Authors: Jo Carnegie
Tags: #Chick-Lit, #Contemporary, #Drama, #Fiction, #Love Stories, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Romance, #Women's Fiction
Calypso took a slurp of tea. ‘Bin Laden.’
‘Only the director of
A Regency Playboy
! Wes Prince. He’s here doing a recce,’ Camilla added knowledgeably.
Calypso didn’t look as impressed as Camilla’d hoped, but then it took a lot to impress her. ‘Well, I’ve got a bit of news for you as well,’ Calypso said. ‘Someone from Seraphina Inc. called me this morning, they’ve asked me to put on a welcome party at the Jolly Boot.’
‘Wow,’ gasped Camilla. ‘That’s amazing!’
‘It is pretty cool,’ Calypso grinned. ‘Apparently I was recommended to them, which shows people are already talking about Scene Events. Seraphina want to put on a party to “integrate the crew and locals”. Show we’re all one big happy family.’ She giggled. ‘I reckon Granny Clem’s really got to them.’
‘Ooh, do you think Rafe Wolfe will turn up?’ Camilla asked excitedly.
Calypso pulled a face. ‘Hardly. It’s for the crew mainly, I can’t see a big star like him hobnobbing with the hoi polloi.’
Camilla sighed. ‘Shame. He’s utterly gorgeous.’
‘If you like that clean-cut look. He’s a bit “frat-boy” for me. I prefer someone with an edge.’ Sexually curious, Calypso’s last serious relationship had been with a rather gruff girl called Sam. Apart from the odd fling, she hadn’t been with anyone, male or female, since.
‘I was reading about his latest dalliance in OK! Some LA heiress called Daphne. He always has gorgeous girlfriends.’ Camilla sighed. ‘I loved his last film, I cried my eyes out at the end.’
Calypso rolled her eyes. ‘I can’t believe you buy into all that crap. Are you going to put those potatoes on – or just look at them all day?’
LIFE WENT ON
for the Churchminster residents, but there was a new frisson of excitement that not even getting through to the final of Britain’s Best Village had produced. On a grey April morning, after weeks of anticipation, the film crew finally rumbled into town. Stacey Turner, who had never got up early in her life, was out at dawn posing by the phone box in full make-up and push-up bra. Beryl, worried her daughter would catch her death in the early morning air, went out with a coat for her, only to be told in no uncertain terms to go away.
‘Leave it, mum!’ she said crossly. ‘How am I gonna get noticed with a full-length duffle coat on?’
Beryl gave up and went back in to make Jack his morning fry-up.
From 8 a.m. the first vehicles had appeared on the horizon. The village had never seen so many: huge articulated lorries, white trucks, what looked like a
mobile home. Clementine watched from her attic-room window as they manoeuvred through the village like a procession of metallic ants, towards Braithwaite Hall.
At least they’re out of sight for the moment
, she thought, dreading the day they would take over the whole village.
She eventually dragged herself away and went downstairs to make her morning cup of Earl Grey. She switched on the old-fashioned radio in the kitchen. The local newsreader was full of excitement about the goings on.
‘Usually, A-list celebrities like Tom Cruise or Angelina are only seen on the red carpet of Hollywood, but today the world of showbiz has come to the Cotswolds! Our intrepid reporter Abby Jarvis is in the picturesque village of Churchminster, which has been chosen as the location for costume drama film
A Regency Playboy.
Over to you, Abby, can you hear me?’
‘Loud and clear, Ray!’
‘Abby, can you describe the scene around you?’
‘I certainly can, Ray. Churchminster hit the headlines recently after it was revealed the village had made it through to the final of Britain’s Best Village competition, but today it’s more about glamour than garden gnomes. For the past few hours the cast and crew have been arriving in the village to start their ten-week shoot. We’ve certainly never seen the like of it before, Ray. I’ve just seen two Winnebagos go past, which I presume are for the two leading stars, Rafe Wolfe and Sophia Highforth. There goes a truck full of
equipment and, wait! Look at that! A lorry has just gone past with a life-sized pig strapped into the passenger seat! It’s wearing a baseball cap and seems to have some kind of frill round its neck!’
‘Abby, I noticed you mentioned the cast are expected to arrive today as well. Any sightings of the lead actors, Sophia Highforth or Rafe Wolfe?’
