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  • #6241
    TracyTracy
    Participant

      Kidsley Grange Farm and The Quakers Next Door

      Kidsley Grange Farm in Smalley, Derbyshire, was the home of the Housleys in the 1800s.  William Housley 1781-1848 was born in nearby Selston.   His wife Ellen Carrington 1795-1872 was from a long line of Carringtons in Smalley.  They had ten children between 1815 and 1838.  Samuel, my 3x great grandfather, was the second son born in 1816.

      The original farm has been made into a nursing home in recent years, which at the time of writing is up for sale at £500,000. Sadly none of the original farm appears visible with all the new additions.

      The farm before it was turned into a nursing home:

      Kidsley Grange Farm

      Kidsley Grange Farm and Kidsley Park, a neighbouring farm, are mentioned in a little book about the history of Smalley.  The neighbours at Kidsley Park, the Davy’s,  were friends of the Housleys. They were Quakers.

      Smalley Farms

       

      In Kerry’s History of Smalley:

      Kidsley Park Farm was owned by Daniel Smith,  a prominent Quaker and the last of the Quakers at Kidsley. His daughter, Elizabeth Davy, widow of William Davis, married WH Barber MB of Smalley. Elizabeth was the author of the poem “Farewell to Kidsley Park”.

      Emma Housley sent one of Elizabeth Davy’s poems to her brother George in USA.

       “We have sent you a piece of poetry that Mrs. Davy composed about our ‘Old House.’ I am sure you will like it though you may not understand all the allusions she makes use of as well as we do.”

      Farewell to Kidsley Park
      Farewell, Farewell, Thy pathways now by strangers feet are trod,
      And other hands and horses strange henceforth shall turn thy sod,
      Yes, other eyes may watch the buds expanding in the spring.
      And other children round the hearth the coming years may bring,
      But mine will be the memory of cares and pleasures there,
      Intenser ~ that no living thing in some of them can share,
      Commencing with the loved, and lost, in days of long ago,
      When one was present on whose head Atlantic’s breezes blow,
      Long years ago he left that roof, and made a home afar ~
      For that is really only “home” where life’s affections are!
      How many thoughts come o’er me, for old Kidsley has “a name
      And memory” ~ in the hearts of some not unknown to fame.
      We dream not, in those happy times, that I should be the last,
      Alone, to leave my native place ~ alone, to meet the blast,
      I loved each nook and corner there, each leaf and blade of grass,
      Each moonlight shadow on the pond I loved: but let it pass,
      For mine is still the memory that only death can mar;
      I fancy I shall see it reflecting every star.
      The graves of buried quadrupeds, affectionate and true,
      Will have the olden sunshine, and the same bright morning dew,
      But the birds that sang at even when the autumn leaves were seer,
      Will miss the crumbs they used to get, in winters long and drear.
      Will the poor down-trodden miss me? God help them if they do!
      Some manna in the wilderness, His goodness guide them to!
      Farewell to those who love me! I shall bear them still in mind,
      And hope to be remembered by those I left behind:
      Do not forget the aged man ~ though another fills his place ~
      Another, bearing not his name, nor coming of his race.
      His creed might be peculiar; but there was much of good
      Successors will not imitate, because not understood.
      Two hundred years have come and past since George Fox ~ first of “Friends” ~
      Established his religion there ~ which my departure ends.
      Then be it so: God prosper these in basket and in store,
      And make them happy in my place ~ my dwelling, never more!
      For I may be a wanderer ~ no roof nor hearthstone mine:
      May light that cometh from above my resting place define.
      Gloom hovers o’er the prospect now, but He who was my friend,
      In the midst of troubled waters, will see me to the end.

      Elizabeth Davy, June 6th, 1863, Derby.

      Another excerpt from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters from the family in Smalley to George in USA mentions the Davy’s:

      Anne’s will was probated October 14, 1856. Mr. William Davy of Kidsley Park appeared for the family. Her estate was valued at under £20. Emma was to receive fancy needlework, a four post bedstead, feather bed and bedding, a mahogany chest of drawers, plates, linen and china. Emma was also to receive Anne’s writing desk! There was a condition that Ellen would have use of these items until her death.
      The money that Anne was to receive from her grandfather, William Carrington, and her father, William Housley was to be distributed one third to Joseph, one third to Emma, and one third to be divided between her four neices: John’s daughter Elizabeth, 18, and Sam’s daughters Elizabeth, 10, Mary Anne, 9 and Catherine, age 7 to be paid by the trustees as they think “most useful and proper.” Emma Lyon and Elizabeth Davy were the witnesses.

      Mrs. Davy wrote to George on March 21 1856 sending some gifts from his sisters and a portrait of their mother–“Emma is away yet and A is so much worse.” Mrs. Davy concluded: “With best wishes
       for thy health and prosperity in this world and the next I am thy sincere friend.” Whenever the girls sent greetings from Mrs. Davy they used her Quaker speech pattern of “thee and thy.”

       

      #6240
      TracyTracy
      Participant

        Phyllis Ellen Marshall

        1909 – 1983

        Phyllis Marshall

         

        Phyllis, my grandfather George Marshall’s sister, never married. She lived in her parents home in Love Lane, and spent decades of her later life bedridden, living alone and crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. She had her bed in the front downstairs room, and had cords hanging by her bed to open the curtains, turn on the tv and so on, and she had carers and meals on wheels visit her daily. The room was dark and grim, but Phyllis was always smiling and cheerful.  Phyllis loved the Degas ballerinas and had a couple of prints on the walls.

        I remember visiting her, but it has only recently registered that this was my great grandparents house. When I was a child, we visited her and she indicated a tin on a chest of drawers and said I could take a biscuit. It was a lemon puff, and was the stalest biscuit I’d ever had. To be polite I ate it. Then she offered me another one! I declined, but she thought I was being polite and said “Go on! You can have another!” I ate another one, and have never eaten a lemon puff since that day.

        Phyllis’s nephew Bryan Marshall used to visit her regularly. I didn’t realize how close they were until recently, when I resumed contact with Bryan, who emigrated to USA in the 1970s following a successful application for a job selling stained glass windows and church furnishings.

        I asked on a Stourbridge facebook group if anyone remembered her.

        AF  Yes I remember her. My friend and I used to go up from Longlands school every Friday afternoon to do jobs for her. I remember she had a record player and we used to put her 45rpm record on Send in the Clowns for her. Such a lovely lady. She had her bed in the front room.

        KW I remember very clearly a lady in a small house in Love Lane with alley at the left hand.  I was intrigued by this lady who used to sit with the front door open and she was in a large chair of some sort. I used to see people going in and out and the lady was smiling. I was young then (31) and wondered how she coped but my sense was she had lots of help.  I’ve never forgotten that lady in Love Lane sitting in the open door way I suppose when it was warm enough.

        LR I used to deliver meals on wheels to her lovely lady.

