Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Eight

This is the twenty-eighth part of a fiction serial, in 862 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

That was the longest day of my life. Norma put a pillow over Gregg’s head so we didn’t have to look at his face, but I couldn’t even stand to be in the room with his dead body. I retreated to the bedroom, jumping at every sound from outside as I was sure it was the police coming to arrest us both. Norma came up to offer me lunch, and I looked at her as if she was crazy, shaking my head.

How could she eat?

By the time it began to get dark, I had managed two cups of tea, and started to get the shakes. I knew the time was approaching when we would have to complete Norma’s plan, by dumping Gregg’s body somewhere in the Country Park. By eight, I was dressed, but I confess that I hadn’t had a wash or cleaned my teeth. Anything normal seemed abnormal, and I was astounded by how calm Norma was. I started to wonder if she had done something similar to the man who abused her in Bristol.

When it was close to nine, I went downstairs. The tailgate of Norma’s car was already open, and she had a picnic blanket ready to cover the body. I was shaking with fear. What if we got stopped by the police? It might just be something routine, or a blown bulb in the car’s lights. They might want to look in the back, and I knew I would never hold it together in the presence of cops.

What really surprised me was how light Gregg was. She grabbed him under the arms and told me to take his legs. I averted my eyes from his face and looked down at the path as we carried him to her car. It was easy to roll him in, and Norma quickly covered him with the large tartan blanket. Then she went back for his overnight bag, and placed the empty tablet bottles inside. I was amazed at how cheerful she seemed. “I have done all the washing up while you were in the bedroom, and brought a cloth to wipe down my car. There will be no trace that he was ever in here”.

On the drive to Branscombe Hall, I was thinking about the numerous times I had been up at the house, and how tonight’s trip could not have been more different. We passed a few cars on the way, and I winced every time I saw headlights approaching, expecting the blue lights and sirens of police cars.

Norma drove past the sign advertising the luxury apartments and golf course, the turned left past a more rudimentary sign announcing the building of a Country Park for public use. The pedestrian pathway had been laid, and was just wide enough for one car. It had started to rain as we left my house, and by the time Norma stopped the car, it was torrential. She removed a large torch from the door bin, reminding me yet again just how much forward planning she had done. “This looks like a good spot”.

With hoods up against the downpour, we followed the beam of her torch to a junction where the pathway turned right past some immature trees. The corner plot had been excavated, creating what seemed to be destined to be a grassy mound. Piles of lush grass turf stood next to the hole, and in the light of the torch I could see that the hole was filled with mud and water. Norma spoke loudly above the noise of the rain. “This is perfect, lets go and get him”. She left the torch at the edge of the hole and we went back to the car. Once again, she was showing her nack for this sort of thing.

“Not the travel rug, that mustn’t be found. Just Gregg, and his overnight bag. With any luck they will never find him, but if they do it will look like he had already taken an overdose and just fell into the hole”. We lifted him out of the back of the car, and Norma placed his bag on his chest. As we made the few steps to the edge of the hole, Norma actually smiled at me. “When we get there, one swing and throw him in face down”.

His body hit the mixture of rain and sludge, and there was a sucking sound as it disappeared under the surprisingly deep water. Norma dropped the bag on top with the zip open, and stood shining the torch on it until it also vanished.

Back in the car, she turned off the torch and smiled again.

“When they start work tomorrow, they will push that huge mound of dirt into the hole, then lay the grass turfs on top. I’m betting nobody will think twice about a body being in there. Right, I will drop you back at your house then go home. This rain will cover our footprints and tyre tracks”.

It was only when I went to bed that night that I started crying.

Unknown London

Away from the main tourist spots, London hides some little-known secrets. I found photos of some of them.

The Flat House. Thurloe Square, Kensington. To squeeze the square against the railway line, but keep the architecture consistent, the builders had to make this last house in line wedge-shaped. View it from the right point, and it looks like it’s about to fall down.

The Trompe L’oeuil Houses, Paddington. Nos 23 and 24 don’t exist, despite being decorated with proper window and door frames and balconies. The windows are only painted on because there’s nothing behind: the ‘houses’ sit over an Underground railway.

The Giant Plug, Ganton Street. This plug serves no purpose, and is either an advertisement for an electricity supplier or an art installation.

London’s oldest surviving house, Cloth Fair. First lived in during 1590, this house survived the Great Fire and WW2. Though slightly modernised, it is unchanged in style.

