All Things Biddermouth

All Things Biddermouth

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All the latest news and views from Maureen. Beattie and friends in Biddermouth on Sea.

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Biddermouth Speed Dating

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, June 28, 2015 06:54PM

The news that’s had us all on tenterhooks down at the Silver Lantern Café this week was that Rita Randell had decided to take up speed-dating. Not that she’s ever been slow off the mark where men are concerned but you would have thought having lived in Biddermouth on Sea all her life and already buried three husbands she might have been a bit cautious about what would be on offer. Not than any of us have tried it apart from our friend Hilary and according to Vera Preston that didn’t turn out too well either.

‘She ended up coming home with her Clive,’ she said.

‘A bit like when they went wife-swapping and ended up with each other’s front door keys then,’ added Lila Morris. ‘I mean I know she says they have an open marriage but even my Ken would have recognised that koala bear on her key ring. For a start it’s got an ear missing.’

Vera said perhaps she’d taken it off but whatever marital combinations our friend Hilary tried to inject a bit of passion into her marriage that still didn’t answer the questions of why Rita and why now?

‘Perhaps she’s looking for number four.’

‘Well it can’t be for the money,’ said my neighbour Beattie, ‘she wore the same dress to her last two weddings and she’d definitely saved all the insurance when her Ted died. That coffin was so cheap you could see the glue in the joins.’

‘And the bottom fell out,’ added Lila, ‘at least that’s what Bob Kelly said happened when they lowered him in. It was a good job he had a plot near the door, another few yards and he’d have dropped out on the gravel.’

Now I don’t know much about speed-dating but I do know most of the eligible men in Biddermouth as does Rita, so you would have thought she’d have called it quits and joined the National Trust like all the other widows we knew. I mean the single men are not a bad bunch but anything more than putting air in their tyres seems to leave them bent double for days. But maybe speed-dating for the over 60’s is a more stately affair. It will have to be. By the time the likes of Don Hewish have made their way to the next table it will be time to pack up and go home.

‘Anyway,’ said Vera, ‘it’s in Curston not here.’

Beattie said that made sense.

‘At least there her quest won’t be hampered by her reputation.’

However it seemed that this time Rita was pulling out all the stops. Chrissie Painting had seen her buying new lingerie and some gel inserts, Gloria Holland had seen her trying on dresses in Top Shop and Vera knew for a fact that she’d booked a hair appointment at the Bona Curl salon.

Of course Kevin the owner refused to divulge any of the details. He said it would be breaking a professional confidence which somehow didn’t ring true. I mean how else would we have known that Beattie’s supposedly inherited dark curls owed their continued existence to liberal applications of Balmoral Mink at regular intervals?

‘All I will say, ‘he said, ‘is that she’s brought in a lot of pictures of Lulu, although in my professional opinion she’s asking a bit much there so she might have to make do with a sort of Jane Fonda.’

Mind you it was only because Beattie fancied a bit of smoked haddock for her tea that we found out Rita’s fourth road trip down the aisle might be a rockier road than she thought.

‘George Cawdrey has hired a minibus,’ Beattie said. ‘Apparently he’s some friend of the landlord of the Golden Fleece and they’re all going over on Thursday, although I don’t know why he’s bothering, he smells of fish.’

I reminded her that he was a fishmonger and she replied that was no excuse for never washing his hands.

‘Did you smell Lila after they’d done that rumba? I had to keep my hanky to my face the whole time she was sat next to me. It’s a good job you can boil cotton or that dress would have been ruined. Still it looks like it will be a quiet night at the whist drive which is no bad thing.’

I know last week Beattie had taken exception to Don Hewish suggesting they play strip poker but the rest of us thought he was joking. Perhaps he wasn’t. So maybe Rita was getting herself in out of her depth.

‘That particular swimming pool has yet to be dug Maureen,’ Beattie said but then she’s never liked Rita much. ‘She’s just like her mother. You know she died owing every house in the street a cup of sugar?’

I didn’t, and as far as I knew sugar would be the last thing on Rita’s mind as she always carried her own sweeteners in her handbag. Still if she thought that by going speed-dating in Curston she’d be ploughing a furrow in pastures new it sounded as if she was going to be sorely disappointed.

And there I was not wrong. Of course we got the full story from Vera courtesy of her cousin who cleans the Golden Fleece and found a couple of abandoned gel inserts when she was sweeping up the following morning. So I suppose most of it must have been true.

Far from being a night of romantic encounters they’d had to take out a few tables to make way for all the walking frames and Rita found herself up against some pretty stern competition from the local widows who had not taken kindly to finding a stranger in their midst. Lucky for her George Cawdrey had that minibus or she’d have been lynched.

Of course I’m not saying anything happened but according to Vera there was a Top Shop dress airing on Rita’s washing line the following morning so…?

