

Ann: Shirley?  Shirley, what’s the matter?