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  • Michael Braccia

Leeford Village - episode 115

Episode 115: Merger? Surely not.


Previously in Leeford Village:

 

Jack Simmons wants to know if he is a character in Jason’s novel. George and Jack are the first to sample the delights of Zack and Simon’s ‘Coffee Cart’. Allen sacks Zack due to a ‘conflict of interest’ at the market. Agnes is in a quandary – does she tell Adam about Daniel Windrush? Adam shocks her by declaring that he and Meredith might announce their engagement at Cody’s birthday party. Linda and Sherry discuss the possibility of Carlos living with them - alongside Allen.

 

~

 

 

‘Why meet in a country pub? Don’t you want anyone in Banfield or Leeford to see us?’

 

Frank Watson scans his friend’s face for a reaction. Colin Simpson has been a clerk at Banfield Council for over twenty years. He has seen elected councillors and executive officers come and go – sometimes unwilling to go – and nothing much passes him by. Colin’s hesitation tells Frank that this is a clandestine meeting. The excitement of appearing in a John Le Carre novel eludes the experienced councillor, but he is somewhat amused by Colin’s nervousness.

 

‘Come on, Colin, we’ve known each other long enough to be sure we can trust each other. Is this about the census?’

‘Yes, Frank. I convinced myself that you needed to know.’

‘Is it dodgy? I thought we’d got rid of one corrupt council leader. I was hoping that James Lindale was as straight as a die. So far, I’ve felt that I could trust him.’

‘I wouldn’t say “dodgy” – as such,’ says Colin.

‘As such? That says a lot.’

 

Frank taps the table.

 

‘Come on, Colin. Tell me everything.’

 

 

~

 

 

‘Coffee, Edward?’

‘Yes, thank you, Ethel.’

 

Ethel finds herself holding her breath as she turns to the sink to fill the kettle. Edward has asked her if she can forget Billy and she has admitted that she can’t. Billy will always be with her. For now, she is more concerned with their strained relationship and it seems that the ‘ghost’ incident has been the catalyst.

 

‘Why are you doing this, Edward?’

‘What?’

‘Sleeping on the sofa. It’s killing your back, isn’t it?’

‘I’m sorry to say, Ethel, but you are killing this relationship.’

 

 

 

 

She places his cup on the table, next to the mobile phone that has beeped an annoying three times in as many minutes.

 

‘Aren’t you going to answer that? It might be important.’

‘The messages can wait,’ says Edward.

 

Ethel draws breath and glares at him.

 

‘It might be your illustrator.’

‘You said you’d never bring that up again,’ he responds.

 

With tears rolling down her face, Ethel takes a step back and leans against the sink.

 

‘You’ve hurt me, Edward. Billy would never have done this to me. He would understand that I still hold someone close to my heart – even if they are in the past.’

 

‘What are you saying?’

‘Go back to your illustrator, or should I say your ex-wife?’

 

Edward puts both hands on his head and stares at his phone.

 

‘Now who’s being hurtful.’

 

He rises from his chair, red in the face.

 

‘Ethel, do you want me to go?’

‘I think it’s for the best.’

‘I’ll pack an overnight bag. I’ll call you when I get back to Devon to arrange for my things to be moved. I am sorry, but we can’t get past this, can we?’

‘I’m sorry too, Edward, but we’re finished.’

 

 

~

 

 

 

Adam crosses the road from Leeford Plaice, heading for the card shop. Another two hours and he’ll be back in North Banfield with Meredith. There are many things that Adam doesn’t know. He has no idea that he is about to inherit a villa in Spain, he doesn’t know that the father who brought him up is not actually his father, and Meredith has not yet let him into her big secret. If and when they get married, she will have to declare her previous names. ‘Why did you change your name from Meredith Evans?’ is the question she might expect from Adam Thornton, who could easily have been Adam Windrush.

 

Adam stops outside the card shop. Pondering the conversation with his mother, he thinks I asked her something “about you, me and another party”. He turns to go back to the chip shop. As he crosses the road, he sees Agnes standing in the doorway watching him. He approaches the steps leading to the front door. His mother opens the door. She is crying.

 

 

 

‘Come in, love. We have to talk.’

 

As they go through into the sitting room, Adam asks, ‘where’s Dad?’

 

This brings Agnes up short.

 

‘He’s… he’s at the wholesalers.’

