Branscombe Hall: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 730 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Because of Julian’s death, things had to be put on hold at the Hall. Technically, we no longer had a contract, so dad suggested we should not spend time or money on continuing the project there until such time as it was confirmed we were still required to sell off the contents.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with Gregg.

Once he had appeared in court and was officially banned from driving, I managed to sell his car back to the dealer in Gloucester. Taking a hit of almost nine hundred pounds on what I had paid for it a few weeks earlier, I just wanted it gone, and couldn’t be bothered to advertise it privately. He was very quiet around the house, and while I was out at work he started to do a lot of gardening around the cottage. I wanted to mention that there was little point in a rented property, but it kept him busy and tired him out.

He actually expressed condolences about Julian dying, but in a way only he could.

“I hated the sight of the ponce, but wouldn’t have wished him dead”.

Suspicion was going both ways. He was quite obviously still convinced I had been having sex with Julian, and I feared that he may have tampered with the sports car. It was a couple of weeks before we found out the circumstances, when dad was contacted by the lawyers for the Branscombe family.

Julian’s car had been going in excess of one hundred miles an hour when it drove into the back of a slow-moving heavy truck along the old A4 road. A post mortem concluded that he had died instantly, sustaining multiple injuries from the impact. More importantly, the toxicology discovered significant amounts of barbituates in his bloodstream, alongside cocaine. So the young Lord had been speeding, in every way possible. A police inspection of his car found no signs of mechanical faults or tampering.

That meant I had been wrong about Gregg being involved. It was just Julian living the carefree highlife that had killed him.

With no legitimate children, and no living relatives, the ownership of Branscombe Hall reverted to Julian’s step-mother, who was the widow of his father, and the only remaining heir. She was very happy in her home in the south of France, apparently being entertained by a succession of young gigolos that she was pleased to fund. The lawyers told dad that she had instructed her agent to sell everything as soon as possible without delay, including the Hall and surrounding land. She had no intention of ever returning to Gloucestershire.

For me, that was tragic. We would have to get everything on the market before the end of the summer, and sell most of it well below true market price as she refused to wait for the excitement to build. We had already raised over one million pounds, including the sales in London, but the rest of the items would go cheaply once the market was aware of her haste.

In the middle of all this, Gregg found himself a job.

Some guy he had met on one of his pub crawls offered him a job with a firm of builders. They would pick him up in a van every day before seven, and drop him off at the end of the working day. They paid cash in hand, weekly. After losing his licence, Gregg had used taxis to take him to and from pubs around Gloucester, spending his pension money and never asking me for a penny. Most nights, he didn’t come home for dinner, but I always prepared him something to warm up.

Now the new job seemed to have given him some purpose. He bought work clothes, and after his first week he gave me eighty pounds. “For my keep, there will be more”. I was pleased to see him taking some responsibility, and even started to share a bed with him again. He began to act like the old Gregg. Fit, happy, friendly, and very interested in sex. I confess I was concerned that he was taking too much Diazepam to calm his moods. But selfishly, I was pleased that it made our life together so much more bearable.

Then one night, he didn’t come home after work.

A Story You Won’t Hear in Florida – #4

This tragic story of the reality of the American abortion ban in some states is one that everyone needs to read. Even if you are not American, similar laws could well be coming to your country. Have some tissues ready, it is heartbreaking.


Well it was a bad week for abortion rights advocates as Republican majorities in Nebraska and North Carolina continued to restrict abortion access.  Have you noticed that nowhere is this issue put up for a vote anymore.  Nah.  Put t to a vote and it gets defeated every time. The pro-life crowd is jubilant, out there saving babies.

So let me tell you a story.  Not too many folks have heard it.  Didn’t get a whole lot of attention.  Particularly here in Florida among the holier than thou crowd.

But it made the Washington Post and then got attention.  And it went down some 40 minutes from my home.

