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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The Mystery of the Yellow Box

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, August 21, 2016 07:27PM

I have to say, and to judge from the number letters The Gazette has received on the subject I am not alone in thinking this, the news that Biddermouth Council has employed a full-time recycling tsar has not gone down well. As several correspondents have pointed out Hester Gordon- Lee doesn’t even live in the town and to judge from all the degrees she has in Environmental Science her services won’t have come cheap either.

As my neighbour Beattie said when we were discussing the matter over morning coffee in the Silver Lantern Café, it just went to show the mess Tony Blair had made of the universities when you could spend three years getting letters after your name just for writing a thesis about throwing things away. Plus, she continued, for what they were paying that Hester they could have filled in all the pot-holes in the roads and still had enough money left over to do something about the state of the disabled ramp at the entrance to the railway station as it has a nasty habit of pitching you to the right when you least expect it.

‘Which is all very well if you live here,’ she added, ‘but how many strangers know you have to pull to the left halfway down to avoid being hurled on to the main road?’

Not many apparently according to our friend Vera Preston whose own second cousin Janice is still seeking compensation through the courts.

Hilary Mason argued that was all her own fault because those mobility scooters aren’t meant to carry passengers.

‘And to judge from the tyre marks your Janice made she was four up and on full throttle when she hit that bump. If anybody should be suing anyone it’s the driver of that milk float. The poor bloke’s never worked since and his wife still can’t shop in the supermarket.’

‘Why not,’ asked Vera? ‘They wrote them a very nice letter saying he wouldn’t be charged for making that hole in their window and I heard they even threw in a ten pound voucher.’

Lila Morris thought the council could have spent some money on fighting the slime that yet again has turned the water in the Biddermouth Lido a very unappealing shade of green.

Not that any of us use the Lido but as she pointed out it would be nice not to have hold your nose when you walk down that end of the Promenade on a warm day.

Still this is the same council that installed over two hundred CCTV cameras to track our every move in a misguided attempt to reduce crime. Which it did. Until the likes of Vera Preston’s grandson and his mates got their eye in with their catapults and disabled them. So it’s hardly surprising that Hester and the Recycling Task Force have now issued us all with a black bin for household refuse, a green one for organic material, a brown box for glass and a blue one for plastics. Which is all very well but we’ve all agreed that when you live in a terraced house they don’t half get in the way when you’re trying to peg your washing out. Plus they are all collected on different weeks and they only take the brown box when there’s an ‘R’ in the month. And none of us are quite sure what the yellow one is for.

Vera says she uses hers for her granddaughter’s soft toys and Hilary reckons it’s just the right height on to sit on when you’re weeding your raised beds. Beattie uses hers for soaking her oven racks. Apparently it’s perfect as long as you remember to turn them halfway through.

‘It might be for hazardous waste,’ said Lila, basing her surmise on a recent programe she’d seen on Chernobyl where apparently the warning signs are exactly the same colour and according to her newspaper some of the tinned food that came Eastern Europe contained traces of uranium to this day. Especially peas by all accounts.

‘Well I hope not,’ said Vera, ‘because no matter which box you put it in it all goes in the same lorry.’

‘Except for Alsatians,’ added Lila. ‘They won’t take those even if they are in the green bin.’

Bernie Heffernan, the manageress of the café who had a habit of listening in when she wasn’t busy said this was indeed true. Hadn’t she heard the very same story with her own ears from Kathleen Finnerty?

‘And she’d tried the RSPCA too but they said they could only be taking it if it was still alive,’ she added. ‘Mind you the council were just as iffy about those human remains Queenie Thompson found in her bin all those years ago remember? So somethings never change.’

Lila begged to differ. At least in this case they knew it was Kathleen’s dog whereas they’d never found the owner of the missing foot.

‘He couldn’t have been hard to find surely? I mean how many men did you ever see hopping around Biddermouth? Not many I’ll bet.’

Personally I was thinking Lila has missed the point there but then Bernie said it was the poor children that lived on the rubbish tips in the Philippines that she felt sorry for. Father Brennan had been so shocked by what he’d seen in a video that he’d urged all his parishioners NOT to recycle at all.

‘You see,’ she added, ‘without the money they make scavenging the refuse they’d all be having to sell themselves on the streets.’

Apparently it was the same in Cork during The Depression although thankfully we were spared the need to ask for more details by the sight of a refuse lorry coming up the High Street. And sure enough, as Vera was at great pains to point out, everything was being thrown, without fear or favour, straight into the back. Except anything in a yellow box. And we still don’t know why.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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For The Love of George

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, August 14, 2016 07:01PM

Just recently our coffee mornings at the Silver Lantern Café have taken a bit of a turn for the worst. As my friend Lila Morris said, it’s bad enough having to act as referee between our friends Vera and Beattie without Rita Randall suddenly adopting us as her new best friends.

