Policing Downshire in the Noughties – Changing Gardens Revisited
Just after midday DCI Bill Overend walked out of his office into the center of the squad room and called for attention.
Heads suddenly appeared above the partitions and realizing what was about to happen dropped what they were doing and moved to the center of the room.
After everyone had gathered round expectantly, Bill began to address the group.
“As you know we will be losing, albeit temporarily we hope.” Bill paused briefly as Chief Superintendent Tiplady and a number of uniformed officers crept almost unnoticed into the squad room followed discreetly by a young woman carrying a large bouquet.
“A very popular and valuable member of the team who is taking leave in order to produce a new recruit”
The room echoed with cheers, sporadic applause and even a little laughter.
“I am of course referring to our own “little flower” the very lovely Jenny Hack” he said and elicited more cheers.
Jenny stood up as gracefully as was possible in response and Bill gestured to her to join him.
“Now I should just like to digress for a moment, it may have escaped your notice being that most of you are Detectives, but the lovely DC Hack is in fact pregnant and not as I have heard mentioned in the canteen just fat and bad tempered”
More laughter, and a punch on the arm for the DCI.
“As I have already mentioned Jenny is a very popular member of the team, now to prove just how popular you are we had a collection and it turned out that, either, everyone genuinely liked you, or were just pleased to see the back of you, but whatever the motive may have been they were exceedingly generous” Bill nodded towards the Chief Inspector, who along with his entourage made his way to where Bill and Jenny were standing.
“I will now hand you over to Chief Superintendent Tiplady to present you with the gifts”
“Thank you, Bill, firstly, I would like to thank Jenny for her valuable contribution to the force in general and this squad in particular and obviously look forward to her return” he said, and a cheer went around the squad room and Jenny wiped a tear from her eye.
“So, with gratitude and congratulations please accept these gifts as a token of our affection”
This was followed by a procession of gifts, which piled beside her was in danger of dwarfing her, there were twelve in all and they arrived in such quick succession that she had no time to open them.
When the last gift had been presented Tiplady spoke again.
“Finally, from DCI Overend and myself” he said and swept his arm back and the huge bouquet moved towards her as if walking by itself and the from behind it appeared Jenny’s best friend Lizzie Bird.
It took a few moments for it to sink in but when she saw who it was she burst into tears.
“What are you doing here?” Jenny asked.
“When Bill called to order the flowers, I asked if I could bring them myself and he said yes” Answered Lizzie and then gesturing towards the presents.
“And anyway, it looks as if you’re going to need some help getting this lot home”
“When we have all composed ourselves and opened the gifts I suggest we make our way over to the “George” and wet the baby’s head” Said Tiplady.
The “George” was in fact the George and Dragon public house.
“You don’t wet the baby’s head until after it born” Overend said.
“Whatever” Retorted Tiplady.
Bill walked over to Jenny’s desk and watched while she and Lizzie ripped open the paper on parcel after parcel.
“If you’re not happy with anything I have the receipts, so you can change it” Bill said.
“They’re all just what I wanted” Jenny said in amazement.
“As much as I would like to take the credit we got a list from Bob” Said Bill and after a few moments he shouted.
“Guv” Boris said as he appeared from behind a pillar.
“Can you organize some labour to get Jenny’s stuff down to her car?”
“That’s alright sir I’ll do it later” Jenny said.
“Nonsense you have an enjoyable lunch to partake in and then you will be going home”
Jenny started to speak again but Bill wagged a finger in her direction.
“Ok sir” She answered feebly, and Bill walked off towards his office.
“Who’s the one with the black hair and the Gypsy eyes?” Lizzie whispered.
“Oh, that’s Boris” Jenny answered quietly. “He’s a nice bloke, single”
Lizzie gave her a stern look.
“Does he have pierced ears?” Asked Lizzie.
“I don’t know, why?”
“Because I think men who have pierced ears are better prepared for marriage”
“Why?” Jenny asked
“Because they’ve already experience pain and bought jewelry” Lizzie replied and they both laughed.
In the “George” Bill Overend and Lizzie chatted while Jenny went to spend a penny.
When she returned Bill asked
“Alright flower you ready for a drink now?”
“Yes please, white wine spritzer, heavy on the spritz”
After a couple of drinks and the large platters of buffet snacks and sandwiches had been consumed the Superintendent settled the bill and people began to drift back to work taking it in turns to say goodbye to a tearful Jenny who after two large white wine spritzers was ever so slightly squiffy.
Before DCI Overend left he looked amusingly at the bleary-eyed Jenny Hack and said.
“I think we need to get you a lift home flower”
“I’ll drive her home Bill” Said Lizzie.
“Thanks Lizzie” He replied.
“What about my car?” Slurred Jenny.
“Boris can drive your car home and Frank can follow on and bring Boris back”
“That’s alright I can drive Boris back to the station” Offered Lizzie.
“Are you sure that’s ok?”
“No problem.” She replied
Boris had to spend a penny and left Jenny and Lizzie with Pippa Mead, a young DC.
Who was the last one of the party remaining and as soon as Boris was out of sight she fished in her bag and brought out a neatly wrapped little package.
“This is a little something to say thanks for your help with ... well you know.”
Jenny beamed a tearful smile and Lizzie looked puzzled.
“Thanks Pip, that’s really sweet”
The “Well you know” referred to some able assistance Jenny gave in her burgeoning relationship with local businessman,
A minute or so after Pippa had gone Boris returned and they gathered Jenny and her belongings together and ushered her outside.
An hour later Jenny was safely at home in the care of her husband Bob.
When Boris had parked Jenny’s car on the drive he and Lizzie helped Bob unload the gifts and flowers and by the time they had finished Jenny was fast asleep on the sofa.
