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Eclectic England: Fiction by
Nicola Barker
 
'Soft Gash' by Fitkin Wall:
Graham Fitkin & Ruth Wall

'Tior V 2003 | Oil on Canvas' © 2007 George Blacklock
'Tior V 2003 | Oil on Canvas' by
George Blacklock

For the exclusive attn. of Ms Linda Withycombe -
Environmental Health Technician,
Wharfedale District Council.
The Retreat,
Saxonby Manor,
Burley Cross,



21. 12. 2006
Dear Ms Withycombe, *

 

Here is the information as requested by yourself on Friday December 19th, during our brief conversation after the public meeting re. 'the proposal for the erection of at least [my itals] two new mobile phone masts in the vicinity of Wharfedale...' (I don't think it would be needlessly optimistic of me to say that the "nay"'s definitely seemed to have the best of things that day** - so let's just hope those foolish mules*** at the phone company finally have the basic, common sense to sit down and rethink what is patently a reckless, environmentally destructive and fundamentally ill-conceived strategy, eh?).

Might I just add (while we're on the subject of the meeting itself) that I sincerely hope you did not take to heart any of the unhelpful - and in some cases extremely offensive - comments and observations made by the deranged and - quite frankly - tragic subject of this letter: Mrs Tirza Parry, widow (as she persists in signing herself in all of our correspondence; although on one occasion she signed herself Mrs Tirza Parry, window****, by mistake, which certainly provided we long-suffering residents of The Retreat with no small measure of innocent amusement, I can tell you).

Because of her petite stature, advanced years and charmingly 'bohemian' appearance (I use the word bohemian not only in the sense of 'unconventional' - the white plastic cowboy- boots, the heavy, sometimes rather coarse-seeming*****, pagan-style jewellery, clumsily moulded from what looks like unfired clay******, the pop socks, the paisley headscarfs - but also with a tacit nod towards Mrs Parry's famously 'exotic' roots, although - as a point of accuracy - I believe her parents were Turks or Greeks rather than Slovaks; Tirza being a derivation of Theresa, commonly celebrated as the Catholic saint of

*

Are you one of the Cirencester-based Withycombes? If so, then I was extremely privileged to serve with the Royal Airforce in Burma (1961-'63) alongside your late, maternal grandfather, Mjr Cyril Withycombe (although - on further reflection - Cyril may well have been a Withycoombe).

**

Hurrah!

***

Sic

****

Transparency is definitely not one of Mrs Parry's main characteristics!

*****

I'll make no bones about it, dear: phallic.

******

Norma Spoot works part-time at the local butchers, and told me - in-between hysterical gales of laughter - of how she overheard Mrs Parry boasting (while she was
having a chicken deboned last Tuesday) that her jewellery 'sells like hot cakes' on the internet.

1.

information which, under the circumstances, strikes me - and may well strike you - as remarkably ironic. NB. I am just about to close this scandalously long bracket, and apologise, in advance, for the rambling - possibly even inconsequential - nature of this lengthy aside. Pressure of time - as I'm sure you'll understand - prohibits me from re-writing/re-structuring the previous paragraph, so it may well behove you to re-read the first half of the original sentence in order to make sense of the second. Thanks) Mrs Parry has it within her reach to create, if not a favourable, then at least a diverting first impression during fledgling social encounters (I remember falling prey to such an impression myself, and would by no means blame you if such had been your own). There is no denying the woman's extraordinary dynamism (it's only a shame, I suppose, that all this highly laudable energy and enthusiasm is being so horribly - one might almost say dangerously - misdirected in this particular instance).

I've often remarked on how wonderfully blue and piercing Tirza Parry's eyes are - my dear wife, Shoshana, calls them 'lavender eyes', which I think describes them most excellently (although - as she has also remarked, and very tellingly, I think, a 'blueing' of the eyes can often signify the onset of altzheimer's, dementia and other sundry ailments related to the loss of memory/reason in old age - I mean nothing derogatory by this statement - none of us are getting any younger, after all!*).

You will doubtless remember Shoshana (from the aforementioned meeting) as that fearless, flame-haired dominatrix (with the tightly-bound arm - more of which, anon) who was acting as temporary secretary that day** - Wallace Simms, who usually fills this role***, having been bedridden by yet another severe bout of his recurrent sciatica.

It briefly occurs to me - by-the-by - that it may prove helpful at this point (especially in light of some of the wild accusations being thrown around by TP**** herself in the course of said meeting) if I provide you with a short precis of some of the complex, logistical issues currently being employed by that cunning creature as a pathetic smokescreen to obfuscate the real - the critical - subject at the dark heart of this letter. If you - like Mandy Williamson, your charming predecessor***** - are already fully convinced of my impartiality as a witness/informant on this delicate - and rather distasteful - matter

*

I do not mean to include you in this sweeping statement. That would obviously be ridiculous.

**

People refuse to believe that she actually became eligible for a free bus pass last February.

***

And then some! The poor chap's tall as a doorhandle but weighs in at over seventeen stone!

****

I'll abbreviate Mrs Parry from this point onwards, if it's all the same to you.