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Hey! Nonny! Not Likely

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, June 21, 2015 05:34PM

Sadly not everybody seems to appreciate the Rev Velma Meakin’s attempts to put St Matthews and All Angels back into the heart of our seaside community. Granted some of the things she’s done like hosting ‘Get it on with God’ at a nightclub have rattled the traditionalists.

Vera, Lila and I are of the opinion that Velma has been a breath of fresh air. My next door neighbour Beattie is not. Still when you firmly believe that the Almighty is ‘immortal, invisible and yours’ you’re never going to think mixing ‘Now Thank We All Our God’ and ‘Thine Be The Glory’ into a dance medley is the way ahead. Still that’s no need for people to be sending Velma death threats is it?

‘Well if you ask me she’s brought it all on herself,’ said Beattie who I have to say was on my list of possible suspects. ‘The Bishop should have left her at St Werburghs after she sold off the pews and replaced them with folding chairs. I mean how can you even contemplate the Almighty when you’re perched on a bit of plywood that’s liable to collapse at any moment? At least the Rev Stevens took in orphans.’

‘And we know why,’ said Lila, although we didn’t really, but as they say there is no smoke without fire.

‘Taking up a residency at Chaser’s is no different to thousands of people climbing a hill to get a glimpse of Jesus,’ Vera said which earned her such a look from Beattie you’d have thought she’d announced she’d become a Bride of Satan. ‘Anyway Velma’s done more for my Dwayne’s substance abuse than that old Rev Stevens. All he ever did was cuddle him.’

‘He’s still doing it though,’ said Lila which I assumed referred to Dwayne and not the Rev Stevens who I thought was still ‘recovering’ at a monastery following his prostate op.

Vera replied that wasn’t the point. Thanks to Velma she now knew what to do when her grandson started foaming at the mouth whereas before she’d always had to call an ambulance.

‘That last time he spent four hours on a trolley in that hospital carpark because they were all too busy treating people claiming they had asthma when all they had was a cough.’

‘Plus she’s done wonders with the notice board,’ said Hilary.

We all turned in amazement when we heard that. This was the first time she’d managed to speak real words since she’d had that Botox treatment. Of course it was going to be a while, if ever, before her left eye could blink properly but for £15 and a home visit from a beautician in an old Ford Transit Van you’re not going to look like Cher, no matter what the advert says.

‘That notice board has always been for the community,’ said Beattie. ‘And now she puts all sorts on it. Lawn mowers for sale, accommodation notices in Polish, even Stella Wheatley’s got an advert on it although why she needs to wear a bra and panties to advertise a hairdressing salon I really do not know. But you try putting anything up there to do bell ringing and down it comes.’

‘Bell ringing,’ asked Vera?

‘She means the Biddermouth Swingers Club,’ said Lila shooting a sly glance at Hilary.

‘Exactly,’ Beattie replied. ‘It breaks my heart to think of those great big bells just dangling there unused.’

So I think that is where Velma’s problems really started. The notice board I mean not taking a stand against the Biddermouth Swingers publicising their monthly cheese and wine parties although it’s probably best not to think about where the crumbs from the crackers end up. Or even where you tuck your serviette. Still whistle blowing disco vicars is one thing. Telling the Madrigal Society and the altar flowers volunteers that they no longer had exclusive rights to the church notice board was clearly another.

Vera took the view that moving Delia Cartwright and six other people who wore ruffs into the vestry to make way for Velma’s Pregnancy Advice Clinic was no bad thing. Lila said it was a shame. Beattie said it was traditional and Vera fought back asking when either of them had last gone ‘hey nonny no?’

Still that hasn’t stopped the letters page of the Biddermouth Gazette being chock a block with the town airing its views. Personally I was with Derek from Newtown Road. He claimed that Delia and her singers simply got in the way in the shopping centre at Christmas and were probably a health and safety hazard in their farthingales. Beattie was firmly with Joan from Glebe Villas. She declared that Velma would never have dared do such a thing if Delia Cartwright had been a Muslim. But then I suppose if she had been she wouldn’t be dressing up as Elizabeth 1st at every opportunity would she? Plus Velma wouldn’t have woken up one morning to find a headless chicken on her door step.

Who did that we’ll never know. It couldn’t have been Delia Cartwright because she’s a vegetarian and I don’t suppose a mangled nut cutlet would have made the front page of the Daily Mail. And it most certainly wouldn’t have been Beattie. She hates waste, especially when it comes to food.

Still the Rev. Meakin remains unrepentant and despite being hit by an anonymous bread roll in the local supermarket continues to go about her work and is currently busy putting the finishing touches to her ‘Music for the People’ concert at St Matthews and All Angels.

Of course there will be no madrigals now that Delia has flounced off in a huff which would have left a nasty gap in the programme this late in the day. However Mary Rose with the Singing Chihuahua has a brother-in-law in nearby Curston who has a Border Collie that can play the harmonica. So all is well with the world. Unless of course you’ve spent a whole week starching your ruff.

