Page 1

More short stories than any other weekly! Festive days out in London

Nov 26, 2016 No. 7652


The best fiction!




26-Nov- 2016

NZ $3.95, AU $3.95

• Our new Christmas serial by Catriona McCuaig • A.J. Redcliffe’s sparkling theatrical comedy

Skye Competitions open to UK residents only, unless otherwise stated.

Discover The Isle Of

Free Pattern Inside

Meet author Glenda Young

Recipes for St Andrew’s Day

Puppy dog tales from Polly Pullar

This cosy jacket is easy to knit

this week Inside The People’s Friend

If you like the “Friend” then you’ll love...

The People’s Friend Special No 132, priced £3.99

On sale now!

l 8 pages of puzzles and brainteasers l 14 brand-new short stories

The People’s Friend Pocket Novel No 823, priced £3.49 l A romance set in Devon by Jo Bartlett

Cover Artwork: The Isle of Skye by J. Campbell Kerr.

Available in newsagents & supermarkets



4 From Different Worlds by Alison Carter 15 The Butterfly Effect by Andrea Wotherspoon 21 The Family Tree by Lydia Jones 23 SERIES Be My Guest by Kerry Mayo 28 SERIAL A Christmas To Remember by Catriona McCuaig 45 A Hard Act To Follow by A.J. Redcliffe 51 The Little Black Cat by Louise McIvor 61 Dancing Shoes by Glenda Young 66 SERIAL The Gilded Gaol by Alison Carter 85 Mickey Bligh, Superspy by Jane Tulloch 93 SOAP Riverside by Glenda Young

7 This Week We’re Loving 13 Maddie’s World 18 Health & Wellbeing 25 Brainteasers 30 Reader Offer: Dean’s Hampers 35 The Farmer & His Wife 36 Cookery: A Taste Of Scotland 50 Reader Offer: Christmas Tea Towels 55 Our Next Issue 73 From The Manse Window 77 Would You Believe It? 79 Knitting: Just The Jacket 94 Between Friends

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER – SAVE £20 13 issues for *£6 when you subscribe – Call 0800 318846**, quote PFCOV

Includes our Christmas CD


8 Willie Shand explores the Isle of Skye 27 Meet “Friend” writer Glenda Young 41 We catch up with the Rev. Richard Coles 48 Jan Fuscoe investigates London’s festive events 57 Scotland’s favourite books under the microscope 65 Polly Pullar offers us another breath of country air 75 Lorna Cowan’s guide to choosing a new boiler 83 Wendy Glass looks at some popular Scottish expressions

Subscribe and save £20!

*Payment by Direct Debit only. Saving based on first quarterly payment of £6 and standard rate of £12 every 3 months thereafter. UK bank accounts only. One year minimum term. For overseas enquiries, please call +44 1382 575580. **(8 a.m.-6 p.m., Mon-Fri, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat.) Free from UK landlines and mobiles.

The Isle of Skye is one of my favourite places in the whole world, and just like Willie Shand, who’s on the Misty Isle for this week’s cover feature on page 8, I’m drawn back there time and again and never tire of visiting. Thanks to the magnificent Skye Bridge, it’s also one of the most accessible of Scotland’s islands, but even if you can’t make the journey in person, Willie’s words will transport you there from the comfort of your own armchair. I make no apologies for the Scottish flavour of this week’s issue! In time for St Andrew’s Day on November 30, we have some delicious traditional Scottish recipes for you to try, as well as features on some of the distinctive words and phrases of the Scots tongue and a roundup of the nation’s best-loved works of literature. Finally don’t miss the first part of our new festive serial on page 28.

Angela Gilchrist, Editor.

Elsie and Christopher’s lives were poles apart. Would love be enough?

Set in 1923

Illustration by André Leonard.

From Different Worlds E LSIE never expected very much change in her life, and felt perfectly happy about that. She was the second daughter of Frank Cullen of Cullen and Bros., High Class Butchers of Chancel Street, Lambeth, an establishment that had been in the Cullen family for four generations, and she felt lucky. Like her grandmother, her mother, her older sister and her vivacious aunt Thomasina, Elsie expected to find a boy that she would fall for, and to marry him. The boy would be someone a bit like her father, who enjoyed a good time. The Cullens were happygo-lucky people, reluctant to miss any chance of a knees-up or a song. Christmas, birthdays, May Day – there was always a

party somewhere, and Frank Cullen had been known to shut the shop when the weather was exceptionally fine, load the family into the van and take a trip to Camber Sands. Elsie’s parents approved heartily of what they called the “new age”. “I can’t say I understand the modern music,” Mrs Elspeth Cullen said, “but I defend a person’s right to dance to whatever makes their feet shift!” Mr and Mrs Cullen were in no hurry for their younger daughter to find a husband. “You’re not twenty-five, Elsie,” her mother would say. “And you’re to marry for love and nothing else.” She had loved her husband since the day they met at a brass band concert in Clapham. Then Elsie came across Christopher Gilbert. The

moment she saw him she knew he was quite different from the joking Lambeth boys with whom she was familiar. They met while a circus was parading up the street. “Can you tell me, miss,” the man beside her said, raising his voice above the din, “how long this might take to pass by?” They had become hemmed in by a mass of small children with their mothers and nannies. She took a look at him – fine grey suit; very nice hat but with a rather staid narrow brim; a worried expression. His clothes were formal for a parade. Elsie had chosen a summer frock that could stand a stain or two from a candyfloss, just in case. “Do they last long?” he asked again. He scanned the crowd as if searching for an escape route. “It’s just that I have to be back

at work across the river in half an hour,” he said. “I only called in on a friend in Southwark Cathedral for a few minutes.” “Funny place to meet a friend.” The chap blinked. “He’s the bishop there, actually.” “Oh, I see.” Elsie liked his face. He was obviously shy, but handsome, though in a way that she’d not normally pay attention to. Elsie’s young men tended to be big, muscular types who boasted about the weights they could lift over at Smithfield Market. This one was wiry, with narrow blue eyes and sharp cheekbones, beneath which glinted a hint of blond stubble. “You clergy yourself?” “No.” He looked worried. “Oh, dear. This crowd appears to be getting even denser!” “Well, everyone likes a parade. I think we’ll both just have to watch for a bit, because there’s no way out.” He seemed to relax a little, and stood beside her chatting as the clowns went by. He admired the acrobats, then the plumed horses, and when finally the nannies and mothers drew the mass of children away, he stayed where he was. Elsie knew she ought to go, but she stayed, too. “I wonder . . .” he said, and Elsie looked up at him quickly. “Yes?” “I wonder if I might walk you to – wherever you are going?” He looked astonished at his own question. “Yes, you might,” she said, equally astonished. “But I thought you had to be at work.” “I do.” He thought for a moment. “I don’t imagine

SHORT STORY BY ALISON CARTER 5 you live far away?” “I live in that direction,” she said, pointing south, away from the river and his work, whatever it was. “That’s all right,” he said. “I could do with the exercise.” He delivered Elsie to her door that day, and she watched him memorise the street name and the number of the house, which was two along from the shop. “I would be pleased to call on your family soon,” he said. His formality was funny. In Elsie’s street, people popped by every day and often let themselves in. “That would be nice,” she told him.

* * * *

Mr Gilbert came to call that Sunday, very proper and stiff. “What d’you do for a living?” Mr Cullen asked. “I work as assistant to an equerry.” Nobody spoke for a few seconds, all of them wondering what that meant. “Is that something with horses?” Mrs Cullen asked. He smiled. “No, though the word is from the Old French for stable.” He coughed. “My position is . . . well, Sir James Stuart is equerry to the Duke of York, and I am assistant to Sir James.” There was another silence. Elsie had been looking at him as he talked. He was really most attractive. She had just been thinking that a walk along the Albert Embankment with him, and perhaps a kiss under one of the lampposts, would be just the thing. But now the word “royalty” flitted into her mind. Images of state occasions came to her – men talking politics in tall hats, ladies waiting for the Queen, tedious speeches on balconies. “The Duke of York. As in Prince Albert?” Mrs Cullen was trying, Elsie could tell, to act as though they heard this sort of name every other day in Chancel

Street. “How charming.” Mr Gilbert smiled. “He is very charming, actually. People often think that his Royal Highness is shy and retiring, but beneath the halting speech there is a man who knows his mind.” He looked at Elsie and smiled, his blue eyes glinting, and all she could think about was that lamppost, and that kiss. Elsie was nervous about walking out with such a man as Christopher Gilbert, but found herself unable to say no. “Do you like the fella?” her father asked. She nodded. “Then there’s no more to be said.” But as Christopher began to describe his life, and she hers, she was struck by the disparity between them. It was not the grandeur of his world, though that was worth noting. It was how . . . limiting it all sounded. “When do you kick off your shoes?” she asked. They were under a lamppost, but nobody had kissed anybody yet. “You know – round the piano in the pub, letting your hair down.” He looked doubtful. “It’s the lot of chaps like me to, um, maintain absolute discretion. I don’t think I’ve been inside a pub since Cambridge. It’s not the thing.”

* * * *

Elsie’s friends were eager to know all about Christopher Gilbert. “So, when will you meet the King?” Sadie asked. “Don’t be a goose,” Elsie replied. “Chris works for a man who works for the second son of the King. That’s all. Anyway, we’re just walking out a bit.” But Sadie’s words made Elsie think. What if she and Christopher Gilbert fell in love? What if he asked her to be his wife? His life was certainly unlike that of a butcher’s daughter. They grew closer, until neither of them could pass two days without seeing the other. Every customer at Cullen’s knew about the

“equerry’s man”; business was brisk with people popping in to Cullen’s at all hours, hoping that the Duke of York would call! Elsie asked Christopher about his work. “While His Highness attends masses of parties, his equerry is encouraged to be present, too. I am merely on the sidelines. I have to be ready to run about – dealing with everything from calling for a collar stud to finding out how to cheer up a Sultan who’s taken offence. I’m just an administrator.”

not keep from you a glimpse of your future. “We are trained almost from the cradle,” Isobel went on, “to sit through hours of discussion about the Irish Question. We are taught what to do when cornered by a baronet who likes the sound of his own voice. “You, on the other hand, will have to learn quickly.” Isobel eyed Elsie. “It’s my guess that if a chap bores you, you tell him so?” Elsie nodded. “Well, I can only make that sort of honest

The reception seemed to last for days. Elsie felt out of her depth He smiled and kissed her – it had been some weeks since the first lamppost and the first kiss. His sister, Mrs Isobel Sutton-Rose, invited Elsie to a reception at her house. He seemed surprised. “I don’t know that it will interest you, but Isobel insists. It won’t be an exciting affair – Issy’s married to a chap high up in the Commonwealth Office and she has to get them all over for cocktails, regular as clockwork.” When Elsie arrived at the huge house in Mayfair, she found Mrs Sutton-Rose looked just like her brother. The bones of her face made her as beautiful as they made him handsome, and she was, like him, entirely free of snobbery. “I told myself you ought to be prepared, Miss Cullen,” she said, drawing Elsie into a cloakroom. “Prepared?” Elsie looked at the rows of furs hanging. “Here you will see the way it is done – the way wives toe the line of duty.” “Wives?” “My dear, you will have to use more than one word at a time in this company.” Isobel laughed and gave Elsie a kiss on the cheek. “That dress is charming, by the way. What I mean is, I can see that Chris is in love with you, and means to ask you to marry him. And if that is so, he should

comment to my brother or my poor husband. Do you see?” The reception seemed to last for days. There was wealth everywhere – in the silk dresses, the decoration, the drinks and overdressed foodstuffs. But nobody said anything, as far as Elsie could tell, that was funny, though they laughed often. Nobody danced, or even tried to. There wasn’t a gramophone or a wireless set. Elsie felt out of her depth. Somebody asked her what she thought about Egyptian Independence and she fled. Late in the evening, she thought she spied light relief in the shape of a group of four ladies gossiping in a corner. Isobel agreed to introduce her. “But I will fetch Chris. You look all in.” “Two proposals!” an older woman, Lady Preswell, was saying. “And still she says no?” “He will consider no other woman for his wife,” a second woman affirmed. “And, of course, he can insist on sticking to his guns – he is the Duke of York.” “But why?” A young girl pressed further into the group. “Why does she not accept him? I would! I can’t understand her.” “That is because you

6 have no understanding of the nature of romance, or romance at this . . . level. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon is no fool. She knows the implications of what he asks.” “She has freedom,” the second woman added, “and though she loves him she fears such a change in her life. Who knows, she may be Queen one day – these things happen, what with Edward childless. To be a Queen, well, that is a burden.” The last of them, a tall thin woman in black taffeta, tapped her glass with a long forefinger. “We shall see. It is not just that he loves her. It is that she seems to him a good person who will support him. And, my goodness, she must be sure before she agrees.” Elsie walked away, thinking of the subject of their gossip – the small, brown-haired lady she’d seen in a portrait. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Then she saw Christopher deep in conversation with a dark-skinned man. She watched him, utterly at home here among the serious faces, the ceremonial bows and exquisite manners. Elsie felt her dress was stiff and her way of standing awkward, and longed more than anything else to be outdoors. She went to the window. Through the tall windows she could see it was raining. Below on the wide pavement were three girls of her own age, probably shop girls on their way home from some gettogether. Their hats were floppy with water and they were shrieking with laughter, having the time of their lives. Three Marcel waves collapsed around three happy, carefree faces.

* * * *

Christopher finally finished his round of social talk an hour later. They went outside and climbed into a cab. “Not all those ghastly evenings are that long,” he said, laughing. “But Sir

James always wants to know what those chaps from abroad think about, well, practically everything!” He leaned forward. “Drive along the river, driver, thanks.” He twisted round in his seat to face Elsie and took her hand. “My sister was right. I couldn’t ask you what I’m going to ask you until you’ve been to a shindig like that and survived.” He looked hopeful. “You shone like a bright star in there, darling. But that’s nothing to do with my asking you if you will be my wife.” They were driving along Horse Guards. Against the great beige bulk of the buildings Elsie saw the two mounted guards, still as statues, serving the King. She thought of Sadie and Rita, out that night trying a new dance craze at the Palais. If the weather held, they’d all most likely go to Brighton on Sunday. If she said yes, that would all come to an end as her new life began. “I don’t know,” she said. “We’re from different worlds, Christopher. If we hadn’t been jammed together that day at the parade –” “Then I’d not have been as happy as I am now,” he interrupted. “I’m worried that I’ll be wrong for you – for your career, for everything – and that I’ll not be able to . . .” “You can do anything you set your mind to, darling.” “That’s not true, Christopher. Not if I’m not free.” Despite his pleas, Elsie told him that she could not marry him. They drove back to Lambeth in silence, and he opened the door of the cab for her. “I love you, Elsie, and I think you’re wrong. But if you won’t marry me then I can’t bear to see you again. “Isobel wanted you to know how life is with us, but she didn’t let you see the gains as well as the losses. A person might make a sacrifice yet get a lot in return.” Inside, Elsie ran up to her room, thinking of the

gossips in the corner of the reception. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons’s decision was not such a hard one. To marry the King’s brother, or not. She was born to that world. How could a butcher’s daughter make such a leap? Could Christopher ever really come here for Sunday dinner and play Beggar-My-Neighbour with deaf Aunt Thomasina?

* * * *

Christopher was silent for one week. Then he asked Elsie again, this time in a long letter, full of pleading and passion. She stared at the headed notepaper and imagined him, bent over his desk, neglecting Sir James and all the demands of the Royal Household as he wrote. She could not find a way to reply, not with an explanation that was good enough, and so the next few days were dreadful. Elsie hadn’t considered that he’d simply disappear from her life. Isobel Sutton-Rose called at the house and asked if Elsie would come with her. “I have a car outside,” she said. “Now? But why?” “Just come, for his sake. Please?” They drove for half an hour or more. “The newspapers will know soon enough that the Prince has finally been accepted by Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.” “He asked a third time?” Isobel smiled. “She knew, I think, he’d keep trying until he got his way. She loves him dearly.” “A happy outcome.”

“Yes, it is, despite all that will come, all the strictures which will bind her for the rest of her days.” The car had stopped at a wide sandy parade ground. “They were both due to be here anyway,” Isobel said. “His Royal Highness and Elizabeth. It’s some inspection of troops. I got Sir James to allow me in.” Elsie saw the fiancée of the Duke of York for the first time, standing with him. She was tiny, and modest in her expression. Elsie thought she looked nervous. Under a fur coat with a neat collar she wore satin, a plain blue dress but with beautiful long, falling bows at each hip. But what Elsie really noticed was her face. It was certainly pretty but in an ordinary way, the eyebrows dark and serious, the mouth uncertain in its fixed smile. And then, suddenly, Elsie saw Elizabeth look up at the Prince. Her eyes searched his face until he looked down at her and gave a smile of pure delight. Elsie knew that chin was set in determination – that she was preparing, and accepting, counting all the things she would say goodbye to when she walked down the aisle, and all the love she would get in return. “I see,” Elsie said. “So, shall we get back in the car and find my brother?” Isobel asked. “Do you love him as he loves you?” Elsie set her own chin a little higher. “I hope so,” she said. “I think so.” “Then let us go.” n

What inspired me... Alison Carter.

Until I saw it mentioned in an article, I had no idea that George VI had to ask

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon repeatedly to marry him. I investigated why she was reluctant when she clearly loved him, and wondered how many other people have hesitated on the brink of a marriage that promises challenges.



Rex Features.

This week we’re

All Of The Lights

At this time of year, Leicester has one of the largest Diwali celebrations (the Hindu festival of lights) outside India, and the New Walk Museum has an exhibition telling of its origins. It runs until Sunday, and you can find out more at

Beautiful Biscuits The More, The Merrier! Festive favourites Guylian have a bumper-sized box of their classic seashell chocolates, with 50% more than the usual packs. They’re the perfect thing to have on the coffee table for an after-dinner nibble. RRP £6.75.

Icing tutor Tessa Whitehouse has brought together some of her best designs for decorated biscuits in this book. On sale for £14.99, it breaks each design down into step-by-step instructions, helping you add a personal touch to special occasions throughout the year.

Woodland Wonder

The tarsier is a tiny primate found only in the islands of south-east Asia. Apparently its brain is the same size as just one of its endearingly enormous eyeballs!

A gigantic Celtic cross has appeared in a Donegal forest, only visible from the air. It was the work of forester Liam Emmery, created by planting two types of tree. Sadly he passed away two years ago, but even though he might never have seen his handiwork, it will remain a tribute to him for the next sixty to seventy years.

Rex Features.

Big Eyes

She’s sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer, and over 100 million albums, and this Saturday Tina Turner turns seventy-seven. Tina has officially relinquished her US citizenship to become a citizen of Switzerland, where she’s been living for the last two decades.

Darren Sheaffer.


Simply The Best

Wrist Rulers

After being in development for nearly twenty-five years, Steven Spielberg’s “BFG” was finally released this year, and is now out on DVD. This magical tale is a fantastic heartwarmer for all ages, RRP £9.99.

Made in the USA, wrist rulers have been brought to the UK by Beyond Measure. If you’re a crafter or knitter or work with textiles, you’ll love these handy measuring aids which wrap around your wrist. They’re priced £20 from

Details correct at time of going to press.

Rex Features.

Children’s Classic

Pay As You Go

Having started in Moscow in 2011, Ziferblat cafés are now spreading around Europe and the UK. When you visit, you don’t pay individually for the tea and cakes, just for the time that you’re in there. Eat and drink as much you want at the rate of 6p for every minute spent inside. For locations, visit

Skye The Isle Of

Willie Shand explains why the beautiful island of contrasts always has something new to offer.

This week’s cover feature

Factfile n The name Sleat means a level or plain, and on this peninsula, everything lies below 1,000 feet. But little more than 10 miles away rise the famous Cuillin Hills with 14 of their 18 tops soaring to more than 3,000 feet high. n The Dark Sky Scotland project has officially recognised nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the Skye and Lochalsh area.

Photographs by Willie Shand.

n The Isle of Skye takes its name from the Norse sky-a meaning “cloud island”. n Skye has been used as a location for a number of movies, including the 1980 film “Flash Gordon” and “Stardust” (2007) starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer.


HEN folk ask me if I never get bored repeatedly returning to the Isle of Skye, I just ask them, “Have you ever been to the island?” I know the answer, too, because if they had, then surely they wouldn’t have asked such a daft question to start with. From its south-most tip at the Point of Sleat to its most northerly point above the cliffs of Rubha Hunish, Skye is only 48 miles long and, from its west-most extremity at Neist lighthouse to the shores of Loch Alsh, it’s just 42 miles across. More than half of that area, however, is lost due to all the deep penetrating inlets formed by the Hebridean seas. It’s so

Portree, the island’s main town.

heavily indented that the island is virtually carved into six connected peninsulas. Small as it is, Skye is nonetheless very much an island of contrasts. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve crossed the Kyle of Lochalsh but I can honestly say I’ve never gone home not looking forward to returning to the island again soon. The Cuillin may well be hiding beneath rain clouds,

but just 30 miles up the road, it can be a lovely sunny day, with folk out having picnics on the sands of Staffin Bay. Being a mountainous island, Skye’s climate is pretty much influenced by the sea, and while the television forecast may predict the need for raincoats and wellies, T-shirts and sun cream might well be the order of the day.


Climbers are rewarded with incredible views.

Whatever the season, there’s nothing predictable about the weather on Skye. And besides the scenery, for me, that’s one of the island’s greatest attractions – its character is always changing and always presenting a different face. The road from Kyleakin to Portree can in summer be busy with a seemingly endless stream of visitors heading north. Most will be heading for the island’s principal town of Portree. A few may be making for the ferry terminal at Uig with Harris, Lewis and the Uists in their sights. Finding accommodation in Portree in the height of summer is sometimes no fun. I usually keep a sleeping bag in the car just in case! The town is never busier than during the week of the Skye Gathering when, in the evening, the festivities often adjourn to the local pubs for

a right cheery night – pipers and drummers, too! Just the same, finding a quiet spot on Skye is seldom difficult and anyone prepared to walk can be more or less assured of discovering a bit of solitude. For getting away from it all, a walk out to the light at the Point of Sleat is hard to beat. From there our eyes can drift away to the islands of Rhum and Eigg and across the Sound to the mainland hills of Morar. The Sleat peninsula is known as the Garden of Skye and presents a much more fertile face than most other parts of the island. The greenery around Isleornsay and the colourful gardens of Armadale Castle are certainly a marked contrast with the windswept, relatively treeless landscapes of the Neist and Waternish Peninsulas. Out by Waternish, even on

At the Fairy Pools in the heart of the mighty Cuillin.

a still day, any scrawny wee trees that do grow have their backs bent in submission to the winds. Within the shelter of the 40-acre gardens at Armadale, wandering among plants and age-old trees brought from all corners of the world, it would be easy to forget we’re still on the same island. In 1750, Armadale

An oasis at the Armadale Castle Gardens.

provided the setting for the wedding of Flora MacDonald. The landscape of Sleat is tame compared to the hard, wild beauty of the Cuillin. When the sun shines, the urge to climb up to the mountain tops can be quite tempting, but up on the ridge, conditions can so quickly change. When the cloud descends or mists creep in from the sea, these mountains take no prisoners. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a closer look at them, though. One of my favourite walks on the island starts from the end of the Glen Brittle road and climbs up to the relative safety of Coire Laggan. Its sheltered lochan lies tucked in the horseshoe beneath some of the highest tops in the range – Sgurr Dearg, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Sgumain. This track takes you into the very heart of the Cuillin without risk of life or limb – unless, of course, you fall in the loch or get ambushed by a plague

10 At Kilt Rock on a benign day.

Getting there

Portree’s colourful harbour.

of midges! Maybe it’s the sea air that gives the midges such a good appetite on Skye. Be warned – they are never hungrier than on a balmy summer’s day when the sun pops out after a shower of rain. Some days, though, when the Atlantic gales blow in from the west, not even the midges venture forth. They say only a sow can see the wind but on Skye we’ve plenty opportunity to see its effect – especially along the more exposed stretches of the island’s western fringes. It’s on these extremely windy days, when the shelter of potteries and craft shops so often comes to the rescue, that I deliberately make for the likes of Moonen Bay and Neist Point. That’s when they look their best – not on a quiet sunny day, but when the

white-crested breakers roll in and explode with terrifying force over the rocks and cliffs. Some days, the waterfalls will be literally thrown into reverse like Indian smoke signals. On days like that, the gulls don’t even attempt to fly. The next day, of course, these same seas may be as calm and benign as a mill pond. The north-most of Skye’s six peninsulas, Trotternish, couldn’t provide a greater contrast to Sleat in the south. Along almost the entire length, its spine is formed by the Storr escarpment. Within it you’ll find some of Britain’s strangest landscapes. The 165-feettall Old Man of Storr gazes out over the Sound of Raasay to Raasay, Rona and the mountains of Applecross and Torridon beyond. Old Man of Storr.

Like the Quiraing, just a few miles further north above Staffin, these unique landscapes were created by major landslides who knows how long ago. A visit to the Old Man is probably the most popular trek on the island and on a sunny day you certainly won’t be alone. Personally, I’d wait for a more dreich day when the weird pinnacles eerily appear and disappear through the swirling mists. It’s much more atmospheric in these conditions and, better still, if you can put up with a fine drizzle, you might even be lucky enough to have the place all to yourself. Wherever you look nowadays, man is changing the landscape and Skye is not immune. It’s twenty years since the old Kyle of Lochalsh ferry was replaced by the Skye Bridge in 1995. Out by Edinbane, the spread of wind turbines has even managed to find an in-road to the island! These recent developments stand in sharp contrast to a landscape shaped over many millions of years – a landscape that can even reveal to us the fossilised footprints of dinosaurs. Of all the island’s attractions, for me, its most special is undoubtedly the weather and its ability to change from clear blue skies to horizontal rain and back

By road, there’s only one way into Skye, along the scenic A87 from Invergarry. Trains run to the Kyle of Lochalsh from Inverness, and Citylink buses run from Glasgow through Fort William to the far end of the island at Uig. to sunshine again in the space of ten minutes. Its moods are always changing and on this island of contrasts, perhaps the greatest contrast of all is to be found in how the island presents itself so differently one day to the next. Skye can be gloriously colourful; it can be monochrome. It can be wild and it can be tame, fertile and barren, miserably wet or scorching hot, and sometimes, all within the same day! Skye can be whatever you want it to be but never, absolutely never, boring. n

Want to know more? Portree iCentre Bayfield House, Bayfield Road, Portree, IV51 9EL Tel: 01478 612992 E-mail: portree@ info/services/portreeicentre


Photographs courtesy of Maddie Grigg, except where stated.


In her weekly column, Maddie Grigg shares tales from her life in rural Dorset . . .

