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Diana Fotheringay had removed her rings and was having the stone

in her engagement ring re-set and her wedding band was in

meltdown.  She was now seeing herself as a Free Woman.

In fact, she had made the New Year Resolution to sell her cottage

in Bradford-on-Avon and to move much closer to her daughter and

erstwhile lover.  Consequently her home was now on the market

and had been appraised by a rather posh, but dim representative

from an estate agency.

She could have written the schedule herself and could see immediately

that the description of her home was off-beam and would be guaranteed

to deter any prospective purchaser.  She had to proofread a document

which she was paying someone else to generate.  A sign of the times,

she sighed.  I mean, what is it with the breed that they have to construct

inordinately long noun phrases?!

She read: An absolutely charming, exceptional, sought after, deceptively

spacious, smartly-appointed, versatile, detached Bath Stone, character


Could this be her property?  She hardly recognised it.  The lenses of

the camera had made it seem as if it had curved walls- which, in all

honesty, it had.

The vase of lilies on the dining room table looked good and covered the

redcurrant sauce stain which simply would not wash out of her antique

tablecloth.  Really, Augustus was a very messy eater.  It must be that his

table manners were being corrupted by his professional habit of dining

with children.

At least Dru’s harp was no longer in the way and the alcove in the hall

could just about justify its description as an additional study/bedroom.

Anyway, there was no turning back.  It was a good time to sell and she

could put her hand on her heart, like all sellers, and swear that she had

the most wonderfully quiet neighbours and that she had never had a

single altercation with them, not even when their son was learning

the drums.

Now that his pupils came to the house, it was remarkable how there was

always an available parking space.

If the cottage sold in one open weekend, as was being suggested, she

would simply put everything into storage and would go and see her ex-

colleague, Sonia Peascod, in Suttonford.  They’d exchanged Christmas

cards religiously since Sonia’s retirement as Deputy Head at St Vitus’,

which had also been the year of Diana’s confinement.

Sonia was Diana’s daughter’s godmother.  Our vendor felt that

she would be welcome to stay for a week or two until she got on her feet

in a new county.  Sonia was rattling around in that huge Royalist House,

so she would probably welcome some company.  She was getting on and

maybe Diana could take her shopping, or help with the housework.  If

the legalities took longer, she could always offer her some rent.

Sonia had once reminded Diana:  I always foresaw trouble when you

married that picture framer chap.

Diana had snapped:  You didn’t need to be Mother Shipton to see it


Mother Shipton.jpg

But they hadn’t fallen out over it.  And, in retirement, Sonia had

progressed in her skills of clairvoyance.  At least she thought so.

She even took up Tarot reading.

Diana opened her address book and, just as she was about to contact

Sonia, her phone rang and she nearly knocked over the vase of lilies in

her rush to answer it.  Maybe it was the estate agent!

Sonia here!  Happy New Year!  Long time; no speak.

You must be telepathic, Diana began, before realising that she, of course,

was, in her own opinion, at least.

Of course I am, Sonia laughed. Listen, I haven’t seen you for ages, so why

don’t you come and spend a few days with me? We could go to the new cafe

we have in the town.  That is, weather permitting and DV.

Oh, it’s okay,  Diana reassured her.  I haven’t had that bug.

What bug?

The diarrhoea and vomiting one.

I didn’t suggest that you had.

I thought you said ‘d and v’?

No, replied Sonia, puzzled.  Oh, no.  I meant DV -deo volente.

As a lacrosse teacher, Diana hadn’t required a qualification in


I think there was interference on the line, Diana excused herself.

I couldn’t hear you.

Well, can you hear me now?  If you can make it through all the floods

and fords, drive up and stay.  I’ve always got the attic room free

because people are too pathetic to cohabit with the ghost.  But I know

you don’t mind sharing a bed.  You’ve met our resident Cavalier before,

haven’t you?

Diana was not phased by occult presences.  After all, she had coached

a team of weapon-wielding teenagers who were capable of behaviour

which would have made the activity of your average poltegeist seem like

a single Zen hand clap.

There was only one drawback: Diana may have been accustomed to

Sonia’s foreknowledge over the years, but she didn’t want to be the

subject of her fore-ordination.

As for the phantom fugitive from The Battle of Suttonford, sleeping with

him couldn’t be much worse than having to share a bed with Murgatroyd


She replaced the handset and started humming Memory from Cats.  Yes, a

new day had begun.