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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 111

Epsiode 111: A kiss, and meat in Coventry


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Pippa is shocked that Ethel had heard every word about Billy’s ghost, but Ethel tells her that Billy stays at her house all the time and hasn’t visited The Cross. Edward decides to have some time to himself – it’s all been too much. Agnes opens her heart to Jasmine about her past. A stranger asks for directions to the launderette. He tells Zack and Allen that he wants to see Sherry, and Allen panics.

 

 

~

 

 

 

Ted arrives back at The Cross only to find Sally sitting behind the bar.

 

‘You okay, Sal?’

‘I guessed where you were.’

‘Oh, okay,’ says Ted, avoiding her gaze.

 

She walks around the bar, grabs him round the waist and kisses him. Not a peck, but the most passionate kiss that Ted can remember for many months.

 

‘How’s that, Edward Coleman?’

‘Ooh, well, very nice. Where did that come from?’

‘As I say, I know where you’ve been – to see Nigel Cleeve. You didn’t take a cleaver to him, did you?’

 

She doesn’t give him a chance to answer but, instead, kisses him again, lowering her hands below his back.

 

‘You are my knight in shining armour. Early night tonight, I think.’

‘You’ll get no argument from me, love, but what’s going on? I mean, I love it when you’re like this, and, I, well…’

‘Not often lost for words, are you, Ted? I’ve worked out what happened – the meaty smell, the noises, funny lights, you running over to Nigel’s and the fact that we know Vera has been out to get us when we fought her on the strike issue.’

 

Ted points towards the back room.

 

‘Let’s sit down and talk,’ he says.

 

As she sits next to him on the sofa, he tells Sally how he pushed Nigel over, giving Vera the excuse to call the police.

 

‘What happened, Ted? Did Stephen or Gary come round?’

‘She never made the call,’ replied Ted.

‘Why?’


 

 

Ted pauses, and smiles.

 

‘I simply reminded them that I know all about the deliveries from that meat factory in Coventry – you know, the one that should have been condemned but back-handers put paid to that.’

 

Sally gasps. ‘I’d heard a rumour, but is it all true?’

 

‘You bet it is. If I report this, Nigel will go down, his business will be finished, and that dodgy meat inspector who’s involved in the Coventry organisation will also be for the chop. So to speak.’

 

Sally slides her hand onto his leg. ‘I love it when you talk like this, Ted.’

 

‘Okay, but do you agree? Should we shop them? They deserve it.’

‘Hold on, Ted, how’s this for a plan? Let’s just threaten them again. Coventry and all that. Tell them that if they so much as switch on one light, make one ghostly sound or come into our pub after closing hours, everyone will know what’s been going on. Including the newspapers. We wouldn’t need Stephen and Gary!’

 

It’s Ted’s turn to turn up the romantic dial.

 

‘You know, we’ve got a couple of hours before we have to open. Let’s say we convene this meeting upstairs, eh, Sal? I’ll vote for your idea. Carried unanimously.’

 

At that, he risks his back by sweeping his wife up in his arms and carrying her to the stairs.

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

Sherry can see Carlos walking towards the launderette. Linda has a day off, so the part-time assistant is at the back of the shop, working her way through piles of ironing.

 

‘Jane, could you cover for me for fifteen minutes? My cousin’s visiting – I haven’t seen him for ages. Is that okay?’

‘Sure, no problem,’ she replies.

 

Sherry does not want to be disturbed. Having decided to switch off her phone anyway, when it rings and ‘Allen Slimeball’ appears on the display, she has no hesitation in silencing that particular caller. She has held the ‘slimeball’ opinion from the moment he slept with her sister. From a possible choice of three or four nicknames to attach to his contact details, the one Sherry selected was the least rude. She is relieved, however, that Linda hasn’t yet seen her boyfriend’s name appear on her sister’s phone. At that, Carlos enters the launderette.

 

‘Carlos.’

‘Sherry.’

 

~

 

 


 

 

Jason has invited a number of friends to his house to discuss the first rough draft of his debut novel. He wants to gauge opinion – it’s not that he is particularly worried about offending anyone, but he wants to get it right. He first explains that all the names in the stories have been changed. He intends to call the book Longford Village, the subtitle being Tales of ordinary and not-so-ordinary village folk.

 

Everyone is in place and comfortable. Biscuits, cheese crackers and the all-important stack of cans of lager. Cody is the first to speak.

 

‘One question for you, Jason. Why “Longford”? Couldn’t you use the real name of the village?’

‘Legal reasons, mate. Legal reasons. I’ve checked it all out.’

