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The People’s Friend - December 30, 2017

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Celebrating the work of
Moomins artist Tove Jansson
7 feel-good short stories
Competitions open to UK residents only, unless otherwise stated.
Dec 30, 2017 No. 7707
Fabulous Fiction
• A cat café drama by Suzanne Ross Jones
• Wendy Clarke’s sparkling romance
New Year
party food
that inspired
Sir Walter
30-Dec- 2017
Knit a
to beat
the chill
New Year
from vet
running a
UK Off-sale date - 03-Jan-18
Noeallwour readers!
AU $4.50, NZ $4.50
this week
Inside The People’s Friend
If you like the “Friend”
then you’ll love...
The People’s Friend Special
No 150, priced £2.99
On sale
l 8 pages of puzzles
l 14 feel-good short stories
The People’s Friend Pocket
Novel No 851, priced £3.49
l A modern romance
by Wendy Kremer
Available in newsagents & supermarkets
Cover Artwork: Loch Katrine, Trossachs, by J. Campbell Kerr.
4 Happy Hogmanay
by Eirin Thompson
15 Electric Dreams
by Ewan Smith
21 Love Birds
by Wendy Clarke
22 SERIES Tales From
Prospect House
by Malcolm Welshman
30 SERIAL The Mystery Of
The Missing Du Mauriers
by Nicola Burggraf
39 Ghost For Hire by
Donald Lightwood
47 Fireworks At The Cat
Café by Suzanne Ross
53 Cooking With Franca
by Stefania Hartley
58 SERIAL No. 4, Whitehall
Gardens by Alison Carter
79 Time’s Running Out
by Rebecca Mansell
85 WEEKLY SOAP Riverside
by Glenda Young
7 This Week We’re
13 Maddie’s World
18 Health & Wellbeing
23 Brainteasers
34 The Farmer & His
36 Cookery: try our
perfect party foods
to celebrate the
New Year
60 Reader Offer:
Canvas Shoppers
63 From The Manse
71 Would You Believe
72 Reader Offer:
Winter Craft Kits
73 Knitting: beat the
winter chills and
knit our longerlength tunic
75 Our Next Issue
86 Between Friends
8 Willie Shand reflects on the
landscapes that inspired Sir
Walter Scott
24 Enjoy a fun-filled, 3-night
break with the “Friend”
28 Polly Pullar looks at the work
of the Scottish SPCA
35 Sandra Smith talks to Wendy
Glass about fostering
41 Kitchen ideas
44 Malcolm Welshman resolves
to ensure his pooch has a
healthier New Year
50 We explore the work of
Tove Jansson
55 Polly Pullar takes a
lighthearted look at rural life
56 Archivist Jennifer Hunt shares
tales of the RVS
64 Make a holiday of running a
68 Alexandra Campbell on
76 Good news stories of 2017
83 Extra puzzle fun
13 issues for *£6 when you subscribe
– Call 0800 318846**, quote PFCOV
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Welcome to our New
Year issue! I hope that
2018 brings you health
and happiness and
everything you could
wish for.
This week, we’re
celebrating the turn of
the year in style, with a
look at some of our
favourite good news
stories from 2017 on
page 76. And the New
Year theme continues
with Eirin Thompson’s
heartwarming story
“Happy Hogmanay” on
page 4, which sees a
welcome return for her
feisty characters
Maureen and Jean.
One of my personal
highlights of 2017 was
my visit to the Wigtown
Book Festival in
beautiful Dumfries and
Galloway, which is
where I first heard of
the Open Book. I loved
the idea of running a
bookshop while on
holiday and knew it
would make a great
feature for the “Friend”.
Read Dawn Geddes’s
article on page 64 to
find out more.
Last but not least, if
you’re a fan of vet
Malcolm Welshman’s
“Tales From Prospect
House”, you’ll love his
doggie New Year
resolutions on page 44
– though I suspect
Malcolm’s adorable dog
Dora may be less
Angela Gilchrist, Editor.
Why shouldn’t
we have a party
this New Year?
And just like
that, it was
settled . . .
Illustration by Ruth Blair.
said. “It’s an awful
word. It makes me
think of someone
who hoards old
newspapers and eats half a
tin of salmon tonight and
the other half tomorrow.”
“Don’t use it, then,” I
suggested. “Think of
something else to call
“But don’t you agree?”
Jean persisted. “Doesn’t it
have a whiff of desperate
loneliness about it? At
least you can say you’re a
widow, Maureen, which
proves that somebody
loved you at some stage of
your life.”
She took her feet down
off the footstool and
passed me the crossword
she’d been balancing on
her thighs. Neither of us
could ever do the whole
thing, but between us we
usually managed to finish
It was the day after
Boxing Day and we were
enjoying a bit of bright
winter sun in my
conservatory. Jean now
wriggled herself up a bit
straighter in her seat and
handed me the pen.
“What was it Bridget
Jones called herself?” she
asked me.
“A singleton,” I recalled.
“There you are, then,
you’re not a spinster,
you’re a singleton. Feel any
“Actually, yes,” Jean
I had decoded three
more clues before I realised
that she hadn’t spoken
another word. Jean and I
had only known each other
since last summer, but
already I could read the
signs – if she wasn’t
talking, she was up to
“What’s the great mind
working on now?” I asked
with suspicion.
“I’m thinking about New
Year. We had such a fab
Christmas, but we haven’t
given a thought to New
Year’s Eve.
“Of course, it’s Party
Central for the rest of the
population, but a pretty
depressing night for some
of us, staying up to watch a
minor news presenter with
a short straw in her pocket
try to interview some poor
Londoner who’s been
standing in the cold since
lunchtime to get a front
row spot for Big Ben and
the fireworks.”
“My, that’s quite a
speech. You’ve clearly been
giving this some thought.”
In her seventies, Jean
had determined to become
a “doer”, as had I, in her
company. Together, we had
just had the most
marvellous Christmas.
Instead of sitting in the
corner at the homes of
some of our dutiful
relatives, we’d branched
out and done everything
exactly the way we wanted,
including a Christmas
dinner for two and a ban
on boring presents.
“I’m thinking about it
right now,” Jean told me,
“and I think we should
organise a party.”
“A party?”
I recalled that it had
taken us from June to
December to organise
Christmas Day just for
ourselves, whilst Hogmanay
was less than a week away.
“You don’t like the idea,”
Jean replied.
“It’s not that I don’t like
it,” I said. “I just don’t see
how we can arrange it in
five days. People have
made their plans by this
stage, anyway. Where were
you thinking of having this
party? Your place? Here?”
“Oh, I’m not thinking of a
house party, Miss Maureen
O’Hara –” she sometimes
called me that, and I
sometimes called her “The
Shrimp”, after Jean
Shrimpton “– I’m thinking
What did she mean?
“You haven’t been
widowed for as long as I’ve
been a spinster,” Jean said,
assuming a voice of
authority. “So you might
not yet know what a truly
awful night is New Year’s
Eve. The worst thing . . .”
“Oh, I know what the
worst thing is,” I
interrupted. “It’s when the
phone starts ringing at half
past ten and you have to
field the calls from those
people who care enough to
ring you and wish you a
Happy New Year, but don’t
care quite enough to have
invited you round. And
then, of course, you have
to admit . . .”
“. . . that while everyone
else is out partying,
watching fireworks or
jumping in fountains, or at
least clinking bubbly
glasses with someone,
you’re sitting in the house
all alone.”
Jean had hit the nail on
the head.
“Yes,” I confirmed. “It’s
not nice.”
“Well, let’s do something
about it,” Jean urged.
“You could come round
here,” I said. “We could
cook a special supper.”
“New Year’s Eve,
Maureen,” Jean coaxed.
“It’s a night for make-up.
High heels. Bling.”
“Bling. Because there
must be others like us –
other singletons in their
sixties and seventies who
want to let their hair down
and really celebrate the
New Year. Let’s face it,
we’re more grateful than
anyone still to be able to
do it!”
I was tempted. I used to
love getting ready for a
dance. At one time you’d
find me at the Arcadia
ballroom three nights a
I loved us girls all helping
each other with our hair,
zipping each other into our
full-skirted dresses. We
were of a generation who
didn’t mind putting on a
big coat over our finery
until we got inside, I’m glad
to say.
These days I don’t know
how the young things bear
it, out at night in mini-skirts
and hot-pants and little
skimpy tops! I’m not a
prude, I just think they
must be freezing.
“How would we organise
it in the time available?”
“Have you never heard of
social media?” Jean
scoffed. “We can get the
word out within hours.”
* * * *
It turned out that the
town hall would have been
lying empty on the night of
New Year’s Eve, so that
wasn’t a problem. The
manager would have to ask
staff if they were willing to
come in on what had
looked like being a night
off, though.
We spent half a day
wondering if we should be
looking for other possible
venues, but nowhere else
would have been so central
or as cheap, even with an
extra charge because
attendants would have to
be paid double time.
When Jean’s mobile rang,
displaying the town hall
number, we crossed our
fingers, but it was good
news. They’d found enough
staff to cover us.
“Thunderbirds are go,” I
said, with a timid smile.
“They certainly are.” My
friend had also done her
fair share of babysitting.
We announced our event
on Facebook and Twitter,
calling it “A New Year’s Eve
bash for singletons in their
sixties and seventies”.
We organised a light
supper to be provided by
the new deli in town and
invited everyone to Bring
Your Own Bottle.
There would be a charge
to cover hire of the hall,
supper and music, the last
of which would be provided
by one of my young
relations, Aidan.
He was trying to
establish himself as a
wedding DJ, and could
programme his computer
to play Bobby Darin, Roy
Orbison and the Rolling
Stones as easily as Ed
I put my foot down on
one thing, though, and that
was that it must be allticketed.
“I’d be gutted if we ended
up having to turn people
away at the door because
we were full.”
“Well, whatever
happened to Mrs We-Can’tPossibly-Organise-A-Party-
In-A-Week?” Jean asked
I had to laugh.
* * * *
Jean was right. I was
wrong. Although it was
short notice, and New
Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday,
by Friday we had sold
three-quarters of our
tickets through our outlet
of Woodie’s newsagency in
the town centre.
It was exciting. Jean and
I had picked up new party
clothes in the sales the day
we’d launched on social
Luckily the town hall was
still festooned with festive
decorations and there was
little that needed doing.
“We can knock off for a
while and come back about
five to meet the caterers
and the DJ,” Jean said.
That afternoon we were
so excited, and anxious,
too. What if people had
bought tickets but then
changed their minds and
the whole thing was a flop?
Or what if they all turned
up but didn’t like the music
or the food?
“Let’s just decide that,
I was worried. What if the whole
thing was a flop?
media. Jean found a silver
jumpsuit that showed how
slim she was and went
really well with her hair,
which was still thick and
the kind of grey that
everyone wished they had,
the lucky thing.
I was a bit curvier, to put
it kindly, and at my best in
a dress. Jean persuaded
me to try on a dazzling
wine creation from
When I saw myself in it,
in the fitting-room mirror, I
got goosebumps. Even the
assistant said I looked
fantastic and I had a
moment wishing Dennis
could have seen me.
On Saturday the young
man from Woodie’s
newsagency rang to see if
they could have any more
tickets and we had to turn
him down. He said that was
a shame because they were
having to turn people away
New Year’s Eve came and
Jean said we’d better go to
church, just to prove that
we hadn’t become total
By now half the town
knew about our party, and
we half-expected to be on
the receiving end of some
stern glances from the
congregation, but instead
we were greeted outside
the church by quite a few
“oldies” who couldn’t wait
to tell us they would see us
later, at the “do”.
“This is really happening!”
I hissed at Jean.
“I know!” she hissed back.
whoever turns up, we’ll
make the best of it,” Jean
said sensibly.
“You’re right. Let’s just
have fun getting ready.”
And we did. I did Jean’s
make-up and she did mine.
Then we did our hair,
painted our nails and put
on the outfits that had
been hanging in Jean’s
wardrobe all week.
When we saw ourselves
in Jean’s mirror, I thought
we looked fantastic.
* * * *
The entrance to our town
hall was at ground level,
but the big room where we
would have the party was
up one floor via a rather
fine staircase. Of course,
there was also a lift.
Jean and I decided to
stay down at the main
doors to meet and greet,
with town hall staff up on
the landing to show guests
into the room itself.
We’d said doors would
open at 7.30 p.m., but at a
quarter past seven the first
pair arrived. Jean very
pointedly looked at her
watch, but that didn’t deter
them waving their tickets
under our noses and
barging on.
“It’s OK,” Terry, the
caretaker, called down
reassuringly. “Send them
up and I’ll look after them.”
And off they went,
pausing only to admire the
huge Christmas tree at the
foot of the stairs.
We hadn’t caught our
breath from that
encounter when a party
of four women and two
men came through the
“Oh, it’s lovely and warm
in here,” one woman said
with a big smile. “Are you
the organisers?”
“Ask us later when we see
if it’s credit or blame we’re
getting.” Jean laughed.
“That’s not down to you,”
one of the men pointed out.
“You had the gumption to
put this thing on – now it’s
up to all of us to make it a
night to remember.”
“I liked them,” I
whispered to Jean as they
went upstairs.
“Me, too. Let’s hope we
get lots more like them.”
People arrived so
steadily, often wanting a
word or two, that Jean and
I lost count of how many
had come through the
“Do you want to find out
how many are here?” she
“No. Let’s just go up and
see what it looks like.”
Terry said he’d come
down and take tickets from
any latecomers, so we
made our way past the
Christmas tree and up the
wide staircase.
We could hear the rising
babble of voices as we
climbed, but we still
stopped, exchanged a look
and took a deep breath
before stepping into the
The sight that met us was
wonderful. All around the
edges of the room, the
tables were filled with
people dressed up to the
nines – women in
everything from sequinned
evening gowns to slinky
trousers suits. The men
were as smart as new paint,
“We did this,” I marvelled.
“We did,” Jean said
“We were waiting for
you.” Jean’s niece, Poppy,
appeared. She’d come to
help and had been hanging
out with my great-nephew,
Aidan, the DJ.
“So, are you ready to
rock?” she asked. Suddenly,
there was a loud “ping”.
The music stopped and
the lights went out.
There was a shocked
“Oh!” from the room, which
was now in total darkness,
followed by a collective
Then we saw torchlight
appear in the doorway and
heard Terry’s welcome
“No need to panic. It’s
probably just a fuse, but do
we happen to have an
electrician in the house?”
“Over here,” This turned
out to be Stanley from our
walking group. “I used to
be, anyhow. I can take a
As the men trotted off, it
was hard to ignore the
impatient murmurings of
the crowd.
“This is bad. What if they
can’t fix it?” I asked.
Jean nodded.
“Or if it’s a big job and
takes hours?”
It seemed our hard work
was in ruins, not to mention
the efforts of the guests.
Graham Clarke, our
church choirmaster,
“I’ve some experience of
engaging an audience,” he
said modestly, “and of how
quickly things can sour if
they turn against you.
“Might I suggest you let
me play that piano over
there to entertain the
troops until we have light?
“I can keep going for
quite a while without
needing to see my music.”
“Oh, would you?” Jean
gushed in relief.
Graham kicked off with
“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”,
just to announce himself,
but the room took him to
heart and started singing
That gave Graham an
idea. Knowing two or three
from the choir were out
there in the darkness, he
called them up to lead the
When we heard what
seemed to be the whole
room joining in with “The
Great Pretender” and “Hey
Jude”, I almost wished we’d
planned it.
“There’s something about
our generation,” Jean
observed. “Maybe it’s
because we came along
during the war, or just after
it – we try to battle on and
make the best of things,
don’t we?”
Just then, there was a
flash of brilliant light and
the electricity was back.
Stanley returned to the
room, the conquering hero,
to an impromptu rendition
of “For He’s a Jolly Good
“Someone had got a bit
too ambitious with the
Christmas tree lights,” he
explained. “Problem
The room lighting
softened and “Rock Around
The Clock” blasted out.
“Bill Haley!” There was a
clatter of chair legs and a
tumble of bodies and the
dance-floor was packed in
“Just so you know,” Jean
shouted over the music,
“I’m not dancing with a girl.
Not even you, Maureen
“If a man asks me to
dance, then I’m up for it,
but I refuse to be one of
those sad women who
dances with other women
because all the formerly
eligible men are dead.”
“You mean like those sad
women?” I pointed at two
biddies about our age who
were jiving together like
their lives depended upon
“But they’re having a
ball!” I argued.
“Just don’t ask me to
dance with you,” Jean
* * * *
The women outnumbered
the men, but there was still
a substantial number of
gents and they kindly
shared themselves around.
Aidan had compiled a list
of the biggest hits of the
We had Bobby Darin
singing “Mack The Knife”
and “Dream Lover”, Ritchie
Valens mooning over
Donna and the Coasters
giving us a great upbeat
number with “Charlie
He had also promised to
urge shy attendees to brave
the dance-floor, but it
turned out there was no
need – if anything you had
to fight to get a space up
We took an interval at
9.30 for supper. The deli
had done a great job –
nothing too fancy, but
plenty of it. Terry and his
team produced huge pots
of tea, and this was guzzled
by the gallon.
At half past ten, the
music started up again.
This time, Aidan
announced, he would be
favouring the younger
partygoers with hits from
the Sixties.
A cheer went up from a
particularly enthusiastic
table in the corner, where
all the women had come
with bouffant hair, dark
eyeliner and pale lipstick. I
smiled to see them reliving
their youth.
The dance-floor instantly
filled again for “Help!” by
the Beatles, “I Got You
Babe”, by Sonny and Cher
and “It’s Not Unusual” by
Tom Jones.
And I did get a dance.
Even though Jean and I had
spent much of our evening
talking to our guests and
making sure everyone had
everything they needed,
one person didn’t forget
about us.
Terry, the caretaker,
insisted on getting us each
up for a boogie. Twice, in
fact, once he was happy
that his team had the
post-supper clean-up under
By this stage someone
had requested a few more
modern songs.
“We didn’t all throw out
our radios in 1969, you
So Aidan rolled out Elton
John, Robbie Williams, Amy
Winehouse and Sam Smith,
all of whom went down very
At one minute to
midnight Aidan knocked off
the dance music and
primed us for the chimes of
Big Ben, delivered to us via
On the last bong, a cheer
went up, we formed a
ragged but happy circle,
crossed our arms and
struck up “Auld Lang Syne”.
At first I couldn’t see
Jean in the crowd, but
eventually I spotted her,
and she spotted me. We
shared a smile. I knew what
she was thinking.
“Maureen O’Hara, isn’t
this better than sitting in
the house with Miss
Marple, a Tia Maria for one
and half a tin of salmon?”
She was right. n
This week we’re
Victoria & Albert
Great Balls Of Fire!
Stonehaven’s annual Hogmanay
fireball festival starts just before
midnight as fireball bearers are
piped down to the harbour to herald
the New Year. It’s free to attend;
donations towards costs welcomed.
Scot-tea Dog
Stocktaking isn’t usually a fun activity, but
when it’s time for a count at the zoo, the
stock gets involved, as well! January sees
British zoos working on their annual
updates, complete with “help” from the
If you enjoyed the latest ITV hit
drama series about Queen Victoria
and her consort, you’ll love the
official companion book
(HarperCollins, £20). It’s packed with
historical detail, beautiful photos
from the series and a behind-thescenes look at the production.
Perfectly Timed
Birthday Greetings
Many happy returns to journalist
and broadcaster Fiona Phillips. The
former “Loose Women” and GMTV
presenter will be fifty-seven on New
Year’s Day.
With Mozart looking after your kitchen
compositions, you can be sure your
creations will be timed to perfection. The
60-minute timer plays his soothing “Rondo
Alla Turca” when the time is up. Priced
£17.50 from
Sit down with a nice cup of tea kept hot
by this cheery Scottie. This cute cotton
tea cosy doesn’t have to be removed to
pour. It costs £12.50 from www. or call 0844 844 1325.
Two By Two?
As we go to press, we’re looking
forward to another Hogmanay with
Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues
Orchestra. We don’t yet know who his
guests will be, but since 1993 it’s
always been a brilliant feast of great
music to welcome the New Year.
In The News
The gritting team from Doncaster Council
recently named two of their vehicles
Gritsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Anti-Slip
Machiney and David Plowie in a councilrun Twitter poll that attracted a blizzard
of witty entries.
Details correct at time of going to press.
New Year’s Day wasn’t always
January 1. In mediaeval times it
was March 25, the feast of the
Annunciation. Scotland changed in
1600, but England didn’t celebrate
in January until the adoption of the
Gregorian calendar in 1752.
Hello, Hootenanny!
New New Year
In The Footsteps of
Sir Walter Scott
Willie Shand
reflects on the
landscapes that
inspired one of
Scotland’s bestloved writers.
Photographs by Willie Shand.
“Breathes there the man
with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath
‘This is my own, my native
HESE oft-quoted
lines are taken from
Sir Walter Scott’s
“The Lay of the Last
Minstrel”. There
can’t be many individuals
who have done more to
promote the landscape and
heritage of Scotland than
Sir Walter Scott, and few
whose work has brought
such universal respect and
Robert Burns, whom Scott
met in 1786, may be able to
boast having the greatest
number of monuments in
the world erected to any
writer, but Sir Walter Scott
certainly has the largest, and
it stands right in the heart of
his native Edinburgh,
overlooking Princes Street.
The Gothic spires of the
Scott Monument rise to
more than 200 feet, and if
you feel up to climbing the
287 spiral steps to the top
you’ll win an amazing view
of the capital.
At the foot of the
monument is a large Carrara
marble statue of Sir Walter
seated with his dog, Maida.
On the way to the top
gallery you’ll pass stone
carved statues of many of
Scott’s well-loved characters
from his poems and novels.
The son of an Edinburgh
lawyer, Sir Walter Scott was
born in College Wynd on
August 15, 1771, and so
shared his birthday with
Napoleon Bonaparte.
Unfortunately, when Scott
was only two, he contracted
polio – an illness that was
to leave him with a limp for
the rest of his days.
For health reasons then,
the “puir lame laddie” was
sent to his grandfather’s
farm near Smailholm Tower
outside Kelso for his early
It was there the seeds
were sown that would grow
into a great love of the
Borders, and there many of
the tales and legends he
was related would be filed
away in his mind only to
prove invaluable when later
he put pen to paper.
Returning to Edinburgh at
just 12 years old, he began
studying the classics, then,
following in his father’s
footsteps, law. His great
fascination for the traditions
and stories of the Scottish
Borders, however, never
waned. It couldn’t have
suited him better when in
1799 he became SheriffDepute for Selkirk.
After he’d published
“Minstrelsy Of The Scottish
Border” in 1802, other epic
poems quickly followed,
and each was a huge
success. This success
followed him into the
publication of his Waverley
Novels in 1814.
Scott was a bit wary about
how the public might react
so, to reduce the risk, he
Selkirk, in the
rolling Border hills.
The SS Sir
Walter Scott on
Loch Katrine.
published them
anonymously. There was
much speculation, but it
wasn’t until 1827 that
authorship was finally
Of course, by then, they
were well on their way to
becoming the most popular
and widely read novels in all
of Europe. Believe me – the
27 volumes take up a lot of
shelf space!
Exactly 200 years ago, on
December 30, 1817, he
released the historical novel
“Rob Roy”. Scott needn’t
have worried about owning
up to its authorship.
Rob Roy – now there’s a
character that’s worthy of a
few tales. Whether you saw
him as a hero or a villain I
suppose would depend
pretty much on whether or
not it was your cattle he was
A bronze statue of Rob
Roy stands at the foot of the
Back Walk in Stirling. The
MacGregors were a much
persecuted clan, even to the
extent that they were
forbidden from using their
own name.
You’ll find Rob’s name,
though, all around the
Trossachs and Balquhidder.
A very real character, he
was born at Glengyle above
the north shore of Loch
Katrine. All that remains of a
later house he occupied in
Glen Dochart is one
crumbling gable looking
down over the main
Crianlarich road. Several
caves, no doubt used for
hiding, also bear his name.
Although sharing the
same character, the film
“Rob Roy” from 1995,
starring Liam Neeson, bears
no relationship to Scott’s
novel, the first half of which
is played out south of the
It’s the time of the 1715
Jacobite Rebellion. The
story’s narrator, an
Englishman by the name of
Frank Osbaldistone, gives
his account of the
adventures he faced when
n “The Lady Of The Lake”
(1810) takes us to Loch
Katrine and the Trossachs.
This intriguing and
romantic story tells of the
struggle between the
powerful Douglas clan and
King James V. The success
of this poem was to
instantly turn the
Trossachs into a popular
tourist destination. Today,
like our Victorian
ancestors, we can enjoy a
cruise around Loch Katrine
on the SS Sir Walter Scott,
sailing past Ellen’s Isle.
n The rousing poem
“MacGregor’s Gathering”
can be sung to an old
MacGregor gathering tune.
Scott took a great interest
in the affairs of the Clan
Gregor and vindicated
them in the Proscription
placed upon them by Act
of Scottish Parliament
banning the MacGregors
from using their own
name. The grave of Rob
Roy MacGregor at
Balquhidder carries the
words MacGregor Despite
Them – words taken from
this poem.
n When published in
1805, “The Lay Of The Last
Minstrel”, set in the mid
16th century, brought
sent north to the Highlands
to collect a debt owed to his
father, and of his encounters
with Rob Roy.
Sir Walter Scott’s ability to
blend fictional characters
with recent events proved a
great recipe for success. So,
too, was his choice of
settings and the romantic
way he painted the
landscape in words, bearing
in mind this was in the days
before films.
People were drawn in
great numbers to the places
he described, anxious to see
them for themselves. Places
like Melrose Abbey, the
Trossachs and Loch Katrine
saw a phenomenal rise in
visitors. He had opened
people’s eyes to Scotland.
With the Napoleonic Wars
restricting travel on the
traditional Grand Tour of
Europe, suddenly, through
Scott instant fame. When
the last of an old line of
minstrels receives
hospitality from the
Duchess of Buccleuch, he
repays her by reciting a
tale about her family. Even
two centuries on, visitors
are drawn by Scott’s
eloquent descriptions of
moonlit Melrose Abbey. If
you feel brave enough to
visit the abbey in the pale
moonlight, you’ll find the
wizard’s grave beneath the
south transept.
n Published under a pen
name, “The Heart Of
Midlothian” (1818) is
widely regarded as Scott’s
finest novel. Written in
Lowland Scots, it begins at
the time of the Porteous
Riots in Edinburgh and
touches on some of the
political and social issues
of the time. The story
continues following the
exploits of one Jeanie
Deans, sister of Effie Deans
who is held in the prison
for murdering her
illegitimate son. The old
Tolbooth was demolished
in 1817 and all that
remains is a heart made
from granite setts marking
its entrance. It’s said that
to spit on the heart brings
good luck.
his descriptions, the Scottish
landscape had caught folk’s
imagination. Scott had set in
motion the Scottish tourist
At Aberfoyle we can still
visit the old oak tree
from which hangs
The Scott
stands over
200 feet high.
Abbotsford, once
Scott’s home.
Bailie Nicol Jarvie’s
poker – the weapon he
used in Jean McAlpine’s Inn
in “Rob Roy”.
Close to it is the stone
bridge that Frank
Osbaldistone and the Bailie
crossed on their way to
meet with Rob. Head on out
by Loch Ard and you’ll pass
the spot where Captain
Thornton and his men faced
defeat by the Highlanders,
and the rock where Bailie
Nicol Jarvie was suspended
by the coat tails “like the
sign of the Golden Fleece
over a shop in the Trongate
of his native city”.
It was in 1811 that Scott
bought the farm of Cartley
Hole looking over the
Tweed between Melrose
and Kelso. This was to be
greatly extended and to
become his stately home of
Among his great collection
of historic artefacts on
display at Abbotsford is Rob
Roy’s gun, his pouch and
In 1818, Scott was to
receive fame for something
other than his writing. For
more than a century,
Scotland’s Crown Jewels
had been lost. They’d been
so well hidden for safekeeping that no-one
remembered their
With the permission of the
Prince Regent, Scott led a
search at Edinburgh Castle
and found them, wrapped
up in an old kist.
Everything was going well,
he was a baronet and now
Sir Walter Scott, but then
came the banking crisis of
1825. His publishing
company of Ballantyne
collapsed, leaving him with
the equivalent in today’s
money of a £10 million
He refused to accept
financial help from his
admirers and nor would he
declare himself bankrupt.
He vowed, “I will involve no
friend either rich or poor –
my own right hand shall do
it.” He would write his way
out of debt.
Just a year after suffering a
slight stroke, and well on
the way to writing off his
debt, Sir Walter died on
September 21, 1832, in the
dining-room of Abbotsford.
Buried at Dryburgh Abbey,
he rests beneath a large
Worth A Visit
Scott Monument:
Selkirk Courthouse:
pink granite stone in the
North Transept. The route to
Dryburgh from Abbotsford
took the mile-long cortege
over Bemersyde Hill.
This was a road Scott
would often travel. When he
did, he would invariably
stop at a certain spot high
above the Tweed to admire
the view of the Eildon Hills.
On Scott’s final journey,
the horses pulling the
hearse automatically
stopped at that very spot to
give their master one final
look at the view. This has
ever since been known as
Scott’s View.
It was recorded that
“when the coffin was taken
from the hearse, one deep
sob burst from a thousand
Everyone just knew there
would never be another like
Sir Walter Scott – and they
were right. n
Getting there
Loch Katrine
requires a car
or coach tour
to reach it.
Selkirk is on
the A7 where
it meets the
A707, and is served by the
X95 bus from Edinburgh.
Stirling is accessible by
train, bus and car, just off
the M9.
“I like being able to
watch the countryside
around me change”
Photographs courtesy of Maddie Grigg and iStock.
In her weekly column,
Maddie Grigg shares
tales from her life in
rural Dorset . . .