        I sent Bryan the comments from the Stourbridge group and he replied:

        Thanks Tracy. I don’t recognize the names here but lovely to see such kind comments.
        In the early 70’s neighbors on Corser Street, Mr. & Mrs. Walter Braithwaite would pop around with occasional visits and meals. Walter was my piano teacher for awhile when I was in my early twenties. He was a well known music teacher at Rudolph Steiner School (former Elmfield School) on Love Lane. A very fine school. I seem to recall seeing a good article on Walter recently…perhaps on the Stourbridge News website. He was very well known.
        I’m ruminating about life with my Aunt Phyllis. We were very close. Our extra special time was every Saturday at 5pm (I seem to recall) we’d watch Doctor Who. Right from the first episode. We loved it. Likewise I’d do the children’s crossword out of Woman’s Realm magazine…always looking to win a camera but never did ! She opened my mind to the Bible, music and ballet. She once got tickets and had a taxi take us into Birmingham to see the Bolshoi Ballet…at a time when they rarely left their country. It was a very big deal in the early 60’s. ! I’ve many fond memories about her and grandad which I’ll share in due course. I’d change the steel needle on the old record player, following each play of the 78rpm records…oh my…another world.

        Bryan continues reminiscing about Phyllis in further correspondence:

        Yes, I can recall those two Degas prints. I don’t know much of Phyllis’ early history other than she was a hairdresser in Birmingham. I want to say at John Lewis, for some reason (so there must have been a connection and being such a large store I bet they did have a salon?)
        You will know that she had severe and debilitating rheumatoid arthritis that eventually gnarled her hands and moved through her body. I remember strapping on her leg/foot braces and hearing her writhe in pain as I did so but she wanted to continue walking standing/ getting up as long as she could. I’d take her out in the wheelchair and I can’t believe I say it along …but down Stanley Road!! (I had subsequent nightmares about what could have happened to her, had I tripped or let go!) She loved Mary Stevens Park, the swans, ducks and of course Canadian geese. Was grateful for everything in creation. As I used to go over Hanbury Hill on my visit to Love Lane, she would always remind me to smell the “sea-air” as I crested the hill.
        In the earlier days she smoked cigarettes with one of those long filters…looking like someone from the twenties.

        I’ll check on “Send in the clowns”. I do recall that music. I remember also she loved to hear Neil Diamond. Her favorites in classical music gave me an appreciation of Elgar and Delius especially. She also loved ballet music such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Scheherazade and La Boutique Fantastic also other gems.
        When grandad died she and aunt Dorothy shared more about grandma (who died I believe when John and I were nine-months old…therefore early 1951). Grandma (Mary Ann Gilman Purdy) played the piano and loved Strauss and Offenbach. The piano in the picture you sent had a bad (wonky) leg which would fall off and when we had the piano at 4, Mount Road it was rather dangerous. In any event my parents didn’t want me or others “banging on it” for fear of waking the younger brothers so it disappeared at sometime.
        By the way, the dog, Flossy was always so rambunctious (of course, she was a JRT!) she was put on the stairway which fortunately had a door on it. Having said that I’ve always loved dogs so was very excited to see her and disappointed when she was not around. 

        Phyllis with her parents William and Mary Marshall, and Flossie the dog in the garden at Love Lane:

        Phyllis William and Mary Marshall

         

        Bryan continues:

        I’ll always remember the early days with the outside toilet with the overhead cistern caked in active BIG spider webs. I used to have to light a candle to go outside, shielding the flame until destination. In that space I’d set the candle down and watch the eery shadows move from side to side whilst…well anyway! Then I’d run like hell back into the house. Eventually the kitchen wall was broken through so it became an indoor loo. Phew!
        In the early days the house was rented for ten-shillings a week…I know because I used to take over a ten-bob-note to a grumpy lady next door who used to sign the receipt in the rent book. Then, I think she died and it became available for $600.00 yes…the whole house for $600.00 but it wasn’t purchased then. Eventually aunt Phyllis purchased it some years later…perhaps when grandad died.

        I used to work much in the back garden which was a lovely walled garden with arch-type decorations in the brickwork and semicircular shaped capping bricks. The abundant apple tree. Raspberry and loganberry canes. A gooseberry bush and huge Victoria plum tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden which became a wonderful attraction for wasps! (grandad called the “whasps”). He would stew apples and fruit daily.
        Do you remember their black and white cat Twinky? Always sat on the pink-screen TV and when she died they were convinced that “that’s wot got ‘er”. Grandad of course loved all his cats and as he aged, he named them all “Billy”.

        Have you come across the name “Featherstone” in grandma’s name. I don’t recall any details but Dorothy used to recall this. She did much searching of the family history Such a pity she didn’t hand anything on to anyone. She also said that we had a member of the family who worked with James Watt….but likewise I don’t have details.
        Gifts of chocolates to Phyllis were regular and I became the recipient of the overflow!

        What a pity Dorothy’s family history research has disappeared!  I have found the Featherstone’s, and the Purdy who worked with James Watt, but I wonder what else Dorothy knew.

        I mentioned DH Lawrence to Bryan, and the connection to Eastwood, where Bryan’s grandma (and Phyllis’s mother) Mary Ann Gilman Purdy was born, and shared with him the story about Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist minister, and about Francis’s son William who invented the miners lamp.

        He replied:

        As a nosy young man I was looking through the family bookcase in Love Lane and came across a brown paper covered book. Intrigued, I found “Sons and Lovers” D.H. Lawrence. I knew it was a taboo book (in those days) as I was growing up but now I see the deeper connection. Of course! I know that Phyllis had I think an earlier boyfriend by the name of Maurice who lived in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I think he later married but was always kind enough to send her a book and fond message each birthday (Feb.12). I guess you know grandad’s birthday – July 28. We’d always celebrate those days. I’d usually be the one to go into Oldswinford and get him a cardigan or pullover and later on, his 2oz tins of St. Bruno tobacco for his pipe (I recall the room filled with smoke as he puffed away).
        Dorothy and Phyllis always spoke of their ancestor’s vocation as a Minister. So glad to have this history! Wow, what a story too. The Lord rescued him from mischief indeed. Just goes to show how God can change hearts…one at a time.
        So interesting to hear about the Miner’s Lamp. My vicar whilst growing up at St. John’s in Stourbridge was from Durham and each Harvest Festival, there would be a miner’s lamp placed upon the altar as a symbol of the colliery and the bountiful harvest.

        More recollections from Bryan about the house and garden at Love Lane:

        I always recall tea around the three legged oak table bedecked with a colorful seersucker cloth. Battenburg cake. Jam Roll. Rich Tea and Digestive biscuits. Mr. Kipling’s exceedingly good cakes! Home-made jam.  Loose tea from the Coronation tin cannister. The ancient mangle outside the back door and the galvanized steel wash tub with hand-operated agitator on the underside of the lid. The hand operated water pump ‘though modernisation allowed for a cold tap only inside, above the single sink and wooden draining board. A small gas stove and very little room for food preparation. Amazing how the Marshalls (×7) managed in this space!

        The small window over the sink in the kitchen brought in little light since the neighbor built on a bathroom annex at the back of their house, leaving #47 with limited light, much to to upset of grandad and Phyllis. I do recall it being a gloomy place..i.e.the kitchen and back room.

        The garden was lovely. Long and narrow with privet hedge dividing the properties on the right and the lovely wall on the left. Dorothy planted spectacular lilac bushes against the wall. Vivid blues, purples and whites. Double-flora. Amazing…and with stunning fragrance. Grandad loved older victorian type plants such as foxgloves and comfrey. Forget-me-nots and marigolds (calendulas) in abundance.  Rhubarb stalks. Always plantings of lettuce and other vegetables. Lots of mint too! A large varigated laurel bush outside the front door!

