Last Tuesday, Jude D’Souza announced to the enthusiastic, but numerically sparse Speakeasy faithful that the next session would be the last and that the theme would be Mistakes (a note of unintended irony here?). This will be on Tuesday, 19th. December, kicking off at 8.30 in the Park Tavern with its excellent range of beers, though it ought perhaps to be renamed “The Last Chance Saloon”!
It would be great to send the Speakeasy off with a good turn out, so pop this in your diaries now!
Meanwhile, for this month’s theme of School, I had several old poems ready to air, but decided to revisit my first few tottering steps on education’s tightrope. Here’s what sprang to mind.
Mrs Ranby, Mrs Booth, Mrs Eales, Miss Hughes,
all warmly remembered, all urging us tots on
in the scramble for enlightenment,
up the ladder of education and out…
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Idris Bains drove eastward along the M56 towards Havenford. His mind was befuddled as a result of being woken at an unearthly hour by a phone call summoning him to a crime scene. This was confounded by a barrage from his wife about “not being dragged into that sort of thing again.”
It had been two years since he had resigned from the International Tech Crimes Agency to set up his own detective agency; the Idris Bains Agency for Rural Detections – IBARD. Security tagging sheep had been a radical change from the jet setting demands of the Tech Crimes Agency. A quiet life had been what he wanted – and what his beloved wife Leora had demanded. She was right; how could he be a father to their two daughters if he spent most of his time abroad.
But the unexpected call from the deputy Commissioner, Belinda Ballistrut, had intrigued him. She had demanded his presence as a matter of urgency.
As he crossed the River Bollin he realised two things. The first was that it was misty down by the water in the early morning light. The second was that he had missed his turn off.
He reached his destination nearly thirty minutes late. As he drove into the car park of the Laughing Luncher he saw a group of people outside the cafe with cameras. Reporters of course; but what were they doing here?
He had barely time to take two steps towards the cafe before the tall figure of Belinda Ballistrut burst through the reporters closely followed by an even taller young man.
“Get back in the car Bains,” she said and jumped in the passenger seat. The young man leapt into the back.
“Does this mean I’m going to miss breakfast,” said Idris.
“Drive, drive,” she shouted.
Idris did his best to leave the car park without running over any of the reporters as camera flashes blinded him.
“Oh B….,” said Ballistrut.
“I didn’t quite get that,” said Idris but was silenced by a glare from Ballistrut.
“Pull over in that lay-by and reverse in front of that HGV; with any luck the vultures with fly by us,” she said.
Idris did as commanded and then turned to Deputy Commissioner Ballistrut, “I expect you have a few things you want to tell me; like why I had to leave my nice warm bed at this unearthly hour? And why would you want the services of a rural detective when you have the entire resources of the police force at your disposal?”
“My thoughts exactly,” said the young man.
“Idris Bains, this is Detective Inspector Tom Walright,” said DC Ballistrut.
“And what were those reporters after anyway? What could be so news worthy to tempt them out this early?” said Idris.
“Show him the pictures,” she said.
Walright produced a tablet computer and handed it to Idris.
“You flip through the pictures and I’ll explain,” he said.
Idris viewed the picture of a man in his sixties lying face up in a muddy field. He was wearing a Barbour jacket and walking boots. A flat cap lay nearby. There was blood on the front of his head.
Walright said, “Frankie Drooge – successful businessman. Bought the mansion at Landshigh Grange and then moved here from down south. He was a very big donor to a certain political party. Found dead yesterday morning at seven by a dog walker.”
“Since he is lying on his back in a field with blood on his forehead I gather you suspect foul play,” said Idris.
“Blunt force trauma; and he didn’t trip and bang his head,” said Walright.
Idris swiped through the next few shots which displayed the same scene from various angles. One showed that the body lay within thirty feet of a standing stone.
Walright said, “It’s known locally as the dog stone.”
Idris said, “Something to do with Celtic legend I expect – a ghostly hound guarding the way to the underworld or something like that?”
“Yes, some such twoddle,” said Ballistrut, “but the point is that Mr Drooge is the only person who entered the field. Only his foot prints are evident in the mud – we’ve accounted for all the ‘SOCOs’ and ambulance men. And there’s no sign of anyone covering their tracks – the dogs would have picked that up.”
