Previously in Leeford Village: Frank insists that David should continue as Chair of the Anti-Bypass Protest Group, and Ken Taylor can’t contribute to a sit-down protest due to a medical condition. Jasmine is upset, Derek’s attitude changes, and Agnes still doesn’t know what Jasmine’s problem is. Mel, staying at the Thornton’s flat, opens her heart to Cody. Jason Owens decides that he can now tell the story that will change Leeford forever.
‘He’s good, David, damn good – got me off a speeding charge last year.’
‘What were you doing, Frank?’
‘Going to visit friends in Worcester.’
David looks at the man who should have been chairing the meeting earlier in the evening, but he, David Ward, is the Chairman. Not Frank Watson.
‘No, Frank, I mean how fast were you driving?’
‘Ninety in the outside lane of the M5 – just past the M42 intersection.’
‘Bang to rights, I’d say. How on earth did he get you off? Oh, what did you say his name was?’
‘Cecil – Cecil Blameworthy.’
‘Blameworthy? Last time I read my thesaurus, that was another word for guilty! Anyway, how did he get you off?’
‘My friend in Worcester needed help. He’s diabetic, and I collected his insulin for him.’
‘No, it was all rubbish, but they fell for it. Brilliant, he is, Cecil.’
‘Okay, so he’s coming to see us both tonight. Here, in the Cross.’
‘Speak of the devil, David, he’s here.’
‘No, Agnes. Not now.’
It’s the first time that Derek and Agnes have been alone together, and the atmosphere cools further.
‘This is our chance to talk,’ says Derek.
‘You make it sound like a threat.’
‘I’m sorry you feel that way, Agnes, but I can’t believe you haven’t said anything to Cody. Jasmine says you can help us, but we know that Cody will be the one in control.’
Jasmine comes back into the room as Agnes seems to gasp, open-mouthed, unable to speak.
‘Everything alright, you two?’
‘I’m trying to get this straight with your mom…’
‘Derek,’ Jasmine snaps, ‘I haven’t told her yet.’
‘Told me what?’ bristles Agnes.
‘For God’s sake,’ says Derek, ‘you’d better tell her everything.’
Agnes raises her hand as if asking permission to speak.
‘All I know, Derek, is that the child I abandoned all those years ago is now back in my life. You are aware that we’ve come into some money – Jasmine will have told you – and she has said that she’s desperate for help.’
‘I’ll explain, Mom, but we do need the money.’
‘I don’t understand, love. You say you both have good careers, and you have a lovely home. You don’t seem to be short of money.’
Derek leans forward in his chair.
‘Sorry, Agnes, I thought you knew what it was about, but one thing you need to know – I’ve got a well-paid job, but the company are getting rid of me.’
‘Redundancy. But I’ve only been with this firm for eighteen months, so I’ll be lucky to get anything.’
‘Jasmine, what is wrong, love? Are you ill? Is there something wrong with Kim?’
‘No, Mom, we are all well, and Kim is lovely, and she was a beautiful baby, but she’s not Derek’s.’
‘Oh!’ Exclaims Agnes. ‘But what’s that got to do with Cody and me? You know what I mean. I sympathise, but what’s the money got to do with it?’
‘I want another baby. This time with Derek. I had an affair, and it didn’t last, and Kim was the only nice thing to come out of it.’
‘IVF treatment?’ says Agnes.
‘Yes,’ snaps Derek, ‘I’ve got a few, shall we say, medical problems, and we can’t afford IVF, but we’re desperate.’
‘How much?’ asks Agnes.
‘Five thousand each treatment, and up to four sessions, so we need up to twenty thousand pounds.’
‘So, Cecil, introductions over, tell me and David about the legal side of protesting,’ says Frank.
Cecil coughs, wipes a bead of sweat from his brow and takes a sip of orange juice.
‘Under the Public Order Act of 1986, you have the right to protest in public.’
‘But can we be arrested?’ says David, butting in.
‘Yes, if you threaten anyone or use abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or if disorderly behaviour causes alarm or distress.’
‘Sounds like Ken and Cody.’
‘No need for levity, David. So, Cecil, can you help us?’
‘Frank, we’ve known each other a long time. Have I ever let you down?’
‘Well, there was that time…’
Cecil, seemingly out of character, thumps the table, glares at Frank, then speaks directly to David.
‘Two pints then? I’ll get them in.’
As Cecil goes to the bar, David lowers his voice to speak to Frank.
‘Strange chap, isn’t he? How can he help us?’
‘We’ll consult him every step of the way, and we must try to keep the lads under control.’
‘Again, you mean Ken and Cody,’ says David.
‘And a few others, following them like lost sheep.’
‘Of course, Frank, we’ll have to put things on hold for a day or so.’
‘It’s the Weston trip tomorrow.’
Frank looks down at his drink. He hasn’t been invited, and wouldn’t go if they begged him.
