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Series Two So Far

In this episode:
Cuppa with Shirley
Simon's e-mail
Emma's Office
Fanny's History
Fanny's Journal
Meeting Minutes

Series Two So Far...
Stoney Grove owners Ann Simmons and Simon Tinsley split, and Ann returns to the Caribbean with friends Amy and James. After a short visit, she decides to find a place to live on Nevis and explore the "other" Stoney Grove, a ruined eighteenth-century plantation house.  Doug Wood, an American ex-pat, befriends her,  renting her a house, providing her with e-mail service, and giving her lessons in sailing, dancing and, well, who knows what else...Ann's more serious hours have been spent transcribing a document that she found at Nevis. It's an autobiographical account of the life of Stoney Grove's first lady, Fanny Rawlins Blake. Only part of the manuscript is on the island. The rest is hidden in a safe in Basil's bedroom.  Emma breaks the code, finds the missing document, and uncovers a journal as well. She gives these to Simon, who carries them to Nevis in an unexpected visit.

In the months following Anns departure, Simon has decided 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.  After presenting a number of options, most of them unpopular, he's decided to pursue a policy of creating a "virtual house" that will allow visitors to see each room's history at whatever period strikes their fancy. While he's ironing out a few minor technical glitches, Emma has organized a group of volunteers to lead old-fashioned tours. Simon is also in negotiations with a production studio who want to film an upcoming mini-series on the grounds of the estate.

Simon's longtime friend Phil  is suffering a bit of a mid-life crisis. He's quit his job, left his wife, and come to stay at Stoney Grove until he decides what to do next. After a quick trip to Nevis, where he and Ann are reconciled, Simon decides to try his new-found personal skills to "sort out" Phil and Caroline. Despite his efforts, Phil and Caroline seem headed for a reconciliation.

Emma, when not giving tours, is prying into the more recent history, determined to uncover the story of John White's origins.  John, housekeeper Shirley Johnson's grandson, learns that Jerry Anderson, a village antiques dealer serving time in prison for theft, is his father.  Jerry and Emma suspect that John's grandfather may not be Shirley's husband Martin, but rather Montgomery Hall, a former owner of the estate. In searching for answers, Emma finds a locked box in the safe in Basil's bedroom. It contains fresh information--not about John, but about Frank Churchill, her former lover and Stoney Groves' resident hermit. Contained within the box are a birth certificate and some letters revealing that he is also related to the Hall family--the illegitimate son of Monty's sister Ellen and a German POW from World War II.

Shirley Johnson, infuriated with Emma's "meddling" in family business, discovers drugs in Emma's rooms and phones the police. Emma is arrested for possession, a charge made more serious because she has a juvenile record for drug use.  While she's stewing in jail, Ann bails her out and John comes forward to admit that at least some of the drugs are his. The remainder belong to Ann, who sent them to Emma as part of her investigation of Fanny Rawlins Blake's history...

Cuppa with Shirley (or Martin)

Hello, come in! Vera's been up for a visit and left me a nice jar of raspberry jam and some clotted cream.  I could fix you a cream tea if you like. Have a seat then, I won't be a minute.

Well, you're probably thinking that I'm a bloody fool, aren't you? You know what they say about the best laid plans...It's not my fault, really. Who would have known that Emma had twisted John so tightly around her finger that he'd lie for her? Because that's what he's doing, you know. John's a nice boy, he is, not one to get mixed up with drugs. If it wasn't for her, he'd not even know how to spell cannabis.  But she's got him perjuring himself, she has, just like that Clinton. So now she's living free and easy, and he's facing the law.  It isn't fair.

Well, at least he's thinking of coming here to live. Wants to work with Martin, helping with the garden. Once he's back with us, we'll soon sort him out.  He just needs some time to think through what's important.  Not all the lies that she's been feeding him. And it will do Martin some good to have some help around. He's not getting any younger you know. Truth is, neither am I, but I'm not one to complain, am I?

At least that fool friend of Mr. Tinsley's has gone home.  Got tired of a cold bed, I guess, and decided to come clean with his wife. She's a fool for having him back, if you ask me, but as he's out of my kitchen, I shan't complain.   Martin took quite a liking to him--sent him off with a basket of asparagus and another of strawberries, he did. Silly sausage.

These young people and their drugs.  Silly really. All we ever had was tea and the odd drop of gin. Still young people today, you can't tell them anything, can you?

