Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I can't leave the place for a mere minute

Why is it that when you leave the village for more than a few days, literally all hell breaks loose? You see, let me explain, l had not too bad a week at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival and decided to spend my meager winnings on a quick trip to Marrakesh. That old romantic, Humph sent me a brief email suggesting a rendezvous in Morocco as he had a few days leave from the dig on the West Bank at Luxor. So here l am back in the village and on my first trip to the Village Stores to collect my newspapers l was bombarded with and updated on the latest village news.

It came as no surprise to myself, that my darling brother was once again centre of attention. Mini bus loads of women had descended on Much Dimley, searching for the 'lonely man in the papers'. Dearest brother had apparently moved in with Taffy Owen to escape the onslaught whilst Miss Knox had set up a temporary base in the lay by opposite Taffy's drive. It was being said that Sybil, Taff's wife, was not amused by recent developments and there had been a heated exchange of words at The Much Dimley Bowling Club's recent AGM. What makes all this so ridiculous is that t he program hasn't even been aired as yet. What will become of Monks then, l ask myself?

The next source of village agitation was the erection of a fine electronic gate heralding the entrance to Longshort Manor. It is said, and l will need to confirm this on my morning's perambulations, a most wonderful piece of iron work containing polo sticks and horses, however the entrance to the Manor has long been a public right of way, the footpath turning a sharp left hander onto an ancient drovers road. Well, it used to be for now theses majestic gates have completely blocked the route taken by horse rider and walker alike. No more access here. Both Mrs Blacker and Old Blaster joyously informed me that the local council had been informed as had the Ramblers Association, but so far nothing much seemed to have happened as the gates were still firmly shut to the hoi palloi.

Well so much for village life and l did have such a delicious time in Marrakesh and I am pleased to say that Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-Lane did appreciate the little package that l collected for him from one of the little souks.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

A chance encounter

Miss Knox walked back with me from the village store this morning insisting that l call her Audrey. I must admit that she was strangely chatty, asking all sorts of rather irregular questions about nothing in particular then throwing in a little sneaker about Monks. This, the more l think about it, is totally out of Miss Knox's, l mean Audrey's character, for l don't think l have spoken more than a handful of words to her in the last thirty years as we in all honesty do not have much in common what with her being an ardent evangelical christian and vegan to boot.

The dratted woman was still hovering about when l should be taking Boy out for his mid-morning perambulation, l had been hospitable as it was so obvious to me that she seemed to be waiting for someone by her constant straining of her scrawny neck as she maneuvered to get the best view of my garden path and who was on it. I had a quick peek but could see no one except the blackbird tugging away at a worm that had jammed itself amongst the paving stones. She even declined to take a seat whilst l offered her a cup of Darjeeling with a slice of tea loaf. I thought that the poor woman must be waiting for a visitation from the lord the way she kept bobbing from this window to the next, it made me feel quiet exhausted just watching her.

As many of you will know, my dear brother normally drops in at around elevenses time, just for a chat, cup of tea and a read of my newspapers. today was no different except for the presence of dear Audrey who leaped about a foot into the air, spilling cake and tea as she rose like an incumbent kangaroo, as she saw the old fogey meander up the path, switching his stick from side to side whilst being followed at some length behind by Jack, his lakeland terrier who seem awfully interested in something just to the left of the garden gate.

Well, so much for brotherly love, is all l can say. Miss Audrey Knox completely engulfed Monks as soon as he stepped in through the door, taking his coat, pouring him tea, buttering his tea loaf. The stupid old biddy was positively falling over hersel, fawning around my grinning brother, who showed no objection to the fuss. I, mean while, was annoyed at being so totally ignored, so grabbed the old barbour from the peg behind the scullery door, climbed into my no longer green hunters, grabbed the dog lead and myself and Boy left the two old dotards to it.

As l closed the back door and headed across the vegetable garden towards the kissing gate and path beyond, it struck me quiet squarely, right between the eyes. Miss Audrey Knox, spinster of this parish is out to save the soul of my howler of a brother!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

camp coffee and romance

Boy and I had a lovely walk this morning down to the village shop to collect our daily newspapers, snowdrops & aconites lining the hedge bottoms and the allotments at the corner of Milksop Lane looking all spruced up ready for the planting of the coming season's vegetable crop. I noticed, as l stopped to re-tie my shoe laces in a double bow, that all the allotments have been taken this year, which is an excellent sign of the industrious nature of our little community and bodes well for the Village Fete and Produce Show.