‘All she wants talk about all the time is George Cawdrey,’ she added.

But to be honest Rita wasn’t the only one. You see we’d all been caught on the hop by the rumour that our local fishmonger was going out with Wilf Turnball’s young Thai widow, Marjorie, only you had to be careful what you say around my neighbour Beattie. Despite all her protests to the contrary it was generally thought that ever since George’s late wife Renee had been laid to rest she’d had her eye on his cold slab and an unlimited supply of Dover Sole.

I know she always claims he smells of mackerel but that didn’t stop her elbowing her way to the front of the mourners where in plain view of everybody she was seen to administer several shameless pats on his arm. According to Kevin, who runs the Bona Curl Salon, it was the first time he’d seen Beattie wearing lipstick to a funeral even if most of it had ended up on George’s left cheek.

‘Honestly Mo,’ he’d added, ‘that graveside was like a beauty pageant for the desperate and the damned. Every widow in Biddermouth was there. I had to do five wash and sets that morning not to mention trying to teach Corrine Musgrave how to walk in heels the day before.’

‘Well you didn’t do a very good job,’ I replied. ‘She nearly fell in the grave twice.’

Kevin said that wasn’t his fault. If she’d bothered to listen to the weather forecast she’d have known the going would turn from firm to heavy and should have pocketed her pride and opted for flats.

Anyway now it seemed it was ‘game over’ for widows of a certain age because last night George had been seen popping into Marjorie’s and this morning he’d been seen having trouble getting out a taxi opposite the local chiropractor.

‘He’s a dead man walking,’ said Rita before any of us had even managed to get our coats off. ‘Look what that Wendy Woo did to poor old Wilf.’

Well it was common knowledge that Wilf had died under mysterious circumstances. Even the coroner looked a bit sceptical at the claims he’d passed over playing a protracted game of ping pong whilst dressed in only a bath towel. However it was also common knowledge that her name wasn’t Wendy, it was Marjorie, although neither Beattie nor Rita were in any mood to believe otherwise.

‘That’s what she says,’ replied Beattie. ‘They get these names out of Christmas Crackers you know, look at Gloria Chang.’

Vera said she was wrong there. Gloria had married into the Chang catering dynasty and if she’d been born Gloria Longbottom she’d have done the same. For a start it was easier to spell. Plus Gloria had ended up with three beautiful daughters and six fish and chip shops in prime locations.’

‘And a van,’ added Lila.

‘And a van,’ repeated Vera.

Rita said she couldn’t understand it. All the time she’d gone out with George she’d say, let’s have a night in with a Chinese, and he’d say he couldn’t because it upset his stomach.

‘So we’d always ended up munching a bit of limp pizza between us. And then the minute I go off to Brighton for a few days… ’

‘With another man,’ cut in Vera and I have to say as cruel as Vera can be when she has half a mind she did have a point there.

I mean Rita can say till she’s blue in the face how she only went because Roy didn’t like driving in the dark on his own but as Hilary said at the time you don’t get diamond bracelets just for keeping a man on full beam on a country road.

‘Anyway,’ said Lila, suddenly remembering she was still part of the conversation, ‘Marjorie’s not Chinese she’s Thai. Perhaps it tastes different?’

‘Perhaps he’s got a death wish,’ snapped Rita ignoring what I hoped was a reference to ‘Masterchef’.

‘Perhaps he fancied somebody younger,’ Vera snapped back.

Unfortunately whilst you couldn’t say there wasn’t a great deal of love lost between her and Beattie, you could definitely say there was even less gone to waste between her and Rita. You see somewhere amongst the tangled bloodlines of our small seaside town Rita and Vera had once wound up as relations. Vera often says, ‘A Preston never forgets’ and clearly she still had total recall of the day Rita-then-Preston had ditched her Gordon’s cousin and hitched her wagon to the tail lights of a long distance lorry driver from Hull.

‘Well we’ll both just have to grin and bear it I suppose,’ said Rita.


‘Yes Beattie, we. You know as well as I do it wasn’t my fault he fancied me more than you and now here we are sisters in the same boat. Abandoned women.’

Having been an only child I knew Beattie would struggle with concept of being anybody’s sister but I could tell she had no such difficulty realising she was in danger of being cast adrift cheek by jowl with a woman she’d called at best ‘flighty’ and at worst ‘a slut’ because her face suddenly turned a very dangerous shade of purple.