Simon's e-mail
To Simon:

I've spoken to Nigel Banks and asked him to post bail for Emma on my account.  I wanted someone to step forward who wouldn't put her in another awkward position, and he seemed the best candidate. I thought it might be less controversial to send the vicar than you, a notorious member of an international drug cartel. (I shouldn't write this, my email is probably being monitored...)  I know that Sgt. Archer thought the Rev.  was part of "the ring" too, but that is such an absurd accusation that I can't believe anyone else would take it seriously.  He should sue for libel.   Whoever is running the Gazette these days doesn't deserve to be in business.

Apparently I'm being charged with transporting illicit substances across international borders, a pretty serious accusation.  I need to phone you to talk further, but in the meantime, can you look into finding me a good lawyer?

This is such a mess. I can't believe I could have been so stupid.   I was just trying to figure out how Fanny killed her husband (yes, she did!!).  Turns out she used two drugs, but I'm not even going to try to identify the second (which I think was the lethal one). Still, there's always the silver lining--at least now you won't think that historians are so dull...

Love you,


Hi Simon,

Now there's a thought....

My solicitor (which sounds quite inappropriate to me) suggested I should stay out of contact for a while with everyone in England. I still sent off a letter to Emma but I guess I should now lay low.

This is so ridiculous! Don't bother replying, I'll be back in touch soon,


From Simon

Dear Ann,

Wow, I was really impressed by how organized you were about all this. Figuring it out and getting the lawyer involved and just coping with things. I'm afraid I did the headless chicken dance! At one point I was going to throw away my collection of cassettes that I'd recorded from other peoples' records in case the house was searched. Thanks for coming through and despite it all it was nice to be doing something together again and talking to you on the phone.

We'll get this organized. I call you direct from the solicitors in Brighton.

Miss You. Love You.


Cricket Sunday 1:00 at home. As you know we have club pads but please bring your  own box. Got two damn women playing so we should be able to move you up in the batting order.

Nigel Morcombe

Captain, Puckering Irregulars Cricket Club

Dear Simon

Sure you know all this but Emma is residing in the guest bedroom at the vicarage. Mrs. Plumpton, my cleaning lady is having fits but I think it falls within my realm of Christian charity, especially as an accomplice! I wish you could have seen Sergeant Archer interviewing me about the 'international drug ring', it was priceless. He got redder and redder as he went on and put ten pounds in the church fund when he left - so at least some good has come out of it. No doubt I'll wrangle a pint of Monk out if him too next time we're in the Idiot.

He realises he went completely overboard. They're still actually trying to identify what Ann evidently sent. He's left with a handful of pot with which to salvage a little bit of pride, so expect some more trouble.

See you in church?
Rev. Nigel Banks

Dear Simon

Sorry to disappear so suddenly, but Caroline called me and suggested we meet in private, just the two of us. Things were a bit frosty to start with but the fact that she blamed you helped, as well as there being no other woman and all that.

I'm back home now, though I still haven't cracked the conjugal bed! Still Caroline and I are talking and discussing what I should do now that I've completely screwed up my life.

Speak to you soon


Are you nuts?!!

I pay you for this? I know we said no editorial influence, no public discussion of what was in the paper or that I even owned it but bets are off. No publicity is bad publicity, my foot.

You get a apology out there for all concerned.
You write good things about Stoney Grove.
You exercise the merest modicum of professional integrity before you ever publish anything like that again. Did you think that possibly Archer could just be a silly buffoon?

Simon Tinsley
Owner of the Puckering Gazette

Emma's Office

Dear Emma,

I know I promised not to get involved in your private life again, but as this involves all of us, I thought I’d better write. Let me start by saying that when I asked you to find someone to analyze the Guinea powder, I didn’t dream that it would be used as evidence against you!! I am so sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you, Simon, Chester and the Reverend. I can’t imagine why Shirley was so quick to call the police. I certainly had no idea that you had been connected with drugs in the past, or would never have put you in a compromising position. You must be furious with me.

I am disturbed that they found pot in your room. That will be a harder charge to dismiss, especially with your prior record. Frank wrote me a note in your defence, and convinced me that it couldn’t have been yours. I hate to think what will happen to him if he steps forward. What a mess.

I’m glad to hear via Simon that at least the bond money came through quickly enough and you have been released. I’ve contacted a solicitor in Brighton to help sort out my involvement in all of this, and will be happy to assist in your case if you’d like. Apparently I’m in trouble for sending illicit substances across international borders, and am having to lay low here until this is resolved. I don’t think that Archer’s accusations will make it beyond the local paper—they are clearly absurd, and once the initial titillating headlines pass, clearer heads will prevail.