T’S that time of year
when we reflect on
what’s happened to us
over the last twelve
months and what is yet
to come. At least, that’s
what I tend to do.
In this period between
Christmas and New Year,
I’m hoping to apply the
brakes a little bit and cast
my eyes backwards and
forward, rather like Janus,
the two-faced God of
ancient Roman religion and
He’s the god of
beginnings, gates,
transitions, time, duality,
doorways, passages and
endings. He’s also thought
to have given his name to
the month of January.
One of the things on my
mind is that, although I
signed up for the gym earlier
this year and have been
using it two or three times a
week, I don’t actually enjoy
it very much.
I know it’s good for me,
but if I hadn’t paid for a year
up front, I probably wouldn’t
be doing it.
Walking is much more my
thing, especially with Arty
early in the mornings. There
is nothing better than being
up with the lark, before
everyone else, and walking
towards a winter sunrise.
The two of us cover quite
a bit of ground, which is
why I’ve just installed a free
app on my phone to track
my activity.
When you have the time
and ability to walk, I think
it’s such a joyous thing to
do, especially where I live.
Arty and I tend to stick to
our well-trodden paths. I
don’t like putting her in the
car and going out of the
village. I much prefer putting
on my wellies and walking
from home.
So that’s what we do, Arty
and me, heading up to
Bluebell Hill a couple of
times a week then walking
down to a little hamlet
across the fields on the
other days.
I like being able to watch
the countryside around me
change over the seasons.
One of my particularly
favourite spots is the middle
of a big field where a large
ash tree stands guard over
the land.
When no-one is around I’ll
walk directly to the tree and
touch it with the palm of a
I’ll close my eyes, breathe
in deeply and then open
them again, looking at the
landscape around me.
It makes me feel
grounded, if that makes
The tree is always on my
side, never judgemental. It’s
a friendly presence which I
like to greet every now and
My relationship with this
tree goes further than this.
Please keep this between
ourselves, but I have been
known to ask it for things.
Not material things, you
understand, but things like
emotional strength and
I think the tree has the
same effect on others who
walk past its noble boughs.
I was talking to a man
about it as we were waiting
for our chips from the van
one Tuesday night. It
transpires he lives next to
this field, and we got
chatting about the tree.
“My grandchildren call it
the Wishing Tree,” he told
I was relieved, because it’s
clear I’m not the only one
who feels great affection for
it. However, I didn’t confess
my secret to him, just
muttered something like,
“Oh, how nice.”
This time last year, a friend
challenged himself to walk a
thousand miles in
12 months, and he’d done it
by the end of September.
Now I’ve got the app, I
think I might do the same,
although I might ask the
Wishing Tree what it thinks
about my plan.
Who knows what other
trees I might bump into
along the way. n
Maddie loves walking
by the old ash tree.
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Rory couldn’t wait to move
with the times – but the old
ways suited Ailsa better . . .
Illustration by Sarah Holliday.
ILSA had never
known Rory so
excited before.
He was bent
over, his hands
on his knees, desperately
trying to catch his breath.
He must have run all the
way from the big house. On
his face was the widest
smile in the world.
“You’ll never believe it,
Ailsa.” He gasped. “We’re
going to have electricity.
The laird is going to bring
electricity to the farm!”
It was three years since
the two of them had taken
over the small Perthshire
farm when Ailsa’s dad
Although Rory loved the
traditional ways, he was
also one of the first of the
young men in the area to
have gone to agricultural
He was desperate for the
chance to put into practice
some of the new farming
ideas he had learned.
It would soon be the
1960s; all kinds of changes
were sweeping through the
world and he longed to be
part of that.
They sat down together
on the little wall round the
kitchen garden.
“Just think of the
difference it will make,”
Rory said, taking Ailsa’s
hands in his. “No more
paraffin lamps or milking
the cows by hand.”
He turned to her, a smile
blazing across his face.
“You’ll have your own
washing machine in the
house, Ailsa. A fridge!”
As Rory’s eager chatter
rolled on, Ailsa found
herself wondering about the
There was no doubt that
running the farm was hard
work. The two of them were
on the go from morning till
night with never a break.
It would certainly be good
if some of the drudgery
could be taken out of their
On the other hand, they
were happy together.
Would the changes make
any difference to that?
Absent-mindedly, her
hand slipped to her
stomach. She hadn’t told
Rory the news yet; she
wanted to wait until she
was absolutely sure.
Some things in life were
going to change whether
they had electricity or not.
* * * *
“We’re almost done, hen.
Ye’ll hae yer hoose back to
yersel’ again the morrow.”
Ailsa smiled.
“Oh, Peem, it’s been so
great having you and Eck
here. How will Rory and I
learn all the new dance
moves once you’re gone?”
The two young men had
been staying on the farm
for nearly a week as they
wired up the buildings.
Beforehand, Ailsa hadn’t
been sure how it would be.
She and Rory never had
people to stay, and Peem
and Eck were townies,
unused to rural ways.
But although the two of
them were sometimes a bit
forgetful when it came to
wiping their boots before
coming into the house, it
couldn’t have gone better.
They had worked hard,
made themselves at home
out in the barn and, in the
evenings, proudly
demonstrated their skill at
the jitterbug, twist and
hustle to Ailsa and Rory’s
great amusement.
Ailsa had never known
anyone able to put away as
many bacon sandwiches as
they could.
Meanwhile, Rory had
barely been able to contain
his excitement at the
prospect of electricity
becoming available on the
farm at the flick of a switch.
His mind was whirling with
It wasn’t just that he
could set up a milking
parlour so that the cows
could be milked by
machine. Now he would be
able to use electric clippers
for shearing the sheep.
They could have heat for
the sickly lambs when they
were brought inside, and
the turnips for the animals’
feed could be chopped up
automatically. He could
even get a cooker for the
pigs’ swill.
Once they were linked up
to the electricity grid, he
would be freed from so
many of the menial tasks
on which he had to spend
his days.
At last he would have the
time he needed to put into
practice all the changes he
wanted to implement on
the farm.
He held Ailsa by the
shoulders and gazed into
her eyes with excitement.
“This is a great time for
us. And for our little one
that’s on its way.”
Ailsa smiled to herself. He
wasn’t really looking at her;
he was looking into the
future, imagining all the
wonderful things that
were to come.
She pulled him into
a warm hug. He was
eager to embrace the
changes ahead. But she
had a different nature. She
was more inclined to take
things step by step, judging
each change on its merits.
* * * *
“Are ye ready, loons?”
Peem asked, his hand on
the switch by the fusebox.
The four of them were
standing by the kitchen
door. “Will I dae a
grimly. “I have some work
to do!”
* * * *
In the event, it was
amazing how quickly they
got used to the changes.
Once Ailsa had sorted out
how her new washing
machine worked, it took a
huge burden off her
shoulders, especially when
they became a family of
three. It made her realise
just what hard work doing
Rory was eager to embrace the
changes ahead
countdown like with yon
“Just get on with it,
man.” Eck snorted and,
with a grin, Peem pressed
the switch.
The lights blazed on all
around them. There was a
silence. Ailsa gazed about
in awe.
“It’s amazing,” Rory
murmured after a moment.
He turned to Ailsa, his eyes
shining. “It’s amazing, isn’t
She nodded, but a tiny
frown had crossed her
forehead. The electric light
was showing up things that
she hadn’t been aware of
She could see soot marks
on the kitchen ceiling,
presumably from the
paraffin lamps. And there
were balls of dust hiding on
the floor between the Aga
and the sideboard.
She looked in sudden
shock at the wall under the
sink – was that mould? She
gazed about with a sense of
horror – her kitchen was
“Come on,” Rory said
eagerly. “Let’s go and have
a look at the lights in the
farm buildings.”
Ailsa’s eyes narrowed.
She had just spotted
something else that the
electric light had shown up.
There were spiders’ webs in
all four corners of the
“You go on,” she said
the weekly wash by hand
had been.
It was great to be able to
make a cup of tea for
visitors in minutes now,
rather than waiting
endlessly for the kettle to
boil on the Aga.
Although Rory never knew
it, Ailsa became hooked on
“Mrs Dale’s Diary” on the
radio. The characters were
so different from the people
she knew. She loved her
daily session listening to the
ups and downs of all their
However, there was one
thing the two of them
disagreed about.
“Of course we should get
a fridge, Ailsa,” Rory
protested. “Everyone has
one in their house these
Ailsa shook her head
“There isn’t room for a
fridge in the kitchen, Rory,
especially with the washing
machine there. Anyway, if I
want something to stay
cool, I can keep it in the
He snorted.
“Pantries were fine in the
old days when there was no
alternative. But times have
However, Ailsa liked her
pantry. It was at the back
of the house, away from the
sun and with a small slatted
window open to the
outside. It was always cool
and dark in there, and it
was perfect for storing her
eggs, butter and milk.
There was plenty room for
the fruit and the vegetables
they used, and even meat
was fine there for a day or
two, as long as it was
Rory looked at her in
“I don’t understand what
you have against fridges.”
Ailsa shook her head.
“I just don’t see the need
for one. People put such
strange things in their
fridges – bread and fruit
and goodness knows what
else. They don’t need to be
kept icy cold.
“Just the other week, we
had our WRI meeting at
Mabel Soutar’s house and I
noticed jam in her fridge.
Why, for goodness’ sake?”
Rory grinned.
“That’s true enough. In
this house, an opened jar of
jam never lasts long enough
to go off!”
Ailsa laid a hand on his
“I’ve nothing against
change, Rory. But not just
for the sake of it.”
For as long as they lived
at the farm, they never did
buy a fridge.
* * * *
“Take your time, Gran.
There’s no hurry.”
Ailsa held on to her
granddaughter Fiona’s arm
as they walked slowly up
the path towards the odd
little building.
“At the college, we’ve
been working on the
eco-house for almost two
“And you’re in charge of
the project?”
A frown flickered across
Fiona’s forehead.
“Sort of. We all work
together as a team, though
I co-ordinate things, so I
suppose you could say I’m
in charge.”
Ailsa shook her head in
admiration. She was so
impressed by young people
these days, especially
young women. They seemed
so confident and able.
“Your grandad would
have been very proud of
you, dear.”
Fiona squeezed her arm.
“But what I really wanted
to show you is our cold
room. We’ve been
developing it for months.”
Fiona led Ailsa to a small
room next to the kitchen.
Inside, it was as cold as its
name suggested, and the
shelves lining each wall
were packed with a whole
variety of foodstuffs.
“We’ve come up with all
kinds of low-tech strategies
to keep the room as cool as
possible and it’s working
really well.
“Our hope is that soon
we’ll be able to do without
a fridge in the house
altogether. It’s the way of
the future.” Fiona stopped,
a look of puzzlement
crossing her face.
“Are you all right, Gran?”
Ailsa tried to control her
“Let’s go and have a cup
of tea and I’ll tell you all
about the pantry we had at
the farm when your mum
was young.”
Ailsa was so impressed by young
people these days
years now,” Fiona
explained eagerly. “We’re
trying to reduce the amount
of electricity it uses to a
minimum. Eventually we
hope to be able to cut it off
from the main grid
Ailsa smiled to herself in
amusement. Life could be
very strange at times.
As she took hold of
Fiona’s arm, her laughter
redoubled. She had just
spotted something else. Up
in the corner of the ceiling
she could see a spider’s
“Do you know something,
dear? There are some things
in life that will never
change!” n
You’ll find recipes, features, a daily serial and great
subscription offers at
Health &
Great advice to keep you happy and healthy
Q. I’ve made a New Year resolution to try to
exercise more. What form of keep fit would you
recommend for an absolute beginner aged sixty?
Julie Robinson,
Fitness Advisor
from www.
moveitorloseit., is here
to help.
The best form of exercise is the one
that you enjoy doing, so that it’s a
pleasure, not a chore. It’s best to do a
variety of exercise for all-round fitness,
health and fun.
Swimming or aqua aerobics is a great
In The News
Aversion To
Greens In The
Hating greens could be in
your genes, according to a new
study by the University of
Chicago. Researchers have
identified two “picky eating”
mutations which they believe
could help explain some
people’s strong aversion to
certain tastes and textures.
One gene mutation was
found in children who were
only interested in a limited
variety of foods, and the other
in children who tried to
exercise control through picky
eating. Both genes mark a
sensitivity to bitter tastes. But
whatever your age, gradually
introducing new foods in small
quantities is the best way to
expand your foodie horizons.
way to get started and is kind to your
joints. Walking is simple and effective,
especially if you intermittently pick up
the pace, or try Nordic Walking which
works your upper body as well.
Dancing is an excellent all-round
exercise as it also helps with balance,
co-ordination and stamina.
You could try a beginner’s class for
yoga or Pilates to work on your
strength and flexibility.
Just check with your doctor before
you get started and build up gradually
to do at least 150 minutes a week of
moderate-intensity exercise.
Vitamin D
Studies show one in six Brits is
deficient in vitamin D by early spring,
with the over-sixty-fives being among
the most at risk because thinner skin
doesn’t metabolise vitamin D from
sunlight so well. We need about
10-20 mcg per day and you can
boost your intake with certain foods:
l you’ll get 1 mcg in an egg
l leave mushrooms on a sunny
window-sill to absorb vitamin D for
an hour before eating
l a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal
can contain 2 mcg
l dried milk powder is fortified to the
tune of 2 mcg in a 250ml glass
l there’s 0.5 mcg in a spread of
l search for fortified yoghurts (such
as Actimel) which contain 2.5 mcg
in a small pot
l one bottle of Get More Vitamin D
(a sugar-free soft drink from
supermarkets) contains your entire
daily allowance.
l one 4oz (100g) portion of mackerel
or salmon contains 12 mcg
Health Bite
You might have seen oat milk among the
non-dairy alternatives in your supermarket.
Its naturally sweet taste makes this a useful
option for pouring over cereal and adding
to tea and coffee if you are lactose
intolerant or can’t take soya milk.
Oat milk (which costs around £2 per
litre, or you can make your own by
blending rolled oats with water and
pushing it through a fine sieve or muslin)
is a great source of vitamin E and soluble
fibre and is low in saturated fat.
It does have a thinner consistency than
other milks, and may be higher in sugars
(4.1g per 100ml compared to 0.1g for
soya). Some brands may contain gluten, so
check the label if you are coeliac or gluten
We are unable to offer individual advice to readers. Please see your own GP if you have a medical problem.
require a
clear aim
What’s Your Ideal Weight?
Do you want
to shed a few
pounds in the
New Year?
Our Health
Writer, Colleen
Shannon, helps
you set a goal.
E are nearing the end of the
Christmas season, with all its
festive meals and party buffets.
The downside is, those extra nibbles and
drinks can add to your waistline.
Now that the New Year is just around
the corner, many people will be making a
resolution to lose some weight in 2018.
Motivation is important when you’re
making lifestyle changes, and that means
having a clear aim. If your weight-loss
efforts are not based on a straightforward
goal, it will be harder to make progress.
And it would be impossible to know
when you’ve succeeded. So how can you
set a realistic target that will give you real
health benefits?
To learn more, I asked Dr Luke James,
Medical Director for Health Clinics at
Bupa UK, for some tips.
First of all, he explained why it’s
important for everyone to keep an eye on
their weight. Being overweight or obese
can increase the risk of conditions such as
coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2
diabetes and some types of cancer.
Being underweight is not good for you
either, as it can increase the chances of
developing osteoporosis (brittle bones)
and heart palpitations.
Your body mass index (BMI) is one part
of deciding whether your weight is
healthy. It’s a calculation that uses your
height and weight to come out with a
number. For most adults, the NHS says
that a healthy BMI is between 18.5 to
24.9. You can work out your BMI with
Bupa’s online calculator at
But your BMI is only part of the story.
Your waist size is equally important.
Research suggests that if you have a
normal BMI but carry excess fat around
your middle, then you’re more likely to
have deeper belly fat that surrounds your
organs and puts your health at risk.
If you’re a woman, having a waist
circumference of over 80 cm
(31.5 inches) increases your risk of
health problems. For most men, the risks
increase if your waist is larger than 94 cm
(37 inches).
As we get older, our metabolism slows
down and we lose muscle mass. This
means we burn fewer calories than in our
younger days, and it’s one reason why it
seems harder to lose weight as each year
The good news is, regular exercise can
help to boost your metabolism and build
muscle, which burns more calories,
making it easier to maintain a stable
weight and keep your body lean.
We also lose bone density from the age
of thirty, and over time this can lead to
osteoporosis and increased risk of bone
People who are underweight are more
vulnerable to osteoporosis. It’s important
to make sure you are getting enough
vitamin D and calcium, because your
bones need these nutrients to stay strong.
If you’re ready for a change, you can
find lots of information on healthy eating
and exercise on the Bupa website at The website also includes
guidance and tips from Bupa’s medical
experts on ways to lose weight safely. n
Wet Your
If you’re worried that your
breath might not be as sweet as
it used to be, you might be prone
to what dentists call “dry mouth
syndrome” (or xerostomia) which
is caused by thick saliva.
It affects an estimated 10% of
the population and is more
common in women than men,
particularly if you are taking
One way to keep the mouth
moist is to
suck special
Dry Mouth
Lozenges from
the Breath Co.,
which contain
ingredients to
stimulate the
production of
saliva (£9 for
72 lozenges
from Boots
Top Tips
Studies show that on average
we have between 30,000 and
70,000 thoughts a day, 70 to
80% of which are negative. That
can translate to an astonishing
35,000 negative thoughts a day,
which explains how easy it can
be to become stuck in a
stressfully repetitive loop of
worry, anxiety and insecurity.
But mindfulness expert
Vidyamala Burch says one key to
managing long-term stress is to
prioritise pleasurable activities
that give your life meaning (your
“sustainers”) and to do what you
can to stop boring, depleting,
painful activities (your
She suggests writing a list of
all the things in your life that
sustain you and give you
pleasure and energy and asking
yourself what’s stopping you
doing these things more often.
Now write down all the things
that drain you (endless e-mails?
Never-dwindling to-do list?) and
ask yourself if you can delete
some of those drainers or do
anything to reduce their impact.
loved Clare, and
he was ready to
take the next
step – or was he?
Illustration by iStock.
placed the drinks
on the table, filled
with a mixture of
excitement and
trepidation at what he was
about to tell his friends.
“Blimey!” His best friend,
Matt, raised his eyebrows.
“Chris has got his wallet
Ignoring him, Christopher
handed round the drinks.
Now that he was here, what
had seemed so clear to him
an hour ago was shadowed
with doubts.
He’d had the most
wonderful morning with
Clare, walking by the canal
hand in hand, talking about
everything and nothing.
They’d been together for
two years now, but it wasn’t
until the sun had come out,
reflecting off the still water
and gilding her hair, that
he’d realised something. He
wanted them to spend the
rest of their lives doing this.
He wanted to marry her.
He hadn’t said anything,
of course, just pulled her to
him and kissed her. It was
impulsive of him, he knew
– he was only twenty-four
and wasn’t earning much –
but the feeling of certainty
had stayed with him all the
way home.
It was only now he’d
decided to tell his friends
that he’d started to waver.
“What’s all this about?”
Matt said, taking a sip of
his beer. “Don’t tell me
they’ve given you a pay
Christopher leaned back
in his chair.
“I wish.”
“Then what’s going on?”
Christopher looked at his
friends. They stared back at
him expectantly: Ryan with
the red hair who thought of
nothing except football;
Sean, who was hardly ever
seen without a different girl
on his arm and, of course,
Matt. They’d all been best
friends since school.
“I’ve made a decision.”
He took a gulp of his beer.
“I’m going to ask Clare to
marry me.”
Ryan spluttered on his
beer and Matt’s hand, with
its pint glass, stopped
halfway to his lips.
“You’re what?”
This was not going the
way he’d planned. He’d
expected slaps on the back
and whoops of
congratulation, not this.
“But you’re only twentyfour! And you still live at
home and your mum does
all your washing for you.”
“It’s time I grew up.”
Matt stared at him as
though he were mad.
“There’s growing up and
there’s getting old before
your time.”
Christopher lowered his
“Nothing’s going to
change, Matt. Clare and I
won’t be tied to each other.”
“Really? They don’t call it
tying the knot for nothing,
you know.”
“He’s right,” Sean said,
wiping froth from his lip. “I
never had you down as a
one-woman guy.”
Christopher stared at him.
“What do you mean?”
Sean shrugged.
“You know.”
“Actually, I don’t. How
about spelling it out?”
A pretty, blonde-haired
girl and her friend passed
by their table on the way to
the bar. Sean tilted his head
towards them.
“Think what you’ll be
giving up. You really want
to be with one woman for
the rest of your life?”
One of the girls looked
over at Christopher and
smiled. She had a nice smile
and large blue eyes but she
wasn’t his type. Besides, he
was only interested in Clare.
Finishing his pint, he
pushed back his chair.
“I’ll see you guys later.”
Matt got up and walked
to the pool table. He picked
up a cue, then turned his
head and grinned.
“Off to do the deed?”
Christopher shook his
“Not today. I said I’d help
my grandad put up a new
fence. It came down last
The others had drained
their pints and joined Matt
at the table. He knew
they’d be talking about him
after he’d gone.
Christopher pushed open
the door and set off in the
direction of his
grandparents’ house.
He’d been looking forward
to telling his grandad about
his decision but, as he saw
the bungalow where his
grandparents had lived for
the last 50 years, all he
could think about were
Sean’s words: “You really
want to be with one woman
for the rest of your life?”
Christopher’s grandfather
put down his hammer.
“What’s up? You’ve got a
face like a wet weekend.”
The last fence panel lay
on the grass. All that was
needed was to fix it to the
posts they’d just put in.
Christopher stood looking
at it, his hands in the
pockets of his jeans.
“Nothing’s up.”
“Oh, don’t give me that.
I’ve always been able to
read you as well as my
‘Radio Times’. Oh, here
comes the tea lady.”
“Enough of the cheek,
Jim.” Christopher’s gran set
a tray on the garden table.
There was tea and a packet
of bourbons on it.
Walking over to
Christopher, she kissed his
“And how’s my favourite
Christopher hugged her.
“I’m your only grandson.”
“Oh, so you are. Well,
how are you, anyway?”
“I’m good, Gran.”
Picking up one of the
mugs, his grandfather
studied his face.
“There’s something
bothering him. I’m waiting
for him to tell me.”
“Why don’t you talk to
your grandad about it,
Christopher? Sometimes
two heads are better than
one when it comes to
matters of the heart.”
Christopher was surprised.
“But how did you know –”
“I haven’t been married
for fifty years without
learning a thing or two. You
boys both wear your hearts
on your sleeves.” She smiled
at them. “That’s what I love
about you both.”
Picking up the tray, she
turned and walked
towards the house.
Beryl’s knitting
skills leave a
lot to be
desired . . .
you look like . . .”
The words faltered
on Eric’s lips as
the laser-look she
gave him stunned him into
I, too, had been rendered
speechless on arrival at the
hospital that morning. We
both stood there like
lemons, while the indrawn
cheeks and tight lips on
Beryl’s face suggested she
was sucking on one.
“What do you think?” she
queried, her good eye
swivelling from me to Eric
while her glass one stared
blankly between us.
But it wasn’t this that
had drawn our eyes to her.
It was what she was
“So,” she repeated,
twirling round. “Makes a
change, doesn’t it?”
She was obviously fishing
for a compliment. But not
the likes of what Eric
landed her with.
“You look like a squashed
Ouch, Eric, that’s not
very tactful, I thought.
I hastened to make
“Very cheerful, Beryl.
Helps brighten the place
up.” I was referring to the
voluminous orange sweater
that Beryl was wearing.
It was certainly a lurid
colour and far removed
from the black cardigan
with matching black
trousers that made up her
usual daily office outfit.
“Thanks, Paul,” Beryl
replied, glaring at Eric, who
sped out of reception.
She plucked at one of the
shapeless sleeves, pulling it
up from where it had fallen
down over her hand.
“Orange is associated
with improved
concentration,” she went
on. “It helps overcome
feelings of dread.”
She smiled.
“Perhaps I should knit
you one.”
What a dreadful idea, I
thought as I followed Eric.
Mandy remarked on
Beryl’s buoyant mood while
I checked on the routine
ops booked in for me to do
that morning.
“Must be that orange
“More likely this.” I
tapped the ops list.
Ernie Entwhistle’s collie,
Bess, was to be spayed.
Beryl and Ernie had become
close friends since the
death of his previous collie,
Ben, last summer.
It had started with chance
meetings on the green when
Beryl and I were tackling
our lunchtime baguettes. It
progressed to afternoon
teas and strolls along the
promenade with her and
Bess at the weekends.
Ernie was a dapper
gentleman of slight build,
and was always well turned
out in navy silver-buttoned
blazer, crisp white shirt and
tie with knife-edge creases
in his trousers.
“Well, Bess,” I said as
Mandy brought the collie
through from the ward.
“Sleepy time for you.”
Between us we levered
her on to the prep table
where she sat as good as
gold while the anaesthetic
was given.
At that point an orange
blob loomed up at the prep
door window.
“All’s well, Beryl,” I called
The orange blob faded
from the aperture. She
reappeared in the corridor
as Bess was wheeled out of
the operating theatre 20
minutes later, sporting six
stitches that closed a
midline incision.
I reassured Beryl the op
had been straightforward.
“I’ll let Ernie know,” she
replied, pulling her orange
sleeves up as she bobbed
back up to reception.
The usual routine with
standard operations was for
the owners to phone later in
the day to see what time
they should collect their pet.
They would then be met
by Mandy or Lucy with any
instructions for follow-up
appointments if required.
In the case of spays, an
appointment for removal of
stitches in ten days’ time
would be booked.
An exception had been
made for Ernie Entwhistle at
Beryl’s request. I was to see
him and hand over Bess.
“Would that be OK?” she
How could I refuse?
Beryl’s jumper bristled
with expectation as five
o’clock approached – the
agreed time for the
By then Bess had
recovered from her op and,
though a little woozy, was
on her feet and ready to go.
“Ernie’s in the car park,”
an excited Beryl said,
dashing down to the ward
in a blur of orange to collect
I made my way to
reception just as the front
door opened and Ernie
Entwhistle entered.
I was expecting the usual
nattily dressed gent in navy
blazer, but Ernie appeared
encased in a huge sweater
that hung down over his
wrists and sloped in a
jagged edge round his hips.
The colour? Bright orange.
When Bess appeared
there were frenzied wags of
her tail, while Ernie and
Beryl embraced in what
could only be described as
an orange squash.
More next week.
The sun had come out,
reminding Christopher of
his walk with Clare by the
canal. He missed her.
“I want to ask Clare to
marry me.”
His grandfather’s face
broke into a smile.
“That’s great news. What
I don’t understand is why
you’re looking so glum. You
love her, don’t you?”
“More than anything,”
Christopher said, realising it
was true.
“Then what’s the
Christopher looked over
to the bungalow. He could
see his grandmother
through the window.
“When you asked Gran to
marry you, did you ever
worry that she’d be the only
woman you’d be with for
the rest of your life?”
His grandfather followed
his gaze. When his wife
looked up, he blew her a
“It’s natural to worry
about these things, but your
gran’s not the only one to
have learned something
from fifty years of marriage.
I’ll tell you a secret, Chris.
I’ve been married to many
Christopher gasped.
“Have you?”
His grandfather laughed.
“Not in that way. What I
mean is, I fell in love with an
eighteen-year-old ice skater,
married a twenty-year-old
Beatles fan, had children
with a twenty-two-year-old
hairdresser and today I’m
married to the wisest woman
I know. Get the picture?”
Christopher nodded.
“I’m starting to.”
“We all change as we get
older and life throws things
at us. Clare will be many
different women to you over
the years. Think you can
handle that?”
He grinned.
“I think it’s exciting,
“Ask that girl to marry
you.” He took Christopher’s
mug out of his hands and
placed it on the table.
“What are you waiting for?”
Christopher looked at his
grandfather then picked up
his jacket and slung it over
his shoulder.
The fence panel could wait.
He had more important
things to do. n
Word Ladder
Move from the word
at the top of the
ladder to the word
at the bottom using
the exact number of
rungs provided by
changing one letter
at a time (but not
the position of any
on p87
Try our general knowledge crossword
1 New York’s open
area (7,4)
9 London river structure
begun in 1972 (6,7)
10 French Impressionist
painter, known for his
rural scenes (8)
12 Russian man’s name (4)
14 Dublin theatre founded
by WB Yeats and Lady
Gregory (5)
15 Capital of South Korea (5) 16
19 Notorious 16th‑century
Russian tsar (4)
20 Pop group whose hits
included Kissin’ in
the Back Row of the
Movies (8)
22 Another title for
Jesus (6,2,5)
24 Order of insects that
includes bees, wasps
6 Meteorologist’s
and ants (11)
device (4,5)
16 Big‑mouthed Rainbow
character (5)
Japanese detective
played by Peter
made by Jaguar (1‑4)
2 TV’s former Mrs
Lorre (2,4)
8 Cornish city (5)
Sharples (3)
3 Yorkshire valleys (3,5) 11 Taxonomic category (9) 18 Colchester’s county (5)
21 Israeli city and port (4)
4 Einstein’s first name (6) 13 One of a number
23 Layer of gases
of similar plant
5 Country bordering
surrounding the Earth (3)
diseases (4,4)
Colombia (4)
With the help of the Across clues only,
can you fit the pieces into their correct
positions in the grid?
Fill the grid with the numbers
1 to 9 so that each row,
column and 3x3 block
contains the numbers 1 to 9.
