Policing Downshire in the Noughties – Changing Gardens
It was almost the end of March and they had been lucky with the weather and the whole team felt that the Gods had smiled on them.
As program makers they always ran the gauntlet, to some degree, where the British weather was concerned.
They were in Nettlefield filming the popular BBC television program “Changing Gardens”.
It was a fairly simple premise; someone would contact the show with an idea to surprise a friend or loved one and the team would then turn up and transform the garden.
A plan would be conceived for the friend or loved one, to be away from home and out of the way for two days and then the team would swoop.
Adam Pritchard was the host; a well-known and well-respected broadcaster and member of the horticultural community and he would supply the design and he would also do the majority of the shots to camera.
Also, on the team were Frankie Simpson, a fellow horticulturalist, and amongst her specialties were water features and getting her breasts or ample buttocks on camera at any and every opportunity, and then there was Harry Tyler, he is the builder, or should I say hard landscaper.
Expert in patios, paths, raised beds, pergolas and decking, basically anything Adam Pritchard can come up with, Harry will build it, with the able assistance of Shane Doherty, the navvy.
After two days of hard toil Adam Pritchard stood up and surveyed their handy-work, Harry and Shane were fixing the handrails around the decking and Frankie was putting the finishing touches to the water feature.
“Not bad at all” he thought to himself and looked at his watch.
But despite the fact that the garden transformation was going so well and there had been no major crises or hitches, he was uneasy.
There host for the last two days has been Charles Herbert a quiet and rather nervous man in his middle sixties with wavy salt and pepper hair and a short stocky physique, a bit too quiet in fact for all concerned.
The last thing Adam Pritchard needed on a prime-time television program was someone being dull and monosyllabic, and his nervousness might end up making him look shifty and diverting the viewer’s attention away from the stars creation.
He decided in the end he was being over cautious and perhaps they could edit him out later if the worst came to the worst and anyway his wife Mary might yet steal the show, he lived in hope anyway, Mary had been away in Newcastle visiting an old friend and would be back around 5.30pm.
“Right she’s coming” Said Steve Gladman, the producer, very camply “Quick everybody, hide”
“Ok get around here” Adam said pointing, and they all crouched down in the corner.
Over the fence they could here Charles talking to his wife, Mary.
“We’ll go in the back-gate Luv” he said with his hand on the latch.
“Why?” she retorted suspiciously.
“I have a bit of a surprise for you” he said brightly.
“Oh God what have you done now” she responded dourly.
The gate opened, and he ushered Mary quickly through it.
Mary was quite an elegant sixty something a few inches taller than her husband and slimmer, but the overall impression was elegant.
“Oh, you’ve done the garden, yes nice,” she said with no hint of expression, on her face or in her voice.
“I had some help” he pointed out
“I don’t doubt that for a moment” she retorted and then the team appeared.
“Oh, my goodness” she said and smiled, though not with her eyes.
“Hello Mary” said Adam taking her hand. “What do you think?”
“It’s nice, yes” said Mary.
Adam thought to himself, this may not be the most spectacular garden they had ever worked on, but it was better than “nice”.
But he gave up trying to make conversation and introduced the rest of the team instead.
Adam led Mary around the Garden and explained what they had done and naming the various plants and shrubs.
“Yes, I can see you have been busy.” Mary said unenthusiastically.
The conclusion of the show was to lead her around the garden culminating with her and Adam seated in the Arbor which would give the director a great shot of the whole garden with them seated in the background.
“Did you have any idea?” Adam asked Mary.
“Do you like it?” he asked
“Will you enjoy it?” he added
“I’m sure I will” she said, and Adam gave up and left her sitting on her own in the Arbor with Charles hovering to one side.
As he got out of earshot he caught Steve Gladman’s eye.
“Steve, for God’s sake get the Champagne before I strangle the miserable cow” he said and shook his head despairingly after what he thought was the worst reveal they had ever had on the show.
The Champagne was quickly distributed, and the final shot was set up and Adam said
“So, from a quiet corner in sunny Nettlefield until the next time with the “Changing Gardens” team Ta-ta”
Then with everyone raising their glasses, and in an effort to liven up the final shot more out of desperation than anything else, the whole crew was on camera.
“CHEERS” they all, shouted and they held the pose for a few seconds until: Quentin Le Good the Director Said
“Ok, well done everyone” he said flamboyantly “let’s get cleared away”
They quickly said their good byes and left the garden while the rest of the crew was still packing away.
Sometimes it was difficult to drag themselves away and more often than not it was such a nice atmosphere they just stayed on, but that day in Nettlefield was not one of those occasions.
They stopped briefly by Harry’s truck.
“That went well,” Harry said sarcastically.
“I thought it was a little chilly in there” offered Adam.
“She was not a happy bunny that’s for sure,” added Frankie
“I’m glad I’m not married to her” Shane said climbing into the truck, and with that they departed with Harry and Shane in the “Changing Gardens” truck and Adam and Frankie leaving with Steve Gladman, the producer, in his people carrier.
Adam thought this was not an experience he would look back on with any fondness what so ever.
Detective Constable Jenny Hack was generally referred to in the squad affectionately as the “Little Flower”.
