Angels, Lovers and Songbirds
In the small but thriving English county of Downshire people go about the tasks of their everyday existence in ways that range from the mundane to the extraordinary as their forebears had done for centuries before, in the varied and diverse landscape, from the Ancient forests of Dancingdean and Pepperstock, the craggy ridges and manmade lakes of the Pepperstock Hills National Park, the rolling hills of the Downshire Downs, to the beautiful Finchbottom Vale and the short but beautiful coastline to the east.
By August, Jack had settled into the routine of working at the Club for three days a week and working in the house for four. But he had also had to have some tasks performed by professionals i.e. a Plumber. And while he was in the house installing a new boiler Jack decided to escape bedlam and step out in the warm summer sun and clear his head but he hadn’t gone more than two hundred yards when, despite the met office predictions, it started to rain so he was had a choice to make, return to bedlam or go to the pub.
As he approached the village hall he saw Katie and her verger Sarah Peters walking through the gate from the church and Katie waved and then spoke to another member of the committee who had followed Jack down the road.
So over the following four or five weeks he and Kayleigh went on a number of events, she accompanied him to an anniversary dinner at the Worsted Viper Hotel in Purplemere and he went with her to a Christening in Finchbottom followed by a birthday party in Clarence and they were very happy with the arrangement.
After she had taken full advantage of her hug buddy she kissed his cheek and they headed towards the Church and when they stepped out into the lane she thanked him again for his chivalry.
Well it was a bright sunny morning outside St Lucy’s church where the villagers were thronging around the war memorial, as the Remembrance Day parade, representatives of all the services, a proud bunch of Old soldiers, all arms of the scouting fraternity, local dignitaries et al, all came to a halt.
When Jack finally got the Cottage to himself again and he got to spend some quality time with Kayleigh for the first time in days he was a little surprised to find her somewhat standoffish and not her normal warm flirty self.
When Jack awoke on Sunday morning, alone, he was pleased that Kayleigh seemed to be back to normal. But Carl’s condition was still causing concern so she spent the night up at Plaxton Park.
The next morning after a couple of lengthy phone calls to the club to catch up with the business side of his life Jack went out the door and took a walk in the direction of the church and discovered Gary had been true to his word, as one of the two vans parked outside the Church bore the livery of Sound in Spiers, he was tempted to go in and see how they were getting on but in truth he wouldn’t have been able to tell how they were progressing.
In the week following he saw very little of Kayleigh but he didn’t have time to miss her as his feet barely touched the floor. He was spurred on by his mother’s words to him when he was a boy, which reverberated in his head, like a mantra.
The following day they woke together in his bed on a grey cold morning and had a lazy start to the day and after a late breakfast she slipped out into the grey to get her hair done for the night out and an hour later Jack left and drove over to the Waterside Club.
After all his guests had left, despite the fact he had had the busiest week he could remember and he’d been up half the night he had no intention of trying to catch up on his sleep so Kayleigh drove him into Purplemere to pick up his car then she went to visit Carl up at Plaxton Park while Jack went home and spent his time tidying the house and to keep him going he put on some music.
The next day was Christmas Eve and apart from the delivery of Christmas gifts and cards to friends and exchanging seasonal greetings with those important to him he spent the day alone as unfortunately he wouldn’t be seeing Kayleigh
Jack considered going to the club to celebrate New Year’s Eve, it was always a busy day and a very lively night but he didn’t really want to, so he stayed at home and sulked and spent much of the day in reflective mood and felt more than a little saddened by Kayleigh’s absence.
Jack Morehouse woke up annoyingly early on New Year’s Day and was facing a long day of wishing he was with Kayleigh. But his long day got longer as he sat in the kitchen during the afternoon drinking coffee and thinking about when he would see her again when he received a text.
Jack had been in work every day since he got the text from Kayleigh and apart from the first day his mood had improved and he stopped taking it out on other people and when James told him that he had Elise laid up ill in his flat he insisted that he went home and looked after her and to take all day Friday off as well and he would cover for him.
Jack travelled to Sharping-St-Mary by car and misjudged the travel time and reached the Hotel more than an hour early so he parked the car and went for a walk around the Village to kill some time finally arriving at the Coachman’s Arms just before 3.00pm.