*****
Did she have it yet? Was it - as I predicted - a bonny little chap with a bright tuft of ginger hair on top?

2.

then feel free to skip the next section of this letter and re-join the narrative in two pages' time (I have taken the trouble to mark the exact spot with a tiny sticker of a Bolivian tree-frog).

The Retreat (please see first document enclosed, labelled Doc.1) is a charming - although rather Lilliputian - residence situated just inside the extensive grounds of Saxonby Manor (I have circled the residence - and its small garden - on the map provided with a flourescent yellow marker).

My dear, late wife (Emily Morrison, nee Baverstock) inherited said property over seventeen years ago from her great aunt - the esteemed Lady Beatrix Morrison - who was then resident full-time at Saxonby (although she generally preferred to overwinter in the South of France, where she kept an immaculate, Art Deco-style penthouse flat in the heart of Biarritz).

When The Retreat was initially built (in the late 1920s) the property's principal use was as a summerhouse/changing room (situated - as it was - directly adjacent to a fabulous, heated, olympic-sized swimming pool - now long gone, alas). It was constructed with all mod-cons (ie. toilet, shower etc; see second document - Doc. 2 - a photocopy of the original architectural plans) and although undisputedly bijou, The Retreat was always intended to be more than a mere 'adjunct'. As early as 1933 they added a small kitchen and a bedroom to allow guests to stay there overnight in greater luxury, and it was eventually inhabited - full-time - by a displaced family (the Pringles, I believe*) for the duration of WWII.

After the war it became the home of Saxonby's gardener, the infamous Samuel Tuggs (he sang and played the washboard with local folk sensations The Thrupenny Bits**) who was subsequently implicated in the mysterious disappearance of his wife's fifteen year-old niece, Moira (1974) and - rather sadly for Lady Morrison*** - while he was never formally tried for the crime,**** an atmosphere of intense social pressure eventually obliged him to flee the area).

The Retreat's already fascinating history***** was consolidated further when it was rented out (1981-1990) to a writer of books about the science of code-breaking (a fascinating old chap called John Hinty Crew - 'Hinty' to his pals - a promiscuous homosexual whose real claim to fame was his inflammatory adolescent correspondence with Anthony Blunt******).

*

The youngest child's initials are still scratched into the bark of our old apple tree.

**

His voice ranged over several octaves - although my late wife used to say that while he might reach a note with all apparent ease, he could never actually succeed
in holding one for any extended period. I used to tell her that this was simply 'the rustic style' (I'm fairly well-informed on the subject), but she refused to
be convinced.

***

The topiary was never as good after he left.

****

I call it 'a crime' although a corpse was never discovered (there were signs of a struggle and several suspicious spots of blood, however).

****

Bertrand Russell, the famous Philosopher and coward, apparently stayed there on several occasions.

*****
In the early 1990s these letters were adapted into a play called 'My Dear Hinty...'. I can't remember, off-hand, who starred in it - possibly that game, young lad
who used to ride his bicycle up and down those steep, cobbled streets in the old Hovis adverts. Either way, a dear schoolfriend of mine - Hortensia Sandle, an R.E.
teacher, charming lass - who lived in the smoke and had a penchant for the theatre - was persuaded to attend the opening night (I'd been given free tickets by
Hinty himself, but was a martyr to chronic piles at the time so found it difficult to remain seated for extended periods). I still don't know for sure what she actually
made of the production (one review I read said the direction was 'all over the shop'), because - for some inexplicable reason - she refused to ever speak to me
again afterwards.
Very odd.

3.

Up until this point the cottage possessed no formal/legal rights as an 'independent dwelling'. Lady Morrison had - quite naturally - never felt the need to apply for any, and my late wife's ownership of the property was only ever made explicit by dint of a short caveat in the Old Lady's will which forbade the sale of the Manor at any future date without a prior agreement that The Retreat (and its tiny garden) were to remain exclusively in the hands of the Morrison family. Rights of access were, of course, a necessary part of this simple arrangement.

It is, I'm afraid, this worringly fluid and vague 'rights of access' issue that is the source of all our current heartache.

As you will no doubt have already observed on the map provided, The Retreat was actually constructed within a short walking distance of an arched, medieval gate in the outer wall of the larger estate, and this gate has always been used as an entrance/exit (into the village of Burley Cross beyond) by the inhabitants of said dwelling (rather than the main entrance to the Manor, which lies approximately 500 yards - again, see Doc 1. - to its right*).

It goes without saying that many times over the years my wife[s] and I have applied for some kind of permanent, formal, legal right of way, if only to establish the property as a independent dwelling (so that we might pay rates, raise a mortgage, or even consider selling** at some future date, perhaps).

Unfortunately, the current owners of the Manor (the Jonty Weiss-Quinns***) have never been keen to support this application. The chief plank in their Cruesoe-esque style raft of objections**** is that the land which lies between The Retreat and the gate was once the site of an old Monastery (see Doc.1 - I have used a pink pencil to shade in the area) which is considered by - among others - The National Trust**** and English Nature to be 'an important heritage site******'.

Were you to come along - in person - and take a good look at what actually remains of this 'Old Monastery', I think you would be astonished (as, indeed, are we*******) that so much fuss could be generated by what basically amounts to a scruffy pile of broken stones (approx. 3 ft in diameter - aka the 'Old Cloister') and a slight dip or indentation in the ground (just to the left of the gate) which is apparently all that's now left of the 'Old Monk's Latrine' [!].