‘Indeed, Ray. A blacked-out Range Rover, reported to be carrying 30-year-old Hollywood star Rafe Wolfe, drove through the village earlier. It’s understood that while many of the cast and crew are staying at the Travelodge outside Bedlington, Rafe and his co-star Sophia are being put up in private accommodation during their stay here in the Cotswolds
‘Sophia can come and stay at my house if she wants, heh heh! What do the local residents make of these extraordinary happenings?’
‘Well Ray, standing with me is 22-year-old Stacey Turner, whose parents run the Jolly Boot public house. Stacey, I understand you’re a rather big fan of Rafe …’
As Stacey’s excited gabbling took over the airwaves, Clementine turned on to the more soothing tones of Radio 4. At least they’d mentioned the competition. It didn’t stop the trepidation that was mounting in her by the minute, though. Shaking her head, Clementine switched on the kettle.
Luckily the village green seemed to have escaped unscathed as Clementine took Errol Flynn for a walk later. The film crew had finally passed through, and
village was back to its relative quietness.
Suddenly, the Reverend came rushing out of the rectory. It was a square, rather gloomy building which stood a few hundred yards up the Bedlington Road. ‘G-good day to you, Mrs S-s-standington-Fulthrope!’
‘Ah, hello, Reverend,’ said Clementine. Much to the clergyman’s horror, Errol Flynn bounded up and shoved his nose in the Reverend’s crotch. ‘Errol! Get down,’ Clementine reprimanded, pulling him away. ‘I am sorry about that.’
Reverend Bellows backed away. He was scared of animals, which didn’t help his cause in a parish where every second person had dogs and horses. ‘I just saw you through the window. Did you see the p-procession earlier?’ he asked eagerly.
‘I did indeed.’
‘Joyce and I have watched all of S-S-Sophia and Rafe’s films, you know, we’re quite a p-pair of film buffs. Although Joyce did find Rafe’s last one a little violent for her tastes.’ His eyes twinkled. ‘B-between you and me, I quite enjoyed it!’
, thought Clementine,
even the vicar’s had his head turned
. She had expected more from a man of the cloth.
‘Joyce and I are going to put our names down to be extras,’ said Reverend Bellows.
Clementine arched an eyebrow. ‘My dear fellow, are you sure that’s entirely appropriate?’
Reverend Bellows’s face fell. ‘Oh. D-do you think it’s a bad idea?’
‘I’m sure I can rely on your good judgement to make the right decision.’
‘What do you think?’ he asked anxiously. ‘I don’t want to offend my p-p-arishioners.’
‘My good man, it really isn’t my place to tell you what to do,’ she solemnly informed him.
‘I s-s-suppose you’re right,’ he said glumly. ‘How will people take me s-s-seriously in the pulpit if they’ve seen me as a toothless vagrant? It’s not the right message to send out.’
‘I think you’ve made the right choice, Reverend,’ Clementine told him. Saying her goodbyes, she started to pull Errol Flynn back towards the village green. At the phone box by the crossroads, she noticed a funny little man standing smoking a cigarette. As she approached, he flashed an over-friendly smile and flicked the butt on the ground. Clementine took an immediate dislike to him.
‘Lovely day!’ he said. ‘I bet there’s lots of excitement, what with all these big stars arriving, and whatnot.’
‘I really wouldn’t know,’ Clementine said.
The man flashed stained teeth into what Clementine supposed was meant to be an ingratiating smile. ‘So where do you live, then?’
‘Not that it’s any of your business, but I live at Fairoaks. Just off the village green.’
The man’s smile had faltered momentarily, but came back on again. ‘So you’re a local!’ He walked over to her. Clementine caught a whiff of stale smoke. ‘I think you and me could come to some sort of business arrangement. I’m after any stories of Rafe and Sophia I
get. You could tip me off with any gossip you get, sightings, that sort of thing. I’d pay you well, of course. What do you think?’
‘What I think,’ said Clementine, ‘is that you should bugger off.’ And with that, she marched off towards the village shop. Tying up Errol outside, Clementine pushed open the door and went in.
Brenda was perched atop a rather precarious step-ladder, replenishing the top shelf.
‘Are you sure that’s safe?’ Clementine called up in alarm. ‘We can’t have you tumbling off and breaking your neck.’
Brenda climbed down. ‘Don’t you worry about me Mrs S-F, this thing’s as steady as a rock. If I landed on me head, I’d probably bounce, anyway!’ She dusted off her hands. ‘What can I get you?’
‘Is the new
Brenda winked. ‘Got your copy saved behind the counter.’