The Post Office was, by the time l arrived, all of a flutter, Mrs Blacker had swapped the hot chocolate for cups of Camp coffee and chocolate digestives as the weather has become decidedly milder of late. Anyway, as l entered there was a notable silence only broken by the sound of Old Blaster sucking his coffee noisily from, behind which Mrs Blacker had solidly positioned herself proudly handing me an opened issue of the Midshire Daily Post carefully folded to reveal a large colour photo of my dear brother beaming from ear to ear under the caption 'Rural Gent wants a Wife'. Everything sprang into place, my charming brother was obviously the centre of attention here in the village and was, in no uncertain terms, being dissected in minute detail by the seated villagers who between sips of strong coffee and dunking of biscuits were thoroughly enjoying the juicy article.

Without saying a word or taking the proffered cup of coffee, l sat down with thud onto one of the rickety wooden chairs, pulled out my glasses from my barbour pocket and began to read, completely oblivious to the 6 pairs of elderly eyes that watched me with the greatest of anticipation.

The article, which was on page 2 of the Women's Post, had been written by one Cheri Startangler, and featured the 6 gentlemen who had been chosen, together with accompanying manly photos. The ages ranged from 25 to 74, all single and with some tie to the countryside, so for example, we had some farmers, a huntsman, a gamekeeper, a rural GP and then my brother. it was observed & commented upon by Mrs de la Pole, that l re-read the paragraphs concerning my brother's details at least 3 times if not 4.

Old Blaster broke the silence by loudly stating that Monks was at least 82 if not 83 as he was 3 years younger than him so where did the 74 bit come from? Mrs de la Pole erupted in a violent attack of the giggles as she read out from the article, ' this charming, young at heart gentleman is searching for a younger woman to help bring the joy back into his lonely life. She must be slim, attractive, sound in wind and limb and finally be an excellent cook capable of cooking bread and butter pudding and other nursery foods'. Miss Knox sniffed loudly, stood up, smoothed her tweed skirt down and left after purchasing a first class stamp, envelopes, writing paper & a bottle of Parker Quinck ink in bottle blue.

Friday, 27 February 2009

A vicious bite to the thumb

I am sat here typing away with just one finger as l am nursing a badly swollen right hand following a rather nasty nip on the thumb by that little gentleman in velvet clothing, the common or garden mole. My garden, especially the vegetable plot is under a full frontal attack by at least one if not two of these subterranean blighters, if they stayed out of my garden that would be well and truly wonderful, but they don't so l have to resort to using traps which l carefully place in their runs, or would have if l hadn't have put my hand straight onto Mr Mole who promptly took hold of my thumb, sinking his long front teeth in the fleshiest part only coming to a halt as they hit bone and then preceded to hang on for grim death, swing from side to side as l tried to shake him off. So now you have it, one swollen hand and copious amounts of yellow pus. In future l think perhaps l will use my elderly Purdey to halt the invasion, but then, no doubt, some do gooder or a concerned person worried about my mental capacity, will complain if they see me taking pot shots at the ground?

Fortunately, Morris-from-the-Bottom-of-the-Lane was hedge cutting in the next field, so he kindly picked me up & took me straight around to the local doctor's surgery which was an interesting experience l can tell you, especially as it would have been a good few years since l had last set foot in the practice, Dr McFadden was in charge then l seem to remember. The place now is awful, to put it bluntly, people sat on uncomfortable plastic chairs listening to some ear-shattering radio noise and wheezing all over everyone else. Not my idea of a healthy environment and as for the receptionists, l ended up having to rap on the glass with my good hand to attract their attention. I do detest having to speak to people's backs!

A couple of days ago my dear brother, Monks, popped in for a cup of tea, slice of battenburg and a chat as he was just passing by & thought he would do a quick check up to see how l was doing, and to laugh unmercifully at the state of my hand. No sympathy there l might add; isn't that just typical, if it had been HIS hand, l would have been expected to race around armed with my first aid kit and a bottle of dandelion wine!

Well, when he turns up at a non-major meal time, it normally means that he has something of great interest about himself to pass on to me, and this was to be no exception. A local monthly magazine, The Hoppington Journal, had run an article on rural encounters of a romantic nature, asking for eligible gentlemen to forward their details for a series of articles to be published over the summer along the theme 'Rural Gent wants a Wife'. Crash, l dropped my mug of Darjeeling with the shock, 'Are you that desperate?' l inquired, for as far as l was aware he had never admitted to a lack of success in that direction, certainly as a younger man with a fine head of hair he was a great one for the ladies, in fact he was know affectionately as 'Dreamboat'! 'Just seeing who is out there', was the rather sheepish reply, adding that he was due to be featured in a local newspaper's women's page next week. Men, l ask you & l dread to think what he has told them about himself and as to the woman of his dreams, my toes positively curl backwards at the thought!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Lost ancestors and rabbit holes

You will be pleased to note that l am feeling fully recovered from my slight incapacity of last week, Mrs De La Pole recommended her niece, Kylie who is a mobile beautician, to come and give me a thorough overhaul. I must say that l can thoroughly recommend her for not only did she massage all my aching limbs back into some sort of readiness, she also gave me a pedicure and manicure to boot, all in the price. So now l have matching finger & toe nails in the shade of purple grape. Please don't think that this is something of a regular occurrence as l believe my last 'do' would have been coming back from Brazil on the Queen Mary after a few months spent exploring the Amazon Basin with Sir David.