*

To use the main entrance would actually involve cutting through a yew hedge and then swimming across a large, Japanese pond full of ornamental carp.

**

The Morrison line ended with Emily. We had no children of our own - 'though certainly not through want of trying! Rumour had it that an inappropriate liasion
between two first cousins in 1810 caused a genetic weakness in the Morrison genepool which rendered all subsequent issue physically and reproductively
flawed. Aside from her infecundity, Emily had the added distinction of a third nipple. In poor light it could be mistaken for a large mole, but she was very self-
conscious about it and always wore a robe whilst lounging by the pool. Once, on holiday in Kenya, she allowed her guard (and the robe) to fall and the
mark was spotted by a sharp-eyed cocktail waiter. We were subsequently evicted, unceremoniously, from the hotel. To protect Emily's feelings I determined to
keep the real reason for our eviction hidden from her (and was relatively successful, to boot). She always naively believed that we were turfed out because I
queried the bar bill (and gave me no end of stick about it, too!).

***
Who have always been extremely genial landlords and have never sought to interfere with our ready access to the property - although they did kick up quite a
stink two years ago when we built our conservatory or 'sun-room'. Apparently the light reflects quite sharply off its glass roof and can be seen very clearly from
the window of their diningroom (An added complication is that this small but precious 'space' was added to the property with the intention of creating a
safe/theraputic environment for Shoshana to sunbathe, 'au naturel'. The poor creature is prone to seasonal attacks of chronic eczema and constant exposure to
gentle sunlight really is the best possible cure.)
****

Which I won't bore you with here.

*****

Little Hitlers. It beggars belief that these people actually have the right to claim 'charitable status'.

******
I am considering trying to claim this same status myself - I'll be seventy-three in February!
*******
And you could hardly call us philistines - Shoshana is actually treasurer of our local History Club!

4.

As I'm sure you can imagine, Shoshana and I have grown rather depressed and frustrated by this unsatisfactory legal situation, not least because our non-payment of council tax has allowed less sympathetic/imaginative members of the Burley Cross community* to accuse us of tight-fistedness and a lack of social/fiscal responsibility**. Much of this unneccessary hostility (as you are probably no doubt already fully aware) centres around the disposal/collection of rubbish.

The situation has recently developed to such a pitch of silliness and pettiness*** that the local binmen have been persuaded**** to ignore the black bin-bags deposited outside our gate. This means that we are now obliged to skulk around like criminals at dawn on collection day, furtively distributing our bags among those piles belonging to other - marginally more sympathetic - properties***** in the local vicinity. Worse still, many of these sympathetic individuals - while perfectly happy to help us out - must live in constant terror of incurring the (not inconsiderable) wrath of TP, who has tried her utmost to transform this mundane issue into what she loves to call a 'point of principle'.

As I'm sure you can now understand more fully, this complex situation re. the disposal/collection of our rubbish feeds directly into the severe problems the village is currently experiencing with TP and her borderline-obsessive interest in matters surrounding dog fouling.

You mentioned (during our brief exchange after the meeting) that I might benefit from reading the latest pamphlet on this subject published by EnCams: 'Dog Fouling and the Law: a guide for the public') which your department usually distributes free to interested parties (although due to a temporary snarl-up with the council's aquisitions budget you regretted that you had yet to acquire any for general distribution - or even, you confessed, to become better aquainted with the finer details of said document yourself). I didn't get a chance to tell you at the time that I already possess several copies of this useful booklet (and have - as you will doubtless have already noticed****** - taken the liberty of enclosing one for your own, personal use*******).

Among the more fascinating details contained therein are the extraordinary statistics that (pg 2) the UK's population of approximately 7.4 million dogs produces, on average, around 1000 tonnes of excrement/day.

*

A marvellous, generous, open-minded bunch of individuals (with the odd, notable exception).

**

Last April Shoshana single-handedly staged and organised a charitable quiz night (in conjunction with Radio Wharfdale DJ Mark Sweet) to raise money for
repairs to the church organ (which she plays - very competently - whenever the resident organist is away on holiday).

***

Encouraged, in no minor part, by the poison tongue of you know who.

****

Money changed hands. It definitely changed hands. I'm almost 100% sure of it.

*****

The cover photo of a booted foot suspended above a huge pile of steaming excrement is certainly eye-catching. Shoshana is very squeamish and will not
allow me to keep my copies in the house (even wrong-side-up!) so I have been obliged to resort to storing them - and all correspondence relating to this issue
- on a shallow back shelf inside our tiny garden shed.

******

No need to return it. The yellow marks on the back cover are nothing more sinister than grass stains (from where it accidentally fell into my lawnmower's
clippings bin on retrieval).

5.

Burley Cross (human population: 210; dog population: 33; cat population: 47*) certainly produces its fair share of the above, but, thanks to a - by-and-large - very responsible, slightly older** population, the provision of two, special poop-scoop bins within the heart of the village and the wonderful, wide expanses of surrounding heath and moorland lying beyond, the matter had never - until TP's sudden arrival in our midst ***- become an issue of serious public concern****.