Luckily for Rita the coffee at the Silver Lantern is never more than lukewarm at the best of times so only her make-up was damaged. But maybe next time she’ll be a little more careful when it comes to choosing her boating companions. I’m just surprised she didn’t leave wearing the remains of a cream horn. Still Beattie has always hated wasting food. Especially when she’s already paid for it.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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Marital Arts Display

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, August 07, 2016 05:49PM

All of Biddermouth was intrigued. My neighbour Beattie was aghast. In fact she was so aghast such a thing was allowed to be advertised on a church noticeboard that she’d already written letters of complaint to four Bishops before it had happened. Even Tom Rodgers, the caretaker, had expressed surprise the community centre could actually accommodate 200 people without the floor giving way. On the other hand our friend Hilary Mason was just annoyed she’d wasted five pounds. The fact she’d arrived there an hour early to make sure she’d got a front seat only served to make matters worse. So as you can imagine she had talked of nothing but her disappointment ever since.

Of course the Gazette didn’t help matters. But then their headlines rarely do. However I suppose having a front page proclaiming ‘Pensioners in Sexual Rampage’ made sure they sold every copy. And to judge from the number of ambulances needed to ferry the injured to the local hospital the event’s organisers clearly had a great deal of explaining to do to, rampage, sexual or not.

‘Well they can start with whoever designed that poster. I mean the last thing you expect is to be sat there minding your own business then nearly being hit with a stick,’ Hilary said as we sat in the Silver Lantern Café having our usual morning coffee.

Vera Preston said she doubted that was the first time unless Hilary meant in anger and Lila Morris wondered what she had been expecting as it was a bojutsu display after all.

‘Apparently that’s what they do,’ she added speaking to anybody who might be interested, ‘although why I don’t know. Still I assume there must be some point to it beyond making a lot of noise and grunting.’

‘Just like sex,’ said Vera biting the end off of her cream horn.

‘Yes but you don’t beat each other with sticks do you?’

‘Decent couples don’t but…’ replied Vera with a quick gulp and a glance in Hilary’s direction.

‘I know what bojutsu is thank you very much,’ said Hilary. And as far as she was concerned that was the whole point. Had she known that she would never have gone let alone paid good money to sit and watch two women attack each other with bits of bamboo.

‘That poster clearly said MARITAL ARTS DISPLAY,’ she added.

‘It also said by Alma Dickins and Gemma Hardcastle,’ I pointed out.

‘In aid of the Scouts hut,’ added Lila who had obviously read the small print but still failed to spot the typo.

Beattie said that was exactly why she’d written to the Bishop, well four bishops to be exact, because she really didn’t think Lord Baden Powell would want his boys to be associated with that sort of thing no matter how much his roof was sagging at the back. It was bad enough knowing they could access all sorts on their computers without rubbing the poor boys faces in it. In her opinion it was worse than allowing alcoholic beverages on the tombola.

‘I mean where’s the mystery of the wedding night,’ she said, ‘if sports councils start showing that sort of thing in community centres?’

Vera said her wedding night had been far from mysterious.

Lila replied that hers was because she’d never been to Torquay before.

‘Mind you,’ she added, ‘neither had Keith which was why I ended up in tears when he kept getting jammed in a one street with no room to turn round.’

Vera said considering the amount of time Hilary and her husband devoted to their Swinger’s Club the last thing she needed to attend was a live sex display on her night off; especially one that featured Alma and Gemma, even if it was for charity.

‘I mean I’m not saying there’s ever been anything between them,’ she continued, ‘although I’ve always wondered about that Alma. Don’t you remember? She was the only girl in our junior school who wanted to be a Spitfire pilot. The rest of us all wanted to be air hostesses.’

‘Except Nicola Armitage, she always wanted to work with dogs.’

‘Yes Lila and look where that got her. Splashed all over the Sunday papers and banned from being a member of the RSPCA for life,’ added Vera.

‘Mind you,’ Hilary continued, ‘it was the judo that really caused all the trouble. Well you know what men are like when they see two women rolling about on the floor pulling at each other’s clothes.’

Vera said Hilary might but she didn’t and Lila said she didn’t either, but at least that explained the hastily erected human pyramid formed around three walking frames and a pile of plastic chairs. All of which had given way under a great deal of pushing and shoving as men who ought to have known better started jostling for a grandstand view especially when Gemma’s black belt flew open to reveal a purple sports bra.

‘That’s when George Cawdrey lost his footing,’ Hilary added, claiming she herself had only escaped certain death by inches.

‘If that Pete Longman’s braces hadn’t got caught on the fire extinguisher I’d have been a dead woman,’ she added. ‘He must weigh all of twenty two stone. As it was I ended up covered in foam.

Vera muttered something about that not being a first either where she was concerned but for some reason Hilary decided to rise above it, although you could tell from the look on her face the comment had been noted and as always where Vera is concerned, filed for future use.

Still the good news is they did raise a thousand pound for the new scouts hut and Alma and Gemma have promised to raise more money to help with its erection by giving a demonstration of Karate at some point in the near future. Only this time, apparently, they will be handling their own publicity so I only hope one of them can spell.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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Who Do You Voodoo?