        Such a pleasant walk through the past. 

        An autograph book belonging to Phyllis from the 1920s has survived in which each friend painted a little picture, drew a cartoon, or wrote a verse.  This entry is perhaps my favourite:

        Ripping Time

        #6238
        TracyTracy
        Participant

          Ellen (Nellie) Purdy

          My grandfathers aunt Nellie Purdy 1872-1947 grew up with his mother Mary Ann at the Gilmans in Buxton.  We knew she was a nurse or a matron, and that she made a number of trips to USA.

          I started looking for passenger lists and immigration lists (we had already found some of them, and my cousin Linda Marshall in Boston found some of them), and found one in 1904 with details of the “relatives address while in US”.

          October 31st, 1904, Ellen Purdy sailed from Liverpool to Baltimore on the Friesland. She was a 32 year old nurse and she paid for her own ticket. The address of relatives in USA was Druid Hill and Lafayette Ave, Baltimore, Maryland.

          I wondered if she stayed with relatives, perhaps they were the Housley descendants. It was her great uncle George Housley who emigrated in 1851, not so far away in Pennsylvania. I wanted to check the Baltimore census to find out the names at that address, in case they were Housley’s. So I joined a Baltimore History group on facebook, and asked how I might find out.  The people were so enormously helpful!  The address was the Home of the Friendless, an orphanage. (a historic landmark of some note I think), and someone even found Ellen Purdy listed in the Baltimore directory as a nurse there.

          She sailed back to England in 1913.   Ellen sailed in 1900 and 1920 as well but I haven’t unraveled those trips yet.

          THE HOME OF THE FRIENDLESS, is situated at the corner of Lafayette and Druid Hill avenues, Baltimore. It is a large brick building, which was erected at a cost of $62,000. It was organized in 1854.The chief aim of the founders of this institution was to respond to a need for providing a home for the friendless and homeless children, orphans, and half-orphans, or the offspring of vagrants. It has been managed since its organization by a board of ladies, who, by close attention and efficient management, have made the institution one of the most prominent charitable institutions in the State. From its opening to the present time there have been received 5,000 children, and homes have been secured for nearly one thousand of this number. The institution has a capacity of about 200 inmates. The present number of beneficiaries is 165. A kindergarten and other educational facilities are successfully conducted. The home knows no demonimational creed, being non-sectarian. Its principal source of revenue is derived from private contributions. For many years the State has appropriated different sums towards it maintenance, and the General Assembly of 1892 contributed the sum of $3,000 per annum.

          A later trip:   The ship’s manifest from May 1920 the Baltic lists Ellen on board arriving in Ellis Island heading to Baltimore age 48. The next of kin is listed as George Purdy (her father) of 2 Gregory Blvd Forest Side, Nottingham. She’s listed as a nurse, and sailed from Liverpool May 8 1920.

          Ellen Purdy

           

          Ellen eventually retired in England and married Frank Garbett, a tax collector,  at the age of 51 in Herefordshire.  Judging from the number of newspaper articles I found about her, she was an active member of the community and was involved in many fundraising activities for the local cottage hospital.

          Her obituary in THE KINGTON TIMES, NOVEMBER 8, 1947:
          Mrs. Ellen Garbett wife of Mr. F. Garbett, of Brook Cottage, Kingsland, whose funeral took place at St. Michael’s Church, Kingsland, on October 30th, was a familiar figure in the district, and by her genial manner and kindly ways had endeared herself to many.
          Mrs Garbett had had a wide experience in the nursing profession. Beginning her training in this country, she went to the Italian Riviera and there continued her work, later going to the United States. In 1916 she gained the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and returned to England and was appointed sister at the Lord Derby Military Hospital, an appointment she held for four years.

          We didn’t know that Ellen had worked on the Italian Riviera, and hope in due course to find out more about it.

          Mike Rushby, Ellen’s sister Kate’s grandson in Australia, spoke to his sister in USA recently about Nellie Purdy. She replied:   I told you I remembered Auntie Nellie coming to Jacksdale. She gave me a small green leatherette covered bible which I still have ( though in a very battered condition). Here is a picture of it.

          Ellen Purdy bible

          #6234
          TracyTracy
          Participant

            Ben Warren

            Derby County and England football legend who died aged 37 penniless and ‘insane’

             

            Ben Warren

            Ben Warren 1879 – 1917  was Samuel Warren’s (my great grandfather) cousin.

            From the Derby Telegraph:

            Just 17 months after earning his 22nd England cap, against Scotland at Everton on April 1, 1911, he was certified insane. What triggered his decline was no more than a knock on the knee while playing for Chelsea against Clapton Orient.

            The knee would not heal and the longer he was out, the more he fretted about how he’d feed his wife and four children. In those days, if you didn’t play, there was no pay. 

            …..he had developed “brain fever” and this mild-mannered man had “become very strange and, at times, violent”. The coverage reflected his celebrity status.

            On December 15, 1911, as Rick Glanvill records in his Official Biography of Chelsea FC: “He was admitted to a private clinic in Nottingham, suffering from acute mania, delusions that he was being poisoned and hallucinations of hearing and vision.”

            He received another blow in February, 1912, when his mother, Emily, died. She had congestion of the lungs and caught influenza, her condition not helped, it was believed, by worrying about Ben.

            She had good reason: her famous son would soon be admitted to the unfortunately named Derby County Lunatic Asylum.

            Ben Warren Madman

             

            As Britain sleepwalked towards the First World War, Ben’s condition deteriorated. Glanvill writes: “His case notes from what would be a five-year stay, catalogue a devastating decline in which he is at various times described as incoherent, restless, destructive, ‘stuporose’ and ‘a danger to himself’.’”

            photo: Football 27th April 1914. A souvenir programme for the testimonial game for Chelsea and England’s Ben Warren, (pictured) who had been declared insane and sent to a lunatic asylum. The game was a select XI for the North playing a select XI from The South proceeds going to Warren’s family.

            Ben Warren 1914

             

            In September, that decline reached a new and pitiable low. The following is an abridged account of what The Courier called “an amazing incident” that took place on September 4.

            “Spotted by a group of men while walking down Derby Road in Nottingham, a man was acting strangely, smoking a cigarette and had nothing on but a collar and tie.

            “He jumped about the pavement and roadway, as though playing an imaginary game of football. When approached, he told them he was going to Trent Bridge to play in a match and had to be there by 3.30.”

            Eventually he was taken to a police station and recognised by a reporter as England’s erstwhile right-half. What made the story even harder to digest was that Ben had escaped from the asylum and walked the 20 miles to Nottingham apparently unnoticed.

            He had played at “Trent Bridge” many times – at least on Nottingham Forest’s adjacent City Ground.

            As a shocked nation came to terms with the desperate plight of one of its finest footballers, some papers suggested his career was not yet over. And his relatives claimed that he had been suffering from nothing more than a severe nervous breakdown.

            He would never be the same again – as a player or a man. He wasn’t even a shadow of the weird “footballer” who had walked 20 miles to Nottingham.

            Then, he had nothing on, now he just had nothing – least of all self-respect. He ripped sheets into shreds and attempted suicide, saying: “I’m no use to anyone – and ought to be out of the way.”