S well as writing for “The People’s Friend”, I have an interesting day job at an old theatre in a nearby town. The Electric Palace was purpose-built in the late 1920s as a cinema and opera house for a local brewing family. It’s now a prime venue for live music, theatre, opera and ballet screenings, comedy and film. Every year, it’s taken over by a local musical theatre company as well as a dance school. And, just after Christmas, the local pantomime players put on their annual show. It’s always been a bit of a hub of creative and cultural activity and, with new owners investing money in restoring this lovely old place, the only way is up. My job is to help publicise the full and varied programme. The acts range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Last year, I was thrilled to have been able to use my

contacts to help secure the Dorset premiere of the new film “Far From The Madding Crowd”. Much of the movie, which stars Carey Mulligan, was filmed at Mapperton, which for me is one of the loveliest places on earth. Mr Grigg and I lived on the estate for a couple of years, as tenants of Lord and Lady Sandwich. In the film, the star of the show is really the bucolic countryside. One of the perks of this job is that I get to see a lot of great shows, from Shakespeare and Spielberg to Blues and Branagh. At the “Far From The Madding Crowd” premiere, the great and the good were out in force, along with the tenants from Mapperton, with whom we sat, up in the gods. It was a village outing the like of which had never been seen before. As we’d once lived on the estate, we knew most of them and it was a real privilege to be sitting with them. While the London

“luvvies” who had dressed the theatre for the show were teetering around on high heels and blowing air kisses, the Mapperton crew simply smiled at each other and said, “All right?” It was a moment to remember, natural and completely unpretentious. And one of our recent trips to the Palace was also very much the latter. We were there to see one of Mr Grigg’s favourites, the West Country band the Wurzels. The group had some Seventies hits with “Combine Harvester” to the tune of Melanie’s “Brand New Key”, and “I Am A Cider Drinker” to the tune of “Una Paloma Blanca”. They’ve become an institution in these parts – lovable local yokels who just

The Wurzels.

Rex Features.

“The acts range from the sublime to the ridiculous”

want to have fun. And so it was when they came on stage at the Palace, with everyone up out of their seats, some up the front, dancing and cheering, and having a ball. There is a story of a gig played by Leeds band the Kaiser Chiefs in Gloucestershire. When the band began to sing the chorus “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby”, the audience responded with, “Ooh-arr, ooh-arr, ooh-arr, ooh-arr”. They were in Wurzels country, see, and the locals knew the song best as a Wurzels’ cover. The Wurzels have parodied what it is to be a native of the West Country, complete with red-spotted neckerchief and regional accent. I ought to hate this stereotype, but I quite like it. I know for a fact that my nondescript accent slips into broad Somerset when I’m with family or with locals. The Wurzels aren’t about high culture or fantastic musicianship. They’re about having fun, with a bit of harmless innuendo and lots of laughs. And, in my book, there’s not a lot wrong with that. n


Sometimes the smallest of gestures can make a world of difference . . .

The Butterfly Effect

Illustration by Kirk Houston.


ARDI’S cleaned the beach most mornings since retiring, at half past six, with only the occasional dog walker on the tide-marked sand. She only ventures down in decent weather; the arthritis in her hands throbs if the wind is biting. Today there is a breeze she senses will build throughout the day. She walks gingerly over the loose stones, then across the grey shingle on to the sand, bucket swinging in her hand. Mardi sets the bucket down and puts on disposable gloves. She picks up a discarded bottle, then a faded shoe tangled with seaweed. She hums as she works, placing the items into her bucket. One bucketful every day. As she stumbles up the foreshore with her bucket, she spots a toy above the

high-tide line – a blue rabbit with long ears and a pastel striped jumper. He is grubby and well loved. She picks him up, turning him over, trying to determine if he belonged to a child or a dog. Someone may be missing him. She sticks him in her jacket pocket, his smiling face peeking out. With effort, she tips her bucket contents into the litter bin. The tide lapping at the shore makes it sound as if the beach is sighing with relief. She looks out across the sand, hands on hips as she leans back and grimaces as her back clicks. Mardi loves the seaside, and this had felt like a worthwhile project when she started. But she is getting old. Tears fill her eyes as they pick out debris and litter she has missed. She had imagined that one day the beach would look like an illustration on a postcard,

but it never happens. She asks herself what the point is. No-one notices any difference, not even her. She tells herself again that this morning will be her last, but she knows it won’t. She wipes her tears as she turns to leave. She puts her hand to her pocket for a tissue, and finds the rabbit. She ties him to the railings by his long ears. Hopefully his owner will claim him. If not, she will put him in the bin tomorrow. Might as well give him another chance at life first.

* * * *

Jenna comes to the beach at lunchtime, because she believes the negative ions clear her thoughts. She sits on the stones and closes her eyes, letting the breeze stir her hair and awaken her senses. She allows the sound of waves to fill the space where her

thoughts were. She eats a sandwich, letting crumbs fall on her trousers. Afterwards, she builds a tower of flat pebbles, ten high. She admires her handiwork, wondering how long it will withstand the elements. She feels it will serve some sort of purpose. She has no idea what compelled her to create it. Jenna stands up, shoes dangling from her hand as she teeters over the rocks on to the sand. She will decide today. She will decide whether to stay in the high-pressure HR job she has worked her way up to, or to paint full-time. She’s good enough, she knows. She has confidence in her own creative process. She has no confidence in making a living from it, though. Art never pays well unless you’re really lucky. But would it be impossible? She’s made money from her last few paintings. If she gave up working and concentrated on it full-time, maybe she could do it. She needs to decide whether to take that leap or not. As she reaches the railings at the far end of the beach, she stops. A toy rabbit smiles at her, ears entwined round the railings. She frowns and turns to look at the frothy sea, then back at the rabbit. He smiles. He tells her what the answer should be. Jenna smiles back, tension leaving her body.

* * * *

She is due in theatre at ten tomorrow. The prognosis is good, but Thomas is scared. He can’t show fear because he needs to be strong for her, but how?

16 He walks along the shoreline, his feet sinking into the wet sand. He is always sinking. Sinking in fear, regret and guilt. He wants to reassure her everything will be OK. But how can he, if he doesn’t believe that himself? The tumour is benign, but brain surgery could leave her with months of rehabilitation and there is no guarantee she will survive the surgery. There never is. He shakes his head at the thought. He worries for her.

he knew. She thought he was snooping on the computer, checking her e-mails. But he was planning a surprise anniversary trip. A chance to rekindle their marriage, to show he still cared. She says it’s over, that she won’t see him again. But she said that last time. He could forgive her once. Can he forgive her a second time? He inhales the salty air. It reminds him of childhood, of summer days at the

He needs to stay positive. He needs to stay strong Neuropathy, intracranial bleeding, seizures. His chest is tight and the familiar pressure of tears he cannot shed builds behind his eyes. He needs to stay positive. He needs to stay strong. He stops and stares at the horizon, blurred by mist. Help me to be strong, he begs silently. Help us. Thomas picks up a stick of driftwood, dragging the tip along the sand as he heads up the beach. He spots a tower of flat pebbles on a stone. Precarious and lop-sided but still standing. Like him. The image makes him smile. Something so small and fragile, yet strong and sturdy. He will get through this. So will she. He breathes deeply, feels the tightness in his chest but accepts it. The worry is there, but so is the strength. He writes HOPE in the sand. It feels right. There is always hope.

* * * *

Andrew has bought pink roses; her favourite. It’s all his fault. He was an idiot. If he had been more attentive maybe she would have stayed faithful. The late nights at the office, the weekend courses, the book club she’d suddenly started attending every Wednesday evening – he should have known. The reason she confessed was because she thought

seaside. Of sandcastles, sea glass and ice-cream. Life was simpler then. It promised so much. Andrew dawdles along, tells himself he’s enjoying the view of the sea that is growing excitable as the wind rises. But he is stalling; he doesn’t know what to do. He stays because she’s all he has. He may never get someone better. The word in the sand makes him stop. He freezes, as if playing musical statues. HOPE. There is always hope. He starts to laugh. He can walk away. He realises he is shaking. He looks at the flowers, but in that moment loosens his grip and a momentary gust whips them out of his hand. They tumble along the stones and out of his sight. He knows what to do.

* * * *

Jay walks quickly along the sand, enjoying the feeling of breathlessness, of the sea wind whipping his hair, and of the dog by his side. Walking the dog always calms him down. He knows he was in the wrong, but sometimes he can’t help himself. He shouldn’t have shouted at Mum like that. She works hard, bringing them up alone, but sometimes he wants to see

how much he can get away with. He scowls; he doesn’t like feeling like this. Why does he do it? She’s his mum and he loves her, but still he hurts her. He wishes he could make it up to her. It’s windier now than when he left the house, but its making him feel alive. Damp sand sticks to his trainers and he hears the roar of the waves. He watches a group of oystercatchers scuttle along the shoreline, cheeping indignantly at the dog’s curious presence. The dog sniffs a bouquet of pink flowers on the sand. He pulls her away and keeps walking. Then he stops and looks around. There is no-one near except a woman behind him. He glances back at the flowers. They look as if they’ve just been dropped there. He goes back, hesitates for a moment, then picks them up and brushes some sand off the blooms. A couple of the flowerheads have gone, but otherwise they look fine. Mum will like them. He’ll put them in a vase and leave them on the kitchen counter for her. He is sorry.

* * * *

Lauren sighs, shoulders slumped as she scours the high tide line. Happy Bunny is long gone, swallowed by the sea or nabbed by an eager dog. She sighs at the thought of another night of tantrums. She didn’t realise he had been left behind until they got home last night. She was hopeful she might find him today. She wonders if it’s possible to buy another, but he will know the difference. A new one won’t be the same. She should have been out searching hours ago but she struggled to find a babysitter. With Ben working away, she’s often on her own and she’s never had time to make many friends in this town. Lauren regrets that now. At the same time though,

she’s grateful to the one good friend she did manage to make, for offering to watch the children for a while. It had never occurred to her to ask before. She concedes defeat and stumbles over the stones, back to the path. A teenage boy, awkwardly holding a bunch of flowers, is ahead of her. His dog barks at something on the railings and the boy drags it away. As she gets closer, she hardly believes what she is seeing. Happy Bunny, tied to the railings by his ears! She speeds up, stones shifting beneath her feet. It’s him! Damp and sandy, but fine. Lauren unties his ears. Perhaps the old music teacher who cleans the beach every morning found him. Tears prick her eyes as she clutches him to her chest.

* * * *

It’s a clear, bright morning. The sea is calm and playful, glistening in the early sun. The weather will be good today, Mardi thinks, as she walks up the shore with her full bucket. Sellotaped to the lid of the litter bin is a red envelope in a clear plastic bag. To the lady who cleans the beach, the envelope says. How peculiar, she thinks, as she rips it open. I’m not sure of your name, but I wondered if you saved my youngest son’s favourite bunny yesterday? If so, thank you! He had been distraught without it, and if you hadn’t tied it to the railings it would be long gone. Even if it wasn’t you that saved Happy Bunny, I hope you realise that you are appreciated and how much nicer the beach looks thanks to your efforts. I really hope you keep it up, and that one day soon I’ll be able to come down to the beach with my own bucket and join you. I’m looking forward to it already. Thank you again. Lauren, Connor and Happy Bunny. n

wellbeing Health &

Great advice to keep you happy and healthy

Q. I suffer from eczema and often find it gets worse over the winter months. Can I do anything to alleviate the problem? Dr Bav Shergill, Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation Trustee, is here to help. Make sure you’re moisturising regularly and using an emollient that’s right for you – keeping skin moist is imperative to avoid it getting cracked and infected. Be careful with the clothing you wear, too. Some materials, for example lamb’s wool, may irritate skin and cause flare-ups. Also avoid harsh,

In The News


Stress And Cancer Australian researchers have found that although stress might not actually cause cancer, it can turn the body into a kind of “super highway”, spreading the disease up to six times faster. Researchers at Monash University have found that stress can create routes out of a tumour that provide a physical pathway for a cancer to spread. On the back of this research the team is now testing a beta-blocker drug, usually used to treat high blood pressure, to see if it can ease the stress of cancer treatments and surgery and so improve outcomes. This could also help explain how relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness might be able to calm the body as well as the mind, and slow the progression of the disease.

alcohol-based cleansers and soaps. Protect skin with warm clothing (a scarf, hat and gloves) whilst outside. If the rain makes your clothes damp, ensure that you change into something dry as soon as possible to prevent irritation. Whilst it’s natural to want to stay warm indoors, even the central heating can affect our skin. The drier air means the skin can also dry out, so try not to turn the thermostat up to maximum. Avoid the temptation to have a long hot bath, as this can strip away

Health Bite With mussels now being widely available in supermarkets – either fresh in their shells, or frozen and shelled – it’s easier than ever to put this shellfish on the menu at home and get a nutrient boost. They’re rich in zinc and selenium – a 140g serving (around 20 mussels) provides half our daily need for zinc and more than one and a half times the amount of antioxidant selenium we should have. A serving also provides a third of our daily need for iron. This makes them a great choice, particularly for women, as 23 per cent of nineteen- to sixty-four-year-olds have exceptionally low intakes of this nutrient and so are at risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia. On top of this, mussels provide vitamins B2 and B12, phosphorus, copper, iodine and good amounts of omega-3 fats.

much-needed natural oil from the skin. Remember to keep the water temperature warm, not hot, and avoid drying your skin vigorously with a towel, as this can damage it, too – pat it dry instead and apply a moisturiser.

Use Smaller Plates Research shows that we eat whatever is on our plate and, without thinking, can easily consume 30 per cent more calories when faced with larger portions. So put the large plates out of reach and lay out smaller ones. According to dietician Sian Porter: • a 12 inch (30 cm) plate and an 8 in (20 cm) bowl means your portions are too large. • an 8 fl oz (250 ml) wine glass should be swapped for a 4 fl oz (125 ml) glass instead. Doing this will cut 146 calories per glass. • Instead of using a large serving spoon when dishing out food, use a tablespoon, as you’re less likely to dish up too much.

We are unable to offer individual advice to readers. Please see your own GP if you have a medical problem.


Lower back pain is one symptom

Finding Out About Kidney Stones


Colleen Shannon, our Health Writer, talks to a professor of renal medicine

F you’ve ever had a trapped kidney stone, or if you know someone who has been through this, you’ll already understand that it’s a very painful and unpleasant experience. Fortunately, kidney stones can be treated effectively and, even better, you can help to prevent them by following some common sense habits. To learn more, I asked Professor John Sayer, Professor of Renal Medicine at Newcastle University and a spokesman for the Renal Association, which is a professional organisation for specialist doctors and nurses. He explained that kidney stones are very common, affecting one in 10 people at some point in their lives. The stones usually build up slowly in the kidney and most are made up of calcium, although there are also other kinds. Sometimes they stay in the kidney and do not cause any problems. In such cases, they might be picked up unexpectedly when you are having a routine ultrasound scan for other reasons. But if a kidney stone starts travelling down the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder, it can get stuck and block the outflow of urine. When this happens it causes severe pain, known as colic. People feel it in the lower back or abdomen. Colic from a kidney stone is an emergency and medical care is needed right away. Other

danger signs are shivering, running a fever and feeling or being sick. To pinpoint a stone that is causing colic, a CT scan in hospital will show where it is. A doctor may need to break the stone up using equipment that generates sound waves, in a procedure called lithotripsy. Sometimes surgery might be needed to remove the stone. A burning sensation when you pass urine, or seeing blood in your urine, may also indicate a kidney stone. There can be other causes but these also need to be checked out and treated, so please see your GP if you have these symptoms. Sometimes a stone can be passed naturally. It should be kept and examined in a hospital laboratory. This will tell your doctor what type of kidney stone it is, and guide the choice of treatment. Medication and a special diet are helpful in some cases. After treatment the outlook is usually good. But unfortunately, half of people who have one kidney stone go on to have another within the next 10 years. Long-term complications can include kidney infections, or damage to the kidneys (known as chronic kidney disease or CKD). Prevention is better than cure and one important step is to keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. A healthy, balanced diet also helps. Cut back your salt intake, and get your five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. You can learn more on the NHS Choices website at conditions/Kidney-stones or visit the Renal Association’s website at www.renal. org/information-resources/informationfor-patients for links to other reliable information on the web.

Time To Work Out Even if you like to leap out of bed and start exercising early, your body adapts better to a keep-fit routine in the evening. A study by the University of Chicago found levels of two hormones important for energy metabolism increased far more in people who exercised later in the day than those who exercised in the morning. Evening exercise also allows you to destress from the day, and your joints and muscles are more flexible so you should be less prone to injury. Studies show exercising around four to five p.m. could be an optimal time for lung function, but leave your workout too late and it may prevent you being able to drift off to sleep at bedtime. However, if your willpower is weak then it may be better to stick to morning sessions, as research shows you are more likely to make exercise a regular habit if you do this.

Relief From Knee Pain When you’re searching for a drug-free alternative to relieving nagging knee pain and your old hot and cold packs are no longer cutting it, try a bit of electromagnetic pulse therapy. ActiPatch works in a similar way to a TENS machine, but you feel no heat or vibration. The mild stimulation has been clinically proven to stimulate blood supply to the tissues and ease pain and inflammation. The battery-powered device is tucked inside a reusable knee wrap, placed over the knee, and once switched on, is effective for up to 720 hours of continued or intermittent use. ActiPatch 720 hour knee pain relief is £23.95 from Superdrug.


The Family Tree Under the branches of the oak tree will always be our special place . . .

Illustration by Fahimeh Tari.


T’S raining so hard the oak gives poor shelter. At my feet my terrier, Nancy, whines. She wants to keep moving. I don’t blame her. Raindrops from the sodden leaf canopy spatter my head and shoulders. I pull up my hood. I’m horrified to touch tears mixing with rain on my face. It’s not like I didn’t know this was going to happen. But today of all days, it’s tough to take. “How clever, Karen,” people said. “Twins! A boy and a girl – a ready-made family.” I must admit to lying in maternity feeling a bit smug – something swiftly wiped away after the first week of sleepless nights. “I thought twins were supposed to be in tune,” Dave said, rubbing his eyes. “How come as soon as one goes down the other wakes up?” “Like I’m the expert?” I remember those first few months as a swamp-brained fog of night-time feeds and naps played out to a soundtrack of an everdroning washing machine. “Double trouble,” my dad had joked on his first visit. Wasn’t that the truth? Of course it was also a recipe for double joy, and by the time we moved into this house we’d moulded into a semi-civilised family. Jake and Pippa were four that summer. We found this oak tree at the foot of our garden on the first day. “It’s in four bits.” Pippa danced on our side of the fence. “It’s as if a giant sent down a lightning bolt to split it open.” “Don’t be silly,” Jake said. “If he’d sent a lightning bolt the tree would be dead.

Look at the leaves and big branches – they’ve made a seat. I’m going to sit on it.” “It isn’t ours.” Pippa was in her prim and proper phase. “That wouldn’t be right, would it, Mum?” I laughed. “There’s a public footpath running past the bottom of our garden, so I’m pretty sure nobody would mind if we sat on the tree.” Jake didn’t need telling twice. In a second he was scaling the fence. “Wait for me! I want to sit on the seat, too.” Decorum abandoned, Pippa was beside him. I followed, forcing their jostling bodies apart and sitting on the tree myself. “It can be Mum’s seat,” Jake said. “And neither of us must never sit there.” “Ever,” I corrected. “Ever,” they chorused, reconciled once more. It was Mum’s seat still. Damp seeps into my jeans. I shift my weight and take out my phone. Nothing. In my memory that first summer is filled with sun-dappled days, woodland walks and laughter-filled explorations of our new environment. And, of course, lots of picnics at the foot of our oak. The September morning that, without a backwards glance, they both went into school for the first time, I sat in my oak seat and cried. Cuddling a terrier called Toffee, I mourned the loss of my children’s infancy and came to terms with my new role as a school-gate mum. Tears and a terrier. A bit like today. Nancy whines again and puts a paw on my knee. “Just a moment, Nancy.” I check my mobile.

“It’s ridiculous being so dependent on a phone.” I’ve scolded my twins often enough. I switch it off in disgust. I scratch behind Nancy’s ear, my mind bringing me pictures from the past . . .

* * * *

“Jake’s been made captain of the football team. He’s the youngest captain ever!” Pippa ran home to tell me, pulsating with pride. “A celebration picnic is called for, then,” I replied. We feasted on scotch eggs, crisps and cake. “Look, Mum!” Pippa pointed. “It’s a fairy ring at the foot of our oak – see the toadstools? It means fairies must have moved in. We must save them some cake. Fairies like cake.” “They’re not having mine.”

Jake rammed another piece into his mouth. For weeks afterwards Pippa took cake crumbs and left them in a tree knot that still exists. I stroke its surface and smile. Each night after she was in bed, Dave or I would go down to the oak and retrieve cake to keep the pretence going, until Jake spoiled it by stamping on the toadstools. “Pippa’s no right to make this a tree for her stupid fairies.” My son scowled in a way that made him look so much like his sister. “This is our oak.” “Of course it’s ours.” Pippa sniffed. “I never meant to leave you out, Jake.” It’s true what people say about twins. They could and did fight like alley cats, but there was an

unbreakable bond. There were too many memories in this tree: celebrations for GCSE results and A-levels. That one was a few glasses of fizz with their friends before they took a taxi into town. I shake my head like Nancy when she’s wet, scattering raindrops. I stand up. “I’m getting maudlin, Nancy. Let’s get on.” Today is my birthday. The first without my twins. “You’ll miss them when they go,” everyone said. “Nonsense.” I laughed. “I’ll enjoy the peace.” I’ve never been a career mother. I have work, friends and hobbies. But all those things are like bits of cotton wool trying to plug a gaping hole in my heart. The force of this feeling has floored me. Jake is on a scholarship in San Francisco and Pippa is at university in Plymouth. “I must be a terrible mother for them both to want to be so far away.” I sobbed to Dave. “Don’t be daft,” he said. “They’re finding their way in the world, that’s all.” I’m happy for them. I am. It’s myself I’m sorry for.

* * * *

“Karen!” Dave’s coming towards me under his golfing umbrella. “Why isn’t your phone on?” He brandishes his iPad. “I’ve got Jake and Pippa on Skype. We planned it as a surprise.” On the little screen my son waves from California. “Morning, Mum! It’s breakfast time here.” Pippa grins out at me from her halls of residence. “Mum, would it be OK to come home this weekend? There will be nobody in my flat, so . . .” “I thought you’d both forgotten –” Dave grins and puts an arm around my shoulder. I pick up Nancy so the twins can see her, too. Like a Disney miracle, the rain stops and sun breaks through cloud. I laugh. My family may be spread wide, but like our oak we all still share the same roots. n

Guest Be My


E’VE got to be at the top of our game today,” Rob said on Friday morning. “The lady from the university is coming.” “I know,” Janey replied. “You’ve mentioned it a thousand times.” “It could mean a lot of extra business.” “I know.” Janey shooed him away from the fridge as she tried to reach the breakfast things. “And be nice to the professor,” Rob warned. “I’m nice to everyone.” “Mmm,” Rob said, doubtfully. “Unless they order eggs over-easy.” “He’s American, so there’s a strong possibility that he will do. Although that’s not what he ordered yesterday.” “We need him to tell her he’s had a great stay,” Rob said. “He will. I’ll be extra nice,” Janey promised. Rob left to sort out the children and Janey worked her way through the breakfast orders. The family of four all ordered scrambled eggs, earning a big smile from Janey. “Has the professor been down?” Rob asked when he came back from the school run. “No, and breakfast ends in five minutes,” Janey reminded him. “Can you hang on for a bit?” “I can. It’s no problem while I clear up.” Janey cleared the tables and stacked the dishwasher but left the grill on low and the juices and hot drinks out for

The Red House has a whirlwind visitor staying this week . . .

when the professor came down, but he didn’t appear. Half an hour later, Janey turned off the grill, but left out the cereals and bread for toast. An hour later she went to find Rob. “Any sign?” she asked. “No. And I can’t hear any movement from his room.” “He’s probably worn out.” He had flown in from San Francisco the day before. They left him to it and went about their jobs. The lady from the university was coming at two and, as everyone had checked out that morning, they had to turn over all the rooms and make one up in time for her arrival. By midday, five rooms had been changed over, but there was still no sound from the professor’s room. “We’ll have to wake him up,” Janey said. They both stood silently, ears pressed to the door of his room. Rob knocked quietly. Nothing. Rob knocked again. “Hello?” he called. “Everything OK?” Nothing. “I’m coming in!” he called. Janey gripped his arm, suddenly afraid of what they might find. Rob brushed her off. “Wait here,” he said. Rob tried the key but the

More next week.


room was unlocked. He turned the handle and opened the door slowly. The room was empty. The bed was rumpled, as if slept in, but of the professor there was no sign. “That’s odd,” Janey said. “He must have gone before six-thirty.” With little time to spare, they quickly made up the room and pushed the vacuum round before the lady arrived from the university. “Hi,” Rob greeted her as he opened the door. “Nice to meet you.” They shook hands and Janey offered to make drinks. They sat in the breakfast room over their coffees. “I have to say,” Tanya, the lady from the university, began, “everyone who stays here says how nice it is and how well looked after they feel.” Rob beamed. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said. “Only yesterday, the professor was telling me what a lovely room he had, and how good the breakfast was.” “Really?” Rob asked. “That’s great.” “We missed him this morning,” Janey admitted. “I wanted to ask how the conference went but he must have left before we got up.” “Oh, yes,” Tanya said. “I booked him a taxi to the airport for three-thirty.” “But he only arrived thirty-six hours earlier,” Rob pointed out. “He had a very small window to come over to speak, so he flew in and out just for us.” “He was a bit of a mad professor,” Janey said after Tanya had been given the tour and gone back to work, promising to use them in the future. “That amount of travelling is crazy,” Rob replied. “Makes me glad my commute is one flight of stairs!”



Brainteasers Missing Link




























ACROSS 1 Asked too little money for 3 Chime • Connecting device

ACROSS 1 Surgical instrument (7) 5 Tot of whisky (4) 10 Acquire (3) 11 Opposite of ‘tightness’ (9) 12 Conditions of an agreement (5) 13 Increase (6) 15 Mogul, magnate (6) 17 Issue forth (6) 18 Lever for turning a rudder (6) 20 ___ and crossbones, pirates’ emblem (5) 23 Sausage used as a pizza topping (9) 24 Witch’s familiar (3) 25 Protracted (4) 26 Dwarfed, shortened (7)



4 5 6 7 8











13 14








22 23




DOWN 2 Peripheral (5) 3 Send to Coventry (4‑8) 4 Tine of a fork (5) 6 Put back (on a register) (2‑5) 7 Sailors’ dining room (4)

With the help of the Across clues only, can you fit the pieces into their correct positions in the grid?



Answers on p95

Try our quick crossword

Fit ten words into the grid so each one connects up with the words on either side eg - wishing well - done. Read down the letters in the shaded squares to spell out a word.




8 Stir things up (7) 9 Withdraw from service (12) 14 Puncture (7) 16 Deep‑frying vessel (4,3) 19 Perch (5) 21 Male relative (5) 22 Milk‑white precious stone (4)


Fill the grid with the numbers 1 to 9 so that each row, column and 3x3 block contains the numbers 1 to 9.









8 1 9 6 3 4 7 9 6 3 6 1 5 3 2 7

8 9 11



Repent of Cherished a desire More than allowed Dice‑shaped Android

9 Deceive 10 Whorl of petals in a flower • Liquid clay 12 Mitigating





All puzzles © Puzzler Media Ltd ‑


“I’ve always wanted to tell my own stories” Turn to page 93 for this week’s instalment of “Riverside”.