Idris scratched his head, “What about the person who found the body, surely their foot prints would be there somewhere?”
Walright leant over and changed the screen to the next picture, “We got a helicopter out yesterday afternoon and took these aerial shots. You can see that only Frank Drooge came anywhere near the dog stone – the dog walker who found the body did not leave the path; she called the police and then ran for help. We got here first and managed to secure the scene.”
“Well if you can go up in a helicopter then someone else could too – and drop something very heavy on top of Mr Frank Drooge,” said Idris.
Belinda Ballistrut shook her head, “Believe it or not we did think of that and no, there were no aircraft in the vicinity yesterday morning. And before you ask about unscheduled flights we checked with nearly every resident in the immediate area and nobody heard a helicopter yesterday – except ours in the afternoon.”
“I suppose if something had been dropped on the victim it would be still lying in the mud. There’s more isn’t there; I can tell you are dying to tell me something else just to make the crime unsolvable,” said Idris.
Tom Walright changed to the next picture, “yes there’s more; here have a look at the top of the stone.”
Idris didn’t have to look too closely, “It appears to be blood. Whose is it, or need I ask?”
Ballistrut said, “Its Frankie Drooge’s blood – the lab confirmed it last night.”
“But he is a good thirty feet from the stone and there are no prints in the mud between it and the body.”
“Exactly, that’s why we’ve decided to get you involved – by the way your name has gone all the way to the top and I mean the top. Don’t let me down Idris and don’t take too long to solve this little problem,” she said.
Idris couldn’t say anything. He felt his voice might squeak if he did. What he wanted to blurt out was “Why me?”
Tom Walright was smiling.
Our writing group has always been a mix of covert jealousy and overt distrust. Why the library continues to let us have access to one of their meeting rooms each week, God alone knows. The snarling, the shouting, the vitriol that no doubt pass through the walls into the lending and reading areas must cause no end of distress to the book borrowers of our peace-loving town. It’s not been unknown for the library staff to step in and prevent a concerned public-spirited citizen from phoning the police or the ambulance service. “It’s just a bunch of amateur writers,” they will say, “Nothing to be concerned about. Not as bad as it sounds. Blood rarely drawn. Nothing that we can’t address with our own in-house first aid kit.” Later on the cleaners will gather together the ripped up sheets of paper, broken pencils, sharpened paper clips and clumps of human…
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The latest piece from Patrick.
Our eyes met across the crowded room.
Later, at the dinner table, I saw she was seated two places from me. I turned and said, “Hello.”
Afterwards we chanced to meet in the orangery. “It must be fate,” I said.
She said, “I think you should know I don’t like cricket.”
I made my excuses and left.
Anyone for Tennyson (de la Mare, Keats, Hardy, Browning….) ?
Wimbledon fortnight’s halfway through.
You shift uneasily in your chair.
You sip and savour your homemade brew,
Mull over the puzzle why we’re not there.
No cautious tap at the window pane ;
No knock at the door at the midnight hour ;
No muffled whisper pierces the rain
As squall is followed by shower.
But you suddenly think of a call at the door,
Too soft, and you lift your head :-
“Did they come and no one answered,
Did they keep their word ?” you said.
Or what unveiled a night-time drama,
A stone or nail caused tyre to ping
And in the blizzard made you brake ?
– Yet no ’phones ring !
The covers are on. The grass grows lush.
The ball girls in bed are relaxing,
Counting pigeons regaling the hush,
Which Barker and Wade find so taxing.
For this is the weather Des Lynam shuns
And so do we.
Spectators drip in browns and duns.
They’ve paid their fee.
No cannon-ball serves, or volleys that thunder,
Or drops exquisite tear rally asunder,
Making the gallant crowd cry out in wonder,
Are seen. Why didn’t the weathermen blunder ?
Oh, to see All England
As June becomes July,
And whoever’s at All England
Sees great tennis – when it’s dry ! –
From the outer courts and the lowest seeds
To Centre Court with its different breeds
And, when rain permits, the royal bow
In All England – now !