            “A year before his suicide attempt in 1916 the ominous symptom of ‘dry cough’ had been noted. Two months after it, in October 1916, the unmistakable signs of tuberculosis were noted and his enfeebled body rapidly succumbed.

            At 11.30pm on 15 January 1917, international footballer Ben Warren was found dead by a night attendant.

            He was 37 and when they buried him the records described him as a “pauper’.”

            However you look at it, it is the salutary tale of a footballer worrying about money. And it began with a knock on the knee.

            On 14th November 2021, Gill Castle posted on the Newhall and Swadlincote group:

            I would like to thank Colin Smith and everyone who supported him in getting my great grandfather’s grave restored (Ben Warren who played for Derby, Chelsea and England)

            The month before, Colin Smith posted:

            My Ben Warren Journey is nearly complete.
            It started two years ago when I was sent a family wedding photograph asking if I recognised anyone. My Great Great Grandmother was on there. But soon found out it was the wedding of Ben’s brother Robert to my 1st cousin twice removed, Eveline in 1910.
            I researched Ben and his football career and found his resting place in St Johns Newhall, all overgrown and in a poor state with the large cross all broken off. I stood there and decided he needed to new memorial & headstone. He was our local hero, playing Internationally for England 22 times. He needs to be remembered.
            After seeking family permission and Council approval, I had a quote from Art Stone Memorials, Burton on Trent to undertake the work. Fundraising then started and the memorial ordered.
            Covid came along and slowed the process of getting materials etc. But we have eventually reached the final installation today.
            I am deeply humbled for everyone who donated in January this year to support me and finally a massive thank you to everyone, local people, football supporters of Newhall, Derby County & Chelsea and football clubs for their donations.
            Ben will now be remembered more easily when anyone walks through St Johns and see this beautiful memorial just off the pathway.
            Finally a huge thank you for Art Stone Memorials Team in everything they have done from the first day I approached them. The team have worked endlessly on this project to provide this for Ben and his family as a lasting memorial. Thank you again Alex, Pat, Matt & Owen for everything. Means a lot to me.
            The final chapter is when we have a dedication service at the grave side in a few weeks time,
            Ben was born in The Thorntree Inn Newhall South Derbyshire and lived locally all his life.
            He played local football for Swadlincote, Newhall Town and Newhall Swifts until Derby County signed Ben in May 1898. He made 242 appearances and scored 19 goals at Derby County.
            28th July 1908 Chelsea won the bidding beating Leicester Fosse & Manchester City bids.
            Ben also made 22 appearance’s for England including the 1908 First Overseas tour playing Austria twice, Hungary and Bohemia all in a week.
            28 October 1911 Ben Injured his knee and never played football again
            Ben is often compared with Steven Gerard for his style of play and team ethic in the modern era.
            Herbert Chapman ( Player & Manager ) comments “ Warren was a human steam engine who played through 90 minutes with intimidating strength and speed”.
            Charles Buchan comments “I am certain that a better half back could not be found, Part of the Best England X1 of all time”
            Chelsea allowed Ben to live in Sunnyside Newhall, he used to run 5 miles every day round Bretby Park and had his own gym at home. He was compared to the likes of a Homing Pigeon, as he always came back to Newhall after his football matches.
            Ben married Minnie Staley 21st October 1902 at Emmanuel Church Swadlincote and had four children, Harry, Lillian, Maurice & Grenville. Harry went on to be Manager at Coventry & Southend following his father in his own career as football Manager.
            After Ben’s football career ended in 1911 his health deteriorated until his passing at Derby Pastures Hospital aged 37yrs
            Ben’s youngest son, Grenville passed away 22nd May 1929 and is interred together in St John’s Newhall with his Father
            His wife, Minnie’s ashes are also with Ben & Grenville.
            Thank you again everyone.
            RIP Ben Warren, our local Newhall Hero. You are remembered.

            Ben Warren grave

             

            Ben Warren GraveBen Warren Grave

             

            #6231
            TracyTracy
            Participant

              Gladstone Road

              My mother remembers her grandfather Samuel Warren’s house at 3 Gladstone Road, Stourbridge. She was born in 1933, so this would be late 1930s early 1940s.

              “Opening a big wooden gate in a high brick wall off the sidewalk I went down a passage with a very high hedge to the main house which was entered on this side through a sort of glassed-in lean-to then into the dark and damp scullery and then into a large room with a fireplace which was dining room and living room for most of the time. The house was Georgian and had wooden interior shutters at the windows. My Grandad sat by the fire probably most of the day. The fireplace may have had an oven built over or to the side of the fire which was common in those days and was used for cooking.
              That room led into a hall going three ways and the main front door was here. One hall went to the pantry which had stone slabs for keeping food cool, such a long way from the kitchen! Opposite the pantry was the door to the cellar. One hall led to two large rooms with big windows overlooking the garden. There was also a door at the end of this hallway which opened into the garden. The stairs went up opposite the front door with a box room at the top then along a landing to another hall going right and left with two bedrooms down each hall.
              The toilet got to from the scullery and lean-to was outside down another passage all overgrown near the pigsty. No outside lights!
              On Christmas day the families would all have the day here. I think the menfolk went over to the pub {Gate Hangs Well?} for a drink while the women cooked dinner. Chris would take all the children down the dark, damp cellar steps and tell us ghost stories scaring us all. A fire would be lit in one of the big main rooms {probably only used once a year} and we’d sit in there and dinner was served in the other big main room. When the house was originally built the servants would have used the other room and scullery.
              I have a recollection of going upstairs and into a bedroom off the right hand hall and someone was in bed, I thought an old lady but I was uncomfortable in there and never went in again. Seemed that person was there a long time. I did go upstairs with Betty to her room which was the opposite way down the hall and loved it. She was dating lots of soldiers during the war years. One in particular I remember was an American Army Officer that she was fond of but he was killed when he left England to fight in Germany.
              I wonder if the person in bed that nobody spoke about was an old housekeeper?
              My mother used to say there was a white lady who floated around in the garden. I think Kay died at Gladstone Road!”

              Samuel Warren, born in 1874 in Newhall, Derbyshire, was my grandmothers father.  This is the only photograph we’ve seen of him (seated on right with cap).  Kay, who died of TB in 1938, is holding the teddy bear. Samuel died in 1950, in Stourbridge, at the age of 76.

              Samuel Warren Kay Warren

              Left to right: back row: Leslie Warren. Hildred Williams / Griffiths (Nee Warren). Billy Warren. 2nd row: Gladys (Gary) Warren. Kay Warren (holding teddy bear). Samuel Warren (father). Hildred’s son Chris Williams (on knee). Lorna Warren. Joan Williams. Peggy Williams (Hildreds daughters). Jack Warren. Betty Warren.

              #6227
              TracyTracy
              Participant

                The Scottish Connection

                My grandfather always used to say we had some Scottish blood because his “mother was a Purdy”, and that they were from the low counties of Scotland near to the English border.

