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!
Shhh. Come on in. Johnís asleep. Heís been up with Shirley for days, and now that sheís gone down to spend some time at Veraís, heís just crashed.
She did ask me to thank everyone for coming to the funeral and back to the house afterwards. She appreciated it.
I guess I just canít believe heís gone. I have to admit that I never got on with Shirley, but Martin was a special man. He didnít say much, but he was always honest and kind to me. Even after John and I split, he came to visit me at my new flat, brought me some veg from the garden, and we had a nice chat. He understood what was happening, and didnít get judgmental like most people did. Last time I saw him I teased him and said I wouldnít be seeing him much now that he was destined to be such a star. Funny, reallyÖ
I donít even remember my own granddads. Mumís dad died when I was four years old. My dad and I never got on much, and after he split with Mum, I hardly ever saw him, much less the rest of the family. That granddad died when I was a fifth year, but my Nan is still alive. I really ought to go see her, just to say hello and tell her that I think about her sometimes. She sends me cards at Christmas.
Frank thinks Martinís still here, in the house. He died right in this room, before the ambulance could get here. Frank finds comfort, I think, in never letting go. Iíd prefer to think of him somewhere else, somewhere better than this place. Or at least if he is still around, I hope heís in the garden, watching the apples ripen.
John? I donít think he believes it yet. I think heís
just numb. Maybe after heís had some sleep and a little time, heíll be
better. Anyway, thanks for stopping in. Iíll tell him you came.
Simon And Ann
So sorry to hear about your friend Martin. James and I didn't spend a lot of time with him, but we both remember what a thoughtful, kind man he was.
We're looking forward to seeing you soon--in fact, we're packing! Don't stress too much--
To: Ann and Simon
Dear Ann and Simon,
We had scheduled tomorrow evening for our pre-nuptial counseling session. Would you prefer a change of plans, or should we go ahead and meet? I perfectly understand if you are not in the proper state of mind, and can easily rearrange my schedule to accommodate you when you are feeling up to it. As you know, the church is at sixes and sevens these days, so if we do meet, might we do it at Stoney Grove?
Thereís no time like the present. I think Ann and I are ready for whatever you throw at us. Get it over with and all that. The dining roomís free tomorrow evening. Why donít you come at 7:00, we can talk, and then maybe slip down to the Idiot for a pint?
Dear Miss Simmons,
Bad news Iím afraid. Dicky went and broke his arm doing a bit of skydiving up at Bude last weekend. Lucky thatís all he brokeóthe instructor forgot to tell him how to steer his 'shute, and he landed on top of one of them pig huts. You know, where the free range buggers live. Anyway, seeing as heís the instrumental half of the duo, I donít see how we can play at the wedding, unless you fancy something simpleóyou know, a few tambourine solos or a bit with the clappers. I can manage a harmonica in a pinch, too, or we could try something acapella. To be honest, his voice is rubbish, and its been years since I had a proper harmonica, so weíd best just bow out now. Of course Iíll be happy to return your deposit.
Iíve been thinking about who might be available, realizing our notice is a bit short, and have a few leads to suggest. Now I havenít actually spoken to any of them, but I suspect that they just might have that afternoon and evening free (except the last group, they only accept afternoon gigs). Here are my thoughts (in no particular order):
Highlands Yo Mama: four blokes and a girl who do a sort of Gaelic /rap mix
Liam Bailey and the Creams: retro, mix of punk, disco and psychadelic rock
Frank Tilley, the yodeling cowboy: (I know heís got a limited audience, but heís really good!)
The West Isham Seniors Quartet: classical, jazz
If any of these sound like possibilities, drop me a line and Iíll put you in touch with them. Again, many many apologies. Hope your wedding day is blissful.
I waited a while to answer your last email to give you the latest update on Janey and Todd. She brought her cell to Yosemite, and has called me twice. Sheís on this major guilt trip about not coming the wedding. She asked me to ask you if she can still come and if she can bring Todd. Also if they can stay at Stoney Grove, and if you could pay for his ticket. I think theyíve run out of money. Not your problem, but she does want to come after all, and she did buy the dress. Let me know.
Yes, she can come with Todd and yes I will pay for his ticket. You are all welcome to stay here. Does Todd play any musical instruments?
Cousin Ernie missed you on his last visit. He'll be round soon to check up if I haven't heard from you beforehand. You know he sometimes can get a bit gruff, can your cousin.