6 3
2 1 7
5 7
2 3
6 And not • Promote
10 Riot police officer’s
1 Arrange in a new way
protective screen •
7 Component • Subject to
Space under a roof
3 Aviator • Nurse or nun
a security check
5 Outdated • Conveying meaning 8 No person in particular • 12 Needy
by stating the opposite
Find repugnant, loathe
1 6
7 4
4 9 6
3 8
All puzzles © Puzzler Media Ltd
Get Away From It All
Exclusive! Great
Enjoy a fun-filled
3-night break at
Warner’s Alvaston Hall
Hotel, Cheshire with
“The People’s Friend”
from just
per person
★ March 23-26, 2018
Dear Friends,
Angela Gilchrist, Editor.
I’m thrilled to invite you all to take a
short break with the “Friend” at beautiful
Alvaston Hall Hotel in Cheshire. It comes
with my personal recommendation – I’ve
stayed there myself and had a wonderful
Why not join me and other members of
the “Friend” team for an unforgettable,
tailor-made holiday just for you? Over the
long weekend, there will be a host of
“Friend”-themed activities for you to take
part in, including tea and a chat with me.
It’s a great opportunity to make friends
with other “Friend” readers. I’m looking
forward to meeting you!
Your room awaits...
Relax in style in one of Alvaston Hall’s comfortable, well-equipped
bedrooms, with en suite bathrooms and lots of thoughtful touches.
Fantastic-value Standard
rooms are a real home from
home with TV, tea and coffee
making facilities, biscuits
replenished daily, comfy
chairs and reading lights,
hairdryer, iron and ironing
board, telephone and safe.
single rooms
menu included
in the price
With a choice of full
English and continental
buffets, or dishes cooked
to order, breakfast will
set you up for a fun-filled
day ahead.
Choose from the carvery,
extensive buffet or
Alvaston’s menu of
delicious dishes served
straight to your table.
Make sure you leave
room for dessert!
For added luxury, treat
yourself to a Signature
room, which has all the
amenities of a Standard
room and includes a pillow
menu, toiletries selection
and a complimentary
bottle of wine.
Offer subject to availability, new bookings only, applies to groups of under 19 and can be withdrawn without prior notice. Prices correct at time of printing, prices quoted are per person.
Additional £30 supplement per night for single occupancy rooms, note first 7 rooms to be booked will not incur this charge. Holidays booked less than 10 weeks ahead of holiday start date
must be paid in full at booking. Calls cost no more than calls to geographic numbers (01 or 02). Bookings must be made by 26/01/2018. Warner hotels are over 21s only. Minimum of 16
guests required for the Nantwich trip (transport only, not a guided visit). Please advise on booking if you want to go on the Nantwich trip. Full terms and conditions for Warner Leisure Hotel
breaks can be found at (Bourne Leisure Holidays trading as Warner Leisure Hotels is a company registered in England and Wales, company number 01854900,
registered office 1 Park Lane, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2 4YL).
With The “Friend”
As a guest of the
★ Coach trip to
Nantwich (leave
be treated
Friday Evening
★ Private welcome drinks
10 a.m., return
2 p.m.)
★ Craft session run by
the “Friend” team
★ A “Friend” goody bag
★ Meet and greet with
the “Friend” team
✓ Hand-made cards
✓ Easter gifts
★ Exclusive tour of the
gardens led by one
of Alvaston House’s
expert gardeners
★ Travel writer Neil
McAllister talks about
30 years of writing for
the “Friend”
There’s never a dull moment at
Warners! Your break includes full
use of the hotel’s leisure facilities,
participation in any daily activities
of your choice and live
entertainment every night.
9-Hole golf course
Table Tennis
Air-rifle shooting
★ Tea with the
“Friend” Editor
Indulge in a cup of tea
and a chat with Angela
and other members of
the “Friend” team.
Free WIFI in public areas
Indoor heated pool
Bubble pool
Full equipped fitness studio
Aqua fit sessions
Enjoy our amazing live
entertainment every night
Warner Hotels are renowned for
their fantastic live entertainment. Put on
your dancing shoes or just sit back, relax
and enjoy Big Night Live with Stacey
McCarthy and the Shock, moving effortlessly
through Jazz, Soul, Motown to present day.
To book call 0330 102 9952 or email
Please quote: “The People’s Friend”
Lines open Monday - Friday 9am-5.30pm
Home Sweet Home
Our latest homeware collection will definitely brighten up your
home over the winter months. We have fabulous teapots, beautiful
mugs for cosy cups of tea or hot chocolate and delightful home
fragrance sets. If you are looking to cosy up through the winter our
slouch socks and hot water bottle covers are the perfect for relaxing
while our cushions make the perfect sofa companion.
Hot Water Bottle
Covers £20.00
Garland Bone China Mugs £13.00
These stunning mugs, designed by Clarissa
Hulse, feature her signature print of beautiful
botanical silhouettes coupled with vibrant colours
and finished with a metallic top layer for that
extra bit of sparkle. Dimensions: 3¼ x 3¼ inches
(8 x 8 cms).
Garland Blue Mug: PFGBM
Garland Yellow Mug: PFGYM
Garland Pink Mug: PFGPM
Update an old hot water bottle
with this fabulous arran knit
cover from Story Horse.
Slouch Socks £25.00
Keep your toes super cosy with
these one-size, super-soft slouch
Bone China Teapots £29.50
Produced from the finest, delicate bone china
but strong enough to withstand daily use, these
lovely teapots are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Dimensions: 9¼ x 6¼ inches (23.5 x 16.5cm).
Cats in Waiting Teapot: PFWAT
Hound Dog Teapot: PFTPH
Cushions £22.00
Why not cuddle up with one of our
stunning new cushions. Available
in three designs the cushions are
made from 100% cotton sateen
with polyester filling, the cushions
measure 13 x 13 inches
(33 x 33 cms).
Cats in Waiting Cushion: PFIWI
Badger Cushion: PWBC
Bunny & Bee Cushion: PWBBC
Pintail Fragrance Pack £27.95
This set features the delicate scent of elderflower in a wax melt
lasting up to 60 hours, the gorgeous aroma of geranium and
rose petal in a reed diffuser lasting for at least 6 months and
the lovely Make Yourself at Home Oil Burner.
Code: PFNP3
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Home Offer, DC Thomson Shop, PO Box
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At Work With The
Polly Pullar meets Stuart Louch, former
Head of the Small Mammal Unit at
the SSPCA’s Wildlife Rescue Centre.
need heat in
their early days.
Photographs courtesy of Polly Pullar.
HE hard-working
staff of the Scottish
SPCA’s large,
wildlife hospital at
Fishcross, near Alloa, must
be able to turn their hands
to almost anything.
It is never possible to
predict what may be
brought in next, and all the
animals and birds that
arrive must be swiftly dealt
with, assessed and treated.
Many will have to be
seen by the vet, some may
need extensive operations,
and then there may be a
longer period of recovery.
Everything must be
suitably housed and
tempted with the correct
Many are severely
3 of 6
stressed, and in the case of
orphans, coping with the
loss of a mother, too.
For wild animals and
birds, though we can help
them, we can never hope
to replicate the way a
natural parent would rear
its offspring.
And in the case of very
young babies, care must be
taken not to imprint the
patient on the human
endeavouring to fill the
role, for this will jeopardise
its return to the wild. Hand
rearing is never as
straightforward as it seems.
Stuart Louch began his
work with animals as a
volunteer with the Scottish
SPCA with domestic
animals, before working
full-time in one of their
Animal Rescue and
Rehoming Centres, but he
really wanted to work with
wild animals.
It was not long before he
came to Fishcross, where
he works in their Small
Mammal Unit. It’s a role he
takes very seriously, but
admits, too, that as he is
new to the job, he is very
much in the process of
The centre is divided into
various sections with entire
rooms – wards – dedicated
to particular animals or
In Stuart’s case the
greatest proportion of his
charges consist of
hedgehogs. He takes me on
a tour and proudly shows
me minute babies with
their eyes still shut tight.
Not only do they have to
be kept at a constant high
temperature, but they also
have to be fed with a
syringe every few hours,
and toileted, too, as with all
mammals – this is
something that would be
done by their mothers to
help them pass waste
matter. After about 10 days
the babies are able to do
this by themselves.
In the past the centre has
received injured female
hedgehogs that have given
birth whilst in their care.
In 2016 the centre
handled some 1,317
hedgehogs, and had an
astonishing total of 250 in
at the same time, largely
due to the mild winter with
many late babies being
This involved a
gargantuan amount of
Often these tardy
youngsters will not have
had enough growing time
to store the vital “brown
fat” that enables them to
Pine martens have
become widespead
in Scotland.
hibernate successfully.
Instead, they must be
overwintered. During
hedgehog season an
Everest-sized heap of
newspapers will be
required and members of
the public kindly donate
sackloads on a regular
From this high number of
hedgehogs it may appear
that they are thriving in the
British Isles. This is far from
the case, for the hedgehog
is in worrying decline.
From an estimated
36 million in the 1950s,
numbers have crashed to
under a million now. Much
of this is due to habitat
loss. Every hedgehog
Stuart’s charges include
mice, bats, voles, shrews,
moles, squirrels, pine
martens, hares, rabbits and
weasels, too.
This year he has had his
first litter of stoats, though
the centre has handled
them before on numerous
Their mother was run
over near Inverness and the
six tiny kits were found
beside her, and brought in
They soon adapted to
being syringe-fed and are
now outside in a large
aviary where their
extraordinary antics and
lithe play prepare them for
their lives in the wild as
highly skilled and voracious
little hunters.
The staff named the
Holding on tight!
youngsters after the
characters in “Friends”:
Ross, Joey, Chandler,
Monica, Phoebe and
In the past, stoats have
been brought in during the
winter in their full white
dress – known as ermine.
Stoats and mountain hares
are the only mammals in
the British Isles that turn
white during the winter.
In a special container in a
warm ward, a nest of
orphan weasels is also
The pine marten is a
mammal that was seldom
brought in to the hospital.
Now numbers are on the
increase as, thankfully, the
law protects them.
Though they are thriving
in the wild, on occasions
they are sadly still illegally
persecuted. Being
inquisitive, they sometimes
get into trouble.
We gingerly look around
another ward door and see
the pretty, sharp little face
of a young pine marten
peeping out of a blanket
hammock tied between
branches in a large pen.
I catch a glimpse of
cocoa-coloured fur and the
animal’s yellow ochre
throat patch before she
dives for cover, hiding in
the thick folds of blanket.
Each pine marten has
unique markings on its
throat patch, or gorget, and
can be identified from
Increasingly, pine martens
are coming to garden
feeders, particularly when
lured by sweet delicacies
such as jam, as well as
This year Stuart has three
pine martens in his care.
Centre manager Colin
Seddon ensures that
suitable release sites are
found for them, but these
places are a well-kept
Our native red squirrel is
always a hugely popular
arrival, though many of the
casualties may have been
caught by a domestic cat
and are sometimes too
badly injured to make it.
Stuart and his team of
assistants have had great
success with hand-rearing
orphan squirrels in the past,
and once independent they
How you can
get involved
The centre is spread
out on a 65-acre site,
and with casualty
arrivals rising annually,
as the general public
become more aware of
the plight of many of
our wild animals, it
seems likely that in
future years there will
be a need for even
more pens, aviaries,
pools and hospital
The important work
carried out at
Scotland’s National
Wildlife Rescue Centre
by its dedicated and
passionate staff cannot
be underestimated.
If you’d like to
support the SSPCA’s
work, donations can be
made by calling 03000
999 999 or sent to
Scottish SPCA, Kingseat
Road, Halbeath,
Dunfermline KY11 8RY.
Cheques should be
made payable to
“Scottish SPCA”.
Stuart feeds
a tiny weasel.
are put in a large aviary full
of branches, fed a natural
diet, and eventually found a
suitable release site in one
of the red squirrel’s
strongholds, where food
will still be put out for them
until they are totally
independent. n
Next time:
Join us in our January 6
issue when Polly
meets Kaniz Hayat,
Head of Seals.
The Mystery Of The
Missing Du Mauriers
Illustration by Kirk Houston.
The Story So Far
BARKER’s bookshop is
broken into, it seems the
thieves knew what they
were after. Some firstedition novels owned by
Hannah’s late mother have
gone. They also left a clue
behind – a pin with the
head of a fox on it.
Hannah’s godmother
VIVIAN knows Hannah was
banking on the sale of
the du Maurier novels to
rescue the failing finances
of the shop.
For detective NOAH
RILEY, the case is his first
in quiet Mossfield Hills
after his transfer from the
city following an accident.
He has difficulty adjusting
but tries to focus on the
Vivian tells TILLY, the
tea room owner, that she
feels responsible for her
late friend’s daughter.
Hannah and Vivian, along
resolve to try to solve the
mystery. The major owns
an antiques shop and
he alerted the police. At
present his fourteen-yearold grandson, BRADLEY, is
staying with him.
The three sleuths
adjourn to the pub to
compare notes, but have
nothing to report. Then
Hannah spots a familiar
figure in a photo on the
wall. Her grandma! But
why is she wearing a pin
like the one found in the
shop, and who are the
others in the photo?
Vivian could tell by her reaction
that Tilly had been upset by the
photo. But why?
SOFT glow from
the old-fashioned
street lamps lit
the winding path
in the cemetery.
Despite the dismal October
weather, morning birdsong
filtered through the trees
and dawn was trying its
best to push through the
thick grey cloud cover.
Hannah stopped at a red
granite headstone and
stooped, placing four yellow
roses in the stone vase.
“Happy birthday, Mum. I
can’t believe it’s been four
years since I was able to
give you a birthday hug.”
She brushed off raindrops
from the stone with her
gloved hand and sighed.
Her warm breath made
small clouds in the air.
“Things are tough at the
moment. The shop was
broken into yesterday. They
took your books.” Hannah
blinked away tears. “I don’t
know what to do, Mum! The
bank is threatening to
foreclose and I’ve got three
weeks to find the money.
“Vivian’s being a rock,
and the major. We asked
around yesterday to see if
anyone had seen anything
suspicious. They hadn’t.
“But at the pub we came
across a photograph of
Grandma with some other
women, and a man. They
called themselves the
Vixens and wore fox pins.
“Here’s the interesting
part, Mum. The same type
of pin was left on the
shelves where your books
were. Did it fall out of one
of them? I doubt it – I’ve
read those books so many
times that I’d have noticed.
Any ideas, Mum?”
Hannah dug her fingers
into the wet earth at the
foot of the headstone and
plucked stubborn dandelion
roots as she spoke.
“There’s a new policeman
in town. He’s OK, but he’s
obviously a city guy and
finding it difficult to adjust.
He’s quite nice looking,
behind his stiff demeanour.”
She smiled.
“Mum, if I get through
this crisis, I’m going to
make some changes to the
shop, bring it more up to
date. I could develop a
website and sell online.
“Another thing might be
to introduce a lending
service for a small yearly
fee, since the library closed
last year. I’ve almost
finished a business plan.
Maybe the bank will extend
my loan if they like it.”
Hannah paused and
looked at her mother’s
engraved name. She
brushed a raindrop from
the tip of her nose.
“Wishful thinking, eh?”
The scarf round her neck
prickled her chin. It felt like
her mother’s fingers tickling
her, which she’d often done
when Hannah needed to
listen more carefully.
“I hear you, Mum. ‘Stop
spending so much time
thinking – just do it!’”
She blew a kiss, grabbed
the pile of collected weeds
and dropped them in a bin.
The rain was pelting down.
Head down, hands firmly
shoved in pockets, Hannah
hurried out of the
churchyard, up the hill
towards Words On Pages,
making a mental list of
things to do as she went.
First on the list, after the
big clear-up of the mess left
by the fingerprinting dust,
was to phone all contacts to
see if there was any buzz in
the book world about the
missing du Mauriers.
* * * *
Noah shot up in bed.
Another nightmare. Sweat
covered his bare chest. He
pushed off the covers, flung
his legs over the side of the
bed and rubbed his
throbbing shoulder.
The accident was still
imprinted on his mind. The
front end of a Transit van
bore down on him, ramming
into him as he sat in the
passenger seat of the police
car. No time to react.
The airbag exploded,
pounding his face. Noah
scrunched his nose,
remembering the stench of
burned flesh, his flesh.
He winced at the pain in
his shoulder. It had been
crushed and would never be
completely functional again.
Noah snapped out of his
reverie and plodded to the
bathroom to get ready for
day two at Mossfield Hills
police station.
Dressed more casually
today in black jeans, white
shirt and tie with a V-neck
pullover, Noah poured a
coffee and carried it into
the quaint sitting-room. He
ducked under the doorway.
Even the housing here
was too small for him, he
thought as he slumped into
a battered leather armchair.
He sipped his drink,
placed his cup on a side
cabinet and picked up the
manila file. A sticker had
been carefully placed in the
top right-hand corner.
Words On Pages
Burglary, Case 1.
Noah smiled. Christine
might be a busybody, but
the file was perfectly laid
out and his scribbled notes
had been transferred into a
neatly typed transcript on
the correct documentation.
She was good at her job.
He made a mental note to
thank her.
Scanning through his
notes, his gaze focused on
the perpetrator’s entrance
to the book store. The lock
had either been expertly
picked or a key used.
His brow furrowed. Why
hadn’t he followed this up
yesterday? He made notes.
Who had keys to the
Hannah and Vivian
definitely had a set, but his
gut told him neither one of
them would consider pulling
off an insurance scam.
Noah prided himself on
being a good judge of
He continued to read the
report. The pin. Why would
evidence be left behind
when everything else had
been carried out with care?
It was sloppy. Was a game
being played – leaving a
clue on purpose, perhaps?
Noah stared out of the
rain-splattered window. A
set of Daphne du Maurier
books had been stolen.
stayed on the teaspoon.
Vivian touched her arm.
“What is it, Tilly?”
Tilly stopped stirring.
“I’ve been thinking about
Hannah and the break-in.”
“Nobody was hurt, which
is the main thing,” Vivian
said. “But I want you to
take a look at this.”
She held out a copy of
the photo from the pub.
“All I know is that the
group is called the Vixens.”
Tilly was chewing her lip.
Her hands shook.
“Tilly, what is it?”
Tilly leaned in.
“This picture brings back
memories I’d rather forget.”
Noah felt in his gut that Hannah
was no criminal
Who would want them, and
why? Was this a personal
vendetta against Hannah?
Noah placed the file in his
leather bag and grabbed his
jacket from the hook by the
door. Time to get to work.
* * * *
The door chimes tinkled
at Tilly’s Tea Rooms. Vivian
rushed in and propped her
sodden umbrella in the
corner next to the door.
“Good morning, Tilly,
love.” She hung up her
“Morning, Viv. Tea?”
“Please. Have you made
teacakes this morning?”
“I’ll have one of those,
too, with lots of butter,
please. And a couple of
bacon rolls to go.”
Vivian watched Tilly as
she stepped to the counter,
noting the dark circles
under her friend’s eyes. She
wasn’t her normal chatty
self either.
“Something wrong, love?”
“Didn’t sleep well,” Tilly
said, buttering a teacake.
“Sit down and have a cup
of tea with me. My treat.”
Tilly glanced around.
“OK.” She poured out a
cup from the huge teapot
standing on a hotplate
behind the counter.
Vivian headed to her
usual table.
“Why haven’t you slept?”
she asked Tilly.
Tilly plopped two sugar
cubes into her tea and
stirred slowly. Her eyes
Vivian held her hand.
“You can tell me.”
The front door clanged
open and a young boy
entered. His coat was
drenched. Tilly jumped up
and joined him.
“Morning, Bradley.”
Vivian sighed. She had
been sure Tilly was about to
open up.
“Mornin’,” the teenager
Vivian looked on in
amusement. He reminded
her of her pupils.
“Good morning, Bradley,”
she called.
The boy turned and
smiled with difficulty.
“Helping your grandad
during the holidays?”
His shoulders were
slumped and his neck
shrugged into the collar of
his coat. Being a teenager
wasn’t easy, she felt.
“The bacon is on the
grill,” Tilly told him. “Sit
over there and have this
while you wait.” She
handed him a cookie and a
mug of hot chocolate.
“Thanks.” He shuffled
over to a seat.
Vivian grabbed her bag
and the picture and joined
Tilly at the counter.
“What about this
picture?” She waved the
sheet of paper.
Tilly cleared her throat.
“They were all
codebreakers at Bletchley
Park during World War II.”
The door banged
open again and a
soaked couple came in.
“Sorry, Vivian, but I
must get on.”
Vivian groaned. There
was more to this story, she
was sure . . .
* * * *
A cold breeze ruffled the
papers on Hannah’s desk
as Vivian rushed into the
shop, puffing. She shook
her wet coat and hung it up
on the hanger by the door.
“Morning, Hannah. Tilly
acted very strange when I
showed her the picture.”
Hannah shook her head
and Vivian realised she was
on the phone. She mouthed
“sorry” and tiptoed
towards the kitchen with
her basket.
Once the phone call was
complete, with yet another
“I’ve heard nothing”
response from a book
contact, Hannah went to
the kitchen. She gave
Vivian a half smile.
Vivian dropped two
teabags into the teapot and
looked at Hannah.
“Been to see your
mother, I take it?”
“Yes. I don’t think the
roses will last long in this
weather, but they were her
favourite. Anyway, what
news have you got?”
“I’ll make a cuppa and
then tell you,” Vivian said
with a mischievous grin.
“Can I smell bacon rolls?”
“Yep. Picked them up
from Tilly’s on my way here.
Now, go and sit down. I’ll
bring everything through.”
Hannah sat at her desk,
swivelling to and fro on the
chair. Vivian marched in
carrying a laden tray.
to the story, but we were
interrupted. I’ll visit the
police station later and
speak to Christine.
“She knows everything
about our town, and
everybody who’s ever lived
“She used to give tours of
the town, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she was good at it.”
Hannah spotted
something through the
rain-streaked front window,
and the corners of her
mouth twitched.
“Here comes Noah Riley.”
He dashed in.
“Good morning, ladies.”
Hannah and Vivian
greeted him in unison.
“Cup of tea?”
“I’d love one, please.”
Noah removed his jacket,
hanging it on the back of a
chair opposite.
Hannah cradled her
teacup and studied him. He
suited his more modern
clothes. His face had lost
yesterday’s tension but
there was sadness in his
eyes. She wondered what it
could be. Broken
relationship? The job?
He caught her staring and
she quickly smiled.
Noah glanced around.
“You’ve done a good job
clearing up.”
“Started early. I can’t
miss another day’s trading.
Anything to report?”
“Not really, but
something occurred to me
when I reread the report.”
Hannah leaned forward,
waiting for him to continue.
Vivian interrupted the
moment and put a mug of
tea in front of him.
“There you go, Noah. You
The word “code” seemed to be
cropping up everywhere
“Well,” she said, sitting
opposite Hannah and
handing out the tea and
rolls. “I happened to ask
Tilly about the photograph
from the pub. She went
pale at the mention of the
word Vixens, and she
became very fidgety.”
“Vivian, why are you
whispering? There’s no-one
here,” Hannah asked.
Vivian chuckled and
recounted what Tilly had
told her.
“There’s obviously more
look like you need that. Is
everything all right?” she
asked, placing a hand on
his forearm.
“I’m fine. Thanks for the
tea,” he said, lifting his cup.
“About the report?”
Hannah prompted.
He took a gulp of tea.
“Yes. There was no forced
entry so that meant the
lock had to be picked or a
key was used. Who has
access to a key?”
“There are four keys. I
have one, Vivian has one
and the major has one.”
“You said four,” he said.
“The fourth is a spare and
is at home.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s locked in a box
in the kitchen drawer.”
“I hope you’re not saying
it’s an inside job, Noah,”
Vivian piped up.
Noah took another sip of
his tea.
“No, but I have to
explore every possibility.”
He paused. “What about
Major Wharton? Do you
trust him?”
Vivian tittered.
“The major’s a goodietwo-shoes. Plus, the whole
neighbourhood would have
heard him. He couldn’t be
quiet even if he tried.”
Noah laughed.
“The other thing that
bothers me is the pin.”
“You think it was left on
purpose?” Hannah asked.
“Yes. The way it was
placed on the shelf, as well
as the height of the shelf.”
The three of them drank
their tea in silence.
Hannah’s mind whirred.
“It certainly is a riddle,”
she said aloud.
Noah sat up straight.
“I think you have hit the
nail on the head, Hannah. It
is a riddle. It’s as if the thief
wants to play a game.”
Vivian rubbed her hands.
“So, let’s play!”
Hannah grabbed her
notebook and pen.
“Right, what do we have?
A collection of stolen
Daphne du Maurier first
editions. No forced entry. A
pin emblazoned with a fox.”
She wrote at top speed.
“Then we have the
photograph of the women,”
Vivian added.
“Hang on, ladies, don’t
get carried away. My gut
tells me the pin is a
distraction, to knock us off
the scent of what’s really
going on.” He sat back.
“But I’m intrigued to know
what photograph you’re
talking about.”
Vivian took the crumpled
copy from her bag and
slapped it on the desk in
front of him. She relayed
what she knew so far.
“Codebreakers, eh? I’ll
take this and ask Christine
to do her magic. Just in
case there is something
relevant to the case,” Noah
said, folding the paper and
sliding it into his pocket.
“So you know about
Christine’s talents?” Vivian
said approvingly.
Noah nodded and stood.
“Well, thank you for the
tea. I’ll just check with the
major about his key.
There’s no harm in being
thorough,” he added.
Hannah scooted round
the desk to see Noah out.
“Thank you for stopping
by, Noah, and for taking
the burglary seriously. I
know you’re probably more
used to dealing with much
bigger cases.”
“A crime is a crime.” His
lips curled into a forced
* * * *
An old-fashioned bell
clanged as Noah entered
the antiques shop. The
smell of old wooden
furniture filled the air.
The shop was crammed
with memorabilia, including
a section devoted to the
Rolling Stones. Noah made
a note to come back and
browse when he had time.
There was a military
section. Noah spotted an
old Morse code generator.
He couldn’t resist and
started to tap a message.
“Good morning,
Inspector. I see you know
Morse code.”
Noah started. He hadn’t
heard the major approach.
He whisked his hand away
from the machine.
“Yes, I learned it during
my studies. Fascinating
language. You never know
when it might come in
“It’s fully functional. I’ll
let you have it for fifty
“Maybe another time,
Major Wharton. I’m actually
here on police business.”
“Come through the back.”
Noah breathed in as he
weaved his large frame
through the tiny walkway
that led to the rear. He
noticed the major’s limp as
he followed.
“Take a seat, Inspector,”
the major said, pulling out a
high-backed wooden chair.
“How can I help?”
“Miss Barker tells me you
have a key to her shop.”
“Yes, I do. It’s here on my
bunch of keys.” He yanked
the bunch from his blazer
“Which key is it?”
The major fumbled
through the stack and
flicked a key up.
“It’s this one.”
The key had a green
sticky label on its head with
HS written on it.
“Hannah’s shop, of
course.” The major’s eyes
popped wide open. “Why’re
you asking? You don’t think
I’m your burglar, do you?”
“I’m just covering all
bases, and making sure all
keyholders can account for
their keys.”
“Well, good, because I’d
never think of such a thing.
Hannah is like a daughter
to me. I tell you one thing,
when you find the culprit I’ll
have a thing or two to say
to them.”
Noah flicked his head
round at a clatter behind
him. A short, spotty boy
was standing in the
doorway holding a puzzle
“Bradley, I told you not
to disturb us. Inspector, this
is my grandson. He’s
helping me out during the
school holidays.”
Bradley fidgeted on the
“I need the loo,” he said.
“Then off you go, boy,”
his grandfather snapped.
With his gaze set on the
floor, the greasy-haired
teenager dropped his
puzzle book on the table
where the men sat and ran
to the bathroom.
Noah’s gaze followed the
boy as he disappeared
behind a door.
“How old is Bradley?”
“Fourteen going on forty.
I tell you, that boy has
always got his head stuck in
a book. When he’s not
reading, he’s doing puzzles.
He should get out more. Do
more physical activities.”
Noah picked up the boy’s
“Wow, these are
“He knows his puzzles,
does Bradley.” The major
pushed back his shoulders.
“And he’s interested in
history, so I enjoy it when
he comes. He keeps me
company and asks me all
sorts of questions.
“He knows Morse code,
too. Taught himself over the
summer holidays. He often
plays on that machine.”
“Nothing. It’s just that
the word ‘code’ seems to
be cropping up a lot
Noah pushed his chair
back and stood.
“Well, thank you for your
time, Major Wharton.”
* * * *
Hannah buried her chin in
her scarf and squinted
against the icy wind as she
trundled down the hill
towards home. The rain had
finally stopped.
Typical. If it had stopped
sooner then maybe some
customers might have
ventured into the shop.
The four yellow roses on
her mother’s grave must be
Hannah missed her
mother. Even when she’d
studied in the city, she’d
spoken to her mother on
the telephone every day.
The void left by her death
was unbearable some days.
Especially October the
eighth each year. A tear
dropped into the fold of
Hannah’s scarf. She
couldn’t face going home.
As Hannah neared her
usual crossing halfway down
the hill, she spotted Noah
nestled in the corner of a
new chain coffee shop that
had appeared overnight.
Typical. A city man always
frequented a franchised
coffee house rather than
one of the homely tea
He looked like a lost soul,
and Hannah went in. She
ordered hot chocolate and
headed for him.
He glanced up from his
“May I join you?” She
didn’t wait for an answer
but dragged out the chair
opposite. Her heart skipped
a beat when he smiled back
and discarded his paper.
“Hello, Hannah. How’s
business been today?”
“Quiet,” she said,
shedding her scarf and
unzipping her jacket.
She cupped her hands
around her hot chocolate.
“How are you settling in?”
Hannah saw the
discomfort in Noah’s face
as he fidgeted on his seat,
searching for the right
words. She decided to
rescue him.
“It must be difficult,
settling into a small town
like ours. Especially if you
are a city person at heart,”
she said.
He leaned back in his
“It’s taking some
adjusting. But I’ll get
His left arm moved
awkwardly before he
switched to pick his coffee
up with the right.