I confess that I have walked***** Shoshana's pedigree Spitz, Samson,****** morning and evening, regular as clockwork, for almost five years now,******* and during that time have rarely - if ever - had my excursions sullied by the unwelcome apprehension of a superfluity of dog mess. If Samson - in common with most other sensible dogs I know - feels the urge to 'do his business', then he is usually more than happy to 'perform' some short distance off the path (his modesty happily preserved by delicate fronds of feathery bracken) on the wild expanses of our local moor. Here, dog faeces - along with other animal faeces, including those of the moorland sheep, fox and badger - are able to decompose naturally (usually within - on average - a ten day period, depending - of course - on the specific climactic conditions). If Samson is 'caught short' and needs to 'go' in a less convenient location then I automatically pick up his 'business' and dispose of it accordingly.

Further to a series of in-depth discussions with a significant number of the dog owners in this village (and its local environs), I think it would be fair to say that the model I follow with Samson is the model that most other reasonable people also adhere to ie. the collection of dog mess is only appropriate within an 'urban/residential' setting, in public parks (where people are liable to picnic, stroll, relax, and children play) and finally - under very special circumstances - where your animal might be perceived to have 'despoiled' a well-used moorland path to the detriment of other walker's enjoyment of it (although this last requirement is not legally binding but simply a question of community spirit).

I believe I am correct in saying that all of the above criteria tally perfectly with the procedures formally established by local government, and that - up until TP chanced to throw her very large (very

*
Although felines - very helpfully, but with the odd exception - bury their own.
**
The average age of your Burley Cross resident is 59 (This is a quotable statistic - feel free to use it - I researched it myself).
***
Approximately eighteen months ago.
****
That said, I was utterly appalled by the filth I encountered on a day trip to Haworth in 'Bronte country' recently.
*****
And not without ocassional resistance - especially on icy winter mornings!
******

Shoshona's family have a tradition of naming their dogs after Biblical characters.

*******
Samson actually turns eight this year - he was a rescue dog and three years old when we got him. But before Samson I regularly walked Shoshona's beloved
Highland Terrier, Hezekiah (or 'Zeke') - although we were not resident full-time in Burley Cross at that stage..

6.

filthy!) spanner into the works - these procedures were generally held to be not only just, but successful, necessary and universally beneficial.

With the arrival of TP, however, this fragile consensus was attacked, savagely mauled and rent asunder*. TP, as you may well know, owns four, large German Shepherds and prefers - rather eccentrically - to take them on long walks on the moor in the moonlight (I say 'them', although so far as I am aware she only ever walks one dog at any given time**). These four, large dogs are usually kept confined inside a concrete 'compound'*** in the back garden of Hursley End - her dilapidated bungalow on Lamb's Green.

It was initially - she insists - due to the difficulties she experienced in negotiating/avoiding random dog faeces during these night-time hikes that her bizarre habit of bagging other people's dogs' faeces and leaving them deposited on branches, walls and fence-posts - apparently as a warning/ admonishment to others less responsible than herself - commenced****. This activity continued for upwards of six months before anyone either commented on it publically or felt the urge to root out/apprehend the strange individual in our midst who had inexplicably chosen to enact this' special service' on our behalf*****.

Given the idiosyncratic nature of the bags employed (TP prefers a small, pink-tinged, transparent bag****** - probably better adapted for household use ie. freezing meat******* - instead of the usual, custom-made, matt-black kind********) it was easy - from very early on - to understand that the person bagging up and 'displaying' these faeces was not only happy, but almost keen to leave some kind of 'signature' behind.

When the bags were eventually identified as belonging to none other that TP (and she was calmly - very sensitively - confronted with her crimes), rather than apologising, quietly retreating, or putting a summary halt to her bizarre activities, she responded - somewhat perversely - by actively redoubling her poop-gathering efforts! In fact she went still one stage further! She began to present herself in public********* as a wronged party, as a necessary - if chronically undervalued - environmental watchdog, as a doughty, cruelly misunderstood moral crusader, standing alone and defenceless - clutching her trademark, transparent poo-bag to her heaving chest - against the freely-defecating

*
Like an innocent, young rabbit cruelly disembowelled by a savage fox (and this is an entirely pointless killing - the cruel fox is not hungry - it does not pause to eat
the rabbit - it has already killed and consumed the mother - so attacks the young one purely for 'sport').
**
Pathetic creature. Hugely overweight. And I'm pretty convinced that it's always the same dog she walks - it seems to be lame in one of its back legs - although I've
never had the chance to meet it - and so identify it - in daylight.
***
No judgement whatsoever is involved in my use of this word.
****
Although one really has to wonder at her facility to locate these random faeces in order to to bag them up when it's apparently so difficult for her to avoid
stepping in them in the first place!
*****
I'm guessing that this is because the habit took a while to become properly established and then suddenly snowballed after the first few months.
******
The contents are, therefore, always fully visible.
*******
Chops, perhaps, or liver/kidney/tongue and other smaller cuts.
********
To be purchased at any large supermarket or pet-shop.
*********
Quite belligerently.

7.

heathen marauder!

And it gets worse! She then went on the offensive (see Docs. 3+4 - copies of letters sent to the local press), angrily accusing the general body of responsible dog owners in Burley Cross of actively destroying the picturesque and historic moor by encouraging our animals to 'evacuate'* there.