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, July 31, 2016 06:48PM

Biddermouth on Sea has been suffering a bit of a drought of late. Not that you’d read about it in the Gazette but then I suppose ‘No Funeral Teas For Three Months’ would be a weird headline even by their standards. I know they printed that one about dog biscuits reducing your cholesterol levels but anybody could see that was an April Fool. Except our friend Lila Morris that is. Then again there might well be some truth in the claim because eating them didn’t seem to do her any harm. Anyway suffice to say when my neighbour Beattie got wind of an unexpected passing whilst buying some postage stamps she was straight round to the Silver Lantern Café and determined to be first with the news.

‘It’s just a pity it’s only Alyson Paget,’ she said glaring at our other friend Vera Preston who seemed more interested in her Chelsea bun than warding off Beattie’s death stare.

Now I know that of all our friend’s funerals Vera’s is the one Beattie is most looking forward to. She even said to me once that she’d quite happily go up to fifty pounds for a floral tribute ‘to see that one laid to rest’, and to be honest having seen the state of Beattie’s lounge curtains I can understand why she might feel that way. I mean it’s all very well Vera saying her little granddaughter was only playing the new peek-a-boo game she’d learned at nursery school but even I don’t think Kiara Marie should have been doing it with a slice of chocolate Swiss roll in each hand. Still even I was shocked to hear Beattie had been researching Voodoo at the local library and I think she was equally put out when I flatly refused to be the one that did the bit with the pins.

‘I mean it doesn’t even look like Vera,’ I’d said looking at the doll Beattie had sat up half the night making. ‘Are you sure that’s her own hair?’

Apparently it was because Beattie had harvested it off the floor at the Bona Curl salon when Kevin the owner wasn’t looking.

‘Anyway you can’t expect me to do it Maureen. I’ve been confirmed, whereas you haven’t even been christened. So as far as the Almighty is concerned you’re already on a hiding to nothing whatever you do. It’s just one little pin look. Right there!’

Suffice to say for once I stuck to my guns which was probably why Beattie found herself having to make do with going to Alyson’s funeral and not Vera’s. Still that didn’t stop her wondering out loud what on earth we ought to wear.

‘It’s a pity it’s not at St Matthew’s,’ said Beattie. ‘You always know where you are with pearls.’

‘Even false ones,’ muttered Vera.

‘Then again,’ continued Beattie pretending she hadn’t heard, ‘being married to a Paget that Alyson’s lucky even St Mark’s will have her. Although I have heard their church yard is so over crowded these days it is pot luck who you end up on top of. God alone knows what’ll happen if the place ever floods because some of those new graves can’t be more than four feet deep.’

Lila thought it was shame Alyson wasn’t being despatched from St Werburgh’s because there you could wear what you liked.

‘And spend Eternity cheek by jowl with people from the council estate buried in track suits,’ added Beattie although she did go on to say that in her opinion any church that forced its congregation to sit on folding chairs ought to think itself lucky people came dressed at all.

‘I mean I know they got the Bishop to consecrate the ground but if you ask me it takes more than few prayers and a sprinkling of holy water to turn a biscuit factory car park into a fit place for folk to be buried in. You do know that to this day they are still digging up tins of Digestive Creams dumped there after the Coronation don’t you?’

‘At least it’s not St Bride’s,’ remarked Vera because according to her the straw always worked its way out of the hassocks.

‘No matter how carefully you think you’ve been kneeling, when you get home anything less than seventy denier tights are only fit for the bin.’

St Jude’s, we all agreed, required a perfumed hanky because of its bad drains and according to Hilary you couldn’t wear a thong to St Anne’s after October on account of the draught.

‘Well you can,’ she added, ‘but once my teeth were chattering so much by the time they got to the Lord’s Prayer I couldn’t even manage the ‘Amen’.

Lila said we were lucky Alyson hadn’t be a Baptist. Apparently, or so she’d heard, if she had been we’d all have had to wear bathing costumes under our coats or at least something in drip dry polyester.

‘It’s not like the Curston Lido,’ said Vera and Hilary said that was a shame because she’d seen their young minister and added wistfully,

‘If ever there was a man built for speedos…’

Beattie was of the opinion that it wouldn’t be much of a funeral anyway. She said you couldn’t expect people with overgrown driveways to be any good when it came to eulogies.

‘And when you’ve got saplings growing through the bonnet of an old Cortina I’d definitely say ‘no’ to wearing jewellery of any great worth.

That last bit was aimed fair and square at Vera who before letting fly with her Chelsea bun claimed loudly that everything she owned had great sentimental value and stormed out into the High Street.

‘I wouldn’t give her five pounds for the lot,’ said Beattie when she stopped on our way home to draw fifty pounds out of the cash machine. She also popped into the haberdashers for a new hat pin.

‘Well anything’s worth a try Maureen,’ she said. Let’s just pray you get it right and she doesn’t linger.’

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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Read All About It!