“An injury?” she asked,
flicking her head towards
his arm.
her embarrassment, she
lifted her empty cup.
“Let me buy you another
one of those,” Noah said.
He returned with two
drinks and two blueberry
“I thought you could do
with something to eat,” he
said with a smile and
retook his seat.
Hannah broke off a piece
of muffin and popped it in
her mouth. Its sweetness
burst on her tongue and
gave her the comfort she
Noah shoved half the
cake in his mouth. Two
bites and it was finished.
She giggled.
“You must be hungry,”
“It must be difficult settling in a
small town like ours”
Noah told Hannah a brief
version of the story.
“Hazards of the job.”
She didn’t push it further.
“How are you getting
along with Christine? She’s
a busybody, but she has a
heart of gold and would
help anybody in need.
“To be honest, I think the
station would have fallen
apart years ago if she
hadn’t been there. She
takes it upon herself to
organise everybody and
everything. And from what I
hear, she’s excellent at it.”
Noah laughed.
“She certainly is. Have
you always lived in this
town?” he asked.
“Most of my life. I studied
in London for four years but
came back soon after. I
didn’t like the anonymity of
living in a city.”
Hannah noticed Noah
raise an eyebrow.
“It’s hard for a city
person to understand. You
probably just think we’re a
bunch of nosy parkers who
have nothing better to do
than gossip about each
“But that’s part of
belonging to a community,
being a part of something
special. People care and
look out for each other.
Take an interest.”
“I’ve noticed,” he said,
still unconvinced.
Hannah yawned
unexpectedly, then her
stomach grumbled. To hide
she said.
Noah brushed his hands
free of crumbs and took a
gulp of coffee.
“Haven’t eaten since
breakfast,” he said.
Hannah fidgeted,
deciding whether or not to
ask him. She didn’t want to
destroy the calm of the
conversation but she had to
She cleared her throat.
“Is there any progress in
my case?” There, she’d
done it.
“Nothing substantial to
report. But Christine is
researching the pin, more
to exclude it from the
“Unfortunately, I don’t
think we’ll recover the
missing items. I say that
from experience.”
Hannah stared into her
milky drink. Noah reached
across the table and placed
his warm hand on hers.
“I’m sorry, Hannah. I
didn’t mean to upset you.”
She wiped her mouth with
a tissue, feeling a chocolate
moustache developing.
“I know you don’t have
any hard evidence but I
can’t accept that there’s
nothing we can do.”
“Despite my ‘city-boy’
impediment, Hannah, you
can trust me. I am doing
everything I can to find the
Hannah’s heart thumped
at the kindness in his
voice. Her head
& His
As a new year
John Taylor
looks back on
others . . .
OHN, it’ll be another year in
three days.”
I smiled and said nothing. I
was well aware of the fact, and
that Anne would follow up the
obvious remark with something
“You should wish all the
readers a Happy New Year.”
“Yes, dear.”
We were sitting in our
kitchen, which was beautifully
warm thanks to our stove. Anne
was darning the thick woollen
socks I wear with my
Anne knits them, then darns
them – and darns them. She
says I’m real rough on socks.
I was sitting at the table with
my pen and my writing paper. I
was thinking of telling you what
had happened on the farm
over Christmas, but Anne’s idea
was better. I said I’d try, if she’d
help. She stopped darning.
First of all, we wanted to
thank readers for all the letters
and cards. We were particularly
touched by those of you who
wrote about how you’d coped
after bereavement.
How it took so long to get
used to the empty chair . . . But
how you carried on cherishing
the memory of all the happy
years you’d had together.
Your letters were sad, but a
real inspiration. Anne and I
thanked God for the strength
he’d given you to carry on.
In Scotland, in the past, the
tradition was always to make
more of New Year than
Christmas. It’s changing now, I
suspect, but Anne and I were
always against that trend.
To us, Christmas is a time of
rejoicing for the birth of Christ
and a time of great joy for the
children. They’ve all grown up
now, but we’re proud of them.
And I always maintain it’s
because of Anne’s influence.
Years ago, I was at a National
Farmers Union Meeting.
“Gentlemen, when shall we
have the next meeting?’’ the
chairman asked.
“December twenty-five is free
for me,” one member replied.
Everyone else was agreeing
when I realised something.
“Sorry, gentlemen. I won’t be
there. It’s Christmas Day!”
An elderly member looked
across at me, twenty years his
“So what?” he said.
“I intend to spend it with my
family.” I was a bit blunt, but I
was upset.
Unfortunately, I can’t
remember if the meeting took
place. If it did, I certainly wasn’t
I often wonder what would
have happened if I’d suggested
we held the meeting on New
Year’s Day? I bet there would
have been an outcry!
So what do we want for
ourselves and for you next year?
Anne says I must wish you
Happy New Year. And good
health. That is something
money can’t buy.
And may God overcome any
problems that beset you.
Goodnight from us both in
the kitchen. n
suddenly ached.
Overload. There simply
wasn’t any more space for
more emotions. Not until
Words On Pages was safe
Hannah stood.
“Thank you for the
muffin. I must get home.
Vivian’s coming round
“Special occasion?”
“Today would have been
my mother’s birthday.”
Hannah said goodbye
and left quickly. The last
thing she needed was to be
on the receiving end of
more commiseration.
* * * *
The back door creaked
open. Hannah’s ears
“It’s only me!” Vivian
Hannah knelt on the rug
in front of the crackling log
fire. Two bulging boxes lay
in front of her, a thick layer
of dust on their lids. She
smiled at the sound of
clinking glasses coming
from the kitchen.
True to form, Vivian had
bought a bottle of her
mother’s favourite fruity
white wine to mark her
Vivian kicked open the
sitting-room door.
“Here we go,” she said,
handing Hannah a glass.
“Happy birthday, Mum.”
Hannah chinked Vivian’s
“Happy birthday,
Catherine, love.”
The two held up their
glasses and took a sip of
the chilled liquid.
“That’ll go down very
well,” Vivian said, smacking
her lips. “What’re you
“I thought I’d rummage
through Mum’s keepsakes
to see if there’s anything
that might help us solve our
“Fun! Let me help.”
Vivian placed her glass on
the darkened oak coffee
table and sat cross-legged
across from Hannah.
“I see your yoga classes
are keeping you supple.
Maybe I should join you.”
Hannah rubbed her own
aching knees.
“Maybe you should. I
refuse to let the ageing
process stop me. Shall I do
this box?”
Vivian blew the dust off
the top. Hannah flinched. A
dampened tissue would
have worked so much
better and prevented the
dust particles landing on
She took a sip of wine
and tried to ignore the fact
she’d have to clean again
Hannah unpacked each
item with care. Both boxes
were filled with
memorabilia: pictures of
Hannah and her brother as
children, past coastal
holidays in France, birthday
A pang of sadness hit
Hannah suddenly. She was
the only one left in
Mossfield Hills. Her father
now lived in France; her
brother had taken a
two-year research
assignment in New Zealand
as part of his post
doctorate. They spoke on
the phone but it wasn’t the
same as having him near.
Her mother was the
furthest away . . . Hannah
swallowed a sob and turned
her attention back to the
“Look at these.”
Vivian held up two small
plastic bags. Inside each
was a lock of hair tied with
ribbon, one blue and one
pink. She giggled.
“Your mother saved
everything. She couldn’t
bear to part with anything
to do with you kids.” She
continued to rummage
through her box.
“That’s odd,” Vivian
“The same photograph of
the women. And that man,
he is so familiar. Where
have I seen him before?”
Hannah shuffled over to
Vivian and they both stared
at the photograph.
“There is something about
his jaw line.”
Vivian sat bolt upright.
“I’ve got it!”
To be continued.
Love reading? Don’t miss the Daily Serial on
our website:
The couple
“Our home was
full of happiness
and love”
Sandra Smith
talks to Wendy
Glass about her
46 years as a
foster mother.
Dundee City Council.
her husband, Robin,
has fostered 175
“Being a mum comes
naturally to me. Until we
retired from fostering last
year, caring for little ones
was a very important part of
our lives, giving these tiny
tots the love and attention all
babies need.”
Sandra and Robin applied
to be foster parents in 1971,
when their own three girls
were under eight years old.
“I had no plans to return to
work and I loved being a
mum, so I thought we could
help parents and babies who
weren’t as lucky as us,”
Sandra continues, adding
that she was a foster parent
with Dundee City Council’s
family placement team for
46 years.
“A few months after
applying, I received a
phone call saying a social
worker would be coming to
our home with a newborn
baby in half an hour. That
was when I discovered
we’d been approved as
foster parents!
“This tiny baby girl arrived
wrapped in a towel,
wearing only a nappy. My
heart reached out to her
whenever she was carried
through the door – and
that’s how it was with every
baby who came to us,
whether they stayed for a
couple of days, or our
longest placement, twentytwo months.
“We usually only had one
baby at a time but there
were occasions when we
had two, and one summer,
we had three babies at the
same time! That was in the
days of terry-towelling
nappies so you can
imagine what our washing
line looked like!
“Every one of our one
hundred and seventy-five
foster babies was lovely,
even the baby who
screamed for twenty-two
hours out of twenty-four.
“He stayed with us for
several months and two of
my neighbours would come
round and ‘walk the floor’
with him for a couple of
hours so I could get some
Most of the babies
fostered by Sandra and
Robin were awaiting
adoption or their parents
were unable to look after
them, perhaps because of
illness or substance abuse.
“Over the years, we cared
for several babies who were
born with a drug or alcohol
addiction or had been
seriously neglected,” Sandra
recalls. “Love and comfort
can work wonders and it
was incredibly satisfying to
watch them recover.
“One of our neighbours
used to say, ‘Babies go into
your house like a prune and
come out like a peach’!”
The couple received
support from a team of
social workers throughout
their time as foster parents.
Sandra and Robin are still
in touch with quite a few of
the babies they fostered.
“We meet up with some
of them regularly, including
the little boy who was with
us for twenty-two months,
and we’ve been to some of
their christenings and even
a few weddings of babies
who are now grown up,”
Sandra tells me.
“When our grandchildren
were christened, several of
our former foster babies
came along with their
adoptive parents, which was
When the Smiths became
foster parents, the only
payment they received was
a tiny amount to cover a
baby’s food and clothing,
and although this has
changed over the years, the
couple always refused the
fostering fees they were
entitled to.
“We didn’t need paid,”
Sandra stresses. “The
privilege of looking after all
these wee ones was the
only payment that we
“Our home may never
have been immaculate.
However, as well as nursery
equipment, baby clothes,
toys and teddies, it was also
full of happiness and love,
which I like to think helped
to give all these babies a
good start in life.” n
Want To Know More?
To find out more about becoming a Foster Carer or
Adopter for Dundee City Council, call 01382 436060
or visit
General information is available from, tel. 0845 222 0518 and
charities such as Action For Children, tel. 0845 862 0562
and Barnardo’s
All About
Try our delicious
canapé recipes
to delight your
New Year guests.
with seaweed
Course: Appetiser or party
snack Skill level: easy
Makes: 8
■ 8 langoustines, split (or
frozen king prawns)
■ 1 shallot
■ 1 clove garlic
■ Handful of hazelnuts
■ Dried seaweed such as
dulse (find in Waitrose or
online), chopped
■ 150 g (5½ oz) unsalted
■ Salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste
■ ½ a lemon, juice only
1 Split the langoustines or
prawns down the middle and
take out the digestive tract.
2 To make the seaweed butter,
blitz the shallot, garlic and
hazelnuts in a food processor
with a tablespoon of the chopped
seaweed. Then add the butter,
some salt, pepper and a squeeze
of lemon juice and blitz again.
Refrigerate until needed.
3 When you’re ready to cook the
langoustines, put them cut side
up on a roasting tray and dot with
the butter. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes
until the butter has melted and
flesh is cooked through.
Perfect partner – Rosie Birkett’s Highland Highball
Fill a Collins glass with ice and a wheel of orange. Pour over
50 ml peaty whisky such as an Islay malt and 50 ml (2 fl oz)
rosemary syrup and top up with Highland Spring Sparkling
water. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and an orange
wheel. To make the orange wheels, slice your orange finely
and place flat in the oven on baking paper in a very cool
oven for 3 hours, turning halfway through.
By Rosie Birkett for
Pesto and Tomato Bruschetta
Course: Appetiser or party snack Skill level: easy Serves: 4
4 slices ciabatta
Olive oil
4 tbs Sacla’ Classic Basil Pesto
Gorgonzola cheese
Sacla’ Sun-Dried Tomato Strips.
Fresh red and yellow tomatoes, sliced
Fresh basil leaves
1 Lightly brush each side of the bread with olive
oil and char-grill till golden.
2 Spread the pesto across the base of the
ciabatta – as much as you fancy. Crumble the
cheese over.
3 Grill for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese has
4 Top with the sun-dried tomatoes, fresh
tomatoes and basil.
5 Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.
Stilton and Caramelised Red
Onion Chutney Bruschetta
Course: Appetiser or party snack Skill level: easy Serves: 10-12
■ 1 x baguette or similar Italian bread
■ 200 g (7 oz) Stilton
■ 1 x jar of English Provender Caramelised Red Onion
To Garnish: chopped chives, optional.
1 Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg. C., 400 deg. F., Gas Mark 6.
2 Cut the loaf into 1-2 cm (½-¾ in) thick slices. Arrange in a single
layer on a baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven for 10
minutes, turning halfway through, until starting to crisp. Leave to cool.
3 Slice the Stilton thinly. Once cooled, top the bruschetta slices with
a piece of Stilton and a generous spoonful of English Provender’s
Caramelised Red Onion Chutney.
4 Garnish with chopped chives, if desired.
Cranberry and Goats’
Cheese Crostini
Course: Appetiser or party snack Skill level: easy Serves: Varies
■ 150 g (5½ oz) fresh cranberries
■ 3 tbs packed brown sugar
■ ¼ tsp cinnamon
■ 100 g (3½ oz) Braeburn or Red Lady apple, chopped
■ 100 g (3½ oz) fresh mango, chopped
■ 100 g (3½ oz) Delamere Dairy honey goats’ cheese
To Serve: Toasted mini breads or crackers.
1 Put the cranberries, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food
processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.
2 Spoon cranberry sauce on to individual toasted mini breads or
crackers (the exact amount will depend on the size of breads or
crostini that you have), and layer the apple and mango on top.
3 Sprinkle the goats’ cheese on top of all crostini.
Remember: recipes have been given in both metric and imperial. It is important to use one method throughout as they are not exactly the same.
Sausage Wraps
Course: Appetiser or party
snack Skill level: easy
Serves: 5-20
■ 2 tbs butter
■ ½ small red cabbage,
sliced thinly
■ 2 tbs brown sugar
■ 1 red apple, sliced thinly
■ 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
■ 1 tsp nutmeg
■ 5 Quorn Chipolata
■ 5 tortilla wraps
■ 5 tbs cranberry sauce
■ 100 g (3½ oz) rocket
■ 160 g (5½ oz) brie, sliced
1 Pre-heat oven to 190 deg. C.,
375 deg. F., Gas Mark 5.
2 In a large saucepan, melt the
butter over a medium heat. Add
the red cabbage and coat all of
the leaves in the melted butter.
Sauté gently for 5 minutes.
3 Add the sugar, apple, vinegar
and nutmeg. Mix well before
covering and leaving to simmer.
After 15 minutes, add 50 ml (2
fl oz) water and continue to cook
on a low heat, stirring frequently
for another 15 minutes until the
cabbage is completely tender.
4 Meanwhile, fry the Quorn
Chipolata Sausages according
to the pack instructions, until
golden brown. Leave to cool.
5 Spread a tablespoon of
cranberry sauce across each
wrap, then add a spoonful
of braised cabbage. Sprinkle
over the rocket and place on a
whole sausage along with the
brie slices. Roll up into a tight
6 Slice each wrap into 4 and
skewer with a cocktail stick,
or slice in half and serve on a
platter, garnished with rocket.
Crostini with
Parma Ham,
and Red
Course: Appetiser or party
snack Skill level: easy
Serves: 4
■ 25 g (1 oz) butter
■ 2 red onions, sliced
■ 30 g (1 oz) demerara
■ 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
■ Bunch of thyme
■ Balsamic vinegar
■ 100 g (3½ oz) mild
gorgonzola dolce
■ 100 g (3½ oz) Filippo
Berio Rosemary & Sea
Salt Crostini
■ 5 slices Parma ham,
ripped into 2 x 5 cm
(1 x 2 in) strips
■ Handful of chives
■ Salt and freshly ground
black pepper, to taste
1 Warm a thick-bottomed pan
on a medium heat. Add the
butter, then the sliced red onions
and sauté for a few minutes. Add
Next week:
warming recipes for colder days.
the demerara sugar, garlic and
thyme with a dash of balsamic
vinegar. Bring to the boil then
leave simmering for about
30 to 60 minutes on a low heat.
Stir frequently, ensuring that the
sugar doesn’t burn. Once the
onions are soft, remove and
leave to cool for a couple of
hours or overnight.
2 In a bowl, add the gorgonzola
and soften with a spoon.
3 To make the canapés, place
the crostini on to a flat tray.
Spoon a small layer of the
gorgonzola cheese on to each
one, top with a loose, rolled piece
of Parma ham and a small spoon
of red onion marmalade, then
garnish with a piece of chive.
For more delicious recipes visit our website:
Set in
Illustration by Ruth Blair.
Ghost For Hire
had worked in
service for Lord
and Lady Abertay
for years. She’d
started as scullery maid,
and now, at the age of
twenty-nine, she was
housekeeper of Abertay
Which was fine, except
that her elevated position
left her lonely and
frustrated. The staff worked
for her, but she regarded
none of them as friends.
The Hall was a fine
Georgian mansion, built to
replace crumbling Abertay
Castle, the ruins of which
could be seen from the Hall.
She shook her head. It
was coming up to
Hogmanay and Lord
Abertay was planning a
large party. The highlight
was to be at midnight,
when the guests would be
challenged to visit the
castle, having been told it
was haunted. It was his
lordship’s idea of a joke.
Roberta sighed. She had
been given the job of
interviewing a man he’d
heard about. She couldn’t
imagine what qualifications
he would need. Presumably
he would be classed as a
servant and therefore her
At the interview she found
the well-built man to be in
his early thirties.
“My name’s Hope. I’m
here about being a ghost.”
She nodded.
“Have you pretended to
be a ghost before?”
“Oh, aye.”
“How do you happen to
be in this part of the world?”
“My brother has a farm
nearby. I’ve been working
with him.” He pulled a face.
“Needs must.”
“His lordship has had men
working on the castle ruins,”
she said. “It’s the fashion for
the gentry to create
attractive historical features
on their estates.”
“It’s one way of spending
money,” he said.
“As is the Hogmanay
party, which is why he
requires a ghost.”
“Will I stay here?”
She considered.
“That could be arranged,
if you are suitable.”
“I have the props I need.”
She smiled.
“I’m sure that will help.”
He looked around him.
“What do you do here?”
“I’m head of the domestic
staff and housekeeper.”
“It’s a big place,” he said.
“The Hall was built by his
lordship’s grandfather,” she
told him. “The story is that
he found the castle damp
and draughty.”
“Typical. The gentry can
do what they like,” he said.
He gave her a frank and
open look. Roberta went on.
“Come tomorrow. We’ll
find you accommodation.”
After he’d gone she found
herself host to some
unfamiliar sensations. At
last a real man had
appeared in her life, as
opposed to selfish gentry
and dim-witted servants.
She knew she was
jumping the gun, but after
so long, who could blame
her? And his name – Hope.
That was surely a good sign.
* * * *
Hope arrived the next
day. As he crossed the rear
Roberta thought
the whole thing
extremely silly.
But she had her
orders . . .
courtyard, he bumped into
a couple of stable lads.
They sniggered at him.
“What’s so funny?”
They grinned.
“They say you been took
on to be a ghost.”
“So? How I earn my living
is my business.”
“No, it ain’t. Coves like
you give men a bad name,”
one of the lads sneered.
Hope’s response was to
grab the lad by the scruff of
the neck and the seat of his
breeks and toss him into an
ornamental fish pond. With
a yelp the other lad fled.
Roberta had witnessed
the incident through the
kitchen window.
“Oh, no!” She ran
outside. “What happened?”
“He had to be taught a
“But the fishpond is his
lordship’s pride and joy!
He’ll never keep you on
now,” she cried. “He thinks
the world of his fish.”
Bellowing came from the
kitchen and Lord Abertay
burst into the courtyard.
“What the devil’s been
going on?”
Wet and shivering, the
stable lad stood by the
fishpond, evidence of what
had taken place.
Abertay stared at Hope.
“Did you do this?”
“How dare you disturb
my fish?”
“He insulted me.”
Abertay regarded the
chittering lad.
“Did you?” he demanded.
The lad nodded feebly.
Abertay grunted and
addressed Hope.
“You didn’t think to
chuck him on the
Hope shook his head.
“The pool was handier.”
“I’ve taken on Mr Hope
to be the ghost your
lordship wanted,”
Roberta interjected
Abertay studied Hope.
“So, you are intolerant
of insults. With that
renegade Napoleon badmouthing our nation, so
should we all be. I approve
of your action, but not at
the cost of disturbing my
“I was taught in the Army
to react swiftly.”
“You fought against
“I did. For two years.”
Abertay beamed.
“Then you are forgiven. I
hope you haunt as well as
you chuck miscreants into
the pond. It is to be my
* * * *
The castle was in a
ruinous state, but it was
possible to climb up the
main staircase. Roberta
accompanied him and they
went up to the battlements.
“It’s good,” he said. “Not
too difficult to get around
in the dark and plenty of
“Won’t you show
yourself?” she asked.
“It depends on how
scared they are.”
She giggled.
“How do you do that?”
“Give them a brief sight
of me and then vanish back
into the dark,” he said.
“Have you ever been
found out – that you’re not
a real ghost?”
He shook his head.
“You’re forgetting: we all
believe in ghosts. That’s all
the protection I need.
However, I have a secret
weapon, just in case.”
Hope held up his bag of
props and took out a
dented and battered bugle.
“This saved the life of a
bugler from Napoleon’s
He blew down the
A tortured, eerie whine
echoed around them. It was
truly horrible.
And ghostly . . .
They peered over the
battlements at Abertay Hall
and beyond, to a large
house in the distance.
“Holly Lodge,” she told
him. “Home of Sir Alisdair
Rintoul, his lordship’s arch
rival. They each try to best
the other. Hence this
Hogmanay escapade.”
“That’s the gentry for
you.” Hope snorted.
“Still, some good’s come
out of it. You came along,”
she said, with an
unambiguous look. “Life
can be dull here.”
Hope was not immune to
the opposite sex.
“Maybe I can help liven
things up a bit.”
* * * *
It didn’t take long for the
gossip about Hope’s arrival
at the Hall to circulate.
The aggrieved lad who
had been dunked in the
fishpond made sure that
folk knew Abertay’s
Hogmanay haunting would
be a fake.
“The nerve of the fellow!”
Sir Alisdair cried when he
heard what was afoot. “Out
to impress us by cheating.
Well, we must see that he
doesn’t get away with it.”
“How do you intend to do
that?” his wife asked in a
bored voice.
In her view the two men
behaved little better than
“We’ll let him lead us
along and then call him to
account,” Rintoul replied.
“How, exactly?” she
asked with a yawn.
“By unmasking the
fraudulent ghost!”
* * * *
The night before
Hogmanay Roberta and
Hope went back to the
castle, choosing the most
ruinous part of the building
for his haunting.
It was on what had been
the third floor, roofless now
and full of nooks and
They picked one as the
principal hidey-hole and
dumped Hope’s props
Then they moved into a
large room, now open to
the elements.
“This was called the
solarium,” she told him.
“Where you could catch the
“We’ve got the moon.”
“And the frost,” she
replied with a shiver.
“Aye, it’s cold right
He put his arms around
her and she snuggled in to
him as though it was the
most natural thing in the
“Can I come with you
tomorrow night?” she
asked. “I could help.”
He didn’t need any help,
but feeling her close beside
him made the kiss that
followed seem inevitable.
“I never thought I’d be
grateful to Lord Abertay,”
she said. “I thought this
ghost business was stupid.
Even for him.”
* * * *
Every chandelier was
ablaze with candlelight for
Abertay’s Hogmanay party.
After a sumptuous dinner
the guests danced and
drank with enthusiasm.
“A splendid occasion,
your lordship,” Sir Alisdair
said over the fiddle music.
“And we are in for a
surprise, I believe?”
“Indeed. It’s said my
great-grandfather revisits
the castle at midnight on
Hogmanay. He was a
Jacobite rebel and was
beheaded in London. I
invite those intrepid enough
to discover if that is true.”
“Count me in,” Sir Alisdair
replied. “I’m sure the men
will want to join you.”
Their courage boosted by
Abertay’s excellent claret,
the men assembled outside
to tramp up to the castle.
Hope saw them approach.
He left Roberta in the
hidey-hole and positioned
himself behind a cleft in a
ruined wall. He trimmed the
wick of a lantern until it
gave out a very dim light.
The ghost-hunters were in
merry mood as they came.
“Will your greatgrandfather have his head
under his arm, my lord?”
one of Sir Alisdair Rintoul’s
sons joked.
There was laughter until a
sudden cry halted them.
“Listen! I think I heard the
clank of chains.”
They pushed on. There
was another cry – a dim
light had been spotted.
They stared and some
swore they saw a shadowy
The sound of a clanking
chain and a low moan
reached them.
“He’s there!” voices
called out.
“Follow me!” Sir Alisdair
Hope realised he had to
act. Something was amiss.
The men coming up towards
him didn’t seem in the least
Wearing a blood-stained
winding sheet and with a
black hood pulled over his
head, Hope stepped from
behind a wall, knowing he
would appear as a headless
Some of the men took to
their heels, but Sir Alisdair
laughed at the apparition.
This was a new experience
for Hope. He had to get
away before Sir Alisdair got
any closer.
As he made to move,
though, his foot tangled in
his winding sheet and he fell
heavily, twisting his ankle.
He couldn’t move.
Gritting his teeth, he
waited to be discovered.
But then an unearthly
sound filled the air, issuing
from the very ruins
Fearfully, the men gazed
around, but could see
nothing. Their common
thought identified it as not
of this world and they
scattered, their retreat led
by Sir Alisdair and followed
by a relieved Lord Abertay.
Within moments the
castle was empty and silent.
Roberta found Hope
where he had fallen. She
was clutching the flattened
“Are you all right?”
She managed to sit him
up and he hauled off the
black hood.
“You really put the wind
up them with our secret
“Me? I couldn’t get a note
out of the thing!”
Their eyes locked, and as
one they shivered.
They heard the bell
chiming from the village
kirk, telling everyone that it
was now the year 1800.
“Happy New Year!” they
cried together, and sealed it
with a kiss.
“It’s not going to be easy,
getting back to the Hall,”
he said.
“You’ve got me to lean
on.” She gave him another
kiss. “And we can think of
our New Year resolutions
on our way back.”
“I know mine already,” he
said, his look full of love.
“So do I,” she replied,
matching his look with one
of her own. n
What’s In Season
Seville Oranges
Blink and you’ll miss them! Seville oranges can be
found in the shops from about the end of December to
mid-February. Knobbly skinned and wholly unlike their
sweet-fleshed cousins, they’re the essential ingredient
in traditional bitter marmalade.
However, the unique bitter taste also makes them a
zesty flavouring for salad dressings, meat dishes and
desserts. They’re unwaxed, so don’t keep well for more
than a week or so, but you can freeze them whole.
The Lakeland Thermospatula
Silicone Spatula and
Thermometer (£15.49, www. or in store) displays
the exact temperature as you stir.
Perfect for jam or marmalade
or for tempering chocolate,
the stainless steel digital
thermometer can also be
used separately for
Coming to a kitchen near you...
Film Food
Movie buffs will love “The
Lambshank Redemption” by
Lachlan Hayman (Dog ‘n’ Bone,
£16.99). Filled with 50 tasty
recipes, each with a pun-tastic
title inspired by the silver
screen, it’s as much fun to read
as it is to use. It’s lights, korma,
action and into the kitchen to
make “Jurassic Pork” or bake
“The Hunt For Bread October”!
T’S the turn of the year and already
some of us are straining our eyes
out the window, convinced the
evenings are showing a glimmer of
light at five p.m. (they’re not, but
we can hope!) It’s a time when lots of fresh
colour will do us a power of good, so make
the most of the citrus fruits in the shops
now as well as lovely crisp apples. Root
vegetables are at their best, so pile them
into hearty soups and stews and use them
as mash instead of potatoes for a tasty
change. Don’t forget to stock up on neeps
and tatties for Burns Night on January 25!
Comfort On A Plate
British adults turn to
comfort food twice a week
on average, with pizza, bacon
sandwiches and eggs and soldiers
the dishes of choice. A survey of
2,000 people found that “feeling
down” and “cold, wet weather”
would have them rustling
up reminders of
Three healthy snacks for January
Nairn’s Gluten-free
Chunky Biscuit Breaks
RRP £1.79 from Asda,
Sainsbury’s, Waitrose.
free; low
in sugar
Soreen Apple
Lunchbox Loaves
£1.35 for a
multi-pack of five,
available nationwide.
Pure Bite Almond
Nut Clusters RRP
£1.49 online from
free; low in
sugar and
travel collection
Per person sharing
Depart 29 March 2018 Return 02 April 2018
arm Spring days have arrived,
the hedgerows are full of daffodils,
the lanes ablaze of colour, the days
are a little bit longer and the sun is a little
bit warmer.
This lovely 5 day tour includes a full day coach
excursion to learn about our beautiful island and
an Easter egg to enjoy on Easter Sunday.
