Previously in Leeford Village: At the fête, Cody and Agnes re-declare their love for each other, while Jasmine and Kim decide to move to Leeford. Frank Watson announces that the bypass is not going ahead. Jason tells Cody that George Dennis was an SS officer, but swears him to secrecy. Edward Palmer is to return to Leeford, and proposes to Ethel at the fête.
On the Staffordshire border – the bit that peeks down towards Worcestershire and is sandwiched between Shropshire and the West Midlands – you can take a left turn off the A road that stretches from Stafford to Worcester and you will find yourself in a little village by the name of Leeford. The left turn is just past Taylor’s Farm, home of the first ‘King of the Cucumbers’, Ken Taylor, farmer of this parish. Violet, the farmer’s wife, is very proud of the prize he has received from parish council leader, Frank Watson, at the inaugural Leeford Village Fête. Not so much his son, Doug. At thirty-ish, he still lives with his mom and dad, and, more like a teenager, embarrassment is his overriding feeling.
Leeford Village has seen many characters – some have passed through the village, leaving their mark – and each one has their own peculiarities. None more so than Vera Cleeve. She still keeps gnomes – she loves them – but works harder these days to stay on the right side of the law. Two ships that passed through the village were the half-Swedish Martin Frobisher and his girlfriend, Gail Perkins, both now ensconced at His Majesty’s pleasure. Suptra Singh and Clara Dennis also had a brush with the local constabulary (the drama of the ring in the bag) but they survive to continue as mainstays of the village.
Cody, Agnes and Meredith. Now there’s a love triangle that actually never was. Well, only in Cody’s mind. His mid-life crisis had to be on hold as realisation dawned that the birthday card-selling Meredith Park did not fancy him (chip shop owner and wife of the enigma that is Agnes Thornton), but his son, Adam. We also had a hero in our midst – Doctor Jeremy Roberts (husband of the beautiful Amanda) who saved dear old George Dennis on the night of the Great Flood. Possibly something more akin to a genuine love triangle is the story of Allen Gomez and Linda and Sherry Cross. They worked for him in the launderette. Sherry, the younger of the two sisters by six years, always fancied the man of ambition, Allen, who also runs a market stall, but Linda pounced, and won.
Vicar’s son, Zack Peterson, and his girlfriend, Clare, toyed with the idea of playing in a rock band, but eventually found that forming a duet suited their personalities. Zack once had a run-in with Frank Watson when Zack cheated in the Pound Challenge at The Cross. Frank, much misunderstood, does himself no favours, and few people know the background to the birth of his daughter, Megan.
Ted Coleman and the lads had an inauspicious start to their six-a-side walking football career with a thumping defeat to eleven fit young men – after a huge admin error by Ted. They gradually improved (reducing their weekly opposition to single-figure scores) once they were installed in the correct league - but they still tend to prop up the other teams in the league. Lack of skill, lack of decent equipment and a total lack of fitness just some of the reasons for their paltry collection of points.
Cody tried his best to satisfy both his wife and the other woman he loves, and failed on both counts. Of course, the ‘other’ woman he loves (he still loves the mother of his child) is unaware of his intentions or feelings, and she loves Cody’s son, Adam. His two premium bond wins did nothing to alleviate his position and only served to complicate matters for everyone concerned. Agnes has a daughter – Jasmine – and had omitted to tell Cody of her existence for many years.
After the eventful trip to Weston, the lads split into two protest groups in Banfield and the village. Frank scaled the council house roof to wave a banner and promptly fell, ending up in hospital. Everyone vowed to stick together to beat the council over their bypass plans. In the meantime, Agnes transferred twenty thousand pounds from the joint account she holds with Cody to (supposedly) pay for IVF treatment for her daughter, Jasmine, under immense pressure from Derek, Jasmine’s husband. Agnes was surprised by Cody’s laid-back attitude to her actions, but he had his own way of dealing with it. He employed a private detective, accompanying her to Leeds to confront Derek. They put pressure on him by threatening to report him to the Fraud Squad, but it was all over for Derek. Jasmine and her daughter, Kim, have left him to go to Leeford to be with Agnes.