As Clementine went over to pay, Brenda started talking about that morning’s events. ‘Ooh, I was ever so excited, I can tell you! Got up early and put my Sunday best on to watch it all. Ted thought I was mad. “What you doing that for, woman?” he kept asking. And
said, “Well, that’s what you do, isn’t it?”’
‘I just bumped into an oily little reporter outside,’ Clementine said. ‘Asking all sorts of questions and trying to nose around.’
Brenda tried to look resigned. ‘Suppose we’ll have to get used to that now, what with us being a celebrity hot spot and everything.’
‘Oh dear, I think you’ve got us to blame for that,’ said a voice behind them. ‘Although once the initial excitement wears off, the press to tend to lose interest.’
Clementine looked round. A short, cheery faced woman was standing behind them. She was dressed in a fleece body warmer and sensible clothes, and had the ruddy complexion of someone who liked the outdoor life.
The woman smiled, rosy red cheeks creasing up. ‘Pam Viner. Assistant director on
A Regency Playboy
‘Ooh!’ breathed Brenda.
Pam twinkled at Clementine. ‘Is that your black Lab outside? We just met, what a friendly chap.’ Her face dropped slightly. ‘Lost mine a few months ago. Dudley had been with the family years, we were all devastated.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ said Clementine, meaning it. Maybe some of these film people weren’t so bad after all.
Pam seemed to read her thoughts. ‘We do all appreciate you letting us film here, especially with this competition coming up. Somebody told me your good news, congratulations!’ She looked at her watch, which was a child’s one with a picture of Scooby Doo on the face. ‘I must be on my way, only came in for a packet of Revels.’ She smiled conspiratorially. ‘Helps while away the hours. It’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks!’
‘You should try telling that to the rest of the village!’ Clementine laughed. Pam chuckled.
‘Well, it’s been very nice to meet you …’ She looked questioningly at Clementine.
‘Clementine,’ she answered. ‘Clementine Standington-Fulthrope.’
‘And I’m Brenda Briggs,’ Brenda added. She glanced at the packet of sweets in Pam’s hand. ‘Have those on the house.’
Pam looked delighted. ‘That really is very kind of you.’ She dug around in her handbag for something and produced a slightly bent business card. She gave it to Clementine.
Pam Viner, freelance
, said the swirly writing across it. ‘Take that, it’s got my number on it. Do give me a call if you have any worries or concerns about anything, and I’ll make sure they’re sorted out. I do know how film crews can seem like an imposition sometimes, but I want to assure you that we’ll do all we can to make sure there’ll be no disruption.’
‘That’s very kind of you,’ said Clementine, pleasantly surprised.
Pam’s eyes twinkled again. ‘A happy village makes for a happy film set! Anyway. I’m sure I’ll see you both around. Goodbye for now.’
The shop bell tinkled as the door open and closed again. Brenda let out a disappointed huff as a car engine started up and drove away.
‘Bit plain, wasn’t she? I thought she’d be in some kind of swanky power suit, her hair and make-up all done. She looked well, rather
‘Ordinary is good,’ Clementine replied briskly. Someone like Pam Viner could be a trump card to keep relations between the film crew and village as problem-free as possible. Pam seemed like one of them, and was just what they needed.
FRIDAY WAS THE
day of the eagerly anticipated welcome party at the Jolly Boot. All week Calypso had been haring round like a mad thing, making sure all was going to plan. Seraphina Inc. had provided a generous budget, and between her, Jack and Beryl they had made sure every penny was well spent.
There was a great feeling of expectant excitement in the village. Bar the odd lorry or people carrier, they hadn’t heard a peep out of the film crew since they’d been holed up at Braithwaite Hall. Everyone was looking forward to a knees-up, and meeting the cast and crew. The one question on everyone’s lips was, would Rafe Wolfe turn up?
At Clanfield Hall, Frances knocked on her husband’s study door. As well as spending many hours a day in their respective studies, the couple also had separate bedrooms. Ambrose had developed prostate problems some years back, and told Frances he didn’t
to disturb her in the night. Frances had suspected it was more of a pride thing and that he didn’t want to admit to growing old, but Ambrose had been so insistent, she hadn’t pushed it. Of course, it had been difficult for her. She still had her needs. Despite Ambrose’s growing crabbiness, Frances still found her noble-looking husband attractive. By contrast she felt Ambrose hadn’t looked at her that way in years. Sometimes Frances wondered why she bothered making the effort.