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
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
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
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.
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,
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.