Sammy The Cat Memorial Lecture - May
Sammy the Cat was a wily beast and by hiding behind the hedges he
witnessed trainee gamekeeper Will Grundy secretly trading surplus game
birds direct to passing poachers. For this, he suffered the animal
version of the old Ambridge murder-method-of-choice, Death By Armchair.
He may officially have been found “curled up near some pheasants” but
it’s a racing certainty that on his final day, 12 sad years ago, Peggy
Woolley’s beloved pet was smothered by having a pheasant carcass pressed
into his furry little face by Will. Disposal of the murder weapon was a
synch – Clarrie cooked it in a pie. As far as we know her appalling lack
of basic hygiene standards didn’t kill anyone else on that day.
Sammy’s mistake was to be caught snooping. I’m avoiding a similar
fate to his by watching Ambridge through the late Phil Archer’s old
telescope which Daniel – so keen on astronomy NOT - consigned to the
local tip the moment Phil was tepid in his grave. I’m up in the old
tower of the Borchester Asylum, next to the lumber room where Matron
keeps the patients’ gin supply.
I can see all the way to Websterbridge from here. It’s a recently
discovered new town, probably unearthed by the fracking going on beneath
Borsetshire. Websterbridge seems to have little to offer other than
cash-and-carry warehouses and a selection of cheap hotels where you can
rent rooms by the hour if you want to Entertain A Friend.
Turning the telescope to the view over Ambridge, I see Tracey
Horrobin putting up the hanging baskets at her spruced-up tenancy and
thinking about her landlord’s demand that she must find a way to
compensate him for the fact that she installed a whole new bathroom
without bothering to ask for permission. She’s not sure what he has in
mind but he’s helpfully emailed a link to the Agent Provocateur website,
the page with the basques and stockings.
At Bridge Farm, the year has mostly been about full-fat yoghourt,
sausages and gloopy pork ready-meals. If Tony hadn’t been eating the
family products he might well not have keeled over in the milking
parlour. From up here in the Tower I can see Richie Rich, Sharon and a
surveyor pacing out the size of the land. Sharon is telling her boy,
“One day son, all this will be yours..” Putting Tony in charge of the
office computer means that day is likely to be sooner rather than later
as frankly, the man would have trouble working a digital watch.
Brian, meanwhile, is sinking a Scotch outside the Bull, bemused and
distracted from his great dairy scheme after witnessing Adam and Ian
cavorting naked in their hot tub. He is a man not averse to a spot of
extra-marital and now he’s allowed himself to be tempted by Ian’s
delicious scones, anything could happen..
Down on the recreation ground, next to the bit where the guerrilla
gardening project has turned to thistles and brambles, Molly and Tilly
Button are tap-dancing at a frantic pace. The Button mother has said
they’d be perfect for a remake of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? And
Molly – who takes things as literally as only a nine-year-old can, has
got her eye on Shulugh’s nags in the adjoining field and is wondering
which one to pick off first.
Over at the forge, Alice Carter is lying on a heap of straw reading
50 Shades of Grey and idly toying with a hot branding iron. Next time
she goes all leather apron and no knickers, she’ll make sure it’s when
her mother is out at Underwoods. Though I hope we don’t get to hear the
goings-on as the last time Chris had her bent over the anvil, the NHS
direct helpline almost collapsed under the weight of people phoning in
to describe symptoms of overwhelming nausea.
As dusk falls, Sabrina Thwaite rolls up the mat on which she has been
sunbathing topless in her front garden. Across the green, my telescope
has picked up a gathering of a dozen fat badgers intent on finding a way
to destroy the new Brookfield slurry pit. Avenging their cruelly
murdered colleague has been sweet and rewarding and came close to
destroying the cow-owning tradition of the farm for once and all. Sadly
they were scuppered by the interference of The Consultant – a cute
teenage girl in a tiny skirt who had a very quick look at the green
stuff and told Ruth and Dayveed that yes it IS grass and they can keep
the cows. Sadly neither she nor the know-all Peep suggested any of the
profitable alternatives British farmers are going for: no plantations of
fancy walnuts, no acres of solar panels, no wild flower meadows, no wind
farm. For this lack of “service” Brookfield had forked out serious
folding money. Still, better than getting in BSE Andy whose visits tend
to result in extra human livestock.
The view from this Tower is excellent but there are things I can’t
see – I don’t see Brian taking his epilepsy tablets or Clarrie washing
her hands. Nor do I see Ruth checking that it really is Phoebe that Josh
is spending many hours per night Skypeing. Fat Daniel is clearly not
sticking to any kind of diet, though his dad must be tempted to bet even
money that this sudden interest in Shifty the cricketer will encourage
the boy to slim down a bit.
Looking through the vicarage windows I don’t see Usha telling Alan
and Amy to stop wailing and get over it, we’ve all had the odd dodgy
I can’t see anything bigger than a squirrel roaming in the woods
either. Possibly because Dayveed has been out in the small hours with a
I shall now go and take advantage of Matron’s gin supply. As I shut
down the telescope I can just hear, from the open door of the Brookfield
kitchen, Rooth shouting those ever comforting, yet at the same time
terrifying words to her family: “There’s pizza in the Aga.”