Your hotel for this tour is the ever popular Merton
Hotel, located just a 10 minute walk from the town
centre. All en-suite rooms have central heating,
TV and a tea/coffee hospitality tray. There is a
choice of bars and restaurants and both breakfast
and dinner are included. The Aquasplash facility
offers heated indoor and outdoor pools and there
is plenty of relaxing lounge areas and a lift to all
floors. This is a really wonderful hotel with so many
facilities that make it ideal for an Easter break.
Per person in single/
sole occupancy
Price includes:
• Return flights between London Gatwick*
with 1 piece hold baggage per person
• 4 nights’ accommodation in
a twin/double room
• Return transfers in Jersey
• 4 x full breakfasts and dinners
• A full day island coach excursion and
an Easter egg
• All current taxes
NB: A financial protection fee of £2.50 per person will
be added to your invoice.
*For all of our Jersey offers flights may also be
available from Exeter, Southampton, London
City, Luton, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, East
Midlands, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and
many others – Please call us for full details.
Depart 08 April 2018 Return 12 April 2018
or some readers this is their third or even fourth visit, having
made new friends on a previous tour they now come together to
meet up very year, but if you don’t want to travel on your own,
you are very welcome to travel as a couple or bring along friends or
neighbours and the best bit of all – NO SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENTS.
Spring is in the air so to be certain that you can experience this really
lovely time of year we INclUDE in your short break, a full day coach
excursion of the island, PlUS a 2-day explorer ticket which enables you
to hop on and off our local liberty bus service as often as you like.
Time and time again our readers have been delighted with their stay at
the 3 star graded Norfolk lodge Hotel and we are pleased to feature
this hotel once more. conveniently located, you can take the bus from
outside the hotel or enjoy a 10-minute stroll to the heart of St Helier.
comfortably furnished throughout, all the en-suite bedrooms are
equipped with a TV and a tea/coffee hospitality tray. There is a large
lounge and bar area with entertainment on some nights, a private sun
terrace and an INDOOR heated swimming pool. On your first night
there will be a welcome drink before dinner and to enable everyone
to get together, tables of 4-6 will be reserved in the restaurant.
TO bOOk cAll
01534 496652 & quote The People’s Friend
For a brochure, complete the order form and send
to: The People’s Friend, Heron House, Jersey
Airport, Jersey, JE1 1BW
Price includes:
• Return flights between London Gatwick*
with 1 piece hold baggage per person
• 4 nights’ accommodation in a single room
• Return transfers in Jersey
• 4 x full breakfasts and dinner
• A full day island coach excursion and
a 2-day explorer ticket
• All current taxes.
NB: A financial protection fee of £2.50 per
person will be added to your invoice.
Please tick which brochures you would like us to send to you:
Easter in Jersey
Spring Singles Tour
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.................................................................... Postcode
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contact customers about new products and offers we think may be of interest. We’ll assume that we can
contact you by post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box. No contact from D.C.Thomson & Co., Ltd, or its
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New Pooch
New Year,
Malcolm Welshman resolves to
see less of his podgy pup in 2018.
Raring to
go . . .
regime. This will help to
burn off all those extra
calories. So more walkies.
No real problem there.
Dora delights in getting
out as it gives her another
chance to go on squirrel
patrol. In fact, she’s got a
specific oak tree in the
woods which she races up
to and looks intently
through the branches as if
willing a critter to venture
down and be chased.
Certainly a great way to slim
her down.
The only problem with
this resolution is me. I’ll
hold her back. That oak tree
is at the top of a steep hill
and I’m out of puff before
I’m halfway there and the
urge for mid-morning coffee
and a bun becomes so great
I turn back.
And so does Dora. She
hates to lose sight of me
and turns for home as well,
squirrel or no squirrel.
Third resolution on my list
is to stop Dora begging so
much. I realise her adorable
soulful brown eyes, coupled
with sitting up on her
haunches, usually ensures
my hand creeps down with
a titbit from the table.
So I’m as guilty as those
visitors over Christmas who
plied her with morsels.
The picture of
innocence . . .
Fourth resolution will be
to attempt to ensure Dora
introduces herself to familiar
visitors in a more
appropriate way. She has a
loving nature and is very
So as soon as someone
she recognises enters the
house, she races up to them
and flings herself on her
back, tail wagging at a rate
of knots. This elicits an
“ahh” from the visitor who
reaches down to give the
asked-for tummy tickle,
while it elicits a squirt of
wee from Dora.
I must try to stop her from
rolling over like that, and
just sit and be patted on the
head like a well-behaved
dog should.
In fifth resolution position,
I really must concentrate on
getting Dora to control her
overnight bowel and
bladder functions better.
We’ve had her three years
now. Originally she was a
young rescue from the
Birmingham Dogs’ Home,
after she was found
wandering the streets. She
wasn’t house trained then,
but as I’m a vet of forty
years, I felt confident I could
soon sort that out.
How wrong I was. In the
past three years there’s
been only the occasional
night when she hasn’t had
an accident in the utility
room adjacent to the
kitchen where she sleeps.
It’s become a bit of a
ritual whereby I come down
every morning and
immediately peep round the
door into the utility room
where the night before I’ve
spread some newspapers
on the floor.
Heart pounding, eyes
straining in the semidarkness, I’m hoping I don’t
spot an all-too-familiar mess
on the paper used at Dora’s
Trouble is, she usually
does perform during the
night and then sneaks back
into the kitchen to curl up in
her box, all innocent. It
wasn’t me, she seems to
say. So in the New Year,
when Nature calls, I’ll
Photographs courtesy of Malcolm Welshman, except where stated otherwise.
Y Yorkie-cross,
Dora, has spent
a large part of
the festive
season on the
sofa, legs in the air, fast
asleep, snoring after too
many calorie-loaded meals
and titbits. Enough’s
enough. Time to draw up a
list of New Year resolutions
on her behalf.
Number one on that list is
to make sure she eats less. I
might have some additional
rolls from all those mincepies, slices of Christmas
cake and lashings of turkey
with all the trimmings, but I
can hide my expanded waist
under a shirt.
Not so Dora. Put politely,
she’s a little “fluffier” than
she should be. Put bluntly,
her tummy sags like a bowl
of suet for all to see.
Over the Christmas
period, the guests that we
had staying would insist on
giving her bits of turkey, and
there were loads of leftovers
and doggy treats to pile on
the calories.
So she’s piled on the
weight. So much so that a
walk in the park elicited a
“When are her puppies
due?” from a passer-by.
My second resolution for
her is to up her exercise
Dora’s downfall - too
many tempting treats!
bag of doggie treats might
be the answer – a way of
distracting Dora from his
feet. But they had to be
given up as a bad job as
they made her do just that
– as evidenced by the
overnight paper in the utility
So the postman’s treats
were given the boot while
he acquired two – a stout
pair of walking boots laced
well above his ankles.
Then there’s the vexed
question common to many
dog owners. How do you
stop your mutt from rolling
in the smelliest, most
revolting mess he can find?
As my seventh New Year’s
resolution for Dora I will
attempt to avoid her doing
Fox poo is the worst. Dora
simply adores it. So many
times I’ve seen her in the
distance ahead of me on
the woodland path, head
down, neck weaving back
and forth in a patch of grass,
and I know just what she’s
I emit a squeak of alarm
Mr Fox has a giggle
at Dora’s doings.
and tear along to her. Too
late. She’s smeared the stuff
round her collar like some
duchess dabbing perfume
round her ears. She reeks.
So that’s my list of New
Year’s resolutions for Dora
completed. All seven of
them. I take a deep breath
and then wish I hadn’t as
the smell of fox “perfume”
drifts up my nose and Dora
rolls over for a submissive
tummy tickle with a little
squirt of wee.
Hmm . . . best start on
that list straightaway. n
Catch me if
you can, Dora!
encourage her to hold on
until I let her out first thing.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed
in the hope that Dora can
manage to keep her legs
Sixth on my list is the
resolve to reduce Dora’s
urge to tear out on to the
drive whenever she hears
the postman’s van and the
crunch of his feet on the
gravel – a signal to menace
his ankles.
I know I could just keep
the back door to the yard
closed. But it’s not so easy
in the summer when we’re
in and out attending to our
ponies, and the postie can
turn up at any time.
The last chap decided a
Good companions –
Malcolm and Dora.
At The
Cat Café
There was to be a surprise
at the New Year party on the
green this year . . .
Illustration by iStock.
Y lights have
gone out and
my house is
in darkness.
It’s only two
o’clock in the afternoon.
What will it be like once
the sun goes down?”
Mrs Watkins was
monopolising Angus’s
attention at the counter as
Maxine walked into the
shop and headed for the
stack of baskets by the till.
“I was vacuuming when
it happened – I can’t even
finish cleaning my house,”
she said.
Angus found the time to
glance over, winking
discreetly in Maxine’s
direction, and she smiled
in response.
“It’s probably a fuse,
Mrs Watkins,” he said.
Maxine grabbed a
basket and went to pick
up the few bits and pieces
she needed to see her
through the next couple of
days, when the shops
would mostly be shut.
“I don’t know what I’m
going to do,” Mrs Watkins
continued. “My family are
travelling from Edinburgh
and they’ll be here any
minute. What electrician
would come out at this
time on Hogmanay?”
Maxine had no doubt
that Angus would step in
to help. The question was
if he would take this
strong hint, or if he would
wait until Mrs Watkins
asked straight out for a
At one time she had no
doubt he would have
taken the latter option,
but recently his gruff
exterior had softened
quite considerably.
“Do you want me to pop
round to take a look?”
He didn’t disappoint,
and Maxine smiled again
as she popped some milk
and bread into her basket.
“Would you do that,
Angus? That would be
lovely of you.” Mrs
Watkins sounded both
surprised and delighted –
almost as though she
hadn’t quite realised that
Angus had been an
electrician before he’d
opened the shop.
“I’ll be closing up early
today, so I’ll see you in
the next half hour or so.”
Mrs Watkins gave a little
wave as she made her way
out of the shop.
“What?” Angus
demanded as Maxine
approached the till still
“You’re a big softie,”
she accused.
“Maybe.” He smiled,
holding her gaze. “But I
may need to go back to
electrical work one of
these days, so it’s as well
to keep my hand in.”
“Did she even buy
anything when she was
He shook his head.
“And that’s part of the
reason I might need to go
back to electrical work.”
Maxine knew he was
struggling with the shop,
and she was grateful he
had the option to return
to his former career. But,
on a personal level, she
liked to know he was here,
next door to her café.
“I’ll miss you if you do
wind up the business.”
That earned her another
“For the moment, I’m
just helping out someone
with a fuse box problem.”
“Just as long as you’re
back in time for the party
tonight.” Maxine had been
looking forward to seeing
in the New Year with
Angus ever since they’d
arranged to go to go to
the community centre for
the bells – even if it would
be along with almost
everyone else in town.
“I’ll pick you up at ten,
as arranged.”
* * * *
When Maxine got back
to her cat café, her
assistant, Sabrina, was
thumping a cushion.
“There,” she said with a
tone of satisfaction as she
placed it back on the sofa.
“All ready for Gladys to
flatten again when the
whim takes her.”
Maxine smiled, glancing
around for the feline
That was the thing with
having so many cats
around – however hard
you worked, things were
never tidy for very long.
At the moment,
however, Gladys was too
busy to bother flattening
any cushions, having
moved to admire her own
reflection in a bauble that
was hanging from the tree
Angus had attached to the
Christmas trees attached
to walls were necessities
when there were so many
cats. Maxine had
discovered that the hard
“She’s going to go for
that bauble in a minute.”
Sabrina wasn’t making a
psychic prediction – more
an observation based on
her extensive knowledge
of cat behaviour.
Maxine wasn’t surprised
when Gladys leaped up
and swiped the decoration
off the tree with one large
The bauble shot across
the room – luckily it was
made of plastic, so there
was no harm done – and a
scatter of Gladys’s
adopted feline siblings
raced after it.
Maxine laughed.
“Never a dull moment
“We need to take the
tree down now Christmas
is over,” Sabrina said.
“Before they do any real
damage. I’m surprised
they’ve left it alone as
long as they have.”
“We’ll take it down next
week once all the fuss of
the New Year has died
down. The customers
expect some sort of tree.”
If she were honest,
Maxine wasn’t in too
much of a hurry to be rid
of the tree. With snow
dusting the windows and
He’d been working on the
committee that had
arranged the party for the
“I can’t wait to see what
it is.” Maxine smiled.
“Me, neither. I’ve been
trying to get him to tell me,
but he says I’ll find out
soon enough. He’s
normally rubbish at
keeping secrets.”
Maxine laughed. Ed was
the sweetest man ever and
she knew that he would
only be keeping quiet now
so that Sabrina would
enjoy the surprise when it
was revealed.
“How can they plan fireworks
without telling anyone?”
the ground outside, the
tree and the fairy lights
made the place very cosy
this Hogmanay afternoon.
“Why don’t you get off
home,” she suggested to
Sabrina. “Take your time
and get ready for the
party tonight.”
They had only taken
bookings for the morning
and early afternoon
sessions today, so that
they could close early and
prepare for tonight’s
planned festivities. There
really was no point in
Sabrina hanging around.
Sabrina didn’t need
telling twice.
“Well, if you’re sure . . .”
She grinned as she headed
for the coat cupboard.
“Will you be going along
with Angus?”
Maxine nodded.
“He’s going to pop by
later and we’ll walk across
The hall was only across
the green from the café,
but last year she hadn’t
gone, preferring instead to
spend a quiet night in with
her cats.
This year, though, her
cats were truly settled,
and she was confident
they would be fine for a
few hours. Plus, this year,
there was someone special
she wanted to see New
Year in with.
“Ed said they’ve
planned a big surprise at
midnight for everyone.”
Sabrina smiled as she
mentioned her husband.
“I’m hoping they’ve got a
live ceilidh band,” Sabrina
said as she headed for the
door. “Those records are
OK, but it would be nice to
dance to some live music.
I’ll let you know if I manage
to get him to spill the
Maxine had barely
settled, with a cat or two
on her lap, when her
mobile rang.
“It’s fireworks,” Sabrina
said, her tone indicating
she wasn’t best pleased.
“That’s the surprise.”
Maxine sat up,
immediately alert. Teddy
looked disgusted and leapt
from her lap to the safely
of the floor.
“How can they plan
fireworks without telling
She could almost hear
Sabrina rolling her eyes
with exasperation.
“That’s exactly what I
said. Ed thinks it’s OK
because they’ve done a
risk assessment, and he
says everyone will be
expecting fireworks on New
Year’s Eve.”
Maxine thought back to
the peaceful start to the
current year. In some
places, they might have
expected a pyrotechnic
display, but not here.
“I’m sure they meant
well,” she said, trying to be
kind, “but it would have
been nice to have had
some notice.”
She made a mental note
to spread the word to
those who needed to
know. A surprise was one
thing, but not at the
expense of peace of mind.
“It’s only a small
display.” Sabrina’s tone
was almost apologetic
now. “They didn’t raise
the money for anything
spectacular. It probably
won’t last longer than five
minutes. But they’re
setting it up in Bill
Appleton’s garden –
behind the community
centre – so it lights up the
sky above.”
The same sky that was
across the green from
Maxine’s cats.
Even though her
windows were double
glazed and her cats were
pretty relaxed, New Year
fireworks would no doubt
be loud – and animals
could be easily terrified.
She wouldn’t risk leaving
her cats alone tonight.
Quickly she found her
mobile and called Angus’s
number. It went straight to
“He’s helping Mrs
Watkins,” she told Glady
as she listened to his
pre-recorded message.
As expected, Gladys
didn’t reply. She sat and
watched Maxine’s
attempts to contact Angus
with indifference.
The beep sounded and
Maxine took a deep
“Angus, it’s Maxine.
About tonight – I’ve only
just found out there will be
fireworks. I can’t go to the
“I could pop in for a
little while before the
display, but I’d need to be
home by midnight because
of the cats, so it doesn’t
seem worth it. So I’m
sorry, but I have to
She sighed again before
disconnecting the call,
knowing she had been
babbling and hoping he
would be able to make
out the gist of her
“Well,” she told the
supervising Gladys. “That
could have gone better.”
Gladys vocalised her
agreement before walking
off to challenge Sadie’s
claim over the catnip ball.
Next time, Maxine
thought, she’d rehearse
her message – maybe even
write it down.
Or maybe she would wait
until he was free and pop
round to see him.
“Meow.” The cry brought
her back to the present
and she found Bengal
brothers Alfie and Sam
standing hopefully by the
kitchen door.
“Time for tea,” she told
them with a smile, and the
eleven other cats all joined
the duo to wait it out by
the door as Maxine went
to prepare their meals.
OK, so she was
disappointed that she
wouldn’t be able to go out
tonight, but she didn’t
begrudge a second of the
time she would be
spending with her cats.
* * * *
Angus didn’t call her
Not that she was
surprised – what was there
for him to say? He knew
her well enough to know
that, with the prospect of
so much noise, she would
have to stay at home with
her cats no matter what he
said, so really there was no
point in him trying to
persuade her.
With a sigh, she settled
down for the wait until
midnight, with the
company of a good book.
Moments later, Sadie
leapt on to her lap. Not to
be outdone, Gladys
climbed on to her
“You’re getting too big
for that, my darling,” she
Gladys, seeming to
understand, shifted most of
her weight on to the back
of the chair.
“It’s a pity Angus isn’t
here, isn’t it? His
shoulder’s broad enough
for you to sit on
That was the reason she
was missing Angus this
evening. Wishing he were
here had nothing to do
with missing his company,
or the ready laugh that was
infectious, the dark eyes
that seemed to burn into
her soul, the kisses that
made her heart sing . . .
But she did wonder if
Angus would find someone
else to kiss when the bells
struck midnight.
* * * *
Maxine was so
engrossed in solving the
murder mystery between
the pages of her book that
when a knock sounded on
the café window she nearly
jumped out of her skin.
Before she could react,
there was another knock.
Then another.
One by one, the cats
moved into hiding,
disturbed by the noise.
“Happy New Year!” The
merry shouting and
cheering was several hours
premature, but it sounded
as though the happy
group outside had already
been celebrating.
Annoyed, Maxine put
her book to one side, and
pulled the blinds to one
side. The shadowy figures
on the pavement cheered.
Furious now, Maxine
went to the storm porch,
before throwing back the
bolts, intent on giving
these raucous well-wishers
a piece of her mind.
“Hey.” She recognised
Angus’s authoritative tone
as she opened the door.
“What are you playing at?
There are cats in there
– do you want to frighten
them to death?”
Maxine saw horror dawn
on the faces of the four
lads outside.
“Sorry,” the boy closest
to Maxine said. “We
didn’t think. We saw your
lights on and just wanted
to wish you a happy New
It seemed that good
intentions rather than
malice had been behind
the noise. Maxine relaxed
a little. The harsh words
that were ready on her
tongue remained unsaid.
“Just be more thoughtful
in future,” Angus warned.
Maxine stood aside to
let him in, a bottle of
something bubbly under
his arm, and she closed
the door.
“How did you get on
with Mrs Watkins?”
He grinned.
“All sorted. She was able
to greet her family in a
freshly vacuumed house
with lights on.”
“Are you on your way to
the party?” she asked.
“I was planning to go. I
got ready and everything.”
He nodded down at his
outfit and she smiled. He
looked good in a kilt – he
had the legs for it.
“But then I saw I had a
message . . .”
“I’m sorry for the late
notice, but I can’t leave.
They got enough of a fright
with those boys knocking
at the window. I can’t
imagine what they’ll be like
when the fireworks go off.”
He gave a nod.
“I can’t believe the
committee thought that
would be a suitable
surprise for somewhere as
quiet as this town. We’re
not used to that much
noise around here.”
Maxine smiled.
“You’d better get going if
you’re not going to miss all
the fun.”
He frowned.
“I hoped you’d let me
stay here with you and the
cats. I brought this.” He
held out the bottle. “I
thought we could toast the
New Year.”
“But you said you
wanted to go to the party.”
“What I actually said was
that I wanted to see the
New Year in with you,” he
reminded her softly,
drawing her closer.
And even though it
wasn’t even nearly
midnight yet, he kissed her
* * * *
It took them a while, but
when the cats realised that
any imminent danger had
passed, they came out of
Gladys made a beeline
for Angus and had a huge
fuss made of her before
she wandered off to nap
next to the radiator.
All seemed right with the
world. Maxine put soft
music on to soothe the cats
after their fright – and to
hopefully mask any new
outburst outside – and she
and Angus were dancing,
her head on his shoulder,
as they waited for
When her mobile burst to
life on the counter, she
stopped mid-step, startled.
“Maxine, it’s me –
Sabrina. I’m outside. Ed
and Chloe are with me.
Will you let us in?”
“What are you doing
here?” she asked as they
brought the bitter chill of
a snowy Hogmanay
indoors with them.
“We thought you might
need some extra catminding tonight.” Ed
grinned sheepishly. “I’m
so sorry, Maxine. I can’t
believe I didn’t think that
the fireworks would affect
the cats.”
“You were trying to do a
nice thing for the town,”
she said. “But what are
you doing here? Won’t
they miss you at the
party? After all, you
helped arrange it.”
He shook his head.
“They won’t miss me.”
“And you’re not
supposed to be working
tonight,” she reminded
“Doesn’t that say a lot
about how much I love my
job, if I’d rather be here,
than living it up in the
community centre?”
“Oh, please let us stay!”
Sabrina and Ed’s daughter
Chloe chipped in. “We’d
much rather be here – and
the cats might need us.”
The first burst of
fireworks heralded the
New Year. They’d been so
busy arguing over who
was to stay that they’d
missed it.
very long.
“Are the cats OK?” Chloe
peered around, trying to
spot them.
Sadie was the first cat to
emerge. She popped her
nose, then a hairy paw, out
from her hiding place
behind the counter.
One by one, the others
cautiously appeared.
“It’s quarter past
midnight,” Angus said,
glancing at the clock on the
wall and barely flinching as
Gladys took a flying leap on
to his shoulder.
“A bit late, but what do
you say we toast the New
Year? There’s champagne
for those who want it, and
I’m sure we can find some
orange juice for Chloe.”
They all raised their
“Happy New Year.”
When Maxine had moved
here, she had been alone in
the world, and it hadn’t
mattered because she’d
been intent on starting her
new life as an independent
Somehow, along the way,
she had acquired a family
of sorts – her cats and
these friends who she
hadn’t even known that
long, but who she loved
with all her heart.
“We should go back to
the party,” Sabrina said
apologetically. “Come with
The moment Maxine had been
waiting for finally arrived
“Looks like it’s settled
and you’re staying,”
Angus told them as
another loud burst from
outside had cats scattering
in all directions.
They wanted to hide,
that was obvious. To
snuggle together into
corners and cubbyholes
where they felt safest.
But the people they
loved most were there for
them when they emerged
and needed to be
“I think it’s over,”
Maxine dared to say as
the alarming explosions
stopped as suddenly as
they had begun.
Sabrina had been right
– the display hadn’t taken
Maxine shook her head.
“The cats seem OK, but I
just want to make sure. It’s
been an exciting night for
them. But I can’t thank you
guys enough for being
Then there was just her
and Angus.
“You not going with
them?” she asked, even
though he’d firmly closed
the door.
He got to his feet, took
her hands and drew her
“Without you? No
The moment Maxine had
been waiting for finally
arrived, as Angus’s lips met
hers for her first kiss of this
New Year. n
More Than
enjoys an
exhibition of
Tove Jansson’s
Images courtesy of the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
OR generations,
children and adults
all over the world
have been captivated
by the enchanting
and dramatic stories of a
peace-loving Nordic family
called the Moomins.
These beguiling, slightly
creatures are the creation of
one of the best-loved
writers and illustrators of the
twentieth century, Tove
But Moominvalley was not
the only place where her
unique gifts found
Throughout her life her
deepest passion lay in her
unwavering work as a fine
artist. This year into next, the
Dulwich Picture Gallery is
showcasing her extensive
output of portraits,
landscapes, still-life and
courageous anti-war
cartoons, along with
illustrations of the beloved
Moomins, in a celebratory
The Moomin
family and friends.
Looking defiant in a selfportrait with her family.
It was a special treat being
shown round by Sophia
Jansson, Tove’s niece, and
the curator of the exhibition,
Sointu Fritze.
“My aunt thought of
herself as a serious painter,”
Sophia explained. “Now, for
the first time, the public can
see the full range of her
works. She went fearlessly
from genre to genre, and
was exceptionally
Tove was born in Helsinki
into an artistic family. Her
Swedish-speaking Finnish
father was a classical
sculptor, her Swedish
mother a graphic artist, and
Tove showed great artistic
promise from toddlerhood.
She had been transfixed
by her mother’s intricate
drawings for postage
stamps – work that she did
regularly to stabilise the
family income, as Tove’s
father’s commissions were
By the time she was in her
early teens, Tove had
become an accomplished
cartoonist, selling her work
to the Finnish satirical
magazine, “Garm”.
One summer day she
scribbled the first Moomin
on to the door of an outside
loo at the island home the
family rented each year for
the holidays.
But the stories of
Moominland emerged much
later, out of the dark days of
the Winter War. Tove and
her family were deeply
affected by the ominous
shadow that lay across the
future of their beloved
Finland, and the world.
She had said, “I am really
a painter, but in the early
1940s I felt so desperate
that I began to write fairy
Her remarkable family
portrait, done over several
years and completed in
1942, vividly depicts the
sombre atmosphere and
fear of the war as well as
the conflicts and tension
Illustration for “Alice
In Wonderland”.
within her own rather
complicated family.
“Tove wrote and painted
herself into all of her work,”
Sophia said. “What really
sizes her up are her selfportraits. “My aunt was a
tiny woman, but very bold
– you can see that. There
she is looking at you,
confronting the world and
never making excuses.
“She seems to be saying,
‘Take me on’! She was so
full of courage and
The Moomins were often
Tove’s mouthpiece.
Tove Jansson was happiest
at her island retreat.
determination, and she has
always been a role model
for me.”
The Swedish traditions of
fairy tales and story-telling
were passed on to Tove and
her brothers by their
A mysterious, magical
quality runs through all of
her work, and her favourite
subjects were the sea and
The lush, flower-filled
meadows and sparkling
lakes of the countryside
where she spent her
summers glow out of
Moominvalley as they do
out of so many of her
paintings of other subjects.
Does Sophia have a
favourite in the exhibition?
“It’s very difficult to
choose – I have so many!
There is one called Maya
that I’m very fond of – it’s a
little reminiscent of the
paintings of Gauguin.
Perhaps Tove was
influenced by him.
“And I have a very soft
spot for her storm paintings.
She loved storms – our
whole family did.”
Tove’s father had also
been fascinated by fires, and
at the first sign of smoke in
the sky, he would drop
everything to take the
children off to see these
dramatic sights, much like
Moominpapa who loved
adventures of a similar kind.
In her later years Tove
finally broke free of the
relentless demands that the
success of the Moomins had
brought her.
She began to paint
powerful, bold works which
stood out from anything she
had done previously. She
revelled in colour, with all its
contrasts and nuances.
“There are so many details
to enjoy in Tove’s work.” The
curator Sointu Fritze smiles.
“You have to come up close
and look at the lines. They
are so economical and
expressive – every small
gesture says so much!”
Perhaps the most constant
themes that run through all
of Tove Jansson’s work are
those of the rhythms of
nature, of loss and regaining,
leaving but returning, of
tolerating and embracing
others’ differences.
Disaster can strike at any
moment, but strength,
goodness and love will
“Our family spent every
summer in the archipelago,”
Sophia reminisced. “The
Finnish summers are very
short and intense. Those
times are perhaps my
fondest memories of Tove.
“We would row from
island to island, dive from
cliffs . . . She communicated
with me on my level,
without becoming a child
herself. It was always an
adventure to be with her.” n
Want To Know More?
The Dulwich Picture
Gallery will be showing
Tove Jansson’s work until
January 28, 2018. Find out
more at www.
uk or call 020 8693 5254.
n Inspired by the
humanitarian themes of
the Moomin books,
Oxfam has launched a
campaign around Tove
Jansson’s short story
“The Invisible Child”, to
support women’s
projects all over the
Sophia Jansson said,
“I’m sure that Tove
would be very glad that
her stories are going to
help women all across
the world escape
poverty, and find their
n Originally written in
Swedish, the Moomin
books have been
translated into more
than 50 languages.
n Although she is best
known for her Moomin
books, Tove Jansson
held many solo
exhibitions of her work
as a fine artist. Her large
fairy-tale murals light up
the walls of public
buildings in Finland,
including schools and
kindergartens, and a
children’s hospital. Her
striking altarpiece hangs
in Teuva Church.
n As well as illustrating
her own books, creating
comic strips and
supplying the magazine
“Garm” with bold
anti-war cartoons, Tove
Jansson illustrated books
by other authors. The
pictures she created for
“Alice In Wonderland”,
“The Hunting of the
Snark” and “The Hobbit”
are in a slightly different
style from those that she
drew and painted for the
Moomin stories.
Winter Sale
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She had had dreams of teaching,
of passing her knowledge on to
others. Was it too late?
Illustration by John Hancock.
ERE comes the
most beautiful
woman in
Palermo!” her
butcher greeted
Franca, just like he’d done
for the past twenty years.
If that title might have
been possible when she was
eighteen, now that she had
university-age children the
compliment sounded more
like mockery.
Franca glanced at her
reflection in the shop
window. Yes, she was still
shapely. She opened her
purse to pay and noticed
her long, slender fingers,
hardly changed.
Her hair was certainly in a
better shape now than
when she had had three
young children tugging at it.
Maybe the butcher’s
comment was a gallant
exaggeration rather than
plain mockery.
It was precisely because
she enjoyed the
shopkeepers’ good-natured
banter that she went
grocery-shopping every
day, even now that they
had an electric refrigerator
– a luxury she had accepted
only after her husband’s
gentle insistence.