                My mother had a Scottish hat in among the boxes of souvenirs and old photographs. In one of her recent house moves, she finally threw it away, not knowing why we had it or where it came from, and of course has since regretted it!  It probably came from one of her aunts, either Phyllis or Dorothy. Neither of them had children, and they both died in 1983. My grandfather was executor of the estate in both cases, and it’s assumed that the portraits, the many photographs, the booklet on Primitive Methodists, and the Scottish hat, all relating to his mother’s side of the family, came into his possession then. His sister Phyllis never married and was living in her parents home until she died, and is the likeliest candidate for the keeper of the family souvenirs.

                Catherine Housley married George Purdy, and his father was Francis Purdy, the Primitive Methodist preacher.  William Purdy was the father of Francis.

                Record searches find William Purdy was born on 16 July 1767 in Carluke, Lanarkshire, near Glasgow in Scotland. He worked for James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, and moved to Derbyshire for the purpose of installing steam driven pumps to remove the water from the collieries in the area.

                Another descendant of Francis Purdy found the following in a book in a library in Eastwood:

                William Purdy

                William married a local girl, Ruth Clarke, in Duffield in Derbyshire in 1786.  William and Ruth had nine children, and the seventh was Francis who was born at West Hallam in 1795.

                Perhaps the Scottish hat came from William Purdy, but there is another story of Scottish connections in Smalley:  Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.  Although the Purdy’s were not from Smalley, Catherine Housley was.

                From an article on the Heanor and District Local History Society website:

                The Jacobites in Smalley

                Few people would readily associate the village of Smalley, situated about two miles west of Heanor, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 – but there is a clear link.

                During the winter of 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, the “Bonnie Prince” or “The Young Pretender”, marched south from Scotland. His troops reached Derby on 4 December, and looted the town, staying for two days before they commenced a fateful retreat as the Duke of Cumberland’s army approached.

                While staying in Derby, or during the retreat, some of the Jacobites are said to have visited some of the nearby villages, including Smalley.

                A history of the local aspects of this escapade was written in 1933 by L. Eardley-Simpson, entitled “Derby and the ‘45,” from which the following is an extract:

                “The presence of a party at Smalley is attested by several local traditions and relics. Not long ago there were people living who remember to have seen at least a dozen old pikes in a room adjoining the stables at Smalley Hall, and these were stated to have been left by a party of Highlanders who came to exchange their ponies for horses belonging to the then owner, Mrs Richardson; in 1907, one of these pikes still remained. Another resident of Smalley had a claymore which was alleged to have been found on Drumhill, Breadsall Moor, while the writer of the History of Smalley himself (Reverend C. Kerry) had a magnificent Andrew Ferrara, with a guard of finely wrought iron, engraved with two heads in Tudor helmets, of the same style, he states, as the one left at Wingfield Manor, though why the outlying bands of Army should have gone so far afield, he omits to mention. Smalley is also mentioned in another strange story as to the origin of the family of Woolley of Collingham who attained more wealth and a better position in the world than some of their relatives. The story is to the effect that when the Scots who had visited Mrs Richardson’s stables were returning to Derby, they fell in with one Woolley of Smalley, a coal carrier, and impressed him with horse and cart for the conveyance of certain heavy baggage. On the retreat, the party with Woolley was surprised by some of the Elector’s troopers (the Royal army) who pursued the Scots, leaving Woolley to shift for himself. This he did, and, his suspicion that the baggage he was carrying was part of the Prince’s treasure turning out to be correct, he retired to Collingham, and spent the rest of his life there in the enjoyment of his luckily acquired gains. Another story of a similar sort was designed to explain the rise of the well-known Derbyshire family of Cox of Brailsford, but the dates by no means agree with the family pedigree, and in any event the suggestion – for it is little more – is entirely at variance with the views as to the rights of the Royal House of Stuart which were expressed by certain members of the Cox family who were alive not many years ago.”

                A letter from Charles Kerry, dated 30 July 1903, narrates another strange twist to the tale. When the Highlanders turned up in Smalley, a large crowd, mainly women, gathered. “On a command in Gaelic, the regiment stooped, and throwing their kilts over their backs revealed to the astonished ladies and all what modesty is careful to conceal. Father, who told me, said they were not any more troubled with crowds of women.”

                Folklore or fact? We are unlikely to know, but the Scottish artefacts in the Smalley area certainly suggest that some of the story is based on fact.

                We are unlikely to know where that Scottish hat came from, but we did find the Scottish connection.  William Purdy’s mother was Grizel Gibson, and her mother was Grizel Murray, both of Lanarkshire in Scotland.  The name Grizel is a Scottish form of the name Griselda, and means “grey battle maiden”.  But with the exception of the name Murray, The Purdy and Gibson names are not traditionally Scottish, so there is not much of a Scottish connection after all.  But the mystery of the Scottish hat remains unsolved.

                #6187
                TracyTracy
                Participant

                  Aunt Idle:

                  You can’t blame me for not updating my diary because bugger all has happened all year.  Borders closed, no tourists allowed in.  How are bespoke bijou boutique establishments like ours supposed to survive?  But we’re still here. Somehow we’ve managed to keep the wolf from the door, but only just barely.  I get a bit muddled up these days and can’t remember the dates. Sometimes I find myself living in the past for weeks on end: things change so little around her that it’s easy to do. But what does it matter anyway?

                  Mater went into a sulk the likes of which I hope never to see again, when her 100th birthday party was cancelled. I thought she might give up the will to live, but oh no. She’s determined now to have a 110th birthday party now.  She says the bloody pandemic ought to be over by then.  I hope she’s right. She changes her health food and exercise regimes as often as she changes her knickers. Well more often than that, probably, she doesn’t bother much with personal hygiene.  She says the germs keep her immune system in good shape.  I think the smell of her would keep any plague ridden body well away from her, but whatever works, I always say.  At least she isn’t sulking anymore, she’s grimly stoic now and tediously determined to outlive me.

                  I had some worrying news through the telepathic grapevine about the twins and Pan, they’d gotten into the clutches of a strange cult over there.  I’ve got a feeling they weren’t really sucked into it though, I think they needed to use it as a cover, or to keep themselves safe.  I say cult but it was huge, took over the entire country and even started spreading to other countries. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with.  I knew they shouldn’t have gone there.  There’s been a peculiar blockage with the telepathic messages for ages now.  It’s a worry, but what can I do.   I keep sending them messages, but get nothing in return.

                  Ah, well. We carry on as best we can. What I wouldn’t give for an unexpected visitor to brighten things up a bit. Fat chance of that.

                  #6186
                  FloveFlove
                  Participant

                    Will didn’t like unexpected visitors. What kind of people turned up unannounced nowadays? He was tempted to ignore the knocking but then it is the not knowing that’s the killer. And what if someone gets it in their head to nose around the property?

                    “Yep?” he said opening the door. The pair of them were starting off down the front steps as though they meant to go exploring. He’d been right to answer.

                    “Oh, you are here!” said the girl, turning towards him with a bright smile. “Sorry to just turn up like this …”

                    Will gave her a curt nod and she faltered a little.

                    “Uh, my name is Clara and this is my grandfather, Bob, and we are hoping you can help us … “

                    The old fellow with her, Bob, was staring hard at Will. He looked familiar but Will couldn’t quite place him … he wasn’t local. And he certainly didn’t recognise the girl—very pretty; he would definitely have remembered her.

                    “Have we met somewhere, Bob?” Will asked.