All manner of things have happened in Leeford. Jessica and Nick had a baby boy, Thomas, assisted in the delivery by three pub regulars. Ethel had told Edward that she wouldn’t marry him so he moved to Devon, and Cody discovered that Agnes had once been a stripogram. John Peterson, the vicar, temporarily lost his faith and threatened to quit, which would have meant his family losing their home. Zack’s friend, Simon, helped him to change his mind. Jason Owens continues to research the lives of the villagers in preparation for the novel he intends to write. Clara and George left the village to live in Devon. Frank Watson battled with bribery and corruption at Banfield Council and committed to saving Leeford from the impact of the bypass. Also, he started to prepare for the second Leeford Village Fête, combined with a folk festival organised by Jessica Townley.
Jasmine and Kim are now living with Agnes and Cody. Adam has made room for them by making the inevitable move to be with Meredith. Cody, unable to comment on this development, has mixed feelings. However, he likes Jasmine and has really taken to the little girl he considers to be his granddaughter.
‘Derek has agreed to sell the house, Mom. We’ve already got someone interested.’
‘Oh, Jasmine, I’m so pleased. I thought he would hold things up.’
‘Not if I have anything to do with it!’ pipes up Cody.
Agnes turns to him, eyebrows raised.
‘What was it you said to him?’
‘We just put him straight on a few matters. He understood our point of view, if you see what I mean.’
‘I don’t care what you said to him, Dad. He deserves it. He forced me to try to get that money from you and Mom.’
Jasmine pauses, her face reddening slightly.
‘It’s okay, darling,’ says Agnes. ‘I love it when you call Cody “Dad”. You’re part of our family now. So is Kim.’
A house has become available in Banfield Avenue, near the entrance to Spendfields car park, almost opposite Steve and Mel Adams. With her half-share of the house in Leeds and the twenty thousand pounds that Cody insists she has, Jasmine needs a small mortgage. Thirty thousand will cover the shortfall with enough left to cover moving costs, carpets and curtains. Her appointment with Justin Wilkins is at 2.00 p.m.
Allen Gomez doesn’t see much of his boss, Arjun Bandra. He is left to run the launderette in his own way. After Sherry left for the States, he has used agency staff to help Linda, but he’s looking for something more permanent. Allen has heard that Jasmine wants to settle in the village, but these days he involves Linda in any significant decisions.
‘No problem, Allen. She seems really nice. It’s going so well for Sherry in America. I can’t see her needing her old job back.’
Allen is distracted by a call on his mobile from Arjun.
‘I’ve got a proposition for you, Allen.’
‘W-what’s that?’ stutters Allen.
‘Don’t worry. Those days are behind us. All legal and above board. You have ambitions to run the market, don’t you?’
‘Well… yes…’ – not able to elaborate on his desires and dreams as Arjun, in his inimitable style, ploughs on with his own train of thought.
‘I’ve bought all the leases for the market from Banfield Council. I need someone to manage the market for me. Are you interested?’
Silence at one end of the phone.
‘Er, yes, please. I am very interested.’
‘Come and see me at the office. Ten o’clock sharp tomorrow.’
Jasmine has been pointed in the direction of the local bank by Cody. Justin Wilkins helped Cody and Agnes through the difficult years when obtaining credit from suppliers became difficult. Justin believes in their business and Cody will always recommend him to people who need advice and support. Cody has also offered to use the fish and chip business as collateral for the loan Jasmine is looking for.
‘Mrs Grendel. Lovely to meet you.’
‘Oh, please, call me Jasmine.’
‘Jasmine it is. Coffee and biscuits? I always partake in the early afternoon.’
Jasmine sees something in his eyes, the shape of his chin, the way he unbuttons his jacket as he sits down. He offers her a seat by his desk with a subtle sweep of his hand.
‘I have no more appointments this afternoon, Jasmine. Oh, and call me Justin. I’m all yours. What can I do for you?’