‘There are more important things in life than a boozy coach trip with a bunch of rowdy, middle-aged men.’
‘Try and tell that to the lads, Frank.’
‘I’ve done what you suggested, Jason.’
‘What’s that, George?’
‘I’ve made two lists for tomorrow’s trip. One for us, one for the girls.’
‘Let’s have a look. Everyone paid their subs?’
‘All the lads except Ken. You know what he’s like,’ says George.
‘The girls?’ asks Jason.
‘Only Vera has paid the full twenty quid. All the others put down deposits – five quid each. They said they’ll pay the balance as they board the coach.’
‘Let’s hope they do, George. We shouldn’t let them on if they don’t cough up.’
‘Are you going to enforce that, Jason?’
The brothers glare at each other as George passes the lists across the table.
‘Not bad,’ says Jason, ‘thirty-four in a fifty-two seater coach. At least we’ve broken even.’
The atmosphere cools between the brothers as a certain team spirit emerges.
‘I suppose you’re right, and if the girls weren’t coming, we’d be putting our hands in our pockets to make up the shortfall.’
George Owens, Jason Owens, Cody Thornton, Ted Coleman
Revd John Peterson, Steve Adams, Allen Gomez, Gary Carr
Simon Brown, Zack Peterson, Dr Jeremy Roberts, Suptra Singh
Nick Allthorpe, Jack Simmons, Frank Reed, David Ward
Nigel Cleeve, Adam Stringer, Ken Taylor, Doug Taylor, Roy Cohen.
Sally Coleman, Hilda Peterson, Mel Adams, Amanda Roberts
Ethel Lucas, Jessica Townley, Amanda Smythe, Tricia Ward
Vera Cleeve, Lucy Stringer, Violet Taylor, Mandy Cleeve, Meredith Park.
‘Crikey, George, there could be fireworks on this trip!’
‘Do you mean Cody and Meredith sitting together, with Agnes away?’
‘Maybe, but just look at the possibilities: Steve and Mel Adams, and Suptra! Wow!’
‘See what you mean, George. And there’s another friend of Cody’s - Miss Smythe!’
‘Oh, I forgot to say, just seeing Ethel on the list. Edward will be joining us at Weston - he doesn’t live too far away. He’s looking forward to seeing Ethel. It will be a surprise for her.’
The new day dawns.
‘Here it is lads! The coach is here!’
George Owens has been waiting outside the library in Market Street for an hour, leaving nothing to chance. In the last twenty minutes, his travelling companions (the males of the species, at least) have arrived in their twos and threes – Cody, Ted and the Reverend John Peterson turning up looking like a twenty-first-century posse, but with bags instead of horses and other cowboy paraphernalia.
Then, Jason, Steve Adams, and the nemesis of Vera Cleeve, the apparently much-changed Allen Gomez. Linda is with him, holding onto his arm as usual, but she’s not going. She likes her man to enjoy himself, have his own circle of friends and do some ‘male bonding’. The rest of the men arrive with ten minutes to go. The coach must leave at 9.30 a.m.
9.26 a.m.: like a Martian dust cloud looming on the horizon, it is spotted by the men at the rear of the coach. ‘What is it,’ they cry, or they would if they hadn’t already sunk two cans each of John Smith’s. As the image draws near, it becomes clear. All of the women, four abreast (they would be thirteen abreast if the road traffic wasn’t in the way), descending upon the men-laden coach. Destination Weston-Super-Mare.
‘Where have you been?’ shouts Jason.
‘Organising ourselves!’ bellows Vera.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘You’ll find out,’ Vera replies, as she is the first to climb onto the coach, bang on 9.30 a.m.
‘Sorry we’re on time!’ Sally calls out from the rear of the line, sarcastically.
They all board the coach, one by one, but refuse to sit down, so Vera is now standing at the back, with Sally (sandwiching eleven other ladies) in a similar vertical position at the front, glaring at the perplexed driver. He decides to keep out of whatever is going on, So George and Jason try to stand up to deal with the situation.
‘No,’ says Vera from the back. ‘Don’t bother yourselves! Stay seated, you’ve got a long journey. We’re off!’
‘What do you mean, “off”,’ asks George.
‘You can stick the twenty-pound note I gave you wherever you want – you’re welcome to it – and the twelve fivers! We’re not going anywhere. So, lads, have a nice time. See you tomorrow!’
At that, Sally leads the troop off the coach, leaving Vera to exit last, with the boys waving goodbye to twelve times fifteen pounds.
‘You can’t do this,’ says Jason.
‘We just have,’ says Vera. ‘You didn’t want us to come in the first place. So you’ve got your wish. Bye lads.’
The girls head back to the cosy arms of the Cross, where Sally has prepared a sumptuous buffet brunch.
The coach driver speaks for the first time. ‘Weston, lads?'