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Stop In The Name of the Law

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, June 14, 2015 06:12PM

We knew something was up at the Bona Curl Salon because normally you’re not greeted with the sound of bolts being drawn back and chains being uncoupled before you can open the door. You don’t usually have to flash your bus pass as proof of identity either and you are most certainly not greeted by Kevin’s assistant, Iris Naomi, dressed as a security guard. Although I have to say with her facial piercings and Meatloaf T-shirt she always manages to look pretty unwelcoming anyway.

However on this particular morning the entire place was on lockdown. Not that any of us had appointments but we had heard via Karen from the cake shop next door that the police had called there during in the night. Phone calls had been made, plans for the day shelved and even my next door neighbour Beattie decided to abandon her morning for buffing up the manhole cover outside her front door for fear of missing out on the gossip.

Of course it all depended on which phone call you believed as to why the police had been there in the first place because as usual everybody had their own version of events.

Karen thought there had been a burglary but that wasn’t good enough for my neighbour Beattie. She immediately took the view that Kevin had been arrested for importuning behind the bandstand.

‘He has proclivities Maureen,’ she’d said as if Kevin’s embracing of an alternative life style was hot news.

Lila Morris reckoned they’d come for Kevin’s assistant Iris Naomi because even after three years at hairdressing college she still managed to get the hose wrapped round your neck.

‘Look what happened to Linda Parkin. She popped in for a wash and set and came out looking like she’d gone three rounds with the Boston Strangler. If you ask me that girl’s finally succeeded in killing somebody.’

Vera Preston, with her long history of dealing with visits from the forces of law and order to her own family took another view entirely. She said it was another example of police harassment especially when she found out that one of the constables was WPC Tina Worthy.

‘That one’s always been a fascist,’ she said. ‘Even at school she had in it for our Dwayne. She used to handcuff him to the radiators and make him late for his lessons you know. No wonder he never learned to read properly.’

‘Fairs fair though Vera,’ said Lila who due to the complex bloodlines you find in a small town was somehow related to the Worthy’s by two marriages and an out of wedlock liaison, ‘he did write ‘I is a lesbo’ on her forehead with a jumbo marker.’

So you can imagine that once we’d all got over the shock of seeing Iris Naomi wearing a security guard’s peak cap a sense of disappointment settled in all round. She hadn’t been arrested for manslaughter and despite looking pale and drawn Kevin was at liberty too.

‘I expect he’s out on bail,’ whispered Beattie desperate to cling on to her own ill-will when Kevin emerged from the back kitchen. ‘Well he needn’t think I’m putting a penny towards his fine. You see Maureen this is what you get when you have a LibDem majority on the council. Rainbow warriors.’

Vera said she thought they saved whales not picked up men in the local park and Lila just made sure she stayed out of striking range of the murderous Iris Naomi and her baseball bat and offered to put the kettle on.

‘Whatever’s going on Kevin,’ I asked?

‘It’s me Nan, Maureen. She’s escaped and the police think she’s probably heading this way.’

‘I thought she was dead,’ said Vera.

‘I thought she was in the same place as your mother,’ said Beattie who never missed a chance to level an imaginary score.

‘There’s nothing wrong with my mother Beattie Hathaway. You know as well as I do she was perfectly ok until the fireworks factory exploded and that Catherine wheel flew through the window and set light to all her George Formby memorabilia. Anyway Heather Grange is residential not custodial. She’s there of her own freewill.’

Which was more than could be said for Granny Nethercott apparently. She was in Bay View House.

‘Maximum security’, added Lila as if anything more needed to be said.

‘Mind you,’ said Vera,’ she had it coming especially after that business with the machete in the school playground. If the caretaker hadn’t thrown that old tennis net over her my Chantal would have been a goner.’

‘And my Bez,’ said Lila.

‘Which would have been no bad thing,’ muttered my next door neighbour but I think I was the only one close enough to hear that because neither of the others rose to the bait. I mean I know one lives on a diet of Red Bull and the other one wears dungarees but that’s no reason to promote infanticide is it? After all everybody is somebody’s child, even Beattie.

Of course it’s very hard for an eighty five year old woman in a floral nightdress to remain at large for long. Especially after a thunderstorm. Although if Vera’s grandson Dwayne hadn’t tried to mug her for her handbag she may well have dried out enough to have hopped on a bus and made it to Southampton. As it was his social worker claimed he was making a citizen’s arrest and he got off on a technicality.

And apparently, or so Kevin said, following a course of electric shock therapy, Granny Nethercott was better too.

‘She’s become word perfect in every film Bette Davis had ever made,’ he said. ‘Which is amazing in itself considering she’s never even seen any of them. Mind you it’s got me thinking about Iris Naomi. I mean you never know, a few jolts from a hot brush and I may be able to trust her with scissors.’