Milo Evan Dorbert drew his…

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Branscombe Hall: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 740 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

Nobody had ever hit me before. My parents didn’t believe in slapping or hitting, and I had no siblings to worry about. I managed to survive junior school and Grammar School without ever being in anything resembling a fight, so the hard slap across my face left me reeling. It wasn’t so much the physical pain, more the incredible shock that I had been hit, and by the man who was supposed to love me.

Perhaps my shock sobered Gregg up. He was immediately contrite, and full of apologies. I remember he cried, telling me he had no idea why he had lashed out. But it was too much for me that night. Ignoring his protests, I packed an overnight bag and left the cottage. Not about to tell my father what had happened, I drove to Norma’s and threw myself on her mercy, making her swear to never tell anyone what had happened. I went to bed in her spare room, but hardly slept a wink.

The next day, I didn’t go to the Hall, as I had to complete some paperwork regarding the silver sale. So I turned up at the auction house late, hoping to avoid Gregg who would have already left on his collections. But his car wasn’t in the staff car park, and when I went into dad’s office he was white-faced. “Close the door and sit down please, Alicia”. I was immediately worried, that wasn’t like my dad at all.

“You have to know that I have sacked Gregg this morning. I don’t appreciate having to find out from staff that he punched Lord Branscombe yesterday. And before you say anything, I really don’t care what Branscombe said to him, I have heard all that from Gregg, and I don’t care. Not only could he have lost us the biggest contract we have ever had, he brought our whole business into disrepute. I appreciate it is going to make life difficult for you, and that you are a full partner, but I am not going to change my mind”.

Although I blabbed on a bit about Gregg being provoked and belittled, I could see dad was resolute.

“My decision is that I will pay for young Adrian to learn to drive, and he can take over the new van for collections. It will be easy enough to get a young and strong school-leaver to work with him, and I know that Adrian would never hit anyone, whatever they said to him. You might want to take the day off and go home. Sort things out with your husband, and see what you can salvage from this mess”.

At least he never said I told you so.

Gregg wasn’t at home when I got there, and there was no sign of his car. At seven that night I received a call from the police in Gloucester. They asked me to come and collect my husband from the main police station. He had been arrested for drink-drive, and was obviously not allowed to drive his car home. I was fuming, and told them to tell him to get a taxi, and I would pay for it when he got home. So now Gregg would get a driving ban, a minimum of twelve months. I would probably have to sell his car, and he was going to be trapped in the cottage with no public transport.

Could things get any worse?

As it turned out, they could.

Suitably shame-faced, Gregg arrived home a little after eight. He mumbled a slurred apology and went straight to bed.

The next morning I left him with his hangover and went straight to the Hall. I wanted to start some serious work on the oriental ceramics, and had my camera with me to photograph them. The housekeeper told me that Julian Branscombe had left late the previous evening, telling her he was going back to his London flat. I was so relieved that he wouldn’t be around to gloat about Gregg once he found out about the drink-drive arrest.

Busy with the cataloguing, I hadn’t heard the phone ring in the main house. Then the housekeeper walked into the room, looking shaken.

“It’s master Julian, Mrs White. He was killed in a car crash last night on the A4 near Slough. I don’t know what to do now”.

More May Musings On A Sunday

Such a quiet week last week, I have very little to report.


Weather news is good though. A mainly dry week, with temperatures creeping up, the mud drying out, and being able to wear shorts every day. Ollie has responded to the warmer weather by spending time in the river to cool off most days, and the buzz of insects has increased each day.


I drove to the Vet in Swaffham on Thursday to collect Ollie’s monthly supply of Arthritis tablets. Once again, the price has increased. Every month since he was prescribed them, they have increased slightly. The first batch cost just under £39, and this week that had gone up to £52. Nothing ever goes down in price, does it?


I hope that you are all having a nice Sunday, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing.


Unusual Historical Photos: 1890s-1960s

Some more old photos found online that appealed to me.

An early type of SCUBA diving equipment, 1940.

Native Americans of the Blackfoot tribe photographed in Glacier national Park, 1913.

Learning to drive in a static driving school. Kenya, 1943.

Two circus performers ride a tandem bicycle. One man was born with no arms the other with no legs. 1896.

