Authors: Susie Martyn
Tentative plans for the Hethecote Farm fund raising ball were made that weekend. The self-appointed committee of Antonia, Lizzie and Katie paid Miriam a visit on Saturday afternoon, and sitting in her large untidy kitchen outlined what they had in mind. A large black cat sat on the table near her, eying the others distrustfully.
‘This is Navajo,’ said Miriam stroking its head. The cat closed its eyes appreciatively, then slightly opened one which it fixed on Antonia.
‘Damned animal’s giving me the evils,’ she grumbled.
‘Oh, take no notice… he’s a sweetie,’ said Miriam and the cat looked smug. ‘One of Mrs Einstein’s actually…’
‘Really?’ Lizzie’s ears pricked up. ‘Funny – so is mine…’
‘Lord’s sakes,’ said Antonia impatiently. ‘Sod the cats. Can’t we talk about the ball? We just need to sell around two hundred tickets, for a black tie bash with live music, that should do it,’ she said. ‘We’ll get the Bozo Dog Doo Dah Band and give everyone loads of free champagne which we’ll find someone to sponsor, and then food… I was thinking some of William’s lamb or old Woodleigh’s beef…and then when they’ve had a skinful, we’ll hold the auction! It’ll be marvellous darlings!’
‘Maybe the children could grow the vegetables…’ said Miriam thoughtfully. ‘Oh dear, it does seem such a cheek to ask all these people
to put their hands in their pockets…’
‘Nonsense!’ said Antonia. ‘They can afford it! Anyway, giving money to charity is a tax dodge! All perfectly in order!’
‘You know, the people who buy tickets for these balls are the kind of people who always give money to charity,’ said Katie. ‘And Hethecote Farm is just as deserving as any of the others. You deserve it.’
somewhat overwhelmed at their show of support.
‘I don’t what I’d have done if you hadn’t driven up that day,’ she said to Lizzie, dabbing her eyes with a grubby handkerchief. ‘Anyway,’ she sneezed, ‘I’m more than happy to leave it to the three of you. You could always hold it here you know… in a marquee?’
Antonia opened her mouth to speak. ‘Actually…’ but Lizzie kicked her, and for once she shut up.
‘That’s so kind, Miriam, can we think about it?’
‘What on earth did you do that for?’ demanded Antonia. ‘I was only about to tell her that we couldn’t possibly hold a posh black-tie do on a clapped out old farm like Hethecote…’
Lizzie shook her head. ‘Exactly. Anyway, what would be so bad about it? The furthest part of the garden is just grass, and if you think about it, the house is quite imposing – from the outside, anyway. No-one needs to go inside, except the caterers. And getting the guests to come here would make them see the place. We could do tours! It might actually be quite a good idea…’
‘Miriam should auction Sid and Johnny…’ said Antonia thoughtfully.
‘Well, it’s the only possibility at the moment,’ said Katie sensibly. ‘Unless you’ve had a better idea?’
‘God. You’re both as barmy as Miriam. Let’s go to the pub.’ Antonia stalked off towards the car.
Tim was a surprisingly good host, Lizzie only feeling slightly like a gooseberry as she sat round his kitchen table with him and Katie. Katie however, seemed quite at home. Gone was the trademark black, replaced by some very tight jeans and a checked shirt and Tim couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her. At the end of the evening, Lizzie stood on tiptoes and kissed his stubbly cheek.
‘Thank you,’ she said and glanced at Katie. ‘I just need to check my mobile… I’ll er - see you in the car in a minute.’
Katie disappeared for the day on Sunday, having been swept off by a slightly bashful Tim, who promised to return her to the Star that evening, leaving Lizzie at a loose end. Deciding that she hadn’t seen Nola or Julia for at least a fortnight, on the spur of the moment she drove to Rumbleford.
‘Oh Lizzie, we were thinking about you!’ they said as they always did.
‘I suddenly thought I hadn’t seen you for ages! And Katie’s gone out for the day, so I thought I’d call in…if you’re not too busy?’
Nola took her hand, her green eyes gazing steadily into Lizzie’s. ‘Of course we’re not! And we’re always happy to see you, you know that! Come through to the back!’
‘I’m not sure why I’m here,’ confessed Lizzie. ‘I mean, we’re still getting together next week aren’t we? It just came into my head to come over here, so I did…’
‘You don’t need a reason, silly!’ teased Nola. ‘No-one does! We’re a shop! Now tea? Or coffee? And how are the plans for the Ball?’
‘Apart from the fairly major decision about where we’ll hold it, fine… We’ll sort it out. I suppose I ought to let Antonia choose, seeing as it was all her idea.’
‘So where’s Katie today?’ asked Nola.
‘Out!’ said Lizzie with a grin.
‘Ah - Tim?’
‘Of course! You guessed?’
‘Oh Lizzie. Some things are just so obvious!’
As Lizzie walked back to her car, she stopped in her tracks, not believing her eyes. Here he was
, coming along the pavement towards her - the stranger from the Old Goat.
‘Hello again! I still haven’t worked it out but I haven’t given up!’
‘Me neither,’ admitted Lizzie.
stood awkwardly for a moment, before he said, ‘you know, I’d ask you for a coffee, but unfortunately I have to be somewhere…’
‘Oh!’ said Lizzie startled. ‘Me too, actually…’
‘Better go then…’
Crossing paths with him always made Lizzie feel at odds. The rest of the day passed in a blur. Katie disappeared back to London and on the Monday evening, she had just made it home from Ginny’s before Mr Woodleigh started herding his cows down the lane. She’d become quite adept at avoiding the movement of livestock until now, but tonight however, it all went horribly wrong, as with his hand pressed hard on his horn, one of the rat-runners in a huge BMW came speeding up the road and slammed through the middle of the cattle.
