Previously in Leeford Village: Vera is upset about Allen Gomez becoming market manager. Gomez decides to install discipline at the market and Vera might have George on her side. Clare, upset with Zack, tells him he can stay in Leeford if he wants to. Jasmine jokes with Agnes about liking Nigel Cleeve.
‘Is that Jasmine?’
She recognises the voice immediately, holds the phone away and takes a deep breath.
‘Hello, who’s this?’
‘Justin. Justin Wilkins. Remember me? You came in for a – ‘
‘Loan. Yes, I remember. What can I do for you, Mr Wilkins?’
‘Justin, please. It’s…well… I was wondering – ‘
‘You are asking me out for a drink, is that it?’
‘Yes, well, what do you think?’
There is a pause while Jasmine considers this opportunity. He’s good-looking, loaded (he must be, he’s a bank manager), speaks sort of nice, and he’s… available.
‘Not at the moment, Justin. Maybe some other time. Look, I’ve got to go. Sorry.’
The line goes dead before he has chance to respond.
Agnes frowns as she picks up the box and numerous cables that Cody has left strewn over the sofa.
‘Have you finished installing them yet?’
‘Still in the testing phase, my love.’
‘Testing phase? What is this, Mission Control?’
Cody gives her one of those looks. The one that says: look Agnes, I’m not a child, and I’m not stupid. You might think I sit around all day drinking pale ale and watching old Morse episodes, but I’m not going to respond with a sarcastic comment. I’m the boss in this establishment, but I’ll let you think you wear the trousers. Okay?
‘You may think that, I could not possibly comment,’ he says.
‘Have it finished before our next shift, Cody, or you’ll need Mission Control to bring you back to earth!’
‘Yes, love. Anything you say.’
Agnes scowls as she places the packaging and various accessories on the coffee table.
‘And don’t leave it all on the sofa where we have to sit!’
The last word, he thinks. She always has to have the last word. Mind you, she is wearing trousers at the moment.
Agnes mutters something unrepeatable under her breath, then pauses and turns her head to one side.
‘Can you hear that beeping sound?’
‘Nope. I can hear you and the traffic noise in the street,’ replies Cody.
‘It stopped for a minute. There it goes again. What is it?’
‘No idea, love.’
I’d swear I heard a beeping noise, she thinks.
‘What’s this, son?’
‘Job application form,’ says Zack.
‘Let’s see. Assistant to Leeford Market Manager (part-time). You’d be working for Allen Gomez!’
‘My dear father, as the vicar of this parish, I thought you’d be a little more Christian about it.’
John Peterson wants to question Allen’s morals, but his son needs to make his own decisions. His own mistakes. You might regret this, Zack. Allen is a shyster, and I can’t see him changing any time soon.
‘Yes, you’re right. Maybe our Mr Gomez has turned over a new leaf. But, dearest son, what happened to your university options, and your music?’
Zack pauses, lowering his eyes. ‘What is it, Zack? Is this about Clare?’
‘You can see right through me, can’t you Dad?’
John nods, then smiles. ‘Right through that lovely stubborn head of yours, because you are just like me.’
‘Stop it Dad, we’ll be hugging in a minute. But you’re right, the job will be ideal for me – only three days a week. I’ve already spoken to Allen and he’s advised me to carry on my education part-time. All I’ve got to do is fill in this form and get it back to him by the end of the week.’
John raises his hand as if looking for permission to reply.
‘What do you mean? Banfield College? Doing what?’
‘No, he’s suggested the Open University. Business Studies. I can study when I want and I’ve worked out that I can spend two days a week in Manchester.’
‘If she’ll have me.’
Allen slumps onto the sofa as Linda prepares his tea.
‘Beans on toast okay for you? How many beans do you want on your brown sauce?’
‘Just the tin full, sweetheart,’ he replies.
The grin on her face widens. ‘You’ve never called me that before.’
She clicks the kettle and sets the grill to medium before sliding down the side of the sofa onto his lap.
‘What are you after?’ he asks.
‘Nothing really… except, you know that Sherry is looking for a job – a worthwhile job – and you need an assistant.’