Glenda Young chats about how she created the “Friend’s” new soap, “Riverside”.


Tell us about your writing background.

I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was a child, and I’ve taken part in lots of creative writing classes over the years. However, it wasn’t until I was a (very!) mature student on a journalism degree that my writing really blossomed, and I’ve gone on to write non-fiction books for ITV. I’ve always felt that I wanted to write fiction, to tell my own stories. And so at the end of 2015, I attended a writing course run at Sunderland Women’s Centre. The course was very nurturing and encouraging and led to the publication in “The People’s Friend” of my first short story – ever. The story was published earlier this year as “A Lasting Love”. I’ve since had more stories published by “The People’s Friend” and attended their writing workshop in York this year.



How did you get involved with “Coronation Street”? While I was a mature student on my journalism degree course, ITV became aware of the “Coronation Street” fan website I had set up. They invited me in to work in their press office on work placement, assisting the writer of a new Corrie book. It was an absolute dream of a placement and the book was “Access All Areas: Behind The Scenes At Coronation Street”. I then started writing articles for the (now defunct) official “Coronation Street”



magazine and was asked to write a number of articles for “Coronation Street’s” official 50th anniversary magazine. From there, I contributed to ITV’s “Coronation Street” website. All of this work led to being asked to update two ITV books – the “Coronation Street” Saga and the “Coronation Street” novel. ITV also asked me to write the official tribute book to Deirdre Barlow in “Deirdre: A Life On Coronation Street”. And most recently, I was lucky enough to be asked to choose images and write all of the text for “Coronation Street: The Official Colouring Book”.

Tell us about your new soap, “Riverside”, which appears every week in “The People’s Friend”.

“Riverside” is a weekly soap set in the fictional town of Ryemouth. It’s an ex-industrial town undergoing regeneration, and while most people welcome the changes, there are some who are resistant and like the old ways best. It’s all about the old and the new and how the two meet. It’s funny in places; touching, dramatic and serious, too. When I received the e-mail from the Fiction team at “The People’s Friend” asking if I’d be interested in writing a soap, I almost fell off my chair with shock! I felt enormously privileged at having been asked, but at the same time I was terrified at the thought of creating my own characters and storylines. All the work that I do for ITV is writing about a soap and retelling stories that have already been told. In “Riverside”, I was being asked to create my own storylines, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I wrestled with a great deal of self-doubt and anxiety as I knew that if I took up this amazing opportunity, I had to get it right for “The People’s Friend”.



Where do your characters spring from? When I was first asked to write the soap, I had to think hard about the characters and asked myself where they would come from. And the more questions I asked, the more the answers appeared. As I’ve been writing “Riverside”, I’ve come to really care about the characters and the place itself. “Riverside” is a community – it’s made up of families, friends, newcomers and oldtimers. Most of them are nice people, but there’s always at least one bad apple who finds their way in every now and then! And of course, being a soap, there’s got to be a cliff-hanger at the end of each episode.


Visit Glenda’s website at http://glendayoungbooks. com or follow her on Twitter: @flaming_nora. Glenda is the Editor of, the internet’s first and original “Coronation Street” fan site, written by Corrie fans for Corrie fans since 2007. They’re also on Twitter: @CoroStreetBlog and Facebook: CoronationStreetBlog.

ts ! r a St day to

A Christmas To Remember

Illustration by Mandy Dixon.


HO was on the phone?” Jack Corrigan asked, looking up from his laptop as his wife entered the kitchen. “I hope somebody hasn’t talked you into something again.” “That was Mum, calling to let me know that the whole family will be descending on us for Christmas. I couldn’t refuse, not after everything she’s been through. I was worn to a frazzle last year, and then it was just us and the kids. “Now there will be nine of us, if Jason’s girlfriend comes, and we can hardly leave her out when he intends to pop the question on Christmas Day!” “Ouch! But why us, love?”

It was down to Dorothy to host Christmas this year, and preparations so far weren’t going according to plan . . .

“Why do you think? Because we’re the only ones with six bedrooms, that’s why.” Dorothy pulled up a chair and sat down heavily. “Tell me why on earth we bought this white elephant of a house, Jack! We must have been mad!” “Christmas at the Elephant,” Jack said, laughing. “It does have a certain ring to it.” “That’s all very well, but this will take some planning and I’m counting on you to

help me. You’ll have to see to the drinks, and don’t forget the Drambuie to toast Dad’s memory if we’re to keep Mum happy. Oh, and I must remember to buy chestnuts for roasting.” “Why can’t she have us all at that retirement place in Devon?” he muttered. “I know they have a function room and surely she can book that visitors’ suite for us.” “She’s left it too late. I’m

afraid we’ll just have to bite the bullet. It’s our own fault. Mum loved having us all at home for Christmas while Dad was alive, but one by one we all found better things to do. Has that kettle boiled? I could do with a cuppa.” “I’ll make it, love. And do stop fretting. It will all come out right, you’ll see.” “I’m not so sure. We may be family, but we’re a pretty mixed bunch. And poor Debs is eight months pregnant and shouldn’t be travelling.” “We’ll alert Doctor King, just in case.” “I know what he’ll say! After all those miscarriages, Debbie shouldn’t take any chances. She ought to stay home, where she belongs. “And then there’s Faith!

SERIAL BY CATRIONA MCCUAIG: PART 1 OF 4 How on earth am I supposed to entertain her? She always looks as though she has a bad smell under her nose. Too good for the likes of us!” “Why worry? Surely it’s up to your brother to keep her sweet? And if she’s getting a diamond ring for Christmas she’ll be blissfully happy, won’t she?” Sipping her tea, Dorothy thought back to past Christmases, when they’d all been together at home. Mum had pulled out all the stops, shepherding them to Midnight Mass, filling everyone’s stocking with little gifts, organising charades on the evening of Christmas Day. Gradually all three of Dora’s children had found other distractions. First, Dorothy and Jack got engaged, then married, had children and began their own family traditions. Then Debbie had wanted to spend the day with her boyfriend’s family, then Jason had arranged to go skiing in Austria with college classmates. Somehow friends had seemed more important than family. Then Dad died and it was too late to put the pieces back together. They had all continued to go their separate ways. Now, though, when it seemed so important to Mum to resurrect their former celebrations, surely they could all go along with her wishes? It was only for one day, after all. “Let’s face it,” Dorothy murmured. “Christmas at the Elephant it is. We must just make up our minds to enjoy it.” “Come the New Year we’ll have a big decision to make. Do we try to offload the Elephant and downsize? Perhaps move to a cosy little bungalow somewhere?” Jack asked. “This place is a money pit, Dorothy. It beats me why we ever thought we could afford to heat a place with six bedrooms.” “You know why. We thought we’d be converting three of those bedrooms into a flat for Mother, and she’d be paying a

peppercorn rent that would help to offset our costs. How were we to know her old house would fetch a bomb and she could afford to buy into that retirement place? Besides, we’re doing all right, aren’t we?” “Since I went freelance we’re been barely keeping our heads above water. I really think the Elephant will have to go, but let’s not worry about it now. We’ll have the Christmas celebration of our lives first.” Some years earlier, when Jack had lost his job in a big London accountancy firm, they had moved out of the city with light hearts, planning to go somewhere where the cost of living was lower, putting his redundancy money and their savings towards a home of their own where Jack could earn a living for them all as a freelancer. But housing prices had already begun to soar, and anything they really liked was beyond their means. They were about to give up in despair when they had found the Elephant, a former rectory in a small village in Berkshire. With its six bedrooms and inconvenient kitchen, it dated from the days when the clergy had produced large families. At some point after the war, the diocese had replaced it with a snug little bungalow for the vicar and put the place on the market, where it became a liability until the Corrigans went to view it. It hadn’t been what they were looking for, but they had viewed it with optimism. Surely they could make something of it? Dorothy loved sewing – could she set up a business of her own? That had been the plan, anyway. Reluctantly, Dorothy dragged herself back to the present day. “No use crying over spilt milk,” she muttered. “We’re going to spend Christmas with the people we love, and we’ll have to make sure it’s the best one ever! Are you with me, Jack?” “Yes. I just hope

everyone else feels the same way.”

* * * *

“I wish we hadn’t agreed to go,” Paul Bryce complained. “What was your mother thinking of, making you travel to your sister’s in your condition? I should have put my foot down! I’ll never forgive myself if anything goes wrong this time.” “Don’t, Paul. I’m determined to think only positive thoughts, so spare me the doom and gloom.” Debbie felt her hands clench inside the pockets of


somewhere to put her things when she arrives.”

* * * *

Meanwhile, Jason and Faith were in their favourite Italian restaurant with an impatient waiter hovering nearby. Faith was scanning her menu but Jason’s still lay on the table in front of him. “Jason!” Faith hissed. “Shall I order for both of us? Bruno is waiting!” Jason cast him an apologetic glance. “Let him wait. I want to get this settled. We’ve drawn names this year

“I really think the Elephant will have to go” her skirt. Nothing could dispel the mental images of that devastating morning when she’d discovered her tiny son lifeless in his cot, and since then she’d suffered one early miscarriage after another. She longed desperately for another little one to hold in her arms. Now she’d managed to hold on to another pregnancy into her eighth month, and that was cause for hope. Nothing would go wrong this time; she simply wouldn’t let that happen.

* * * *

“It’s not fair, Mum!” Ryan grumbled. “Why do I have to give up my room? This house has six bedrooms, so why do I have to move? Faith can have the one where you keep your sewing machine.” Dorothy frowned. “You’ll go where you’re sent and like it, my boy! Faith is your uncle’s girlfriend and we want to make her feel welcome, and that means giving her a room where she doesn’t risk getting lost trying to find the loo in the middle of the night.” “That’s silly!” “You’d better watch your tongue, Ryan Corrigan. Do as you’re told and empty those two top drawers. I want to line them with fresh paper so Faith has

instead of buying everyone a gift at great expense, and we’ve got Debbie. What do you think she’d like?” “How do I know? She’s your sister.” “And your sister-in-law, almost.” Was this the moment to let Faith know he intended to take her to Robinson’s to choose a ring? No doubt she’d think it more romantic if he produced the diamond here, before ordering champagne to follow, but surely his way was more realistic? Why spend a fortune on a ring she might hate? The jeweller might not take it back and there was no way he could afford another. “Come on! What about something for the baby?” “Better not. I’m sure everything’s fine, but you don’t want to tempt fate. Get her a voucher for a new hairstyle or something. She’s eight months pregnant so I bet she could do with a treat.” He picked up the menu at last. “Right, can you see to that? I’ll pay, of course.” Faith hesitated. “Actually, Jason, I think it’s better if I don’t get involved.” Jason looked over the top of the menu at her. “Why not?” “There’s no easy way to say this, but I won’t

Dean’s Hampers Perfect for Christmas Gifts!


These beautifully presented Dean’s hampers feature a classic selection of Dean’s favourites including melt in the mouth all butter shortbread and homestyle biscuits. Also available and new for Christmas 2016 is a handy jute lunch bag containing a delicious selection of gluten free shortbread rounds in three flavours.

Dean’s Gluten Free Shortbread & Jute Lunch Bag £13.50: • Dean’s Mini Jute Lunch Bag • Dean’s GF All Butter Shortbread Rounds 150g • Dean’s GF Choc Chip Shortbread Rounds 150g • Dean’s GF Choc Chip & Stem Ginger Shortbread Rounds 150g

Dean’s Traditional Selection Hamper £26.50: • Dean’s Shortbread Fingers 150g • Dean’s Shortbread Petticoat Tails 150g • Dean’s Cheese Oat Bites 150g • Dean’s Golden Syrup Biscuits 150g • Dean’s “Shortie” Fingers Tin 300g • Dean’s Stem Ginger Shortbread Tube 150g • Dean’s Choc Chunk Shortbread 150g • Dean’s Toasted Coconut Shortbread 160g • Dean’s All Butter Shortbread Selection 480g

Name ................................................................................... Address ............................................................................... ................................................................................................ ...............................................Postcode .............................. ................................................................................................ Telephone ......................................................................... Email Address .................................................................. Delivery Details (If different from above) Name ................................................................................... Address ............................................................................... ................................................................................................ ...............................................Postcode .............................. ................................................................................................ Message.............................................................................. ITEM











Total Cost Of Order




I enclose a cheque/postal order, made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd for the total amount of £ .................... and with my name and address on the back. Or charge my: Maestro / Delta / MasterCard / Visa Start Date: ........ /........ Expiry Date: ........ /........ Issue No: …….… (Maestro only) Card No .......................................................................................................................... Cardholder’s Signature ......................................................................................... Name on Card ...................................................................................................... From time to time DC Thomson & Co Ltd, its group companies and its partner businesses would like to contact customers to manage their account, for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that we can contact you by email, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box. No contact from DC Thomson & Co Ltd, or its group companies unless it relates to an existing order No contact from our partner businesses Food products are subject to availability and may be substituted with products of an equal or higher value. Hampers will be delivered between December 1 and 24, subject to weather conditions. For guaranteed Christmas delivery orders must be received by December 13, 2016.


£13.50 Dean’s Premium Selection Hamper £37.50: • Dean’s Crème Caramel Biscuits 150g • Dean’s Lemon Meringue Biscuits 150g • Dean’s Cheese & Chive Oat Bites 150g • Dean’s Cheese & Chilli Oat Bites 150g • Dean’s Cranberry & Orange Christmas Tube 150g • Dean’s Spiced Mincemeat Christmas Tube 150g • Dean’s Tomatin Whisky Fruit Cake Tin • Dean’s All Butter Petticoat Tails & Fingers 380g • Dean’s All Butter Shortbread Assortment Tin 300g • Dean’s Belgian Choc Chunk Rounds 160g


0800 318 846 quoting appropriate code

Lines open Monday to Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-5pm. Free from UK landlines only.


Send coupon with credit card details or a cheque/postal order payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd to:

“The Peoples Friend” Dean’s Hamper Offer, DC Thomson Shop, PO BOX 766, Hayward Heath, RH16 9GF.

31 be coming to the Old Rectory with you for Christmas.” He let the menu fall on to the table. “Why not? It’s all settled. Dorothy’s expecting you.” “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” The waiter chose that moment to advance on them. “Are you ready to order, sir?” “No!” Jason snapped and the waiter retreated in confusion. “So tell me now,” Jason insisted. “It’s just that . . . well, I’ve met someone, that’s all.” “Someone? As in another man? What about me, Faith? I was all ready to buy you an engagement ring. Now you’re trying to tell me it’s over? ” “I didn’t do it on purpose. Sometimes these things just happen.” “But haven’t we been planning our future together? Talking about a wedding next summer?” “I suppose so, but we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. “This is the first mention of a ring, Jason. I half expected to get one for my birthday in April, but you didn’t breathe a word.” He spread his hands in appeal. “I didn’t have the money then.” “Oh, Jason! Why do you think they invented credit?” Jason folded his arms across his chest, unconsciously defensive. “There’s nothing wrong with being careful to avoid debt, Faith. What about your new chap? A spender, is he?” Faith bit her lip. “Can we go? I’ve lost my appetite.” On the brink of tears, she stood up, reaching behind

her for her coat. “You can afford to buy Debbie something really nice with the money you’ve saved,” she said. “It’s not too late. Can’t we talk this through?” “I’m sorry, I won’t change my mind. I’m really sorry if I’ve hurt you, Jason.” Jason watched her go, taking all his dreams with her.

* * * *

Dora Colby packed her suitcase, careful to include the upmarket Christmas crackers she’d bought as her contribution to the festive dinner table. She hoped they wouldn’t turn out to be a waste of money, as so many crackers were these days. In her youth, crackers had contained worthwhile little trinkets such as dice or brooches, or whistles that really worked. Now useless plastic shapes were the norm, only fit for the dustbin. Nothing was the same as it used to be, she thought sadly: there weren’t even any silver thrupenny bits to be had for the Christmas pud! Speaking of puddings, she hoped that Dorothy had made hers in good time this year, and that Jack was capable of bringing it to the table, with a sprig of holly all a-flame, as it should be. That had always been one of Bert’s favourite Christmas Day moments. The doorbell rang and Dora pressed her lips together. That was probably Barney Blake again. Was there nothing she could do to shake him off? She’d been lonely since her Bert had died, but the idea of falling in love again was a non-starter. She wasn’t looking for a replacement, because dear


old Bert could never be replaced in her heart. Perhaps, in time, she might find someone for companionship, but if she did it would be someone rather like Bert: quiet, thoughtful, allowing her to make her own decisions. Barney Blake was none of those things! He was pleasant enough, but pushy – rather like an overenthusiastic puppy – and it worried her. Barney had bought the flat next door back in the summer, and had set his sights on her at once, inviting her round for morning coffee. From there it had gone on to walks in the grounds and one or two visits to the cinema. She did enjoy his company. The trouble was, he seemed to think he had exclusive rights to her, complaining when she said no to an outing because she’d already agreed to play bridge or was visiting a friend. She really ought to tell him in no uncertain terms, but she’d been brought up to consider the feelings of others and she couldn’t bring herself deliberately to give offence. So, what to do? Muttering, she went to answer the door. “Hello, Barney! I thought you were going to your daughter’s today.” He grinned roguishly. “All in good time, my love! I didn’t want to leave before getting a firm commitment about our grand plan!” “You mean that cruise?” she asked, ushering him along her hall. He nodded. “We should book before it’s too late. Those cruises are popular, you know. We don’t want to miss out.” “I’m sorry, Barney; I need

time to think. Perhaps when I get back from Dottie’s I’ll be able to make up my mind.” Going on a river cruise to some of Europe’s loveliest tourist destinations had long been part of Dora’s bucket list, but setting off into the blue with Barney Blake? Was she out of her mind even to consider it? Yes, she’d love to go on one of those marvellous cruises, but was chatty, opinionated Barney the ideal companion for sight-seeing? An awful thought struck her. Was he expecting something more than companionship on this holiday? If only there was somebody she could discuss this with, but there was no-one. This wasn’t the sort of thing you could talk to a daughter about. The girls would have a fit. Yet it was kind of the man to include her in his holiday, and if she wasn’t willing to join him he must be given time to make other arrangements. “I promise I’ll let you know the minute I get back, Barney. The thing is, my younger daughter is expecting a baby at the end of January and I want to be available to help if I’m needed after they leave hospital. I’ll have to talk to Debbie before I can make any long-term plans. Is that OK?” “I suppose it will have to be, though I must say I hoped you’d be a bit more enthusiastic.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “Well, I must push off. It’s a long way to Cardiff and I don’t want to fall asleep while I’m driving.” He set off down the hall but glanced back. “Are we still on for that New Year bash at the golf club? See you

Discover a new way to enjoy our favourite short stories with weekly audio readings which are easy to listen to. Each one lasts 15 to 25 minutes – just the right length for listening to with a cup of tea!

33 when I get back.” He gave a jaunty salute and marched off. Dora closed the door more sharply than was necessary. The golf club! That was another thing. She didn’t play golf and she didn’t relish seeing in 2017 with a bunch of strangers. They were Barney’s friends, not hers. There and then she made a firm New Year resolution not to let herself get talked into things she later regretted. But who was she to complain? Hadn’t she just inflicted the whole clan on poor Dottie, just because her house had six bedrooms? And worse, Debbie was being made to leave home, just when she needed rest and quiet. Dora knew she’d never forgive herself if anything happened to that longed-for baby. No morbid thoughts, she admonished herself. We’ll all have a lovely Christmas together, just like the old days when Bert was with us.

* * * *

“Did you bring the mince-pies, Mum? Where are they? You promised you’d make the mincepies!” Dorothy bumped her mother’s suitcase over the doorstep, wincing at the weight. It was a few days before Christmas and the family was arriving. Dorothy had been surprised that they all seemed to have booked extended time off leading up to the Christmas weekend. “I said I’ll make them, and I shall, but I thought I’d do it here.” Dora said. “Travelling by coach would have been impossible if I’d had to juggle two dozen pastries as well. “Besides, I’ve had a lot to think about. I’ve always wanted to go on one of those European river cruises and now a friend has invited me to go, and I’m seriously thinking about it.” “What sort of friend? Don’t tell me you’re planning to elope, Mother?

Can we expect a postcard saying there’s been a romantic wedding in Paris or Vienna?” “You certainly cannot, so you can just stop talking nonsense.” “No need to snap my head off, Mum! Can’t I make a little joke without you going off the deep end?” If only you knew, Dora thought. This was her cue to confide in her daughter, but Dorothy was already halfway up the stairs with a case in each hand. “I’ll put you in with Isabella . . .” “Grandma! Come and see where you’re going to sleep!” Young Isabella’s delighted shouts assaulted Dora’s ears “You’re in here with me. Ryan has to sleep on a camp bed in the hall. “We’re going to have such fun, and I want you to stay awake to see if Father Christmas comes. Will you take a photo for me?” “I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything. I suspect Father Christmas is a little too stout these days to try coming down the chimney himself. “He probably stays up on the roof and sends an elf down with the presents.” “That’s OK, Grandma! I’d love to have a picture of an elf to show at school.” Dora marvelled anew at the innocence of childhood. She would have to say, quite truthfully, that she hadn’t caught a glimpse of the elusive elf. With any luck she’d fall asleep early and could complain that she’d missed the whole thing. “Am I the last to arrive? Who else is here besides me?” she asked Dorothy. “Debbie and Paul came last night, but no word from Jason and Faith yet. I’m dying to know if they’ve bought the ring, aren’t you? They’ve been seeing each other for ages. It’s about time they thought of settling down.” “I say, what a good idea it would be if they got married in your church here. We could all stay with you. That would be so convenient for everyone!”

“Everyone?” Dorothy muttered, but her mother had stepped into her granddaughter’s bedroom and didn’t hear.

* * * *

Jason, meanwhile, was moping his way through the lonely days and nights, his mind filled with plans for winning Faith back. She could only have known her new man for a short time; maybe she might be persuaded to drop him. In his heart he knew that it wasn’t likely. Faith was a decisive person and seldom changed her mind once it was made up. No, he wasn’t about to humiliate himself by pleading with her. That wasn’t his way. Either she came back of her own accord, or he’d accept the situation and move on. Meanwhile he’d enjoy Christmas with his loved ones, which should cheer him up a bit. What on earth should he tell them all when he arrived at the Old Rectory without Faith? He didn’t relish explaining that he’d been dumped. Nor did he want to wilt under his sisters’ sympathy – or Mum’s, for that matter. As a widow, his mother understood all too well how it felt to be left alone, but at his age she could hardly give him a hug while slipping a piece of barley sugar into his hand as if he were ten years old. He would just have to play it by ear. Sighing, he piled his holdall into the boot of his car, checking yet again that he’d packed the gift card for Debbie, and slammed the boot shut. There was no escaping. He’d left it to the last possible minute, but it was time to face his family. He turned the ignition key and flicked on the indicator.

* * * *

Dorothy had managed to get everyone round the dinner table at once, which was quite a feat given Ryan and Bella’s hectic social lives.

She seemed never to be done ferrying one or the other to a friend’s house. But here they were, gathered together, the whole family, for the first time in months. She looked at her mother’s face and saw a peaceful happiness there, and knew that giving in to Christmas at the Elephant had been the right thing to do. “What time’s Uncle Jason and Faith coming?” Ryan asked yet again. They had held dinner as long as they could, but now two plates were in the oven keeping warm. Dorothy looked at the clock. It was seven-thirty. “I thought they’d be here by now. I’m sure they must be on their way.” She raised her eyebrows at Debbie. Their brother had always had a casual attitude to time-keeping. The times Dora had had a meal on the table and Jason had been late . . . She caught Dora’s eye and knew she was having the same memories. “Takes after his father. He was always late, too, right from when we were first married.” “I tried ringing his mobile,” Debbie said, “but I bet he’s switched it off while he’s driving.” “Well, we’ll have pudding and let them catch up,” Dorothy decided, though she wasn’t sure how Faith would view that. She had seemed to be quite particular about things on the few times they’d met. Debbie had brought the pudding with her – a lovely lemon meringue pie. “It’s only from the supermarket,” she’d apologised, with a quick glance to where their mum was sitting in front of the TV. “Don’t worry. Wait till you see the meal on Christmas Day. Mum may have liked to make everything from scratch, but as far as I’m concerned, anything the supermarket can do to make things easier is fine by me. “Gravy, bread

pudding, custard – it’s all in packets in the fridge!” “What are you two girls giggling about?” Dora asked, coming in for a glass of water. “Nothing, Mum,” they said together, and started giggling again, coconspirators, just like when they were children. Now the meal was over, the dishes had been stacked in the washer and Dorothy was wiping the last work surface, but still there was no sign of Jason. Dorothy glanced at the clock on the wall yet again. A quarter to nine. Where was he? She peeked through into the living-room. Dora was settled watching one of her TV soaps. The kids were playing computer games, though it would soon be bedtime. Jack and Paul were wrestling over a problem with Paul’s laptop and Debbie was relaxing on the sofa, her eyes closed. No-one else seemed worried. But at what point did it stop being a funny quirk of their brother’s and start being a real concern? “Come on, Jason,” she muttered, and just at that moment she saw headlights shining down the road and becoming brighter as they drew closer. Before she could breathe a sigh of relief, though, it passed by. However, as she turned away, another set of headlights appeared, and this time they drew to a halt at the end of the drive. She heard a car door slam, and a figure moved round to the boot. “They’re here!” she called to the family in the other room, and went to the door. She threw it open just as Jason strolled up the path, his hold-all slung over his shoulder. “Where have you been? I was just beginning to worry!” “Hi, Dorothy – sorry I’m

late. I hit a nasty queue – there was an accident somewhere and all the traffic had funnelled my way.” “Well, never mind, you’re here now.” She peered behind him. “Where’s Faith? Isn’t she with you?” “Um, she’s not coming, full stop. We broke up. She dumped me.” Her hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, Jason, no! I’m so sorry.” He shrugged and edged past her to meet the rest of the family. Behind him she made eyes at Debbie and mouthed, “It’s off with Faith.” The children were clamouring around him. “I’m sharing my room with Grandma!” Isabella squealed. “And I’m –” Ryan began, but Dorothy quickly grabbed his shoulder. “Come and give me a hand with something, Ryan, will you?” Out in the hall, she warned him not to mention Faith, and somehow to get hold of his sister and give her the same instruction. “But why?” “Just do it, please, Ryan. I’ll explain later, I promise.” Half an hour or so later, Jason had settled into his room and was sitting at the kitchen table, listlessly prodding at his warmed-up meal with a fork, a picture of misery. The kids were squabbling now that Ryan had his room back without having to share, unlike Bella. Jack and Paul were scanning the TV guide, plainly itching to change the channel, but out of courtesy were letting Dora watch her favourite programmes. Debbie was on the sofa, restlessly rubbing her baby bump. Dorothy leaned in the doorway, biting her lip. After all the high hopes and excitement, what were their chances of having a happy family Christmas now? To be continued.

Love reading? Don’t miss the Daily Serial on our website:

The Farmer & His Wife John Taylor admits to being an impulsive bidder!