The oldest shopfront, Artillery Lane. Unchanged since 1756, nobody is sure what was originally sold here.

The Roman Bath, Strand Lane. It’s a National Trust property which is the remains of a Roman bath. To see it, you press a light switch on the outside wall and peer in through a grimy window with a grille.

Vauxhall Bridge Statues. If you look over the side of the otherwise unremarkable Vauxhall Bridge, you see eight large female figures depicting the arts and sciences that adorn the upstream and downstream sides of the bridge. One holds a palette and a little sculpture of a person, and Miss Architecture 1906 holds a model of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The South London Submarine, Mostyn Gardens, Camberell. This a vent for a boiler system below, and it was designed to look just like a submarine.

The Bermondsey Tank, Mandela Way. A developer bought a triangle of land, intending to build on it. However, the local Council refused planning permission for any permanent structure. To show his anger, the man imported a genuine Soviet T-34 tank from Czechoslovakia, and dumped it on his land.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Seven

This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 806 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd, for the use of her photo.

Sharing my bed with Norma felt strange. She slept like a log, but I had an unsettled night. Part of that was worrying that Gregg might wake up and come upstairs, but I was also irritated that Norma had not mentioned anything to him about the money, and him leaving the county.

The next morning, I woke up with a start, and checked the clock on the radio alarm. It was almost nine, much later than I would usually sleep. Norma wasn’t in the bed, so I got up to see where she was. I could smell coffee wafting upstairs from the kitchen, so followed my nose.

Norma was sitting in the armchair, holding a cup of steaming coffee. Gregg was still out of it on the sofa, no more than I expected. I went into the kitchen and poured myself some coffee from the machine, then went back into the living room determined to wake Gregg and discuss the money. As I walked over to shake him, Norma spoke quietly.

“Leave him, Alicia. He’s dead. I checked twice, and he is gone”.

I didn’t quite drop the coffee mug, but splashed some of the hot fluid on my foot. Ignoring the pain, I put the mug down on the table and walked over to grab Gregg’s shoulder. It was stiff, and stone cold. As I turned round to look at Norma, she was holding up three brown plastic tablet bottles. She shook them, to show me they were empty.

“One full bottle of sleeping tablets, and two bottles of high-strength Diazepam. I made sure to tell him to bring them when he came to stop over, so he would be calm. I took them out of his overnight bag when I got it from the car, crushed them up in the kitchen, and put the lot into the Vodka I gave him to drink. It was the only way to stop him, he was never going to leave you alone. He told me as much on the way here in my car. Try not to think about it, you are not involved, it is all on me. But you will have to help me later, when it gets dark”.

You might think I would be outraged. Angry at Norma, reaching for the phone to call the police. I was certainly shocked, as I realised why she hadn’t mentioned the money. All of that so-called plan was to keep me onside, as she knew I would never agree to killing him with an overdose. My knees buckled, and I sat down heavily on the floor, shaking. But I can tell you now in all honesty that the main feeling I experienced was relief. As for Norma, she was as cool as a cucumber.

“Rigor mortis will go away after twelve hours, then it will be easier to move him. The boot of my car is big enough, but I can’t carry him on my own. He has lost weight, and is not that tall anyway, so I am sure we can manage him together. That Country Park development at Branscombe Hall will be the best place to leave him. They don’t work on Sundays, and the path is already laid so we can drive up there. I reckon twelve hours from now will do, but meanwhile we have to sit it out, and you have to stay strong”.

She had it all planned. I was impressed by her cold and calculating manner, but also afraid. Did Gregg tell anyone he was coming here? Would anyone report him missing? One good thing was that back then almost nowhere had CCTV. There would be no record of him being picked up by Norma near the bus station, or wherever he bought the flowers. If he had just left his room without telling anyone where he was going, it could feasibly remain a complete mystery.

Almost an hour passed before I spoke to her, and I hadn’t touched my coffee. She waited until I said something, then made what sounded like a speech.

“Why do you think I never married, Alicia? It was because of someone like him, that’s why. I had a relationship with a man in Bristol when I was in my teens. It was all about control and violence, and it took me far too long to get the courage to walk away and move here. There was no way that I was going to sit back and watch all that happen to you, you deserve better. Call the police if you want, I will understand. I will tell them I did it, and you had no idea what was happening”.