                    #6183
                    TracyTracy
                    Participant

                      Nora commented favourably on the view, relieved to have been given a clue about what she was supposed to have noticed.  It was a splendid panorama, and Will seemed pleased with her response.  She asked if it was possible to see the old smugglers path from their vantage point, and he pointed to a dirt road in the valley below that disappeared from view behind a stand of eucalyptus trees.  Will indicated a tiny white speck of an old farm ruin, and said the smugglers path went over the hill behind it.

                      Shading her eyes from the sun, Nora peered into the distance beyond the hill, wondering how far it was to Clara’s grandfathers house. Of course she knew it was 25 kilometers or so, but wasn’t sure how many hills behind that one, or if the path veered off at some point in another direction.

                      Wondering where Clara was reminded Nora that her friend would be waiting for her, and quite possibly worrying that she hadn’t yet arrived.  She sighed, making her mind up to leave first thing the next morning.  She didn’t mention this to Will though, and wondered briefly why she hesitated.  Something about the violent sweep of his arm when she asked about her phone had made her uneasy, such a contrast to his usual easy going grins.

                      Then she reminded herself that she had only just met him, and barely knew anything about him at all, despite all the stories they’d shared.  When she thought about it, none of the stories had given her any information ~ they had mostly been anecdotes that had a similarity to her own, and although pleasant, were inconsequential.  And she kept forgetting to ask him about all the statues at his place.

                      Wishing she could at least send a text message to Clara, Nora remembered the remote viewing practice they’d done together over the years, and realized she could at least attempt a telepathic communication. Then later, if Clara gave her a hard time about not staying in contact, she could always act surprised and say, Why, didn’t you get the message?

                      She found a flat stone to sit on, and focused on the smugglers path below. Then she closed her eyes and said clearly in her mind, “I’ll be there tomorrow evening, Clara. All is well. I am safe.”

                      She opened her eyes and saw that Will had started to head back down the path.  “Come on!” he called, “Time for lunch!”

                      #6181
                      FloveFlove
                      Participant

                        Nora remembered something. Now that she had remembered, it seemed rather odd that she had forgotten in the first place. “Will, I don’t suppose you’ve seen my phone?”

                        Will continued to gaze into the distance. “Your phone? No, I haven’t seen it.”

                        “I don’t know where it is … ”

                        Now he looked at her, a slight frown creasing his brow. “Nora, you don’t need a phone up here. Look at all this beauty!” A violent sweep of his arm made Nora take a step back.

                        “It’s beautiful,” she stuttered.

                        Will’s expression softened. “I’m glad you can see it, Nora.”

                        #6178
                        TracyTracy
                        Participant

                          Nora woke to the sun streaming  in the little dormer window in the attic bedroom. She stretched under the feather quilt and her feet encountered the cool air, an intoxicating contrast to the snug warmth of the bed. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept so well and was reluctant to awaken fully and confront the day. She felt peaceful and rested, and oddly, at home.

                          Unfortunately that thought roused her to sit and frown, and look around the room.  The dust was dancing in the sunbeams and rivulets of condensation trickled down the window panes.   A small statue of an owl was silhouetted on the sill, and a pitcher of dried herbs or flowers, strands of spider webs sparkled like silver thread between the desiccated buds.

                          An old whicker chair in the corner was piled with folded blankets and bed linens, and the bookshelf behind it  ~ Nora threw back the covers and padded over to the books. Why were they all facing the wall?   The spines were at the back, with just the pages showing. Intrigued, Nora extracted a book to see what it was, just as a gentle knock sounded on the door.

                          Yes? she said, turning, placing the book on top of the pile of bedclothes on the chair, her thoughts now on the events of the previous night.

                          “I expect you’re ready for some coffee!” Will called brightly. Nora opened the door, smiling. What a nice man he was, making her so welcome, and such a pleasant evening they’d spent, drinking sweet home made wine and sharing stories.  It had been late, very late, when he’d shown her to her room.  Nora has been tempted to invite him in with her (very tempted if the truth be known) and wasn’t quite sure why she hadn’t.

                          “I slept so well!” she said, thanking him as he handed her the mug.  “It looks like a lovely day today,” she added brightly, and then frowned a little. She didn’t really want to leave.  She was supposed to continue her journey, of course she knew that.  But she really wanted to stay a little bit longer.

                          “I’ve got a surprise planned for lunch,” he said, “and something I’d like to show you this morning.  No rush!”  he added with a twinkly smile.

                          Nora beamed at him and promptly ditched any thoughts of continuing her trip today.

                          “No rush” she repeated softly.

                          #6171
                          TracyTracy
                          Participant

                            Nora was relieved when  the man with the donkey knew her name and was expecting her.  She assumed that Clara had made contact with him, but when she mentioned her friend, he shook his head with a puzzled frown. I don’t know anyone called Clara, he said.  Here, get yourself up on Manolete, it’ll be easier if you ride.  We’ll be home in half an hour.

                            The gentle rhythmic rocking astride the donkey soothed her as she relaxed and observed her surroundings. The woods had opened out into a wide path beside an orchard. Nora felt the innocuous hospitability of the orchard in comparison to the unpredictability of the woods, although she felt that idea would require further consideration at a later date.  One never knew how much influence films and stories and the like had on one’s ideas, likely substantial, Nora thought ~ another consideration not lost on Nora was the feeling of safety she had now that she wasn’t alone, and that she was with someone who clearly knew where he was going.

                            Notwithstanding simultaneous time, Nora wondered which came first ~ the orchard, the man with the donkey, or the feeling of safety and hospitability itself?

                            It was me, said the man leading the donkey, turning round with a smile. I came first. Remember?

                            #6166
                            TracyTracy
                            Participant

                              “Grandpa,” Clara said, partly to distract him ~ poor dear was looking a little anxious ~ and partly because she was starting to get twangs of gilt about Nora, “Grandpa, do you remember that guy who used to make sculptures?  I can’t recall his name and need his phone number. Do you remember, used to see him driving around with gargoyles in the back of his truck. You look awfully pale, are you alright?”

                              “No idea,” Bob replied weakly.

                              Tell her! said Jane.

                              “No!” Bob exclaimed, feeling vexed.  He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t want to rush into anything. Why was Clara asking about the man whose phone number was on the note? What did she know about all this? What did he, Bob, know for that matter!

                              “I only asked!” replied Clara, then seeing his face, patted his arm gently and said “It’s ok, Grandpa.”

                              For the love of god will you just tell her! 

                              “Tell who what?” asked Clara.

                              “What! What did you say?” Bob wondered where this was going and if it would ever end. It began to feel surreal.

                              They were both relieved when the door bell rang, shattering the unaccustomed tension between them.

                              “Who can that be?” they asked in unison, as Clara rose from the table.

                              Bob waited expectantly, pushing his plate away. It would take days to settle his digestive system down after all this upset at a meal time.

                              “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost, Clara! Who was it?”  Bob said as Clara returned from the front door. “Not the water board again to cut us off I hope!”

                              “It’s the neighbour, Mr Willets, he says he’s ever so sorry but his dogs, they got loose and got into some kind of a box on your property.  He said…”

                              #6162
                              TracyTracy
                              Participant

                                When Clara remembered who it was she knew in that little village, she realized she didn’t know how to contact him. She didn’t even know his name;  he made gargoyles and stone heads and statues, that was all she knew, and all the strange rumours and stories surrounding some of those statues, quite a local legend in a way. But what was his name?  He had a white donkey….

