When you want to know what's going on in a village there are several ways to go about it - you can join a group like the WI, stay behind after church for coffee in the vestry, hang around the post office on pensions day, sit at a table in the local and earwig barside conversations, stand at the village school gates - although in these times it's best to do this if you have a child to collect or drop off, or be with someone who does - browse the magazines in the newsagent, or the shelves in the village shop when there's a queue built up. Better yet, in our village life is made so much easier... you just ask Elsie Drew. No need for introductions to this lady, you've heard me mention her before!
So it was thanks to Elsie that we heard Hugh (Mr Bartholomew to her) had been seen driving Tilly (that's Miss Asquith to her) and her cousin, who arrived last month to help look after Tilly while her ankle repaired itself, around quite a bit. Elsie says he must have hated having that gooseberry of a cousin, but that things are back to normal and he is still spending an awful lot of time at Tilly's cottage. How Elsie knows this, we aren't sure, for they live at opposite ends of the village. But we know from past experience it's best not to ask how she knows. Someone did once ask 'But how do you really KNOW this for sure?' to which Elsie's response was to turn her head slightly to the left, wink with the right eye, tap the side of her nose and then make a closing zip movement across her lips. Which probably means she doesn't really KNOW anything at all doesn't it?
It was Elsie who told us about the possible strife in the village band, all thanks to a flighty young piece called Marilyn, who has big blonde hair and plays the cornet. Now for most of us the band is just something that's always been a part of this village for the last couple of decades or so, playing at the fete, local fundraisers and travelling to other villages in the area to do the same. It also plays carols at Christmas here and outside the village, and occasionally has been known to take part in competitions. But as to the mechanics of how a band works, the hierarchy and so on, most of us are ignorant. Not Elsie of course, and how she knows all this, or even if it's correct... who knows? But apparently this young woman, single, in her twenties, plays the cornet and is in line to be next principal cornetist. The significance of this was lost on us, but apparently this exalted position is usually combined with being the head of the band, so it is a position that most young members dream of and aspire to. Marilyn came into the band and within a month was made up to principle cornetist. So, we asked, does this mean she will be the band leader soon? Elsie shook her head. This was apparently what was so mystifying and in her book, and 'I'm not alone in this thinking I'll have you know', it was just a ploy on the part of the present leader of the band to ingratiate himself with her. Royston, for that is his name, is a bit of a fusspot, a figure of mirth to many younger members of the community - the older ones are more discreet about how they feel! He is inordinately proud of what is really a very boring looking uniform, and struts about the place, full of his own importance. It was reported that one day, when he had taken his nets down at the living room window to wash them, he was seen hoovering the walls of that room!
When Elsie heard this, she nodded her head and said it came as no surprise to her. She was in the village shop at the time, and Daisy asked her what she meant, despite getting a warning look from Esme which loosely interpreted itself as PLEASE DON'T ASK. 'Well, that sort are always a bit fussy about their house aren't they?' Again Daisy just couldn't stop herself... 'What sort?' she asked. 'Them homosapiens' said Elsie, seriously. Daisy had to excuse herself into the back room where she put a cushion over her face and laughed uproariously. In the shop Esme had a slight uplift at the corner of her usually downturned mouth as she informed Elsie about what homo sapiens meant. Any further speculation and discussion was brought to an abrupt halt by the arrival of Reverend Green, shared vicar of several small parishes in this area, and one of the few single men who was safe from Daisy's clutches, as she said she could never be serious about a man who wore a long dress sometimes.
On to things we do know for sure, and that is that Gerry-the-yurt-dweller has moved on. As swiftly and ignominiously as he arrived, only this time in the dead of night. Pru and Leonard went to bed and the yurt was just visible through the trees; got up the next morning, opened the bedroom curtains and no yurt. They hastened down to the orchard to see what sort of a mess had been left, but apart from the indentation where the yurt had stood, the flattened and shortened grass, there was no sign that anyone had been there at all. Sighs of relief all round, and seen by Pru as the icing on the cake of their imminent move into the farmhouse. They expect to move in at the end of the month, and have planned a big party with marquee (not yurt!), lots of food and drink, in the garden and orchard, with music too.. though from a music system, not the band, about which Royston apparently feels a bit miffed... according to Elsie!
Since the economic downturn, the property market has been very quiet as we all know. There are quite a number of houses in the village that have been for sale for over a year, but also several have sold in recent months. One of them was a rather sad looking end of terrace cottage down one of the quiet dead end roads leading off the village green. Unlike the rest of the terrace, which consisted of five other houses, this one was double fronted, and one could see that in it's time, it must have been a very pretty little place. There is an old wisteria which still puts out masses of purpley flowers each year, a couple of roses clamber across the front wall and around the front door, and there is a lilac tree at the end of the drive. This cottage has a private drive, the one at the other end of the terrace has a drive which allows access for the people who live in the middle three, to get around to their parking space and garage behind the terrace, so it is seen as the most desirable of the terrace. It was lived in by a retired school teacher, Harold, who had a stroke and needed to go into a residential home this year, when it became clear he couldn't really look after himself.
And so his home, Lime Tree Cottage named for the lime tree that stands at the bottom of his back garden, went on the market. Inside it hadn't been maintained properly for years and there was a lot of work that needed doing, though nothing major or structural really. The heating needed bringing up to date, windows changed, new electrics and a whole lot of cleaning out and decorating, and it was priced accordingly. It had only been on the market three weeks when the SOLD sticker was placed across the FOR SALE board erected in the front garden by a local agent. Being where it was, you couldn't see what was going on unless you lived in the terrace, so it was only when a new face appeared in the village shop one Saturday morning, and then in the newsagent on the Sunday, that people knew who had moved in. Well, he didn't have a sign on his back saying he was the new owner of Lime Tree Cottage, no, someone in the newsagents asked was he a visitor as they'd not seen him before. No, he told them, he had just bought Lime Tree Cottage. Elsie was quick to get to church and couldn't wait for morning coffee after the service!
He is tall, blonde and with grey eyes, wears silver rimmed glasses, well-built though not muscly or fat, very nicely spoken but with a definite Norfolk twang underneath, and age is about late forties. No wedding ring so obviously not married, and he only bought masculine newspapers, a small pack of cigars and a bottle of milk that Sunday. Elsie has a remarkable memory, and I am sure it won't be long before she knows his name, occupation, where he was born, does he have family, a wife, prefer tea or coffee..... and when Daisy sees him her heart will definitely be a-fluttering.