"That horse has put on a fierce gallop out of the CEMETERY. ROADs round here aren't used to that sort of thing."
The horse was trying to break FREE. HOLDing back the reins had little effect, but Jane was putting the HEAT ON. PARK Street seemed a world away, and she was making a NEW BOLD attempt to get home. Somehow she managed to stay on its back.
The horse ran past a local ECCLESiastical institution, well-known for its long serMONS - ALL Souls Church. It was a VICTORIAn edifice; on top of the tower was a very ornate CROSS. A CRESted bird sat on top of that, as a weather-vane. The weather vane was pointing EAST. DID S. BURY, canon of the church, know about the chaos going on outside?
A member of the congregation emerged from the church, and watched the horse in aWE, A STEely gaze in his eyeS. A LEngthy sermon had left him exhausted, and he sat on a nearby BENCH. "I'LL find some peace here, perhaps," he said to himself. BURYing his head in his newspaper, he sniggered with sCORN. "'BROOKside' may be returning to our TV", he read.
"Not my favourite old soap opera", he thought. "I much preferred 'Eldorado'".
But then, as he gazed on in wonDER, KERfuffles broke out amongst the onlookers around him.
"Who let that horse run free around here? It's a danger to NAVIGATION! ROAD traffic won't be able to find its way aROUND.”
"THORNy problem, horses in traffiC. RUMP'S ALL in the face of the driver behind.”
"I lecture at the university. I'll never forgET I HAD CAMPUS disruption once when a horse was let loose. The students almost rioted."
Meanwhile, far away from all this commotion, in a scoutmaster’s house, a new house-keeper was getting to know her boss’s likes and dislikes.
“What would you like for dinner?” asked Crystal.
“Er, cOLD HAM. CENTRAL to my diet, ham, you know”, said Richard.
“You want cOLD HAM? KING STREET butchers sell ham – should I go and get some?”
“I normally use McCann’s, but I’m happy to try somewhere new.”
“Okay!” said Crystal. “I’ll go out and get some cOLD HAM.”
“P.S. – would you like mustard with that?”
“Er, yes please, thanks Crystal. Sorry, I’ve just been distracted by someone coming up the path.”
Richard’s mother rang the doorbell.
"I see you have a new housekeeper, Richard. Is the young LADY WELL?”
"Indeed. Mum, this is Crystal.”
"I knew the last one wouldn't last long. My intuition never FAILS.”
"WORTH ran off with her. You know, that policeman I invited round to dinner.”
"Why were you inviting the police around? Was he from Special BrANCH, OR A GEneral enquiry officer?”
"I spilt some honey in the roaD. AN 'E' ROAD as well - one of the major Euro-routes. It caused a major traffic jam.”
"Well it's just as well you weren't carrying a load of amMO, OR ROADs round here would be impassable!"
Richard carried on chatting with his mother whilst Crystal popped to the butcher’s. Before long she was back, declaring her trip was obviously successful: “AbracadABRA – HAM!”
“MOSS has disappeared!” said Richard’s mum. “Crystal, you’re doing a real good job here. Last time I came round, there was moss growing on the window lEDGE.”
“LA NEutralisa!” said Crystal. “It’s one of the best moss-removing cleaners around! Doesn’t the window-ledge look as good as NEW?”
“HEY-ho, it does indeed! Before you came, the ledge looked like it had a permanent SHADOW. MOSS tends to have that effect. But now, well, I’ve never seen anything so WHITE.”
FIELDing more and more compliments, it appeared Mrs Bromley was really warming to Crystal.
"Did you study at college, Crystal?" she asked.
"Yes, English Literature. AUDEN, SHAW - they were my favourites. TIM PERLEY was my lecturer. He used to work at the Department of MEDIA, CIT.”
"YUK! That's a terrible place. How did you get on with him?”
"Not very well. I really wanted to write a noVEL.”
"O, PARK that idea. There are too many aspiring novelists around."
I really like the novels of MARTIN S. CROFT", said Crystal. "Almost as much as I like Auden and SHAW.”
“AND CROMPTON is another author to be recommended. I recently picked up a novel of his at the book EXCHANGE.”
“QUAYside Book Centre, perchance?”
“That’s the one, down by the HARBOUR. CITY centre bookshops have nothing compared to this out-of-town gem. Isn’t it in a nice location between the water and our two beautiful parks? I went there last week because they were having a SALE. WATER, PARKs, and a good bookshop all in the same area. What more could one want?”
"It's lovely. Have you met the manager, Chester CLAYTON?”
"HALLowed be his name! He's a good MAN, CHESTER. AIRPORT novels aren't his sort of thing - he'll only sell serious fiction, not books full of sLANG.”