E all make mistakes. When Anne reads this I can hear her saying, “Speak for yourself, John Taylor.” Anne and I are real impulse buyers. It’s once we’ve brought our new purchase home that we realise it’s been a mistake. Auction sales are a real weakness. Anne and I have enjoyed hundreds of house and auction sales over the years. Anne says I’m as bad as she is. Brass and copper are a particular favourite. We’ve both bought items of each, even before we got married. I remember Anne bought a beautiful copper tray from a dealer in Ceres two years before we were married. She put it in the back of their trap and showed it to me on the next Tuesday we met in Cupar. It really was a fine piece of metalwork. I said I would pay half but Anne wouldn’t hear of it. It cost her ten shillings – a lot of money back then. But it’s not just auction sales that claim our spending money. Coming back from Cupar one day, Anne dropped in at the smithy in Dairsie. The smith, Gavin, was doing what all good smiths do – hammering a red-hot piece of iron into a horseshoe. Anne spotted a gallon copper measure, black as the ace of spades and full of black oil. “Gavin, I’ll give you five pounds for that,” she offered immediately. Gavin poured the thick, black tractor oil into a barrel and Anne

parted with her five one-pound notes. Well, to my mind, that’s one of the bad buys my Anne has made – and she hasn’t made many. She polished and polished and polished again over the weeks and months that followed. The copper measure did look a little brighter, but at what expense in elbow grease, sweat and metal polish? Coming back to bad buys. Anne and I had taken a run up to Dunkeld. In one of the antiques shops there Anne saw a massive copper fishpan with brass handles. “That’s beautiful, John,” she said. I decided to buy it for her and Anne was delighted, until we realised how much cleaning it took! Everyone admired it, but would they have kept it all shining, as Anne did? Not likely. In fairness to Anne, she has made some really good brass and copper buys. But they only stay beautiful if polished, and Anne does just that. If you think of bidding for a brass or copper piece at a sale, count to 20 and think of Anne and me, sweating it out at the kitchen table, polishing away! n

More next week


A Taste Of

Scotland Celebrate St Andrew’s Day with our delicious easy-to-make recipes.

Caramelised Red Onion Marmalade Course: Accompaniment

Skill level: easy

Makes: approx. 2 x 500 g jar

u 75 g (3 oz) butter u 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) red onions, peeled and sliced thinly u 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) white onions, peeled and sliced thinly u 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed u 200 g (7 oz) demerara sugar u 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried) u 1 bay leaf u 300 ml (½ pt) red wine u 100 ml (3½ fl oz) port u 200 ml (7 fl oz) red wine vinegar u 1 tsp vanilla extract u Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan, add the sliced onions and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes.

2 Add the demerara sugar, thyme and bay leaf to the pan and stir well.

Turn the heat down, cover with a lid and leave to cook slowly for around 20 minutes, or until soft.

3 Remove the lid and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has

evaporated – stir from time to time to prevent sticking. The onions will be completely soft and caramelised.

4 Add the red wine, port and red wine vinegar to the pan – again, continue to cook gently with the lid off to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Remove the bay leaf, stir in the vanilla extract and season well. Leave to cool slightly.

5 Spoon into sterilised jars, cover and store in the fridge. Return to room temperature before serving.

Recipes and images courtesy of Dean’s of Huntly Ltd. For more information and recipes, visit


Haggis Palmiers Course: Snack

Skill level: easy

Makes: lots

u A little flour, for dusting u 250 g (9 oz) ready-made puff pastry u 1-2 tbs (or to taste) HP sauce (or other savoury sauce) u 100 g (3½ oz) cooked haggis u 25 g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese, grated finely u 25 g (1 oz) mature Cheddar, grated finely

1 Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg. C., 425 deg. F.,

Gas Mark 7. 2 Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the pastry thinly into a long strip about 8 cm (3¼ in) wide. Using a palette knife, spread a very thin layer of HP sauce over the pastry. Sprinkle over the haggis and cheeses. 3 Fold one side of the pastry into the centre of the strip lengthways then fold the other side into the centre too, so that the edges meet down the middle. Dampen the pastry along one of the seams before bringing one long edge over on top of the other – press down gently. 4 Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 1 cm (½ in) slices. Lay the slices cut side up on baking trays. Place in the pre-heated oven for 12 minutes or until risen and golden. 5 Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on a wire rack.

Smoked Mackerel Pâté

Course: Snack Skill level: easy Makes: approx. 2 x 500 g jars u 2-3 medium-sized peppered smoked mackerel fillets u 200 g (7 oz) reduced fat or “light” soft cheese u Small bunch of chives, chopped very finely, plus extra to garnish u Juice from ½ a lemon To Serve: oatcakes.

1 Remove all skin and bones

from the mackerel fillets. Break up the fillets into pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add the soft cheese, most of the chives and lemon juice and mix well. Chill for at least an hour. 2 When ready to serve, spoon the pâté into individual ramekin dishes. Garnish with a few extra chives and serve with oatcakes. Remember: Recipes have been given in both metric and imperial. It is important to use one method throughout as they are not exactly the same.

Lentil and Smoked Bacon Soup Course: Lunch

Skill level: easy

Serves: 2-4

u 200 g (7 oz) smoked bacon lardons, or any smoked bacon chopped into small pieces u 2 large onions, peeled and chopped finely u 1 large potato, peeled and chopped u 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed u ½ tsp turmeric u ½ tsp ground coriander u 250 g (9 oz) red lentils u 400 ml (14 fl oz) hot vegetable stock u Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste To Garnish: a few crispy bacon pieces.

1 Place the lardons or chopped bacon into a large

soup pan and cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run. Add the chopped onion, potato and crushed garlic and fry gently for about 10 minutes. 2 Add the turmeric and ground coriander, followed by the lentils and hot vegetable stock. Stir well and bring up to simmering point. Cover with a lid and continue to cook gently for 30 to 40 minutes. Check from time to time and add more stock if needed. 3 Remove from the heat and blitz using a stick blender, or liquidise in batches. Check seasoning. 4 Serve in warmed bowls with extra crispy bacon pieces sprinkled over.

Tea Loaf Course: Sweet treat Skill level: easy Makes: 1 loaf

u 300 g (10½ oz) mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants etc) u 100 g (3½ oz) sugar u 200 ml (7 fl oz) hot, strong tea u 1 small egg, beaten u 200 g (7 oz) self-raising flour

We used regular breakfast tea, but Earl Grey or fruit teas work just as well – whatever tea you choose, make sure it’s nice and strong.

1 Measure the dried fruit into a

mixing bowl, add the sugar followed by the hot tea. Mix well, cover and leave overnight. 2 Next day, pre-heat the oven to 170 deg C., 325 deg. F., Gas Mark 3. Line a 1 kg (2 lb) loaf tin. 3 Add the egg and self-raising flour to the soaked fruit and mix well. 4 Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, levelling off the top. Place in the pre-heated oven for around 1 hour. 5 Once risen, golden brown and firm to touch, remove the loaf from the oven and tip out on to a wire rack. Leave to cool completely. 6 Cut into slices and serve just as it is, or spread with a little butter.

Next week: plan your Christmas baking.

You can change the mixture of dried fruit to suit, adding some dried cranberries or finely chopped prunes etc.

For more delicious recipes visit our website:


The key is learning to listen to people

The Reverend Richard Coles talks about his dual roles of radio broadcaster and parish priest.

custodian of other people’s stories as well as your own, so there’s a sort of discretion that needed to be observed. “I wanted to give as authentic an impression as I could of what a modern cleric’s life is like, so I picked the framework of the church’s year, and hung from it different nuggets of experience and the passing seasons and some reflections.” Although Richard had grown up as a choir boy, his faith didn’t fully kick in until a service in London. A solemn high mass at St Albans in Holborn was the pivotal moment, when the “smells and bells and choirs” overwhelmed him, and he “realised that that was the place I wanted to be”. The book begins with Richard’s ordination, his new start. Did he feel differently after it? “Well, yes and no. There is this really odd moment on the morning of your ordination. You get dressed

look at someone coming through the door and know what ails them. A Sherlock Holmes approach to spiritual discernment. “Actually, after a while you realise that what ails people is probably one of about half a dozen things. We’re all human and we tend to make the same messes of our lives.” When it comes to his business, Richard is optimistic about the future of the Church but very aware of the challenges it faces. “You know, we’re faced with some very searching questions about how we fund the operation and those aren’t going away soon. “That keeps people awake at night, At the height of their fame – with Jimmy in the Communards.

Mike Prior.


T’S more common than ever for people to change career direction these days, but few can boast the abrupt about-turn that Richard Coles took. After his hedonistic rock and roll days as half of Eighties pop group the Communards, Richard then decided to become a priest. Now he’s returned to the airwaves as the voice of “Saturday Live” on Radio 4 and is a frequent contributor to “Pause For Thought” on Radio 2. Having written an account of his music career in his memoir, “Fathomless Riches”, Richard’s just written a new book telling the story of his dual life as a parish priest in rural England and reluctant celebrity on the BBC. “The book began because I had finished my memoir at the moment of ordination. People thought it would be a good idea to continue the story. “That poses a problem, because once you are ordained you become

and you look in the mirror and there’s a person in a dog collar looking back at you. “That is something that is quite powerful and I saw it, not just in me, but in the faces of my family and friends when they saw it for the first time. There is a real sense that something different has happened.” And is there an instant expectation of wisdom from others? Do people suddenly expect answers from him? “I can remember, in the week after I was ordained, I was on a train to London in my dog collar for the first time and a fight kicked off in the compartment I was in. “Everyone just looked at me in my dog collar as if somehow I was now possessed with this superpower for dealing with it. “I tried to do my best, but actually there was an off-duty copper on the train who came to my assistance, so that was good.” If wisdom is earned by talking to people and gathering stories and experiences, does being a priest speed up his learning by regular exposure to a variety of folk? “That’s exactly right – you get an accelerated induction into the lives of others. You hear stories of priests who develop this supernatural ability to

“I only tweet because I got a job with the BBC and they said I had to! Who needs more typing in their life? But the minute I found my way through it, I took to it like a duck to water. “I think what I like about it is partly that there is a sort of technical pleasure in getting what you want to say into 140 characters, and partly it’s just a great way of connecting with all sorts of people. “If ever I go anywhere and I’m at a loose end and I don’t know anyone, I just tweet it. I say, “I’m going to be in the Faroe Islands on Tuesday morning. Anyone around?” “There always is and normally you end up having a cup of coffee and a slice of cake with a stranger and that’s a lovely way of fast-tracking introductions.” worrying how we keep the show on the road. The bigger one is that we manifestly fail to persuade people that we might have something for them. I think the challenge now is to reconnect with people. “We live in a very disruptive and ever-changing world. It’s difficult for people, and I think it’s proving harder for folk to find common ground, and common experience erodes under their feet.” It’s something we’re very aware of in the “Friend”, too, after our Hand of Friendship campaign highlighted to us the number of people who feel lonely. It’s a problem that affects people of any age these days, but Richard thinks that’s something that the Church can help with. “I think one of the things we do as churches, if we’re doing our job properly and if we get it right, is building a space where people can come together.” Richard lives with his civil As a choirboy with brothers Will and Andy.

partner, Reverend David Coles. What’s it like being in a relationship with someone else in the industry? “Well, you never run out of dog collars! We have drawers full of them. “It’s very helpful because as a parish priest, I live in a vicarage. People come to the door and if I’m not there and David is, they can talk to him as readily as they can talk to me. “We understand each other, the strange pressures and joys of the job really.” But that doesn’t mean that they’re always talking shop. “I think what we’re good at is relaxing. Sometimes life can be very intense – it takes its toll and so to come home sometimes and just watch ‘The X Factor’ and have a whisky with someone who gets it is very good.” Which is especially helpful as, at his home in Northants, Richard is always on call for his parishioners. “It’s pretty much cloak and


Richard On Twitter

coat any time! The door can go at any point. One of the issues for me is that I’ve got a profile wider than the parish because of broadcasting and often people get in touch through social media or e-mail or through letter who are curious and who want some help. “Managing all that can be a bit tricky but – it sounds like a pious truism, actually – you find yourself equipped with the means to do what you have to do in this vocation, so all in the end is harvest, as they say.” And things are about to get even busier for Richard, as we are entering his very favourite time of year. “Advent is my favourite, partly because it’s the one thing that will rescue your sanity from the High Street Christmas that begins in September. “Usually by October I’m feeling murderous about reindeer, which is not great, but Advent focuses you on what it’s all about. “In the cold and dark of midwinter, all of a sudden this unexpected light begins to shine and that opens up a whole new vision of things. “I love that sense of gathering expectation – and “Bringing In The Sheaves” by the Reverend Richard Coles, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, is available online and from bookshops, RRP £20. Follow Richard on Twitter: @RevRichardColes.

also there’s lovely music in Advent.” In addition to this, Richard has to juggle the demands of parish life with the extra work he does for the BBC, talking to a wide variety of guests for “Saturday Live”. How does Richard approach the broad range of interviewees he encounters, and how does he prepare? “Well, there’s a team of people who do all the hard work, so on a Thursday I am e-mailed notes on who we are talking to. So I have a chance to prepare, but really I think it’s about attitude – similar to what I do in pastoral ministry. “The key in pastoral ministry is learning to pay attention to people, really, to listen to them. If we’re doing it right, it’s about eliciting a conversation, sometimes from people who have never been invited to speak before. Of course, they’ve got things to say, but perhaps have not been listened to before. “The difference is in a pastoral encounter we might have an hour – on ‘Saturday Live’ we have a rather ruthless seven minutes, so yes, it’s an interesting challenge!” Richard’s day-to-day parish work keeps him grounded, too, lest his work with the BBC affects his ego! “It is tricky, though – you do have to maintain some circumspection about it. Like anyone who seeks a public life, I kind of like it, and if I see a spotlight, I want to jump into it. “But if I did get airs and graces it wouldn’t last very long in the parish, that’s for sure!” n


I’d promised myself I’d never set foot on stage again, and I meant it. But this was different . . .

Illustration by Mandy Dixon.


A Hard Act To Follow

HAD sworn that never again would I get involved with the Poor Players, the amateur dramatic society my sister Julia directed, produced and performed in. Not since that unforgettable production of “Murder At Mucklestone Manor” when I had to step in at the last minute to save the show. Did I get any thanks for it? No! Was my inventiveness admired when, in the last dramatic minutes, because the gun had gone missing, I improvised by using a poisoned pencil? No! I’d only stepped in because my dear wife, Heather, was playing a leading role in the production. But as I lay “dying” as the unmasked murderer, I decided with my last groan that this would be my swan song.

To be fair to Julia, the last thing she wanted was for me to be involved in any way with the Poor Players. She wanted Heather, which was why she was in our sitting-room chatting and smiling. But I knew her well enough to be wary of the smile on the face of the tiger. “This is a very important year, isn’t it? For William Shakespeare, I mean.” I searched my mind. “Is that the man who has the corner bungalow?” “No, Geoffrey,” Julia said. “It’s the four-hundredth anniversary of our greatest playwright. You might have heard of him.” See what I mean about the tiger? She turned her attention back to Heather. “I know we’ve left it late, but we could not let this milestone pass without paying tribute. So the Poor

Players, under my direction, shall perform the Scottish play.” I interrupted. “Why do people insist on calling it the Scottish Play? It’s ‘Macbeth’.” Julia shrugged. “Some people believe it comes from the fact that there is so much sword play that people have been injured in the past. But we theatrical people are superstitious.” She turned to my wife. “I know you played Portia in ‘The Merchant Of Venice’ at school. “How would you like to play the most powerful female character created by the Bard – the ambitious woman behind a weak husband? You would be an ideal Lady Macbeth. “And, of course, your lovely lilting Scottish voice is perfect for the part!” I could see Heather was flattered.

“Do you think I could do it?” Heather was looking at me, but Julia pressed on. “Do you know who we’ve got as Macbeth? Edwin Lavelle! He’s been an extra on ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Emmerdale’. He’s just left S.A.D – Spotlights Am Dram. And we’ve got him!” “Is he good?” Julia nodded. “Terrific, I believe. Do you know what Mrs Featherstone said about him? She said he’s a hunk!” Heather giggled. “Mrs Featherstone from the post office?” “Yes. Would you believe it? Still waters run deep, it seems. You and Edwin will create sparks, you’ll see.” I mused. I wasn’t sure I wanted sparks between my wife and a “hunk”. But when Heather looked at me I just smiled at her. “What about Geoffrey?” she asked. “Is there a part for him?” Julia nodded. “I’ve got him on my list as one of the three witches.” She gave me a thin smile. “Which witch?” I said. “Whichever witch you want,” she fired back. “A male witch? Couldn’t I be a wizard?” “This isn’t Harry Potter, Geoffrey. And no, you can’t have a wand. We’ll put gypsy earrings on you, a headscarf and a shapeless dress. With make-up you’ll make an authentic hag.” “Shall we?” Heather’s eyes were sparkling. How could I say no? “Yes.” “And in rehearsals you could be the

46 prompter. You’re good at that.” “All right,” Julia agreed. “We’re missing out a few short scenes, by the way. The Porter’s scene, for example. It’s not important and it’s a bit crude in parts, so we’ll cut it out.” What would Shakespeare say, I wondered.

* * * *

At rehearsal we met Edwin Lavelle, and yes, he was a chiselled-featured, good-looking young man who attracted the admiring glances of the ladies, in particular middle-aged, Mrs Featherstone, who seemed ready to swoon. But I got the impression that Edwin was already in love, with himself. Or perhaps I was jealous. He turned up for rehearsal in a kilt. “I thought it important to get into character right away,” he announced. “If that’s all right?” “Oh, yes,” Mrs Featherstone said. He did look well in the kilt, I had to admit. And I couldn’t be too judgemental because I, too, once wore the national dress. When I married my Scottish lass in a Scottish kirk she had wanted me to adopt the full national dress of her homeland. I couldn’t refuse, although as an Englishman I did feel somewhat of an imposter. Actually, everyone was very nice about it and I must admit the wedding photos are rather impressive and romantic. Edwin was loud and energetic. Julia tried to get him to slow down and to moderate his tone, but to no avail. As prompt I sat in a corner most of the time because the witches only appeared in three scenes. My witch colleagues were two young teachers from the primary school. Julia said their beauty would provide a nice contrast. I got on well with Samantha and Danielle. Sometimes we’d go off together to practise our cackling, which often

turned into giggling, especially when we were rehearsing the cauldron scene where we had to conjure up the apparitions with our witches’ brew. So rehearsals for the Scottish Play went along fairly well with no sign of any great curse or catastrophe striking. Everyone worked hard and enjoyed themselves. It seemed a lot of work for just three performances but, of course, there would be a limited audience and you couldn’t expect your friends and relatives to turn up more than two times out of three. Edwin Lavelle was still too over the top and I suspected that Julia was perhaps beginning to realise why Spotlights Am Dram had not tried more strenuously to retain his talents. Heather as Lady Macbeth was terrific. Although small and slim, she dominated the stage as, of course, in the play she dominates her husband. Particularly in the scene where they murder the king. I hope I haven’t spoiled it for anyone! There was one scene which made me uneasy. After the murder, troubled by the memory, Lady Macbeth starts to sleepwalk, talking to herself and constantly trying to wash her hands. Julia wanted Heather to do the scene in a shift. They said it was a dress but it seemed more like a nightie to me and I didn’t want my wife walking round the stage in her nightie. I suggested she could wear my dressing-gown, which is plaid, but they insisted she wore the shift. So the show, or should I say play, went on.

* * * *

On the first night I sent Heather a big flower arrangement with a note sent with love and a request that she “break a leg”. Another daft theatrical custom. Julia’s husband, Roger, was doing all the lighting and special effects such as thunder and lightning and

the glow of the witches’ cauldron. Samantha, Danielle and I were first on. “When shall we three meet again, In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” And so on. Most of the time I sat on a stool in the wings with a torch and the script, ready to prompt. One or two lines were fluffed or forgotten but generally it went well. The second night was almost faultless. Edwin was certainly giving it his all, but the scene stealer for me was Heather. It was on the final night that the curse of the Scottish Play struck. For those who don’t know the play, as Macbeth is going towards King Duncan’s chamber to murder him, a ghostly dagger appears in the air before him and he tries to grab it. Now, Roger had devised an ingenious method to show a floating dagger. Above the stage was a narrow walkway. Roger tied a black cotton line to the middle of the dagger which could then be lowered and gently “floated” across stage, It was very effective, but Roger couldn’t stand heights so he entrusted me with the task. The first two nights went according to plan and I floated the dagger across the stage and into the wings, followed by Macbeth. On the third night Macbeth said his lines. “Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.” He then pretended to grab at it as I guided it across the stage. This time our enthusiastic Edwin actually did grab it. But the blade, not the handle. “Ouch!” He released the weapon and fled into the wings, where he fainted. I hurried down from my perch. Edwin was in a heap being tended by Roger and

Mrs Featherstone. “We’d better get him to a dressing-room,” Roger said. “Mrs Featherstone, can you go on stage and say there’s been a slight accident and there will be a delay of ten minutes?” Mrs Featherstone swept to centre stage whilst Roger and I managed to get Edwin to his feet. We sat him on a chair in the dressing-room. There was a smear of blood on his hand and a small cut, not much more than a paper cut, on his finger. Edwin averted his eyes as Roger put a plaster on it. “I’m sorry,” Edwin whispered. “The sight of blood, you know, especially mine. Can’t help it.” “Lots of people are like that,” Roger consoled him. “That’s right,” I agreed. “Not to worry, Edwin. Have a glass of water and take a couple of minutes, then carry on. Right as rain, eh?” He shook his head. “No. My legs. Like jelly. Sorry.” Roger looked at me. “That’s it, then.” I thought of Heather. Of her terrific Lady Macbeth. I looked at Edwin. “Right, get that kilt off.”

* * * *

At the party in the Brown Horse afterwards everyone was in high spirits. Edwin, his colour back, was sitting quietly in the corner sipping a brandy and soda. I’d got through the performance. I forgot a couple of lines and even made up one or two, but Shakespeare wasn’t in the audience so that was OK. For those who don’t know the Scottish Play, and without wishing to spoil anything, I have to say that it doesn’t end well for Mr Macbeth. He’s been under constant stress throughout and eventually he loses his head completely. Now, here I was, a dram in the one hand and my lovely Scottish lassie on the other. I raised my glass to hers. “Here’s to the Scottish Play,” I said. n

A Capital

Christmas Jan Fuscoe discovers some of London’s best festive events.

Christmas in London has so much to offer: the Christmas lights, Selfridges’ inspirational window displays, Christmas markets, shopping and fairs. But there’s even more to the capital at this festive time.

Kew Gardens offer “Meet The Experts” tours every Tuesday.

Walk Around Town

Visit London.

London is at its quietest at Christmas, making it the perfect time to explore the city. Starting at 5.45 on Christmas morning, Peter Berthoud’s Grand Tour ( takes in London’s most iconic sights on a five-mile walk through Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden and the South Bank, stopping off for breakfast, and even Christmas dinner. Beautiful at any time of year, Kew Gardens is aglow at Christmas, when trees, glasshouses and temples are lit with seasonal colour, and the tunnel of light has 60,000 lights making patterns and pictures to a festival soundtrack.

Thames Treats

The Tate Modern is worth it for the walk in alone! iStock.

Take a trip to Greenwich: as well as the twinkling Christmas market, be dazzled by the “Emma Hamilton: Seduction and Celebrity” exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, or observe the real stars at the Royal Observatory. The “Tate to Tate” boat service includes a morning guided

London’s Museums Sunken Cities exhibition. The V&A gets down to basics with “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear”, and free introductory tours to many of the galleries. Visit the Science Museum and discover the reason why we hate Brussels sprouts, how reindeer fly, and what makes crackers crack at the Festive Physics interactive science show.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year presents startling images of the natural world, while outside a Christmas tree draped in fairy lights stands in the middle of the annual skating rink. Travel around the world in 90 minutes with a highlights tour around the British Museum, then visit the

The V&A’s underwear exhibition runs until next March.

tour of Tate Britain, where the controversial Turner Prize is on show, and an afternoon guided tour of Tate Modern, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the Tate’s Christmas market featuring wooden chalets, warming cups of glühwein, and a wonderful Victorian carousel for young and old alike.


Winter Wonderland

Visit London.

Hyde Park’s enormous Winter Wonderland has something for everyone: a funfair, Victorian bandstand illuminated with over 100,000 lights, a 60-metre observation wheel, Zippo’s circus and Cirque Berserk, and Britain’s biggest outdoor skating rink. There’s also an “Arctic Adventure”, complete with shipwreck, icebergs and the chance to go fishing with the Inuits. Keeping it cool, there’s Bar Ice for a cold drink, as well as several other themed bars with real fires.

Skating is just one of the highlights of Winter Wonderland.

Christmas Carols

Get into the festive spirit at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which is holding its annual Carols for Christmas by Candlelight on December 23. Trafalgar Square events include the lighting

A fox was once found living on the 72nd floor of the Shard.

Visit Lonon.

If you want to get away from roast turkey with all the trimmings, there are thousands of restaurants and bars to choose from. Why not add another dimension, like panoramic views: enjoy dim sum at Hutong, on the 33rd floor of the Shard, with views stretching from Tower Bridge to the London Eye and beyond. After you’ve admired the paintings at the National Portrait Gallery, head to the rooftop restaurant and gaze on Admiral Nelson’s Column, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

of the Christmas Tree on December 1, Blessing of the Crib on December 4, Carols for Shoppers on December 10 and Family Carols by Candlelight on December 22. Every festive trip to London must involve a stop at Trafalgar Square!


Eat, Drink And Be Merry

Christmas Tea Towels


£12.00 EACH

Bring a touch of joyful cheer to your washing up with our festive tea towels. There are six designs to choose from, each featuring a different Christmas-themed design. Made from 100% Irish linen, these festive tea towels each measure 19 x 29 inches approx. (48 x 74 cms.) and are machine washable.






Name ............................................................................................... Address ........................................................................................... ............................................................................................................ ............................................................................................................ Postcode .................................................. Telephone ..................................................................................... Email Address .............................................................................. PLEASE SEND ME



Christmas Pudding Tea Towel



Robins Tea Towel



Santa & Snowmen Tea Towel



Sleeping Santa Tea Towel



Red Robin Tea Towel



Penguin Lights Tea Towel





Total Cost of Order

I enclose a cheque/postal order, made payable to DC Thomson & Co. Ltd for the total amount of £ .................... (Please write your name and address on the back of your cheque.) If you are ordering by Credit Card please complete the following: Maestro/Delta/MasterCard / Visa (delete as necessary) Start Date : ........ /........ Expiry Date: ........ /........ Issue No: …….… (maestro only) Card No .......................................................................................................................... Cardholders Signature ......................................................................................... Name on Card ...................................................................................................... From time to time DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., its group companies and its partner businesses would like to contact customers to manage their account, for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that we can contact you by e-mail, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box. No contact from DC Thomson & Co. Ltd., or its group companies unless it relates to an existing order q . No contact from our partner businesses q. Offer open to UK readers only and subject to availability. Please allow up to 28 days for delivery. Closing date for orders 31.12.16.



0800 318846

and quote appropriate code. Lines open 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Mon-Fri and 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat free from UK landlines only. Please have your credit/debit card details to hand.