One occasion, in particular, stands out in my mind. I met her - quite by chance - on a sunny afternoon, overburdened by shopping from the village store.* I offered to take her bags for her and during the walk back to her home took some pains to explain to her that there was no actual legal requirement for dog owners to collect their dog's faeces from the surrounding farm and moorland (The Dogs Fouling of Land Act, 1996). Her reaction to this news was to blush to the roots of her hair, spit out the word "justifier!", roughly snatch her bags from me** and then quote, at length, like a thing possessed (as if reciting some ancient, biblical proverb***) from the (aforementioned) EnCams publication on the subject***.

To return to this useful document for just a moment, in 'Dog fouling and The Law,' EnCams provide an invaluable 'profile of a dog fouler' (pg 4 - when you read it for yourself you will discover that it is an extremely thorough and thought-provoking piece of analysis). Apparently the average 'fouler' enjoys watching tv and attending the cinema but has a profound mistrust of soap opera, around half of them have Internet access - mainly at home - but "are not particularly confident in its usage", and they are most likely to read The Sun and Mirror (but very rarely The Daily Mail or The Financial Times*****).

EnCams have invented their own broad label to describe these irresponsible individuals: they call them "justifiers" ie they justify their behaviour on the grounds of a) Ignorance ('I didn't realise it was a problem...' 'But nobody has ever mentioned this to me before...' etc.) and b) Laziness ('But nobody else ever picks it up, so why should I?').

EnCams insist that these "justifiers" will only ever openly admit that they allow their dog to foul in public when placed under extreme duress. Their fundamental instinct is to simply pretend it hasn't happened or to lie about it.

Although I cannot deny that this profile is both interesting and - I don't doubt - perfectly valid in

*
God only knows what she had in those damn bags - they weighed a ton!
**
Lucky for TP we were only fifty or so yards from her front door at this stage.
**
Her word.
***
And quite incorrectly, it later transpired!
****
I had yet to come across this valuable little booklet and so was, as you can imagine, somewhat confused and nonplussed by this attack.
***** We get The Sunday Express at The Retreat, but only for the sudoku.

8.

many - if not most - instances, TP was nevertheless entirely wrong to try and label me - of all people - with this wildly inappropriate nomenclature: I am neither ignorant, lazy nor in denial. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am informed, pro-active and socially aware. And although I do dislike soaps*, I very rarely go to the cinema**, and my computer skills are - as this letter itself, I hope, will attest - universally acknowledged to be tip-top.

Since my aquisition of the EnCams document I have tried - countless times - to explain to TP (see Doc. 5 + Doc. 6: some valuable examples of our early correspondence) that not only am I a keen advocate of poop-scooping in residential areas and public parks, but that it shows absolutely no moral or intellectual inconsistency on my part to hold that allowing excrement to decompose naturally on the moor is infinitely more environmental than bagging it up and adding it, quite unthinkingly, to this small island's already chronically over-extended quantities of landfill.

I have also told her that by simply bagging up the faeces she finds and then dumping them, willy-nilly, she is only serving to exacerbate the 'problem'*** because the excrement cannot be expected to decompose inside its plastic skin. Rather than helping matters she is actually making them infinitely worse - once bagged, the excrement is there forever: a tawdry bauble - a permanent, sordid testament to the involuntary act of physical evacuation!

As you will no doubt be aware, around two months ago Wharfedale's Dog Warden - the 'criminally over-subscribed'**** Trevor Horsmith - was persuaded***** to start to take an interest in the problems being generated by TP's activities on the moor. It will probably strike you as intensely ironic that TP herself was one of the main instigators in finally involving Trevor in this little, local 'mess' of ours******.

After familiarising himself with the consequences of TP's 'work' (on the moor and beyond*******) Horsmith announced (I'm paraphrasing here*******) that while he fully condoned - even admired!********* - TP's desire to keep the moor clean, it was still perfectly legitimate for dog owners to allow their pets to defecate there, and that while excrement could not, in all conscience, be calibrated as 'litter' (it decomposes for Heaven's Sake! Same as an apple core!) once it has been placed inside plastic (no matter how laudible the motivation*********) then it must necessarily be considered so***********.

*
Shoshana, I must confess, is an avid 'Corrie' fan.
**
The last film I saw was The Full Monty, and I only went to that because my late wife convinced me it was all about El Alamein.
***
Although - as I've already emphasised - there wasn't a problem before TP arrived on the scene - TP is the problem!
****
His words, not mine. Shoshana once observed - very wittily - that Mr Horsmith makes Alice in Wonderland's Doormouse seem hyperactive!
*****
By a flurry of phone calls, emails and at least half a dozen letters to the local press (two of which mentioned him by name).
******
I won't bore you with the details here as I am sure Mr Horsmith will already have bored you with them himself.
*******
Three of her bags were recently discovered in Lowsley Edge - over seven miles away as the crow flies!
********
His letter was full of the most appalling grammatical errors.
*********
This struck me as an astonishingly irresponsible thing to say given the deranged nature of the character we are dealing with here. As I said to
Horsmith myself (on one of the rare occasions he actually made a visit to the village), by encouraging TP to think that she's got moral right on her
side he's only sharpening a stick for her to beat him (and the rest of us) up with.
**********
Ye Gads!
***********
A point I made myself to Mr Horsmith - but to no avail - over six long months before!