Please let me know if there’s anything further I can do to help. I feel like such an idiot.


P.S. Here’s more of the history and another journal entry. I think Fanny used the Guinea powder on the servants and herself (given the results)—I don’t know what she used to kill him.

Dear Ann,

Well, if you are an idiot, you’re in good company. I spent 21 hours in jail. Thank you for bailing me out.

I feel like I owe you some explanation about all this and I'm trying to be rational. You obviously had no idea what the consequences of sending me the drug might be, nor that I had been in trouble in the past.

When I was quite young I was arrested for using and dealing, and was sent to a juvenile detention centre for two years. I got myself sorted out whilst I was in there, and was released before my seventeenth birthday. They sealed my records when I came of age, but somehow Archer found out about it and has apparently been "keeping an eye out" since I came here.

Shirley and I have been at odds for quite some time. She’s just been counting the minutes until she could do something really horrible. Archer must have told her about me. She is still angry with me for telling John about his father, and is even angrier that John and I are becoming involved. It was his cannabis that they confiscated—he eventually found his way to the police and confessed. (Mind you, this was after I was released). So in the end, Shirley only hurt herself by sneaking around and trying to get me into trouble.

Twenty one hours in a jail cell was long enough. As Jerry told me at Brixton, "you have time to do a lot of thinking." I’m sorry I was so nasty to you when you asked about Frank. I think I know what he told you in the letter he sent. Truth is, he hasn’t been in my room for several months now, so the drugs couldn’t possibly have been his. It’s been quite hard. I do care about him. But he isn’t well. Sometimes when I was at the Hermitage I’d wake up and he’d be talking to himself. Not for a minute or two, but for hours. Or he’d sit by the window, just staring off into space. I thought he was getting better for awhile, but he’s not ever going to be well. It all got to be exhausting.

Then John turned up. He was around last summer, of course, but I've only recently got to know him. He’s much like Martin, which is surprising, really. Very level headed, comfortable with himself. And he is young, and funny, and we got on really well. I hate to hurt Frank, but I can’t stay with him. With John, everything was so much easier. At least until now.

Because his Gran hates me, he’s in trouble; because of him, I got arrested, and because he was covering his ass, I spent time in jail. I swore I would never ever go back again and I am so angry right now at everything. I've just about had it with the Johnson family and I know you didn't mean what you did, but do you realise how much pain this has caused me? Until I sort out what's next, I’m staying in Upper Puckering. Nigel Banks offered to put me up for as long as I wanted. A bit ironic, really, to go from the nick to the Rectory, but here I am, in the shelter of the Church. No one can accuse me of bad living now…

Hope your solicitor is a good one. Thanks for the offer of help on that front, but for now it looks like I’m off the hook. I need a few days to clear my head, but will be back to work soon, at least to tidy up loose ends.


Fanny's History

The Death of My Husband

Throughout the day, the rain intensified and the wind gained strength. As the storm worsened, my confidence grew, for who would expect a young wife, herself indisposed, to travel out in such weather to fetch a doctor, when her husband's symptoms were at first so unalarming?

I entered the kitchen and sprinkled a generous portion of powder, made from the ground petals of the mildest of my hothouse flowers, over the food, then seated myself with my husband at the dinner table. We consumed the meal together, sent the remains to the servants' hall, and parted for the afternoon. Within hours, the meal produced the desired symptoms: fever, biliousness and headache. I mustered the energy to climb to the servants' quarters beneath the eaves, and found the staff taken to their beds in various stages of distress.

I returned to my room, gathered my medical kit, and went in search of my husband, who lay moaning and feverish in his bed. I summoned his manservant, and ordered him to fetch a doctor, but the man looked so pale and weak that I told him I would go myself. At this, Mr. Blake roused himself, for even in his illness he could see that I was little better, and he did not wish to risk my health, and that of his third child, beginning to stir in my womb, for the sake of his own.

He begged me to leave him in peace and return to my room. I left him for an hour, and then returned, offering to blister him to relieve the symptoms. To this he consented, and I withdrew from my kit a jar of cantharides, sprinkling them liberally across his back. They soon had the desired effect, and great welts arose whereever the beetles had touched his skin. I popped the boils, sprinkled them carefully with a dusting of more potent powder, concocted from my most toxic exotic, and bade him to lie still. He was dead before I'd left the room.

