Previously in Leeford Village: After Cody’s big win, Agnes suggests a cruise (or a car), but she hides a secret. Frank is unsure what to do about being offered a seat on Banfield Council, then calls John Sotherby. Suptra tells Ethel that he has fallen in love.
Two years before she met Cody, Agnes was going out with Kelvin. Her relationship with the young man was never destined to develop into a conventionally stable situation - marriage - but, on occasion, passion did get the better of them. Pregnancy was not something that the young Agnes had planned for (or considered), although she had dreamed of having a family of her own from the day she held her Tiny Tears doll in her arms on Christmas morning, 1972. She has since reflected that dreaming of having one’s own family contrasted with the reality, technicality, responsibility and the travails of pregnancy. The timing was not good for the young woman, but anything other than having the baby was against her principles - and those of her parents.
‘Kelvin must do the right thing,’ said her father.
‘We’ll help you all we can - you don’t need him,’ said her mother, consigning Kelvin to history.
Once her parents had had time to discuss the matter - without Agnes - her mother said one word. ‘Adoption.’ Her father’s instinct was to persuade the young man to marry Agnes and look after her, but he conceded. They knew a social worker who would help. It seemed easier in those days.
Agnes went on an ‘extended holiday’ with her mother, as the time drew near. Finally, they welcomed into the world a beautiful baby girl. Jasmine.
Agnes held her baby for three hours until ‘they’ took Jasmine away. No one in the village knows about this. Cody does not know that the girl he married has a daughter. Over the years, whenever she had time to herself, Agnes researched and confirmed facts about Jasmine. She knows where she lives and who adopted her. Only recently has Agnes been in touch, and she discovered that her daughter needs help.
‘John. Frank Watson. About your offer…’
‘Frank, I’m so pleased you’ve come round to my way of thinking…’
‘No,’ interrupts Frank, ‘you don’t understand.’
‘You’re turning down this golden opportunity, Francis?’
‘John, I don’t see this as a golden opportunity. I’ve got my principles, my grandfather taught me that. By the way, no one calls me Francis.’
He pauses and can hear Sotherby’s breath.
‘I’m turning down your wicked scheme.’
‘I love this village, and, yes, I’m ambitious, and would love to be elected as a Banfield councillor, but not like this.’
‘You’re going to regret this, Watson!’
‘Maybe, John, but I have self-respect, and I will fight for this village. We’ll all fight you.’
The line goes dead. No response from John Sotherby MBE. No response from a senior local politician who has attempted to corrupt a man who, to date, has not secured the love and respect of the villagers. If only they knew how the real Frank Watson operates. If only they knew the real Frank Watson.
Blissfully unaware of Frank’s deliberations, Cody and David are in the Bypass Protest Office. Cody wanted to call it the Bypass Office, but David Ward thought That ’B.O.’ might attract the wrong sort of helpful comment. The B.P.O. is, in fact, the ‘Snug’ at the Cross pub. Three pints in, the discussions turn decidedly left-wing.
‘Where do we start?’ asks David.
‘A march,’ says Cody.
‘Where from, and come to think about it, where to?’
Cody sniffs, lifts his glass and takes another sip.
‘The “to” bit is obvious - the Banfield Council offices, and we’ll start from where they’ll probably start digging. Top of Spring Hill. They’ll stick a dirty great island there. Mark my words.’
‘Do we get the press involved?’
‘You bet we will,’ insists Cody. ‘We’ll leave that to the man with the relevant experience.’
‘Who’s that, then?’
David has heard about Ken’s so-called TV experience and still has his doubts. However, he doesn’t want to do it. David is happy to follow Cody and his hare-brained schemes, as long as it saves him work.
Frank breezes through the front door of the pub, aiming for the bar and Ted, who, like Pavlov’s dog, automatically reaches for Frank’s ‘special’ tankard.
‘What’s this then, lads?’
‘Some of us are actually doing something about the bypass, Frank,’ snaps David.
‘What do you mean by that?’
Cody looks up at Frank.
‘You must admit, you are a bit pally with the Banfield Council mob.’
‘I don’t know what you mean!’
His face reddens, a single bead of sweat drips onto his nose. Once again, Frank feels misunderstood.
‘I, I… oh, never mind!’
Frank returns to the bar, collects his drink (lovingly prepared by Ted), and shuffles to another table.