9.

Horsmith's pronouncement on this issue was obviously the most devastating blow for TP (and her cause), yet it by no means prompted her to desist from her anti-social behaviour. By way of an excuse for (partial explanation of/attempt to distract attention from) her strange, nocturnal activities, she suddenly changed tack and began claiming (see Doc.6 again - last 3 paras.) that - for the most part - whenever she goes on walks she generally bags up the vast majority of the faeces she finds and disposes of them herself ('double-wrapped', she writes- somewhat primly - inside her dustbin, at home*) and that on the rare occasions when she leaves the bags behind it is either because a) the 'problem' (as she perceives it) is so severe that she feels a strong, public statement needs to be made to other dog owners, b) the sheer volume of excrement is such that it is simply too much for her to carry home all in one go (while managing a large dog at the same time), and c) that she is sometimes prey to the sudden onset of acute arthritic 'spasms' in her fingers, which mean that she is unable to grip the bags properly and so is compelled to leave them in situ, while harbouring 'every earthly intention' of returning to collect them at a later date.

I am not - of course - in any way convinced by this pathetic, half-cocked hodge-podge of explanations. In answer to a) I say that other dog owners are completely within their rights to allow their dogs to defecate responsibly on the moor. They have the law on their side. It is a perfectly legitimate and natural way to proceed . In answer to b) I say that the volume of excrement on the moor is rarely, if ever - in my extensive experience of these matters - excessive (especially given the general rate of decomposition etc). In answer to c) I say that it strikes me as rather odd that the same person who can apparently manage to 'bag up' huge quantities of excrement when their fingers are - ahem - 'spasming'** is somehow unable to perform that superficially much less arduous act of transporting it back home with them***!

Many of TP's bags lie around on the moor for months on end and no visible attempt is made to move them. Last Thursday, for example, I counted over forty-two bags of excrement dotted randomly about the place on my morning stroll.

Sometimes I come across a bag displayed in the most extraordinary of places. Yesterday I found one

*
I will return to this important detail a little later!
**
A fiddly process at the best of times!
***
Let alone manufacture fashionable clay jewellery in such prodigious quantities!

10.

dangling up high in the midst of a thorny bush. It was very obvious that not only would the person who hung the bag there have been forced to sustain some kind of injury in its display (unless they wore a thick pair of protective gloves), but that so would the poor soul (and here's the rub!) who felt duty-bound to retrieve it and dispose of it*. This was - in effect - a piece of purely spiteful behaviour - little less, in fact, than an act of social/environmental terrorism.

Shoshana and I have both become so sickened, angered and dismayed by the awful mess TP has made of our local area (I mean who is to judge when an activity such as this passes from being 'in the public interest'** to a plain and simple public nuisance?***) that, in sheer desperation, we have begun to gather up the rotten bags ourselves. On Friday, two weeks back****, Shoshana gathered up over thirty-six bags. On her way home - exhausted - from the village's poop-scoop bins***** she tripped on a crack in the pavement, fell heavily, sprained her wrist and dislocated her collar-bone******. I will not say that we blame TP entirely for this calamity, but we do hold her at least partially responsible*******.

After Shoshana's 'accident' I marched over to TP's bungalow, fully intent on having it out with her********, but TP (rather fortuitously) was nowhere to be found. It was then - as I stood impotently in her front garden, seething with frustration - that I resolved********* to take the opportunity to do a little private investigation of my own. If you remember**********, TP had claimed that many - if not most - of the bags of excrement she retrieved from the moor, she automatically carried back home with her (only leaving the unmanageable excess behind) and placed them, double-wrapped, into her dustbin (alongside what I imagine would be the considerable quantities of excrement collected from her own four, chronically-obese dogs which - as you know - she keeps penned up, 24/7***********, inside that criminally-small and claustrophobic, purpose-built concrete compound************).

The day I visited Hursley End was a Monday, which is the day directly before refuse is collected in the village. I decided - God only knows why, it was just a random urge, I suppose - to peek inside her dustbin (literally deafened as I did so by the hysterical barks and howls of her 4, frantic German Shepherds). By my calculation, I estimated that there would need to be at least 42 dog faeces - from her own 4 animals - stored away inside there************. In addition to these I also envisaged a considerable number of stools collected from her nightly hikes on the 'filthy' moor*************.

*
ie. yours truly!
**
Which it never was, quite frankly.
**
This is intended as a purely rhetorical question - although, on further consideration, I suppose the person who might possibly be expected to make that
vital judgement could very well turn out to be you, Linda.
***
There was a large convention of Girl Guides from Manchester and Leeds travelling to the Moor for an orienteering weekend. Shoshana couldn't bear the
idea of these lovely creatures being exposed to TP's vile 'handiwork'.
****
Which could barely contain the sheer volume involved - amounting to almost 3000 grams. If you have some difficulty imagining this weight in real terms,
then it would be comparible to around twelve pats of best butter.
*****
I have sent another letter to your collegue - Giles Monson - on this subject, along with directions from our lawyer.
******
Shoshana an angry 70%, me, a more reasoned 59% (a broad, general majority, in other words).
********
Uncharacteristically hot-headed behaviour on my part.
*********
Quite spontaneously. This was in no way premeditated.
**********
But of course you do!
***********
As the yanks are wont to say.
**********
Once again, I emphasise that absolutely no judgement is implied by my use of these words.
*********** This figure was reached by estimating that, on average, each of TP's four dogs would be expected to defecate 1.5 times on any given day (an extremely
conservative estimate, in actual fact).
************* Her word, obviously.