The village fortunately has suffered no more deaths though we have had a birth, the Blewwits have now a third grandchild, a boy who is to be christened Freddy. No news as yet as to when the christening will take place, but l am sure we will all be having a jolly good party afterwards. It is always the case an old one dies then in pops a new one!

My dear old brother turned up just as l was about to have lunch yesterday, an annoying habit he has always had l might add, clutching some rather tatty looking documents that looked as though they had been the staple diet of a family of rodents. Spreading the papers wildly across my already groaning pine kitchen table, and first pulling one forward and then another, Monks started to babble something about lost treasure and heirlooms. Now my brother can be a bit of a card to put it mildly, but this was something else. For years, well ever since we were children, the family legend on my father's side, was of an ancestor who had to leave the village at very short notice bequeathing the family, on his death, land that he had acquired in South America during his life time. As is so often the case with stories of wealth there was just no documentation to bear this out. Previous generations had scoured bank vaults, searched behind the wainscot, dug up floor boards, all to absolutely no avail. So how come my dear brother had come to think, rightly or wrongly that he had found the key to untold wealth?

After what must have been his fourth cup of earl Grey, apparently he had been out with Jack his lakeland terrier, who had shot off down a rabbit hole at the far end of the garden near to his rhododendron collection, only to bring back not a bunny but a leather packet, the contents of which where now spread before me. Slowly and carefully with both of us wearing a pair of mother's old ball gloves which l brought down from the gown trunk in the attic, we began to inspect the tattered papers. Bills, shopping lists passed through our be gloved fingers, hunt ball programes, knitting patterns and recipes, but no will. the pile grew every larger, black edged death notices, obituaries and a baby shoe. But nothing that even resembled a last will and testament!

So that was that then, my table covered in dirty, vermin smelling papers that contained not even a hint of cash. Such is life but it was fun at the time searching and to see poor old Monk's face as the light slowly dawned that this most certainly was not the BIG ONE!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Sore feet and aching kidneys

I am tired. My feet ache and my kidneys seem to be somewhat tender today, I got up at my normal time, let Boy out then fell into the arm chair in front of the kitchen range, l haven't really moved much at all today. Yesterday had been rather a long one, I had been up and out by eight driving the old Royce to Bramley House to meet the Bloxhams who had kindly offered me a mount for a day's hunting with the Markley. The meet was at Bramley House and l must say that the hospitality was marvelous, hot sausage rolls and pork pies plus a good little number in the port field.

There was an excellent turn out for the day's 'hack' l do think that more people are enjoying a good day out on horse back since the hunting ban has been introduced, certainly when riding to hounds across country it is a marvelous feeling seeing no cars or people on foot. I must confess that l stayed out perhaps a little too long, enjoying the glorious sunshine and the comfort of a sturdy cob, you see gone are the days when l lead the field, leaping hedges and ditches in gay abandon! So there you are, l m now suffering for my old age folly, a good glass of sloe gin will no doubt help and perhaps next time l should stick to car following. Never such a fool as an old fool, as they say.

Spring must be coming now, the seed catalogues are starting to arrive through the post and l have rather a long list of vegetables that l hope to be growing this year in my vegetable garden, last year Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane gave me a packet of wonderful seeds which produced lush plants, which on Morris's advice, l added to my carrot cakes, with the most amazing results. These cakes sold out in minutes at every monthly village produce sale, it was a little strange as most of these were bought by the younger members of our community, whilst Old Blaster said that on eating my carrot cake he felt as though he could soar like the buzzard who live in the wood! Very strange. Certainly l noticed that l became very jolly after a slice or two, must have been the freshness of the eggs.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

of funerals and fish and chip shops

This week has seen a spate of activity in the village church, St Botolf's, now that the snow has cleared & the ground has softened up. Enough, according to Mr Blewwitt the Sexton, to allow Spud Jones to commence grave digging again as there is rather a back log. Today sees the internment of Mrs Fidge at three pm then followed by Miss Page tomorrow at eleven and then the rest will be put to rest at the end of the week. Mrs Fidge's should be a good do as l am taking several bottles of fruit wine plus a selection of last year's vintage sloe gin range to add to the tea urn. I always feel that funerals are such a nice occasion to catch up on dear friends who have left the village and are only allowed out of the care homes for funeral services.