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Diva Fever

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, June 07, 2015 03:47PM

Regular readers may well recall that every year Biddermouth on Sea throws caution to the wind and attempts to host a musical festival. Some of you may also recollect that
this year the Rev Velma Meakin, the radical incumbent at St Matthews and All Angels, is hosting an alternative extravaganza called Music For the People. However for those of a less socialistic nature the cultural elite are pressing ahead with a programme of things nobody but them have heard of and my next door neighbour Beattie, who also pretends to know about these things was beside herself with joy at the prospect.

‘You can all go and listen to Ted Aldis and his Syncopated Foot Tappers and drink warm Fanta with a transvestite vicar if you want, ’ she said , ‘I’ll be listening to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and enjoying a nice cup of Earl Grey tea.’

Vera said if she’d known Frankie Valli was coming to the Town Hall Theatre she’d have got Beattie to have got her a ticket as well. Lila just wondered why anybody else would bother to write another Four Seasons when Nigel Kennedy had already done it.

However it’s not just the prospect of having her annual blast of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ that’s got Beattie so excited but it was recently announced in the Gazette that Dame Sally Framling had taken a short let on ‘Shell House’ down on the seafront for what Beattie calls ‘the season’ and what the rest of us would know as ‘four weeks in the summer’.

But who this Dame Sally was we had no idea.

‘I knew she won a gold medal,’ said Vera, ‘but I had no idea she was musical.’

Hilary said she was confusing her with Sally Gunnell the Olympic hurdler and Lila thought this particular Sally might have been in Dynasty because Joan Collins had been made a Dame too.

Anyway as it happened they were all wrong because Dame Sally Framling turned out to be Lancashire’s finest living soprano.

‘Not that you’d know she was northern to listen to her sing,’ said Beattie. ‘But then I suppose she had elocution lessons unlike Gracie Fields. After all who wants to hear Tosca being sung by a mill girl?’

Well I don’t like to hear it sung by anybody. Although there are times when Beattie has it on so loud I am forced to endure it. That said Tosca does have my sympathies. I mean she’d had one hell of a day hadn’t she? So you can’t really blame her for leaping out of that window. At least Dusty Springfield never leaves you feeling suicidal even when she’s less than merry.

So you can imagine how unbearable Beattie was when she managed to get an invite to tea at Shell House with her old friend Mrs Dennington- Wriggley, known to us behind Beattie’s back as Mrs Diddley- Dee. You see she smells of mothballs and is always going on about ‘during the Raj’. Honestly to hear her talk you’d think her husband had been Viceroy and not a salesman for a tyre company. Still to my neighbour she has all the charm of ‘A Passage to India’. And it has to be said that Beattie is a sucker for anybody with a hyphen and a fusty fur coat.

Not that there was anything remotely fusty about Beattie when the GREAT DAY dawned. She’d had her court shoes re-heeled, her best cotton gloves dry cleaned and had even managed by dint of some nimble linguistics to turn one of last year’s summer frocks into this years ‘tea gown’.

Vera phoned me to say she’d even seen her gliding down the High Street in a taxi doing that thing the Queen Mother used to do that was part way between a wave and struggling with the lid of a jar of pickled onions.

‘I hope she’s not to disappointed if all she gets is a plate of whelks and a glass of milk stout,’ she added.

And so did I.

Now usually when Beattie’s had a brush with the aristocracy, even if they are northern, or comes close to a cucumber sandwich devoid of its crust she’s straight round giving you chapter and verse on who said what and how thin the bread was. But the fact that she’d come home on the bus with her best hairnet stuffed in her handbag made me think all had not gone well. Perhaps whelks had been served after all. Or had Dame Sally committed the ultimate social faux pas and put the milk in her teacup first? Either way it was a very tight lipped Beattie that slammed her front door and proceeded to play the 1812 Overture very loudly on her radiogram all night.

Of course normally I wouldn’t dream of steaming open anybody else’s post but when Dame Sally’s chauffeur got Beattie’s address wrong and popped an envelope through my door…well Vera said to put the kettle on and she’d be straight round.

‘The trick is not to smudge the ink,’ she said expertly holding the envelope over the spout.

‘The trick is not to tell Beattie,’ I replied after Vera had read the letter out loud.

‘That’s true,’ said Vera, ‘I mean five mornings a week cleaning at four pound an hour isn’t much of an offer is it? I’d have held out for at least six. Still now we know eh Maureen? Pimped by Mrs Diddley-Dee. Well my lips are sealed.’

Luckily there were still a few tickets left for Ted Aldis and his Syncopated Foot Tappers. He may not be Beattie’s cup of tea but at least he’s never offered her a cleaning job. ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ might not be Vivaldi and there may only be warm Fanta to drink but Beattie will be sat amongst her friends. I think. Of course I suppose that all depends on how evil Vera’s feeling on the day doesn’t it?