Upon returning to my chamber, the effects of the milder poison to which I had subjected myself took full effect, and in an agony of feverish pain, the nascent life within me was extinguished and expelled. Those who were able amoung the staff rushed to my assistance, and it was many hours before another soul realized that Mr. Blake was dead.

Fanny's Journal Entry 1784 (translated from the original French and transcribed)

December 14, 1784
Stoney Grove, Sussex

I’ve won the battle in this war of ours. I sleep alone in his house whilst the moonlight whispers to me of death and of another life.

9th meeting of the Steering Committee for Stoney Grove

Attendees: Simon Tinsley, Frank Churchill, Shirley and Martin Johnson, Mr. Tinsley Sr., Evelyn Prosser, Chester Vyse.

Simon: Well, who’s here today? Hard to say really, with half the committee ending up in the nick. Oh, Shirley. Good to see you. Going to have us raided again this week?

Shirley (quietly): Sod off, I say.

Simon: Go on—I didn’t hear what you said.

Shirley: I said no, not today.

Simon: Glad that’s out of the way. Now, where did we leave things? Oh, yes, Frank, we were discovering the details of your childhood. No offence, but I was hoping for something a bit more useful to come out of the box. Not that knowing who your mum is isn’t always a helpful piece of information, but you know what I mean.

Evelyn: Well, what about the other bits? Any thoughts on who the woman was in the picture?

Simon: Emma was supposed to be looking into those things, but she’s been tied up, or at least handcuffed. Frank? Somebody thought you might know.

Frank: I couldn’t say.

Simon: Well, we’re all glad to hear you saying something anyway. Thought you’d gone mute. Glad to have you back with us.

Frank: Ta.

Chester: Well, I suggest we forget the blessed box and talk about more pressing concerns.

Simon: Yes, are there any?

Chester: Miss Rutherford was nearly killed yesterday taking some visitors around. A piece of the entablature in the Sea Room came crashing down and just missed her. I took it upon myself to close the room off.

Simon: Well, can we fix it?

Chester: I don't know yet. Smashed up a lovely piece of original 18th century plaster and terra cotta. Don’t know where we’ll go to replace it.

Simon: This country is full of crumbling bits of old plaster. I’m sure somebody knows where to get more. Could you look into it?

Chester: Certainly. I’ll put in a call to a colleague and see what I can find. But I don’t suppose it will be easy to find an exact fit and I'm sure it will be very expensive because of the underlying structural problems.

Simon: Well, see what you can do. What else?

Mr. Tinsley Sr.: Go on, Evelyn, tell us what you found.

Evelyn: Well, I didn’t want to get into it today, with Emma out, but…I think I’ve found evidence of another garden building down by the lake. I was testing along the north bank and I came across some brick foundations. I’ve only just started, so I’m not sure just what it is yet, but it makes sense that it is part of the original landscape design.

Simon: Hmm. Well, it’s better than nothing, I suppose. Keep looking.

Martin: Well, I’ve got a question.

Simon: This is a day for surprises. Go on then.

Martin: It’s John. He’d like to come on, full time and all, as gardener. I know Miss Ann wanted us to do more with the garden, but I’ve had me hands full with the vegetables. John could take on the flowers and such. He’s helped out all spring, you know.

Simon: I think that’s a great idea. Of course, that’s assuming he doesn’t go to jail.

Shirley: Hmmph. He’ll not go to jail. Not on account of some good-for-nothing girlfriend.

Mr. Tinsley Sr.: I don’t think that’s fair. He’s the guilty party here.

Frank: Never mind. I think it would be lovely if John could make the gardens blossom again. He belongs here. The flowers are pretty this spring, but is not like the old days when the woods were alive with colour. I’d like him to come back, we all would.

Simon: Absolutely, you me and the entire looney bin. Tell him to put his thoughts down in a letter to me. You know, it pays to be official about these sorts of things. Last bit of business-- the TV crew are not coming as intended for the preliminary look around. Evidently they thought we were in Chester, who knows why, and decided we didn't really exist when they couldn't find us on the map. What can you do, television, it's a dying medium. Well, I’m off to see if Phil has survived his reunion with his wife with all his bits intact. Wish me luck the blade might still be sharp!

Shirley (softly): We'd be so lucky…

Simon: Shirley?

Shirley: I said he's lucky, to have a friend like you.

Simon: Well, you do what you can.