It didn’t take me more than few moments to decide not to call the police.

The First Sunday Musings For June

The weather has dominated the week, and not in a good way. The eastern side of Britain was stuck under a cloudy low pressure system, with chilly winds coming from the north. As a result, we had overcast days that felt decidedly cold, with temperatures rarely getting above 10C even in the late afternoons. I managed to wear shorts all day, but had to add layers in the evenings. It felt more like early March than late May, and by Wednesday I seriously considered putting the heating on.
Fortunately, the cold spell broke yesterday, and we had a sunny day with a top temperature of 18C. That’s more like it!.


I spent some time clearing the patio of detritus and weeds during the week. I could only manage half of it, due to the necessary bending. I was helped by Ollie of course, who assisted by walking through the piles I had carefully swept up. One delight was the appearance of a Robin. He happily hopped around no more that a foot from me, feeding on the small insects disturbed by my endeavours.

Talking of Ollie, his waxy ears have still not cleared up. Twice this week I have had to squirt ear wash into his ears to stop him shaking his head uncontrollably. Then the sudden change to warm weather yesterday exhausted him on his walk, and he slept for hours after eating his dinner at 2:30pm.


The year seems to have passed by so quickly. June already, and it only seems like a few weeks ago that I was putting away the Christmas tree.


Whatever you are doing this Sunday, I hope it brings a smile to your face.


More British Art Deco And Modernist Buildings

I found some more!

A platform shelter on the London Underground System.

The 1930s Abbey National Building. Brighton, Sussex.

Hotel Monico. Southend-On-Sea, Essex.

An Art Deco Cinema in Dudley, West Midlands. (Shortly before demolition)

Smart Art Deco apartments in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex.

The Rotunda Restaurant. Brighton seafront, Sussex.

A large house in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The Ocean Terminal. Used for cruise liners in Southampton, Hampshire.

A fully restored Modernist house in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex.

A newly-built house and plans, North Norfolk, 1933.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Six

This is the twenty-sixth part of a fiction serial, in 791 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Gregg handed me the flowers and tried to lean in and kiss me. I turned my face away and his kiss glanced across my cheek. Norma handed me one of the bags, “Better dish up the fish and chips while it’s still hot. I’m just popping back to the car to get Gregg’s overnight bag”. I walked into the kitchen with the food and the flowers, ran some water into a bowl in the sink and rested the bouquet in there. The plates and cutlery were already laid out on the table, and I told Gregg to sit down.

Norma came back inside, closed the door, and placed the overnight bag by the stairs. The atmosphere was awkward, to say the least. She broke the silence. “Gregg’s been telling me about his new job, it seems to be going well”. I looked across the table at him. He had lost weight, and had dark circles under his eyes. His clothes were unironed, but seemed to be clean at least. There was something about his eyes I didn’t like, and I avoided his gaze.

It was resentment, that’s what I could see in them.

He only ate half the meal before he started talking. “You know I’m sorry, Alicia. I am going to get help, see a counsellor or something. Once i get some cash behind me in this new job, I will be able to get out of my rented room and find somewhere better to live. Then when I get my driving licence back next year, they might train me up as a heavy goods driver, and that is even better paid”.

This was the perfect time for Norma to talk about us giving him money. I didn’t reply to Gregg as I waited for her to bring up the subject. But she said nothing. So I told Gregg I was pleased for him, and that training to be a lorry driver might work out well. I would have liked him to apologise specifically for hurting me physically, but it seemed he wasn’t going to do that. Norma cleared away the plates and came back from the kitchen with a bottle of wine and some glasses. She poured drinks for me and her, then turned to Gregg with a smile. “What about you, Gregg? I have some Vodka in the kitchen?

That was his chance to turn down a drink, and tell me he was going to give up his drunken ways. But he didn’t of course, he just nodded.

Suggesting we sit on more comfortable furniture, Norma came back with a glass containing a large measure of Vodka. She sat next to me on the sofa, and Gregg took the armchair opposite. I was getting frustrated that we hadn’t mentioned paying him off, but I trusted Norma to choose the right time. Meanwhile, Gregg waffled on about how he was going to change, save money, and eventually hope to be accepted back by me. I wanted to tell him he was delusional, but sat in silence. Every time he finished his drink, Norma took his glass into the kitchen and topped it up. We still hadn’t finished one glass of wine, and he had easily had four huge Vodkas.