Complete the order form below and send it with your credit card details or cheque/postal order made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd and send to:

“The People’s Friend” Christmas Tea Towels Offer, DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF. ONLINE:


The Little Black Cat Rosie’s daughter was fond of the wee scrap, but it looked like it might have to move on . . .

Illustration by Mandy Dixon.


OSIE stopped the car for a moment, wondering where she should go. The little picnic area Martin normally pulled into was occupied by a fourwheel drive, a peoplecarrier and, for good measure, a lorry. Every couple of weeks, Martin and Rosie, with Maia in her child seat in the back, would go for a drive and take a picnic, weather permitting. Rosie would bring her camera. She was an artist and made cards which she sold at gift shops and online, but every year or so she would exhibit at an arts centre in town – charcoal sketches and the occasional watercolour. Rosie used the photos as inspiration for her artwork. When she went home, she would save them on her computer. Very often, it would not be the photo that seemed to be the most “showy” that would end up inspiring a drawing. Instead, it might often be something ordinary.

Indeed, six-year-old Maia would point things out in her own inimitable style: a bumblebee on the tufted vetch growing by the side of a path or an old bath in the corner of a field. Today, however, Martin was on call for his IT firm, and Maia was at her granny’s. Rosie had been recovering from a bad cold and her mother had said it was high time she had a baking date with her granddaughter. “You’re exhausted, Rosie. Go out and get some fresh air, get some colour back into those cheeks. Miss Maia and I have some baking to do,” her mother said, giving Rosie a hug. “Thanks, Mum,” Rosie said. “Is that a new perfume?” “Yes, your father bought it for my birthday!” Rosie’s mother said. “Isn’t it nice?” “We’re making buns today, Mum, but only Granny knows how to do them,” Maia announced. “Did you take your puffer this morning, Maia?” Rosie asked. Maia had mild asthma and if she was

excited about something, she sometimes forgot to take her “preventer” inhaler in the mornings. “Yes, Mum, Daddy saw me do it,” Maia replied and clattered off to put on her sparkly apron.

* * * *

Rosie drove slowly until she found another little lay-by, about a mile ahead. By this time, the rain was beating on the windscreen and she pulled into the lay-by and turned off the engine, waiting to see if the rain would ease off. They didn’t normally drive up this far. This was all open country, skirting the land belonging to the Jensens, a farming family whom Martin had known since school days. The rain eased off to a drizzle so Rosie grabbed Martin’s golfing umbrella from the back seat and set off. There wasn’t much to inspire here in the rainy landscape, apart from a broken-down cottage with its roof long removed. Rosie had plenty of

drawings of cottages like this one, but something in the way the rain made the stones glisten made her take a few snaps. Rosie stepped closer, pushing back brambles with the golfing umbrella. The front door was gone, as were the glass and windowframes. Grass and speedwell were growing at her feet. It was then that she heard a faint little cry. Rosie started and looked up. It was a black kitten, shivering in the shelter of the opposite stone window-frame. Its fur was drenched and it looked at her with runny eyes. Rosie waited in case the kitten’s mother and siblings were nearby. The kitten looked at her, giving the occasional miaow. It was hard to tell what age it was – eight weeks, or perhaps a little older? Rosie knew there were feral cats in these parts. She didn’t want to frighten the poor thing by approaching it and unintentionally driving it out into the rain. Perhaps, if she just waited a little longer, the kitten would get

52 used to her presence and would not see her as a threat. Slowly, she walked away from the kitten, through the cottage entrance, and looked around, to see if she could find any evidence of its mother or siblings. All she could see was wet grass. The rain beat down. Should she just leave the kitten and hope that it found its way back to its feline family? It didn’t look to be the healthiest, with those runny eyes. Still the kitten sat and

took out the big hessian bag they used for groceries. She lined the bag with the car blanket and set the kitten in this impromptu bed in the back seat.

* * * *

It was a busy Saturday in the vets’ practice and, this being farming country, both vets were out, seeing to horses and cattle. The veterinary nurse took one look at the kitten and voiced her opinion. “She’s not in great shape. Whoever’s been looking after her hasn’t been doing

Should she just hope the kitten would find its way home? looked at her, as if it had indeed got used to her presence. Rosie walked one last time around the cottage. It was then that she saw something, glinting in the weak sunlight that was at last trying to peek through the clouds. She carefully bent down and picked it up. It was a little cat’s collar – an impractical thing, pale pink and studded with diamanté. The kitten hadn’t been feral. It had been someone’s pet! Her mind made up, Rosie moved over to the kitten and gently, she reached over and grabbed it by the scruff of its neck. The fact that it didn’t hiss or spit told Rosie all she needed to know. She unzipped her coat and tucked the kitten inside it. She could feel its body trembling. Rosie phoned Martin when she got back to the car. “There’s that big vet practice just before you come to the motorway roundabout. Why not take the kitten there? They’ll know what to do,” Martin advised. “Good idea,” Rosie said, feeling the kitten’s heartbeat against her own. She couldn’t really drive safely with a kitten zipped inside her coat. She unlocked the car boot and

a good job. It happens all the time. “People get a kitten as a pet, and after a few weeks, when they realise that they need fed and taken to the vet for their jabs, they decide they are more trouble than they’re worth.” “I wanted to take it home but I have a little girl and if, well . . .” Rosie found she couldn’t get the words out. “You did the right thing. It could be touch and go for this wee one and we wouldn’t want your daughter getting upset. One of the vets will be back soon and I’ll get him to give her the once-over. “In the meantime, we’re going to get her warmed up. Give us a ring on Monday and we’ll keep you in the picture.” “What if someone’s running around the countryside looking for her?” Rosie fretted. “We’ll put a note on our website with a picture and the collar, but folk in these parts know where we are and we’re usually the first port of call if a pet goes AWOL.” As agreed with Martin, Rosie didn’t tell Maia about the kitten. At tea that night, buns safely baked with Granny, Rosie noticed something. “Maia, are you a bit wheezy?” she asked. “Am not,” Maia said

decisively, as she never admitted to being wheezy. “Well, let’s have a puff of your blue one, just in case,” Rosie said. Damp weather was sometimes a trigger for Maia’s asthma. Inhaler having been safely taken, Rosie thought no more about it. “Granny’s picking you up from school next week,” Rosie told her. Rosie’s mother had offered, to allow Rosie to spend a little more time on her cards. “Granny takes me for hot chocolate,” Maia said happily. “She says it’s too cold for ice-cream.” Martin made a few calls that evening but no-one had heard tell of a lost kitten. Aaron Jensen, the farmer who owned the land, agreed with the veterinary nurse’s suspicions that the kitten had been abandoned. He also informed them that one of his own farm dogs had been abandoned as a pup at the lorry park which skirted their land. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a cat, mate,” Aaron said to Martin. “Let’s hope that the wee thing makes it through the weekend,” Rosie commented when Martin had finished the call.

* * * *

On Monday morning, after the school run and getting Martin off to work, Rosie phoned the vet. It was lunchtime before she could actually get through, and all morning she couldn’t settle. Rosie had grown attached to the kitten and despite the veterinary nurse’s cautious words, she was hoping against hope that the news would be good. Eventually, the phone was answered. “I was wondering if there was any news on the stray kitten I brought in on Saturday?” It was not the veterinary nurse but another voice. “Hold the line, please.” More waiting, listening to Handel’s “Water Music”. Rosie was just thinking that they had forgotten about

her when the cheerful veterinary nurse came on the line. “Mrs McLaughlin? Well, I’ve good news and bad news.” Rosie held her breath. “The good news is that, despite a bad cold and being a bit underweight, she’s a beautiful kitten who hasn’t stopped chatting all morning. We’ll keep her in for a day or two, just to check she’s properly out of the woods. “The bad news is that we haven’t the space to keep her, nor is she microchipped, so we’ve no way of tracing the owner. “I’ve phoned round the rescue centres and they’re all full. It looks like your daughter will be choosing the name of your foster kitten.” “Serena,” Maia said a few days later, carefully stroking the newly named kitten. “Why Serena?” Rosie couldn’t help asking. She and Martin would have put money on “Blackie” or “Sooty”. But as Rosie’s mother later said, they should have given their thoughtful daughter more credit for her fertile imagination. “Our new student teacher’s called Serena, even though we’re not meant to call her Serena – we’re meant to call her ‘Miss Anderson’. “But I heard Mrs McKiver call her Serena when she thought no-one was listening. And I’m going to make her a new bed and some toys as well.” “Serena it is, then,” Martin said, as Serena decided to ignore the new scratching post and stropped her claws on the sofa instead. It had been a rollercoaster week. On Wednesday Rosie had picked up the kitten from the vet, and when her mother dropped Maia home that afternoon, Rosie acted as if it had all been planned. “That’s a new addition to the family but she’s asleep now, so don’t say hello to her until she wakens up.”

54 Cat dander had never been one of Maia’s asthma triggers – she had no problem with Granny’s cat, Midge – so Rosie and Martin were assuming everything would be fine on that front. However, when the next few days were sunny with not a hint of damp, and Maia continued to need her blue “reliever” inhaler more often, Martin and Rosie realised that something was wrong. They took Maia to the doctor, who suggested that another trigger might possibly be at work but advised them just to take one thing at a time and to keep an eye on Maia’s symptoms.

* * * *

“Do you think it might be the wee black cat?” Martin asked that night when Maia was safely out of earshot. “She started getting wheezy the night you found Serena.” “Midge has never been a problem,” Rosie said. “True. And remember when we went to the Open Farm a few months back? Maia was with the goats and all sorts in the barn, with allergens and fur galore. She had no wheezes then, did she?” Martin said. “No, but I do know that things can suddenly become triggers that weren’t before,” Rosie said. “It would break Maia’s heart if we had to rehome Serena. Mrs McKiver said she’s already written three stories about her.” Martin thought for a moment. “The fact remains, Rosie’s started wheezing again and we’ve just got Serena. Didn’t your mum say Maia was a bit wheezy in the car when she picked her up from school this week?” “Yes, and of course, Mum would have come from a house with a cat,” Rosie admitted. “Aren’t your mum and dad in Majorca next week?” “Yes, for their anniversary.” “So that would cut down one potential exposure. Maybe I could ring Aaron Jensen and ask if he’d take

Serena for a few days. Then we can see how Maia is by the end of the week.” “What are we going to tell Maia? I don’t like making up tales,” Rosie warned. “It’s a balancing act, isn’t it?” Martin agreed. “If we tell her that there may be a possibility that Serena’s making her wheezy, the upset of that could make her asthma worse. “Now, I’m sure Serena would be happy in a corner of a nice farm kitchen for a week and the Jensens are only up the road, so if Maia is in a state, it’s a few minutes in the car if she wants to go and visit. I’ll give Aaron a ring,” Martin said, reaching for his mobile phone.

* * * *

The week without Serena was one of the longest of Rosie’s life. As soon as Maia went off to school the first day and Serena was safely at the Jensens’, Rosie cleaned the house from top to bottom, stripping beds and vacuuming like she had never vacuumed before, trying to ensure that all trace of kitten was out of the house. When she picked Maia up from school every day, there was no trace of any wheeziness. Nor was there any wheeziness at bedtime. However, Maia missed the kitten dreadfully. “Why has Serena gone to the Jensens?” she persisted. “She’s just on a holiday. You know, like your granny?” her daddy said. “Midge never goes on holidays. And the Jensens don’t live in Majorca,” Maia argued, her remorseless logic kicking in. “She’d better not stay away too long. I’ve made her some new toys.” On Friday afternoon, Rosie thought she would make a collage with Maia, to try to cheer her up. This was usually their favourite craft activity. However, as Rosie put out a stack of glossy magazines on the kitchen table, Maia sat with her head resting on one hand, looking as if the world had ended. “Why don’t you open up that magazine and see if

there are some pictures you’d like to cut out?” Rosie said gently. Half-heartedly, Maia flicked through the pages. “That magazine smells like Granny,” Maia muttered eventually. “Sorry, darling?” Rosie asked. “It smells like Granny.” Rosie picked up the magazine. There was a perfume sample stuck to one of the advertising pages. Rosie rubbed the sample against her own wrist. “That’s what you do with perfume when you’re older, darling. You put it on your wrist.” “Can I try?” Maia asked, and Rosie rubbed just a little of the perfume sample against Maia’s wrist. “Now we both smell like Granny,” Rosie said. Maia started to cut out pictures from the magazine with her round-ended scissors. A wee while later, Rosie noticed that Maia was wheezing again. When Martin came home that evening, the first thing he did was raise his head and sniff. “What’s that smell?”

take a look. Then the penny finally dropped.

* * * *

A week later, Serena was safely back in the bed Maia had made her out of an old towel and a washing-up bowl, stropping her claws on the sofa and having stories written about her. She was bigger and more mischievous after her farmyard adventures and clattered around the house at a rate of knots, got stuck on high shelves, shredded the newspaper and chased flies. Rosie’s mother was mortified. “Who would have thought my perfume would have been the problem?” she marvelled. “Poor Maia. I’m so sorry!” “It’s not your fault, Mum,” Rosie said. “At least we found out, that’s the main thing.” “Well, she’s certainly back to her normal self!” Rosie’s mother said, as Maia bounded in, trailing a patchwork mouse on a ribbon, closely followed by Serena. They never did find out where Serena came from.

The week without Serena was one of the longest of Rosie’s life “Just a perfume sample from the magazine – Maia and I were trying it on,” Rosie said. “She’s wheezy again, too.” “Not again!” Martin sighed. “No cats, your mother’s away and Maia’s been fine all week.” The little girl clattered in to hug her dad. “Serena’s still not back so Mummy and I were doing pictures and we tried on perfume from the magazine and the perfume is the same as Granny’s and do you want to smell?” She thrust a wrist in her dad’s face. “Hang on a minute, Maia, your wrist is all red!” Martin said. “How long’s it been like that?” “It was fine this morning,” Rosie said, coming over to

The notice on the vets’ website yielded nothing and the Jensens never heard anything further. During the day, Serena sat on the window-sill in Rosie’s study as Rosie made her cards and sketched and parcelled up orders for her business. Not that Serena was as serene as her name, and Rosie often found pens and charcoal pencils biffed to the floor by an over-active paw. Needless to say, Serena was often the subject of many of the cards, and customers started to request cards featuring the wee black cat. And Rosie’s mind would drift back to that day at the abandoned cottage, with a wee black kitten shivering in the rain. n

Inside next week’s issue l Try out our recipes for sweet seasonal treats

Our cover feature: Simon Whaley enjoys Lincoln’s Christmas spirit

On sale every Wednesday


l Knit this polo-neck top with diamond pattern l Polly Pullar celebrates Scotland’s winter beauty

7 short stories

Never miss The People’s Friend again, with a subscription from our shop. Visit or call 0800 318846.

A new Special on Out sale every now 3 weeks! Available to buy from all good newsagents and supermarkets You can also take out a subscription – call 0800 318846 or visit

Comes with our 2016 Christmas CD!




A scene from the 2015 film adaptation of “Sunset Song”.

A recent poll by the BBC saw members of the public vote for their best-loved Scottish books. In time for St Andrew’s Day, we take a look at the results . . .


BBC survey earlier this year, in partnership with the Scottish Book Trust and the Scottish Library and Information Council, listed Scotland’s top 30 books, as chosen by the public. As with any list, it’s as much fun thinking about what you would have added or changed as it is simply to read the choices, but there’s a very even spread across the genre spectrum in this top ten.

Top of the list at number one is “Sunset Song” by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. In the book, north-eastern Scotland is changing for ever with the coming of World War I, and a rural way of life is taking its dying breath. The novel follows the story of Chris, who ends up taking on the family farm as a series of tragedies befall those around her. It’s not always easy reading, with a frank

Rob Roy’s resting place is in scenic Balquhidder.


Rex Features.

Favourite Books Of

attitude to the shortcomings of tight-knit rural communities and the relationships within, but it’s probably this honesty that leads to it having such a profound impact on people. And there’s no doubt the characteristic Aberdeenshire language is part of its charm. It was written by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, whose real name was James Leslie Mitchell. You can visit the Grassic Gibbon Centre and learn more about the man in the heart of the countryside he called home – the Mearns, the area of Kincardineshire that lies between the sea and foothills of the Cairngorms. Second place belongs to “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks. It’s the at-times unsettling story of Frank Cauldhame, a disturbed sixteen-year-old who leads a bizarre and solitary life on a remote Scottish island. The novel was widely praised by critics, though

JK dropped off Forbes’ rich list after donating millions to charity.

some readers find it a bit gruesome. Many argue that while it was the first novel by Iain Banks, it might not be his strongest. “The Crow Road” takes the top spot for many readers. Incidentally, Banks was once on “University Challenge”, where he led a team of writers to victory! Alasdair Gray’s “Lanark” is third, and was instantly considered a modern classic. It has drawn comparisons with James Joyce’s “Ulysses” for its modernist look at city life (Glasgow, in this case), and is one of only two of the author’s books never to have gone out of print in the UK. Fourth on the list is John Buchan’s thriller, “The 39 Steps”. It was


More Great Reads

Hitchcock’s 1935 film introduced the famous Forth Bridge scene.

These popular novels just missed out on the top ten, but still made it into the top thirty.

Rex Features.

1 When Bloomsbury were considering whether to accept the book, the eightyear-old daughter of the Chief Executive reportedly recommended doing so, saying it was “so much better than anything else”. Irvine Welsh’s infamous “Trainspotting” takes seventh spot. This darkly comic tale of drug use in Edinburgh is based on some of the author’s own experiences. Welsh experienced a change in fortunes when he was involved in a bus accident, receiving £2,000 in compensation. He then invested it in London, before returning to Scotland a wealthier man! He went on to work for Edinburgh District Council, which was where he was when he wrote the book – his first. Ian Rankin’s first Inspector Rebus novel, “Knots And Crosses”, was written while he was a postgraduate student. At the height of his fame, Rankin was reckoned to be responsible for 10% of the UK’s crime fiction sales.


actually his 27th novel, written at speed while he was recovering from a stomach ulcer in Kent. Buchan never referred to his novels as “thrillers”, preferring the term “shockers”, but the story of Richard Hannay’s accidental involvement in a great spy chase is as thrilling as they come. The actual 39 steps that lent their name to the title led from Buchan’s nursing home, where he was recovering, down to the beach. When the house was later demolished, a section of the steps was sent to him as a gift. “The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie” comes in at number five. Muriel Spark’s tale of a teacher and her elite group of chosen pupils was inspired by a teacher from her own school memories. Muriel Spark famously used to write her work in ornate copperplate handwriting, using spiralbound notebooks from Edinburgh stationer James Thin. Sixth on the list is “Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling. Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly 20 years since this was first published. The story follows Harry as he discovers a family connection to the world of wizards and witches, and is whisked away from a miserable life to one where he’s on the front line of an impending war against dark forces. It’s been translated into at least 67 languages, and was written with the help of an £8,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council.

Ironically, Rankin himself asserts that the book draws heavily on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde” and James Hogg’s “The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner”, both of which were also in the top 30 of this list – though lower down. Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes” follows at nine. Doyle’s work was an instant hit with readers and critics, although it was banned in the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1940. The author claimed that “The Adventure Of The Speckled Band” was his own personal favourite story. Last in the top ten is “The Private Memoirs and Confessions Of A Justified Sinner” by James Hogg. Few critics would argue that it is one of the most influential of Scotland’s novels. The story is split into the recollections of the editor and one of two halfbrothers, leading up to the murder of one brother and the suicide of the other. The confusion about what’s real and what’s not real in the one brother’s imagination has been credited as the inspiration behind Jekyll and Hyde. Disparaged at the time of its release, its celebrity grew during the 20th century. n

”The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson allegedly burned the first draft of the story when his wife made a criticism of its allegory. He quickly regretted that decision, and spent the next three days in bed rewriting it with a quill pen.


“The Wire In The Blood” by Val McDermid. With a title drawn from a T.S. Eliot poem, McDermid’s book already had good pedigree! This popular crime novel introduced readers to Dr Tony Valentine, who uses his powers of empathy to get into the minds of serial killers, attempting to stop them before they strike again. Val always had ambitions to be a writer, despite a brief spell of wanting to be Joni Mitchell.


“Rob Roy” by Sir Walter Scott. Critically popular upon its release, this classic sold out its original print run of 10,000 in just two weeks – no mean feat for a book in 1817. Scott has been both criticised for his portrayal of Highlanders as primitive, and yet praised for being largely sympathetic to the struggles they faced.

What Do You Think?

The classic Sherlock – Basil Rathbone in action.

Let us know which titles you’ve read and what you thought of them – and if there are any you believe should be on the list.


Dancing Shoes Dad had one special pair, and for me they never lost their sparkle . . .

Illustration by Mandy Dixon.


RE you sure they’re not too tight for you, Geoff?” Mum asked and Dad shook his head. “They feel fine to me.” “Stand up, then,” Mum said. “Have a walk around in them.” Dad did as Mum suggested, and walked over to the mirror in the shop to have a look at his new pair of shoes. I sat on one of the chairs in the shoe shop, watching them, waiting for my turn to try on some shoes. I always got new shoes when we went away on holiday, but I’d never known Dad to be treated to a new pair before. “Give us a twirl, then!” Mum laughed, and Dad pretended to do a spot of tap-dancing, right there in the middle of the shop. The shop assistant smiled. “Are the shoes for a special occasion?” she asked.

“We’re off on holiday next week,” Mum said proudly. “To Blackpool. And we’re going dancing at the Tower Ballroom.” “I think this pair will do the job, Sheila,” Dad said, sitting down and taking off the shoes using a wooden shoe horn. As he was doing so, he turned to me. “Do you like Dad’s new shoes, Julie?” They were flat and shiny black with laces and looked boring, like old people’s shoes. I liked shoes that were red. Preferably red with black dots like ladybird shoes. I didn’t want to upset Dad, though, so I just nodded my head and smiled. When it was my turn to try on new holiday shoes, Mum helped me choose a pretty pair of white sandals with yellow plastic daisies on the straps. Mum had always loved dancing, although Dad wasn’t keen. So when Dad set his sights on a family

holiday to Blackpool, Mum said it wouldn’t be complete without having a turn on the dance floor at the famous Tower Ballroom. I could see Dad wasn’t happy when she mentioned it, as he pulled his newspaper tight and raised it against his face, but Mum didn’t seem to notice so I kept quiet. I was looking forward to Blackpool. Jenny from school had been once to see the illuminations and she said there was candy floss and chips, and the hotel she stayed in had a bathroom in the same room as the bedroom and it was called a French name like “onsweet”. On the night before we left to go on holiday, Mum was busy packing the cases upstairs and I sat downstairs with Dad, who was polishing his new shoes with a tub of black stuff, a little brush and Mum’s best duster. “Smashing shoes, these, Julie, eh?” he said. “Would you not like red ones, Dad? With black spots on them?” He laughed and shook his head.

“I don’t think your mum would want to dance with me in the Tower Ballroom if I had red spotty shoes on, do you?” I couldn’t see why not. Surely the more jazzy the shoes, the better dancer he would be?

* * * *

Blackpool was everything Jenny had told me it would be. I went for a donkey ride on the beach; Mum and Dad took me on a tram; we played on the amusements and the penny falls and went to see a comedy show on the pier. The hotel we stayed in was lovely, even if the bathroom was down a corridor and we had to share it with all the other people on our floor. I loved every minute of that holiday by the sea, having Mum and Dad’s full attention all the time we were there. And then, all too quickly, the last day of our holiday came round. It was the day Mum had been looking forward to the most. It was the day she was going dancing at the Tower Ballroom with Dad. Inside, we found a little round table near the front of the dance floor and Dad went to the bar to buy drinks for us all. Mum had one of her special drinks that I’d

62 only ever seen her drink at Christmas. It was so special that it came with a cherry on a stick in the glass. Dad had a pint of beer in a big glass that had a handle on the side. I felt very grown up drinking fizzy lemonade from a glass bottle, through a straw. Dad also bought me salt and vinegar crisps. I was in heaven. There were couples dancing around the floor to music from a man playing a big piano that had appeared from underneath the stage. When the music stopped, everyone started clapping and the man on the piano turned to us all. “Ladies and gentlemen, please take your partners for the waltz,” he announced. Dad stood and reached

I held Dad’s hand and followed him out to the floor. “Dad!” I cried, standing on my tip-toes so that no-one else would hear what I had to say. He bent down to my height so that he could hear me better. “Dad! I don’t know what to do!” “Just follow me, Julie,” he said as the music started. I did my best to keep up, I really did. “Stand on my toes,” Dad said. “It’ll make you dance like a lady.” I lifted my feet and placed my little white sandals with their yellow daisies on to Dad’s shoes. “What if I hurt your toes?” I asked him. “You won’t, love. Just hold on tight to my hands.” And with that, we were off. My shoes were on top

“Would you do me the honour of partnering me in this dance?” his hand out to Mum. “Mrs Barton,” he said, all posh-like in a pretend voice. “Would you do me the honour of partnering me in this dance?” Dad winked at me. Then Mum did the pretend posh voice, too. “Why, Mr Barton. I thought you’d never ask.” Dad took Mum by the hand and led her on to the dance floor and I watched as he walked away from me, the lights around the room making his new holiday shoes twinkle and shine. As he turned and twirled Mum around on the floor, I watched entranced as the two of them held each other and danced. When the music stopped again, Mum came to sit down beside me. “I’m fair worn out!” she exclaimed, taking a sip of her drink. Dad followed behind her but he didn’t sit down. He held out his hand to me and did his silly voice again. “Miss Barton, would you do me the honour of partnering me in the next dance?”

of Dad’s shoes and he was twirling and dancing and doing all sorts of steps that none of the other dancers were doing. He was laughing and enjoying himself, and whenever I caught sight of Mum sitting at the table by the dance floor, she was laughing and smiling at us, too. She even took a photograph of Dad and me dancing, with my feet on top of his feet. When we returned home from Blackpool, Dad’s dancing shoes were put away at the bottom of the wardrobe where they sat and gathered dust for many years.

* * * *

“Dad, are they the same shoes Mum bought for you when we went to Blackpool when I was little?” “What? These?” Dad laughed, looking down at his feet. “Yes, those!” Mum said. “He’s never worn them since Blackpool, you know, Julie. He wouldn’t let me buy him a new pair for today.”

“I remember dancing on your feet, Dad. In the Tower Ballroom, wasn’t it?” “That’s right,” Dad replied. “I know your Mum’s got a new outfit and shoes for today, but these old shoes have still got life left in them. I thought they’d be perfect for today to go with my new suit. I polished the shoes up last night. What do you reckon?” I kissed Dad on the cheek. “I reckon they’re going to walk me up the aisle in style, Dad. Now, come on, the wedding cars are going to be here any minute.” “I hope Kevin knows what he’s letting himself in for.” Dad smiled.