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Big, Bold & Biddermouth

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, May 31, 2015 06:03PM

The way Sylvia Protheroe has treated poor Karen Braithwaite recently seems to have back-fired on her big time. Letters have been written to the Editor of the Gazette, her slimming club has been picketed and somebody, presumably Vera Preston’s grandson Dwayne, sprayed something rude on her front door. We think it was him because most people know you put a ‘c’ before the ‘k’, or why else would it be called a four letter word?

Not that Sylvia has ever been a friend of mine. My next door neighbour Beattie may claim they were bosom buddies when they both attended the Imelda Frayne School of Dancing back in the mid 1950’s, however I think it must have always been a one-sided relationship even then. You see as Sylvia always says she graduated with honours and her mother put her straight into ballet school whereas when Beattie left her mother put her straight into a corset.

‘Far be it from me to imply that she was heavy footed as a child,’ Sylvia said to me one day when we found ourselves forced to share a table during a busy hour at the Silver Lantern Café, ‘but the word ‘tap’ comes nowhere close to describing the noise she made dancing.’

Of course even at sixty seven with her tight bun, perfect poise and deformed feet Sylvia likes to think she is too much of a lady to use the words ‘thunderous’ and ‘gargantuan’ and I don’t believe half of her stories either. She may well have slipped on a Pavlova but I seriously doubt she ever danced with one. As for all that ‘Dame Margot once said to me…’ business I reckon you can take that with a pinch of salt too. Although I suspect in Sylvia’s case it would be of the low sodium variety.

Still even a life time touring the provinces as a geriatric cygnet is no excuse for banning people from the slimming club. I mean anybody else would have pocketed Karen’s weekly subscription and let her stand at the back eating a pasty and touching somebody else’s toes. But not Sylvia.

‘I have my reputation to think of,’ she said. ‘Imagine what would happen if word got round that I allowed my ladies to actually put on weight? Nobody is big-boned. They are just fat through their own lack of control. As Dame Margot once said to me when she caught me sucking a throat pastel in rehearsals… ’

Now I’m not saying that Karen isn’t a bit on the large side. Neither am I saying that a few less Sacher Tortes wouldn’t help to keep her this side of twenty stone and certainly being the proprietor of Karen’s Kakes doesn’t help either. But you could argue, as Karen does frequently, that it is a question of genetics. You see in her day Karen’s late mother Peggy did cut a formidable figure as a school crossing lady. In fact Kevin from the Bona Curl claims she once wrote off a fire engine. Vera and Lila remember it slightly differently.

‘She was hit by a milk float,’ recalled Lila. ‘But Peggy did have to have her service at St Jude’s.’

‘Because of the wide aisle,’ added Beattie whose own hips may well be the deciding factor in her final choice of resting place.

However the one thing Karen didn’t inherit was her mother’s personality. Peggy Braithwaite was feared. Her daughter is loved by all. In fact with her Union Jack kaftans Karen is a bit of a local celebrity. Sylvia Protheroe is not. And that if you ask me was her undoing. She may well have a cholesterol level of two and the BMI of a dried apricot but she was no match for Karen who hit the front page under a headline of ‘Big, Bold and Biddermouth.’

Neither was Sylvia up to fighting off Bez Morris’s left wing women’s group when it made fat a feminist issue, infiltrated a slimming club meeting and disturbed the peace of Sylvia’s Pilates class by pelting the members with doughnuts. A couple of size zero ladies from nearby Abbots Sepsis tried to fight back but ended up being taken away in an ambulance and one woman even claimed she’d been held hostage in the changing room.

‘I only gained my freedom by agreeing to eat three chocolate Hob Nob biscuits,’ she said.

She then boasted of having then gone for a twenty mile run afterwards which only brought the wrath of the Director of the Princess Diana Memorial Hospital Eating Disorder Clinic firmly down upon her head in an article accompanied by a photograph of Karen behind her counter merrily eating her way through a mountain of profiteroles.

Even the local chapter of The Hells Angels roared into town and named her as their mascot although I have to say her partner Derwent wasn’t too happy when she was pictured astride a Harley Davidson in a leather jacket and matching shorts. Personally I think the headline 'Boys Luv Big Birds' was a little unnecessary. He wasn't best pleased when she received a proposal of marriage from a tribal chieftain in Africa either. But he is putting on a brave face and as Karen said, ‘what can you do with six oxen when you live over a bakery?’

Mind you quite what Derwent will make of Karen’s latest offer nobody knows. Vera tells me the local hospice is planning to ditch its usual ‘Biddermouth Through the Season’s’, calendar in favour of one called ‘Biddermouth Curves’. Apparently they have already found candidates for January through to August and rumour has it that Karen will be Miss Soft Fruit September. Thankfully it is printed by the same company that do the parish magazine for St Matthews and All Angels so I doubt the photographs will contain any nudity.