If you could describe yourself in but a few wordsÖ..
I'd really rather not.
Occupation: student, part-time yoga instructor and masseuse
If you could describe yourself in but a few wordsÖ..
Physically: tall, blonde, blue eyed. An old boyfriend once summed me up in one word: "Wow!"
Personality: sensuous, playful, adventurous, sometimes just a little wild
Iím looking for an older man who has lost his inhibitions and is ready to love freely
This could be you very lucky, lucky day.
Many things happened in the world in last ten years. I know I was there. Some things remained hidden and I was there too. There are those that think that Eastern Europe was a cold, poor place but I know different. I vos one of the lucky ones, 'protector' to the government elite. We all had pretty good time I tell you.
When the wall fell, I fled, but I said Ivan, you come back here one day and get your share because Ivan knows some things no-one else knows.
Now I need your help.
Why me, you ask? What can I do to help? And should I help this man who was part of a brutally repressive regime that made it's money from the exploitation of the working class and probably hurt some good people?
I ask myself these questions too.
Ivan, I said, who can help you? So I phoned a physic and you were chosen. Amazing, eh? I need $5000 to go to an Eastern European country that I cannot name. There Ivan can get some money that is hidden away. It is worth fifty million dollars! Fifty million dollars is a lot of money I can tell you. I am not asking you alone, but I promise that whatever you give I will repay 100 times that amount! That's right, send me anything, fifty dollars, one hundred dollars and will work out what that amount is multiplied by 100 and return it to you! This is a pretty good deal.
I am not a greedy man. Once I get $5000, no more money. I don't need it. I just send it back. Too late I say, you missed out. Damn shame. So reply to this email quickly and make the big bucks!
Honoria Morcombe: And just so sudden! Well, it must be very hard for all of you, especially Mrs. Johnson. They were together for so long.
Simon: Yes, they were. Canít imagine it myself. I mean, I hope Ann and I are together that long and everything, but it seems like a very long time.
Honoria: And they still donít know what caused it?
Simon: No. Heíd be in and out of hospital in the spring, but seemed to be feeling better. Then he just went. Just like that. The doctor asked about an autopsy, but Shirley refused it. Said it didnít matter any more.
Nigel: I suppose sheís right. Sad days.
Simon: I guess it was just old age.
Honoria: People say that, but old age isnít actually a disease. It seems to be an excuse for not finding one these days.
Simon: Well, we donít live forever. Still, itís quite sad. Iíll miss him.
Honoria: Yes, very sad indeed.
Nigel: Well, weíd best be shoving off. I suppose youíll miss the match Saturday. Weíre against Wooden Forest.
Simon: I think I will give it a miss. But good luck.
Nigel: Weíll need it. Theyíve got a great spin bowler you know. As a matter of fact, Bert Walsham was saying to me just the other day, when was it, Thursday maybe, that their bowlerÖ
Honoria: Nigel dear, I think weíd best be on our way.
Nigel: Oh, of course. Sorry. Well, give our condolences to Shirley. And Ann. How is she?
Simon: Sheís coping.
Nigel: Sheíll be fine. After all, sheís got a wedding to plan. You know how women get.
Honoria: Nigel! Good bye Simon.
Simon: Good bye.
Emma: Frank, what are you doing sitting here in the dark?
Frank: Just thinking. Couldnít be bothered really to turn on a light, thatís all.
Emma: Not listening, are you?
Frank: No, I donít know whatís happening in the house these days. Theyíve all gone quiet.
Emma: Well, maybe theyíre sad too.
Frank: Howís John tonight?
Emma: Heís all right. Going through some of his granddadís things. Shirley asked him to do a bit of clearing while she was away. She doesnít want him to throw anything out, just pack it up so she doesnít have to look at it all when she gets back.
Frank: Did she say how long sheíd be gone?
Emma: I donít think she knows. It will be hard for her to come back here. Maybe sheíll decide against it.
Frank: No, sheíll come back. Her life is here, with this house.
Emma: Hmmm. It was a nice ceremony.
Frank: Shame it couldnít be at the church, but yes, it was nice.
Emma: His sister was nice. A bit of a surprise, to be honest. I mean, after spending so much time with John, I felt like I should have known he had an aunt.
