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Diana Fotheringay-Syylk was feeling like the fishy guest who putrefies after

three days.  Not that Sonia had hinted that she had a sudden need to reclaim

her spare rooms, but it was just that both women required their own space.

Diana felt that it was a bit like sharing The Winter Palace with Catherine the

Great, and it sometimes felt like a similar temperature too.

Diana’s estate agent was frantically sending her texts, reporting on the

positive viewings on her cottage in Bradford-on-Avon.  Prospective buyers

adored the quaint windows- as far as she could recall there were none.

Couples loved its tranquil position in a quiet village.  ‘Bustling town‘ was how

she would have described its location.  And why did they mention the river

after the worst flooding in a century?  She was in an elevated position and

hadn’t had a teaspoonful of groundwater in her cellar.  So far there had

been no second viewings.  Still, it wasn’t Easter yet.

Sonia kept wanting to play Cribbage, Bridge or a variety of Bingo every

evening.  Diana didn’t care for these games and would have been happy to

provide the canapes for the occasion, if only George Osborne, or

Nick Clegg could have dropped by, so that she could sit the session out, like

some kind of Madge to Edna’s grande dame.  She had a sneaking

suspicion that Sonia would have eaten the politicians up as efficiently as

she disposed of a box of Bridge Mints and that she would probably have

preferred Potemkin to drop by unannounced for a game of Poleconomy.

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Apparently the Chancellor and the Deputy PM love Bingo– so much so that

they were right behind tax reductions of 50% on the game. (David Cameron

was less enthusiastic. He prefers a night in with a pasty.)

Just as well that Sonia had given up driving, after she embedded her car in the

frontage of Costamuchamoulah, must-seen cafe.  Otherwise she might have

been tempted to cash in her annuities to purchase a Lamborghini to roar up

High Street.

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Diana could imagine other old biddies, such as Ginevra, being all too keen to

make a black hole in their pension funds in order to subsidise a Martini habit,

or worse.

It wouldn’t take too many cashed-in ISAs to buy a toy boy and it would

probably be more short term fun than having to fund an Eastern European


Diana was beginning to realise that she wasn’t as young as she had been.  She

had been planning a Sagbag cruise to somewhere culturally interesting, such as

St Petersburg.  It would have been something to look forward to after the

house sale and removal stresses.  She quite fancied listening to some minor

celebrity rabbiting on about Faberge eggs, or leaning over the deck rail with a

George Osborne lookalike..(No, she meant Clooney, surely?), night after White

Night, or Knight after White Knight, not necessarily in white satin, or even


Now Putin had put paid to that Baltic fantasy.

Really someone should put the ‘Ras‘ back into his name.  She held him

personally responsible for preventing her from viewing The Hermitage.  How

one small man could spoil everything was very irritating.  If he had been a

pupil in her class, she would have told him not to be so greedy.  The lion’s

share was not his to grab.  She would have made him put it back and go to

the end of the queue.

He would have to have said, Thank you, Mrs Fotheringay-Syylk, with no

repetition, hesitation, or deviation.  And if she had detected any hint of

sarcasm or impertinence in his tone, then he would have been the last to

leave the classroom and may have even had to stay behind to help her

tidy up Lost Property. (But how do you tidy up Crimea?)

Sanctions!  She knew all about them.  Charging round the hockey pitch

twenty times would have sorted him out.  As for the Tuck Shop– out of

bounds till the end of term!  Or maybe till the end of time.

She absent-mindedly bent down to pick up the mail from the doormat.

There were two letters, both addressed to herself.

There was an envelope stamped with the estate agent’s logo.

She ripped it open. She was being offered a record price for the cottage!

Bingo!  Drusilla had been right.  It had flown away.

She opened the other missive.  It was from Sagbag Cruises and included a

published list of floating lectures.  Geophysicists, Religious Affairs


Where was Bendor Grosvenor?  That was what she wanted to know.

Maybe he didn’t do Sagbag. What about Neil Oliver?

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Oh, wow!  Waldemar Janusczak on The Missing Amber Room.  A cruise to

Tallinn. Sign me up, Scotty! she screamed.  I’m definitely going for that one,

whether he was born in Basingstoke, or not.  I must ask Drusilla if she wants

to go too.  I mean to Estonia, not Basingstoke.  Imagine sailing round all those

roundabouts!  You’d feel seasick!

I can’t understand why Dru prefers Andrew Graham-Dixon.  He showed himself

up on University ChallengeNo, even Jeremy Paxman giving his fly-fishing tips

on a nautical jaunt round the Inner Hebrides isn’t as good as Waldemar on a

Kit-Kat wrapper.

And by the look of the price offered for my erstwhile humble abode, I can

treat my dear daughter too.

By George-bingo!