                                Clara assured Nora that her friend was expecting her, keeping her fingers crossed that she would be able to find out who it was, contact him and ask for his assistance, before Nora arrived there.  It was a long shot, admittedly.

                                By nightfall, Clara had not made contact, and was forced to rely on a miracle; or even to wash her hands of the whole thing: it was Noras’s trip after all.

                                #6160
                                FloveFlove
                                Participant

                                  The message was scrawled in pencil on a roughly torn off piece of note paper. Bob had to squint to make out some of the words.

                                  Hopefully you won’t need this but put this somewhere safe, just in case. The  man i introduced you to today will know what to do. 

                                  And then there was a phone number. Bob wondered if the man would still be there. It was nearly 15 years ago and Bob’s memory was sketchy. He frowned, trying to remember. When the receptacle had been unearthed in the bad flooding of that year, he had contacted someone … how he got onto him he can no longer recall … some number from the archeological thingamajigs maybe. The person he spoke to came round, him and another fellow, said he shouldn’t tell anyone about the receptacle. Said it should be put back in the ground. Said it was important. The other fellow, the one he is supposed to call, made sculptures—Bob remembered that because there had been some sitting on the back of his truck.

                                  Bob sat on the side of the bed and rubbed his head. He couldn’t really be bothered with all this carry on. It all seemed a bit crazy now, having to keep the damn thing buried. What’s all that about? And Clara was so excited, contacting her archeological friend and whatnot. Strange girl though, that Nora. He wished Jane were still here. She’d know what to do.

                                  #6159
                                  TracyTracy
                                  Participant

                                    Nora moves silently along the path, placing her feet with care. It is more overgrown in the wood than she remembers, but then it is such a long time since she came this way. She can see in the distance something small and pale. A gentle gust of wind and It seems to stir, as if shivering, as if caught.

                                    Nora feels strange, there is a strong sense of deja vu now that she has entered the forest.

                                    She comes to a halt. The trees are still now, not a leaf stirs. She can hear nothing other than the sound of her own breathing. She can’t see the clearing yet either, but she remembers it’s further on, beyond the next winding of the path. She can see it in her mind’s eye though, a rough circle of random stones, with a greenish liquid light filtering through. The air smells of leaf mould and it is spongy underfoot. There’s a wooden bench, a grassy bank, and a circular area of emerald green moss. Finn thinks of it as place of enchantment, a fairy ring.

                                    Wait! Who is Finn? Where is this story coming from that whispers in her ear as she makes her way through the woods to her destination, the halfway point of her clandestine journey? Who is Finn?

                                    She reaches the tiny shivering thing and sees that it is a scrap of paper, impaled on a broken branch. She reaches out gently and touches it, then eases if off the branch, taking care not to rip it further. There is a message scribbled on the paper, incomplete. meet me, is all it says now

                                    The crumpled up paper among the dead leaves beside the path catches her eye.  No, not impaled on a branch but still, a bit of paper catches her eye as the mysterious  ~ ephemeral, invisible ~ story teller continues softly telling her tale

                                    Finn feels dreamy and floaty. She smiles to herself, thinking of the purpose of her mission, feeling as though it is a message to her from the past. She is overwhelmed for a moment with a sense of love and acceptance towards her younger self. Yes, she whispers softly to the younger Finn, I will meet you at the fairy ring. We will talk a bit. Maybe I can help

                                    But wait, there is no meaningful message on the crumpled paper that Nora picks up and opens out. It’s nothing but a shopping receipt.  Disappointed, she screws it back up and aims to toss it into the undergrowth, but she hesitates.  Surely it can’t have no meaning at all, she thinks, not after the strange whispered story and the synchronicity of finding it just at that moment.  She opens it back up again, and reads the list of items.

                                    Olive oil, wine, wheat, garum…. wait, what? Garum? She looks at the date on the receipt ~ a common enough looking till roll receipt, the kind you find in any supermarket ~ but what is this date? 57BC?   How can that be?  Even if she had mistranslated BC ~ perhaps it means British Cooperative, or Better Compare or some such supermarket name ~  the year of 57 makes little sense anyway.  And garum, how to explain that! Nora only knows of garum in relation to Romans, there is no garum on the shelves between the mayonaisse and the ketchup these days, after all.

                                    Nora smooths the receipt and folds it neatly in half and puts it in her pocket.  The shadows are long now and she still has some distance to walk before the halfway village.  As she resumes her journey, she hears whispered in her ear: You unlocked the blue diamond mode. You’re on a quest now!

                                    Smiling now, she accelerates her pace.  The lowering sun is casting a golden light, and she feels fortified.

                                    #6156
                                    TracyTracy
                                    Participant

                                      Clara couldn’t sleep. Alienor’s message asking if she knew anyone in the little village was playing on her mind. She knew she knew someone there, but couldn’t remember who it was. The more she tried to remember, the more frustrated she became. It wasn’t that her mind was blank: it was a tense conglomeration of out of focus wisps, if a wisp could be described as tense.

                                      Clara glanced at the time ~ almost half past three. Grandpa would be up in a few hours.  She climbed out of bed and padded over to her suitcase, half unpacked on the floor under the window, and extracted the book from the jumble of garments.

                                      A stranger had handed her a book in the petrol station forecourt, a woman in a stylish black hat and a long coat.  Wait! What is it? Clara called, but the woman was already inside the back seat of a long sleek car, soundlessly closing the door. Obliged to attend to her transaction, the car slipped away behind Clara’s back.  Thank you, she whispered into the distance of the dark night in the direction the woman had gone.  When she opened her car door, the interior light shone on the book and the word Albina caught her eye. She put the book on the passenger seat and started the car. Her thoughts returned to her journey, and she thought no more about it.

                                      Returning to her bed and propping her pillows up behind her head, Clara started to read.

                                      This Chrysoprase was a real gargoyle; he even did not need to be described. I just could not understand how he moved if he was made of stone, not to mention how he was able to speak. He was like the Stone Guest from the story Don Juan, though the Stone Guest was a giant statue, and Chrysoprase was only about a meter tall.

                                      Chrysoprase said: But we want to pay you honor and Gerard is very hungry.

                                      “Most important is wine, don’t forget wine!” – Gerard jumped up.

                                      “I’ll call the kitchen” – here the creature named Chrysoprase gets from the depth of his pocket an Iphone and calls.
                                      I was absolutely shocked. The Iphone! The latest model! It was not just the latest model, it was a model of the future, which was in the hands of this creature. I said that he was made of stone, no, now he was made of flesh and he was already dressed in wide striped trousers. What is going on? Is it a dream? Only in dreams such metamorphosis can happen.

                                      He was made of stone, now he is made of flesh. He was in his natural form, that is, he was not dressed, and now he is wearing designer’s trousers. A phrase came to my mind: “Everything was in confusion in the Oblonsky house.”

                                      Contrary to Clara’s expectations ~ reading in bed invariably sent her to sleep after a few paragraphs ~ she found she was wide awake and sitting bolt upright.

                                      Of course! Now she remembered who lived in that little village!