Frank: Iíve known Martin for years and he never mentioned her. I guess they didnít see much of each other. Him leaving home so young and all.
Emma: Imagine being sent away when you were ten years old to learn a job! Things were different then. Thatís a silly thing to say, coming from a historian, but you know I never really thought about how it would affect people. I mean real people, like Martin.
Frank: He must have been quite a lonely man before he met Shirley.
Emma: And maybe after.
Frank: No, he seemed content. I never knew him to be unhappy.
Emma: Did you have a chance to talk to the sister?
Frank: Yes, she told me her dad, Martinís dad, was a head gardener at a big estate in Hampshire. Seems to have run in the family. She lives in Norfolk these days. Apparently hasnít visited Stoney Grove since before Martin was married.
Emma: Iíll have to ask John what happened. There must be some reason she never came Ďround.
Frank: Let it be. It doesnít matter now, does it?
Emma: It might matter to John.
Frank: And does that matter to you now?
Emma: Yes, I think it does.
Nigel Banks: Hello. Itís good to see you both again.
Ann: It was a lovely service, Nigel. Thank you so much. And thanks for making time to counsel us today.
Simon: Yeah, glad you could come.
Nigel Banks: How are you?
Ann: Just really sad. But coping, I think.
Simon: Busy actually. This dying business is quite sociable. I mean, not to be crass, but half the village has been popping in to leave their condolences. Itís nice that theyíve made the effort, but Iím knackered. Iíve never drunk so much tea in my life. I mean, everyone who comes expects a cup, and I hate to disappoint them.
Ann: Oh, Simon! The least we can do for Martin is be kind to his friends. Iím sorry. Didnít mean to snap. I really do think weíre both just tired.
Nigel: Shall we have this meeting later?
Simon: No, no. Letís do it now. Fire away.
Nigel: Well, it isnít really a "firing away" type of activity. I think we should approach this conversation thoughtfully. This is a time to really share your feelings, hopes, and fears about each other. The ground we cover today is helping to lay the foundation for your marriage.
Simon: Donít hold back, Nigel. I mean, we might get intimidated by all of this.
Nigel: Iím not trying to be intimidating. For heavenís sake, you two have been through a lot together. You have a solid relationship. This discussion will just ensure that there arenít any issues that you feel that you havenít dealt with properly, and might give you a few tools for communicating. Thatís all. Important stuff, of course, but nothing frightening.
Ann: All right. Where do we start?
Nigel: Well, I thought we could begin with some basic things, and then move on to the logistics of the ceremony.
Simon: Sounds good. Basic things. Like kids and money?
Nigel: If you like. Have you discussed having a family?
Ann: Yes. I think weíd both like children, but not right away.
Simon: And no need to really get into money. I mean, you must not have too many customers who are in better shape than we are.
Simon: Well, really. I mean, we did win the lottery.
Ann: Actually, since you bring it up, I do have something to say about money. I donít want to nag, but your gambling is really worrying me.
Simon: Iím not gambling! Okay, so maybe I lay the odd bet, but itís not a problem. Trust me.
Ann: Thatís just it. Every time I bring it up, you deny it, and then you get emails from The Hat, or some guy who claims to be your uncle. Iím not stupid, Simon. I know youíre gambling.
Simon: Well, I never said you were stupid. Maybe a bit fixated, butÖ
Nigel: Now this is where our communications skills come in. The first rule of confrontation: keep it about the issues. No name calling. We can disagree, but we should do it respectfully. Remember, you both love each other, and want to treat each other lovingly.
Ann: Fine. I love you, Simon, but I hate it that youíve been untruthful with me.
Simon: I love you Ann, but you need to cool out.
Nigel: Er, better, but still needs some work. Weíll come back to this. Letís talk about the ceremony.
Ann: Letís talk about cold feet.
Nigel: Itís perfectly normal for you to have cold feet at this point.
Simon: Iím the one who should have cold feet. Iíve just spent a week in the Arctic!
Ann: Well it was you that I was talking about. And I wasnít referring to your bachelor party.
Simon: What the bloody hell are you on about now?
Ann: Donít yell at me! Youíre the one sending pick-up emails to all the old maids in England. "The desert rose was born to bloom unseenÖ" or better yet, "An old boyfriend once summed me up in one word: ĎWow!í" Ring any bells?
Simon: What are you talking about?
Ann: Oh, come on! Didnít Nigel just say something about honesty?