Of course I think the letter Beattie received claiming to be from the charity and offering her a choice of the winter months was a hoax. After all everybody knows you don’t spell ‘photographer’ with an ‘F’.

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Sex, Lies and Danish Pastries

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, May 24, 2015 06:24PM

Unusually for Biddermouth on Sea this week’s local paper was full of sex and violence. Normally anything like that is squeezed into small paragraphs between Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Under a Tenner adverts. However since the Tories gained a majority on the council it seems they have decided to expose once and for all how low the town has fallen under four years of Lib Dem misrule. So sex and violence it is. All over the front page.

Because the violence bit involved Vera’s grandson none of us are mentioning it. I mean it’s not the first time that lad’s been in trouble and I daresay it won’t be the last. His grandmother says it’s because he’s lactose intolerant but I ask you, who mixes cider with milk and tries to bite a man’s ear off?

Anyway leaving Vera Preston’s random approach to grand-parenting aside it was the news that two couples had been arrested for something called ‘dogging’ that caught everybody’s attention.

Vera reckoned one of the couples had to be our friends Hilary and Clive. Lila Morris wasn’t so sure. She said even they wouldn’t be so daft as to imagine that their old Ford Cortina would go unnoticed in a layby.

‘I mean you’d spot those furry dice a mile off,’ she added and we all laughed. Except Beattie.

She said it served them right and it was high time the police did something about it.

‘Still, ‘she added slicing her Danish pastry into dainty morsels, ‘the fines will go some way towards the cost of those signs they’ve put on all the lampposts.’

Well that made me drop my scone jam-side down on the table cloth I can tell you as I couldn’t for the life of me remember seeing any signs warning people not to engage in unbridled sexual activity. And I’m sure I would have noticed. I mean those images have to be pretty graphic don’t they? School children crossing. Beware the elderly. Loose chippings. But as for lustful abandon, well the mind boggled.

‘After all,’ she continued whilst the rest of us battled with our wildest imaginations and Lila went right off her chocolate coated ring doughnut, ‘you can buy those little plastic bags on a roll in PoundMart, so there is no excuse for people to let their animals foul the pavements is there?’

Cora, our waitress, said in passing that you could buy scoops as well which seemed to be news to Beattie. I don’t know why. I know for a fact she’d bought one herself. She claimed it matched the oven glove she’d brought on a day trip to Windsor Castle. Mind you I’d never quite plucked up the courage to tell her it wasn’t a fish slice. Still as they say, ignorance is bliss.

I think Vera would have said something had she not been so disappointed to see Hilary herself giving us a cheery wave as she popped into the Post Office across the road from the Silver Lantern café.

‘She’s got some pluck I’ll give her that, ‘she muttered.

I thought that was a bit rich coming from a woman whose grandson had attempted to bite the ear off a security guard in the local supermarket but where Vera’s concerned often the least said the soonest mended so I kept my opinions to myself.

Of course what we all really wanted to talk about was the other front page story. Apparently the Happy Hands Massage Parlour had been raided by the police and three ‘prominent local figures’ had been caught red handed. At least Ludmilla, Ekaterina and Blanche had. The men, you imagine, were merely red faced. Still that probably explained why Stella Wheatley had made herself scarce and gone off to visit ‘friends’ in Torquay. Not that it was common knowledge that she had a fifty percent share in the business but there had to be something big going down to make Stella abandon the three Polish lads who’d been decorating her bedroom since October for the balmy breezes of the English Riviera.

‘Mind you, I have heard’ said Lila and she went on to name two local Tory councillors.

Beattie claimed she was being ridiculous.

‘They are both happily married. It was in their manifestos.’

‘So are Hilary and Clive,’ I said.

‘Correction,’ said Vera. ‘They’re just married.’

‘Still it’s those poor girls I feel sorry for.’

And there Lila did have a point. Ludmilla and Ekaterina had been arrested, named and shamed in big bold typeface whereas the men it seemed would be getting off scot free. Of course it must have been doubly humiliating for Tom Pickering. He’d told everybody he’d met Blanche in a church in Bangkok. Still at least she had a husband to pay her fine or at least her airfare back to the Far East. Poor Ludmilla had nothing to go home to except a bombed out apartment somewhere in the Ukraine and a small child who might well still be buried under the rubble. As for Ekaterina she’d told me she had come to England expecting to be employed as a waitress.

‘But I am learning so much good words’, she’d said putting on a brave face although you do have to wonder what her small talk consists of at parties.

However as with all humanitarian crises we are more interested in the news nearer to home. Will Hilary be named as the mystery woman arrested wearing a rubber cat suit, as Vera fervently hopes, and was her companion really Clive barely disguised as Tarzan?

However as the Happy Hands saga clearly shows, it’s not what you’re doing but who you’re doing it with that counts. Although I’m not sure Hilary is even on nodding terms with anybody from the local council.

As for Beattie, she’s still turning her bacon with her favourite colour coded utensil and blaming their Labrador.