* * * *

Mum handled herself bravely at the church during one of her life’s most difficult days. Somehow she managed not to give in to her own tears and grief as well as helping me get through the day, too. The church was packed with Dad’s family and friends, all of them with a good word for Dad or a happy memory to share. After we’d left the church and headed back to Mum’s house for a glass of something to say our farewells to Dad, Mum remained calm and strong. It was only after everyone had gone home that her loss overwhelmed her, as it overwhelmed me. “Thank you, Julie,” she said as we hugged. “I don’t know how I would have made it through today, without you.” I hugged her tighter still. In the weeks that followed, Mum and I did our best to try to adjust to life without Dad. I suggested to Kevin that we take Mum away to Blackpool for a few days, to the places Dad loved, and perhaps even to the ballroom to dance. So we loaded up the car with overnight bags and set off on a break. Mum was in the back of the car with our daughter, Janice, Kevin was driving and I was in the front seat

with the road map on my knees. It felt comforting to stay at the same hotel where we had stayed all those years ago on our holiday to Blackpool. The hotel had been renamed, modernised and extended, and there were now, as Jenny would have said, “on-sweets”. We walked along the prom, headed to the ballroom, then found a table at the edge of the dance floor. The tables were familiar, even after all those years. They were the same round tables I remembered from when I was a child. Kevin went to the bar and came back with a tray of drinks. For Mum there was a brandy with a cherry on a stick poking out of the glass. She smiled over to me – a smile big and bright, like I hadn’t seen in months. For Kevin there was a pint of beer in a heavy beer glass with a handle on the side. For me there was a glass of white wine and soda. And, for Janice, a bottle of lemonade with a straw. I kissed Janice on the top of her head. “Would you like to dance, Sheila?” Kevin asked Mum when the music began. “I’m fine, love,” she said. “I think I’d just like to watch the dancing today.” Kevin nodded. “And how about you, little lady?” he asked Janice. “Me?” she said. “Can I really get up there and dance with all the ladies?” “Course you can,” he said. “Just do what I do and we’ll be fine.” Janice jumped up out of the red velvet chair and ran on to the dance floor. “Come on, Dad!” she yelled. “The music’s started!” Kevin strolled on to the floor and took his daughter’s hands in his. No words passed between them. Nothing needed to be said as Janice lifted her feet and put her little pink trainers on top of Kevin’s boots. n

Subscribe Today! FREE Mr & Mrs Claus Salt and Pepper set with every order!


● FREE Mr & Mrs Claus Salt and Pepper set with every order* ● FREE UK DELIVERY by Royal Mail direct to your door. ● GUARANTEED to receive your copy before it’s in the shops. ● NEVER MISS another copy of your favourite magazine. ● QUALIFY for discount subscriber offers.




Download our digital app, search: The People’s Friend ANDROID APP ON

0800 318 846

BY POST send coupon to:

FREEPHONE and quote PFSTA. Free from UK landlines and mobiles.

Lines open 8am – 6pm Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm Sat.


Subscription order form

Please complete the coupon and send it to: The People’s Friend, Subscriptions, DC Thomson Shop, PO Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF. Yes, I would like to subscribe to ‘The People’s Friend’ for: ❏ BEST DEAL: Only £12 every 3 months (UK) by Direct Debit* +FREE GIFT ❏ 6 months at £32.99 (UK) or £52.99 (Overseas) +FREE GIFT ❏ 1 year at £58.49 (UK) or £95 (Overseas) +FREE GIFT ❏ 2 years at £105.28 (UK) or £171 (Overseas) +FREE GIFT Title ............. Name ............................................................................................... Address ................................................................................................................... .................................................................................................................................... Postcode ............................Telephone ................................................................ email ........................................................................................................................ Delivery Details (If different from above) Title ............. Name ............................................................................................... Address ................................................................................................................... .................................................................................................................................... Postcode ............................Telephone ................................................................ email ........................................................................................................................ From time to time, DC Thomson & Co Ltd, Its group companies and partner businesses would like to contact customers to manage their account, for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers that we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that DC Thomson & Co Ltd, Its group companies and partner businesses can contact you by email, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box No contact from DC Thomson & Co Ltd or It’s group companies unless It relates to an existing order ❏ No contact from our partner businesses ❏ *DIreCT DebIT: Twelve pounds every 3 months subscription offer is only available to recipients within the UK when paying by Direct Debit. One year Direct Debit rate of £48 (UK) and £85.00 (Overseas). For UK bank Accounts only. One year minimum term applies. Pre-PAy: One year subscription rate pre-paid is £58.49 (UK) or £95 (overseas). Free GIFT: Available for all new and renewing subscribers. renewal orders are for payment of Direct Debit only. Please allow up to 28 days delivery from receipt of payment. Should the gift pictured be unavailable, a replacement gift will be sent. GeNerAL: For overseas enquiries, please call: +44 1382 575580 or email Offer ends 31st December 2016.

The People’s Friend Subscriptions, DC Thomson Shop, PO Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF.

For one-off payment orders, enclose your details and a cheque made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd.


I enclose my cheque (No cash please) for: made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd



DC Thomson & Co Ltd., 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ. Originator’s Identification Number


3 8 8 5 5 2

Name and full postal address of your Bank or Building Society To the Manager

Bank/Building Society

Address Postcode Instruction to your Bank or Building Society Please pay DC Thomson & Co Ltd Direct debit from the account detailed in this instruction subject to the safeguards assured by the Direct Debit Guarantee. I understand that this instruction may remain with DC Thomson & Co Ltd and if so, details will be passed electronically to my Bank/Building society.


Name(s) of A/c Holder(s)


Bank/Building Account No


Branch Sort Code

This is not part of the instruction to your Bank or Building society.

Bank and Building Societies may not accept Direct Debits for some types of account



A breath of

country air Renowned nature writer Polly Pullar takes a lighthearted look at rural life.

Photographs by Polly Pullar.


NE of the worst aspects of having a litter of puppies is the worry that they are not going to find good homes. However, we have been exceedingly lucky and have found superb homes for all our puppies, and what is more, have been kept regularly updated on their progress. Whilst I was working on the story of Lawrence MacEwen, the owner of the island of Muck, some years ago, Molly always accompanied me. She did not mind the ferry, and she soon became very familiar with the island, and everyone on it. We were back and forth with regularity, and she became very attached to Lawrence. I am afraid one of the main reasons for this was because, having always been out feeding pigs, and cows prior to arriving at the

Molly and Maggie, mother and daughter.

cottage to work on the story, his boiler suits always smelled most interesting. We had been toying with the thought of having a litter of puppies, and the idea was finally clinched when Molly excelled herself by helping Lawrence, radio presenter Mark Stephen and myself to gather lambs on Horse Island, a tidal island only accessible several times a year during very low tides. Every autumn the MacEwen family put some of their weaned lambs across to this lush area to be left to their own devices for the winter months. Molly has never been trained to work but she was excellent, and I was extremely proud of her. When we arrived back at the farm with a large batch of lambs, Lawrence’s daughter-in-law, Ruth, commented on how good she was and said she would love to have a pup from her. Coincidentally, by the time I got home Molly was in season and a suitable dog was found. She had seven wonderful healthy puppies and Maggie, a smooth-coated puppy like her mother, was given to Ruth as a special present because she had lent me one of their holiday cottages which became our

base for each visit. With a beach right in front of the farm and endless daily sheep work, what more could a young collie wish for? Shortly after Maggie’s second birthday, Iomhair and I, and my son Freddy and his girlfriend Daria, planned to go to the annual Isle of Muck Open Day. We had arranged to take Molly with us so she could see her daughter, and arrived on Muck in good cheer with a boatload of other visitors, to be met by Lawrence. Soon after our arrival at Jenny MacEwen’s wonderful tearoom where a large group had assembled, Ruth appeared and took me to see Maggie. She was sitting in the driving seat of Ruth’s Land-Rover, looking very well indeed. To begin with she and Molly were a little wary of one another, but soon they were racing around and having a great time. Maggie was gleaming with health; her coat looked as though it had been varnished. Clearly very attached to Ruth, and to Hugh and Tara, her children, it seems as if Maggie has landed a fabulous home. She is already working well and rounds up the sheep every day. She appears to be a natural

without the need for formal training, just like Molly. Muck’s Open Day was a huge success. After another of Jenny MacEwen’s sumptuous feasts, home-made bread, cakes, soup and freshly caught seafood, some had a farm tour in the back of a tractor and trailer with Lawrence doing the commentary. The effusive pupils of the little school had laid on numerous lovely exhibitions, and the hall was filled with wonderful artwork. Sadly it was time to leave Muck all too soon and as the rain began in earnest we stepped back aboard Sheerwater to be taken back to Arisaig. It was quite rough and Molly proved to be no salty seadog, and was rather scared as the boat bumped the waves. She ended up sitting on my knee for most of the journey, but dinner back at the car on the mainland soon cheered her up. And seeing Maggie in her element and knowing that she has the best home a collie could wish for filled Iomhair and I with the greatest pleasure. Where there’s Muck, there’s magic! n

We’ll take another “Breath Of Country Air” in December 31 issue.

Set in the 1500s

The Gilded Gaol Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar.

Secrets had been kept, and more had come to light – could Louise and Robert ever be together . . .?


AITING in Reims was like being in limbo. The Abbey of Saint Pierre was beautiful, and the weather fair, but Robert itched to be moving on. “I will have to make a life for us,” he said, “and I want to make a start. I feel as though we’re poised to take our next step, but tethered here in Reims!” “It’s a pleasant place,” Louise pointed out. Robert smiled and tugged a tiny spray of pear leaves from Louise’s hair. They were lying in the convent orchard, doing nothing. Their hostess the Abbess Renée of Guise had, as usual, taken command of matters, and told them that their new life was being prepared for them, and

that for now it was safest to remain within her walls. “Think of this place as sanctuary,” she’d said. “Houses like this one have had that function since the early church.” Robert kissed his wife. “Nobody can contradict the Mother Abbess,” he said. “I see why she and your mother found so much in common.” Louise frowned, but in jest. “Robert, a man must honour his parents, and the parents of his wife. Never speak ill of Anne de Cueva.” She giggled. “It’s too dangerous!” They lay back in the long grass and became thoughtful. Each knew that the other was sad and anxious about parents. Louise missed her mother and father acutely, and was

always aware of the risk they had taken in arranging her marriage and her freedom; Robert suspected that he would never lay eyes on his parents again. “I have you,” he said, twirling the pear sprig in his fingers. “Everything will be well.” “Hush!” Louise sat up. Despite the sanctuary of St Pierre, they could never forget that they were wanted by the men who had lost their prized spy in the plot to free Mary Stuart, and possibly by Bess of Hardwick, who had been lenient with them, and was now possibly furious that they had eloped. Between the trees Louise could see glimpses of horses, trotting up the long avenue towards the abbey. “It’s a small party,” Robert whispered.

SERIAL BY ALISON CARTER: PART 7 OF 7 67 “And riding slowly,” Louise added. “It will be two priests from St Denis, I should think.” She prepared to stand, but Robert laid a hand on her arm. “Can’t you hear their voices?” he asked. “It’s English, I swear it.” She listened. “You are right,” she said. They let the two visitors make their way closer to the abbey, but neither of them could resist finding out their identity. Fortunately, it was easy for Robert and Louise to enter the abbey buildings from the side, then to climb a staircase and look out at the courtyard through a crenellation on the open roofing. When they reached their viewpoint, the men were in conversation in the empty courtyard. “What establishment has not a soul on hand for stabling a horse?” a tall man was saying. Louise breathed a sigh of relief: she had never seen him before. This was a pair of innocent travellers. Their regalia told her they held high rank, but would not threaten her safety. She looked for the other man, and concluded that he and his horse were exactly beneath their viewpoint, so not visible. A novitiate nun emerged from a doorway opposite, saw the gentlemen and dropped a curtsey. “Sister Marie,” she called back through the doorway. “Fetch the Mother Abbess, please. I think she is finished at her prayers.” The novitiate walked towards the men. “I will find someone to take the horses, sirs,” she said, and hurried away. “Good heavens, Philip.” A voice came from below Louise and Robert. “A house of women at their women’s business – we will be here until Christmas!” It was then that Louise saw, emerging into view, the figure of Lord Yeovil. Robert tugged Louise back, away from the crenellation and any chance of being seen. His face was pale in the sunlight, and he

pressed a finger to his lips. For several seconds they crouched in the dust, as still as statues. But Louise knew that Yeovil would not see them, and slowly they moved back to watch. Thoughts spun through her mind. Somehow, Lord Yeovil must have learned Robert’s location. And if so, who had revealed it, from among the few who knew of their elopement? If Elizabeth’s men were out to arrest her husband, did that mean the Court had uncovered the Catholic plot? Was it known that Robert had been plotting – though unwillingly – against the very people who employed him? She glanced at Robert, and saw in his eyes that his fear matched hers. If these men discovered him, death on a charge of treason awaited Robert in England. “Tie up here, Philip,” Yeovil grumbled. Louise watched them secure their horses to a post. “The French,” he went on. “No idea of hospitality.” “I suppose it is a convent, my lord,” his companion offered. “Full of ladies going to Mass all the time, and so on. I feel sure they will bring this abbess, and some nourishment.” Yeovil turned on his companion. “You think I’m going to touch the nourishment they’ll bring out here?” he spluttered. “That’s why I had the inn at Dover pack that saddlebag of yours. I’m famished. Fetch me a piece of good Kentish pie!” The other man busied himself with the saddlebags, and Yeovil grumbled on. “Her Majesty avoids French food,” he said to nobody in particular. “It is well known. You are aware they eat snails here?” A few seconds later, Yeovil was munching at a squashed-looking pie. “We’re going to ask our questions and get back on home soil as soon as possible,” he said, his mouth full. He took another large bite, and Louise saw gravy dribble down his doublet.

“I don’t like France and I don’t like the French!” Robert brought his mouth close to Louise’s ear. “What questions?” he whispered. Louise put her arm around him. She could feel the tension in his body. “I remember when life was simple,” Lord Yeovil said. “There are so many irritations these days. “The Catholics won’t leave off their ridiculous uprisings, and to cap it all, my young assistant Feldham has run off with a

the abbess, moving out into the courtyard. Both men fell silent, surprised by her sheer presence, and Robert and Louise waited to see what would come next. All at the abbey knew the identity of the young couple, and as long as these lords remained, they were certainly in danger. “Gentlemen,” the abbess said. “Welcome to the Abbey of St Pierre. It gives me pleasure to greet friends from England.” Her English was flawless,

“I don’t like France and I don’t like the French!” girl!” Yeovil squinted up at the hot sun. “Oh, I wish I were at Chatsworth now!” Louise exhaled with relief. So he had not come to arrest Robert. These men has some other task. Philip shuffled his feet. Louise guessed that he had a hard time of it, riding with Yeovil. “Well, my lord,” he said, “to the mission at hand . . .” “I know the mission,” Yeovil snapped. “Elizabeth got wind of this Renée of Guise woman visiting Chatsworth, and wants to know the reasons for it. We are here because of a feeble woman, and not only a woman, but a nun!” “A French relative of Scottish Mary, you said?” “Indeed. Mary’s always at the root of any trouble. I rue the day I became monitor of her captivity. “This nun slipped in and out of Lord Talbot’s house and Her Majesty wants to know why he didn’t prevent it.” Yeovil shook his head. “Her Majesty wonders if this Renée is a tricky customer, and thinks I should have known that.” “But Lady Bess assured you that the nun’s visit was innocent,” Philip said wearily. “All embroidery and prayer.” “I trust old Bess, but I don’t trust the nun. And so that is why we are here, my friend, far away from the comforts of home.” Louise’s eye was caught by the tall, dark shape of

and Louise smiled at the astonished expressions of the men. “My sisters will show you to your rooms. I pray you, follow me within.” The two men blinked in the sunlight and, as she turned sedately and glided away, trotted meekly behind her.

* * * *

Weeks later, Joan Scollick felt a mighty sense of relief that her brother Will had been spared the gallows. He had stolen petty cash kept by Chatsworth’s chief mason Tom Arkin, for the improvement of the estate, and it had been only the whim of a certain nobleman that had saved him. Lord Yeovil, a regular visitor from Queen Elizabeth who inspected the conditions in which Mary of Scotland was imprisoned, had learned of Will’s heroism in battle, how he had dragged Yeovil’s only son, injured, from the fray. Harry’s heartfelt gratitude and praise had moved Lord Yeovil, and Joan’s brother had been spared. She felt that Will had benefited from good luck indeed, and she tried to remind him of that. “You’re right, sister,” Will said, planting a kiss on her cheek. “I survive by the skin of my teeth, faced either with an Italian musket or a sticky situation at home, and I thank the good Lord daily for it.” Joan looked askance

69 at him. “It was indeed a tricky situation, Will,” she said. “You must see that Bess and the earl, too, could have had you in irons. It is only because they need to be in Yeovil’s good opinion that they agreed with everything he said, and overlooked your sin.” “Bess of Hardwick,” Will said thoughtfully, “is quite a woman. A handsome one, too, though I dare say more than forty now.” Joan reached up and clouted him round the ear. “Don’t you speak of my mistress in that way!” He looked pained. “I speak out of admiration, Joan.” “You’ve no business to admire my lady. You’ll hold your tongue.” He shrugged. “She’s a canny creature, and she knows how to keep the Queen in good humour about troublesome Scottish Mary. Anyway, she got her money back, so all’s well.” Will sauntered off and Joan watched him go, shaking her head. Now his danger was past, Will seemed to have forgotten his errors. The good opinion of Harry, his Army captain, was of greater interest than the fact that he’d escaped death by hanging! Will liked to gossip with the housemaids about his comrade and old friend, and by following the prettier girls around the house he avoided more arduous occupation. Joan was truly glad to have her brother home, but she knew that he needed to have his hands busy. Will felt that he’d given enough, through years of battle. “I am taking my rest, Joan,” he said. “Call it a soldier’s leave. Once a soldier always a soldier. I am looking about me for work that suits my skills.”

* * * *

Will kept making promises. He also began to break hearts around Chatsworth. Joan understood that he was a rough diamond after such a hard life, but he had to be brought into line. In

her mission to do so, she found an unexpected ally. Late one evening she met Ambroise de Cueva, walking slowly round the side of the house. He stopped when he saw her and placed a hand carefully on a cornerstone of the mansion. “Joan,” he greeted her. “A good day to you.” “Rather a good evening, Master de Cueva, for it’s past ten.” “Is it now?” Joan saw that the wall was taking his weight, and heard that his voice was the merest bit slowed. “You’ve been to the village, perhaps?” she asked, smiling. It was known that Master de Cueva did what he was told by his clever wife, Anne. He was also known to adore her but, Joan supposed, a man liked occasionally to enjoy an ale in the company of men. “I have been,” Ambroise said. “I saw your brother there. A man of many words and much cheer, he is.” Joan grunted. She knew Will’s fondness for inns. Ambroise drew his hand away from the wall and stood straighter. “Joan, he’s boastful. That I must tell you, since I know you love the boy and care for his welfare.” “Boastful?” “About Lord Yeovil’s son, and the hundred dangers from which he saved him in the smoke of war. He mentioned my daughter, too, and I confess to you that I was not pleased.” “Louise?” Joan drew close to him and dropped her voice. “What does he know of her? What does he say?” “Nothing troublesome, Joan, but he needs to . . .” Ambroise hesitated. “I think he needs to grow up. I am not sure that an army does wholly make a man out of a boy in all the necessary ways of life.” Joan nodded. “I feel I lack the means to control him,” she said. Ambroise looked at her for a moment, then tapped the side of his nose. “I might give aid there,” he said. “I occupy a particular position here at

Chatsworth, standing as I do between master and men. You see?” “I do. Bess trusts you, and you converse with her, yet you have the ear of the stable boys, carpenters and cooks.” He grinned. “All those in awe of my sweet wife?” Joan smiled. “I admire Mistress Anne more than I can say.” Ambroise gave a cough. “She is the best of women, and I know that you will not mention to her that I was –” “Taking a walk for your health? I will not. And if you can find a way to occupy my brother and tame his ways, I will be grateful.”

* * * *

By the time Louise and her husband had crept into the convent and made their way silently up to an upper room and a spy-hole that looked over the hall, the Abbess of St Pierre had led her English visitors in. Louise glanced at Robert and grinned. “She wears the veil,” Louise whispered, “but she knows how to manage men like Lord Yeovil!” The abbess took a final pace into the centre of the hall, stood beside a tiny elderly nun, turned and bowed to her guests. “I was pleased to notice the arrival of you gentlemen,” she said, “from my office in a high tower. I knew that you hailed from England because of the quality of your liveries, and so I –” “We will state our business, if you please,” Yeovil interrupted. “We have little time for –” “Very fine liveries they are,” the abbess interrupted. “I admire the workmanship of your artisans in England. Humble daughters of Christ though we are, we can tell superior work from the efforts of our livery yards here in Reims.” Yeovil raised a hand. “We are honoured, my lady Abbess, by your words. But perhaps we could move on to –” “Sister Dominic,” the abbess said, looking at her second in command. “Do

you agree that the English countryside, so green and pleasant, nurtures the artistic skills of the craftspeople?” Sister Dominic stepped forward, her robe swishing softly on the floor, and gazed up at the vaulted ceiling, deep in thought. Louise and Robert suppressed a laugh. These women, both from the noblest of France’s families, and educated to the tops of their wimples, loved a joke. They were going to avoid Yeovil’s questions, and Yeovil had not the courage to contradict such holy ladies. “They are going to bore Lord Yeovil into fleeing,” Robert hissed. “She will shut them in the cells by the cloister, freezing to death, longing to escape!” Sister Dominic sighed. “Yes, Mother, I think that as ever you are right.” “Now,” the abbess said briskly, “we are lax in not attending to the needs of our guests. Here in France we may not understand the heraldic arts as well as our English cousins, but we understand hospitality.” “We will not intrude on the peace of the convent or the work of the nun,” Yeovil said. “We came to make speedy enquiry about the visit you made to Mary –” “At Buxton!” The abbess clapped her hands. “A fine town, and with the precious spa waters! The Countess of Shrewsbury is a formidable woman, sir, and she keeps a good house. “I recall the richness of her welcome, and it gives me pleasure to return such welcome to two of her countrymen.” “We have travelled here,” Yeovil insisted, “to enquire into your visit.” “I have no complaint, and you may take that back to Derbyshire. Such a lovely county. Mary Stuart agrees that my visit was a sweet holiday for all concerned.” “But that is not what we came to –” But the abbess clapped her hands, louder this time, and a line of slender and timid novitiates in brandnew habits filed through the door below where

71 Louise and Robert were crouched. “My children, you will see to these horses. We always have rooms ready, but Sister Jeanne will ensure they are dry and warm for our guests.” “Really,” Yeovil began, “there’s no need. If I can just interview –” “But there is need. Damp must be ruled out, sir, as I am sure you will agree, being from England.” Yeovil’s face was pink with frustration. “We can start for Calais tonight.” Sister Dominic placed a hand over her mouth. “And risk robbers on the road? Oh, you are brave men, but you must allow us to save you from such perils! “The abbey’s statutes dictate that every traveller shall have a cell, food and water, and naturally a front seat for all eight daily masses.” Louise laughed. “Come.” Robert stood up quietly and took her hand.“They will hear us, or sense us watching them. I don’t want Yeovil knowing we are here. We will let the good nuns do their work.” As Louise moved away with Robert she tugged his hand. “The first time I saw you,” she whispered, “was at Tutbury Castle, when I peeped through just such a spy-hole.” He looked at her for a moment then pulled her to him and kissed her. “How far we have come since that day,” he said softly into her hair.

* * * *

It was a source of sadness for Joan that her friend Tom Arkin was avoiding her. He was distressed, she knew, by the wrong he imagined he had done her by revealing Will’s crime. Joan knew very well that he could have done nothing else, but he kept away, and did not speak to Will, who had caused it all. But it appeared that Master de Cueva understood the way things were, and was coming to

her aid. “That music master wants to teach me to play a flute,” Will said one day, standing in the doorway of the laundry. Joan put down her dish of lye. “And will you?” “I like music,” Will said. “De Cueva says it’s to be the pan flute, whatever that may be.” He laughed. “He says that ladies like a man who plays music.” Will, to Joan’s surprise, gave his attention to the flute. She heard him at all hours, learning tunes, and every Monday he hurried to a lesson with Master de Cueva, straightening his leggings and combing his unruly hair before the hour. After a few weeks, Joan began to understand Master de Cueva’s deeper purpose. “I passed Master Arkin yesterday,” Ambroise said to her one evening as she was delivering a supper to their apartments. “He listened when I told him of Will’s efforts at music, and spoke of taking him on at the quarry site.” “A job for Will!” Joan exclaimed. She had not dared even think of asking Tom for such a thing. “Tom is eager to make amends,” Ambroise went on. “He feels that he betrayed you, Joan, giving away your secret. “He is a good man,” Ambroise added. “I know,” Joan replied. “I am grateful to him.” Ambroise nodded. “Gratitude is a beginning,” he said. Joan went back down the stairs to the kitchens, puzzled at what Ambroise had said about gratitude, but delighted that Will might now learn a trade, under Tom Arkin’s tutelage. She looked up from the courtyard to the window of the de Cueva apartments. Ambroise was a clever man, just as his wife Anne was the sharpest of women. She bumped into Anne de Cueva in the passage. “Were you taking supper to us?” Anne asked. “Baked trout,” Joan said, “and good white bread.” “Well, thank you.”

Joan paused. “Your husband, Mistress Anne, has lately been kind to me and my brother.” Anne gave a slow smile. “Every man is soothed by music,” she said. “I have often sat by my husband and calmed his temper with a viol or an air.” Joan eyed her. “Was it you, then, who gave Master Ambroise the idea of a flute for Will?” “I may have,” Anne confessed. “And you spoke to Thomas, too, I warrant.” Anne laughed. “Now, Joan, you know that men can rarely find their own way quickly! Yes, I did, and reminded Tom that here at Chatsworth he has a strong worker who knows the landscape and can be trained, if a firm hand is applied.” Joan shook her head slowly, in appreciation. “You should be at Court, Mistress Anne, arranging the affairs of England.” “I have had need of those skills,” Anne said, “more than most women.” Joan thought of Louise. “Can I ask about . . .?” she began softly. “She is safe,” Anne said quickly. “That is all I know. Oh, Joan, I miss my child.” “I, too, miss her.” Joan saw Anne lay her hands on her belly as though in pain, and realised how she suffered now her only child was gone to another country, with no hope of return.

* * * *

The following morning at the Abbey of St Pierre, Louise was in the kitchen garden, dressed in the humble clothes she wore in disguise, hoeing leeks. She kept her head low but watched the noblemen emerge from the chapel. They looked exhausted. The abbess was talking animatedly about Buxton. “It was charming to see Mary,” she was saying. She stopped walking, and the two men halted, too, their shoulders drooping after their frugal convent breakfast and hard cots. Louise smiled, knowing that they would have been

allowed their cots for a few short hours between Latin masses. “The family tree of the House of Bourbon,” the abbess began, “is one of the longest in France –” Yeovil raised a hand. “Madame,” he said in a dull voice. “It has been a privilege to stay in your abbey, but we must away to England.” He looked her full in the face. “Once I have established why –” “Not leaving us?” the nun interrupted, her eyes wide. “We have pressing business at Court.” “But it is time to harvest our pear trees. It is quite a ceremony, my lord, and we have a tradition which you will enjoy. “We ask a gentleman or two to hold the canvas and receive the fruit, and perhaps this year you will have the pleasure of a day or two in the fresh air, with my sisters singing hymns as we pick. Such a joy!” Louise saw the two men exchange glances. “A joy we must forego,” Yeovil said firmly. “Come, Philip, we have stayed too long.” They stomped out of the gardens, and as they passed her vegetable bed, Louise heard Yeovil muttering. “I do not care why that woman came to see Mary. I do not care if she schemes to overthrow the very Crown! I have to get out!” The abbess approached Louise just as Robert walked cautiously out of the shade of the cloister. “My children,” Abbess Reneé said. “Those gentlemen have departed.” Robert and Louise laughed. “And so must you,” she continued. “It is time to send you on your way to Troyes, and your new life.” They stopped laughing and looked at one another. “Tell us how, Mother,” Robert said.

