The Strange Case Of The Buckled Swash – Episode 02

The object of the major general’s ire was ensconced on his usual stool in the public bar of the Fox and Hounds. “Another half of bitter, Ted?” “Don’t mind if I do, Arabella. So, are you starting to get nervous about the opening night, then?” “Shh! Keep your voice down,” Arabella Campbell said, indicating the snug bar with an exaggerated nod, the action causing her extensive collection of jewellery to rattle like a wind-chime in the breeze. A brassy woman in her fifties, she looked like the classic pub landlady straight from central casting. Big hair? Check. Ample bosom? Check. Heart of gold? Well, not quite. Beneath that bleached-blonde exterior, Ted knew, beat the heart of a driven businesswoman. People still speculated about the mysterious fire which had caused the Bricklayer’s Arms, the village’s only other pub, to close, but Ted knew that Arabella wouldn’t stoop that low. In fact, he was certain of it. “Deirdre still nursing her wrath over a warm Babycham, is she?” “And then some. Honestly, you would think this was a Broadway production rather than a bit of fun in a village hall.” “That’s a bit rich coming from you. I’ve watched you in rehearsals. You can be a right prima donna, you can.” “Well, so would you be,” Arabella replied haughtily, “if you had to work opposite complete amateurs like Tim Tompkins. He’s more wooden than the stool you’re sitting on.” “Now, now. That’s no way to talk about your business partner.” “Ted, that isn’t funny. Whatever Timothy Tompkins is, and he’s been called a few things in his time, he most certainly isn’t my business partner. I wish I’d never agreed to let him lend me the money to refurbish the pub restaurant, but it’s done now.” Ted took a sip of his beer. “Except it isn’t, though, is it?” he said quietly. “Don’t you think I know that? It keeps me awake at night, but I’ll find a solution, you mark my words. Anyway, according to Jean, the major is baying for your blood. He claims you buckled his swash, whatever that is.” Ted snorted. “Nothing new there. He’s always hated me. Sacked me for no reason, remember. Claimed I was helping myself to bags of compost and selling them on cheap.” “And were you?” “How are your potatoes doing this year, Arabella?” ****Sitting in the snug, Deirdre Wells heard the laughter coming from the public bar and silently fumed. They were probably laughing at her. The humiliation of it. After twenty years of devoted service to the Players, to be cast aside like an old rag just wasn’t right. Her offer to resign had been a gesture, an attempt to make them see sense. She couldn’t believe it when the committee accepted her resignation with alacrity. Even the one person she thought she could rely on had betrayed her. Well, she would find a way to make them pay. Twenty years! “Everything all right in here, Deirdre? Need a top-up?” “No, thanks, Arabella. I’ll just finish this then head home. There’s a particularly good production of ‘The Tempest’ on BBCFour tonight.” Deirdre managed a prim smile. “Talking of stormy waters, how are preparations going for opening night? Is my replacement coping?” “Jean? Fine. I mean, not a patch on you, Deirdre, obviously. I want you to know I argued your case at the committee meeting. I said you’d be a big loss, that we’d be mad to let you resign.” “Funnily enough, everyone has said the same thing,” Deirdre said dryly, “and yet my resignation was still accepted.” “Yes, well. Anyway, I’ll say one thing for Jean, she may not have your dramatic credentials but she certainly seems to have every male in the village eating out of her hand. She’s even got Peter acting like a love-struck puppy.” Deirdre raised an eyebrow. “I don’t imagine Pippa will be too chuffed about that.” “No, she’s a bit on the possessive side. Though don’t let Peter’s charming manner fool you, he’s just as bad. I remember one night one of the lads started chatting to Pippa. It was completely innocent but I thought Peter was going to swing for him. Anyway, are you coming along to the opening night?” “Oh, yes, Arabella. Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I think it’s going to be quite an eventful evening. In fact, I’m positive it will be.”


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