Back home, she picked
up an onion and started
chopping it for lunch. She
liked to have everything
ready for when her family
returned home.
How many would there
be today? Some days
nobody turned up: lectures
went on for too long and
her children’s lunch break
was swallowed, or the jury
at the tribunal didn’t reach
an agreement and her
husband ate a late lunch at
the office’s bar.
Being ready for anything
was paramount: Franca laid
everything out and, if
nobody had turned up by
one o’clock, she’d pour the
pasta water in the sink and
put everything away, to
start again at supper time.
Then she’d go to her
room and chase away the
solitude with the company
of a book or the radio.
One of her friends had
this flashy new thing called
a television set, and deep
down, she would have
loved to have one, too, but
she would never admit it,
even to herself.
She had never felt lonely
when the kids were little
and her husband was a
junior judge with more time
to spare. But now, each of
them had their own lives
outside the home. Except
for her.
“Mum, I’m home! We’re
a crowd and we’re very
hungry!” Giovanni
announced, opening the
front door.
“Lunch will be ready in
ten minutes,” Franca
replied excitedly.
Numerous extra guests,
Set in
with short or no notice,
special dietary requirements
– any challenge energised
her like an injection of
caffeine. She took great
pride in showing off her
speed and efficiency as well
as her attention to detail.
For example, she knew
that it was exams season at
the faculty. Revising law’s
codicils on an empty or
overstuffed stomach wasn’t
ideal, so she had planned a
light Bolognese pasta dish
with a salad, but without a
second course or a
The water for the pasta
was bubbling. Franca
slipped out of the kitchen
and peeped into Giovanni’s
room to count today’s
number of covers. One,
two, three, four, five, six.
“Mum, Gisella is
vegetarian,” Giovanni
Franca wasn’t sure what
“vegetarian” meant but
inferred that it was
probably OK to serve
vegetables, so she quickly
changed her menu plan.
She measured enough
spaghetti for seven people,
using her thumb and
forefinger as callipers,
dropped it into the pot of
boiling water, activated the
kitchen timer and started to
create a cauliflower, raisins
and pine nuts sauce against
the clock.
“Hello, Mrs Lo Presti.”
“Hello, Mimma.”
The girl was one of the
most frequent visitors to
their home.
“Aren’t you afraid of
getting your beautiful
clothes dirty? I mean, do
you always dress so nicely
when you’re cooking, with
earrings and necklaces?”
Franca smiled.
“If I had a job outside the
home, I’d dress up for it,
wouldn’t I? So why
shouldn’t I dress up for my
jobs as cook, wife and
mum? That’s how I think.”
“Very right. Have you
ever wanted a job outside
the home, Mrs Lo Presti?”
“Yes! When I was young I
was studying to become a
kindergarten teacher. But
then the war started and
we left the city, so that was
the end of my studies.
“After the war, when I
turned eighteen, I got
married and my husband
said, ‘No wife of mine
shall ever have to
work!’ He meant well but
he didn’t know that I
actually liked the idea of
going to work.
“Then the children came
along and my husband’s
career took off, so there
was lots to do at home and
no need for an extra
“You are very lucky to be
able to go to university: at
least you’ll have the choice
“I guess so, but I don’t
really like studying law. My
dad makes films for
television and I dream of
being a camerawoman.
“But Dad says that
careers in TV are too
volatile and I’m better off
studying law and getting a
degree under my belt.”
“Don’t be downhearted.
Get your law degree first,
and afterwards do what
you like with your life.
“You’re young, you’ve
got plenty of time ahead of
you! Plus, if you’d never
studied law, Giovanni
wouldn’t have met you.”
Franca glanced at Mimma
to see her reaction. Just as
she expected, Mimma
She carried the food to
the table.
“Mrs Lo Presti, this is
delicious!” Gisella said.
“Yes, it’s fantastic!” the
others chorused.
“Sometimes I wonder if
you guys hang out with me
because you like me, or
because of my mum’s
cooking,” Giovanni said.
“For your mum’s
cooking!” They burst into
* * * *
The next day Giovanni
brought home seven guests
for lunch. Among them, as
usual, was Mimma. She
followed Franca into the
“Mrs Lo Presti, I’ve an
idea that might help me
pursue my dream. I want to
film you while you cook.
Franca looked puzzled.
“You’re the most
beautiful and elegant cook
I’ve ever seen, and you can
turn around a fantastic
meal with hardly any
notice. You could teach
people how to cook,
through television.
“Dad has agreed to lend
me a studio camera. It’s my
big chance. Please, Mrs Lo
Presti, say yes.”
“I’m not young and pretty
enough to be filmed!”
“Mrs Lo Presti, you’re
one of the most beautiful
women in Palermo!”
The words of the butcher
rang in Franca’s ears. She
wasn’t the most beautiful
woman in Palermo, of
course, but probably the
most beautiful woman that
Mimma could relate to.
“Will you still study for
your exams?”
“I promise. Is it a yes?”
“All right. What do I need
to do?”
* * * *
“Thank you, Mum, for
helping Mimma. She means
a lot to me,” Giovanni
whispered into Franca’s
ears while she was cooking,
and darted out of the room
again before she could ask
him any questions.
But Franca didn’t need to
ask questions.
“Hello, dear, I’m home,”
Mr Lo Presti called.
“Hello, darling!” Franca
replied, over the crackling
of the frying-pan.
It suddenly dawned on
her that, if she was going to
be filmed, she should at
least mention it to Pietro.
The chances were small,
but what if Mimma’s dad
liked the film and decided
to broadcast it?
Pietro, then, would flick
through the channels and
see his wife on the
television screen. Worse, a
colleague might say, “I saw
your wife on television.”
She should have asked
his opinion before saying
yes to Mimma. What if he
vetoed it? Mimma would be
heartbroken. So would be
The escalope’s
breadcrumbs stuck to
Franca’s clammy hands and
pearls of cold sweat formed
around her lips. She had to
find the right place and
time to broach the subject.
She walked to the
cupboard and checked that
the bottle of grappa was
* * * *
“Guess what, Dad?”
Giovanni said at dinner.
“Mum is going to star in
a cookery programme!”
Pietro dropped his fork,
Loretta coughed and
Franca’s face lost all colour
except for her lipstick.
“Yes. Mimma begged her
and she agreed. Mimma
wants to prove to her dad
that she can be a
camerawoman and she
thinks that Mum would
make a fantastic cookery
programme and that every
woman in Italy will want to
be as glamorous and
competent as her.”
“And what does your
mother think about being
on television?”
The fact that he referred
to her as “your mother”
didn’t bode well.
“She said yes.”
Franca began to tremble.
“I don’t think the film will
ever be anything more than
a sample,” she said shakily.
“It might be. What if you
ended up inside those
television boxes, straight
into the homes of
thousands of people, week
after week?
“Would you mind?”
Pietro asked with piercing
The idea of hosting her
very own cookery
programme was beyond
Franca’s dreams. Not only
would she have her very
own job, but a really fun
one, too!
“I – I would be beyond
myself with happiness,” she
said, her eyes welling up.
“That’s great, then,”
Pietro said.
* * * *
“What am I supposed to
say, Mimma?” Franca
asked that first morning.
She felt like a child at
“Imagine that you’re
teaching me, just me, to
cook this dish. Show me
how to do it and talk me
through what you’re doing.
Is that OK?”
“Yes. I’m ready,” Franca
said, smiling.
“One, two, three –
* * * *
“Mum, you look really
natural! Didn’t you feel
nervous?” Loretta asked,
eyes glued to their TV set
which was showing
“Cooking With Franca”.
“It’s all thanks to Mimma.
She told me to imagine I
was talking to her, so I did.
Because I feel at ease with
her, I felt at ease before her
“I thought that you were
refusing to be filmed by
other cameramen just to
keep me in work!” Mimma
giggled, holding hands with
Giovanni on the sofa.
“That, too, but mostly it’s
a selfish reason: I’d just
freeze if I was filmed by
anyone else.”
“And the bonus is that we
now have a television set,
too! Thank you, Dad!”
Loretta said.
“You mustn’t thank me:
you mum bought it with
what she earned.
“But that’s nothing
compared to the fact that
tomorrow thousands of
women across Italy will be
trying her recipes.
“My clever wife!” Pietro
said, glowing with pride.
“What’s even more
unbelievable, Dad, is that
we’ve got a TV star cooking
our meals every day,”
Giovanni said.
Franca swelled with
happiness and pride, then
“Oops, that reminds me
that I forgot to take the
chicken out of the oven!”
Pietro laughed.
“I think a burned supper
now and then is just what
you need to keep you
* * * *
“Here comes the most
beautiful woman on
television!” the butcher
greeted Franca a few weeks
Franca’s cookery show
had become so popular
that word had spread to
those who didn’t have a
television set at home, but
they could still talk about it
as if they had seen it.
Franca blushed.
“I hope you’ll still shop
here even though you’re a
star now,” he told her.
“Of course I will. And it
looks like you might have
some new customers, too,”
she said, nodding to a
couple of women outside
who, pens and paper in
hand, stood waiting for her
autograph. n
country air
A breath of
Renowned nature writer Polly Pullar
takes a lighthearted look at rural life.
Photographs by Polly Pullar.
VERY autumn we
receive little
hedgehogs – babies
born late in the season
that are too small to
hibernate safely.
It has been well publicised
that hedgehogs that are
under a pound in weight
won’t survive the winter and
need to be taken into care
until spring.
In recent years hedgehog
numbers have fallen
dramatically in the area
where we live.
When I first came here 17
years ago, we frequently
saw hedgehogs, and I had
many handed in to me
throughout the year.
They might be cute, but
they’re also smelly!
Sadly, this is no longer the
case. People blame an
increase in badger numbers,
particularly in the Highlands,
as they are one of the only
animals that can get through
a hedgehog’s thorny
I do not go with this
theory and feel that it is a
convenient excuse. I do not
question that sometimes
badgers eat hedgehogs, just
as hedgehogs sometimes
eat fledglings and birds’
eggs, but the truth of the
matter is that, as ever, it is
man that is to blame.
We have ruined the
habitat in many places for
hedgehogs, fence off our
gardens so well that
hedgehogs cannot pass
safely from one to another
in urban areas, and of
course with continual loss of
habitat, increased
industrialisation and more
and more frantically busy
roads, the poor hedgehog
has no chance.
Both badgers and
hedgehogs are omnivorous
and have lived side by side
for thousands of years.
In difficult times it is no
surprise that the larger,
more robust animal should
come out on top and adapt
better to changing
I used to over-winter the
hedgehogs in our animal
hospital in the house but
their smell pervades
everything and is none too
Last year we made a
special “hoggery” in the
shed outside and collected
mountains of dry leaves and
moss with which we totally
covered the whole area.
This has proved incredibly
successful, means the smell
is no problem and also gives
them much more space and
freedom to move about.
We release the hedgehogs
at the end of April. It is
always hard to know exactly
when to do this. If the
weather has been mild and
wet then it is likely to be
easier for them to find
enough food.
However, long dry spells
mean food can be scarce,
and cold with late frosts is
not ideal. We really are in
the lap of the gods.
I have found that though I
leave food out for them, our
hedgehogs seldom return
for it, which means they are
on their own without a prop
straightaway, something I
always try to avoid with all
rehabilitated wildlife.
This past winter we only
had one male hedgehog
with us. We christened him
Jimmy Archie. He arrived
burdened with parasites and
had to have a good worm
dosing, but from then on
began to grow really well.
During the depths of the
winter we still put food out
for them every day –
sometimes it lies
untouched, and if the
weather is cold the
occupants of the hoggery
don’t emerge from the
amazing nests they make
themselves and we leave
them well alone.
Jimmy Archie hibernated
for just over a month in late
January, and then awoke
with a voracious appetite
and wolfed dishes of food
every night.
Following an exceedingly
long cold spell, we had to
keep him longer than usual.
However, the moment will
come when it is time to go,
and we look for suitable
places as far away from
busy roads as possible.
Taking them out of the
transport box, they huff and
puff and erect their prickles
for protection, and make it
hard for us to hold them
without gloves.
Then comes that moment
as they toddle off on their
surprisingly long legs, and
disappear into the woods.
Knowing as I do how the
poor, once common
hedgehog struggles, that
release moment is always
tinged with sadness.
I can but hope that they
will survive and thrive, living
on long enough to help the
depleted hedgehog
population. n
We take our next
Breath of Country Air in
our January 27 issue.
Home Front
On The
Deputy Archivist Jennifer Hunt talks about preserving the history of
the Royal Voluntary Service.
Photographs by Alamy.
from Patricia Routledge,
championing this vital
project to make a
permanent record of “the
memories of a million
wartime women”.
“The archive was first set
up in 1958 and that was in
preparation for the twentyfirst anniversary in 1959.
Before then the records
were collected by
Headquarters. All reports
had to be completed in
quadruplicate so
Headquarters could be sent
a copy,” Jennifer explains.
The condition of the
documents varies,
Narrative Reports © Royal Voluntary Service.
HE Women’s
Voluntary Services
were founded in
1938 and by 1943
had over one
million volunteers – making
it the world’s largest
voluntary organisation.
During the war, the Service
did an astounding variety of
work on the Home Front.
Starting with air-raid
assistance, where they fed,
treated and helped move
people in and out of
shelters, their responsibilities
soon expanded to cover
everything from roadside
catering and hot meals to
the evacuation of urban
children to the country.
In 1966, the Queen gave
the Service Royal patronage,
and the WRVS was born,
before becoming the Royal
Voluntary Service in 2013.
In 2017 we learned that
the Service was planning on
digitising its archives of
reports received from
branches around the country
during the war, making them
available online for all to see.
They began a funding
campaign featuring a video
understandably, and there is
a mixture of handwritten
and typed versions.
Jennifer had help from
Archives Assistant Jacob,
who joined the team to
diligently photograph every
single page digitally and
store it on their computers
in September 2016.
After much work, they
were able to upload the
archives from 1938 through
to 1942, and they went live
online in July of this year.
“We had over a thousand
Making a camouflage
net in London.
Canning centre
in Folkestone.
downloads in the first
month! So we got a really
good reaction – especially
from our backers, who had
waited patiently to look at
those reports and read
through them.”
Jennifer explains that the
funding campaign was so
successful, they made more
money than they’d asked
for, which means they’ve
now got the chance to carry
local areas.
“They could do anything
from knitting jumpers and
socks to being out there
collecting salvage and bits of
scrap metal and organising
other people to do things as
“I love the tea trolley that
went around behind the
bicycle!” Jennifer recalls. “It
proved a bit impractical, so
on the work and digitise
reports from 1943 to 1945.
If all goes to plan, the WVS
reports from the whole war
will be online by April 2018.
The reports themselves
provide a fascinating
glimpse into life at the time.
One story involves WVS
ladies from Portsmouth who
attended a training session
in Harrods and learned to
turn groomed dog hair into
yarn and knit jumpers from
“I didn’t realise just how
much they did do, because
it was everything and
anything – especially in their
they hooked it up to the
Jennifer has met two of
the ladies who were
involved at the time.
“I met one lady who lives
in Coventry who was
involved in what they used
to call the ‘devil’s kitchen’,
which was the kitchen in the
back of the police station in
Coventry where they used to
serve tea for on-duty police
officers during air raids.
“I also spoke to a lady
called Margaret Miller – she
died a couple of years ago
now – but she was
volunteering for us during
Busy making refreshments
for rescue workers.
Handing over a WVS
war nursery in 1941.
the war in Glasgow.
“She used to go and visit
soldiers in the hospitals,
taking them oranges and
things from the
greengrocers when they
could get them.”
It’s obviously a bonus for
accessibility that these
papers are online, but
Jennifer admits that you
can’t beat paper archives.
“Paper tends to last more
than digital – with digital
you’ve always got to think
about the format. Will it last?
The paper’s lasted – well,
the earliest paper is 1938.”
During which time CDs
have fallen by the wayside,
as have tapes. Interestingly,
the older the paper the more
durable it was. Things were
built to last!
The online collection is a
mixture of sound recordings,
documents and photographs
and well worth a look. You
can visit the archives at n
Men of the Pioneer Corps at
a canteen run by the Service.
Carving meat to cater
for a group of 120.
Set in
No. 4, Whitehall
Griff was about to declare
himself to Clementine! How
could she stop him?
The Story So Far
Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar.
is nursery maid for
the Peel family at No. 4,
Whitehall Gardens.
Secretary, and he and
his pregnant wife have
five children. Peel is in
the later planning stages
of the new Metropolitan
Police Force and,
impressed by constable
summons him to a
meeting to ask for a
broad picture of current
policing’s needs and
failings. William worries
about his half-sister’s
wayward behaviour, as
he needs a clean
reputation to succeed in
his career.
Clementine previously
worked in a laundry and
was nearly caught up in
trouble with a scheme
that colleague MOLLY
WESTALL devised. Molly
glamorises her father,
who died in Newgate
where he was
imprisoned for running
confidence tricks.
Molly one day turns up
at No. 4 and blackmails
Clementine into helping
her with another scam
she and her beau SILAS
have concocted.
After William
encounters Clementine
one day while on his
Westminster beat, the
pair become friendly and
an attraction grows
between them – until he
lets slip that his mother’s
first husband was named
Westall . . .
stood at the back
of the garden of
No. 4, half hidden
by trees. Her mind
raced and she felt sick.
Over the heads of the
Peel children playing on the
grass, she watched William
Grant’s figure disappear
round the house. William,
the man with whom she
knew she was in love.
For the past half hour, he
had been talking to her so
sweetly and so earnestly.
She had even allowed
herself to think that he
might declare himself right
there and then.
If he had spoken of love,
she would have fallen into
his arms, never mind what
stern Miss Everett would
say if she’d happened to
look out of her window on
the second floor.
But then, as William
talked and she let her eyes
luxuriate in his face, he had
said a name. Westall. It
was Molly’s name – the
surname of Clementine’s
so-called friend who had
nearly landed them both in
a prison cell for fraud.
It was also the name of
Molly’s father, that
feckless, arrogant excuse
for a confidence trickster
whom Molly worshipped as
a hero.
It had been a passing
comment for William, that
John Westall was the first
husband of William’s
mother, but Clementine
was as certain as she could
be that this John was
Molly’s father, and that
Molly was William’s halfsister. The coincidence was
too great for anything else.
She knew that he had a
sister, but not Molly! Oh,
how happiness could turn
on a pin head!
Clementine reran their
conversations in her mind.
William had told the story
of his mother’s first
marriage, calling it a
He’d spoken of his
mother’s first husband as a
master criminal, and now
Clementine recalled his
sarcastic tone and the way
he had been unable to hide
how much he despised
“Miss Clementine.”
The sound of a deep
voice jolted her out of her
thoughts, and she looked
up to see coachman Griff
Jones striding across the
“Oh, it’s you, Griff,” she
said, straightening her
shoulders. “How can I help
Griff’s head was turning
one way and then the
other, looking down the
side of the house then back
at Clementine.
“There was a man here,”
he said.
“Yes,” she said. “That’s
right. He is a policeman,
“Is something amiss?”
Griff asked.
She watched him scan
the garden for the children
and count them. He
reached five.
“No, nothing amiss,
Griff,” Clementine replied.
“He was one of them men
from Bow Street,” Griff
He was frowning, and
with a sinking of her heart
Clementine realised that he
was jealous.
“Yes, that’s right. He was
from the Runners,” she
Clementine did not need
the added complication of
a jealous man. She was
miserable enough.
But Griff had something
else to say.
“You spoke about the
new pair of horses for the
stables?” he said,
brightening a little. “Mr
Peel himself has agreed the
purchase from this friend of
Clementine froze. She
had spoken to Griff about
new horses. How she
regretted that now!
Molly had called at No. 4
and persuaded Clementine
to help in the wild scheme.
Molly had sworn that
Clementine’s part in it
would be entirely innocent.
With Clementine’s
encouragement, Griff would
order a new pair of
carriage horses from a
company started up by
Silas and Molly.
The horses would be
delivered and this would
give Molly and Silas a
legitimate order to show off
on their orders book and in
their advertising.
With the endorsement of
the Home Secretary himself
they would attract other
wealthy purchasers, take
their deposits, and vanish
with the proceeds.
In the end Molly had
done more than cajole; she
had threatened, in her
wheedling way.
She had suggested that if
Clementine felt unable to
help with this favour, then
it might be necessary to
recall Clementine’s part in
the laundry scam, and
mention it to the police.
Clementine had said
she’d consider it. It had
been a relief just to get rid
of Molly, and for some days
she’d tried to forget her.
But Molly’s face kept
coming back to Clementine.
So, nervous of what she
might do, Clementine had
taken a deep breath and
had gone to the stable,
where she had mentioned a
new company of horse
merchants to Griff.
“If you’re ever told to buy
stock,” she’d said, edging
away even as she spoke, “I
can provide a name.” The
word “reputable” had
hovered on her lips, but
she could not speak it.
“Now, it’s an odd thing,”
Griff replied. “The steward
and I were in conversation
about that.
“Mrs Peel’s carriage will
not do once the baby
comes, and the new
carriage I’ve got my eye on
will warrant a new and
larger pair.”
“That’s for you to decide,”
Clementine said.
““We might make a visit
together to see them, Miss
Denny,” Griff said,
“Of course,” Clementine
had finished, “these things
cannot be hurried. Mr Peel
may not agree the
And now, here in the
garden, Griff was informing
her that Molly’s plan was
She wanted to weep.
Now there was no hope of
calling back the man she
loved, no prospect of
finding a way for them to
be together.
When Molly’s plan began
to bind the Peel household
in its tendrils, Clementine’s
association with William
would more than likely
bring William trouble.
Of course, he was already
at risk, having Molly for a
sister, but if it were known
that he also knew the
Peels’ nursery maid who
had assisted in the scam,
then his career would be
“Clemmie! Clemmie!”
Frederick was running
across the grass. “Come
and tell Robert that he is
an ass!”
“Hush, Fred,” Clementine
police were ever to link
Molly with Clementine, that
would certainly bring him
Silas and Molly would
doubtless be discovered in
the end, then Molly would
be unlikely to spare
Clementine again and save
her from taint. Then the
connection would take the
Runners straight to William!
A few of the staff at No. 4,
Whitehall Gardens were
already aware of the
attachment between
Clementine and William.
Even little Julia, always
listening at doors, had
asked questions about the
nice man (as she referred to
William) who had come to
Clementine watched the
little boys trying to hit
shuttlecock with battledore,
and Julia tapping imaginary
shoulders as she surveyed
her imaginary troops.
The scene should have
Molly’s plan began to bind the
household in its tendrils
reprimanded. “You should
not say that about your
“He takes the quoits from
me and will not let me
play!” Frederick cried.
“Oh, you do try my
patience!” Clementine
When she glanced down,
little Fred looked stricken,
and she regretted her
harsh words.
“Let us go and sort it
out,” she said with a kinder
The boys calmed down,
the quoits were returned to
their box and the children
distracted with another
Clementine sat on a wall
and tried to think. William
must be protected. She
was as certain as she could
be that he did not know
about his half-sister’s
nefarious new scheme.
If he could be kept out of
this, and could later plead
ignorance of the affair of
the horses, he might be
Clementine knew that he
was of exemplary and
proven character, but if the
been idyllic – happy children
in a happy household. But
the Peels were unaware that
the young woman caring for
their children was miserable
and afraid.
She must immediately end
the association between
herself and William Grant,
and must avoid talking to
him, or about him. She had
to keep her distance from
William, and try to stop
Molly as well.
The latter might yet be
possible, though it would be
hard: Griff had looked
delighted at the plan for
buying new horses.
He would probably now
make it his life’s work to
please Clementine by buying
his blessed horses from the
most feckless horse traders
in all London, just because
she had suggested it!
Clementine picked up the
rope handle of the quoits
box and began to drag it
across the grass towards
the back door. It felt as
though it weighed half a ton.
She called to the children.
“It is time to be inside. It’s
getting cold.”
Her duties still had
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to be done, with or
without William Grant in
her life.
* * * *
In the home of William
and his mother Mariah,
things were not going well.
Mariah was fretting.
“It seems wicked to say
it,” she told her son, “but
Molly’s as slippery as an
eel, and though she tells
me nothing, I know
something is afoot.”
“Has she found work
yet?” William asked.
He was polishing his work
boots by the back door.
“Oh, she chatters on
about that,” Mariah said,
wiping mechanically back
and forth at the table
surface with a rag, though
it already shone. “She’s
vague. That lad of hers has
been here often, and they
sit in the alley behind the
house with their heads
“Don’t let her marry Silas
Browne, Mother,” William
said. “And I’d not refer to
him as a lad, nor Molly a
girl, both of them being
seven and twenty!”
Mariah laughed.
“You’re right on that
count, Will. She’s no
thought of marriage, you
know – she hasn’t got the
sense for that.”
Mariah looked at her
son’s back, encased in the
smooth black gabardine of
his uniform, and her mouth
twitched into a smile of
“I’m wondering if you’ve
any ideas in that direction
yourself, Will. I’ve seen you
gazing into the distance like
some lovesick boy.”
William didn’t turn round.
He didn’t want his mother
to see the strain on his
Since that day when
Clementine had sent him
away, just as though they
had no interest in each
other, his heart had been
twisted up with distress.
“Not me, Ma,” he said in
as light a tone as he could.
“Not yet.”
“Well, any young woman
would be lucky to have you,
a rising man of the
Runners, and set to be
preferred for Mr Peel’s new
force,” Mariah declared.
William could hear the
pleasure in her voice, and
the hope, and he closed his
eyes and gripped the shoe
The Peel name ought to
be a source of joy, but
Clementine had sent him
away, and he was wretched.
But William’s mother
quickly returned to the
topic of his half-sister Molly
and William knew why.
When Molly was brewing
trouble there was always an
atmosphere in the house
– a nagging anxiety that
mother and son both felt.
William remembered it
from his earliest days. Even
at age seven or eight he’d
been aware that his mother
was waiting up for Molly
during one of her long
absences, or that some new
friend of Molly’s was
frequenting the house.
He had looked up to
Molly then, and adored her,
but he’d known she was a
source of trouble. He had
learned to be good because
of it; a stable counterweight
to his half-sister’s unstable
At last Mariah stopped
rubbing at the table. She
picked up a tin of bread
dough that had been
proving by the grate, and
went out to the bake house
three or four streets away,
returning 20 minutes later.
“There’s a lot of loaves
waiting to bake,” she said,
“so I’m to go back after
dinner and fetch it.”
William was done
polishing now, too, and he
sat in a chair reading a
day-old edition of “The
Observer” newspaper. He
commonly borrowed it from
his superior officer at
Worship Street.
His mother wandered
round the tiny parlour,
unable to settle to
“Where is Molly?” William
Mariah turned round and
braced her arms against
the dresser.
“I wish I knew, Will. With
that man, I suppose,
cooking up something.”
“You think she’s foolish
enough to risk prison
She looked at him, her
lips pressed together.
“I thought of checking in
her box upstairs.”
Molly, like many young
women of the working
classes, owned a locked
box that was beneath her
bed, in which she kept
anything private. She
shared a bedchamber with
her mother, and privacy
was hard to achieve.
“I don’t know,” William
said quietly, but even as
the words left his lips he
knew they would look.
The key lay in the dresser
drawer, pushed to the back
behind cloths and pegs and
a broken embroidery frame
of Mariah’s.
Molly thought herself
very cunning, but she
wasn’t as clever as she
believed herself to be, and
both her brother and her
mother had long known
how to open her secret
They went up the stairs
together, treading softly
though Molly was not in the
house. They kneeled by the
bed and opened the box.
Inside were two letters to
Silas, misspelled and
ink-smudged but full of
passionate endearments.
The second was, in fact, a
fairer copy of the first, but
more flowery and with
more crossings-out.
“Oh, my child!” Mariah
cried. “She is a woman and
a little girl all at once!”
“At least she is true in her
affections,” William said.
Mariah gave a bitter
“Have you met the man? I
doubt he could read a
letter. It appears that she
did not send it.”
There was another sheet
of paper below, on which
were drawn four likenesses
of a gown, or possibly more
than one gown. It had huge
puffed sleeves and a
plunging neckline.
Beside the sketches was
a list of colours and fabrics.
But William had found
something else, something
which told him how Molly
planned to pay for the
imagined gowns.
Silently, he handed
another paper to his
mother, and together they
There wasn’t very much
to see, but what there was
– a note from Silas Browne
– told them all they needed
to know.
“Horses for the Peels,”
William whispered. He felt
his stomach turn over. “He’s
even proposed a bill of
advertisement, with Mr
Peel’s name emblazoned
across the top. They will get
enough orders to . . .
“Oh, Mother, they think
they can just run off with
the money and that nobody
will come after them!”
Neither of them spoke for
a minute. Before them on
the bed lay the key to
Molly’s box. Tied to its
bow-end was a faded scrap
of blue ribbon, its ends
“That’s her father’s
present to her,” Mariah
William had heard the
tale. John Westall had given
little enough to his wife or
his daughter while he lived
with them. Before they took
him away to prison, though,
he had given Molly a
“For your pretty hair,”
he’d said.
“He’d stolen it,” Mariah
had told William. “He’d
never have paid for such a
thing. Of course little Molly
loved it.”
William knew that both of
them were thinking of Molly
– her wrong-headed
enthusiasm, her
vulnerability, the way she
thought herself so bold and
brilliant when in truth she
was an ignorant child.
She was eager to build
castles in the air and to
have others tell her they
were strong and real and
The ribbon represented
all of it, decorating the key
to her secret box, given to
her by her hero,
representing nothing.
They didn’t hear Molly
enter the house, which was
unusual because she usually
tripped in, talking about
something or other, and
flung her outer clothes
about the place.
Later, William wondered
if, that day, she was
thoughtful for a change.
Perhaps she was going over
in her mind what she and
Silas would achieve.