* * * *

It was only when Tom Arkin was leaving Chatsworth that he finally sought out Joan. A breathtaking pink sunset filled the sky



Bible Reflections For You:

a daily companion to keep by your side


HINGS aren’t as they used to be.” Is that something you hear, or think, from time to time? Anyone over fifty has experienced huge changes in the way we live. It’s hard to credit, but 40 years ago there were few cash machines, no personal computers, mobile phones, internet, world wide web or e-mail. Cataract and bypass operations were rare and difficult. There were no women vicars, let alone bishops! On the whole, people have taken to most of these changes quite happily. The changes we find more difficult – and which are also more frequent in modern life – are those that affect our private or domestic lives: moving home because we need to be near our children; living with a medical condition or limited mobility, so that we can’t drive a car or go out on our own. And, perhaps most powerfully, the death of cherished friends and relatives, whose companionship and love cannot easily be replaced. “To live is, in fact, to cope with change, from childhood to old age. It

“Bible Reflections For Older People” will be published three times a year. Each journal contains 40 Bible reflections and prayer suggestions to use and revisit as often as is needed. Interviews and short articles provide inspiration, encouragement and hope. Each issue costs £4.99. The January 2017 issue is available now. Visit or telephone 01865 319700 to purchase a copy, or pop into your local bookshop.

“To live in the light of eternity is our task on earth.” Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury. doesn’t make it easier, but at least it’s a shared experience. And it’s one about which the Bible has some wise and wonderful things to say.” These words come from David Winter, former producer and Head of Religious Broadcasting for the BBC. His thoughts open up a new set of reflections from the Bible that have been written especially for older people by older people. “Bible Reflections For Older People” brings words of hope and assurance, reminding us of the presence and love of God. Through times of change, of loss or of decision-making, rich truths make sense of life.

“The spiritual never dies. God loves and accepts us no matter what the state of our minds, brains or bodies.” Jennifer Bute, retired GP, living with dementia.

“The Gift Of Years” is a new way to inspire, equip and enable every church across the UK to meet the spiritual needs of older people wherever they may be – in residential care, congregrations, in their own homes and in the community. At the heart of “The Gift Of Years” is the Anna Chaplain model which we are making widely accessible. If you would like to find out more visit “Bible Reflections For Older People” is published by the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), and “The Gift Of Years” ministry is part of BRF. Charity Reg. No. 233280.

73 above the Derbyshire hills when he found her in the gardens. “My lady Bess is sending me to Cheshire,” he said, “to begin construction of the earl’s new house. I’ve come to say farewell.” He drew a scroll from under his arm. “Tell me what you think of the plans.” Joan stared at the lines and curves and figures on the page, but absorbed nothing. It seemed such a revolution for Tom Arkin to be absent from Chatsworth. He held the plans before her and talked about elevations and brickwork, as though merely for something to say. “Master Arkin!” A mason’s assistant hurried over the lawn. “We don’t know which of your tools to pack up.” “I must go,” Tom said, rolling up the scroll. Joan felt a pain shoot across her chest as he set off slowly across the grass. “A year, Tom, is it?” she called. He turned round. He nodded. “I’m glad you have your brother for company. He’s well employed at the quarry and pleasing the music master with his flute.” Tom continued towards the sheds, and Joan stood alone and cold in the warm summer air. When his figure was almost swallowed by the dusk, she knew suddenly that for some time – perhaps a very long time – she had loved him. “Tom!” she called. He turned once again and began his walk back to her.

* * * *

Fifteen months later, Louise and Robert were living in a small house on the outskirts of Troyes. Robert was working for the town mayor, a position obtained through the offices of Anne and the abbess. Louise, eager to support her husband’s industry, had begun teaching English to neighbouring children. Letters came, rarely, from Derbyshire. Her mother had to wait until safe passage for mail could be assured, and Louise had heard

nothing for six months. But that day a messenger had brought a letter and Louise could not wait for Robert’s return before she read it. There were several pages under the seal. So much has happened, my darling, Anne wrote, since I last used my pen. I am with child. Louise blinked and read the words again. Her mother, having a baby? Louise tried to conjure up an image of Anne, and saw in her mind’s eye a stern, loving mother, not a woman gazing down at an infant! We are like newlywed people again, the letter continued, and wish we had you by our side for the choosing of a name. Louise sat back in her chair by the fireside and thought of her family. I enclose a letter from a friend, Anne’s letter went on, and Louise took the final page from the bundle. It was written in a hand Louise didn’t recognise. You will see that I can write, Louise read. It was Joan! My husband taught me, though our baby got in the way of lessons in a terrible way – she is the noisiest of creatures and resembles her uncle Will in that quality, though in sheer strength and stubbornness is her father’s child. Tom is now able to leave some of the heavy work of building Talbot Great Hall to the men. Little Louise demands our attention, but she is a cheerful creature and will do well. Then there was an ink smudge. I hope that we will meet again, and that our lives will be less fraught with danger. Can I dare to say that we will share friendship again in the future, Louise, and affection, just as we have before? Louise drew her fingers lightly across the page, as if touching the people she loved. “Yes, Joan, friendship,” she said, “through every peril and every joy.” The End.


Reflection From the manse window By the Rev. Ian Petrie


HICH page of your newspaper do you turn to first? Amazingly, several would swoop in for a glance at the horoscope, though few would admit to checking the stars! Still more would open up the hatches, matches and despatches, painfully aware that the last-mentioned occupies by far the largest area and checking that your own name isn’t on the list! Some would home in on the daily cartoon, hoping for an early morning smile, while others stick with the headlines offering, more often than not, bad and disturbing news. I do none of the above, joining the majority, at least of the male readership, in bouncing to the back of the paper – the sports pages. There, in the sport of your choice, you can browse the ups and downs of the stars, whether they are winning or losing and, too often, whether they are injured or not. Did you know that the New Testament, as well as featuring the Wise Men following their star, also contains its very own sports pages and reports? The Apostle Paul is the New Testament’s chief sports correspondent, having once been a sportsman himself who had been forced to retire prematurely through injury. Paul saw his role as apostle to be versatile, being an agony uncle to many of the early Church’s teething problems, using in the process these sporting metaphors. “Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize.” Warming to his subject, Paul analyses the heart of the matter.

“Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that does not last; but we do it for one that will last for ever. That is why I run straight for the finishing line; that is why I’m like a boxer, who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control.” He turns his concentration to winning, emphasising that he keeps striving to win the prize. “The one thing I do is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight for the finishing line towards the goal in order to win the prize.” One thing has always niggled me about this scenario. As Paul himself admits, only one person can win the prize. What about all the others in the race who arrive at the finishing line when the tape is already broken? Paul answers that question when he defines the prize as that which Christ Jesus has already won. The site of that victory was Calvary, but the race had already been won in the stadium in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion, a victory which he shares with us, so that we can all feel the thrill of breaking that finishing tape as victors. This is the race against self, raging within us all, and Paul suggests that if we don’t live the struggle, we are already in danger of defeat. Paul recounts sporting parables challenging us to faith in action, an active faith, involving hours of training and practice when we’d rather stay tucked up in bed. While demanding nothing less than achieving his personal best, he challenges us to do likewise. What would be read, I wonder, in the sports pages of our discipleship? n

Next week: Kathrine Davey says everyone has a role to play.




£12.50 This great-value pack offers you the chance to buy “The People’s Friend” and “My Weekly” Annual 2017 at a bargain price. “The People’s Friend” 2017 Annual is packed with feel good fiction including 25 brand-new short stories from favourite authors that will be familiar to readers of “The People’s Friend”. With the “My Weekly” Annual you can enjoy a fabulous collection of short stories from the very best modern authors. Enjoy hours of feel-good fiction with this great value pack. It makes a wonderful gift for friends or family, too.


318 846

(UK landlines only), lines open 8am-6pm, Mon – Fri or between 9am and 5pm, Sat. Overseas customers, please call +441382 575580



Complete order form below and send with payment to:

Fiction Pack 2017, DC Thomson Shop, PO Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF Fiction Pack 2017 ITEM




Fiction Pack 2017






Name .................................................................................... QTY


Address ................................................................................ ............................................................................................... ............................................................................................... Postcode ............................................................................... Tel ......................................................................................... Email ....................................................................................

I am enclosing a crossed cheque/postal order, made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd, for the total amount of £ ...................................................... (Please write your name and address clearly on the back of your cheque.) If you are ordering by Credit Card please complete the following: Card Type: Maestro/Delta/MasterCard/Visa (delete as necessary) Expiry Date ................./.................. (Month/year) Issue No ................... (maestro only) Card No .................................................................................... Name on Card ............................................................................................................. Cardholder’s Signature ..................................................................................... From time to time, DC Thomson & Co. Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses would like to contact you for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers that we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that DC Thomson & Co. Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses can contact you by email, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box: No contact from DC Thomson & Company Ltd or its group No contact from our partner businesses. companies unless it relates to an existing order. ©DC Thomson & Co Ltd 2016

How to choose a


boiler Read Lorna Cowan’s quick guide to staying cosy this winter


F you want warm radiators and hot water in your home, upgrading the boiler is often a necessary, if not particularly exciting, expense. In the long term, though, you should save a significant amount of money on your energy bills.

Winter Fuel Payment

Choosing a boiler engineer

Gas boilers should be installed by a boiler engineer or plumber who is on the Gas Safe Register (previously run by Corgi) or for oil boilers, the OFTEC Register. Ask around for recommendations, and get at least three engineers to come to your home to discuss your requirements and check your water pressure. Request a written quote with details about the brand, size and type of boiler they propose to install. Also find out about any warranties and guarantee. A gas supplier, such as British Gas or npower, may also be able to do all the work for you. However, they tend to be more expensive and often the plumber is incentivised to install a particular brand of boiler. Boilers made by Vaillant, Worcester Bosch and Potterton have been favoured by “Which?” readers for several years.

How long should it last?

The lifespan of most boilers is around 10 to 15 years, so if yours is making strange noises or regularly breaking down, it’s time to think about upgrading. As your boiler gets older, finding spare parts could become problematic, and it might stop working one cold, frosty morning.

What’s best for you

Boilers today are assessed for their energy efficiency and given a rating on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient. All new boilers have this high A rating and are condensing boilers, so you’ll benefit from more heat from the same amount of fuel. The size will depend on the number of rooms and people in your home. There are two main types of gas condensing boilers.

Combination boiler

Also known as a combi boiler, this is one of the most popular types in the UK. Best suited for small homes, it’s ideal for couples and people living on their own. PROS This compact boiler can easily fit in a cupboard or small kitchen. As it draws water directly from the mains, hot water is always available. There’s no need for a tank in the loft. CONS If more than one hot tap is used at the same time, water pressure may be reduced.

If you were born on or before May 5, 1953 (for winter 2016/17, the date changes yearly) and receive a State Pension, you may be entitled to a payment of between £100 and £300 to help with your heating bills. Grant schemes are also available to help pay for a new boiler if you’re on a low income and claiming certain benefits. See the Energy Saving Trust website,

Conventional boiler

Sometimes called a regular or heatonly boiler, this type is good for larger homes where hot water is required in more than one place at the same time. PROS Hot water is available from multiple taps at the same time. CONS Your home needs space for a cylinder and tank. Hot water is stored in the tank, so when it runs out, you have to wait for water to reheat. Not everyone is connected to the UK’s gas network, so if you live in the country you may need to consider an oil condensing boiler, or a woodburning stove fitted with a back boiler.


Ways to save on your heating and hot water bills l Have your boiler serviced once a year to make sure it’s running safely and efficiently. Book a service before the outside temperature drops and everyone has the same idea.

l Install a heating control system so you can decide what rooms to heat and when. Spare rooms don’t need to be too warm if they’re not being used.

l Check heat is not escaping through cracks around windows, gaps under doors or up your chimney. A chimney balloon will stop heat escaping upwards – and cold air blowing down.


On The Road Deirdre Barrie recalls a time when driving was a simpler experience.



HERE were not nearly so many cars on the road in the Forties and Fifties. That was the time to drive! There were no parking meters and no traffic wardens. A car’s dashboard then had just a clock, a speedometer and an oil gauge; not like today’s cars where there can be a radio, a satnav screen and controls for heating the seats, while a little voice reminds you to put on your seat belt. Seat belts? There were no seat belts. Heated seats? It was only the rare car which had any sort of heater for winter journeys.

When we children were off on the exciting journey through the winter dark to Granny’s house, a cosy tartan woollen rug was tucked over our knees, just as it would have been little more than half a century before, for our ancestors travelling by stagecoach. Coloured cars were rare. As Henry Ford once said, “You can have any colour you like, as long as it’s black.” One of Dad’s early cars was second-hand, and dated from the Thirties. “When are you going to get another car with running boards, Dad?” I wanted to know, and could not understand why this innocent question produced so much laughter. On cars of the Twenties and Thirties, which were higher off the road, a running board was like a tiny step on the side of the car and made it so much

easier for a little girl with short legs to clamber in. Driving was not always easy. Sometimes, for (to a child) unknown reasons, the engine would stop, and Dad would have to get out, muttering, and haul a crank called a starting handle from out of the boot. Dad would then turn the crank two or three times. There were sometimes two or three false starts when the engine would chug a bit then die into silence before it finally roared into life. The expression “fell off the back of a lorry” was really true. Lorries were often open-topped then, not like today’s long, sealed boxes. When the lorry which had long gone ahead of you had bounced on the road’s potholes, it often meant that potatoes, turnips or several lumps of coal landed in the road. Things were scarce long after the war ended in 1945, and individual cars would stop on a quiet country road to pick up these small “freebies”. Sometimes, in the summer, the trees high up at the side of a narrow road would have strands of grass hanging from their branches, like long fair hairs, or strange Christmas decorations. This showed where a fat hay cart had recently passed, its overhanging load brushing against the trees



and hedges. My sister and I would pretend that our car was being pursued by another car containing three bandits called Hike, Spike and Mike. We would peek out of the rear window to gauge how near they were, then dive down to dodge imaginary bullets. Car sickness was a peril even then. You had to be sure to say when you were about to be sick to give Dad a chance to stop and let you out on to the nearby grass verge. Occasionally an unscheduled halt at a sweet shop would produce a little white paper bag of mint imperials (sometimes known as “granny sookers”) whose peppermint flavour helped you feel less sick. When my sister and I were very young, and the car stopped at a red traffic light, Mum and Dad would urge the pair of us to blow at the lights. “Keep blowing,” they would urge. “You will make the lights change to green!” To our delight, it actually seemed to work! It was a sad day when we grew older, and realised we did not really possess that magic power. It’s great now to be able to drive to Cornwall or Yorkshire in a day. But somehow travel by car has lost so much of its old romance . . . n

believe it? Would you

Got a question? Get in touch through e-mail or *write to “The People’s Friend”, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

I’D LIKE TO KNOW I caught the end of a TV programme in which they were talking about an animal called a quagga. What on earth is this? Mrs B.L., Hull.

In times of trouble my wife and I often sing the chorus “One Wheel On My Wagon . . .” When did this song come out? Mr B.P., Scarborough.


The song is called “Three Wheels On My Wagon” and was written in 1961, the lyrics by Bob Hilliard and music by Burt Bacharach. Of course, as the verses progress singer Dick Van Dyke ends up with no wheels, as it recounts an American pioneer family in a wagon being chased by Cherokees.


The now extinct quagga looked similar to a zebra, but different in that the stripes were mainly on its head, neck and upper body, as opposed to all-over markings. DNA analysis has shown that the quagga is a subspecies of the plains zebra and the name quagga was derived from the animal’s call, which sounded like “kwa-ha-ha”. The quagga lived in South Africa and was heavily hunted. The last mare is thought to have died at Amsterdam Zoo in August 1883.



Reading about Anne Frank, I noticed there is mention of her mother calling her Annelies. Is this her proper name? Mrs G.T., Hampshire.


Yes. She was born Annelies Marie Frank in June 1929, in Frankfurt. Her diary tells of her struggle to stay hidden from the Nazi regime. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Her story has been translated into 67 languages.

Something we didn’t know last week...


9 minutes a day

– the average amount of time British women devote to skincare.

6 feet tall and size 14

– the vital statistics of Long Tall Sally’s new mannequin, which is based on one of the shop’s customers, Harriet.



Applications are now open for what might just be Britain’s best part-time job! National Rail is looking for either an eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old or a mature student to travel by train to dream destinations around the UK, videoing their adventures so we can all share in their journeys and be tempted to buy a Railcard. The job comes with a £10,000 pay packet and, we assume, free train tickets!

*Please do not send an SAE as we cannot give personal replies.

5p an hour

– the cost of parking in Britain’s cheapest car park, which is in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

£13 an hour

– the cost of parking in the heart of London’s West End.


of us no longer sit at a table for our evening meal.

Keep cosy in our simple wrapover jacket which is worked in a super chunky yarn.


Just The

Photography: Ally Stuart, Hair and make-up: Linda Wilson Photographed at Rufflets Hotel,




foll 2 alternate rows – 5 (4, 6, 5, 7, 6) sts. Work 1 row. Cast off.



To fit sizes: 81/86 cm (32/34 ins), 91/97 (36/38), 102/107 (40/42), 112/117 (44/46), 122/127 (48/50), 132/137 (52/54). Length: 68 cm (26¾ ins), 69 (27¼), 70 (27½), 71 (28), 72 (28¼), 73 (28½). Sleeve seam: 46 cm (18 ins).


10 (10, 11, 11, 12, 12) 100-gram balls of King Cole Big Value Super Chunky Twist in Heather Twist (2253). One pair each 9 mm (No. 00) and 10 mm (No. 000) knitting needles. For yarn stockists write, enclosing an SAE, to King Cole Ltd., Merrie Mills, Snaygill Ind. Estate, Keighley Rd, Skipton BD23 2QR. Telephone: 01756 703670. Website:


10 sts and 14 rows to 10 cm measured over st-st using 10 mm needles.


beg – beginning; dec – decrease; foll – following; g-st – garter stitch (knit every row); K – knit; m1 – make one stitch by picking up the loop lying before the next st and knitting into the back of it; P – purl; rem – remain; SKPO – slip 1, K1, pass slipped stitch over; st(s) – stitches;

st-st – stocking-stitch (knit one row, purl one row); tog – together.

Important Note

Directions are given for six sizes. Figures in brackets refer to the five larger sizes. When writing to us you must enclose an SAE if you would like a reply.

RIGHT FRONT With 9 mm needles, cast on 37 (39, 42, 44, 47, 49) sts and work 7 rows in g-st. Change to 10 mm needles and st-st. Beg with a knit (right-side) row, work 6 rows ★★. Dec row – Knit until 8 sts rem, K2tog, K6 – 36 (38, 41, 43, 46, 48) sts. Work 9 rows straight. Rep the last 10 rows twice more, then dec row again – 33 (35, 38, 40, 43, 45) sts. ★★★Cont straight until front measures 36 cm from beg, ending after a purl row. Shape front slope – K2, SKPO, knit to end – 32 (34, 37, 39, 42, 44) sts. Cont working dec row on every right side row until 19 (21, 24, 26, 28, 30) sts rem, then on every foll 4th row until 17 (19, 21, 23, 25, 27) sts rem. Work a few rows straight until front measures 68 (69, 70, 71, 72, 73) cm from beg, ending at side edge. Shape shoulder – Cast off 4 (5, 5, 6, 6, 7) sts loosely at beg of the next row and the

Work right front to ★★. Dec row – K6, SKPO, knit to end. Work 9 rows straight. Rep the last 10 rows twice more, then dec row again – 33 (35, 38, 40, 43, 45) sts. Complete as right front working from ★★★ to end, noting that front slope dec row will be – knit until 4 sts, rem K2tog, K2.

BACK With 9 mm needles, cast on 58 (63, 68, 73, 78, 83) sts and work as right front to ★★. Next row (dec row) – K6, SKPO, knit until 8 sts rem, K2tog, K6. Work 9 rows straight. Rep the last 10 rows twice more, then dec row again – 50 (55, 60, 65, 70, 75) sts. Cont straight until back measures same as fronts to shoulder shaping, ending after a purl row. Shape shoulders – Cast off 4 (5, 5, 6, 6, 7) sts loosely at beg of next 6 rows, then 5 (4, 6, 5, 7, 6) sts at beg of next 2 rows – 16 (17, 18, 19, 20, 21) sts. Cast off.

SLEEVES With 9 mm needles, cast on 25 (26, 27, 30, 30, 31) sts and work 7 rows in g-st. Change to 10 mm needles and st-st. Beg with a knit (right-side) row, work 4 rows. Next row (inc row) – K2, m1, knit until 2 sts rem, m1, K2 – 27 (28, 29, 32, 32, 33) sts. Cont working inc row on every foll 4th row until there are 37 (38, 39, 42, 42, 43) sts, then on every foll 6th (4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th) row until there are 43 (46, 47, 50, 50, 51) sts. Work straight until sleeve measures 42 cm at centre, ending after a purl row. Shape top – Knit until 5 sts rem, turn. 2nd row – Sl1 firmly, purl until 5 sts rem, turn. 3rd to 4th rows – Sl1 firmly, work until 10 sts rem, turn. 5th and 6th rows – Sl1 firmly, work until 15 sts rem, turn.

7th row – Sl1 firmly, knit to end of row. Cast off loosely.

TO COMPLETE Tie – With 9 mm needles, cast on 6 sts and work in g-st for 135 (145, 155, 165, 175, 185) cm, or desired length. Cast off loosely. Belt tabs (make 2) – With 9 mm needles, cast on 12 sts. Now cast off. Right border and collar – Join shoulder seams. With 9 mm needles, cast on 6 sts. Work an uneven number of rows in g-st to fit up right front edge to start of front slope shaping, allowing for strip to be slightly stretched ★★. Next row – Knit until 2 sts rem, m1, K2 – 7 sts. ★★★Cont working inc row on every foll 6th row until there are 9 sts, then on every foll 8th row until there are 14 sts. Work 1 row straight. (Omit this row on left border and collar.) Next row – Knit until 4 sts rem, turn. Next row – Sl1 firmly, knit to end. Work 6 rows in g-st on all sts. Rep the last 8 rows until shaped edge fits round to centre back of neck. Cast off. Left border and collar – Work as right border and collar to ★★. Next row – K2, m1, knit to end – 7 sts. Complete as right section working from ★★★ to end. To Make Up – Stitch cast-off edge of sleeves to upper sections of back and fronts. Join side and sleeve seams. Sew on borders and collar joining ends at back of neck. Stitch short ends of belt tabs to side seams at waist level. Thread belt through tabs. n

Next week: knit this cosy sweater.


Choice of welcome gift with every order!

ONLY £2.99


Season’s Greetings Cake Plate and Server CODE: PS32B

Freshwater Cultured Pearl Bracelet CODE: PS32A


3 easy ways to order…

Please quote PS32A or PS32B for your choice of free gift.



SAVE OVER £18 off the shop price*.


FREE WELCOME GIFT with every order.

BY POST send coupon to:

FREE UK DELIVERY straight to your door

The People’s Friend Subscriptions, DC Thomson Shop, PO BOX 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF

NEVER MISS an issue of your favourite magazine.

For one-off payment orders, enclose your details and a cheque made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd.

QUALIFY for exclusive subscriber discount offers.

Please complete the coupon and send it to: The People’s Friend Subscriptions, DC Thomson Shop, PO Box 766, Haywards Heath, RH16 9GF.

0800 318 846

Free from UK landlines and mobiles. Lines open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm Sat

1 direct debit DC Thomson & Co Ltd., 2 Albert Square, Dundee DD1 9QJ.

Originator’s Identification Number



❏ Freshwater Cultured Pearl Bracelet - PS32A ❏ Season’s Greetings Cake Plate and Server - PS32B

Name and full postal address of your Bank or Building Society

Yes, I would like to subscribe to The People’s Friend Specials for:

❏ BEST DEAL! Only £9 every 3 months (UK) by Direct Debit* + FREE GIFT ❏ 1 year at £54.49 (UK) or £84 (Overseas) by cheque + FREE GIFT Your Details Title ............. Name ................................................................................ Address .................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... Postcode ...........................................Telephone .................................. email .......................................................................................................... Delivery Details (If different from above) Title ............. Name ................................................................................ Address .................................................................................................... ..................................................................................................................... Postcode ...........................................Telephone .................................. email .......................................................................................................... From time to time, DC Thomson & Co Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses would like to contact customers to manage their account, for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers that we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that DC Thomson & Co Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses can contact you by email, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box. No contact from DC Thomson & Co Ltd or its group companies unless it relates to an existing order ❏ No contact from our partner businesses ❏

3 8 8 5 5 2

To the Manager

Bank/Building Society

Address Postcode Instruction to your Bank or Building Society Please pay DC Thomson & Co Ltd Direct debit from the account detailed in this instruction subject to the safeguards assured by the Direct Debit Guarantee. I understand that this instruction may remain with DC Thomson & Co Ltd and if so, details will be passed electronically to my Bank/Building society.


Name(s) of A/c Holder(s)


Bank/Building Account No


This is not part of the instruction to your Bank or Building society.

Branch Sort Code Bank and Building Societies may not accept Direct Debits for some types of account

2 cheque I enclose my cheque (No cash please) for: made payable to DC Thomson & Co Ltd


*DIRECTDEBIT: £9 for the first 3 months subscription offer is only available to recipients within the UK by payment of Direct Debit. UK Bank Accounts only. One year minimum term applies. Savings of over £18 is based on the annual shop price of £54.83. PRE-PAY: One year pre-paid subscription rate is £54.49 (UK) or £84 (Overseas). I year subscription is equivalent to 17 issues. FREEGIFT:Available to all new and renewing customers. Renewal orders are for payment of Direct Debit only. Should the gift pictured be unavailable, a replacement gift will be sent. GENERAL: For all overseas enquiries, please contact: +44 1382 575580, or email Offer ends 31 December, 2016.


Handy Scottish Phrases


Meaning: friendly, informal chat. “There’s nothing like a guid blether.”

“Awa’ ’n’ bile yer heid!” Please go away as you’re annoying me.

“Dinnae be feart.”

There’s nothing to be scared of.

“Dinnae clipe.”

Please avoid telling tales about your friends.

“Haud yer wheest!” Please be quiet.

“It’s a sair fecht.” Please calm down.

“Lang may yer lum reek.” Here’s to you living a long and healthy life.

“Up to high doh.” “Wee bauchle.”

A small, easily overlooked person.

“What’s fir ye’ll no go by ye.”

What’s meant to be will be.