So on Saturday morning it was with a feeling of relief and not trepidation that Jack took a phone call from his Solicitor Christine Prunot from Curtis, Mitchel and Lovegood. After the usual seasonal preamble regarding who did what over Christmas and New Year she proceeded to say that she had received a firm offer for one of his property’s.
On Monday morning Emily arrived at White Rose Cottage to quote Jack on the new path and step. After which she said she would phone him with a price but said that she was quite busy and wasn’t sure when she would be able to fit it in but then he explained why he needed it doing sooner and she said not to worry because she would rearrange the diary.
Early on Tuesday morning Emily Bills phoned Jack to say that she and Davina would start work on the new path on Thursday but that the materials would be delivered sometime Wednesday afternoon and would he be at home to receive them, so Jack confirmed that he would.
After closing the front door he suddenly remembered it was Burns Night and more significantly Carole’s blind date with Craig Frost. The Burns Night Supper is normally held on or near the poet, Robert Burn's, birthday, the 25th January, which that year fell on a Friday.
On the morning after the Burns Night Supper, following the unexpected visit of Kayleigh to enflame his passions and Carole to dampen them, Jack awoke about midmorning. So he got up and showered but went downstairs in his bathrobe and put the kettle on before dressing.
Jacks fortieth birthday was on the 1 st of February but as he was going to be away on the day itself they threw a birthday bash at Hen and Chicks on the night before. As a result he was later leaving the house the next day than he intended carrying his overnight bag which he threw into the boot alongside Kayleigh’s which she put in there the night before.
They lay in the soapy water until it started to get cold and then he watched with lustful eyes as her body emerged from the water and then Jack stepped out to leave her to wash her hair under the shower.
By the time Jack got back to White Rose Cottage it was after seven o’clock and he was surprised to see there was still a light burning in the window and there was a strange car parked on the drive, he assumed the light was left on to deter burglars but he couldn’t explain the car.
On Monday morning the door knocker was rarely quiet and it began at 8 o’clock with the dreaded Mrs. Cohen coming to get the house spick and span before the patient arrived. She was a surly old biddy but she was a marvellous cleaner but she had the knack of making him feel like he was in the way and he found her to be incredibly intimidating so he made himself a coffee and made his way to his study to the echoes of “I ain’t done in there yet”
The next morning the door went at nine o’clock and a nurse, by the name of George Dallas was standing the other side of it when he opened it, and he had come to check on the patient. He was a tall thin man, with pale skin and strawberry blonde hair, in his early thirties. Jack was expecting him as there was a rota on the kitchen wall, of who was doing what and when.
On Friday the pattern that they had quickly fallen into was to be broken when Paul and Katie would be picked up in a taxi and taken to the Bishops residence for high tea, a singular honour by all accounts. Selfishly, on hearing this news the day before Jack thought that, that would be his chance to spend some private time with Kayleigh.
Kayleigh sat with Katie for another ten minutes after they had settled her into his bed while Jack went downstairs to make a coffee. While he was in the kitchen finishing his drink he heard the front door open and as he listened he realised it was Mrs Cohen.
While he was downstairs Kayleigh replied to his text and said she was snowed in up at the hospital but she would be home as soon as she could. When he returned to Katie with her fresh mug of tea he said “I phoned Carole, she’ll be here when the weather permits, and Kayleigh just texted saying much the same thing” And as he sat back in the armchair Katie said “She loves you, you know?”
Saturday morning was a much quieter affair than the day before and he was up and dressed before the nurse knocked on the door, that days was called Molly, who he had seen before and they chatted briefly before going up to see the patient.
The next morning he left Katie sitting on her throne in the kitchen while he took a walk down to Stephenson’s to pick up some bread and milk and as he walked down the road he saw Elise Riley walking the opposite way carrying a bag of shopping and they engaged in conversation.
On Saturday Jack rose early to a beautiful sunny morning, the nicest morning they had seen for several weeks. Katie also woke early and prompted by the certain knowledge that her future didn’t hold many such glorious mornings she arose as well.
White Rose Cottage had a number of visitors during the course of the day; all of them sanctioned by the efficient Sarah Peters, but none of them stayed for long. In the evening there was no repeat of the pretty nurse from that morning but instead they were blessed with a pretty doctor when Carole Anderson walked through the front door.