Whatever kept her
movements quiet, she was
in the open bedroom
doorway and looking
at them before they
knew she was home.
“What d’you suppose
you’re doing?” she asked.
William and his mother
looked at one another.
Mariah spoke first.
“I am sorry, daughter, for
prying,” she said.
“I should think so!” Molly
hurried in and snatched the
key up. Her face was
turning pink.
Mariah stood up stiffly.
“But now it’s done, and
we have seen what you and
Silas Browne intend, all we
wish to do is stop you
getting into danger.”
“You know this scheme is
sure to fail?” William
added, standing, too.
Molly turned on him, two
hard pink spots glowing
livid on her cheeks.
“You mind your own
business, William Grant!”
she spat. “Do-gooder,
always sticking your
policeman’s beak in where
it’s not required! You’re
barely even my brother!”
Mariah raised a hand.
“Child, this language will
bring us no help. You have
to see –”
“I see very well,” Molly
interrupted. “I see Will
favoured ever since he was
a baby. I see him raised to
be the obedient, tedious
man he is!
“Well, there’s some of us
with more inside our heads.
Brother, if you want to
carry on until you’re in your
grave, earning ten guineas
a year and having nothing,
you keep on. I want more.
I’ve ambition, and so does
my Silas!”
William was furious. His
very job was at risk if she
kept on with the criminal
scheme he’d seen evidence
of. She didn’t have enough
brain to think of him!
But Mariah had both
hands raised now. She was
trying to calm Molly down
and could see her son’s
anger rising.
The strain that showed
on her face made him close
his mouth and clench his
fists, and in that second he
saw Molly again in all her
feebleness and needy
“She won’t be moved,” he
said quietly. “At least she’s
Molly misunderstood. In
her mind there was always
wonderful, courageous
“I am steadfast to my
man,” she said, her chin
waggling with selfrighteousness. “If you ever
get a girl, Will, you’ll see
what that sort of loyalty
He clenched his fists
“I must put away the boot
polish,” he said softly. “Let
us go, Mother.”
William had to work that
afternoon. As he walked
north towards Worship
Street he thought about his
He knew that the only
way to stop her would be to
give her up to the
authorities. Otherwise she
risked her own future as
well as his career, should
she manage to carry out
her plan.
Those recruiting for the
new Metropolitan Police
Force would never employ
a man tarnished by such
fraud and corruption, not
even a man who had sat in
the Home Secretary’s
He decided that Molly
must have a short, sharp
shock now, to save her in
the end.
Rain began to fall, and
William felt miserable. If he
turned his own sister in,
Clementine Denny would
hear about it, and that
would snuff out any spark
between them for ever, if
the spark was even still
William tipped his hat
forward and trudged on,
cold and wet.
* * * *
Clementine liked the
flower-arranging room at
No. 4, Whitehall Gardens
better than any other part
of the house. It was tiny
– barely six feet by eight
– and Mrs Peel had
laughed about it with
Clementine on another
“It’s the kind of room one
has in a proper country
house,” she had said, “but a
foolish luxury here in
London, though I don’t
know what else we’d do
with this cubby-hole.”
That day Mrs Peel had
asked Clementine to make
a vase up for Miss Everett.
The governess was confined
to bed with a cold in the
“Drayton Manor has a
flower room, though I
expect it’s full of cobwebs,”
Mrs Peel said.
“Drayton Manor,
ma’am?” Clementine
“That’s the Peel house in
Staffordshire. My husband’s
father, the baronet, still
lives there, watching it
crumble away, poor
“That house has every
room a country house could
wish for – one for the
removal of boots, one for
the preparation of fish for
dinner, one in which to beat
naughty children.”
“To beat nau –”
“That’s a joke,
Clementine!” Mrs Peel had
Lately she had regained
her energy, and had told
Clementine that when the
first few months of a
pregnancy had passed,
along with some of the
sickness, her spirits usually
“Well, this vase will do,”
Mrs Peel had said, stepping
back. “Take it up to Miss
Everett, if you please.”
Today there was a
different task, and
Clementine was pleased to
have it.
Miss Everett said that
nature was good for
children’s health, and as
the spring showed itself,
she had sent Clementine to
buy some flowers and to
add to the arrangements
from the garden.
“Nothing fancy,” Miss
Everett had said. “And
position the two vases out
of Frederick’s reach in the
nursery, for goodness’
So Clementine was
arranging flowers. She
knew that there would be a
few left over, and that
nobody would mind if she
took them to Dorcas.
Dorcas Barnes was a
friend from her laundry
days, and was only weeks
from her confinement.
Until two days ago
Dorcas had been stuck at
home with her disappointed
and hard-faced parents,
then Clementine’s mother
Bridget had declared that
Dorcas must come and stay
with them.
That evening Clementine
would wrap the leftover
blooms in a scrap of Mr
Peel’s used newspaper, well
dampened, and hurry home
in the hope of cheering
poor Dorcas. They both
needed cheering.
In a fit of extravagance
Mrs Peel had ordered a
special flower-arranging
pedestal to be installed in
the room. Clementine
enjoyed making the full
circuit of this pedestal,
checking her flower
arrangements from all
She knew that the
children would take no
interest, but still she took
the trouble.
Just as she was
completing the second
arrangement, Griff Jones
entered the room. His thick
hair was plastered down,
obviously with some care
taken as to his appearance,
and for once he had no
items of saddlery hanging
from his big shoulders.
He stood in the middle of
the room, taking up most of
its space.
He coughed.
“How are you?” he asked
“Well, thank you, Griff,”
Clementine replied.
She picked up the small
tray on which she had
placed the vases, meaning
to set off for the nursery,
but Griff stepped forward
and seized the tray, making
water spill over the tops of
the vases. He had a habit of
following her about and
trying to relieve her of
“The weather is clement,”
he said.
Clementine looked out of
the little window, and saw
rain falling on to the leaves
of a shrub.
“Not too cold, for March,
certainly,” she said, not
wanting to detain Griff.
He stood for a moment,
holding the tray, then
placed it carefully on the
sideboard beside him.
“Have you been able to
read any books lately that
you might recommend?” he
Griff’s Welsh accent,
normally prominent, had
almost vanished, and
Clementine sensed
something coming.
“I have not had time for
reading,” she replied.
Griff nodded gravely.
“I cannot help but see
that you are weighed down
by some trouble, Miss
Denny. Clementine.” He
raised his large right hand
and laid it dramatically on
his breast. “It pains me.”
He sounded like a
character from one of his
sentimental novels. Griff
was sometimes the butt of
jokes below stairs because
of the slim volumes he
carried about with him.
“I recommend ‘Evelina’,
by Mrs Burney,” he said. “A
well-made story and one
that makes the heart
He blushed.
“I mean, I know ladies
enjoy a story that touches
their emotions.”
Clementine eyed the tray
of vases. She ought to set
off for the nursery, but Griff
appeared to have forgotten
the tray.
“It has a heroine,” Griff
said, “called Evelina.”
“That seems logical,”
Clementine replied.
“A girl of purity and
inexperience, beset by the
perils of society life, and in
need of a protector.”
“A man’s highest duty is
towards the woman he
loves,” Griff declared.
She saw his Adam’s apple
leap up and down in his
thick, muscled neck, and
realised with horror that he
was about to declare
Before she could open
her mouth, he said, “The
scent of the flowers, and
your beauty, compel me to
“Griff.” Clementine tried
to get a word in, but he
wasn’t listening.
“I vow to love and protect
the woman I dare to call my
own,” he said, his eyes half
closed with the effort of
recalling the right words.
“For she is a delicate
Clementine’s heart sank.
The pedestal, standing
beside her, seemed to
mock her. He was putting
her right up there on it, like
some Grecian goddess.
He was a sweet, kind,
idiotic oaf, worshipping her.
Clementine thought of
William, and the real sparks
that had passed between
them, and the way they had
laughed together.
That was all over now,
and how painful it was! She
looked at Griff and knew
that he didn’t really love
her. He just thought he did.
Griff was – oh, no! –
about to get down on one
knee, when the door
opened quickly.
Miss Everett, who almost
never entered the smaller
rooms below stairs, gave
him a swift but steely stare
and fixed her eyes on
“A message came to the
nursery from your mother,”
Miss Everett said.
“She asks that you should
come because a Dorcas
Barnes is . . .” Miss Everett
looked uncomfortable.
“Well, her time is come.”
She coughed.
“You may have leave to
go.” Miss Everett sighed.
Clementine’s mind began
to work at top speed. If
Bridget was with Dorcas,
and Mrs Barnes was not
sent for, then a midwife
must be fetched, especially
if this infant was coming
before its time.
As Miss Everett glided
backwards out of the door,
Clementine turned to Griff,
whose left knee was still
slightly bent in preparation
for his declaration of
“Griff, go to Vauxhall
Gardens immediately and
find the red house on
St Oswald’s Place.
“Ask for Mrs Jessman
and have her come to
Bridget Denny’s in
Walworth. She’ll know the
name and the address.”
Griff was staring at her.
“Vauxhall?” he said.
“Yes. I will go to my
mother’s, but the midwife
charges extra for finding
her own way to a birthing,
so do this for me, will you?”
Griff seemed unable to
take in the facts.
“Go to Vauxhall and fetch
Mrs Jessman? How?”
“Don’t tell me that you
can’t get yourself on a
horse, Griff. Go! Dorcas is
going to have her baby!”
To be concluded.
From the manse
by Maggie Ingall.
APPY New Year – and
may it bring you health,
happiness and plenty of
“What’s that?” you mutter.
“Health and happiness sound
lovely, but – mistakes? No,
thank you very much!”
Well, I have to admit that it
is not something that I might
have wished you last year, but
since then I’ve been reading
some thoughts of author Neil
“I hope that in this year to
come you make mistakes,” he
writes. “Because if you are
making mistakes then you are
making new things, learning,
living, pushing yourself,
changing yourself, changing
your world. You’re doing
things you’ve never done
before and, more importantly,
you’re Doing Something.”
Too often we stand back
from life, watching events
from the wings for fear of
stepping forward. After all,
no-one wants to get it wrong.
But it is a shame that we
allow such considerations to
stand in the way of taking the
chance of Doing Something.
When my friend Jan was
asked to give a talk on cake
icing, she was so nervous
about potential mishaps that
she fell over her words,
making mistake after mistake,
until at last an absurd
spoonerism started her
laughing in spite of herself.
Which allowed her
audience to join in, releasing
the tension, and creating a
connection in a way that any
immaculately delivered
speech could never have
And that in turn gave her
the confidence to go ahead
and start running regular
classes – never forgetting to
reassure her students that
every blunder is just another
step on the path to
For the thing about making
mistakes is that we learn
through them, and we grow
through them. Our lives are
expanded and enriched.
But of course, there are
mistakes which don’t just
affect ourselves – and they, I
suspect, are more difficult to
deal with.
When John, without
thinking, passed on a piece of
harmful gossip, he was
appalled when he realised
what he’d done. But how to
put things right?
In the end there was
nothing to do but make a
genuine and heartfelt
apology. That, too, was
painful, but it did much to
repair the situation.
And then there are the
mistakes we made perhaps
long ago, have regretted ever
since, and from which we
often feel we can’t move on.
But if we can forgive others,
then surely it is wrong to
withhold that act of generosity
from ourselves? We all of us
make mistakes; it’s part of
being human and, as long as
we can learn from them,
there is no point in clinging to
guilt and gloom.
When we learn to be kind
to ourselves we are
reinforcing our ability to be
kind to others. Negatives can
always become positives if
we only allow them to.
Which is why, as you can
see, this New Year I have
decided to embrace Neil
Gaiman’s philosophy.
Mistakes are what allow us
to connect with each other, to
sympathise and empathise
with each other, and to laugh
at ourselves. So once again I
take this chance to wish you
good health, much happiness
– and as many mistakes as
you like! n
Next week: David
McLaughlan tells us
beauty is for sharing.
Ever fancied
running a
bookshop? Dawn Geddes discovers
one you can run on your holidays . . .
Photographs courtesy of Jessica Fox.
OR book lovers
around the world,
running a bookshop
sounds like the most
magical job
imaginable. But, with so
many things to consider,
including premises, stock
and the small matter of
making a living, it’s no
wonder that so few people
take the leap into the
But, luckily for us, thirtyfour-year-old author and
film director Jessica Fox has
come up with a solution to
fulfil all of our dreams – a
bookshop that you can run
on holiday.
The Open Book is situated
in Wigtown, Scotland’s
National Book Town, which
is home to a string of
bookshops and its very own
literary festival.
When Jessica Fox first
visited the Dumfries and
Galloway town ten years
ago, she was looking for
something more than just a
day trip. She was searching
for an alternative life.
“I was spending my days
in traffic commuting to my
job as a storyteller for NASA
in California, before staying
up at night writing films. It
was an incredible life, but I
guess I either got really
burnt out or the heat finally
got to me, because I started
Following Her Dreams
Travelling thousands
of miles to Wigtown has
influenced Jessica’s life
in many ways. Her
Jessica and Shaun.
journey from NASA
storyteller to bookseller
inspired her to write the
memoir “Three Things
You Need to Know
About Rockets” in which
she documents falling in
love with the town and
bookshop owner and
“The Diary Of A
Bookseller” author
Shaun Bythell.
“I think we all harbour
a secret desire inside of
us,” Jessica says. “I
wanted to be the kind of
person that followed
Jessica has bookings
well into 2020!
having these visions of a
bookshop by the sea in
“I could see the bell above
the door, the dust on the
books, the rain outside my
window-pane. I could even
picture myself inside the
shop, all cosy in a woolly
Inspired by these dreams,
Jessica began looking online
for bookshops by the sea in
Scotland. The first place that
came up was Wigtown.
“I saw that it was a town
of about nine hundred
people and sixteen
bookshops right by the sea
and I thought, surely one of
them would let me stay and
work there while I was on
I e-mailed the first one I
could find, which was called
the Bookshop, and asked
them if they ever hosted
people. I heard right back
from the owner.
“He told me that he didn’t
need any help, but said that
I’d be welcome to come
and stay there as his guest
while the book festival was
on. I booked my ticket!”
As soon as Jessica arrived
she was bowled over by the
town’s beauty.
“I came over and I had an
absolute ball! Wigtown is
just so incredibly beautiful.
It’s just such a magical,
charming, genuine, fun and
warm place to be.
“I fell in love with the
town and the bookshop
owner – who is also all
those things as well, and
ended up staying for good!”
It’s been a buzzing
place since its first day.
Meet The Bookshop Band
Former Open Book
hosts Ben Please and
Bethany Porter, from
Bristol, adored their
time as booksellers.
The couple, who
write and perform
songs inspired by
books under the
name the Bookshop
Band, used their stay
to channel their love
of music books.
“We created a
display in the
window using all the
music books that we
could find,” Ben says.
“We even used our
instruments as props!
It was such an
“Running the shop
really made us feel
part of the
“We made so many
friends that we
actually ended up
moving here earlier
this year!”
Jessica became an integral
part of the town’s
community and the
Wigtown Book Festival
When the literature event
started to explore ways of
raising money for the
festival, Jessica came up
with a winning idea,
inspired by her own journey.
“When I suggested the
Open Book, I’m sure the
whole of Wigtown thought it
was a really wacky
“But there is just
something about the idea
of running a bookshop
which is so compelling.
“I totally understand it,
because it was my dream
as well. I knew that I was
probably the only one crazy
enough to come over here
and give up their life
permanently – but trying
the life out for a few weeks
is the next best thing.”
During their stay, hosts
are encouraged to make
the Open Book their own.
They can reorganise the
shop, change the opening
times and order stock,
before retiring up to the
shop’s living quarters after
a hard day of selling books.
“When new hosts arrive
to begin their stay, they are
given a guided tour around
the property, information
on how to record sales and
are shown how to work the
Open Book blog, where
they can record their
bookshop journey. After
that, it’s all down to them.
“They have complete
autonomy over the shop,”
Jessica explains. “They can
expand or completely get
rid of whole sections. They
can open the shop for
twenty-four hours a day or
just one hour.
“We want it to really be
their bookshop. One of the
best parts of the experience
is that the Wigtown
community help to make
the hosts feel at home.
“They’ll pop in with gifts
of home-made shortbread
and invite them down to
the local pub. It’s all part of
the fun!”
Now in its fifth year of
running, the Open Book
has proved to be incredibly
popular with wannabe
bookshop owners.
Bookings are taken
through the organisation’s
Airbnb page and all the
money raised goes back
into the Wigtown Book
Currently, the shop is
booked out until October
2020, although Jessica
says that they do
sometimes advertise
cancellations on their
Facebook page.
“It has been wildly
popular, which is just
amazing! We’ve had
people travelling to us
from all over the world
including places like Japan,
Australia and Alaska!
“We get a real mix of
people staying, from
bookaholics who just want
to read all day long to
people who just want to
experience running a
bookshop by the sea in
Scotland. People just love
trying out a different life
for a while and discovering
what it feels like.” n
Want to know more?
Visit for booking
information, or read blog posts written by “The Open
Book” at
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my garden
Notes from
Photographs by Alexandra Campbell and iStock.
Still Time
For Tulips
You’ll be surprised to
hear that you really can
still plant tulips for this
spring. Monty Don
recently recalled the
Gardeners’ World tulip
planting trials several
years ago.
November and
December are the very
best months for planting
tulips, but early January
was also “fine” (Monty’s
word). By early February,
it’s too late, but that still
gives you a couple of
weeks to get those
tulips in (although
there’ll be a very limited
supply of bulbs for sale).
Alexandra Campbell
plans to expand her
knowledge in 2018.
Y New Year’s
resolution: learn
something new
Scientific tests on the brain
have shown that learning
activates or reactivates
neurons in the brain,
reducing mental ageing.
And if you love gardening,
there is always something
new to learn.
Taking a day out is
probably the most fun, and
you’ll find garden and
garden-related workshops at
all the RHS gardens
Courses range from “What
Now? Your Garden in
Winter”, hedge-laying and
apple pruning to
photographing gardens,
making your own beauty
products and felt-making.
The National Trust and the
National Trust for Scotland
( do a
similar range of workshops,
ranging from pruning and
lawn care workshops to
craft sessions and botanical
Several “great” gardens do
courses and workshops, too.
It can add a wonderful
dimension to a garden visit.
I can highly recommend
Behind The Scenes at Great
Dixter (
uk), a two-hour session held
once a month.
Since Christopher Lloyd
died, Great Dixter has been
set up as a Trust which
trains, teaches and
experiments in domesticscale gardening.
So it’s an exceptionally
good garden for courses,
but if you can’t get to East
Sussex, there will be talks
and workshops at a “great”
garden near you.
And many garden centres
now do workshops, too, so
check what’s available
locally. The advantage to
doing a workshop or short
course near where you live
is that the teacher probably
lives near, too.
If they do, they’ll be
gardening in the same
weather and soil. So it’s a
good opportunity to ask an
expert about any problems
you’re experiencing.
Most courses and
workshops are fairly small
and friendly, with 12 to 16
people being a typical class.
And, of course, gardening
clubs and horticultural
societies have a wonderful
range of great garden
speakers, so if you don’t
belong to your local club,
perhaps 2018 is the year to
But there is also another
option. Learning online has
changed so much in the
past few years. Doing a new
course is now accessible for
us all, provided that you use
e-mail. Online courses are
typically delivered weekly by
Do You
Grow Fruit?
To Chit Or
Not To Chit?
“Chitting” is exposing
the potato tuber to light
for around six weeks
before planting. It starts to
sprout, allegedly giving
you a bigger, earlier
Bob Flowerdew of
“Gardeners’ Question
Time”, however, says
chitting is unnecessary,
especially for maincrop
potatoes. The picture is
clearer for “early” potatoes
– chitting is probably
And in my unscientific
experience, my earlies
have been better when I’ve
From end Jan/early Feb
onwards, place potatoes in
an egg box in a light,
frost-free place.
Or you can call them up at
any time, logging in with a
password. You learn from a
combination of videos
(watched on your computer,
phone or tablet) and written
lessons, which can be
printed out.
Many online courses also
have Facebook groups
where you can post
questions, or ask for
opinions on your work, so it
helps if you use Facebook.
But it’s not absolutely
necessary. If, however, you
don’t use either e-mail or
Facebook, you could always
pair up with someone who
does, such as a family
member or a friend.
They could print lessons
out – and it would be fun
doing the course together.
In gardening, Learning
With Experts (www.
offers courses on food and
drink, floristry and
photography as well as
Courses include
“Gardening for Wildlife”,
Now is the time to prune
apple, pear, crab-apple,
quince and medlar trees,
raspberries, all currant
bushes and gooseberries.
But don’t prune cherry
trees – they must be
pruned in June.
Your fruit trees and
bushes would also
appreciate a nice thick
layer of enriching compost
or mulch spread around
on top of their roots. Fruit
tree roots don’t spread
very far, so this means
immediately around the
tree to around two to
three feet away.
“Gardening in the Shade”,
“Container Gardening” and
many more, as well as
official RHS and garden
design qualifications.
The course teachers are
well-known industry experts,
including big names like
contemporary garden
designers Piet Oudolf.
I’m doing the garden
photography course taught
by photographer Clive
Nichols. I’ve found it
excellent. Prices for online
courses range from about
£70 upwards, but keep an
eye out for offers.
There are also individual
teachers who run short
introductory free courses so
that you can decide whether
you like their style before
paying for the full course.
I’ve done several of these,
including Flowerstart by Julie
Davies, an online flower
arranging course (www.
So here’s to a fascinating
2018, revitalising both our
gardens and our brains! n
Visit Alexandra’s blog online at
Time To Paint?
Now that the garden is looking bare, it’s time to
think about painting sheds, storage units, fences and
more (it might be worth waiting for better weather,
but it’s a good time to start thinking about it).
Outdoor paints have hugely improved in the past
few years, and you can now choose from a huge
range of colours. And paint does help preserve wood,
so painting your shed a pretty colour isn’t just an
The first thing I’ve noticed from friends with
stylish gardens is that they pick one colour or two
harmonising colours and then stick with that theme.
If they have chosen duck egg blue as “their colour”,
they will paint the fence, the shed, the bike store and
everything else with the same paint.
I’ve seen this in a bleached, slightly distressed
white, and also B&Q’s Anthracite (blue-grey). There’s
so much going on in a garden in terms of colour, with
flower colours, greenery and sky, it makes sense to
keep to one colour or theme to stop it looking messy.
We decided to paint everything the same colour as
the back and front door. It’s Black Blue by Farrow &
Ball, so it’s quite dark, but it disappears against the
Do remember that colours can look paler outside
than in. This is very noticeable with mid-tones – a
mid-blue inside will look quite pastel outside, so do
use testers.
Calendar and
Diary 2018
Our calendar and diary
feature delightful watercolour
images from “The People’s
Friend” magazine. Buy both
in this money-saving pack
and enjoy the “Friend” all
year round!
To order simply choose
from the following options:
0800 318 846
(UK Landlines only) Lines open 8am- 6pm, Mon-Fri
or 9am-5pm, Saturday. Overseas customers,
please call +44 1382 575580
BY POST: Complete the order form with your credit card details or cheque/postal order made payable
to DC Thomson and send to “The People’s Friend” Calendar & Diary Offer,
DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766, Haywards Heath RH16 9GF
Calendar and
Diary Offer
“The People’s Friend” Calendar and Diary Pack 2018
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or email, please tick here
telephone, please tick here
©DC Thomson & Co Ltd 2017
Send this order form to: “The People’s Friend” Calendar & Diary, DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766, Haywards Heath RH16 9GF
believe it?
Would you
Got a question? Get in touch through e-mail or *write to
“The People’s Friend”, 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ.
Big Ben will still bong to herald 2018. It was
decided that, although work being carried
out on the famous London landmark has
put Big Ben out of action, it should be brought
back into use for important national events, such
as the New Year. Big Ben first sounded in 1859
and the renovation work is scheduled to be
completed by 2021.
of men aged
twenty and
thirty-four still live in
their parents’ home.
I always get confused
over the fate of each of
Henry VIII’s six wives.
Can you remind me of the
rhyme to help me remember?
Miss A.B., Manchester.
The first two verses are:
“Did you not hear my lady
Go down the garden singing
Blackbird and thrush were silent
To hear the alleys ringing . . .
The line that will help
you remember is
“Divorced, beheaded,
died, divorced, beheaded,
survived”. Henry’s wives
respectively were: Catherine
of Aragon; Anne Boleyn; Jane
Seymour; Anne of Cleves;
Kathryn Howard and Katherine
Oh, saw you not my lady
Out in the garden there
Shaming the rose and lily
For she is twice as fair.”
Something we didn’t
know last week...
Fireworks lighting up the sky is a
traditional part of our New Year
celebrations, but some countries adopt a
different approach to welcoming
January 1. In Denmark, it’s customary to
break a plate on your best friend’s
doorstep, while in Brazil, revellers tuck
into a bowl of lentils to boost their
chances of a lucky New Year. Romanians
take a more proactive approach to
ensuring good luck by dressing up as
bears and chasing away evil spirits!
*Please do not send an SAE as we cannot give personal replies.
is the amount, on
average, parents
spent on each of
their children this
I’m due to celebrate the New Year in
London and want to know if Big Ben,
currently silenced due to restoration of the
clock tower, will ring out for 2018?
Mrs A.G., Fife.
Can you remind me of some of the words
to the poignant song “Silent Worship”?
Many years ago my sister and I heard the
late, great Scottish singer, Kenneth McKellar,
sing this at the Sydney Town Hall.
Miss W.B., Australia.
– how much
Loony Dookers
will pay this year to take
part in the annual New
Year’s Day swim in the
bitterly cold River Forth.
of New Year
fail, with
80% not even lasting
until February!
2007 and 2018
share the same
calendar! So don’t worry
if you don’t have a new
calendar – just reuse
your 2007 one!
Craft Kits
These stunning, winter scene craft kits
are the perfect project for the longer
winter nights. The long stitch kits are
available in two designs, Winter Cottage
and Winter Garden, each measuring
9½ x 6¾ inches (24 x 17 cms), and
include 14 count printed canvas,
tapestry wool, needle and easy to follow
Winterbourne Farm Cross Stitch LY256
Winter Cottage Long Stitch PF408
Winterbourne Farm is completed in cross
stitch, measures 7 x 6¾ inches (20 x17
cms) and contains 16 count aida fabric,
pre-sorted DMC stranded cotton, needle,
chart and instructions.
The stunning Bronte Parsonage kit is
part of a heritage collection and will add
some traditional charm to your home.
Worked in cross stitch the completed
picture measures 7 x 6 inches (18 x
15cms) approximately and contains 14
count Aida, pre-sorted and carded thread,
needle and easy to follow instructions.
Winter Garden Long Stitch LY178
Name ...................................................................................
Address ...............................................................................
Postcode ..........................................
Telephone .........................................................................
Email Address ..................................................................
PF408 Winter Cottage Long Stitcg
LY178 Winter Garden Long Stitch
LY256 Winterbourne Farm Cross Stitch
PF259 Bronte Parsonage Cross Stitch
Total Cost Of Order
I enclose a cheque/postal order, made payable to DC Thomson & Co. Ltd for the
total amount of £ .................... (Please write your name and address on the
back of your cheque.) If you are ordering by Credit Card please complete the
Maestro/Delta/MasterCard / Visa (delete as necessary)
Start Date : ........ /........ Expiry Date: ........ /........ Issue No: …….… (maestro only)
Card No ..........................................................................................................................
Cardholders Signature .........................................................................................
Name on Card ......................................................................................................
DC Thomson & Co. Ltd and its group companies would like to contact you about new
products, services and offers we think may be of interest to you. If you’d like to hear from
us by post, please tick here q telephone, please tick here q or email, please tick here q
From time to time, carefully chosen partner businesses would like to contact you with
relevant offers. If you’d like to hear from partner businesses for this purpose please tick
here q Offer closes 28.02.18. Offer open to UK readers only and is subject to availability.
Please allow up to 28 days for delivery.
Bronte Parsonage Cross Stitch PF259
0800 318846 and quote appropriate code
Lines open Mon-Sun, 8a.m.-9p.m., free from UK landlines.
Complete the order form with your credit card details or
cheque/postal order made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd and send to:
“The People’s Friend” Winter Craft
Offer, DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766,
Haywards Heath RH16 9GF
Beat the chills
with our longer
length tunic
which is worked
in a modern
variegated yarn.
Photography by Ally Stuart,
Hair and make-up by Linda Wilson.
Photographed at Rufflets Hotel, St Andrews:
To fit sizes:
81/86 cm (32/34 ins),
91/97 (36/38),
102/107 (40/42),
112/117 (44/46),
122/127 (48/50),
132/137 (52/54).
Actual size:
102 cm (40 ins), 112 (44),
122 (48), 132 (51),
142 (56), 152 (60).
Length: 63cm (25 ins),
63 (25), 65 (25½), 65
(25½), 66 (26), 66 (26).
Sleeve seam: 46 cm
(18 ins).
5 (6, 6, 7, 7, 8) 100-gram
balls of Sirdar Imagination
Chunky (shade Moonriver
0004). One pair each
5.5 mm (No. 5) and
6.5 mm (No. 3) knitting
needles; a cable needle;
stitch-holders. For yarn
stockists telephone
01924 371501 or visit
14 sts and 19 rows to
10 cm measured over rev st-st
using 6.5 mm needles.
Alt – alternate;
beg – beginning; CB – slip
next st on cable needle to
back of work, K1, now P1 from
cable needle; CF – slip next st
on cable needle to front of
work, P1, now K1 from cable
needle; C3B – slip next 3 sts
on cable needle to back of
work, K4, now K3 from cable
needle; C4F – slip next 4 sts
on cable needle to front of
work, K3, now K4 from cable
needle; CRF – slip next st on
cable needle to front of work,
K1, K1 from cable needle;
dec – decrease;
foll – following;
inc – increase; K – knit;
P – purl; rem – remain;
rep – repeat;
st(s) – stitch(es);
st-st – stocking-stitch (knit 1
row, purl 1 row);
tog – together.