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, July 24, 2016 08:19PM

There is usually something for everybody in the Biddermouth Gazette and this week was no exception. Vera was incensed by yet another proposed alteration to the traffic flow in Merchant Street, Hilary was intrigued by an article on feminine personal hygiene, Lila found a pair of bedside cabinets for her spare room in Under A Tenner and my neighbour Beattie disturbed everybody’s thoughts by reading out loud the obituary of a Miss Leopold who’d once been her old Girl Guide leader.

‘She was a wonderful woman,’ said Beattie. ‘It says here she would have been 103 next birthday.’

‘Not if she’d been trying to cross Merchant Street she wouldn’t have been,’ replied Vera who began to read out the role of the fallen on the zebra crossing opposite the library.

‘You know I’d forgotten all about Margaret Evans,’ she added.

Lila replied she hadn’t.

‘If her walking frame hadn’t taken most of the impact she’d have been killed outright. Instead she lingered for weeks then her liver went septic.’

Vera said she may have forgotten Margaret but she certainly hadn’t forgotten Miss Leopold. It was all because of her she’d never been allowed to be a Girl Guide.

‘And quite right too,’ Beattie snapped back, ‘she was only thinking of the reputation of the rest of her troop.’

‘Excuse me Beattie Hathaway I didn’t have a reputation!’

Hilary said, ‘not then no,’ and Vera said that was the pot calling the kettle black because reputations seemed to run in Hilary’s family otherwise why else would her mother have been the only woman in Biddermouth who celebrated VE Day with a wardrobe full of nylon stockings?

‘And a larder full of tinned peaches,’ added Lila. ‘Or so my mother said.’

‘Anyway,’ snapped Vera that business between her sisters and the Boy Scouts had just been a bit of fun that got out of hand.

‘Out of hand! They tied two of them to a tree and set light to their uniforms,’ exclaimed Beattie. ‘It was only because my Nanny Freemantle was on first name terms with the Chief Constable’s wife that stopped our entire Guide patrol being taken in for questioning.’

Vera argued that it wasn’t as if they’d been wearing them at the time and Beattie hit back saying it had been the middle of winter for Heaven’s sake and they’d both got frostbite on their extremities.’

‘Really’, asked Hilary? But when she found out it was only their toes she went back to telling us all about the wonders of natural yoghurt.’

Lila gave a shudder and said she’d tried it on some fruit once on holiday and hadn’t liked it then so the thought of putting it anywhere else was quite out of the question although she did wonder what ‘one knob slightly damaged’ meant where her cabinets were concerned.

‘You should try mixing it with honey and chopped nuts, I have,’ said Beattie and we all looked. However it turned out she thought Hilary was reading the recipe page. ‘They do that in Greece apparently.’

According to Hilary the Greeks did a lot of things. She’d met one once and said even wild horses wouldn’t get her back to Santorini. Luckily in those days you could stand at the back and have a cigarette as soon as you’d taken off. Otherwise there’d been no way she could have stayed sat down for the entire flight.

‘Didn’t your Clive mind?’

‘Funnily enough Lila, no. Although I suppose him having been in the navy helped and of course in those days we both smoked anyway so it didn’t really matter. Mind you to this day he still gets that faraway look in his eye when anybody mentions the Aegean. I just change the subject.’

Beattie wondered if she should go to the library and find out if it was the proper thing to send flowers to a memorial service. After all, she added, there couldn’t be many of Miss Leopold’s girls left in the area.

‘Not if they’ve been trying to cross Merchant Street there won’t be,’ said Vera. ‘Oh look they’ve even mentioned Paula Willoughby. Although why she’s there I don’t know because she only had concussion.’

‘And she wouldn’t have got that if the door to the Oxfam shop had been wedged open like it normally is,’ added Lila. ‘Mind you she was lucky all those bags of old clothes were there to break her fall. Still she’s never been quite right since. If you know what I mean. In the head.’

Vera said it was just as well Paula had survived as that family couldn’t organise a funeral to save its life and for once Beattie agreed with her. She told us she’d been to two Willoughby funerals and on both occasions the wreaths had looked the worse for wear and Hilary even recalled that when Paula’s mother had died an apprentice had put the coffin lid on the wrong way round.

‘God knows what the view was like from the pulpit,’ she said. ‘I was five rows back and even I could see in.’

Lila was still wondering if her Keith could get a new knob or whether he could sort out the old one with a bit of sandpaper although he wasn’t very good at DIY.

‘I mean that pattern match in lounge still makes me feel like I’m walking downhill. Still it might just be me because none of you have ever said anything.’

Vera said we had. But just not to her.

‘You know,’ said Hilary, ‘I don’t know why anybody bothers to buy this newspaper do you? There’s never anything in it worth talking about.’