11.

Once I'd made these quick calculations I steeled myself, drew a deep breath, grabbed the lid, lifted it high and peered querelously inside. Imagine my great surprise when I found not a single trace of excrement within! The bin was all but empty! I say again: the bin - TP's bin - was all but empty!! I quickly pulled on a pair of disposable gloves* and then gingerly withdrew the bin's other contents, piece by piece (just so as to be absolutely certain of my facts). I removed two, large, empty Johnny Walker bottles**, four, family-size Marks and Spencer colesaw containers, three packets of mint and one packet of hazelnut-flavoured Cadbury's Snaps biscuit wrappers, and the stinking remnants of two boil-in-the-bag fish dinners (Iceland) and one, ready-made, prawn biriyani meal (from Tesco's excellent Finest range).

I stared blankly into that bin for several minutes, utterly confounded, struggling to make any sense of what I'd discovered. It then slowly dawned on me that TP might actually have two bins - one of which was specifically to be used for the storing of excrement. Bearing this in mind, I set about searching the untended grounds of her property*** with a fine tooth-comb****, even going so far as to climb onto an upturned bucket and peer, trepidatiously, into the tiny concrete compound to the rear, where TP's four German Shepherds barked and raced around - like a group of hairy, over-weight banshees - frantic with what seemed to be a poignant combination of terror and excitement*****.

No matter how hard I hunted, a second bin could not be found. I eventually abandoned my search on realising how late it had grown******- Shoshana would definitely be worried, I thought, and if I tarried any longer I could be in serious danger of missing Countdown*******. I left Hursley End, depressed and confused, only turning - with a helpless half-shrug - to peer back over towards the property once I'd reached the relative safety of the road beyond. It was then, in a blinding flash, that I had what I now refer to - somewhat vaingloriously, I'll admit - as my 'Moment of Epiphany'********.

As I looked back at TP's property from a greater distance, I was able - with the benefit of perspective - to observe that recent renovation works to the bungalow had resulted in the temporary removal of large sections of the external fascia*********, so that all that now remained of the property's original structure was the roof, the window frames and a series of basic, internal walls and supports, many of

*
Which I just happened to have with me.
**
Not much of a recycler, then, our TP?!
***
TP is currently in the midst of having some major renovation work done to the external walls of her bungalow. If the rumours I hear about town are correct,
she is trying to sue the former owners, Louise and Timothy Hamm, for some unspecified kind of 'negligence' - even though Timothy, an ex-GP
and a truly inspirational human being, is in the final stages of Parkinsons and now lives in full-time residential care.
****
So to speak.
*****
Probably thinking I was an animal-rights activist intent on releasing them from their hellish penury.
******
I'd been there for almost an hour!
*******
I didn't miss it, which was most fortuitous as it was an especially good episode. One of the contestants came up with the high-scoring word 'toxocara', a
term which refers to a type of roundworm which is responsible for generating the dangerous infection/disease called Toxocariasis. This disease is produced
when the toxocara roundworm's eggs are left to fester in the excrement of a dog for a period of 2-3 weeks after the faeces have been deposited. I was
absolutely stunned when this word came up, and honestly believe it was some kind of message from 'The Beyond'!
********
Although Shoshana will insist on calling it my 'episcopy', the silly moo!
*********
Many of the more modest properties in this village - built within a particular time-frame - were constructed out of a special, aliminium-based concrete which,
while it poses only limited health risks to the residents, can, in certain instances, make it extremely difficult to raise a mortgage.

12.

which had been copiously wrapped in thick layers of protective plastic (to safeguard the property against the worst of the weather, I suppose). By dint of this expedient - I suddenly realised, with a sharp gasp - TP's home had lately been transformed (voluntarily or otherwise) into a giant simulacrum of a monstrous, semi-transparent poo-bag! *

As this - admittedly strange and somewhat hysterical - thought* caught ahold of me, a second thought - running almost in tandem with it - quickly overtook my mind: if no evidence of excrement could be found in TP's garden - not even faeces from her own four dogs - then where on God's Earth might she actually be...?

What?!

I suddenly froze.

'MARY, MOTHER OF JESUS!' I bellowed, then quickly covered my mouth with my hand**. But wasn't it obvious?! Hadn't the simple answer to this most perplexing of questions been staring me in the face all along?!

The moor!

Our beautiful, unbesmirched, virgin moor!

TP had not - as she'd always emphatically maintained - been piously and dutifully collecting/bagging excrement left by other, irresponsible dog owners, during those long, dark, nightly hikes of hers. Oh no! Quite the opposite, in fact! TP had actually been carefully bagging prodigious quantities of HER OWN, FOUR DOGS' EXCREMENT and then CHEERFULLY FESTOONING THE LOCAL FOOTPATHS WITH IT!!!

