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Series Two So Far

In this episode:

Cuppa with Shirley
Simon's Tape
Ann's Diary
Emma's Letter

Series Two So Far...

Stoney Grove owners Ann Simmons and Simon Tinsley split. Ann returns to the Caribbean and rents a house on Nevis from Doug Wood, an American ex-pat. She begins to explore the "other" Stoney Grove, a ruined eighteenth-century plantation house. She also spends several months transcribing an autobiographical account of the life of Stoney Grove's first lady, Fanny Rawlins Blake. Part is on Nevis; the rest is in a locked box in England that Emma discovers and opens. Simon makes an unexpected visit to deliver the manuscript to Ann. Under a moonlit Caribbean sky, he and Ann reconcile. Simon returns to Sussex; Ann remains on Nevis.

Back in England, Simon decides to channel his energies into making the house an important tourist destination. He's set up a series of regular meetings with the staff and other assorted residents of the property, and is working through a plan.  The plan includes guided tours through the house and an agreement to let Segovia TV film an upcoming miniseries on the property.

Simon's longtime friend Phil  leaves his wife Caroline to live the life of leisure with Simon. After several weeks of separation, he realizes that he’s made a terrible mistake. Caroline takes him back, grudgingly. His former employers do not.

Emma Knytleigh, project historian, discovers that housekeeper Shirley Johnson’s grandson John is the son of Jerry Anderson, a local antiques-dealer turned thief. She also learns that Frank Churchill, the resident hermit, is the illegitimate son of Ellen Hall. Shirley, infuriated with Emma's meddling in family business, discovers drugs in Emma's rooms and turns her over to the police. John admits that some of the drugs are his. The rest come from Ann, who sent them to England for analysis, suspecting that they are connected historically with the murder of Fanny’s husband. Emma leaves Stoney Grove as a result of the drug bust, preferring to live with Reverend Nigel Banks. Ann would like to come home, but must wait for her solicitor to have drug charges against her dismissed.

Martin Johnson reveals to Emma and Shirley that he's always known he couldn't be John's grandfather, and Shirley admits that Monty Hall was her lover before she married Martin.  The two go off to do some soul searching about their marriage in the relative privacy of Lyme Regis.

Simon's involvement with the Puckering Gazette hits a low point as the Editor, learning of his imminent dismissal, publishes a final issue filled with accusations and innuendo. Simon is left picking up the pieces of his publishing empire and his relationship with Ann. He decides that fair maid was never won by faint heart, and heads towards the Caribbean once more.

Cuppa with Shirley (or Martin)

Mind the door, will you? I’m trying to keep the damp out. Dreary day. We're all feeling a bit dull. If you’ve come to see Frank, you might as well sit down for a minute and have a cup of tea. He’s still in hospital. We were hoping he’d be home by now, but he took a turn for the worse last week, and they’ve kept him. It won’t be for much longer though, I shouldn’t think. Martin and I popped round to see him yesterday and he seemed himself again. Even talked about getting back to doing his tours. It’s a shame, really, that he should be so off his head. I’ve always had a soft spot for our Frank. Trouble is he has one himself as it were.

Emma’s moving back into the house. That girl can’t seem to live in one place for more than a month or two. Worse than the moles in Martin’s garden, she is, always stirring things up and leaving dirt where ever she goes. Says she’s coming back to take care of Frank, though if you ask me she’s probably upset the Reverend. Don’t know how she plans to nurse Frank if she’s spending every night keeping John’s bed warm. Not that I’m supposed to know what’s going on, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Overheard her talking to the lad about book rights and publishers. Don’t know what she’s on about, but she’s been gloating like a cat with a canary.

Been down to see my solicitor, I have. Had a bit of old business to tie up, you know, but it’s all tidied now. Otherwise things have been a bit dull around here. Mr. Tinsley’s still fretting about that son of his. Fancy going off for weeks without telling your old Dad when you’re coming back! His Lordship may be expecting me to be looking after him, but it’s not my job, is it? I bring him his tea and bickies like I’ve always done, cook his meals, but I’m too busy to be keeping him company. We do have the odd game of rummy of an evening, but he cheats something fierce. Takes the fun out of it really, doesn't it?

