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High Spirits was born of two things – 26 years of working in museums and castles and a love of the old black and white Saturday afternoon movies featuring romance and ghosts.
Working in old buildings brings a real sense of the past to the fore and spending time in the rooms and halls, one cannot help but wonder what, if anything, has remained behind and what they would make of life as they see it all change and pass before them.
It would be lovely to sit down and chat with them, to ask them what they thought of it all. So, that’s what I’m doing today. I’d like to introduce you to my guests on this post: Alec Edwards, Jean Francis and Pol.
Lisa Dyer: Alec Edwards, sometime assistant curator of Partridge Hall in the sleepy town of Plimpton Market. I think it’s fair to say that you had been an enthusiastic collector of artefacts from being a young lad?
(Now, I’d just like to point out, that Alec does like to smoke his pipe, even though he can’t actually smoke anymore, so if you hear ‘putt-putt’ noises, that’s what he does when he’s thinking hard!)
LD (cont’d): And, of course, you had the good fortune to be taken on at the museum in a sort of schoolboy/apprentice role.
AE: Ah, yes (sitting back in his chair and fishing in his pocket for his pipe and tobacco pouch).
Jean Francis: Really Alec, do you have to do that here?
AE: Oh, come on girl, nobody’s going to mind.
JF: Well, I mind! Always puffing on that infernal thing!
LD: You were saying, Alec.
AE: Yes, right, well, in those days the museum was run by a very kindly gentleman by the name of Frank Wilson. He encouraged me to bring what I found to the museum. When I got a bit older, he took me on in a sort of unofficial capacity as his assistant; just on a Saturday.
LD: I guess you got hooked?
AE: Did I? Jolly right I did. Then, of course, once I’d finished school. I got a place there full-time. Best years of my life.
LD: Now, Jean, if I may turn to you – you worked for Clipper, Clipper and Broughton as a secretary.
JF: That’s right.
LD: And how did you two meet?
(Jean looks at Alec and her face softens into a smile. Alec reaches out to her and she slips her delicate hand into his).
JF: I was working in the office, right up in the attics but it had a fine view over Partridge Park and, of course the Hall and there he was. Second window from the left, pacing and I remember thinking how grave he looked.
AE: Well, I had important things to think about.
JF: Like what?
AE: Like…well…l was a very busy man!
(Jean laughs and shakes her head)
JF: Anyway, there he was and, well, he didn’t even notice me but then, one day he looked up and looked right at me.
AE: That’s what she says, I don’t recall it myself.
JF: Oh of course you do, you old goat, you just don’t want to admit it was love at first sight.
AE: I have to admit, she was rather beautiful.
JF: Was! Still am, thanks to you!
LD: Hmmm…that’s a good point. What do you recall about your death?
LD: Nothing at all?
JF: We were supposed to be going out that night – why do you think I’m dressed like this?
(for the record, Jean has on a rather fabulous blue satin and tulle dress with tiny flowers, white gloves, and a fake fur stole around her shoulders).
JF (cont’d): Anyway, he was still in those blasted stores of his looking for some kind of axe…
AE: Handaxe, actually!”
JF: Hmmm...anyway, he was showing no signs of moving and Jimmy Jones was singing that night and I so loved to dance…
AE: I’m not sure how many times I can say I’m sorry, my love.
LD: Pol, now, you have been haunting Partridge Hall for a very long time, what do you recall about them dying.
Pol: He’s got humbugs.
P: Humbugs. Keeps them in his trouser pocket but he never shares them.
AE: You’re dead; you can’t eat humbugs!
JF: Give it a rest Alec, and give her a humbug!
(Alec fishes in his pocket and brings out a brown paper bag. Pol dips her hand in and pulls out a humbug)
AE: Happy now?
LD: Pol, you are from the time before the Romans, what we call the Iron Age.
P: (to Alec and Jean) Why’s she talking to me like I’m a child?
AE: Because you’re eleven!
P: I was eleven when they arrived. When was that?
P: What does AD mean?
AE: Anno Domini
P: What does Anno Domini mean?
LD: Look, can we get back to the question?
(All three stare at me as if I’m asking for the moon)
LD cont’d: Now, Pol you were with the clan that belonged around here.
P: My father was the clan leader. He was a very fierce warrior.
LD: And did you meet the Romans?
P: We slaughtered the Romans and bathed in their entrails.
AE: She’s being scandalous. Ignore her. Though, there was a local garrison here and her lot did slaughter them. In the woods by Roman Camp.
P: And bathed in their entrails.
AE: There was no entrail bathing.
P: Were you there?
(Alec lets out a big sigh and begins to prepare his pipe).
LD: So, Jean, how did you feel being trapped inside the museum.
JF: Furious! Absolutely furious! Never been in the place until I met him and now, here I am, doomed to roam the corridors forever.
AE: You’re not doomed, not be so dramatic.
JF: Well, what would you call it?
(Jean wasn’t impressed with this idea. She turns her back on Alec and fluffs the skirts of her dress before resting her elbow on the back of the chair and placing her chin on her cupped hand).
LD: Let me ask, if you had the chance if someone could ‘move you on’ would you take it?
Jean swivels back around and looks at Alec and Pol. For a moment something passes between them and then all three burst out laughing.
AE: Good Lord, where did you get such a daft idea?
JF: And leave our friends, Bethan, Sal, Billy and Patrick?
P: Get real!
JF: Pol, do stop using modern parlance, it’s so coarse!
LD: And you don’t mind that I’ve written a book about you?
JF: Heavens no! We loved sharing our death with you – who wouldn’t?
AE: She’s being sarcastic.
LD: I’m getting that. Well, too bad, the book is out on January 6th.
P: I’m I in it?
LD: Well, of course you are, and Bethan, Sal, Patrick and Billy and, they get to dance around the Beltane Fire.
AE: What did you say it was called again?
LD: High SpiritsHere’s the cover.
AE: Very nice but I don’t look a bit like that!
JF: No, far too suave for Alec. You should have got someone in a brown suit.
P: Why aren’t I on the cover?
AE: Because you’re eleven.
(Oh, dear, they’re bickering again. So, I’m just going to leave them to it).