'Good Lord!' I can almost hear you howl, your smooth, firm cheeks flushed pink with rage and indignation,'But...but why?'

I'm afraid that this is a question which - for all of my age and experience - I cannot answer. I can only imagine that TP must derive some sick and perverse feeling of excitement/gratification from performing this debased act. Perhaps it is an entirely sexual impulse, or maybe she has some deep yet inexplicable grudge against the people of Burley Cross which she is 'acting out' through this strange and depraved pastime. Or perhaps the good people of this village have unwittingly come to 'represent' something (or someone) to TP from her tragic past and she feels the uncontrollable urge to punish/insult/degrade us all as a consequence of that. Or maybe - just maybe - a whole host of entirely

*
Remember that - in my own defence - I was still in somewhat of a state after Shoshana's tragic fall.
**
For fear of attracting the unwanted attentions of TP's neighbours - one of whom, a Mrs Janine Loose, has grown extraordinarily jumpy and paranoid of late, since
a canny gang of local schoolchildren appropriated the disused greenhouse at the bottom of her garden and secretly cultivated marijuana plants in it.
Their illegal activities were only brought to light after Mrs Loose discovered two boys spreadeagled on her lawn, 'completely monged', when she went to hang out
her washing one blustery, autumn afternoon.
***
With TP - I hate to have to say it, but say it I must - representing the steaming turd of festering excrement within.

13.

different impulses are at play here. Shoshana had the fascinating idea that as a small child TP might've developed 'issues' during her anal phase* brought on by an overly strict and prohibitive potty-training regimen. She discussed this idea with a neighbour of ours who might properly be called an 'expert' in the field, and they explained to her - at some length - how as children we have an innocent, perfectly natural conception of our own faeces as a kind of 'gift'** which we generously share with our parents.

Shoshana wondered whether TP's emotional/psychological development as a child was halted/blocked at this critical stage, leading to an unusual fixation with faeces in adult life, which, many decades later, still gives TP the child-like compulsion to 'share' this 'precious' substance with all of her friends and neighbours***.

Whatever the real reasons for TP's extraordinary behaviour, the hard fact remains that she is currently posing a serious threat to the health and safety of the general public and must be stopped as a matter of some urgency. To this end I sent a lengthy email to Trevor Horsmith, insisting that he take some kind of positive action to deter TP from her foul and aberrant path.

Horsmith****, while professing himself to be 'very interested' in my theories, calmly informed me that unless he was able to catch TP red-handed (transporting faeces from her home and depositing them on the moor) then he would be unable to take any kind of prohibitive action against her. Given that TP prefers to walk only after dark and Trevor Horsmith's working hours finish promptly at five, the likelihood of this ever happening is - at best, I feel - extremely limited. Horsmith also went on to discourage me - and in no uncertain terms*****, either - from taking any kind of independent action myself, claiming that a matter this sensitive was - I quote - 'always better left in the hands of qualified professionals******.'

So there you have it, Ms Withycombe; a detailed summary of the complex web of problems our small - but perfectly formed - village is currently struggling to grapple with. Call me a foolish, old optimist (if you must!), but I have a strong presentiment that your input in this matter will prove most beneficial, and am keenly looking forward to bashing out some kind of joint plan of action with you at the start of the New Year -

Yours, in eager anticipation,

Jeremy - aka Jez - Baverstock

PS. Merry Christmas! (I almost forgot!!)

PPS. You will probably have noticed that I have taken the great liberty of enclosing a small, festive gift for your private enjoyment over the holiday season: an - as yet - unpublished book******* I once wrote about my nefarious activities as a reconnoiter, blackhat and mole inside the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain********.

XXJ

*
Who started - but never completed - a child psychology correspondence course a few years back (then swapped to aromatherapy).
**
Apparently - according to Ms. Sissy Logan, an old Bluebell Dancing girl turned colonic irrigation practitioner - Carl Gustav Jung has
written quite extensively on this peculiar subject.
***
Lucky old us, eh?!
****
As he will no doubt have informed you.
*****
I found his insinuations extremely hurtful. As I told you after the meeting, nine out of the ten charges were dropped through lack of evidence, and in the tenth
instance a credible witness was able to verify that I had merely asked the girl for directions to the nearest Tesco Metro. I have visited Leeds for many years
and know the town well, but the rejuvenation of the riverside area and recent changes to the one-way system are liable to catch even a seasoned old pro like
myself on the hop.
******
Although I remain a little confused as to what his 'professional' status might actually be.
*******
This edition is limited to only thirty copies. Shoshana is wholly responsible for the wonderful, colourful, internal artwork.
********
An organisation that has - over recent years - fallen prey to rank corruption, chronic inefficiency and levels of bovine complacency the like of which you can
hardly dare to imagine. My lack of an independent publisher is, I believe, at least partly down to the fact that members of this powerful institution are
currently rife within all - and I mean all - areas of the national media. It may shock you to discover that The Duchess of Windsor, Peter Sissons, and that
queer little chap who owns Sainsbury's - or possibly Asda - were former members and dabbled, quite seriously, in the organisation for a while.
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last update: July 2, 2007