Off so soon? Well, all right then, I'll tell Frank you called in. Mind the door when you leave, there's a bit of a nip in the air.

Simon's Tape

[click] July 1. This is Simon Tinsley, reporter, Puckering Gazette. I am here with Ann Simmons at the home of Arlette Williamson and her son Winston. It was Mrs. Williamson's mother who found the first part of the Fanny manuscript, a document that shed interesting light on the life of the first lady of Stoney Grove. She has agreed to be interviewed for the Puckering newspaper.

[Simon] Mrs. Williamson. How did these documents come into your mother's possession?

[Arlette] Mother was always one for looking into history. History' s important, it is. If you don't know your history then you don't know where you're coming from, that's what she was always saying. She was a school teacher in Gingerland. Taught school for many, many years. She wrote a guide to the Islands, you know, which used to be sold in the hotels.

[Ann] Do you know where she found the Fanny manuscript?

[Arlette] She always had it from when I was a child. She showed it to us when we were young. She would talk of maybe visiting Stoney Grove one day you know, but she never did.

[Simon] How did she know about Stoney Grove?

[Arlette] You think she couldn't read? Mother taught school for forty years. It's all in the document, you read the documents?

[Winston] Easy Mother. Man's just asking questions.

[Ann] Yes, we read it, but I think Simon was wondering if she had any more recent contact with the place.

[Arlette] Sure, Mr. Basil wrote her you know. She sent him part of the manuscript. No charge, because he was family. You look after family, just like I look after Winston here.

[Simon] Winston looks like he could look after himself.

[Arlette] The boy needs his mother to look after him. He want to go to school, but I haven't the money for that.

[Simon] Isn't he a bit old for school?

[Ann] It's all right Mrs. Williamson. She means University, Simon.

[Arlette] What you think I mean, nursery school? Winston here got three A-levels, you know. How many you got? Anyway I was thinking, he could come back to England with you, stay at Miss Fanny's house, go to a good English school, like Oxford.

[Winston] I told you, I'm going to the States to do a tourism degree. I'll get a basketball scholarship.

[Arlette] Boy's got no sense. You go to England. You got a right. Mr. Basil always told my mother she was welcome. Well her grandson's coming.

[Simon] Well I rather think Fanny may have given up her rights when she killed her husband.

[Arlette] What you saying, she have no rights, her family have no rights? You think we still all slaves. Her husband was a monster. She thought he'd killed her son. No respect for his women. God would have forgiven her.

[Winston] Easy now, easy. Maybe you can come back later.

[Simon] Absolutely. [click]

[click] July 9. We just had a fantastic week. After visiting the formidable Mrs. Williamson, we decided to take a trip that just kept going. We started on St. Kitts where Ann was supposed to do something boring at the archives and then visited the magnificent Brimstone Hill. It's basically this rock that just rises out of the ground, covered in ramparts and canons. The entire Caribbean was a fierce battleground for years with the French, Dutch, Spanish and English all fighting it out. I would have loved to defend Brimstone Hill! Anyway, from there you can see for miles and we looked across to the Dutch islands of St. Eustatius and Saba. So what the hell, we went and visited them too! By the time we were on Statia, which includes a volcano that you can walk into, Ann and I were definitely together again!!! It was great, there's something about the sunshine here and the fact that you don't need to wear much that makes me feel very in love. Saba is just a large mountain. How they got an airport on it I don't know, and how anyone got on the island before they did is even more of a mystery. After we left there we went to St. Maarten and had the best food of the trip. I slipped into a jewelry store in Philipsburg to get a special something for Ann - which I have not given to her yet. A few days there and we were ready for Nevis and some home comforts.