The snow drops, l noticed are starting to come into flower along the woodland walk which meanders along the edge of 100 acres of deer park surrounding Longshot Manor; l did take my binoculars just in case an unusual bird caught my eye. scanning the tree tops and across the parkland, nothing was out of the ordinary and the manor has not as yet welcomed its new inhabitants. The village awaits with much excitement as to whether the fish and chip shop will reopen in an effort to gain our support?

Yesterday l received a lovely post card from Humph posted in Luxor 2 weeks ago. He briefly informed me that they were making good progress, only occasionally hampered by the overeager tourist. Now Humph and l go way, way back. We first met whilst Monks was still at school, he used to come and stay with us during school holidays, spending most of his time with my brother shooting at anything that moved, certainly we never went short of rabbit whilst he was there!

Oh dear, l must be getting old, l am starting to sound just like an old woman thinking about the past, as long as l don't raise a tear in my eye l will be fine, not much chance of that l can quiet safely say. Now, in about 1936 l think it was, Humph and myself armed with pretty basic camping equipment and elderly map, headed across the channel, boarded the sleeper heading down to Narbonne, and from here armed with our pretty basic kit which did include a compass, headed off across country, with the aim of following the route to Santiago de Compostela. Now, that was one hell of an adventure, sleeping under the stars, toasting croissant in front of the camp fire and hearing that he had just become engaged to the Honorable Caroline Beachamp-Smyth. We did finish the walk but the atmosphere seemed to have changed and l did not see Humph again until after the war by which time much water had passed under the bridge.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow shoes and dog galoshes

It has snowed all week here, the lanes are blocked and my house has a good 2 feet of snow on my roof, if the snow stays off this afternoon l think l had better get the step ladder out and sweep the stuff off.

Listening to the wireless, l hear that schools and businesses closed due this inclement weather. I can't remember this happening in 1947, everything ran, not always on time, but ran none the less, l wonder if this is a different sort of snow perhaps to that of the 1940's? It is with some luck that l have manged to get out and about with reasonable ease. In my youth l enjoyed skiing in the alps, visiting Wengen on an annual basis, staying in a chalet not far from the railway station. I can't really remember the Swiss infrastructure grinding to a halt back then due to heavy snow fall? No, l haven't had my old skis out but 2nd husband's father had been on an expedition to Antarctica in the early part of the last century and along with his body, preserved in brandy, also returned to his family was a nearly new set of snowshoes, large tennis racket-styled footwear, and dog galoshes, so you see Boy and myself have been walking in the countryside in relative ease.

It was on our walk yesterday that l noticed and pointed out to Boy that there was a string of flapping yellow planning notifications attached to not only the gatehouse of Longshort Manor but also to the gates themselves. I did notice in a comment from that very nice sounding young lady in the South of France warning me about electric gates and such like, well, l did get a little radgy at the thought of hideous monster of a gate, so on my return to the cottage l put my newly found internet skills into use to checkout the county's planning application website.

The yellow notices have not gone unnoticed in the village either, over hot chocolate and sloe gin this morning in the post office we all sat around the gloriously warm stove and discussed the manor and its new owners. We all agreed that no one had as yet moved in but the web site did reveal the plans that were being laid for the Manor's development. Planning applications had been received, l informed everyone, for a large barn which would included stabling for 60 horses and indoor arena suitable for polo, applications included helicopter pad, and change of use from agricultural land to that of amenity land. I can tell you that as we all sipped our steaming hot drinks in silence cogitating. It was interesting when eventually we all found our voices, Old Blaster thought it a good idea as there might be a job available for him, especially as he used to be a horse lad before the war, Monks just sucked on his pipe and shook his head. Mixed opinions then, l suppose that we will just have to wait and see what happens next then.