Nigel: I believe I did. I really think that you both need to slow down for just a moment and consider your words.
Ann: The hell with my words. While heís off at sea, less than a month before our wedding, Simonís sending out a general call for a new girlfriend.
Simon: Ann, youíre bonkers. I havenít a clueÖOh, wait a minute. Oh, God. You think that IÖOh myÖ
Ann: This is not funny! Stop it!
Nigel: Simon, at this moment it would be helpful if you could put into words why you are laughing.
Simon: Sorry, Reverend. Itís just that my dad, well, it was youíre idea, Ann. "Have him bring a date to the wedding," you said. So he signed up for some internet con called LoversLink, or is it LoverSlink? Anyway theyíre his emails, not mine.
Simon: Yeah. He sent in a description, and all these lonely hearts are queuing up to be his date.
Ann: Oh, Simon, Iím so sorry. Iím an idiot. Itís just thatÖ
Simon: You thought I was backing out. Even now?
Ann: I guess I did.
Simon: And you didnít say anything?
Ann: Well, you were away, and then Martin died, and with the funeral and everything else, it was never the right time.
Simon; I donít know how many ways I can say this. I love you. Iím happy to be with you. I want to marry you. Iím not trying to replace you with a computer date. Trust me.
Nigel: Good, good! I think youíre getting the hang of this.
Maude Tinsley: Hello, Simon. Just popping in again. Luigi and I are getting quite comfortably settled. Thanks for sending the curtains over for us.
Simon: Hello, mother.
Maude: You know, I hate to be morbid, but that fellow dying was just at the right time. I mean, I met half the village at the funeral, and theyíve been ever so kind since. All sorts of people popping in, telling me about you and Ann and how sorry they are that youíve both lost your friend. Weíve hardly had a moment to catch our breath. The lady who runs the lingerie shop-- oh, whatís her name?óanyway, sheís quite a dear. Sheís invited me round to play cards with the Wivesí Club later in the week. I feel soÖrespectable. Well, I guess thatís what village life will do for you, wonít it? I donít know if I should tell her that Iím not exactly Luigiís wife. Do you think she needs to know? Well, it canít hurt to keep things a bit quiet. I mean, you and Ann living together is probably scandal enough for this place.
Simon: Mother, weíre kind of in the middle of something here.
Nigel: Mrs. Tinsley, so nice to see you again.
Maude: Oh, goodness, donít tell me youíve got religion! No offence Reverend, youíre a lovely man , but Iím a bit suspicious of your employer. You know, the Big Man. Ha, Ha. Well, never mind. I can take a hint, canít I? Iíll pop Ďround later. And Ann, dear, you should get some rest. Youíre looking a bit pale.
Ann: Iím fine, thanks. Weíll stop by the Grange later and catch up with you.
Maude: Oh, do. We can make it a party. That will be such fun! Wait til I tell Luigi. And I canít wait til I meet your parents, dear. Exciting times! Well, then, cheerio.
Emma: John, I thought this room was empty. Youíre so quiet. What are you doing?
John: Granddad kept a box of things. I almost missed it, it was tucked away in the shed. I was just looking through it.
Emma: Whatís in it?
John: Is this a professional interest? No, sorry, take that back. I donít want to fight with you anymore. Take a look, thereís some clippings from Big Vegetable competitions. He had his heyday in the late 80s, you know. He won a bunch of competitions. We had some letters from his fellow gardeners saying what a great man he was. I knew he did it, I even went to a couple of shows with him when I was a kid but I never really took it seriously. He had that cutting too, the one from the Puckering Gazette when they featured him.
Emma: Was there anything about his family?
John: There was a photo of this bloke Ėheís a bit scary. I think it might have been his Dad. Thereís a date on the back of 1912. He was a gardener as well. I guess it runs in the family. Thereís another photograph too of my Gran. Sheís with Monty Hall.
Emma: Iíve seen that one.
John: Funny he would have saved it. I didnít actually see any of him and Gran together. Maybe theyíre in another book. They spent almost sixty years together. They really loved each other, you know.
Emma: Yes, Iím sure they did.
John: Even with all that happened, you know my Mum being Montyís and allÖ
Emma: Itís okay, John. Iím sure Martin forgave them. He told me that he did. He told me that he loved Shirley.
John: Well, I wish heíd told me. Now itís too late to ask him.