Anyway we got back, headed up to Ann's house to find Amy … and James. So, with some regret, I'm back in the Four Seasons while Ann plays mediator. [click]

[click] Midnight. Just had an odd conversation with Doug, who is clearly a slimeball. He was hinting that he and Ann had 'done a few things together.' Git. He also said that Ann was buying a house here. I don't understand that. Nevis is a wonderful place, but Ann is supposed to be coming back with me. This isn't my home, England is, Stoney Grove is. I love this place, I love Ann, but why is she buying a house here? I mean Dad's a miserable bastard, but he's my Dad and he's home at the house. I've put the last year into that place as well. I guess I just assumed Ann would come back with me. Why wouldn’t she? [click]

[click] July 10.  What’s happ'nin? Been talking to James. The man has some problems. Amy doesn't want to stay on the islands and be his West Indian wife. So he's supposed to follow his woman. He's doing well here, talk of him getting into Government, a few years time he could be the man. He thinks that if he goes to the States he'll have to start over. Now he's a smart guy, a lawyer, he could make it anywhere and I think there is some appeal in going back to the States, he liked it when he was in school there. But he wants it to be his decision to go, and he’s being stubborn because right now it’s hers. Still Mande is his baby too and he wants to be with her, and Amy is his lady. I can be really mellow and thoughtful when I’m on the beach with a rum punch discussing these things!

So I spoke to Ann about the house ting. Casual like, I was cool 'bout it. She said she had started looking for a house months ago, island time is a little slower than English. She said when I came out last time she just let it lie, but then this property came up and she pursued it.

Now I think I did say I’d stay here with her, but that was because I thought she was coming back with me! This place isn't my home. I know Ann is really happy here. I mean it really suits her, she got so tense in England and here she's loose and fun and at ease. I don't know what to do. What I want to do is go get a curry in Puckering and then slip into the Village Idiot for a pint of Nun. Bugger. [click]

[click] July 11. [click] Need to do some more research for the paper so I'm here at the home of Ann Simmons, beautiful biographer of the life of Fanny Blake discussing her life, Fanny Blake’s that is. So Ann, though Fanny has been portrayed by some as a vile villain, do you think she was a bad person?

[Ann] Well Simon, I suppose what she did was unconscionable. She killed her husband and aborted her child. Though I'm not sure she meant that to happen, she certainly took a risk that it could. But I think she acted to take control of her life. She was a possession to her husband, who she believed had killed her only son. I think that by modern standards her husband may have also raped her. I actually admire her in a way. I think she acted with a lot of courage.

[Simon] So she did what she had to do?

[Ann] Yeah, to some extent she did. But I’m not sure we know the full story. Emma found an obituary for Edward Morcombe, the fiancÚ of Fanny's daughter Mary. Fanny seemed to indicate that he had threatened to reveal all when Mary told him about her mother. I think he was going to blackmail them.

[Simon] When did he die?

[Ann] Well that’s an interesting coincidence. it was around about the time Fanny left. Read it.

[Simon] So Mary did him in. Nice family!

[Ann] But if Mary poisoned him, where did she get the poison? What did she know about poisoning? I think she knew what was going on, she was complicit, but I think Fanny did it. Morcombe is the other man on Fanny’s grave. I think she was asking to be judged by her husband, her child and Morcombe, the three people whose death she caused.

[Simon] Don't fancy her chances!

[Ann]  [Ann] I'm not sure I'm the one to judge. I'm feeling bad about Frank right now.  I feel awful knowing that while we're here he's so unhappy.

[Simon]  Well, we're not here forever, are we? 

[Ann]  For awhile anyway.  Remember the house?

[Simon] Oh, yeah, the house.

[Ann] You don't want to stay, do you? Simon, turn that stupid thing off.

[click] [click]

[click] It's OK, Ann it's OK. I love you. Look I'll stay here. We'll get the lawyers to sort out the house. Maybe Dad can move here or something, goodness knows he complains about the cold enough in England and he’ll get to see some decent cricket. We'll work it out. It's all getting a bit much for me anyway. Shirley pushing John's rights to the place, Emma pushing Frank's inheritance as a direct heir, though what he would do with it is an interesting thought. Arlette thinks that we owe it to Winston, because of past injustice. Really, I wonder why we own Stoney Grove?

[Ann] I’ve wondered that too, but we did buy it. We took on responsibility for the property and though we thought that just meant the bricks and the grounds, it doesn’t. It means the past and the people connected to the place now. Anyway, let's be honest here, we're the people with the money to run it.

[Simon] You’ve been away from the day to day of it for awhile, but it’s not getting any easier. We're got some huge restoration bills coming, we can't get grants or public funds to help, can't even get a tax break with this Government. I can't believe I said that. I'm becoming a Tory! Anyway if you want we can give it up. I can give it up. We can be beach combers, live in your house and drink rum and watch cricket.