Important Note
Directions are given for six
sizes. Figures in brackets refer
to the five larger sizes. Figures
in square brackets [ ] refer to
all sizes and are worked the
number of times stated. When
writing to us with your queries,
you must enclose a stamped,
addressed envelope if you
would like a reply.
Lattice Panel
(worked over 14 sts)
1st row – P6, CRF, P6.
2nd row – K6, P2, K6.
3rd row – P5, CB, CF, P5.
4th and every foll alt row
– Work across 14 sts, knitting
all knit sts and purling all purl
sts as they present, thus 4th
row will be: K5, P1, K2, P1, K5.
5th row – P4, CB, P2, CF, P4.
7th row – P3, CB, P4, CF, P3.
9th row – P2, [CB, CF,
P2] twice.
11th row – P1, [CB, P2,
CF] twice, P1.
13th row – CB, P4, CRF, P4,
15th row – [CF, P3,
CB] twice.
17th row – P1, CF, P1, CB,
P2, CF, P1, CB, P1.
19th row – P2, slip next st on
cable needle to front of work,
P2, now K1 from cable
needle, P4, slip next 2 sts on
cable needle to back of work,
K1, now P2 from cable
21st row – P4, CF, P2, CB,
23rd row – P5, CF, CB, P5.
24th row – K6, P2, K6.
These 24 rows form lattice
With 5.5 mm needles, cast on
80 (86, 94, 100, 108,
114) sts evenly.
Foundation row – P9, [K7
(8, 9, 10, 12, 13), P1] twice,
K14 (15, 17, 18, 18, 19),
P2, K14 (15, 17, 18, 18, 19),
[P1, K7 (8, 9, 10, 12,
13)] twice, P9.
Change to 6.5 mm needles
and pattern:
1st row (right-side) – K9,
[P7 (8, 9, 10, 12, 13),
K1] twice, P8 (9, 11, 12, 12,
13), work 1st row of lattice
panel, P8 (9, 11, 12, 12, 13),
[K1, P7 (8, 9, 10, 12,
13)] twice, K9.
2nd row – K2, P7, [K7 (8, 9,
10, 12, 13), P1] twice, K8 (9,
11, 12, 12, 13), work 2nd row
of lattice panel, K8 (9, 11, 12,
12, 13), [P1, K7 (8, 9, 10, 12,
13)] twice, P7, K2.
3rd to 10th rows – Rep 1st
and 2nd rows 4 times but
working 3rd to 10th rows of
11th row – K2, C4F, [P7 (8,
9, 10, 12, 13), K1] twice, P8
(9, 11, 12, 12, 13), work 11th
row of panel, P8 (9, 11, 12,
12, 13), [K1, P7 (8, 9, 10, 12,
13)] twice, C3B, K2.
12th row – As 2nd but
working 12th row of panel.
13th to 22nd rows – Rep
1st and 2nd rows 5 times but
working 13th to 22nd rows of
23rd row – As 11th row but
working 23rd row of panel.
24th row – As 2nd row but
working 24th row of panel.
These 24 rows set the pattern.
Continue in pattern until work
measures 63 (63, 65, 65, 66,
66) cm from beg, ending after
wrong-side row.
Shape shoulders – Cast off
7 (8, 9, 9, 10, 11) sts loosely
at beg of next 6 rows, then 7
(6, 7, 9, 9, 9) sts at beg of
next 2 rows – 24 (26, 26, 28,
30, 30) sts.
Slip rem sts on a stitch-holder
and leave.
Work as back until front
measures 12 (12, 14, 14, 16,
16) rows less than back up to
start of shoulder shaping,
ending after a wrong-side row.
Shape neck – Work across
31 (33, 37, 39, 42, 45) sts,
turn and continue on this
group of sts for left side of
Dec 1 st at neck edge on next
3 rows – 28 (30, 34, 36, 39,
42) sts.
Work 8 (8, 10, 10, 12,
12) rows straight, ending at
side edge.
Shape shoulder – Cast off 7
(8, 9, 9, 10, 11) sts loosely at
beg of next row and the 2 foll
alt rows – 7 (6, 7, 9, 9, 9) sts.
Work 1 row. Cast off.
With right-side facing, slip next
18 (20, 20, 22, 24, 24) sts
(centre sts) on a stitch-holder
and leave.
Neatly rejoin yarn to rem 31
(33, 37, 39, 42, 45) sts and
work to end of row.
Complete left side as right
side but working 1 row more
before shaping shoulder.
Note: Commence at top
With 6.5 mm needles, cast on
54 (58, 62, 68, 72, 76) sts.
Beg with a knit row for right
side, work 6 rows in st-st.
Next row (dec row) – K2,
K2tog, knit until 4 sts rem,
K2tog, K2.
Continue in st-st working dec
row on every foll 6th (6th,
6th, 4th, 4th, 4th) row until
38 (40, 48, 48, 36, 42) sts
rem, then on every foll 6th
(4th, 4th, 4th, alt, alt) row
until 28 (28, 30, 30, 32,
34) sts rem.
Work a few rows straight until
sleeve measures 44 cm at
centre, ending after a knit row.
Change to 5.5 mm needles
and knit 4 rows.
Cast off loosely knitways.
Join left shoulder.
Neckband – With 5.5 mm
needles and right side facing,
knit across 24 (26, 26, 28,
30, 30) sts from back neck,
pick up and knit 15 (15, 16,
16, 17, 17) sts evenly down
left side of front neck, knit
across 18 (20, 20, 22, 24,
24) sts from front neck, finally
pick up and knit 15 (15, 16,
16, 17, 17) sts from right side
of neck – 72 (76, 78, 82, 88,
88) sts.
Change to 6.5 mm needles.
Next row – Knit.
Next 2 rows – Purl.
Change to 5.5 mm needles
and work 7 rows in K1, P1 rib.
Next 2 rows – Purl.
Cast off evenly knitways.
To Make Up – Join right
shoulder and neckband. Stitch
cast-on edge of sleeves to
upper sections of back and
front. Join side and sleeve
seams. n
Next week: make a set of découpage tiles
Inside next week’s issue
Our cover feature:
Willie Shand takes a winter
drive from historic Selkirk
l Find out
how you can
win a special
trip to visit
the “Friend”
l Delicious
dishes to
warm you
up on
winter days
On sale
7 short stories
l Polly
Pullar makes
another visit
to the
Never miss The People’s Friend again, with a subscription from our shop.
Visit or call 0800 318846.
A new
Special on
sale every
3 weeks! now
Available to buy from all good
newsagents and supermarkets
You can also take out
a subscription – call
0800 318846 or visit
Location, Location
It seems you just need to find the right place
to set up home in order to thrive. One story
that warmed our hearts was the success of a
project to reintroduce red squirrels to the
north-west Highlands.
The reduction of their native woodlands,
disease and competition from the grey squirrel
were having a devastating effect on the
species. Now, however, Trees for Life, the
conservation charity behind the Red Squirrel
Reintroduction Project, say red squirrels have
naturally expanded in the areas where they’ve
been released.
The squirrels were captured from donor sites
across Highland and Moray, where
populations are flourishing, and given specially
built nests in their new location. It’s hoped the
the project will continue to expand.
Reasons to be
We celebrate some of the
high points of 2017.
Unlikely Friendship
Judy Murray has almost
single-handedly put Scottish
tennis on the map and,
through sheer grit and
determination, has helped
pave the way for her own
sons to become Wimbledon
winners, ranked among the
highest in the world.
This lady has a real
passion for encouraging girls
to take up sport, too,
creating Miss-Hits in a bid to
attract more girls into tennis.
She’s deservedly earned
herself an OBE in the
Queen’s Birthday Honours
for services to tennis,
women in sport, and charity.
Royal gongs have become
something of a tradition in
the Murray household –
Jamie was made an OBE
last year and Andy was
knighted in the New Year’s
Honours List.
When a kitten was abandoned in a London garden, it
was rushed to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to be given
the care it needed.
Fostered by dedicated
Battersea vet nurse
Megan Goldring, the
kitten received round the
clock care, being handfed every two hours.
The kitten, named Ava,
adapted well to her
surroundings, spending
much of her time in the
clinic office, and it was
here that she met Barney
the Labrador.
He took it upon
himself to kittensit –
snuggling up to Ava and
watching her every move
to make sure she was
OK. Barney had
previously had his own
happy ending, being
adopted by head nurse
Rachel Ab’dee.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
An Ace Lady
Who can forget that moment when
London Marathon runner Matthew Rees
stopped to help a fellow participant
who was struggling to complete the 26
miles with only about 300 metres to go?
It looked like David Wyeth’s race was
over as his legs buckled under him.
Matthew saw his anguish and made the
selfless decision to stop his own race
and go to David’s aid, physically
supporting him while uttering words of
encouragement every step of the way to
the finish line, which they crossed
arm-in-arm. The moment was captured
on camera – and melted the heart of
the nation.
The Humane Race
A Royal Romance
Press Association.
One piece of recent news which grabbed the
attention of people around the world was the
announcement of the engagement between
Prince Harry and his American girlfriend Meghan
The romance blossomed from a blind date and
culminated in Prince Harry proposing 16 months
into their relationship, after they’d cooked a roast
chicken dinner together.
In a BBC interview Prince Harry said, “The fact
that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly
quickly was sort of confirmation to me that
everything, all the stars were aligned, everything
was just perfect,” adding that his beautiful
bride-to-be “literally tripped and fell into my life; I
fell into her life.”
Meghan has met the Queen and, of course, the
royal corgis. Of the latter, Prince Harry quipped,
“I’ve spent the last thirty-three years being barked
at; this one walks in, absolutely nothing . . .”
Meghan, who starred in the American drama
series “Suits”, is expected to step down from her
acting career. But if ever a Hollywood film were to
be made, surely their romance is a script that
would write itself.
The couple are expected to wed next spring.
Noel Hawkins.
If you’ve ever visited Ullapool,
you’ll know what a stunningly
beautiful place it is. However,
items washed up on Dun Canna
beach were blighting the natural
beauty spot, with everything from
fishing ropes to domestic
containers making an appearance.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s
Living Seas Community Officer,
Noel Hawkins, had the idea of a
self-service cleaning station
complete with bin bags and litter
pickers, so people could
“volunteer” to do a bit of a
clean-up while enjoying the area.
Incredibly, 130 kilograms of
litter was collected in one month
Tide Of
Illustration by Philip Crabb.
O, Amy, was last
night as special as
you hoped it’d be?”
My friend’s brown
eyes twinkled.
Della and I had always
told each other everything
– ever since we met at ten
years old.
We were very different
characters; Mum had
always said we were like
chalk and cheese. Della’s
response to that was that
she was the cheese because
sometimes she smelled a
bit funny. Vivacious, with a
witty sense of humour,
Della could brighten up the
dullest moment.
I was like chalk, too, in a
way. Reserved and quiet,
sometimes I felt a bit pale
beside my lively best friend.
“Come on, what
happened with you and
Toby?” Della nudged me.
I tried to smile but picked
up my pillow and hugged it
We were sitting on the
bed in my room. Many
hours we had spent there,
talking about school, then
college, eventually
university. We’d discussed
the meaning of life and
after that talked about
crushes and boys and,
finally, men.
“I told him I loved him.”
“Really?” Della swivelled
round to face me. “About
time. What did he say?”
“Thank you.”
“Excuse me?”
I turned to look at Della
and sighed.
“He said thank you. I
suppose I took him by
“By surprise?” Della
grabbed the other pillow
and gave it a thump.
“You’ve been together a
year now.”
“I know.” I groaned.
“I don’t understand it.”
Della frowned. “He must
love you.”
“Why? Just because we
have lots in common, have
shared amazing moments,
and even finish each other’s
sentences doesn’t mean he
must love me.”
Della gave me a stern
“Amy . . .”
I flopped back on to the
“Perhaps he doesn’t feel
the same as me.”
“What made you say the
three special words?”
I smiled dreamily.
“We were holding hands,
looking out to sea and he’d
just been saying how much
he was looking forward to
spending New Year’s Eve
with me. Something inside
me melted and the words
just emerged.”
Della sat up.
“And then he said, ‘Thank
I wrinkled my nose as I
“No. He looked away and
there was silence. Then he
mumbled, ‘Thank you’ and
I said it was time for me to
go home.”
“Crikey,” Della said. “I
would have felt mortified.”
“Thanks,” I said, playfully
hitting her with my pillow.
“That’s why I wanted to go
We lay on the bed,
Amy had caught him by surprise,
and now Toby knew he had to
make things right . . .
“Della,” I said slowly. “If
he can’t say I love you after
all this time together, what
future do we have?”
* * * *
“I always thought you two
would be together for
ever.” Darren peered at me
over his pint, then glanced
down at his newspaper.
“Did you hear about that
fire in town?”
I frowned.
“Forget the fire. Why
won’t we be together for
“Toby.” Darren adjusted
his glasses and took a sip of
his pint.
I waited impatiently. He
had this habit of taking a
while to answer a question.
He’d always been like
this, since we were eight
years old. Our teachers
used to get infuriated.
Tonight, his composure
was maddening. For last
night my girlfriend had
finally said she loved me.
It had been wonderful,
the way she gazed at me,
her eyes so soft and gentle.
I was about to kiss her
lovely lips when she said
the three little words.
And I opened my mouth
and said . . .
“Thank you.” Darren
shook his head
despairingly. “You said
thank you.”
I nodded dismally. It was
New Year’s Eve tomorrow
and Amy and I had planned
to spend it together.
Now I had ruined
“Wrong response, I
know,” I said.
“You think?”
I put my head in my
“I’ll never forget her
“Horrified or just
I reflected. The moment
had felt so special. We’d
been looking out to sea,
holding hands.
I’d just said how I
couldn’t wait to spend our
second New Year together
and that 2018 was going to
be wonderful, with so much
to look forward to.
Amy had looked at me,
then, quietly, she had said,
“I love you.”
It had been more than
disappointment in her face.
I’d hurt her.
“What future do we have
if I can’t even say that I
love her?”
“Do you?” Darren took
another sip of his pint.
“Of course. I think I fell
in love with her the
first time I saw her.”
“Then why didn’t you
say that last night?”
“I don’t know!” I
groaned. “I was
overwhelmed, caught off
“Well, I have some advice
for you, using my wide
experience with
Darren had only had one
girlfriend but they’d grown
“And that is?”
“Tell her,” he said
earnestly. “Tell her soon,
before it’s too late.”
“OK.” I said slowly as my
phone beeped in my
pocket. “But why would it
be too late?”
I pulled out my mobile
and read the text message.
“What is it?” Darren
“Amy’s going to a New
Year’s Eve party tomorrow
“Without you?”
I nodded disconsolately.
What had happened to our
Had I blown it?
I looked at Darren.
“What if it’s already too
* * * *
“Wow!” Della gazed at
me approvingly. “You look
I twirled in front of her.
“You don’t think the
dress is a bit short?” I
asked with concern. “Ouch,
these shoes pinch my feet.”
Della swept past me. She
was wearing a purple
ensemble which consisted
of a sequinned gypsy top
and a long skirt. I knew she
would attract attention. I
wasn’t so sure I wanted the
same, though.
“The dress is the perfect
length to complement your
perfect figure.”
I frowned.
“You mean I’m showing
too much leg.”
Della chuckled.
“If you’ve got it, flaunt
What was I doing? It was
New Year’s Eve and I was
about to go to a party
without the man I loved.
The man I loved, whom I
wasn’t sure loved me.
“You’re doing the right
thing,” Della said, seeing
my expression. “A little bit
of independence doesn’t
harm anyone.”
I grimaced as I took a few
steps to the table to grab
my handbag. These shoes
really were too high.
“But it’s New Year,” I
said plaintively.
“You’ve told him you are
going, haven’t you?” Della
said patiently. “It’s up to
him to join you.”
It was true. Toby and I
had had a short
conversation on the phone
and I’d told him I was going
to a New Year’s Eve party
with Della. He’d asked why,
and I just said I thought it
was for the best. But he
knew where Della and I
would be in town.
“He didn’t say he’d
come,” I said quietly.
Della looked at me
“He knows what he needs
to do and, hopefully, what
he should say.”
Moments passed.
“OK,” I said with more
determination than I felt.
“Let’s party!”
The truth of the matter
was, the last thing I wanted
to do was celebrate. I
couldn’t wait for New
Year’s Eve to be over.
* * * *
“This isn’t happening.” I
rested my aching head
against the car seat.
My watch said it was
under an hour to midnight.
Darren and I were stranded
at the side of the road, and
I wasn’t likely to get to Amy
in time to see in the New
“I’m afraid it is,” my best
friend said as he thumped
the steering wheel with
despair. “Why did Bertha
have to pack up now? I had
the evening planned out.”
I turned to him.
“I thought you were
spending New Year with
your parents?”
“Right. I was going to
drop you at that party and
head over to see my
“No, you weren’t.”
I could tell he wasn’t
being honest.
We stared at each other
and it was then that I
“You weren’t just doing
me a favour by offering to
drive me. You want to see
Della, don’t you?”
He looked sheepish.
“I knew it!” I folded my
arms. “How long have you
liked her? Not that long,
“I don’t.”
“Don’t what?”
“I don’t like her,” he said,
his expression serious. “I
love her.”
I burst out laughing.
“Don’t be daft!”
Darren sighed.
“I thought you did motor
mechanics at college.”
“I thought you did,” I
“We’re just going to have
to wait for breakdown to
turn up, which will be for
ever with it being New
Silence descended.
“You love Della? How do
you know?” I asked my best
friend quietly.
I watched as his eyes
became dreamy. I’d never
seen him like this before,
yet I’d known him most of
my life.
“Do you remember,
about six months ago,
when I bumped into you
and Amy and Della was
with you? She and I had a
chat. And that was that.”
“That was what?”
“I also fell in love at first
I shook my head.
“But you and Della
haven’t seen each other
since, have you?”
“No,” Darren admitted.
“But we have been talking
– e-mail, text, Whatsapp,
you name it. We’ve told
each other everything.”
“What makes you
convinced you are in love
with her?”
Darren smiled.
“I think about her as soon
as I wake up. I think about
her last thing at night. My
future is with her. To me,
she is the perfect woman. I
can’t imagine my life
without her.”
“And tonight you were
finally going to tell her?” I
asked, suddenly in awe of
my best friend. How had he
kept this a secret?
“I was. I was waiting until
she was ready. She’s been
hurt before, that’s why we
hadn’t met up. I wanted to
time it right. Tonight
seemed perfect.”
Listening to my friend, I
realised that everything he
said I felt as well, for Amy.
And we were running out
of time!
“Why are we still here?”
Darren looked at me
“We’ll never make it in
“We will, if we run!”
* * * *
It was two minutes to
midnight. The party was
lively and loud yet my eyes
kept straying to the door.
Why hadn’t Toby come?
He could have made the
effort, been romantic, seen
it as an opportunity.
“You’re still hoping Toby
will come, aren’t you?”
Della appeared at my side
and followed my eyes to
the door.
I nodded miserably.
“I hoped . . .”
“I know what you mean
about hope. I haven’t said
anything, but there’s
someone I’ve been talking
to for a while.
“I didn’t know whether
anything was going to come
of it, so I’ve kept it a
secret. But I have to admit,
I did wonder if he would
come tonight.”
I dragged my eyes away
from the door as the
countdown to midnight
At that moment, the door
swung open and Della
I turned round and there
in the doorway, breathless,
accompanied by his best
friend, was Toby.
* * * *
“Nine! Eight! Seven!”
“From the moment I first
met you, I knew.” Toby was
gazing down at Amy.
“Six! Five! Four!”
Amy was transfixed by
the expression in his green
“Three! Two . . .!”
“I love you.”
A cheer went up in the
room as the clock struck 12
and everyone started
dancing and kissing one
But right in the middle of
it all, oblivious to the
celebrations, two couples
had eyes only for each
other. n
Enter the answers in the direction indicated by the arrows.
Shining in
the dark
Soccer foul
in judo
And so
brewed beer
forth (2,6)
Folded (4,4)
Kept a
date with
Come clean
Travels on
a horse
Tax refund
Get an
Hit high
and its
‘I’ve seen
this before’
feeling (4,2)
Beginning with the highlighted letter, follow a continuous path
to find all the floristry-related words. The trail passes through
each and every letter once, and may twist up, down or sideways,
but never diagonally.
All puzzles © Puzzler Media Ltd
Take your “Friend” with you,
wherever you go.
Available on your PC, tablet and mobile
with promotion code
It’s time for
the Ryemouth
residents to
celebrate New
E sent her a
diamond ring,
you know,” Mary
George folded the
page of the TV magazine
where he was planning his
New Year’s Eve viewing.
“Who did?” he asked,
barely looking up.
“That bloke Ruby met on
the internet,” Mary told
him. “She said a diamond
ring turned up by special
courier on Christmas Eve,
with a note from him
declaring his undying love.”
George took his
highlighter pen and started
swiping it across the titles
of three films he wanted to
“Must have cost a
fortune,” he muttered.
“She said he’s been
giving her bother, too,”
Mary continued.
This time George glanced
over at Mary, who was
sitting on the sofa, peeling
a tangerine.
“Phoning her at all hours
and texting her,” she
explained. “By all accounts
he’s a bit of a nuisance.”
“What’s Ruby up to
tonight?” George asked.
Mary popped a segment
of fruit into her mouth.
“She’s still got Beryl and
Pearl with her until next
week,” she replied. “I told
her that you and I were
staying in this New Year if
they wanted to pop round.”
George frowned.
“I was looking forward to
a quiet night, love. Just the
two of us with a glass of
brandy at midnight.”
He picked up the TV
“I’ve got all these films to
watch. After all the bother
with the flood at the Old
Engine Room last week,
and helping Dave and
Susan clean it up over the
last few days –”
“Don’t worry, love,” Mary
interrupted. “Ruby said she
was taking her aunts to the
Ship to see in the New Year
there. So it’s just you and
me tonight.”
George waved his pen.
“And three smashing
* * * *
At the Ship, Sam was
busy restocking the crisps
behind the bar. Claire was
trying to serve two
customers at once and Big
Jim was nervously checking
his watch while pulling a
pint for Bob Lewin.
“What time’s he due in?”
Bob whispered.
“Any minute,” Jim replied.
“How will you recognise
him?” Bob asked.
Jim leaned across the bar
so as not to be overheard.
“Ruby said he’s tall,
dark-haired and heavy set.”
“Doesn’t sound like
anyone from round here,”
Bob said, shaking his head.
“I’ll know him when I see
him,” Jim said menacingly.
“He’s going to regret ever
meeting Ruby.”
“What’s the plan?” Bob
Jim passed Bob his pint
across the bar.
“I haven’t exactly got
one,” he admitted. “But I’ll
figure it out. All we’ve got
to do is put the frighteners
on the bloke to make him
leave Ruby alone.”
“And he thinks he’s
coming in here to meet
Ruby for the New Year’s
Eve party, is that right?”
Jim nodded.
“So,” Bob began, sipping
his pint, “instead of Ruby,
he meets you? And you’re
going to scare him off?”
Jim nodded.
“After he’s gone, I’ve to
ring Ruby and she and her
aunts will walk down to the
pub for the party.”
“What if he turns a bit
rough, this fella, when you
try to scare him off? What
if he starts using his fists?”
Jim smiled.
“That’s where my years of
being a landlord come in
handy. Back in the shipyard
days I used to break up
fights in here almost every
Friday night.”
“I remember,” Bob
replied as he turned away.
“But if you need me you
know where I’ll be.”
Just as Bob sat down, a
tall, dark-haired man
walked up to the bar. From
his seat, Bob took in the
height of him, noting his
broad shoulders under a
black coat.
Behind the bar, Jim
engaged the man in
conversation, polite at first,
and Bob heard the man
ask if Ruby was in.
Jim glanced over towards
Bob and gave a sharp nod.
Bob watched as he led the
stranger through to the
back room of the pub.
After a few minutes, both
of them returned. Jim went
back to work, pulling pints
for his customers with a
smile. But the stranger
headed for the exit with a
worried look on his face.
Buster followed, growling
at his every step until he’d
walked out the door.
* * * *
“What did you say to
him?” Ruby asked. “I hope
you didn’t threaten him?”
Jim shook his head.
“Mike was waiting in the
back room, too. We all care
about you, Ruby, and when
I told Mike what had been
going on, he wanted to
help. We had a few words
with your internet date. I
don’t think we’ll be seeing
him around here again, if
he knows what’s good for
Ruby breathed a sigh of
“Let me buy you a drink,
Jim. It’s the least I can do.”
Jim shook his head.
“No, it’s on the house.
Let’s raise a toast to the
New Year.”
Ruby raised her glass.
“The New Year!”
* * * *
Watching from the corner
of the pub were Ruby’s
aunts, Beryl and Pearl.
“Never mind toasting the
New Year,” Pearl whispered
to her sister. “I reckon our
Ruby’s got a new fella!”
More next week.
Daring Rescue
Worn out after all
the festive fun?
Our lovely dog Lola
loves the hustle
and bustle of
Christmas with our
many visitors, but I
think she’s glad it’s
all over for another
Mr D.P.,
Write to us at Between Friends, “The People’s Friend”,
2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ, or e-mail us at
Star Letter
I came across this old photograph
the other day and it brought back
some lovely memories.
The pram I know is unique, as my
husband Charles had to make it
especially for our family. At the
time the photo was taken in the
1950s my eldest son Colin was just
two-and-a-half years old and he’s
pictured with his triplet brothers
– Ray, Allan and Dennis.
Talk about having your hands full
– I’m now ninety-one years old and
wonder how on earth I managed!
Mrs J.P., Loughborough.
Our Star Letter will receive a Dean’s all-butter shortbread tin worth
£13.69 RRP. Consume as part of a balanced diet.
All other printed UK letters will win one of our famous tea caddies
and a pack of loose tea. Our friends from overseas will receive an
alternative gift of a pen.
I enjoyed reading the article
about Grace Darling and her
daring rescue.
Australia, too, had a similar
Grace Bussell lived on a farm
near Cape Leeuwin, in Western
Australia. One day, in
September 1876, a ship was
wrecked about eight miles
from the farm. The lifeboat was
lowered, but it leaked, and
eight people who had ventured
into it were drowned. The rest
of the passengers clung to
parts of the ship to stay afloat.
Though the shore was near,
no-one dared to try to swim for
it as the sea was too rough.
Fortunately, Grace and a
servant saw the vessel in
distress and they both rode on
horseback into the sea, coming
to the rescue of those clinging
to life. Their rescue efforts
saved many lives over the
space of four hours.
Grace and her brave servant
were awarded the Royal
Humane Society’s medal.
Mrs R.H., Australia.
Sweet Memories
Willie Shand’s article on the
Gordon and Durward traditional
sweet shop in Crieff made me
It is a shop we always visit
when in the area and I recall a
visit a number of years ago with
a very young daughter. We
were browsing through the
shop when we happened to
look through the window to the
rear where the “goodies” are
My daughter looked at me
and promptly asked where the
Oompa Loompas were – guess
which book she’d just finished
Incidentally, my absolute
favourite is the macaroon bar.
Mrs M.G., Bridge of Allan.
Poignant Story
What a lovely, poignant story
“In Remembrance” was.
I recently returned from Tyne
Cot Cemetery, Belgium, my
first visit to see the name and
burial plot of my great-uncle
William who died in 1918.
On Remembrance Day here,
your wonderful story kept
coming to mind as a fitting
tribute to all who have died for
our freedom and a better life.
Thank you.
Mrs P.S., Skipton.
My “Friend”
For A Good Cause
The Best
Present Ever
I thought I’d share this
lovely family picture – and can
assure readers no children
were harmed in the taking of
this as we had lots of soft
padding underneath the baby!
It shows Millie, who is four,
and Ted at just three days old.
I now have 12
grandchildren and 14 greatgrandchildren.
Mrs S.M., Rugby.
Here’s my handiwork,
showing items which I made to
donate to Cats Protection.
It’s such a worthy charity that
I like to help out, and what
better way than by knitting – a
hobby I thoroughly enjoy.
Mrs M.S., Brighouse.
The Charity Shop
Bric-à-brac and curtains, books and CDs, too,
Perfumed candles, toys galore, are waiting here for you.
Pretty dresses, tops and shoes, with handbags all to match,
Suits and jackets, ties and shirts, the bargains are a catch.
With eveningwear so elegant, the floating gowns supreme,
Please come and browse, dear customer, the prices are a
With each and every purchase, you will help a needy cause,
So do pop into our charity shop, all welcome through our
Ms K.E., Dorset.
The Happy
How lovely to see the
front cover of your
October 7 issue
featuring St Cyrus. It
brought back so many
happy memories of our
son’s wedding last year,
which took place at
Eskview Farm.
I thought you might
like to see one of the
photographs taken by
their wedding
photographer Lynda
Wilson. It shows the
viaduct over the River
Esk, and seeing the
picture in the “Friend” of
the same viaduct
reminded us of the
wonderful occasion of
James and Angela’s
Puzzle Solutions from page 23
Word Ladder
One answer is:
Jail, Sail, Said,
Sand, Band,
Bind, Bird.
Ms J.McS., Ipswich.
Lynda Wilson.
When I picked up a copy of
“The People’s Friend” while in a
waiting room a few years ago, I
didn’t think it would be the start
of such a beautiful friendship.
I now have a subscription
and whatever else is going on
around me I know I can always
look forward to it being
delivered every Saturday, when
I can lose myself in the
With such a great variety of
interesting, quality writing, I’m
never disappointed. Roll on
2018 and fresh copies of the
“Friend” to look forward to.
Ms B.S., Devon.
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