‘After all if they’d gone to PoundMart Maureen, none of this would have happened.’

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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Line Dancing takes Biddermouth by storm

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, May 17, 2015 06:26PM

Regular readers may remember that since the Rev Velma Meakin took over the running of the Over 60’s club we’ve had far more exciting things to do than wave Union Jacks whilst singing, ‘Tipperary’ and Line Dancing was just one of a host of new entertainments she had organised on our behalf.

Now they do say you can lead horses to water but you cannot make them drink and I think the same applied to my next door neighbour Beattie and Country and Western music. At first her excuse was she was too busy polishing her silver, next it was her day for her drains and when she finally she said she couldn’t see how anybody could dance to the theme tune from Bonanza I felt we should give her up as a lost cause.

Our friend Vera had other ideas.

‘You just look at yourself in that,’ she said ramming a pink cow-girl hat firmly on top of Beattie’s hairnet.

‘Snazzy eh? And they were cheap. I found them reduced in PoundMart.’

Now I know Beattie loves a bargain, probably more than the rest of us, but I don’t think she was any more impressed looking at her reflection in the window of the Silver Lantern Café than we were gazing at the real thing.

‘That’s a ‘no’ then,’ said Lila as Beattie stomped off muttering she’d rather buff up her cruet. ‘Never mind I expect we can get Hilary to come with us. She hasn’t been out of the house since her Clive came back with his tail between his legs. I’ll give her a call.’

To say our friend Hilary had been keeping herself to herself was an understatement. All we knew was that her husband had seen the error of his ways and returned to the marital home. Presumably he quickly came to the conclusion the comforts of his own reclining armchair were less demanding than those of Stella’s Wheatley’s surgically enhanced bust. But we can’t be sure.

‘She’s had Botox,’ said Lila, ‘only I’m not supposed to tell anybody so don’t you two say anything.’

You could hear Vera’s mind already clicking away like a pair of knitting needles on the other side of the table. No doubt she was busy trying to plain and purl Stella Wheatley and Hilary’s new face into a single withering insult that would kill two birds with one stone.

I just hoped Hilary had had it done professionally but according to Lila she’d used some friend of Kevin’s from the Bona Curl.

‘You know who I mean,’ she said, ‘the one that does door to door lip plumping with recycled chip shop oil.’

Well if there hadn’t been a good reason before to take up Line Dancing at sixty seven there was now, so as Vera said all we had to do was sort out our outfits and we’d be well away.

I have to say when she turned up that denim jacket was a bit of a surprise. It looked like the result of an unhappy one night stand between Mr Levi and a lampshade heiress. Lila’s get up was no better. I’m not sure what she was wearing but it looked like she’d studied ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ very closely and still managed to get it wrong. I’d gone for speed and efficiency, leggings and a sweat shirt, because I’m sure the poster never mentioned there would be prizes for fancy dress.

To be honest if Hilary hadn’t said ‘hello’ I would never have recognised her. At least I think that’s what she said because her lips didn’t actually move and one eye looked distinctly Bette Davis whilst the other one hardly opened at all.

‘Told you,’ said Lila looking in the mirror and securing her bow with yet more hair grips.

Now it’s if it’s hard to have a conversation with somebody who can only gurgle, Line Dancing with them was even harder. Not only did you all have to dip and slide but it seems you were expected to do turns as well and all this in time with Patsy and Tex, our local country and western singers, and their band, The Renegades.

Still credit where credit’s due. Vera did try her best. Unfortunately she had Polly Watkins who was stone deaf on one side and Jimmy Jameson, who despite driving a taxi for forty years still had trouble with left and right, on the other. So most of the time when Vera’s slides weren’t colliding with Polly’s turns she was eye to eye with Jimmy when they should have both been facing the same way.

Lila didn’t fare much better either. It seemed that Hilary’s face wasn’t the only part of her body that had been paralysed and by the time she dipped everybody was spinning so quite a few people fell over more than once.

Personally I blame that Patsy. She may look like Tammy Wynette when she’s stood still but trying to follow somebody who’s had a hip replacement when they shout ‘dip’ was never going to be easy. You see when it came to her right side she had an unfair advantage over the rest of us. In fact those who were stood near the front seemed to dip a great deal more than the rest of us nearer the back although it has to be said our turns were a lot slower. Still it’s no secret that Tex has balance issues due to problems with his middle ear.

‘Well that was fun,’ said Vera trying to put a brave face on things despite the fact that she’d ended up doing a lively two-step with Jimmy when her fringing got caught on his belt buckle and her cowgirl hat had a large foot print on the crown.

Personally I’m not so sure. Even after a long hot bath and plenty of embrocation I’m still wondering if buffing up my own cruet wouldn’t have been the lesser of two evils.