Vera remarked she wouldn’t be saying that if she’d been hit by an articulated lorry in Merchant Street, Lila said she was going to ring up and see just how damaged that knob was and Beattie added a tub of natural yoghurt and chopped nuts to her shopping list.

We just hope she’s having it for breakfast.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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The on-line revolution

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, July 17, 2016 05:32PM

It seems that Biddermouth on Sea is suddenly in the grip of a technological revolution. As my neighbour Beattie discovered last week when she tried to book a doctor’s appointment. Normally you ring up, press one, then six, then three unless you want to speak to a member of the team in which case you press nine only to be told to press one again. It’s annoying I know. But you can always press ‘hash’ if you forget where you are or just fancy listening to a bit of Vivaldi you haven’t heard before. However this time when Beattie pressed nine all she got was a garbled message to visit something called ‘’.

She didn’t have any better luck when she turned up in person. Apparently Irene the receptionist refused to speak to her. Instead she pointed to a sign that told patients to book their appointments on line. It was only when Beattie started banging on the glass partition with her umbrella like the old days that she eventually gave in and told my neighbour that it was people like her, people that wanted to make appointments in person, who were wasting valuable NHS resources.

‘No wonder people are turning up at casualty with sore throats,’ Beattie said wedging herself into her usual seat at the Silver Lantern Café.

Our other friend Vera ventured that it was high time Irene had been replaced by a machine anyway. Apparently her social skills had never extended beyond spitting and biting even at primary school and she hadn’t improved with age either.

‘You can see why her husband ran off with that girl who used to collect the old fat from the chip shops. She may have smelled funny but she must have been good with kids because they ended up having ten.’

Of course we know who is behind all this Biddermouth On-line business don’t we? It’s Cllr Bella Bynge. Not content with taking over The Arts and saddling us with a twenty foot high fibreglass vagina outside the shopping centre in the name of modern sculpture, she has now awarded herself the title of ‘on-line Tsar’ and set out on a mission to eradicate any human contact from our daily lives. And that is why, for the last two weeks, she’s been holding what she calls ‘Silver Surfer’ classes at our Over 60’s club.

Not that any of us turned up. Except Eileen Harris, and she only went to the first one because her and her husband had booked a holiday to Hawaii and thought it would save them tuition fees if they could already surf when they got there.

‘She even had her bathing costume on under her mac,’ said Lila Morris as she blew on her cappuccino, ‘in case they had one of those wave machines like they do at Centre Parcs.’

‘And did they,’ asked Beattie?

‘No they didn’t. Eileen said she’d sat there for half an hour with Bella going on about mice, which she can’t abide anyway, and then the poppers in her crotch started chaffing so she made her excuses and left.’

By all accounts the second one hadn’t gone much better either. According to Kevin from The Bona Curl Salon the dreaded Bella had forgotten to cancel the Biddermouth Barbers Shop quartet so they turned up and were determined to carry on regardless whilst the three people who had attended complained bitterly afterwards that they couldn’t hear a thing about finding antique cruets at car boot sales because of the noise coming from the back of the room.

‘It’s the same at the library too now,’ said Lila. ‘Everything has to be scanned on one of those machines only I don’t think it’s working too well because when I scanned three Martina Cole’s I got a receipt for two avocado pears and a can of spray polish. If you ask me it won’t be long before they get rid of poor old Rose either and what other job will she get at her age with all the libraries closing? I know her mother left her the bungalow but that money won’t last forever will it?’

Beattie said it would see Rose out because she just happened to know the bungalow sold for over £80,000 even without the benefit of mains drainage.

‘Well they’re getting rid of all the cashiers at the supermarket as well,’ sighed Kevin. Replaced, or so he’d heard, after twenty five years’ service by a self-scanning machine that sounded like Joanna Lumley.

‘At least she says thank you for shopping with us,’ said Lila, ‘which was more than Molly and Jean ever did.’

‘True,’ replied Kevin, ‘but if they didn’t know the price for something they didn’t start bleeping, they just let you put it in your bag. Mind you at the moment Jean’s only scanning every third item if she knows you anyway. She let me have a leg of lamb and a frozen chicken for free yesterday in return for a shampoo and set next week.’

‘Well there’s one person who won’t be replaced by a machine,’ said Vera pointing to the bus stop where Stella Wheatley, the town’s geriatric sex siren, was unashamedly lip-locked to one of the young Polish lads who was supposedly re-decorating her bedroom for the fifth time in twelve months.

Kevin said he wouldn’t be too sure about that. He’d read somewhere that the Japanese could do the most amazing things with a microchip and a bit of latex and after all, thanks to several plastic surgeons there wasn’t much left of the original Stella anyway.

So who knows? If the Bella Bynges of this world have their way it might not be only the Molly’s and Jean’s of this world that face an uncertain future. I just hope they never get the barcode muddled up with the fruit and veg.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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Rita Randall's Rolls Royce Romeo

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, July 10, 2016 06:01PM

‘Did you see that Maureen,’ asked my neighbour Beattie?