Jenny was well into her maternity leave and fast approaching her due date but had the distinct feeling she would not reach it.
Things were definitely stirring, and it wasn’t just the Jalfrezi she’d had the night before.
So, she thought the big event was fairly imminent but her husband, Bob, was being cautious and trying to calm her down.
“Let’s have a cup of tea and watch some TV” he suggested
Jenny reluctantly agreed but inside she was still considering killing him, but Bob brought in the tea and turned on the telly.
The first face to appear on the screen was that of Adam Pritchard the well-known and well-respected broadcaster and horticulturalist introducing and episode of “Changing Gardens”.
“For this week’s program” Adam was saying “We are in Nettlefield”
“Nettlefield?” Jenny asked
“Blimey” Exclaimed Bob
Jenny was momentarily distracted by some untimely movement within and the next time she was focused on the TV another familiar face appeared.
That of the home owner Charles Herbert a quiet and rather nervous man in his middle sixties with wavy salt and pepper hair and a short stocky physique.
“I know him” Jenny exclaimed
“Do you?” Bob responded
“Yes, I had to interview him about that missing person’s case”
She replied before shifting her focus to the unborn baby who seemed to be trying to rearrange her internal organs.
By the time she returned her attention to watching TV with Bob the program was nearly finished.
“That’s the missing woman” she shouted
The “woman” had just appeared through the garden gate.
She was quite an elegant sixty something a few inches taller than her husband and slimmer giving the overall impression of elegance.
“What missing woman?” Bob asked clearly having forgotten about the missing person enquiry.
“Mary Herbert” Jenny replied
“So, she’s not missing then” Bob stated
“Oh yes” she corrected him “this was obviously made before she went missing”
As they continued to watch the closing shots she added
“She doesn’t look very happy, does she?”
But before Bob could answer her waters broke during the end credits and the contractions began.
“Oh God it’s starting!”
Over the weeks following the birth of her daughter Lisa, Jenny’s brain turned to mush, and she performed her motherly duties like an automaton.
Broken sleep patterns, the baby sick smell that was somehow always with her, sore nipples and feelings of inadequacy had taken their toll on her and she was just a tired husk.
And in her more lucid moments she found it difficult to belief she had once been a valuable member of the Abbottsford CID.
Bob did his best to support her, but when his paternity leave came to an end she was all alone.
By the time Lisa was three months old, things had settled down to a distinct routine and she was sleeping through the night.
She was also having two good sleeps during the day which allowed her catch up with chores or pamper herself in a long relaxing bath or to have “grown up time”.
Grown up time is not a euphemism for sex as you might think but time for her to interface with grownups, and that still sounds like a euphemism for sex.
Jenny used her “grown up time” time to catch up with news from the outside world and she did this via her many visitors.
Lizzie and Boris, who were now an item, were regulars, individually and as a couple as was Pippa Mead and Bill Overend and his wife Sally.
She particularly enjoyed the visits from her colleagues with the regular updates of what the criminal fraternity were up to.
But equally there were days when she was perfectly happy spending the time Lisa was asleep sitting on the sofa smelling of baby sick and watching daytime telly.
It was on one such day in September that she sat with her feet up drinking a mug of tea when a familiar program came on, “Changing Gardens”.
She was pleased at first but then disappointed when she realized it was the Nettlefield episode again.
But she watched it anyway and was pleasantly surprised because she had missed most of it the first time around and she didn’t realize quite how much of it she didn’t remember.
When the program came to an end she was about to get up and start on the evening meal when she realized there was an extra bit to the program.
“Changing Gardens Revisited” was a short extension to the show where a number of month’s later, one or more of the shows stars revisit the garden with a camera crew to see how the garden has settled in.
In this case it was Harry Tyler the hard landscaper and Frankie Simpson the buxom female horticulturalist, who even in this brief extension managed to get her breasts and buttocks on camera a disproportionate amount of times.
They knocked on the door and a sheepish Charles Herbert opened it
“Oh!” he exclaimed when he saw the camera.
“Hello Charles” Harry said “We’ve come to see how the garden is getting on”
“Oh” Charles said again and stared into the camera.
“Yes of course” He said and gestured them inside.
Once out in the back-garden Frankie asked
“Is Mary not home?”
“Um no” he replied hesitantly “she’s in Newcastle”
“Again?” Harry said “She must like Newcastle”
“Yes” Charles replied again staring into the lens and then Harry’s attention was drawn to the shady corner where Adam Pritchard had created a border of shade loving plants which was now paved over.
On further investigation he realized that not only had the shade loving border gone but it had been paved over with the slabs from the little suntrap patio he had built on the other side of the garden.
“I erm see you’ve moved the patio” Harry said flatly
“Yes” he replied
“But it doesn’t get any sun over there” Frankie said “the pavers are already going green”
“Mary likes it over there” Charles replied.
“I bet she does” Jenny said and reached for the phone.
She tapped out the number and after a few moments a voice said
“Guv its Jenny I think I’ve just found my missing person”
Charles Herbert confessed to the murder of his wife almost as soon as the police arrived at his house.
When asked why he did it he said
“She didn’t like the surprise”
It seemed that after the cameras had gone Mary started nagging, not only did she not like the surprise, but she didn’t like the garden, she didn’t like coming home to a garden full of strangers, she didn’t like the cameras, she didn’t like the design, she didn’t like Adam Pritchard in short she didn’t like anything about it, and this nagging continued for three full days until Charles finally snapped and he hit her with a golf club and buried her in the garden.
All this as a result of him wanting to do something nice for her because he loved her so much, it seemed that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.