His voice started slurring as he went right back to our first date, his time in The Falklands, and how badly he felt he had been treated by the Army. I had heard it all before, and kept looking round at Norma to will her to mention the pay-off. But she didn’t. I was very worried that he would turn violent once he started talking about Julian Branscombe, but for whatever reason he chose not to mention him.

Just after nine-thirty, it looked to me as if Gregg was going to drop off to sleep. Norma walked across the room and shook his shoulder. “One more drink, then I will get the sofa made up for you”. She went to the kitchen and came back with more Vodka. Obviously sleepy, he downed the drink in one and sat back in the armchair, his head lolling around. Norma indicated that I should get up, and she made up a rudimentary bed on the sofa with one pillow, a sheet and blanket. Hauling him up out of the armchair to his feet she helped him over to the sofa. He flopped out on it and went to sleep immediately, still wearing his shoes.

Confused, I whispered to Norma about the fact she hadn’t mentioned any money. As she switched out the light she didn’t look at me as she replied.

“That can be sorted out in the morning. Let him sleep”.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Five

This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

At the time, I thought Norma’s plan was pretty lame, and couldn’t see it working. But then I had no idea about the ace up her sleeve that she didn’t want me to know about. There was something very calm about her that night, and that transferred to me. She went over it again.

“So, ask your dad to use his contacts to find out Gregg’s address. I will drive there and talk to him. I won’t be angry, just let him know that you want to meet him to talk things through. I will tell him you want me to be there in case he becomes violent, and also that he can stay overnight. Sleeping on the sofa of course. I will bunk in with you in your bed in case of any funny business. During the evening, we will offer him a lot of money to leave. It doesn’t matter where he goes, but he cannot stay in this county. Believe me, I will be persuasive. You have money, your dad has money, and for that matter I have savings too. It will be enough to buy him a flat somewhere, and a fresh start away from us”.

When she had left to go home, I was unconvinced. Would Gregg take money to leave me alone and never come back? He might, but I doubted it. For him it was a pride thing, a masculine thing. I was his wife, and as far as he was concerned it wasn’t up to me to say the marriage was over. To humour Norma, I agreed to try her idea, and the next morning I rang dad and asked him to use his Rotary Club or Masonic Lodge contacts to find out Gregg’s address. I didn’t tell him why, and he didn’t ask.

With so many Freemasons in the Police, it didn’t take long. I had the address by three in the afternoon, and rang Norma at work to give it to her. She seemed pleased. “Not sure when it will happen, but I will give you plenty of notice, Alicia. You stay off work until you feel better, let me know if you want me to get you any shopping”.

That Autumn was terribly wet. It rained non-stop for days and I was glad not to be out in it.

I was left wondering just how much money Norma had in mind. In those days, you could buy a nice little house in Essex for thirty grand, probably less for a decent flat. If she offered him fifty to go, we could cover that easily, and he would have enough to get by on for a year if he didn’t find a job. Any more than fifty, and dad would have to dip into his investments. As he was saving those for me, he could be convinced to use them to get rid of Gregg if it came to it.

Late October remained wet and dismal. But I went back to work that month, albeit with this crooked nose.

One afternoon, Norma came into my office, speaking quietly.

“It’s going to be this Saturday. I have arranged with Gregg to come and see you, told him it would be to his advantage, and didn’t elaborate. I am going to pick him up on the slip road to the bus station in Gloucester at six that night. I will get fish and chips on the way back for us to eat, so no need to cook. You have to be strong, Alicia, promise me you will be strong”. I promised.

Okay, I was scared, I admit that. Even with Norma there, Gregg could easily beat up the pair of us if he went rogue. I was trembling all day Saturday, and I didn’t bother to dress up nice or wear any make-up. I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea and think it was all back on. By five-thirty I was pacing the room, even though I knew they wouldn’t be there until around seven. I soon tired of looking out of the front window, seeking solace in a glass of white wine to calm my nerves.

By the time Norma’s car pulled up on the driveway in front of mine, I had the jitters, big time.

He was carrying flowers, and Norma was holding two carrier bags. As they walked to the door, I opened it and stood smiling in the doorway.

But I wasn’t smiling inside.

Retro Music 66

Anyone who has known me all my life will tell you that I am not a great fan of Elton John. I don’t like to watch him perform, as he always seems rather creepy to me.