Monday passed without incident and was an uneventful day and on Tuesday George Dallas was the nurse of the day and was in a very chipper mood and while he attended to Katie Jack searched in the lounge for the Vicars address book, which only took him a few minutes to locate, and it took another five to find the information he was looking for and he was just leaving the lounge as George was coming down the stairs so he offered him a coffee and after checking his watch he accepted and while they sat in the kitchen he found out the reason for his chirpiness.
Saturday began in much the same way as any other day of the preceding weeks. Nurse, bath time, breakfast and visitors, same old same old, With one notable difference namely a constant stream of text messages from Sarah updating him on the progress of Katie’s sister Marion.
In the early hours of Mothering Sunday morning Jack was gently shaken awake. “You have to go darling,” Kayleigh said and kissed his neck “What? Ok” he said She had reluctantly woken him early in the morning so he could sneak back to his house before the household were up and about. So it was on a dark Sunday morning in March after a lingering goodbye kiss in the kitchen that he slipped out the back door.
When he went in to the house Katie fussed around him like he’d been gone for a week, which was a bit over the top but he thought it was nice to be missed. It was one of the things he missed out on when he lived alone, having someone to come home to.
Friday evening passed with the three of them enjoying simple pleasures and congenial company, but it proved to be the lull before the storm as later on Friday night Katie took a turn for the worse so the weekend was rather less tranquil than any of them would have hoped for and was spent in constant anxiety.
After the tearful reunion of the Watson girls, a glass or two of champagne was consumed before everyone retired to bed. Jacey had been persuaded to stay the night but walked Sarah home first. The nurse stayed up all night with Katie, and Marion, Anne and Jacey were in the spare rooms, and when all was quiet Jack slipped out the kitchen door and spent the night with Kayleigh.
The next day Kayleigh returned from Roespring with the good news that her grandfather was on the mend, having been left with a few bruises, no broken bones and wounded pride. So Thursday morning, he packed his bag for Kayleigh’s birthday treat.
At 10 o’clock On Saturday morning there was a knock on the door and when he opened it he was surprised to see Sarah Peters, who was the Verger at St Lucy’s, Receptionist at the surgery and organizer extraordinaire. “Hello Jack” she said “Hello Sarah, This is a nice surprise” “Weren’t you expecting me?” she asked “No, I don’t think so” he replied “Katie asked me to come” Sarah said
On Tuesday, Sarah arrived at the house for the reading of the will and the planning of the funeral, not that Katie left much to plan. And as part of the plans Katie had wisely made Sarah the executor of the will and because of her obvious organizational skills had asked her to implement the funeral arrangements.
They were up early on Friday Morning and on the road by 6 o’clock as they were headed to Tipton in the north of the county because Jack had booked them into the Tipton Manor Hotel and Spa. He chose that area of Downshire because Kayleigh’s grandparents lived in Roespring and she was anxious to see them as her grandfather was still recovering from a fall.
On Sunday morning in Turnoak Jack woke annoyingly early and couldn’t get back to sleep so he got up and was greeted by a quiet empty house again. He made coffee and sat in the kitchen feeling rather lonely and pondered how he was going to fill his day. Kayleigh was out of circulation all day and he wasn’t seeing her until the next day. As he sat and stared into his coffee cup he heard a familiar voice. “For goodness sake pull yourself together,” it said, “it’s a good news week” The voice belonged to Katie Watson, though she wasn’t really there.
The first thing he did when he got up on Wednesday morning was to try and get hold of Kayleigh again but he had no more luck that day than he had all week. By the time he’d put the bed’s together he only had time for a quick sandwich before driving to Nettlefield to pick up Anne who had been staying with a succession of friends before she had to return to Ethiopia.
In the days that followed she went through every conceivable emotion, anger, guilt, despair, hopelessness and relief. She also went through a considerable amount of wine and every step of the way Jack was there with her, as a sounding board, a punch bag, a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. The numbers were incredible, easy street incredible, so he had to do something with it and thinking what course of action, to take with what he thought he was worth, had occupied him for months.
So after settling the disposition of the money it was with a great sense of accomplishment that they set off to meet their fellow travellers outside the Hen and Chicks. When they got in sight of the pub the coach pulled up, but not just any old coach, Jack had got James to book a tour bus like the Rock stars tour in.
As they followed the porter along the platform they got their first sight of “the train against which all other luxury trains are measured” It was a magnificent sight and was like stepping back in time to the heyday of Art Deco and a more gracious and elegant age of travel.