‘Would you consider Sherry?’
‘Linda, I’d love to help, but it’s like this…’
‘Okay, Vera, what is it you want to say?’
George has led the other market traders (except Allen, of course) into The Cross at lunchtime, leaving a reluctant Jason to cover all the stalls in their absence.
‘We’ll only be twenty minutes,’ George had told his brother.
Vera carefully places her glass on the beer mat and stands to address her colleagues.
‘Thank you, George. I appreciate your undying support and it’s nice that we are all of one mind.’
‘That’s a matter of opinion,’ says Ken.
Ken and his son, Doug, run the fruit and veg stall two days a week, and Ken certainly does not feel ‘of one mind’ with Vera Cleeve. However, she might find a close ally in Jack Simmons.
‘Oh, I don’t know, Ken. Let’s hear what she has to say.’
‘Thank you, Jack. Let’s get on. I’ve called you all together –‘
A disruptive cough from Ken. Vera continues. ‘As I said, I’ve called you all together to suggest what we should do about our new market manager, Allen Gomez.’
‘We don’t want any trouble, Vera,’ says George.
‘Don’t you remember what he told you about inter-stimulation?’
‘Don’t you mean insubordination?’ queries Doug.
‘Whatever it’s called, we need to show him what we think of him!’
Ken Taylor can never resist the odd flippant comment. ‘We could do with a bit of stimulation round here, eh, Vera?’
Vera coughs, and reddens slightly. ‘Well, this is what I propose.’
There’s a smile from Ken, who gets an elbow in the ribs from his son.
‘I propose that we go on strike!’
‘What?’ they shout in unison.
‘Are you ready for this, Ethel?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘You do love me, don’t you?’ Edward asks.
Ethel slides across to his side of the sofa, placing her hand on his knee. She then kisses his cheek with the lightest of touches.
‘What do you think?’ she says.
Edward smiles, and reluctantly changes the mood.
‘Suppose we need to go through this form then.’
‘Read it out to me, Edward. Just the main bits.’
He adjusts his glasses, coughs, and starts to read aloud the six-page document.
‘Marriage in church after divorce – form and explanatory statement.’
‘Sounds formal,’ says Ethel.
He coughs again, pushes his glasses further up his nose and continues.
‘The church believes that marriage is for life, blah, blah, blah. Oh, it says here that the parish priest is allowed to make the decision. That’s not what John told me. It goes on to ask us when our relationship began and have we learned from previous marriages. Basically, we need to fill this form in and hand it to John Peterson, and I have to prove that I am actually divorced. The form asks us where we worship. I haven’t been for years. Have you?’
Ethel frowns. ‘I go occasionally.’
‘Weddings, funerals and baptisms.’
‘Yes, of course, I’ve been to those, but, I mean, you know, actual regular services.’
‘Not really, Edward. Will it make a difference?’
‘We might have to go a bit to, you know, show willing. Hang on,’ he says, jabbing his finger at the document, ‘it states that the parish priest “may also choose to share it with the diocesan bishop”.’
‘Edward, you’re going to have to take this up with John. He did say that he would marry us in church if it were up to him. Didn’t he?’
‘Cody, what is that beeping noise?’
‘I can’t hear anything.’
‘It’s stopped now, but I think it’s coming from the hallway.’
‘No, my love, you’re hearing things.’
‘Yes, I know. That damn beeping noise.’
‘Is it there now?’
She walks towards the kitchen, shaking her head. It happens again. She spins round and marches into the living room. Cody has his feet up and is watching an old Morse episode.
‘There it is again. Can’t you hear it?’
‘Agnes. You must get your hearing checked.’
Again, she walks away, but stops in the doorway.
‘Did you finish setting up the new phones?’
‘Yes, love. One in the bedroom, one in here and the base station and main phone in the hallway.’
‘Aah,’ she says. ‘Where did you put the old phones? You know, the ones with internal batteries that you can’t remove? The ones that have that annoying infernal beep when they’re not connected to the base?’
‘Aah,’ he says. ‘In the hallway cupboard. Is that what the noise is?’