"WORTHY of a medal in my opinion."
Just then, they spotted someone else walking up the path, wearing a bright red hat, with a yellow pomPOM ON. Another ring at the doorbell, and Mrs Bromley answered this time.
“Greetings,” said the visitor, in a husky voice. “I’m BESS ESOTH – BARNstaple born and bred. Is this the home of Richard Bromley?”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Bromley. “I’ll just fetch him. That’s a beautiful hat you’re wearing I must say. And your voice is very – ‘deep’”
. “Ah,” said Bess. It’s been like that since I had the sEX-CHANGE.”
SQUAREly, Mrs Bromley looked at Bess, and thought she recognized her.
"Weren't you once known aS AL FORD? QUAYSide worker? Or perhaps it was AL TRINCH. AM I getting confused?”
"I don't really like to talk about that part of my life. I live up in Scotland now - Blair AtHOLL, IN WOODen lodges. It's a very simple existence."
“I bet it’s lovely up there,” said Mrs Bromley.
“Indeed”, said Bess. “I hire the lodges from a local bagpiper. He just loves his pibroch music. The lodges are built of the neWEST WOOD, chopped from the splendid local FIRS.”
“WOODen lodges are wonderful. I must go and stay in one myself. What’s the name of your friend, the one who plays pibROCH?"
“DALE. RAILWAY STATION is very near to the lodges, so it’s not difficult to get there. I’ll give you Dale’s card… …here you are, he’s simply known as ‘PibROCH DALE’."
“TOWN CENTRE far away from the lodges?”
“Pitlochry’s your nearest town – just eight miles away. It’s a super place, though the accent takes a bit of getting used to. Even the cows have a distinct NORTHERN ‘MOO’. Really, though, it’s a great holiday location. In fact, this is why I’ve called. Mr Bromley’s scout troop are planning a holiday up there in the summer, and since I happened to be down SOUTH, CHAD DERTON my host suggested I came and met Richard face to face.”
“Well, let me fetch him for you – er – what’s going on outside?”
The last thing Mrs Bromley expected to see was a horse galloping towards the house.
“Get out of the way, or we'll all go for a BURTON!"
ROAD traffic was once again held up outside the house. There were jams stretching all the way to NortHOLT. TOWNsfolk were furious, and at the local MARKET, STREET traders packed up and fled.
"Don't panic," said Bess. "I'll just give its nose a ruB."
ROADWAYs in the area instantly started to clear as the horse obediently came to Bess and stopped.
"That's amazing," said Mrs Bromley. "How did you do that?”
"I have an natural empathy with animals," said Bess, looking in the horse's noseBAG. "ULEY in Gloucestershire was where I learned to calm horses. You never know when it might come in useful."
“Oh, Thank you!” said Jane, dismounting from her trusty steed. “I thought he wouldn’t stop!”
“Jane!” said Richard. “I’m surprised to see you turning up on this – new form of transport. Where’s your car?”
“Well, it’s been interesting trying something NEW. I SLING TONs of dirt in the windscreens of cars behind me when I ride this thing. Oh Richard, you’ve got to help me! I was as good as kidnapped by Beck Enham – you remember, Syd’s mum? She insisted I went junction-spotting with her.”
“Junction-spotting?” enquired Bess. “This isn’t the crazy Beck I used to know in Barnstaple when I was a young lad called Albert?”
“You know her?” asked Jane. “She started this crazy hobby in Exeter, so it’s very likely.”
“Has a particular taste for rodents?”
“The very same! Well, she lives in London now, and is married to a reasonably sane bloke, with two er, interesting children. I met her recently, and she dragged me out on a junction-spotting expedition to Waltham Abbey earlier. Only before we got there, we, er, ‘had an accident’. She’s stuck on a traffic island.”
“Oh, Beck,” said Bess, “Well do I remember her! There were six of us. Me, bRAD, CLIFF, Eric, Mitch and Beck. She took us out on one of her expeditions, to Lynmouth, and the experience scarred us all for life. I remember her saying, in a manner which was very brASH: ’T ON / UNDER LYN East River’. Confusing, to say the least! So, she never grew out of it” said Bess. “Well, you know. It sounds like she needs our help.”
"I'll see if she's tried to contact me," said Jane.
She switched on her phone and read a text message: 'Site of crASH: 'T' ON MOSSley Street. Escorted by police from crASH TO N. WEST.'
"She's with the police. What can we do?”
"I'll drive you up there," said Richard. "Did she say where?”
"Somewhere north-west of Mossley Street. That's all I know.”
"We'll find her."
At that moment, PC TRAFFORD BARlow was asking Beck a few questions.
"You say that your friend suddenly cracked and seized the steering-wheel. Where was this?" asked PC BARLOW.