‘See what?’ I wasn’t really paying attention. The town hall clock had struck ten, my watch said five to and those little winder things are bad enough at the best of times even you’ve got your glasses on.

Beattie said she’d swear she’d just seen Rita Randall driving by in a Rolls Royce. I said that was unlikely as she didn’t drive. Which was true. She didn’t.

‘Oh that one wouldn’t let a little thing like that stop her,’ Beattie replied. ‘She’d never done tight rope walking either. But she still had a go on her washing line when she thought that chap from the circus was giving her the eye.’

‘Anyway she’s having two weeks holiday in Cornwall,’ I said.

Beattie didn’t sound convinced. And with good cause because by ten thirty Vera Preston was adamant, Lila Morris was convinced and Beattie was subjecting me to one of her very superior smiles which left Hilary Mason to say that all she’d ever come back from Torquay with was a stick of rock and a chalk ornament.

‘Unlike your trip to Lanzarote,’ said Vera although Hilary still argued that was to do with the cheap panty liners she’d bought in Puerta del Carmen.

However Vera chose to believe otherwise. Considering she’d gone to the expense of replacing both of her toilet seats as a precaution she remained true to her own version of things, namely gynaecological and probably contagious.

Hilary’s attempt to deflect the focus of attention away from herself by saying, as I had done, that Rita didn’t drive only brought forth two very different but simultaneous versions of the tight rope story from Beattie and Lila. Granted they both mentioned the washing line but in Lila’s version the man in question was a lion tamer and in Beattie’s much louder retelling he was the bloke who collected the tickets at the entrance. However they did both concur that he must have been desperate as despite all her backcombing and seamed stockings the much married Rita Randall was long past her sell by date.

‘Excuse me,’ said Vera, ’she’s a year younger than me!’

Unfortunately as we all just looked at her and nobody spoke it was probably just as well that Rita came bowling through the door of the Silver Lantern café when she did otherwise we’d still be sat there. Dumbstruck.

Now whether Rita had come home with a stick of rock she never said but she had indeed ridden down Biddermouth High Street in a Rolls Royce.

‘His name’s Alf and he’s seventy three,’ she said, resplendent in the sort of frock that always looks better on somebody younger. ‘And oh what a gentleman he is. You know we still haven’t had sex. None of that ‘two gin and tonics and eyes down for a full house’ malarkey with my Alfie. He said that’s because he wants his first time to be special.’

‘And he’s seventy three,’ said Hilary.

‘And a gentleman Hilary Mason, not something you’d know too much about by all accounts. Just think all those years he’s been saving himself for the right woman. And here I am eh? Oh I have had a wonderful holiday,’ Rita continued and although Alf may not have taken her to paradise and back he’d done the next best thing and taken her to restaurants, shows, dress shops and cocktail bars yet still found time to buy her ‘this’ from the best jewellers in Torquay.

Vera took a close look at the large diamond ring and said Rita was lucky to get the original as she was sure she’d seen something very similar on the shopping channel.

‘It must be worth more than all your other engagement rings put together,’ added Lila who had once said that Rita had been engaged so often anymore and she’d run out of fingers.

Not that they were officially engaged Rita said but Alf was picking her up later to whisk her off to a life of luxury evermore in his seven bedroom residence deluxe in Cheshire. Beattie doubted out loud that there could be such a thing that far north unless he’d bought three terraced houses and knocked them into one but Rita shut her up with a photograph.

I have to say it wasn’t the most attractive house I’d ever seen but looking at it I could well believe Rita’s story that it contained gold plated taps in the shape of dolphins.

‘And we’re stopping off to meet his mother,’ she said.

‘And he’s seventy three,’ repeated Hilary although by this time nobody was listening to anything except what Rita was going home to pack for her one way journey north.

‘I think I’ll take my old fur coat just for now,’ she said. ‘And if you want to meet him he’s picking me up at four,’ she added. ‘In the Rolls Royce.’

Well after the lion tamer who might have been a ticket collector and hot on the heels of an industrial waste executive who’d turned out to be a refuse collector it would be wrong to say we weren’t curious. In fact we were so eager that by three forty five we were outside Rita’s and scanning Palmerston Terrace in both directions. And, surrounded by all her worldly goods in various suitcases and carrier bags, so was Rita.

By four fifteen we were still waiting and by four thirty we headed home because it was pouring with rain.

‘I’ll send you my new address,’ shouted Rita from under her umbrella as we dived for cover through our respective front doors.

Sadly she was still at the old one the following morning. No sign of Alf and no phone call.