Mount Rushmore, before and after the famous carving.

Lumberjacks pose on a huge pile of trees that they had felled by hand. New York State, 1907.

Anne Frank relaxing on holiday before WW2. 1939.

American soldiers about to land on a North African beach during Operation Torch. 1942.

Archaeologists in Ukraine excavating a 15,000 year-old settlement made from Mammoth bones. 1966.

Hattie McDaniel with her Oscar for ‘Gone With The Wind’, in 1940. The Ambassador Hotel had a ‘No Blacks’ rule at the time, so before the presentation Hattie had to sit alone at a table at the back of the room. Her agent, a white man, went and sat with her.

One of the earliest known photographs of a surfer. Waikiki Beach, 1898.

Child Chess prodigy Samuel Reshevsky defeats ten chess masters in France, 1920. He was 8 years old at the time.

Branscombe Hall: Part Fourteen

This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 734 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

The silver sale was one of our best ever. Every item exceeded expectations, and a dated salver relating to George I from 1720 was sold for a record price in London. Julian attended the auction at our premises, and I was immensely relieved that Gregg was out on a job, picking up some unrelated Art Deco furniture from a house in Stroud. We had not discussed his drunken night, or the fact I had to book him sick from work the next day. He had managed to shrug it off by not talking about it, but that left me uneasy.

At the end of the silver sale that day, I felt drained. We had made a huge amount of money, but foreign buyers on the telephone had dragged it out until well after seven at night, due to time differences. That meant Gregg and Adrian were back at our premises before Julian left.

It was Norma who came to tell me.

“Gregg has hit Julian. Your dad has already left, so I need you to come and sort it out. Sorry”. They were both in the office, Julian holding tissues to his nose, which appeared to me to be broken. Gregg was standing in the corner by a filing cabinet, fists bunched, and looking away from Julian. Lord Branscombe was smiling, and looking so smug I wanted to spit in his face.

“Your loving husband cannot take a joke, Alicia. Should I involve the police, do you think? Or will you agree to keep your pet dog under control?” I was flushed with both embarrassment, and annoyance. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow them both. Then I made the mistake of challenging Gregg. I asked him why he had hit Julian. Did he not realise that our company was in a unique position of dealing with the sale of the items from the Hall? Whatever Julian had said was no justification for attacking him.

Gregg was as cold as ice.

“I’m going home now. The police will know where to find me. If you want to know why I hit him, just ask him. If he says anything like that again, he knows he will get worse”.

And with that, he walked out.

Julian was triumphant. “Well, your Gregg is so easy. I only mentioned our meal in Gloucester, and he lost it completely. Okay, I might have said something about all your commission from today’s sale paying his bills, but come on, Alicia, it’s only the truth. Don’t worry about the police, I will not be involving them. I just needed to show you what a thug you married. Please tell me, what were you thinking of?”

Being so annoyed with both of them, I had no idea how to reply. But I did my best anyway. I told Julian he had to abandon any ideas of being with me. I didn’t want him, I was married to Gregg and trying to make it work, and whatever happened Julian would not be my fallback option. His self-confidence was staggering.

“Yes, all that, and it’s all nonsense. I am going to stay at the Hall until you see sense, and I guarantee you will see sense. Your future is with me, and it is only a matter of time until that sinks into your brain, my dear”. Not wanting to reply, I just left the room.

At home that night, I could tell Gregg had been drinking. Although he hadn’t gone anywhere, all the beers in the fridge had been drunk. To be honest, I felt sorry for him. Julian’s jibes could be so hurtful, especially to a man who had endured a war, albeit a short one.

Dinner was planned to be salmon fillets and vegetables, but Gregg was not in the mood to play any games.

“Salmon? I need some meat and potatoes, pasta at least. Don’t you know how hard I work shifting all that furniture, ‘Licia?” I cancelled the salmon and prepared two sirloin steaks and baked potatoes. But that didn’t seem to be good enough, either.

“This steak is almost raw. Do you think I am a dog or something, eating raw meat running with blood? You eat it!”