"MOOR ROAD, I think," said Beck.
"And where is she now?”
"She went into a cemetery, then vanished.”
"So the scent just went cOLD?" TRAFFORD asked, a little sceptically.
"I couldn't contact her. She switched her phone off. No idea how she got out of the cemetery."
PC Barlow sighed. It had been a difficult day. First the runaway horse and now this. And when he thought the day couldn’t get any stranger, he then spotted the contents of Beck’s lunch box. A rather damP EEL! HALLucinating? He must have been!
“Excuse me, Mrs. Enham, but you wouldn’t have been eating elvers today, would you?”
"Of course - the food of QUEENS. ROAD junctions can be hard work to spot - I need plenty of nutrition.”
"You spot junctions too? I thought I was the only one. Have you got the definitive guide by ROBIN S. WOOD - 'ROAD Junctions of Britain'?”
"Of course. Never go out without it. There's the other one as well by ChriS HUDE - HILLary, my daughter, gave it to me as a birthday present.”
"That's amazing. I go through the alphabetical index - I've done all the ones WITHIN 'G' TO 'N'. I started when I lived up in Nottinghamshire, in EaST RETFORD."
Just then, who should turn up? It was Alan. Seeing a policeman questioning a lady, he suspected he must have found the right place. When he heard them discussing junctions, he knew for certain. He introduced himself to PC Barlow and Beck.
“Jane phoned and told me everything,” said Alan. “I thought I’d come to give moral support. She’ll be along with some friends soon.”
“How did you get here?” asked Beck.
“I came by Tube; took the PICCADILLY. GARDENS were lovely along the line to Oakwood.”
“What were the junctions like?”
Before Alan could come up with a suitable response, Richard’s car turned up at the scene, along with Jane, Mrs. Bromley, Bess, and Crystal. They approached from the WEST. DID S. BURY realise what was going on as he walked home from his church?
They got out of the car and introduced themselves. As Beck shook hands with Bess, her mood suddenly changed. Memories came flooding back as she recognised this person standing in front of her from her Devon days. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
“Albert!” she said.
“Well Beck, I actually now go under the name of…”
“Albert! You broke my heart. Remember Lynmouth? The day we…”
“I’m trying to put the past behind me. That’s why I’ve had a, er…”
“And that’s why I’ve taken to consuming lots of, er…”
It seemed apparent that certain events many years ago had scarred these two people very badly, and they’d each dealt with it in their own way. Could they now face their past lives, with a little help from their friends? Fortunately, there were a couple of folks around from that most wonderful of organisations – the Women’s Institute!
For Beck, it was a sensitive toPIC. "CAD! I'LL Yet get my revenge. You broke us uP."
"REST!" W.I. CHarm was all that was needed as Jane skilfully defused the situation. She had always been a sheet anCHOR.
" 'L' TO 'N' was the section I had most trouble with," said PC Barlow, not sure what to make of the situation. Suddenly he received a phone call.
"Hello, this is eD ROYLSDEN, from the solicitors NEWTON, HEATH AND MOSTON. I'm speaking on behalf of my client Mr Coomaraswamy, who is a TaMIL. 'N' ROW at the football stadium is where I'm speaking from.”
“Oh yes,” said PC Barlow. “How may I help?”
“You know Mr Coomaraswamy owns the office block along the KING’S WAY? BUSINESS PARKing has just been approved on the road outside the front of the building. I wanted to let you know, in case you see anyone parking there illegally.”
“Oh, thanks very much Ed!” said PC Barlow, spotting something out of the corner of his eye. “Er, sorry, something’s come up, gotta go now.”
“Not a problem. Bye bye!”
For by another local church there was commotion. Nothing like it had ever been seen around ST WERBURGH’S. ROADs around the area were gridlocked, as that black horse was back in the area again. And this time it was being ridden by one George Varley. As the horse arrived, it leapt over a small BROOK.
"LAND, Stallion!" shouted George. It obediently stopped outside the police station. Jane rushed out to meet him.
"What a surprise, George!" exclaimed Jane. "You've got far better control of that horse than I ever had."
"Well, I learned a thing or two from Valerie BOWKER. VALErie trains horses near where I live."
Just then, a gentleman walked along wearing a dog-collar. “Ah,” said Jane, “A man of the cloth! SplenDID!”
“S. BURY – VILLAGE vicar!” said the gentleman. “I’ve heard all this commotion with the horse going on for the last couple of hours. Seems like there’s been an incident. Can I help at all?”
Jane explained everything.
“Well,”, said Rev. Bury, “I’ve just preached a sermon on forgiveness. A bit too long and wearying, maybe; one of the congregation fell asleep. But I’m fresh on the subject at least. Could I have a chat with you and Mrs Enham?”