 

Suptra raises his hand as if at school. Jason acknowledges him with a teacherly nod.

 

‘So, if you call me Butra Singh, you can get away with writing anything?’

‘No, Suptra, I’ll be more subtle than that.’

 

There’s a ‘huh’ from Ken Taylor, who’s only really there for the free drink.

 

‘Yes, Ken?’ enquires the budding author.

‘Oh, nothing, Jase. Just clearing my throat.’

‘Well, if there’s nothing else – unless you’d like a lozenge – I’ll begin.’

 

The other members of Jason’s specially-selected audience sit in silence – his brother, George; Steve Adams; Justin Wilkins; Cody, and Suptra.

 

‘As I’ve already explained, the story starts after the first ever Leeford – sorry, Longford – village fête. Jack has proposed to Alice, Anna has belted out her rendition of Jolene in front of Elizabeth Berkley, who had no idea how much she meant to Sebastian.’

 

A burst of mirth and hilarity causes Jason to pause. He glares at his invited guests. The only one to break cover is Ken, who mimes the name ‘Sebastian’ to Cody. He fails to wipe the smile from his face even though the silent reaction from Cody seems to suggest it might be his safest option. Jason continues.

 

‘So, a new post-fête year in Longford begins. Jeff Fisher is disgusted with his dad’s behaviour, blaming Sebastian for everything, but it was his mom, Anna, who sang Jolene at the fête, exacerbating the embarrassment. Anna makes up an overnight bag for Sebastian and throws him out. She’s had enough of his romantic dabbling, or shenanigans, an expression that Sebastian might have used himself when referring to other “Don Juans”.

 

The market manager, Victor Spendlove, tells his girlfriend, Louise, that he’d like to buy Gertrude’s café. She serves them both coffee, but doesn’t want to comment just yet. The Reverend Biggins once had a dream of retiring to the Sussex Downs, but events have conspired to tie him to the village, and he resigns himself to seeing out his days in Longford.

 

Well, what do you think of it so far, lads?’

 

George Owens digs Ken in the ribs as he seems to be on the brink of an Eric Morecambe impersonation.

 

‘Is that the first chapter, Jason?’ asks Cody.

 

‘Yes, why, Cody?’ replies Jason.

 

‘Not a lot happens, does it?’

 

Ken can’t help but interrupt, even with a slightly bruised ribcage.

 

‘Nothing happens, Sebastian? You’ve just been chucked out by Anna, and your son is furious because you’ve been messing around with his girlfriend!’

 

Cody rises to his feet, glaring at Ken.

 

 

~

 

 

 

Ethel is alone with her cocoa and her thoughts. She has watched three episodes of Emmerdale that have stacked up on the Freeview-Plus box. She usually doesn’t have time. Edward always has a topic of conversation in which he involves Ethel. It doesn’t matter to Ethel if it’s politics, books, science, or, very rarely, sport. She just loves to be with him. Edward makes her feel whole, alive, young again. No one has done that since Billy, but her late husband is always in her thoughts. A faint smell of his favourite aftershave. A green pepper left on the side of a plate – Billy hated green peppers. A man’s voice in the café that sounds vaguely like Billy. Ethel will pause – just for a second – and reflect. He was her soulmate, her friend, husband, confidant, lover. It will always be so. The rattle of a key in the front door lock. It’s late.

 

‘Only me!’ he says.

‘Hello, love. Cocoa?’ says Ethel, trying to sound jolly and positive.

 

Edward takes off his jacket as he enters the living room and throws it over the back of the nearest armchair. He is the first to speak.

 

‘We have to talk, don’t we love?’

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

Frank Watson watches the email appear in his inbox. He imagines it dropping into a basket with a thud. It might as well have done. Confirmation of a task foisted upon him by the recently appointed council leader, James Lindale. It’s a test. I know it’s a test, thinks Frank. He had been warned about the possibility, and he, Frank Watson, leader of the Leeford Village Parish Council, has to implement it. A census. Barely having time to take in the contents of the email, the phone rings.

 

‘Hello, Frank Watson.’

 

A voice on the line he recognises immediately.

 

 


 

 

‘Yes, James, I understand. Yes, I’ve just read it.’

 

Frank grimaces.

 

‘Of course, no problem. Three months you say? That’s tight, isn’t it?’

 

The Banfield Council leader concludes by making it clear to Frank that he has no choice. It’s not a national census. Just Leeford Village. Oh, well, our first census, thinks Frank. The Leeford folk are not going to like this. ‘Intrusive’ is not the only word I’ll hear from Ken Taylor, or Cody, or George Owens. They will want to know what the council will do with the results.


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