Meaning: hug, cuddle. “Fallen over and skint yer knee? A wee bosie’ll mak it better.”

Meaning: hat, usually a man’s flat cap. “We’ve got mannies’ bunnets for heids o’ a’ shapes.”

“Keep the heid.”

Very stressed.



There’s no such thing as an easy life.


Meaning: dirty. “The last time I saw sic a clerty bairn, he was pickin’ tatties.”

A Wee


To celebrate St Andrew’s Day, Crabbit Wendy Glass sheds Meaning: bad tempered. “I’ve never known sic a crabbit man some light on popular first thing in the morning.” Scottish words Drookit and phrases. Meaning: soaked to the skin. “If we’d


Meaning: trousers. “He’s wearing a fantoosh pair o’ tartan breeks.”

taken a brolly, we’d no’ be drookit.”

Meaning: a muddle or state of confusion. “She got hersel’ in a richt fankle wi’ her new mobile phone.”


Meaning: the height of fashion (but can be used in a slightly derogatory manner). “That’s a very fantoosh outfit fir nippin’ doon tae the shops.”

Double Meanings

North and south of the Border, some words mean totally different things . . .

Hen In Scotland, “Hen” is a perfectly acceptable way to refer to a woman, usually when you don’t know – or have forgotten - her name, or feel “madam” would be affy posh!


A “piece” is usually part of something – and in Scotland, it’s part of your lunch! A “piece” covers almost anything you eat without sitting at a table so can be a sandwich, pie, sausage roll or even a Forfar Bridie.

Messages If a Scot tells you they’re going to get their messages, they’re not away to pick up letters, e-mails or answerphone recordings – they’ve gone to the supermarket.



The Friendship Pack for inspiration every day Two annuals for only

£12.50 SAVE


when bought together This great-value pack offers you the chance to buy “The People’s Friend” Friendship Book and Fireside Book 2017 at a bargain price. The Friendship Book contains uplifting and inspirational thoughts for every day of the year. The Fireside Book includes sixty beautifully illustrated poems to take you through the year season by season. Wonderful gifts for friends and family. FREEPHONE:

0800 318 846

MAIL: Complete the order form below and send with payment to:

(UK landlines only) between 8am and 6pm, Mon – Fri or between 9am and 5pm, Saturday. Overseas customers please call +44 1382 575580 The Friendship Pack I am enclosing a crossed cheque/postal order, made payable to “DC Thomson & Co., Ltd.”, for the total amount of £ ………....…… Name ........................................................................................................................... Address......................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................... .............................................................. Postcode ....................................................... Tel ........................................................ E-mail ...........................................................

“The People’s Friend” Friendship Pack 2017, DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766, Haywards Heath RH16 9GF





“The People’s Friend” Friendship Pack 2017





Delivery details if different from billing details Title .......... First Name .......................... Surname .................................................... Address......................................................................................................................... ....................................................................................................................................... .............................................................. Postcode ....................................................... Tel ........................................................ E-mail ...........................................................

From time to time, DC Thomson & Co., Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses would like to contact you for market research purposes and about new products, services and offers that we think will be of interest. We’ll assume that DC Thomson & Co., Ltd, its group companies and partner businesses can contact you by email, post or telephone unless you tick the relevant box: No contact from DC Thomson & Co., Ltd or its group companies unless it relates to an existing order No contact from our partner businesses. ©DC Thomson & Co Ltd 2016

Send this order to: “The People’s Friend” Friendship Pack 2017, DC Thomson Shop, P.O. Box 766, Haywards Heath RH16 9GF


I’m only ten, but I already know what I’m going to be when I grow up . . .

Mickey Bligh, Superspy

Illustration by Jim Dewar.


Y name’s Mickey and I’m a spy. Well, I’m not yet, but I’m training to be one. It’s quite hard when you’re ten. The teachers are always on at you to think about what you want to do when you leave school and why it’s so important to work hard. I think being a spy would be great. I could find out stuff about people and report back. I’m not sure who to, but I thought I could give it a go. First I made my ID badge. Dad won’t let me use his computer, but I went to the library and made it using my library card. I wrote NYPD in big black letters neatly across it. I don’t know what NYPD means, but it seems to be important. I put it in Gran’s old bus pass holder and keep it in my blazer pocket.

I started my spying work at school. No-one would suspect a thing. I struck lucky on my first day. Hanging about near the gates for half an hour, I spotted Melanie Forbes’s mother carrying in a suspicious parcel. It was square and grey. I didn’t see any wires hanging out of it but it looked worrying. I followed her to the main door of the school. She looked about her furtively but didn’t notice me trailing her. I tiptoed in after her and saw her hand the package to Shirley, the receptionist. There was nothing for it. I whipped out my ID and called out “Freeze!” in my loudest voice and braced myself. Just then Mr Marshall, my form master, came in behind me. “Mickey Bligh, what are you up to now?”

Mrs Forbes turned round. Mr Marshall apologised to her, saying that I watched too much telly and to ignore me. He confiscated my ID card. Shirley was nicer, though. She explained later that Melanie had forgotten her lunch box and there wasn’t anything to worry about. I told her about the spying plan and she said she thought it was a great idea. I heard her telling Mr Marshall about it, too. I think there might be something going on there. I’ll need to keep an eye on them. Things went a bit better the next week. I went to the shops to buy my magazine and spotted my gran coming down the street. I was just going to speak to her when I noticed something. She looked completely different. Instead of her usual jeans and trainers she was

wearing a skirt and a smart jacket and she’d done something to her face. I don’t know quite what. Anyway, just as I was looking at her, she turned and went into the Station Hotel. Why would she go in there? I crossed the road and looked in to the reception area. There was a large placard there saying that Pounds Minus, the diet people, had a meeting there that night. So Gran was going to a slimming club. She always seemed fine to me. Still, it’s nice that these old women of almost sixty still want to try to look good. Gran’s lovely. One of my favourite ever people. I want her to be happy. Dad says she’s not been the same since Grandad died. Reviewing the intelligence I had gathered, I knew that Gran wasn’t happy with her body image, so I decided I must help her. She was due for lunch the next Sunday so I swung into action. Obviously, her diet plan was a secret. The first course was boring soup. Not high in calories according to Diet Diane of “Ladies’ Weekly”, so that was OK. Mum had made delicious little rolls to go with it, though. I cunningly positioned the roll basket as far from Gran as

86 possible. It was important for her to avoid temptation. It was quite difficult to ignore Dad when he told me twice to pass the rolls to Gran. Cutting my losses, I offered her half of mine. She looked a bit puzzled but accepted it. I continued to help Gran to avoid calories by spilling all the roast potatoes on the floor. I thought Mum was going to cry. She’s really fussy about them and prides herself on getting them just right. Well, Dad was furious and sent me to my room. So that plan to help Gran didn’t work too well. And I

Marshall. Bye, Mr Marshall,” I mumbled and rushed on. I don’t think he minded. I could hear him laughing. Meanwhile, I managed to get Gran in sight again. She went into the church hall. Phew, I thought. She’s going to some sort of old ladies’ meeting. They like that sort of thing. But when I reached the noticeboard in front of the hall, I saw that the only thing going on that night was a French class. What a surprise! It’s good that Gran wants to keep learning at her age. The class wasn’t due to end until after I had to be in bed, so I left her to it.

It was important for Gran to avoid temptation missed my lunch. Determined to support Gran in an undercover sort of way, I went along to her house the next Tuesday. I hoped to interview her about how she felt about herself and to reassure her that no matter how old and fat she was, I still loved her. However, just as I rounded the corner of her street, I saw her come out of the front door. She was all dressed up again, I noted. She then walked off down the street in the opposite direction from me. This presented me with a good opportunity to follow her without drawing attention to myself. Who would notice a boy casually following his gran along the street? Unfortunately, Mr Marshall did. I hadn’t realised that he lived so near to Gran. Before I could move on, he stopped me. “What are you up to now, Mickey?” he asked. I wasn’t in trouble, I could tell, as he said it in a sort of jokey way. “No more bombs, I hope?” he added. I was desperate to get rid of him so I could keep tracking Gran. “No, Mr Marshall. I’m late for something, Mr

Next Sunday lunch, Mum made a lovely roast dinner again, but gave me a huge salad instead as she thought I was interested in losing weight. I tried to protest but didn’t want to give the game away about Gran. With quick thinking, I offered to share my salad with her, but she shook her head and said that growing boys needed lots of vegetables. She must have fallen off the diet wagon. However, remembering her foray into French, I started to speak to her. “Ah, Grandmère, est tu enjoying your roast beef?” She looked at me and frowned a bit. I continued. “Les lessons en français sont bien, n’est ce pas? Vous êtes learning lots, I hope?” Dad lost it again, then. I was sent to my room for cheek and not even allowed to take my salad with me. No loss there. I could hear them talking about me again. Gran was trying to stand up for me, but Mum and Dad said they wanted to speak to the school about me. Maybe it’s because I’m so good at French that I confused them. I expect that’s it. Luckily, Gran’s secrets are

still safe with me. Next Wednesday night when I was on my way to band practice (I’m a junior trombonist), I was just walking along Gran’s street when I saw a car draw up beside her and a man wind his window down to talk to her. She leaned in, obviously helping to give him directions. Then, to my horror, she got into this car with the strange man. This was the moment I’d been waiting for all my life: a chance to save Gran. I rushed forward and threw myself in front of the car. Luckily it hadn’t started to move. I could see this man looking very startled and Gran, sitting next to him, her mouth in a perfect O. The man began to toot his horn loudly and gesticulate to me to get out of his way. Gran started to open the door but, before she could get out, Mr Marshall rushed up. I was really glad to see him for once. “Look, Mr Marshall, that man’s kidnapping my gran!” I gasped out. “She got into a car with a strange man. Just what we’re told not to do!” I was quite proud of myself. Obviously, Gran came to her senses then and got out of the car. She was laughing, too, which I thought was a bit odd, but probably she was embarrassed. I decided I’d need to tell Mum and Dad about this for her own good. It didn’t work out that way, though. The man switched off the engine and got out, too. I’d thought he’d try to get away as quickly as possible before the police arrived. Anyway, once Gran stopped laughing she looked at me. “Oh, darling, it’s not what you think.” She glanced up at Mr Marshall. “He’s not a stranger. I’ve been seeing him. He’s called Monsieur Pascal.” “We can all see him, Gran,” I replied. “I’m seeing him right now.” Mr Marshall cut in.

“I think your gran means something else, Mickey,” he said quietly. She looked at him gratefully and carried on. She was actually blushing a bit. Disgraceful, at her age. “He’s my boyfriend. I didn’t want to tell your mum and dad yet. It’s early days.” Monsieur Pascal looked down at her kindly and nodded. Mr Marshall coughed and said that he’d be getting along as this was just another example of Mickey’s imagination running away with him. What a cheek. Gran thanked me for looking out for her best interests, gave me a quick hug and a kiss, then got back into the car and they drove off. I wiped her lipstick off my cheek and hoped that no-one had seen us. Next Sunday, Monsieur Pascal came for lunch, too. Mum had explained to me during the week that Gran wasn’t on a diet when she went to the Station Hotel. It was a date in the hotel restaurant with Monsieur Pascal. She hadn’t been going to the French classes, either. He taught French and she was just meeting up with him after work before going out to the pub. I had single-handedly uncovered this secret romance. I felt quite proud of myself. I’ve decided to give up on the spying now, as I seem to have cracked it. I’ve had a new idea. Gran gave me a digital camera for my birthday so I’m going to be a photographer – an undercover photographer so I can combine it with my spying skills. I’m going to infiltrate large events. I’m starting with a wedding next week. It’s in the Station Hotel function suite. Mr Marshall and Shirley the receptionist at school are getting married. I bet they’ll be pleased to see the stealthy photographs of unguarded moments that I plan to take. n

"-'!!1�1111:i Shower & bathe � in comfort & safety again

Simple, safe and stylish, Acorn Stairlifts give people the chance to enjoy their own homes once again.

Look at the benefits... • Easy in...Easy out

Low, wide & safe entry

• No fuss, No mess# Can be fitted in a day!

• Next day installation available • 365-day local service and support • Safe and reliable • New or reconditioned • Rent or buy • Local surveyors, local engineers

• Walk-in showers baths & wetrooms

tailored to your style, needs & budget

• Complete makeovers

from design to installation

• Best price guarantee From the name you can trust

• Lifetime guarantee*

Give }!Our life a Litt• Enjoy the home you love

Avoid st,uggles with the stairs, and be safe with a stalrUft; the perfect solution-· to your problems with the stairs."


-t,,.,,,. �m'ii� s..pportlng


• -'� UK


Mobility Plus Bathing ltd gr;e £100 from the sale of "''Y bathroom fined to Can<er Research UK. �om ti-. stan olthis promotion over £534.000 has been raised towards Cancer Research UK's life saving work. Cancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464) ao:I in Scodao:I (5(041666) #Subject to normal installation conditions. ttTerms and conditions apply.

Call us today for your free brochure & quote


0800 077 6212

Dr Hilary Jones,

Medical A<M,o, to Acom StalMts

0800 326 5146


ffli!P;J © � ·� ���


New Puree Petite. Feel good about food again., whateuer your appetite. Rent or Buy • For both straight and • curved staircases • New or reconditioned • 14 day satisfaction guarantee • 24/7 local Which?

call out


Freephone 0800 715180

Discouer 21 smaller portion.s with. all th.e calories and protein of our larger meals.

Terms and conditions apply. Excludes third parties and Northern Ireland. Or complete and return the coupon to: Freepost RTLC-BGUS-UJYH, Stonnah Lift Services Ltd, Dept. 1200, Watt Close, ANDOVER, SPJO 3SD

D Please send me a free brochure and DVD D Please call me to arrange a home visit DEPT. 1200 Name

Address Postcode



Call us for your FREE brochure

0800 084 3468 PFQP15

Softer Foods -:::.::-:-=.,�'-"' Wiltshire Farm Foods


The Book That Changed

Margaret from the “Friend” Production Team cherishes her prize books.


NE of my earliest memories is of receiving a prize at the end of the school year. That particular book was “The Observer’s Book Of Wild Flowers”, one of the wellloved series of pocket-sized books, and I still have it. It was a wonderful moment as I experienced that feeling of being rewarded for doing well. Over the years that followed I was fortunate enough to win many more prizes, and I’ve cherished them.

One that had a big impact on me was “The Ordeal Of Anne Devlin” by Robin McKown, awarded in 1968 as first-equal prize by Leuchars Primary School. This account of a heroine of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 might be seen by some as an unusual choice of book for an eleven-yearold girl. Although fictionalised, the book deals with very strong, adult themes – patriotism, bravery, heroism . . . but also cruelty and betrayal. How did this book end up on the list of prizes to be awarded? Perhaps, back then, children were more encouraged to admire heroes and heroines than in the present day. All I can say is what a profound effect it had on me. The book is based on historical fact. Anne Devlin was a faithful servant of the Irish patriot Robert Emmett, and played a crucial part in the uprising as his accomplice. After the rebellion, Anne was captured along with her family and friends. She was imprisoned in Kilmainham jail and, despite being tortured, did not disclose details of those participating in the rebellion. She spent three years in

prison suffering harsh conditions and on release went to live in poverty in Dublin. In Robin McKown’s novel we see a young, impressionable Anne fall in love with one of the rebels, Terry Byrne, only to have to watch him go to a martyr’s death. We learn of her life as a young girl growing up in rural Ireland; of her large, loving family who can be cheerful even while the potato famine rages. This small, rich novel left a great impression upon me. The vivid account of Anne’s privations, the harsh cruelty meted out by the prison’s Dr Trevor, and the bravery and constant loyalty Anne showed to her comrades was astounding. In later years I certainly became more aware of injustice and world affairs (though, to my regret, I never got to Greenham Common). Did this book influence my career? No, for I was a stay-at-home mum while my children were growing up, doing part-time jobs to fit around school hours. But my daughter insists she learned from me the importance of speaking out, and that one voice can make a difference. n

Anne Devlin was born in Co. Wicklow and was raised with a dream of a free Ireland. After the 1798 rebellion she moved to Dublin, where she met revolutionary Robert Emmet. His rebellion of 1803 failed and Anne was arrested and taken to Kilmainham Gaol to be tortured daily under the sadistic eye of the prison doctor, Edward Trevor. Anne was kept in the dungeons for over two years. Her captivity was secret, so most records and first-hand accounts of her sufferings don’t exist. There is a life-size bronze statue of Anne, by Clodagh Emoe, in Rathfarnham to commemorate the key part she played in Irish history. The sculpture shows her barefoot, gazing south to Wicklow.

Courtesy of South Dublin Libraries.


My Life



The Old Engine Room is the perfect place to put aside differences . . .



RECOMMEND patatas bravas, chorizo and jamón Serrano,” Dave said, as he stood at George and Mary’s table in the Old Engine Room. George raised his eyebrows. “You recommend what?” “It’s just Spanish for potatoes, sausage and ham,” Mary explained. She smiled at Dave, who was waiting to take their order. “We’ll have a bottle of red, please, Dave. And if you’re not too busy later, George would like a word.” Dave glanced uneasily from Mary to George, wondering what on earth Susan’s dad could want to talk to him about. “My shift finishes in ten minutes,” he said. “I’ll pop over and see you then.” “Bring a glass. You can help us with the wine.” Mary smiled as Dave headed to the kitchen to place their food order. Behind the deli they could see Susan serving customers with all manner of unusually named meats and cheeses – manchego, salchichón, queso al vino. “Do we have to have

Riverside wine?” George asked. “I’d prefer a pint.” “George, we’re in a deli. They don’t sell pints. It’ll be that fancy bottled beer you’re not keen on.” “It’s a different world,” George said, eyeing the inside of the bistro. “Of course, the name’s all wrong, you know.” “What name?” Mary asked. “Calling this place the Old Engine Room. We never had an engine room at the shipyard.” Mary nodded. “Well, it’s just marketing, isn’t it? Everything seems to have to be labelled retro or vintage these days in order for it to be seen as cutting edge.” George laughed. “Maybe I should rebrand myself as the Old Husband and you can be the Vintage Wife?” “I like the sound of that.” Mary smiled. She caught sight of Dave walking towards them, holding a tray on which she could see a bottle of wine and three glasses. “Mind if I join you now?” Dave asked. “I’ve got time for a quick drink before finishing my shift.” Mary watched as Dave waited, standing at the side of their table. “Sit down,” George said. “It’s nice to have a chance to talk to the fella who’s making our daughter so happy.” Dave glanced over to the deli counter and a smile broke out on his face when he caught sight of Susan.

“She’s a great girl,” he said. “I’m very lucky.” Dave opened the wine and filled the glasses. Again, Mary watched him. She knew George wouldn’t have noticed how Dave waited for her and George to pick up their drinks first before he took his own. The more she watched him, the more she learned about him and began to realise she liked him. Dave cleared his throat and looked George square in the eye. “You wanted a word with me, Mr Dougal?” “Yes, I did. But please, call me George.” Dave tried not to squirm in his seat. He already knew from Susan that her dad hadn’t been too happy when he’d found out she was going out with him. He sat up straight in his seat, bracing himself for whatever came next. “It’s about you and Susan,” George began. “Mary and I have been doing a bit of thinking.” “Yes?” Dave gulped. “We would like to invite you round for supper one night. The four of us. We can have a few drinks and something to eat and get to know each other better. What do you say?” Dave felt as if his shoulders dropped three inches, such was the relief as the tension left his body. He hadn’t known what to expect, but it certainly hadn’t been such a warm hand of friendship. “I’d love to,” he said. “Thanks for inviting me. I’ll

talk to Susan and we’ll pick an evening when we’re not working. I appreciate it, Mr Dougal. I mean, George.” Dave took a drink before carrying on. “I’m not the wayward lad I used to be.” He looked from George to Mary and back to George. “Things were difficult when Mum died and I kind of went off the rails a bit when I was younger.” “I appreciate your honesty,” George said. “Do you swear to me that those days are behind you? No more run-ins with the police? No more thieving and breaking into cars?” George glanced at Mary. “No more comments about your dad’s old girlfriends?” “I swear, Mr Dougal. That’s all in the past.” Mary watched as tears filled Dave’s eyes when he addressed George. “And I would never do a thing to hurt Susan either.” “Right,” George said. “As long as we’re clear and we all know where we stand.” He raised his glass. “Here’s to a fresh start,” he said, as the wine glasses clinked. “Now,” George said brightly. “These Spanish things we’ve ordered. You reckon I’ll like them?” Dave smiled. “You’ll love them. The desserts are good, too. I recommend churros, tarta de caramelo or crema catalana.” George raised his eyebrows. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a pint?” n

First Class!

I was so excited to see Leominster on the cover and Pembridge inside a recent issue of “The People’s Friend”. My father was headmaster of Pembridge School from 1947 to 1954. I enclose a photo of the school, which had about 60 pupils aged five to thirteen years old. There were three classes in all and a furnace was used to heat the classrooms in winter. There was a well in the school yard which provided water for the school, school houses,

Between Friends Write to us at Between Friends, “The People’s Friend”, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL, or e-mail us at

Star Letter

I thought I’d share with readers this photograph of my bird of paradise plant which my granddaughter gave me in seed form many years ago. I had been told that they take eight years to bloom, but this one took 13 – so patience was very much required. I think you’ll agree the wait was worth it, though, and I loved seeing it gradually unfurl to display its beautiful, vibrant colours. My tale may encourage other readers who own one of these plants not to give up hope, as patience can be rewarded! Mrs J.D., Colchester.

Our Star Letter will receive a Dean’s all-butter shortbread tin worth £13.69 RRP. All other printed UK letters will win one of our famous tea caddies and a pack of loose tea. Our friends from overseas will receive an alternative prize.

bakery and the New Inn. It had to be monitored in the summer as it was in danger of drying up. Most of the villagers had to carry water in buckets from the local pumps, one of which was situated at the bottom of the path leading to “our” school house. It’s been 50 years since I moved to New Zealand but the wonderful photos and memories of Pembridge will never leave me. I can still vividly recall the names of 30 fellow pupils at that time. Mrs G.G., New Zealand.

Lovely Libby

This is Libby. She joined our family nearly four weeks ago, coming from Romania, care of Seven Strays Dog Rescue. Libby is young and absolutely mad, but lovely with it. We have a sandpit for her in the garden and she has a comfy bed to nap in, though she loves sleeping on the floor by the fireplace. Ms A.W., Weston-SuperMare.

Washing Chores

Reading the article on the wash-house coal-fired boiler entitled “Keep It Clean” certainly stirred up memories of when my husband and I first got married and lived in a room and kitchen with outside toilet, along with the outside wash-house. My husband’s task was to get up at five a.m. every Saturday to light the boiler, which took quite a while to boil the whites. Clothes had to be washed with the scrubbing board, before being rinsed and mangled ready to hang out. We endured this for a whole year before thankfully buying a twin tub washing machine, which certainly made our Saturdays more enjoyable! Mrs C.M.S., Rosyth.


Puzzle Solutions from page 25

Missing Link

Wedding Quilt

Making A Splash

This is my great-grandson Joshua, who is a little water baby as he just loves his bath. Not only that, he also enjoys going to the big swimming pool with his mummy. Here he is wrapped up in his towel after bath-time. Mrs J.M.P., Luton.

Competition winners The Scottish Oats Bible Giveaway Congratulations to Mrs Darton of Bordon, Linda Brookes of Malvern and Grace Rutherford of York, who were the lucky winners of our giveaway in Special 129.

Abbotsford To Zion Giveaway Congratulations to Mrs Peart of Newcastle upon Tyne, Ms Bevan of Ruislip, Miss Adams of London, Mrs Maple of Ashford and Mrs Hunter of Carbost, who were the lucky winners of our giveaway in our September 17 issue.

At Easter I started to make a wedding quilt, and at that time you were running a story about a family in Canada entitled “The Wedding Quilt”. I very much enjoyed reading it and it seemed appropriate to send you a photograph of my now completed quilt – my gift to a young couple who recently married in New York. Mrs J.I., Anstey.

Thoughtful Gift?

Once a year I usually go on a girls’-only break away with my friends and always bring back a holiday gift for my partner, John. I scoured the shelves looking for inspiration and ended up running out of time and grabbing some aftershave. I thought no more about it until I handed over the gift, and that was when John simply pointed to his beard. I guess I need to focus a bit more before I buy him a gift in future! Ms M.M., Saltash.

A True Friend

My “Friend” comes through the letter-box, I bet that made you stop. It plops on to my doormat, Eight-thirty on the dot. I always have the kettle on, And make a cup of tea. This ritual happens every week Around the Wednesday. I laugh at people’s antics, Their grandkids, cats and dogs, And the cake they baked for a birthday, In the shape of Kermit the Frog. So though I can’t get out as much, These things they come to me. I’ll read about the Farmer’s wife Over another cup of tea. Ms A.W., Norwich.

Market Day

I am eighty-one years old and have been reading your magazine since I was sixteen. I recently visited Krakow, a place I had always wanted to visit, and it didn’t disappoint. Here I am exploring one of the local markets where my “People’s Friend” shopper came in very handy. Mrs P.H., Washington.

The words in order are Chip, Evil, Coat, Word, Spin, Heat, Bowl, News, Mean, Miss. The word is HEADPHONES.





Sudoku 1 7 5 3 2 4 6 9 8

4 6 8 7 5 9 1 2 3

2 9 3 8 6 1 5 7 4

8 1 9 5 3 7 4 6 2


7 2 4 1 9 6 8 3 5

3 5 6 2 4 8 9 1 7

6 4 2 9 7 5 3 8 1

5 8 7 6 1 3 2 4 9

9 3 1 4 8 2 7 5 6

Terms and conditions. We’re sorry, but we can’t reply to letters or return photographs and poems unless you enclose a stamped addressed envelope. All contributions must be your own original work and must not have been sent elsewhere for publication. The Editor reserves the right to modify any contribution. By making a contribution you are agreeing that we and our group companies and affiliates may, but are under no obligation to, use the contribution in any way and in any media (whether now known or created in future) anywhere in the world. If you submit a contribution featuring a third party you must ensure that you have their permission for us to publish their image or personal details. If you are sending in a digital image, please make sure that it is high resolution. Always write your name and address on the reverse of any photographs; printed digital images must be on photo-quality paper and we cannot use photocopies. Please note, for all advertising queries, call 0207 400 1054. Published in Great Britain by D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., Dundee, Glasgow and London. Distributed in the UK and Eire by MarketForce UK Ltd, 5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 5HU. Phone: +44 (0) 20 378 79001. Email: Website: EXPORT DISTRIBUTION (excluding AU and NZ) Seymour Distribution Ltd, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1A 9PT. Tel: +44(0)20 7429 4000. Fax: +44(0)20 7429 4001. Email: Website: © D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., 2016. Editorial communications to “The People’s Friend”, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL. While every reasonable care will be taken, neither D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., nor its agents will accept liability for loss or damage to any materials submitted to this publication. We are committed to journalism of the highest standards and abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice which is enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). If you have a complaint, you can e-mail us at or write to the Readers Editor at The People’s Friend, D.C. Thomson Ltd., 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

The peoples friend november 26 2016  
The peoples friend november 26 2016