She was a five-foot two-inch blonde and ordinarily weighed no more than six stone-soaking wet.
Ordinarily that is because at that time she was seven months pregnant.
She was immensely popular and was a genuinely placid natured girl, who never allowed anything to faze her.
However, that particular time of her life she was being severely tested, by her husband Bob, whom she adored, who was driving her potty and she was finding she needed the patience of job.
She was convinced the next murder DCI Overend’s squad was going to investigate would be her Bobs because she was going to have to kill him, but it would be ruled justifiable homicide to her mind.
It was the morning of the second of April and it was raining, but not April showers, no it was raining hard and had been for hours.
The reception desk was manned as usual by Sergeant George Frank and his countenance was as miserable as the weather, it had often been suggested that he would be best employed on point duty as he had a face that would stop traffic.
On that particular April morning, as the Sergeant stood stirring his mug of tea with his back to door, a small-agitated woman bustled in to the reception area, unnoticed, mumbling to herself under her breath.
The lady in question was Mrs. Norma Dowie a well-dressed widow in her late sixties, and when Sergeant Frank turned around and saw the Lady he turned back and put his mug down and sighed heavily.
He then turned back to the counter and picked up his pen.
“Yes Madam,” He said flatly “How can I help you?”
“Um well, oh I’m not sure really” She said.
“You’re not sure I can help? Or you’re not sure if you have come to the right place?” The Sergeant asked wishing she’d go away so he could drink his tea in peace.
“Oh yes” She said positively.
George Frank was confused; the answer didn’t seem to fit either of the questions; he thought he had better persevere.
“So, the problem is?” He asked hopefully.
“Mary?” The Sergeant queried
“What about Mary?” He asked.
“I think she’s missing”
“And when did you last see Mary?” He asked feeling he was now getting somewhere and might yet get to drink his tea before it went stone cold.
“A week ago.” She answered worriedly.
“Ok madam can I take your name?” The Sergeant asked
“Oh yes,” She smiled nervously, “Mrs. Norma Dowie”
“Ok Mrs. Dowie if you would like to take a seat over there,” He gestured to a row of empty seats, “And I’ll get someone to take your details”
The foul weather had made almost everyone late so in the CID squad room DS Boris Katarski, was talking to Jimmy Pidd and Frank Chute.
The subject of their discussion was Constable Richard Deacon, the pencil thin, over enthusiastic, but none the less likable young PC.
“I saw Sticky Deacon at the Cavalier Club on Saturday night” Said Katarski “with a woman”
“I find that difficult to believe” Responded Pidd. “Unless it was his sister.”
“Well there was a lot of hand holding and kissing” Katarski offered.
“It could still be his sister” Said Frank Chute laughing.
“Was she a good looker?” Asked Pidd.
“No, she had definitely fallen from the ugly tree” Replied Boris pulling a face. “And she must have hit every branch on the way down”
The three men laughed loudly when little Jenny Hack joined the group and Said
“Beauty is only skin deep”
“Then she had her skin on inside out” Said Boris and they laughed again.
“You’re a horrible man Boris Katarski” Jenny said smiling in spite of herself.
Just then Detective Chief Inspector Bill Overend appeared from his office.
“Jenny could you go down to the front desk and take details from a…” Bill Overend consulted his note book “Mrs. Dowie, it’s about a missing person.”
“Yes Guv” Answered Jenny.
“Quick as you can though I don’t want her left with happy Harry for too long” he said, and she smiled broadly. “Yes Guv.”
Jenny Hack held open the security door while Mrs. Dowie stepped sprightly through into a dimly lit corridor.
“I’ve never been in a police station before dear” She said with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
“Well I promise we will let you out again Mrs. Dowie” Said Jenny.
“Oh, thank you dear” She said with a nervous laugh. “Please call me Norma dear”
Jenny directed her into a small room halfway along the corridor.
The room was much brighter than the corridor they had just left, and Norma relaxed instantly.
The room was brightly decorated and furnished with several soft furnished chairs.
“This is very nice dear, not at all like the telly” Norma said clearly impressed.
“Well Norma, this room is for informal interviews and not for the hardened criminals” Jenny said smiling and motioned Norma to one of the empty chairs.
Norma sat down and perched on the edge of the seat holding her handbag neatly on her lap as Jenny attempted to lower herself, with a total lack of grace and style in the seat opposite.
“Do you need any help dear?” Mrs. Dowie asked.
“No, I’m fine thanks” She answered finally completing her maneuver. “I might need some help to get up again though”
And they both laughed.
“Now then Norma” Jenny said desperately trying to regain an air of professionalism.
“Let’s have some details”
“Yes dear. She said smiling.
“Stop it Norma I’m supposed to be a fine example of efficient modern policing”
When Jenny and Norma had finally composed themselves, they went on to the inevitable baby talk, when was it due, what are you hoping for boy or girl, will it be breast or bottle and so on and so forth.
When they had finished with the small talk Jenny got back to the business in hand.
“Well Norma we had better press on with this report” She said tapping the note pad on her lap and Norma nodded in agreement.
“What is your friend’s name?”
“Mary” Norma replied. “Mary Herbert”