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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The Boys in the Band

April to June 2015Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, May 10, 2015 05:53PM

Long ago, although to hear my friends Vera and Lila, it might well have been yesterday, Biddermouth on Sea suffered its’ own outbreak of Beatle-mania in the shape of Barry Venture and the Ventones. I wasn’t here at the time but apparently they were a dancehall smash back in the days when there were such things and such things regularly got broken up. And now it seemed they had reunited and were winding up in town for the last night of the tour.

‘We are most definitely going!’ said Vera.

‘We most definitely are!’ echoed Lila. ‘And you too Maureen, you’ll love them. You never know we might even tempt Hilary out of retirement. After all she was sweet on their drummer wasn’t she Vera?’

‘What the one that got done for little boys?’

Lila paused with her Danish pasty and said no, she meant the one who got Sally do-dah pregnant.

‘Sally Peter’s?’

‘No it began with a ‘J’, Henderson. That’s it Sally Henderson.’

That’s an ‘H’ I thought but I let it pass. Anyway they were both too busy bickering over whether Hilary had ‘done it’ with the priapic drummer or not to pay much attention.

‘Well I say she didn’t,’ said Lila who was often the last one to think ill of anybody.

‘And I say she did,’ snapped Vera, ‘ that night on at Curston Lido, when you fell off the back of Chris Maynard’s moped and snapped the heels clean off those boots of mine you’d borrowed.’

They were still bickering over whether it was a moped, as Vera claimed, or a Harley Davidson, as Lila wished to remember it, when we settled the bill at the Silver Lantern Café and headed off our separate ways.

I noticed that neither of my friends had mentioned my next door neighbour Beattie coming with us. Not that I was surprised. I’d seen pictures of her in the early Sixties and to be honest if it wasn’t for the cars in the background you’d swear she was posing to celebrate the end of sweet rationing. Of course they didn’t do large sizes in teenage clothes back then which is probably why she looked like her mum and her aunties. So I doubt she ever fell off the back of anything more exciting than a settee.

Still I felt one of us should ask her. I mean you never know. She might have surprised us and had all their old records in one of the trunks in her loft.

As it happened she didn’t. When I mentioned it she just shuddered and said something about ‘child molesters’ and carried on steaming razor sharp folds into her tea towels.

Which was how we came to find ourselves outside the Biddermouth Legion without her but with about 200 other elderly women and an assortment of walking frames and inhalers whilst we waited for Hilary to turn up.

‘Now remember, ‘ Vera said as if it was Lila and I that needed to watch our tongues, ‘ no mention of her getting back with Clive and certainly no mention of him leaving her for Stella Wheatley in the first place and speaking of which…’

There she was, Biddermouth’s own geriatric sex kitten Stella Wheatley arm in arm with a lad who looked young enough to be her own grandson.

‘That must be Peter,’ said Vera.

‘Pytor,’ Lila corrected, ‘he’s Polish.’

Well I thought, Stella still can’t be having her bedroom re-decorated surely? I mean how many Polish lads does it take to wall paper a room twelve by ten? Still I wasn’t going to let it spoil my evening. Mind you I did wonder, looking along the queue, if Vera and Lila realised Barry and his Ventones might well be on walking frames themselves by now. After all the Sixties were a fair while back whether we like to admit it or not and none of us have worn well, apart from Stella that is and she owes all that to plastic surgery.

‘We’ll have to make sure we keep her and Hilary keep well apart, after all we don’t want any unpleasantness,’ said Vera who I knew full well was secretly hoping otherwise.

‘She’s not coming,’ said Lila. ‘Botox.’

‘Horrific to,’ she added although I’d like to think she was talking about the process itself and not what it had done to Hilary’s face.

However in we went and on they came to rapturous applause and straight into a medley of old pop songs that got everybody in the mood. There was the odd moment when the lead guitar played something completely different to the bass but nobody seemed to notice. Of course their hell raising days were over and ‘Twist and Shout’ was a bit slower than it should be but then there were enough people who twisted down and then needed the St John’s Ambulance team to get them upright again as it was. Any faster and there would have been even longer queues than normal at the local A&E.

Stella Wheatley was writhing all over that poor Polish lad and when Barry sang ‘Love Me Tender’ she got him in a lip-lock which Vera said nearly made her bring up her chips. I hadn’t had any but I knew what she meant.

I have to say the boys were doing a great job with some old Rolling Stones stuff for a finale. I say ‘were’ because from somewhere down the front an enormous pair of bloomers hit Barry full in the face. He reeled backwards into the lead guitarist. More underwear flew through the air and a mug of Horlicks got spilt down the back of the amplifier. Then there was an enormous ‘bang’. Somebody yelled ‘FIRE’ and all the lights went out.

Thankfully nobody was seriously hurt and even those with walking frames were evacuated safely. Barry is as well as can be expected following his heart attack and my best coat still reeks of smoke. Even after being dry cleaned twice!

To view my book ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ featuring Maureen and Beattie please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2015

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