They all departed to one side.
“Listen”, said Rev. Bury. “The Women’s Institute are a wonderful organisation, and do many great things. But sometimes a little more wisdom is needed. I can summarize my hour-long sermon in two minutes.”
Jane and Beck listened intently.
“Basically, we’re all individuals with different quirks, and that variety is what makes life interesting. But often, our strange quirks can irk those around us, even our best friends. Especially our best friends in fact, because they feel it most. Because of this, we are very prone to harbouring grudges. But you know, these grudges weigh down on us, and become very heavy to carry.”
No sign of anyone falling asleep during this sermon…
“The important thing is, we need to forgive each other regularly, since we upset each other so much. And it’s often very hard to forgive. But you know what? When you do, these huge burdens of guilt and grudges are lifted from us, and we feel a huge release!”
Jane and Beck’s faces were brightening; something was happening.
“And”, continued Rev. Bury, “when you make this a part of the way you live day-to-day, life becomes so freer and more enjoyable. I have a term to describe this kind of lifestyle.”
"What’s that?” asked Beck.
Rev. Bury smiled, then after a short silence, he replied, “Travelling Light!”
After a few minutes, Rev. Bury, Jane and Beck returned, bright smiles on their faces…
“Well everyone”, said Jane. “You’ll be pleased to know that I take full responsibility for the accident. I will pay for any damage caused, and as a form of community service, I shall undertake 80 hours junction-spotting with my new friend, Beck.”
There was a round of applause from the gathered crowd. Tears of joy began to stream down Crystal’s face. “Oh, Jane”, she cried, “that’s wonderful! You really are a credit to the Women’s Institute!”
Beck then went up to Bess. “Er, Albert – sorry, I mean, Bess! I’m so sorry for … all those years ago, well, you er, … you know what…”
“And so am I. I should never have … well, you know …”
The others applauded once again! And Crystal’s tears of joy became a river of rapture.
Then turning to Rev. Bury, Jane asked, “Excuse me, but which church do you minister at?”
“Well,” replied the vicar, “I over see two local churches – All Souls’ and ST PETER’S”.
SQUAREly Jane looked at him, and said “Thank You, Reverend”. And she meant it.
Rev. Bury continued on his way. The vicarage was just over the road, and they all watched as he disappeared through the DEAN’S GATE.
“CASTLEFIELD Street and Enfield Way!” said Jane, pointing to the road signs next to the vicarage. “What a great junction! Shall we go and inspect a little more closely?”
Jane, Beck and PC Barlow all ran down there, like three excited school-children. "Let's form a junction-spotting club!" said PC Barlow.
"Jane!" said Beck, "Can I interest you in a tasty elver?"
"Er, one step at a time, I think!" They both chuckled.
The others smiled at them as they ran off, and looked on in quiet contentment. They then looked at each other, and shrugged their shoulders.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?", Alan asked Crystal.
"Quite possibly!" she replied...
...and they all ran and joined the others! Oh, what a big, happy group of junction-spotters they were!
Just then, another face appeared. Jane was sure she recognized him.
"Hello, I'm Jack WYTHENSHAWE. PARKing round here is impossible at the moment, so I had to walk."
PC Barlow was apologetic. "Sorry, Mr WYTHENSHAWE. TOWN CENTRE was choked up until a few minutes ago. What can I do for you?”
"I believe you have my horse."
It was of course Don, under yet another new alias.
“Ah yes,” said Bess. She whistled. Immediately the horse ran to them. “Oh, they gave me such great horse-training in Uley!” she said.
“Bye-bye Mr. Wythenshawe” the crowd said, as Don mounted the horse. He then sped off at great speed into the sunset.
“So long, friends. Arriva!” Don had always fancied himself with the surname ‘Quixote’…
“What a man!” said Jane. “Umm, what’s that smell?”
They all looked down to see the horse had left an offering on the road beside them.
“Hang on a minute” said Crystal. She pulled a bottle out of her pocket, and sprayed it over the pile. Instantly the area smelt as sweet as honey.
“La Neutralisa!” she said. “Works every time!”
Mrs. Bromley nodded in delight.
“You know?” said Jane to Beck, “Today’s been quite an adventure. And I never knew junction-spotting could be such fun. If you hadn’t have phoned me this morning, I might have just spent the day stuck at … Oh no! Aaagh! I’ve just remembered!”
“What’s up?” asked Beck. “You sound as shocked as you were this morning when we drove past Walthamstow CENTRAL!”
PARKed outside the Waddingtons’ house, Henry was knocking frantically on the door. “Alan! Jane! Where are you?”