However, there was a time when I liked him quite a lot, a time before he was as hugely popular as he is now. Prior to his second album release in 1970, it was going to be distributed by the record company my dad was working for at the time. He brought home a sample copy of the single that was taken from the album, and I listened to it carefully. After a few days my dad asked me what I thought of this ‘new singer’, and I told him he was going to be huge.

The single released from the album was this one. It wasn’t a huge worldwide hit, far from it. But definitely a taste of things to come.
(And it is not an Aretha Franklin song, she recorded a cover version.)

Holy Moses I have been removed
I have seen the spectre he has been here too
Distant cousin from down the line
Brand of people who ain’t my kind
Holy Moses I have been removed

Holy Moses I have been deceived
Now the wind has changed direction and I’ll have to leave
Won’t you please excuse my frankness but it’s not my cup of tea
Holy Moses I have been deceived

I’m going back to the border
Where my affairs, my affairs ain’t abused
I can’t take any more bad water
Been poisoned from my head down to my shoes

Holy Moses I have been deceived
Holy Moses let us live in peace
Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease
There’s a man over there
What’s his colour I don’t care
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace

Written by: Bernie Taupin, Elton John
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

Four years later, he released a single that I really liked. In 53 years, these are the only two records of his I ever owned.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twenty-Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 760 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Norma refused to tell me what her idea was, but gave me a hint. “I have a plan, but it involves us meeting Gregg. You have to trust me on this, Alicia”. I told her that I trusted her completely.

With my nose swollen badly, and two black eyes, I wasn’t about to go into work. But I felt that it was time to involve my dad, as I couldn’t allow myself to keep lying to him. On the Sunday, I drove over to the house, and as he opened the door I quickly told him not to be shocked by my appearance. I could have used my key, but felt my injuries were a big enough surprise without just walking in.

During the time it took me to outline everything that had happened with Gregg, I managed not to cry at all. He went from furious to frustrated, but had to agree with me that the police were going to do nothing, given my failure to report him the first times, and his alibi now. Being dad, he told me to take unlimited time off, and to let him know whenever he could do anything to help. He suggested adding better locks to the house, and changing my car so Gregg wouldn’t recognise it.

That seemed very sensible, so I agreed that he would send a locksmith on Monday, and also have a new company car delivered next week, the old one being taken away at the same time. Trouble was, once it was parked outside my house, Gregg would soon work out it was mine. Dad also said he was going to ring a couple of men he knew that had connections with the Council in Gloucester. “See if we can’t make them put pressure on the police. At the very least, they could stop Gregg if they see him driving that Fiat”.

I turned down his offer of moving back into the family home, telling him that I was determined not to let all this nastiness stop me from enjoying my own house. I was actually more worried about him than myself. Although he wasn’t that old, I hated the thought that it would affect his dodgy blood pressure, and give him a stroke, or worse. But he seemed relieved that I had confessed everything to him, telling me that since Gregg’s return from The Falklands, he had been worried about me.

Before I left for home, I hesitated, wondering whether or not to tell him that Norma had some sort of plan to sort Gregg out. But I didn’t tell him, not wanting to worry him further. I got home and didn’t even bother to check the driveway or the house. If he was coming for me, then let it happen. Telling dad had been a weight off my shoulders, and I soaked in the bath that night drinking a large glass of wine and wondering if my nose was broken.

Oh, it was by the way, hence why you can see it is still crooked now.

The young locksmith asked me no awkward questions, but suggested a complete change of locks, just in case anyone had made a copy of the keys. I agreed to all his recommendations, including a mortice deadlock cut into the door at the front, and in the kitchen. There was also a device installed that stopped the metal patio doors being forced open. He said he had been told to send the bill to the auction house, and left me with three sets of keys. I was going to give one of those to Norma when she came to see me.

It wasn’t until the following day that they came with the new car. I was surprised to see what my dad had ordered for me. It was a Ford Capri, but with the large 2.8 engine and fuel injection. I presumed he wanted me to have lots of power if I needed to escape at any time. Compared to my old car, it looked very sporty and swish.

Three days later, Norma came over after she finished work. She brought me some groceries and other things I had run short of, and I cooked us a simple dinner. Once we had eaten and talked about everyday things as well as my new car, she poured me a glass of wine and told me to sit down and concentrate.

“Listen carefully, as we cannot write any of this down”.