With that, he threw his plate at me, then reached over and slapped me hard around my face.

1950s England: Manchester

The Guardian Newspaper began its life in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and was based in that northern city until moving to London in 1976. Over the decades, it has acquired a vast library of photos, taken by staff photographers and also freelancers selling to the newspaper. These are some of the photos of Manchester from that archive, taken between 1954 and 1959.

(All photos copyright of The Guardian Newspaper)

The busy shopping district of Market Street.

Excited children rush into the newly-opened playground of Philips Park.

Young couples enjoying a Summer day out in Parsonage Gardens.

Children playing in an abandoned car, Moss Side.

Rush hour traffic jam, Chester Road.

A child offering an ice lolly to a goose. Pets Corner, Platt Fields.

Manchester Grammar School boys attempting to view a total eclipse of the Sun.

Preparing for Summer season at the boating lake, Platts Fields.

Children playing in an area being demolished.

This workman is enjoying a beer after the completion of The Samuel Grating Building, Quay Street.

Branscombe Hall: Part Thirteen

This the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 750 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

The first I heard about Julian showing up was when Gregg got back from work one evening. Lord Branscombe had appeared at the auction house, excited by our forthcoming sale of the family silver. We had found a treasure trove indeed. Hallmarked in London, most of the silver was from the Georgian period, and of superb quality. It had also not seen the light of day since the old Lord had bought it, and included over one thousand pieces. We had advertised the sale, with reserves no less than two thousand pounds on even the smallest item.

Sixteen pieces had been sent for sale in London. Many of them had been crafted by the royal silversmith at the time, and each one was expected to fetch twenty thousand or more. The antiques world was very excited by both our local sale, and the one in London. Telephone bidders from all around the worls had registered to bid, so Julian had naturally heard about the two auctions. But he had chosen to visit out auction house first, not the Hall.

And that is where he encountered Gregg.

As I dished up dinner that evening, Gregg looked edgy. He had already had two large beers before I served the food, and didn’t appear to be hungry enough to start eating.

“So, who is this Lord Julian then, Alicia? He turned up at work late this afternoon, and got involved in a serious discussion with your dad. Then he comes out the office and shakes me hand, tells me he knows my wife really well, and I am a lucky man. What’s that all about then? And please don’t lie”.

I explained the connection with Julian, leaving out going to lunch with him. That proved to be a grave error on my part.

“Just work then, and photos, I get it. So why did he take you to lunch in Gloucester? And why did you drive him there? What was going on when I was fighting for queen and country? Were you making a mug of me with that aristocratic useless ponce, ‘Licia? Don’t lie to me, or I will know”. He looked so angry, and hadn’t touched his food.

My decision was to dance around the truth. I told Gregg I had gone to lunch with him so that he could take photos around Gloucester. Then I confessed that he hadn’t done that, and that I suspected that his motives were more than about taking photos. So I had told him I wasn’t interested.

It was a bad decision.

When he threw his pasta bake at me, I really wasn’t expecting that. But instinct made me dodge the plate, even though I got a lot of hot cheesy chicken pasta over my left shoulder. Before I could recover my senses, he was out the door, and I heard his car start up and screech away at high speed. As I cleared up the mess, I was shaking. I was also cursing Julian for turning up and opening his fat mouth with some snide comment. Gregg was fragile enough, and that seemed to have tipped him over the edge.

With no appetite for dinner, I consoled myself with some garlic bread and a large glass of white wine. I had no idea where Gregg had gone, but I was hoping it wasn’t the Hall, where Julian would obviously have been staying. I waited up until after eleven to talk to Gregg when he came home, but eventually had to go to bed, stressed and worn out.

The next morning, Gregg was asleep on the sofa, snoring. So I rang into work and booked him off sick. I was too scared to wake him up.

Julian was around when I got to the Hall. I hoped he would say nothing, but he was obviously cock-a-hoop.

“Oh, I met your loving husband, Alicia. What a catch! If you like knuckle-dragging morons of course. You are wasting your life on that cretin, my dear. I cannot even imagine what you saw in him”.