[Ann] No, that's not what I want. I mean, thank you Simon--it’s great that you’d stay here. But this isn’t really my home either. It's not the real world. I don't want to become like Doug spending the day half drunk in idleness. Maybe England isn’t my home yet either. But buying the lottery ticket was the first decision we made together-- I'd just like it to mean something.

[Simon] What it did was bring us together. That's all that's important. Not Stoney Grove. If the choice is Stoney Grove or you  then it's easy to make.

[Ann] That's really sweet of you. I think you can have both.

[Simon] Yeah? You sure? I was getting to like the idea of a house near the beach.

[Ann] Just knowing you’d stay makes it easier for me. Anyway, are you crazy? Who said anything about giving up the house here? We can afford it, and I think that England in winter with your Dad and Shirley’s cooking might make us desperate for a little island hideaway. Come on, let’s go home.

[Simon] Now?

[Ann] Maybe we should sleep on it?

[Simon] Righty-oh! [click]

Ann's Diary

July 1, 2000

Another wonderful day, although things got a bit hairy with Mrs. Williamson this afternoon.  Simon and I went up to visit her for an interview about Fanny Blake's life for the Gazette. She's a descendant (through Fanny’s son, Ned) and shared the first part of the manuscript with me this spring.  Simon asked a few innocent questions that quickly got under her skin, and she was not happy by the time we made our retreat. She thinks her son is entitled to some share of the estate, and would like to send him to England to University. 

I can't say that I blame her. Everyone we know these days seems to have a claim to some portion of Stoney Grove.  Simon and I bought it, but  John and Frank and Winston (Williamson) have historic connections to the place. I know that we are the legal owners, but aren't they all entitled to something?

When we got back this afternoon I had a message from Myrna waiting. There’s a meeting at the archives on Monday that she’d like me to attend. Simon and I have been talking about taking a trip to see some of the other islands, so we’ve decided to do it, starting on St. Kitts. We’ll take the ferry over tomorrow morning, and decide where else to go once I’m done in Basse Terre on Monday.

July 9, 2000

Just got back from St. Maarten to find James had moved in! Amy was all apologies, but she looks happy, so I sent Simon back to the Four Seasons and told James he was welcome to stay as long as he wants. He arrived last week to try to patch things up. It looks like, at least for the short term, they’re patched.

Simon and I had a great trip! I took him to see Brimstone Hill (one of my favorite places!) and we hung out on the beach until my meeting on Monday. After that we flew to Statia for a few days, then on to Saba and ended up in St. Maarten.

Statia is a real contrast to Nevis. Small, dry, with rocky beaches and very few tourists. When we got there we spent the afternoon poking around Oranjestad, and went to the fort, the Dutch Reformed Church, Honin dalem (the 18th century synagogue) and the museum. Tuesday we got up early and climbed the Quill. There’s a wonderful tropical rain forest in the crater, and we had lunch in there. Took about all the energy either of us had to climb out and down again. Wednesday we went snorkeling at Corre Corre Bay and saw lots of pretty fish. In spite of his ‘born to be wild’ persona, Simon is something of a cautious snorkeler. He kept muttering about barracuda. I didn’t mention that the man at the hotel said that most of the shark sightings on the island happen there.

Thursday morning we caught a flight to Saba, and survived the landing. It’s crazy: sheer cliff on one side, incredibly short runway ahead that drops off into the sea if you miss it. After the excitement of the flight, we had a lazy afternoon by the hotel pool. It’s a strange place—everything is straight up or straight down. We thought about climbing Mt. Scenery, but gave in and took a taxi tour instead. Much better for aching muscles. The architecture is really great—lots of red roofed houses and stone walls. Not much to do for more than a day or two though.

Friday we returned to the 21st century and went to St. Maarten. I left Simon at the hotel and spent most of the afternoon shopping. We had a really romantic moonlit dinner that night, and spent Saturday lounging around on the beach.

So its back home again. It seems really strange to be here in bed without Simon.

July 10, 2000

Amy and I find ourselves with unsympathetic partners today. We stopped by the Four Seasons and discovered Simon settled into the beach with his rum punch. He seems to have corrupted James, who happily joined him. We decided to leave them to it, and went to a cookout at Sandra’s house.