‘What’s up with him?’ mutters David
‘Don’t know what it is, David, but something’s happened.’
‘What was that?’ says Pippa, straining her ears across the floor of the post office. ‘Who mentioned Edward and the BBC?’
‘Like a bat,’ whispers Vera, ‘but to be fair, she’s got the gist.’
‘Yes, Pippa, it will be a bit of a shock for Ethel,’ says Mandy Cleeve, always willing to help things along.
‘But what happened? He’s not, you know…’
‘Oh, no, he’s fine!’ exclaims Mandy.’ I have a friend who lives in Bristol, and she was watching BBC South West, you know, the teatime programme - like we get.’
‘And?’ says Pippa, trying to squeeze every ounce of information from her friend / customer / local spy.
Her spy continues. ‘She tells me that he was sitting there, in the studio, on one of those red sofas, looking very smart in his tweed jacket. The BBC fella, the interviewer, introduced him.’
‘We already know his name,’ snaps Pippa.
‘We thought so, but he was introduced as Doctor Edward Palmer.’
‘Could he look at my knee?’ enquires Pippa.
‘Not that sort of doctor. He’s an expert in - hang on, I wrote it down - “social mobility in Victorian Britain”,’ replies Mandy.
Pippa’s face lights up. I can say I used to live near a local celebrity, she thinks. ‘Does that mean he’s got a TCP?’
‘I think you mean PhD, Pippa,’ says Mandy, doing her best not to smile. ‘Some sort of historian, or an expert on how we used to live. That sort of thing.’
‘We’ll have to tell Ethel,’ declares Vera.
‘Maybe,’ says Mandy, ‘but we don’t want to jump in and upset her. She’s been through enough lately already.’
‘Have I now?’
In their excitement, they haven’t noticed Ethel joining the queue.
‘What have I been through, and what shouldn’t you tell me?’
The good people of Leeford have many distractions. Some are due to their personal circumstances, some are imposed upon them. The impending bypass will, eventually, capture everyone’s attention, but for now, Suptra cogitates about his romantic concerns, Agnes agonises over whether to let Cody into her long-held secret, Frank Watson must gain support for his current battle with the Council, and Ethel will continue to spend lonely evenings wondering what life would have been like in Devon - or her preferred option of Edward living with her in Leeford. Ted Coleman and Frank Reed look forward to next season with hope - and a sprinkling of trepidation - but at least their players can start to walk again. Both Jack Simmons and Jason Owens intend to write books, the Owens brothers still worry about the ladies hijacking their Weston trip and the ladies firm up their plans for their practical joke.
The Revd John Peterson is back in the fold, Mel is out of her fold, on the instructions of Steve who is threatening to ‘sort out’ Suptra. Simon and Zack prepare (or should be preparing) for exams which may or may not send them to the colleges of their choice, and Jessica is planning the folk festival, funded by Arjun Bandra.
All of these things are important to the village, but the occasion that binds everyone together, the event that everyone in the village attends - without exception - is the village fête. This year’s event is only the second in the history of Leeford Village. Many hope that Agnes will not feel the need to voice the lyrics of Dolly Parton, Vera Cleeve wishes for better luck in the Biggest cucumber / marrow / tulip competition (delete as appropriate) and Frank Watson prays that Vera Cleeve does not enter the Biggest cucumber / marrow / tulip competition. John Peterson and Nick Allthorpe are quite happy when Frank is too busy to bother with the fête planning, and they begin to accelerate their preparations. The only confirmed event so far is Jack’s Find the ancient helmet buried in the vicar’s garden competition.
Through all that, village life goes on, but it seems that Agnes Thornton has some urgent business away from Leeford.
‘What, go away on your own?’ asks Cody.
Agnes hesitates before replying, holding her breath just for a second. Not long enough for Cody to notice.
‘Just to recharge my batteries,’ she replies.
Agnes waits for Cody to resume his ‘frying and battering’ duties, as he calls them. Her mobile phone seems to feel hot to the touch for Agnes. Hot in the sense of dangerous. She knows she is taking a big risk, but dials the number. Five rings, six, seven. As she is about to press the red ‘Stop’ button, the call is answered.
‘Hello,’ says the voice of a young woman.
‘Jasmine, my darling girl!’
'Mom, have you told your husband about me?’
‘No, but I need to see you.’