The Strange Case Of The Buckled Swash – Episode 01

“Who buckled my swash?” The voice was strident. Its owner, florid-faced, his moustache bristling with indignation, was waving a theatrical prop sword rather, well, theatrically. The imitation weapon was bent wildly out of shape, the tip flapping pathetically, like a pigeon with a broken wing. Major General Timothy Tompkins, DSO (Rtd) was not a happy bunny. Someone was going to get it in the neck.The someone in question was Jean Burrell. Jean had recently moved to the small rural village of Palmerston. “Swapping city life for something a bit more slow-paced, less stressed,” she’d explained to Deirdre Wells, her new neighbour. Deirdre was the local postmistress and long-standing director of the Palmerston Players’ annual theatrical production. When she had resigned unexpectedly in a fit of pique, citing irreconcilable artistic differences, Jean had quickly volunteered to take her place. “It seems like the ideal opportunity to get to know folk, to integrate into the village community,” she’d told Deirdre over a cup of tea. “You don’t mind, do you? I mean, you don’t think I’m taking advantage of your misfortune?” “I don’t mind in the slightest,” Deirdre had replied, somewhat unconvincingly. “You’re welcome to them. Just watch yourself, they’re a bunch of back-stabbing traitors. Especially Tim Tompkins, he’s a nasty piece of work.” Even allowing for Deirdre’s obvious bitterness, Jean had no cause to doubt her when it came to her assessment of the major general. He was a bully who liked to get his own way and was also fond of throwing his considerable weight around. The other members of the committee comprised Arabella Campbell, landlady of the Fox and Hounds, who played the leading lady; Ted Guilford, a local worthy, who was in charge of props, stage sets, etc; and Peter Thorpe. Peter, who owned the local riding stables, had been unfailingly supportive and encouraging. “It’ll be good fun, Jean,” he’d told her. “They’re an OK bunch, really. They just take a little while to warm to incomers, that’s all. Anyway, what with your prior experience, you’ll have them eating out of your hand in no time.” “I wouldn’t exactly call directing ‘HMS Pinafore’ at school much in the way of prior experience.” “You’ll be fine, and remember, I’ll be there to support you,” Peter had said, flashing Jean one of his trademark smiles. He was a tall, rangy man of forty-five, five years older than Jean. He was good-looking in an old-fashioned way handsome. Not that Jean had any intentions on that score. In any event, Peter was already in a relationship with Pippa Mills, the local vet. “Are you listening to me, Miss Burrell? How can I be swashbuckling on stage armed with this apology for a weapon?” Major General Tompkins brandished the bent sword agitatedly. “Someone has deliberately buckled my swash, I tell you. My guess is that it was that Guilford fellow. Shifty type, eyes too close together. It was him, you mark my words. He’s had it in for me ever since I sacked him as head gardener when he was at the Grange.” Jean rolled her eyes. “Ted’s job is to look after the props, not break them. Isn’t it much more likely that it was damaged accidentally, say by someone sitting on it, perhaps?” The portly major general flushed guiltily. “Well, whatever happened to it, I’ll need a replacement for Friday’s dress rehearsal,” he blustered. “It’s too flimsy, just doesn’t pass muster, don’t you know.” “I’m sure Ted will sort something out, he’s very resourceful. Now, if we could please continue? We need to finish if we’re to have any chance of being ready for Saturday’s opening night.” “Don’t you worry about me, dear. I’m an old hand at these things. It’ll be all right on the night, as that Norden chappie used to say.” Yes, just before showing a clip of someone forgetting their lines, Jean thought wryly.


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