Amy is still planning to go back to the States, and James may be going too. She’s still not sure she wants to get married, but she seems really happy that he’s thinking about going with her.

I love it that Simon loves Nevis enough to want to stay. I guess I should have told him about the house. Still, maybe we can visit England in the summer when it's not so cold and damp!

July 11, 2000

God, what a day. First thing this morning, a letter came from Emma. Frank is sick. We’ve always known that he wasn’t completely…normal, but I didn’t realize it had gotten so bad. I feel awful that Simon and I have upset him.

Then Simon came over to interview me for the Gazette. We started on Fanny and ended up on us. He didn’t really mean it earlier this week when he told me he’d stay here, though today he again said he would stay and I think he meant it. I knew, however, that in his heart he wanted to go home. He was upset about me buying a house here, though honestly I hadn’t meant it to be such a big deal. Months ago, when I started the process, I thought we were through. Then when we made up I thought I’d buy it anyway until we figured out where things stood in the long run. I have enough money for it—it really won’t make any difference to him or to us one way or another.

At first I was really upset that he hadn't  meant it when he said he'd stay, and that he’d always assumed that I’d drop everything and come back. But to be fair, I’ve sent him mixed messages. Before the drug fiasco, I was planning to go, though just for a visit, nothing permanent. Now I think he was genuinely torn between staying here with me and returing to England.

The more we talked, and the more I was honest with myself, the more I realized that maybe I am ready to go back, to try again to make Stoney Grove a place that's home. Not completely—not to just get on a plane and leave all this behind.  And not just because Simon wants me to, and because it's the easiest solution.  I do still want to buy the house here, as a get-away, as a refuge. But my life is in England with him, and with Frank, and Emma, and John, and Shirley, and Martin, and Chester. I know all the things that made me unhappy will still be there, but I feel more able to cope now, and much surer of my relationship with Simon. So yes, I’ll go back with him. No guarantees that it will be forever, but that’s okay too.

Emma's Letter

Dear Ann,

I tried to get in touch with you, but Amy said you and Simon were off travelling and she wasn’t sure when you’d be back.

It’s Frank. He been really unwell. I stopped by the Hermitage Thursday morning because I hadn’t seen him for a few days. Shirley said she hadn’t seen him either, and that he wasn’t answering the door. He was in bed with all the curtains drawn. I don’t think there’s much physically wrong with him, except that he hadn’t eaten, but I couldn’t get any sense out of him. He kept talking to his damned voices. I phoned Dr. Waterfall and he came out and suggested we take him to hospital. You know how much Frank hates to be away, but he seemed really ill, so Martin and I took him in.

Anyway, he’s a bit better now. They’ve fed him and injected him with some drug that’s made him more sensible. He’s really unhappy though, everything has upset him. You’ve gone, I’ve moved out, Martin and Shirley had a row (they’ve worked through it, but Frank is still troubled by it), and now Simon’s gone. He thinks he’s going to be left alone with no one to talk to but the dead voices in the house.

While I was visiting him, he started talking, and I thought I’d lost him again. Then I realised he was quoting passages from "Last Taxi to Kensington." It’s remarkable—he’s memorised virtually the whole book. I asked him why he knew it so well, and he told me that since he never heard his mother’s voice, he’d learned all the words she’d left behind. Ellen Hall is Helena O’Rall! It’s amazing. He knows it all—Adrift at Sea, Quiet Interlude, even passages about robins, sparrows and barn owls.

Apparently he’s inherited all of the royalties from her publications and the rights to all her works. Although on the surface Ellen seems to have been a quiet, tweedy, upper-class lady, she spent a good part of her life writing passionate, fantastical stories. It seems poor Frank has inherited the romantic part of her nature as well.

Dr. Waterfall thinks that he can come home in a few days, and will be all right provided he takes his medication. I'd like to move back into the house so that I can keep an eye on him. If that’s a problem for you or Simon, please let me know as soon as possible. I’ve made it clear to him that I am seeing John, and I won’t be moving back into the Hermitage, and he seems to understand.

Hope to hear from you soon.


PS. I have managed some work in the interim. Found this item on microfilm; thought it might be of some interest…

E.Morcombe obituary