Village life despite the blanketing of snow has continued pretty much the same, we had another death this week, on Monday old Mrs Fidge died whilst visiting the outside privy during the night, apparently her neighbour, Miss Knox, found her sitting, frozen upright on the lavatory reading a back issue of Peoples Friend. The undertakers had a difficult job getting her into the hearse. I was relieved to hear that, after the postmortem, it was discovered that she had died following a massive heart attack and would not have suffered. Zap and she was gone. I think it would have been truly awful to think that she might have died after becoming frozen to the toilet seat her cries for help falling on deaf ears.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Manor is Sold

The lane into the village is really so very muddy Boy ends up well and truly splattered on our walk up to the Post Office to collect the morning's newspaper. I normally have 2 dailies, The Tellygraff and Midshire Daily Post. These are suplimented on Thursdays by the local weekly, Angelfield Post. The Post Office made a nice warm treat as it was a chilly march through the fog today. Mrs Blacker always has a jug of hot chocolate sat on top of the old stove, just the ticket to revive the numb extremities and today was no different, a drop of glorious gloppy chocolate with a dash of brandy to help widen the arteries.

We were all gathered around the little pot bellied stove, myself, Mrs Blacker and Mrs De la Pole, when Old Blaster comes roaring in blustering like an exploding grenade, hot air erupting from all available orifices, a sure sign of something of outstanding gossip-worthiness. I pulled up a chair for him to fall into whilst Mrs Blacker added an extra slug of brandy to his hot chocolate and Mrs De La Pole wafted an eau de cologne scented lace edge handkerchief. Once the situation had calmed a little bit and Old Blaster had got his breathing under control we all drew our rickety old chairs closer in order to hear, in intimate detail, what was causing Old Blaster to get so excited.

By now the shop was filling up with villagers, and we were all waiting.................... Old Blaster began, " Longshot manor has been sold" he blurted out, spraying spittle from the corners of his mouth. Well this was news to us, how on earth had it been kept so quiet, usually the village gossips, of which l am not one, can smell a rumour before it has actually happened. Old Blaster continued as we by now holding our breath and clasping the edge of our chairs, " It has been bought by a polo playing entrepreneur from up north somewhere. He has made millions in the fish and chip business". Silence. No one made a sound, you could hear the clock ticking slowly in the background... suddenly there was a sharp intake of breath followed by the sucking in on false teeth and then whoosh, everyone was talking at once like a flock of geese flying in formation. Who is it? He's from where? Ergh?

By now Old Blaster had risen to the occasion, a captive audience, a rare event nowadays indeed. The new owner had bought, sight unseen from the previous incumbent on meeting with her son in St Morritz a few weeks ago at an ice polo match. The new owner a Mr Oily-Clarke, apparently well known in the polo world having been featured in gossip columns escorting numerous super models and fathering many children, all of whom lived with him, and were part of, according the the Prattler, his entourage. Mr O-C, so we were informed by Old Blaster, who was settling comfortably into his role as storyteller, held himself in very high esteem, with a full PR Team churning out fabulous features about him and his family. Myself and the villagers were stunned.

What on earth was happening to our haven of piece and quiet amidst the turmoil of the outside world? As old Blaster came to the end of the 'known' facts, we sat there, Mrs Blacker brewed up a large pot of hot chocolate to which she added a good bottle of damson gin........

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Old friends and troublesome brothers

I have been home now for about a week and it would appear little has changed in the village. The gates to the Manor have been re-gilded and Mrs De la Pole has pulled a muscle in her back after attempting to limbo dance at the Old Folks New Year's Eve Party held in the village hall, Mr Frankish died suddenly whilst out walking his dog on Hampton Hill, so it's much ado about normal. It is such a relief to know that when you travel, things at home remain unchanged.

It is some time since l did a rapid drop of the hat and exit promptly, well this time l can blame in on my dear old brother, he always was a cheeky one even as a child. This Christmas he really lived up to his nick name 'Monks' as in Monkey! To fill you in on the fun, Christmas Eve saw all us villagers invited to the grand house for a cocktail party, l ask you how exciting was that? Anyway, the Post Office was full of gossip about who was going whilst the nearly new shop in Little Dimchurch was doing a roaring trade in the used dress department. Christmas Eve arrived and l had arranged to go with Monks. He duly arrived looking extremely dapper in his black tie although he did look a little odd wearing his black carpet slippers, anyway l digress, he also had tagging along with him, one of his old chums, Humph. Well, l haven't seen Humph for more years than l care to remember, l think the last time would have been in the early 1950s when we flew an old tiger moth to Le Touquet for lunch? Such a surprise especially as he was last heard of digging an old site in Peru.

The party was l am afraid to say all bling and pink champagne. The Prattler photographer was everywhere. Not to my taste is all l can say really as l do find jacuzzi and home cinemas just a little common, but we did all have fun chatting about the' good old days' when people knew their place. The outcome of this rather heavy topic of conversation was that Humph announced that he was hiring a dahabiya at Luxor and would Monks and I like to come on over to Egypt with him and help set up the new excavation on the West Bank, the departure date was the 27th.

On the morning of the 27th we duly checked in on the British Airways fight to Cairo.