At the risk of losing the entire project at Branscombe Hall, I stood up to Julian. I told him that my personal life was none of his business, and that he could never even begin to understand what my husband had gone through in the Falklands. He was as cocksure as ever.

“He is not for you, I can see that. I can wait”.

More Interesting Comparison Maps

I always enjoy finding these, and have posted many previously. Here are some new ones.

California compared to the whole of Italy.

Forest distribution in the USA.

In 1279, the Mongolian Empire was the biggest empire by immediate landmass that the world had ever seen, and it retains this title to this day.

Light pollution recorded in the United States.

Texas compared to Africa.

The United States has a population size of just over 334 million. You would think that Americans would be evenly dispersed throughout the States, but this is not the case. This is the population dispersal.

Branscombe Hall: Part Twelve

This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 755 words.
My thanks to Sue Judd for the use of her photo.

My dad came up with a great idea. Gregg had no educational qualifications as such, but he could drive. We always had need of occasional drivers, so it was not a stretch to create a permanent extra post. We could use him with someone younger to collect things to be sold in the auction house. He would work Monday to Friday during the day, be home with me in the evenings and at weekends, and also paid a decent salary to add to his pension. I thanked my dad for his consideration, and told him I would put it to Gregg when he came home.

There was no call from him while he was staying at his parents’ house, he just truned up out of the blue one evening in a taxi. He seemed cheerful, but still not like his old self. He also wanted to go to bed almost immediately, but not to sleep. After such a long time, I was happy to agree to that. I told him we could eat later.

Over dinner, I spoke to him about the job.

“So you would be my boss? How would that work? After all, I am your husband, not your employee”. I didn’t like his aggressive tone, and said that he would be working for the company, so in effect my dad and me. I was a bit pissed off, telling him if he didn’t like the idea, he was free to seek employment elsewhere. I must have made my point, because after a sulky twenty minutes, he agreed to take the job. He had conditions though.

“I will work for your dad, take my orders from him. I may be a pathetic cripple as a former soldier, but I am not about to let myself be bossed around by my wife”. I told him we would buy a new van the following week, and team him up with Adrian, a school-leaver who didn’t have a driving licence. They were both young and strong, so should have no problem working together. He wanted more. “Make sure this Adrian knows I am in charge tough. I am not about to argue the toss with a teenage kid”. So as not to spoil the evening, I said I would.

Norma sorted out Gregg’s employment details, and told him he would be paid at the end of the month, like all new starters. He was a bit off with her, she told me, but did the first few runs with no issues. Adrian was quiet, according to Norma. She confided in me one afternoon. “Alicia, I don’t want to tell tales, but young Adrian seems to be very withdrawn since he started the collections with Gregg. Perhaps you could mention it? I would hate to think that somehow Adrian feels intimidated. He is a helpful young man, and a hard worker”.

I had no intention of raising that with Gregg. He needed time to settle in.

The next thing Gregg spoke to me about was a car. “I have to hang around until you get back from Branscombe Hall and pick me up. Better if I had my own car, don’t you think?” My old car was paid for, and none of us had company cars. But I agreed to get him a second-hand car from my savings. He wanted to choose it though. “I don’t want some boring runabout, let’s go into Gloucester on Saturday morning and have a look around”. He decided on a Peugeot GTi in bright red, a real boy-racer car. I paid for it, and the insurance for him to drive it, and we collected it late the following Monday afternoon. At least having that cheered him up.

For a short while.

My work at the Hall was progressing well. Both the large attics had been cleared and catalogued. Everything valued under an estimate of five hundred pounds was already starting to appear in our weekly sales. My dad had arranged for some of the more valuable items to be sold in London in the autumn, with a split commission deal. The summer was not much good for our business, with many of the fat-wallet buyers on holiday. I decided to start cataloguing the large amount of family silver, and Gregg had started to get in the swing of his job, coming home most nights in a good mood.

But that all changed, when Julian Branscombe decided to show up.