‘Mom, what’s wrong?’

 

She sits on the edge of the sofa and she cries like a damn has burst.

 

‘Mom, what is it? Please tell me!’

‘Oh, darling, where do I start?’

‘Give me the headlines.’

 

Agnes pauses. She would like to break it to him gently if that is possible.

 

‘You’re going to inherit a villa in Spain.’

‘What? How?’

‘An old lady has died, and has left it to you in her will.’

 

He turns to Agnes and takes her hand.

 

‘This isn’t a joke, is it?’

 

Her silence acts as confirmation.

 

‘Well, who is – was – this lady?’

‘The mother of our local pharmacist, Daniel Windrush.’

‘What’s his mother got to do with me?’

‘Oh, Adam, this is awful. So awful.’

‘Mom, just tell me!’

 

This time she looks him straight in the eye.

 

‘Daniel Windrush is your father.’

 

 

~

 

 

Jason puts on his best ‘author face’. It’s a similar group of friends that has agreed to listen to the next instalment of Longford Village. Cody shouldn’t be there. He’s told Agnes that he has ‘gone to the wholesalers’. At least he no longer appears to have the longing (or the opportunity) to spend time in the card and gift shop. The presence of his firstborn has finally put paid to that. Not that the lovely Meredith had ever knowingly encouraged the chip shop proprietor.

 

Jason clears his throat, eliciting an instant reply from Cody, Ken and George. Half of his audience deliberately coughing and spluttering doesn’t fill him with confidence, but he has enough self-control to continue where he left off last time.

 

 

 

 

‘In addition to his daily intake of anti-depressants, the Reverend Biggins fails to complete his latest attempt at completing his sermon because he has also imbibed at least ‘one last snifter’, as he describes it, at least three times. The vicar’s wife, Lucy, finds him virtually horizontal.

 

Sebastian, who has been thrown out of the family home - and the chip shop - by his wife, Anna, ends up sleeping on an ‘Anglers’ bed’ at his friend’s house in Green Crescent. While he is there, his premium bonds bear fruit, but he is not telling Anna – just yet.

 

Cynthia Adalyn has always fancied Sebastian. She would love to be by his side, frying his cod and chips every evening. If Anna throws him out, she thinks, he’s mine. Cynthia takes her chance by following him to his friend’s house and tries to force her way in.’

 

Jason pauses as Ken Taylor laughs out loud.

 

‘Blimey, Sebas – er, Cody – what have you got that the rest of us haven’t?’

 

Cody clenches his fists.

 

‘Ken,’ snaps Jason, ‘is it always going to be like this?’

‘Well, it is funny, Jase, you must admit.’

‘No, Ken, I don’t admit, and if you can’t behave, you’ll have to leave.’

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

‘You didn’t hear it from me. Right, Frank?’

 

There is a silence while Frank puts his glass to his mouth. Nice drop of ale, he thinks.

 

‘Carry on, Colin. I need to know. I’m responsible for the lives of everyone in the village.’

 

This is something that many in Leeford – particularly the likes of Ken, Cody, Ted and Vera – would vehemently reject. The thought of their lives being in the hands of Frank Watson would not sit well with most of the inhabitants, but it is fair to say that they do, on occasion, misunderstand his motives.

 

Colin takes another sip of his orange juice.

 

‘This census. It’s a sham.’

‘What do you mean, Colin?’

‘What I say. Lindale wants – needs – the precise figures so his plan can be put into action.’

 

Frank takes a deep breath.

 

‘What plan?’

‘The merger.’

 

Frank downs the remainder of the ale in one gulp.


 

 

 

‘I don’t understand. Merger with what?’

 

Colin follows suit with his orange juice.

 

‘The village to the north of Leeford – Bordsley. What people don’t know is that the border between Banfield and Wolverhampton is changing in the next three years and Bordsley will become part of North Banfield.’

 

‘I’d heard something about that,’ says Frank, ‘but I thought that had more to do with parliamentary borders.’

‘It has,’ replies Colin, ‘but our illustrious leader is taking the opportunity to cut costs. Two small villages become one. Two parish councils become one⸺’

‘Two parish council leaders become one,’ interrupts Frank.

‘What are you going to do, Frank?’

‘I’ll have to talk to my parish councillors. Don’t worry, Colin, I’ll keep you out of it.’


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