Lizzie hadn’t been standing right there when it happened, she wouldn’t have believed it was possible. The cattle abandoned their orderly progression and started cantering all over the place bellowing their heads off, and over the top of all the commotion was this horrible, agonised sound.
Not knowing what
else to do, Lizzie got on her mobile to Antonia who promptly called Tim. The BMW driver was stalking around furiously making calls into his mobile, well and truly immobilised now that he’d driven into a cow. A grim-faced Tim arrived within minutes and quickly despatched the mutilated animal.
‘I’m leaving that cow for the police,’ he
said furiously. ‘It’s time those bastards did something.’
The driver marched over. ‘I’m suing,’ he announced angrily. ‘Hi
gh time someone taught those idiots a lesson. These bloody farmers think they own the place.’
‘I think you’ll find, sir, that they do,’ said Tim through gritted teeth. ‘And they’re not the idiots from where I’m standing.’
The driver rounded on him. ‘What did you just call me?’ he spluttered. But in the nick of time a police car turned up. Followed by another.
The driver pointed his finger at Tim. ‘I’ll have you…’ he said nastily.
‘Oh I doubt that,’ said Tim calmly. ‘I hope you’re insured, only the police are over there looking at the cow you just killed.’
The next day, peace was restored, at least temporarily. ‘Road closed – local traffic only’ signs were placed at either end of the lane. The only pity was it took a dead cow to do it. Two police arrived on Lizzie’s doorstep, a middle-aged village bobby and a younger one with twinkling eyes who looked slightly more on the ball and she told them everything she’d seen.
‘Was there, um, any
particular reason why the animals were being moved around so often?’ he asked. ‘Only, it seems there have been a number of complaints, though I have to say, not from anyone who lives here, about cattle and sheep on the road…’
He looked at
Lizzie most quizzically while the older one fiddled with his notebook.
‘Oh well, it’s the grass you se
e. There’s not very much about. If they don’t keep moving the animals, they escape and that’s even worse.’
The policemen just looked at
her. The other one scratched his head.
‘You see it’s odd,’
the younger one said, sounding puzzled. ‘Everyone we speak to says the same. Only, what I don’t get is it looks like there’s plenty of grass to me.’
was clearly not Lizzie’s lucky day, because shortly after their departure, there was another knock at her door.
‘Harriet,’ she told
her deadly seriously. ‘Armitage-Brown,’ she added in the same flat monotone. ‘Now I’ve been meaning to come round for ages, only I’m just so busy. I’m having a coffee morning. For charity. All the ladies in the village are coming. You’ll want to bring a cake. Don’t make a coffee one, they never sell and you better not put butter icing on it because I think people watch their cholesterol levels. I do, since I’ve been ill, my doctor says…’
rambled on and on delivering her tedious monologue until Lizzie’s eyes were glazing over. She was one of those people that didn’t stop to draw breath, and every time Lizzie tried to say something, she got louder. Having given up trying, Lizzie waited. And then Darren appeared. Sitting directly in front of Harriet, he started to cough, but in full swing by now, she ignored him. Darren, not used to being snubbed, gave Lizzie one of his winks, then proceeded to vomit up bits of mouse all over Harriet’s boot
There was silence – but not for long, as
Harriet stood saying ‘oh, oh dear…’ over and over as she stared unhappily at her boots.
Lizzie quickly hosed them clean,
but it was too much even for Harriet.
Oh, well I better let you get on, it looks as though you have rather a lot to do…’ she said, beating a hasty retreat down the path.
Lizzie bent down. ‘You are really are a superstar
,’ she said to her cat who was looking smug. As she stroked her hand along his back, which he arched with appreciation, Lizzie realised Harriet hadn’t even asked her name. Rubbing himself possessively around her legs, Darren was purring like a motorbike.
‘Has Harriet been to see you?’ Lizzie asked Antonia that evening.
‘Ghastly old trout turned up this morning,’ said Antonia conversationally. ‘I opened the door and there she was. Jolly bad
timing really, didn’t have a chance to escape so I told her one of the dogs had crapped in the kitchen. Seemed to do the trick. Did say she’d call some other time though…’ Antonia looked far from happy at the thought. ‘Nightmare.’
Darren threw up on her boots, but not before I’d been roped in to her next coffee morning.
you come with me?
? You can make cakes can’t you? It’s next Friday…’
‘Phew,’ said Antonia with relief. ‘Farrier’s coming. Love to darling, but I can’t.’
As luck would have it
they bumped into Darius and Angel at the Goat.
‘Boys, I need your help,’
Lizzie begged them. ‘Only I’ve just been signed up for the most tedious of all tedious coffee mornings,’ she wailed.
They looked at each other.
‘Oh dear no, not one of Harriet’s, sweetie?’ asked Angel looking dismayed.
‘You know her?’
‘Oh darling, we all know Happy Harry don’t we?’ said Darius with delight. ‘Rather well as it happens. Don’t worry, she lightens up when she’s had a few. We had her round for cocktails. Only the once mind.’ They looked at each other and giggled. ‘Doesn’t know when to stop! She got absolutely
, darlings…’ whispered Darius. ‘Had to send her home in a taxi…’