                                      #6142
                                      TracyTracy
                                      Participant

                                        Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home.  But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours.  It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet.  It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.

                                        There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though.  One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied.  I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.

                                        There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely.  I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.

                                        Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done.  I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing.  At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.

                                        So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money.  I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.

                                        Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them.  They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did.  They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.

                                        They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees.  Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back.  But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did.  I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it.  Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow.  And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.

                                        It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.

                                        The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.

                                        #6137

                                        In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

                                        TracyTracy
                                        Participant

                                          “Shut up, Tara!” hissed Star, “And keep him singing while I think. This is a monumental clue!”

                                          “But I can’t stand bloody opera singing,” Tara whispered back, “It’ll drive me mad.  When they said he had a melodious voice I was expecting something more modern than this ancient caterwauling.”

                                          “Do you want to solve this case or not?”

                                          “Oh alright then,” Tara said grudgingly. “But your thinking better be good!”  She clapped loudly and whistled. “More! More!” she shouted, stamping her feet. The assorted middle aged ladies joined in the applause.

                                          Star leaned over and whispered in Tara’s ear, “Do you remember that client I had at Madame Limonella’s, that nice old man with a penchant for seeing me dressed up as a 13th century Italian peasant?”

                                          “Yeah, you had to listen to opera with him, poor thing, but he did tip well.”

                                          “Well, he told me a lot about opera. I thought it was a waste of time knowing all that useless old stuff, but listen: this song what he’s singing now, he’s singing this on purpose. It’s a clue, you see, to Uncle Basil and why Vince wants to find him.”

                                          “Go on,” whispered Tara.

                                          “There’s a lot of money involved, and a will that needs to be changed. If Uncle Basil dies while he’s still in the clutches of that cult, then Vince will lose his chance of inheriting Basil’s money.”

                                          “Wasn’t that obvious from the start?”

                                          “Well yes, but we got very cleverly sidetracked with all these middle aged ladies and that wardrobe!  This is where the mule comes in.”

                                          “What mule?”

                                          “Shh! Keep your voice down! It’s not the same kind of mule as in the opera, these middle aged ladies are trafficking mules!”

                                          “Oh well that would make sense, they’d be perfect. Nobody suspects middle aged ladies.  But what are they trafficking, and why are they all here?”

                                          “They’re here to keep us from finding out the truth with all these silly sidetracks and distractions.  And we’ve stupidly let ourselves be led astray from the real case.”

                                          “What’s the real case, then?”

                                          “We need to find Uncle Basil so that Vince can change his will. It wasn’t Vince that was in a coma, as that hatchet faced old butler told us. It was Basil.”

                                          “How do you know that for sure?” asked Tara.

                                          “I don’t know for sure, but this is the theory. Once we have a theory, we can prove it.  Now, about that wardrobe. We mustn’t let them take it away. No matter what story they come up with, that wardrobe stays where it is, in our office.”

                                          “But why? It’s taking up space and it doesn’t go with the clean modern style.  And people keep getting locked inside it, it’s a death trap.”

                                          “That’s what they want you to think! That it’s just another ghastly old wardrobe!  But it’s how they smuggle the stuff!”

                                          “What stuff are they smuggling? Drugs?  That doesn’t explain what it’s doing in our office, though.”

                                          “Well, I had an interesting intuition about that. You know that modified carrot story they tried to palm us off with? Well I reckon it’s vaccines.  They had to come up with a way to vaccinate the anti vaxxers, so they made this batch of vaccines hidden in hallucinogenic carrots.  They’re touting the carrots as a new age spiritual vibration enhancing wake up drug, and the anti vaxxers will flock to it in droves.”

                                          “Surely if they’re so worried about the ingredients in vaccines, they won’t just take any old illegal drug off the street?”

                                          Star laughed loudly, quickly putting her hand over her mouth to silence the guffaw.  Thankfully Vince had reached a powerful crescendo and nobody heard her.

                                          Tara smiled ruefully. “Yeah, I guess that was a silly thing to say.  But now I’m confused.  Whose side are we on? Surely the carrot vaccine is a good idea?  Are we trying to stop them or what?  And what is Vince up to? Falsifying a will?” Tara frowned, puzzled. “Whose side are we on?” she repeated.

                                          “We’re on the side of the client who pays us, Tara,” Star reminded her.

                                          “But what if the client is morally bankrupt? What if it goes against our guidelines?”

                                          “Guidelines don’t come into it when you’re financially bankrupt!” Star snapped.  “Hey, where has everyone gone?”

                                          “They said they had to pick up a wardrobe,” said the waitress. “Shall I bring you the bill?  They all left without paying, they said you were treating them.”

                                          “Pay the bill, Tara!” screamed Star, knocking over her chair as she flew out of the door. “And then make haste to the office and help me stop them!”

                                          #6131

                                          In reply to: Tart Wreck Repackage

                                          TracyTracy
                                          Participant

                                            “It’s Thursday today,” remarked Star.

                                            “Special subject the bloody obvious?” Tara replied rudely.   “You should be on Mastermind.”

                                            “Well, we were wondering what we were going to do to pass the time until Thursday, and here we are. It’s Thursday!”

                                            “Are you losing your marbles?”

                                            “Actually it’s you losing your memory,” Star sighed.  “Remember the case?”

                                            “What case?”

                                            “The case we were working on!”

                                            “Oh, that case! Well you can hardly expect me to remember that when it’s been such a strange week!” Tara was starting to get tearful and agitated.

                                            “Look, Tara, the tests came back negative. You can stop worrying about it now.  We can go back to normal now and carry on. And just in time for the rendezvous at the cafe on Main Street.” Star patted Tara’s arm encouragingly.  “And what timing! If the results hadn’t come back yet, or we’d tested positive, we wouldn’t have been able to go to the cafe.”

                                            “Well we could have gone and just not said anything about the tests,” sniffed Tara.  “Everyone else seems to be doing what they want regardless.”

                                            “Yes, but we’re not as morally bankrupt as them,” retorted Star.

                                            Tara giggled. “But we used to work for Madame Limonella.”

                                            “That’s an entirely different kind of morals,” Star replied, but chose not to pursue the issue. She was relieved to see Tara’s mood lighten.  “What are you going to wear to the cafe?”

                                            “Is it a fancy dress party? I could wear my plague doctor outfit.”

                                            Star rolled her eyes. “No! We have to dress appropriately, something subtle and serious.  A dark suit perhaps.”

                                            “Oh like my Ace of Spades T shirt?”

                                            This is going nowhere fast, Star thought, but then had a revelation.  A moment later, she had forgotten what the revelation was when the door burst open.

                                            “Ta Da!” shouted Rosamund, entering the office with two middle aged ladies in tow.  “I nabbed them both, they were lurking in the queue for the food bank! And I single handedly brought then back.  Can we talk about my bonus now?”

                                            Both Tara and Star were frowning at the two unfamiliar ladies. “Yes but who are these two middle aged ladies?”

                                            One of the ladies piped up, “She said you’d be taking us out for afternoon tea at a nice cafe!”

                                            The other one added, “We haven’t eaten for days, we’re starving!”

                                            “But neither of you is April!” exclaimed Tara.

                                            The first middle aged lady said, “Oh no dear, it’s September. I’m quite sure of that.”

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