Still as Rita said later, wearing her bravest and most colourful face, sometimes you’re better off with bog standard chrome plating and leaving the dolphins where they belong. Because chances are there’s still plenty more fish in the sea.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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Biddermouth Euro 2016 Rout

July - August 2016Posted by Ian Ashley Sun, July 03, 2016 06:38PM

‘Biddermouth Euro 2016 rout’ was how the Gazette described it in its headline the following day. BBC South called it ‘deplorable’ and one tabloid newspaper, for want of a better front page, called it a ‘Brexit Massacre’. Apparently 10,000 Leave supporters clashed with 10,000 Remain voters and 2,000 assorted people from both camps lost shoes, several pints of blood and a few loved ones. Well quite how all that happened when the crowd numbered no more than 200 I do not know. Especially as we were all only there in the first place to watch Biddermouth Ladies FC take on their arch rivals from Curston in the knock out round of the Southern Counties Ladies Football Championships. Mind you we are still waiting to hear what the Chief Constable has to say about it because all we’ve heard so far is that he is still in intensive care but is now able to breathe unaided. And that came in a statement issued by his wife.

Of course the whole town was predicting a win because our local girls had come second in their qualifying group. Only the team from Ditchley had done better. But then most of them hurdle during the cricket season. However even if you discounted Biddermouth’s 45 – 0 victory over St Magdalen’s you have to say our girls did a sterling job. Although according to Bernie Heffernan who runs the Silver Lantern Café had the good Sisters been wearing shorts the score would have been much closer.

Anyway as so often happens on these occasions the day dawned bright and blue, the pitch in Victoria Park was in tip-top condition and being as Lila’s daughter Bez was team captain we’d all agreed to go along and support them. Even my neighbour Beattie came once she’d called the meteorological office to ascertain that her freshly dipped nets were in no danger from a passing shower. Not that she’s interested in football but she did have a new summer frock she was eager to be seen in. Why I do not know. It was exactly the same as the one she’d made last year, and as our friend Vera said, she hadn’t looked great in it then so why bother?

Still it made a nice change to be able to catch up with old friends even if most of them did say Beattie looks better in something with sleeves. Not that she sat with us. Somehow she’d managed to worm her way in with the Mayor and his party. We ended up next to Delia Cartwright’s Madrigal Society with their farthingales and fruit cup who for some reason thought singing ‘Hey Nonny No’ in a six part harmony was just what the crowd wanted to hear. It wasn’t and I think that might have been where the trouble started. Not that Vera will ever admit to pouring half a bottle of gin into their punch bowl, especially with the Chief Constable’s life still hanging by a thread. But Lila swears that’s what she did.

Now I’m not sure what the Curston girls do during the off-season but I know two of them have coal rounds which must keep them pretty fit and even the married ones jog in all weathers. But that said the two teams seemed evenly matched and shook friendly hands when Bez Morris won the toss and decided to kick off first.

Balls were flicked, passed and headed. Whistles blew. There were groans when Curston took an early lead followed by cheers when Bez unleashed her right foot from the halfway line and powered an equaliser into the net. And beyond. Although to give the Lady Mayoress her due that unexpected header drew a big roar from the crowd.

Of course when it’s still 1-1 in the second half things are bound to get a bit fraught. Some of the girls took to spitting because that always seems to help in professional games and there was a bit of injury time allowed for the adjustment of sports bras. And it was probably this that gave the Curston captain the feeling of invincibility when she took Bez clean off her feet with a very vicious tackle and hoped the referee wouldn’t notice. Only he did. Out came the yellow card and that’s when the chanting started.

I’m sure it was all good natured. To start with. And would probably have stayed that way had there not been an undue amount of hair pulling around the goal mouth during a Biddermouth corner. Somebody yelled ‘foul’, somebody screamed, somebody else got smacked in the mouth and Bez managed to get her nemesis into a very nasty headlock. Knees connected with noses, blood began to flow and I suppose the full effects of Vera’s gin must have started to tell on the Madrigal Society. Otherwise they’d never have started chanting ‘Come On If You Think You’re Hard Enough’, surely?

As you can imagine the Curston supporters weren’t about to be brow beaten by six middle aged women in Elizabethan costumes. They swarmed on to the pitch and Biddermouth, led by Delia Cartwright, followed suit to the sound of Rule Britannia. Lila rushed in to defend her daughter. Vera ran after her because she’s her best friend. The Mayor appealed for calm over the tannoy system then screamed for the fire brigade when somebody set light to the mayoral gazebo. And somewhere in the middle of all this was our Chief Constable who’d only gone to the match because his press adviser had told him it would be a great photo opportunity.

Incidentally if you have bought tickets for ‘An Evening of Elizabethan Delights’ don’t worry. It will still be going ahead. Our Madrigal Society may have to wear electronic tags for the next six months but I suppose that’s where a farthingale really comes into its own. As for the two teams, well Ditchley have suddenly found themselves propelled into the quarter finals without even having to kick a ball.

To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE

All stories in The Biddermouth Gazette ©Ian Ashley 2016

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