Archive for the ‘St Neots’ Category

An Unusual Job For A Woman

Three Sheets to The Wind is the latest collection of stories and poems from the renowned u3a writing group Whittlesey Wordsmiths of which I am immensely proud to be a member

Three Sheets to the Wind by Whittlesey Wordsmiths

I promised to put a longer version of my story that featured on Marsha Ingrao’s blog after the book, Three Sheets to the Wind was published An Unusual Job for a Woman is one of the stories in this collection.

Here is the full version of the story that appeared earlier as “Not a Proper Job.”

An Unusual Job for a Woman.

Philip Cumberland

The guided bus was an unusual getaway vehicle, but it had served her well in the past.

“It’s their vanity that makes them vulnerable,” she thought.

She had been glad to get out of her waitress uniform and into something less conspicuous. What politician full of their own importance could refuse an honorary doctorate from one of the world’s leading universities?

“More wine Mr Ambulant? Yes, the glass is a bit dirty. I will fetch you a clean one. It was the Chardonnay, wasn’t it?”

Fortunately, she was in the kitchen when he collapsed, nowhere near him. When they all rushed to see what was happening, she was in the ladies, changing into jeans and a tee shirt. Then nipping out through the Masters’ Garden… a bit naughty really, but not as naughty as poisoning someone.

Thank goodness for the tourists. It was easy to get swallowed up by the crowds. The bus was waiting in its bay when she arrived at Drummer Street. Some of those academics can be a bit handy when a girl is carrying a tray of drinks while wearing a fairly short skirt; the women were the worst. She wondered if she had been missed yet. The Park and Ride is very useful; you can park for free at St Ives, get into the middle of Cambridge then back to pick your car up. The luggage lockers are useful too. The Jiffy bag was waiting for her; Sheila would count its contents later. No doubt the next job was in there too.

The policemen standing waiting by her car were a surprise. She noticed them as she closed the locker door – always sensible to park near the bus shelter. Fortunately, the bus was still waiting to move off. She climbed back on, flashed her day rider ticket at the driver, and then found a seat next to the emergency exit.

As she left the bus at Huntingdon, she thought it was always good to have a plan B. The elderly Renault Clio was inconspicuous and could be left anywhere without arousing suspicion if there weren’t yellow lines or parking restrictions.

She drove to her cottage in Wistow. It wasn’t her main address, but somewhere out of the way when life got complicated. After opening the Chardonnay with a wry smile on her face and pouring herself a glass she reached for the Jiffy bag. Inside were a few hundred in twenties and tens for expenses. The lottery ticket was there too.

The photograph of her next target was a bit of a surprise. He was nasty enough but well connected; he must have really upset someone, Sheila thought. Then she remembered a story – well, a rumour of a story circulating – that would explain it.No matter how big a bully you are, there is always someone bigger and nastier.

Right, London on Monday to claim her lottery prize and perhaps a call to Grandmother.

The Sunday papers headlined Ambulant’s sudden death; a heart attack was the suspected cause. Hopefully, the college had secured his endowment before his demise.

Sunday passed quietly, and it was the eleven-thirty train from Huntingdon that delivered Sheila to Kings Cross. The newsagent’s shop was small, scruffy and inconspicuous, located on an anonymous side street.

The newsagent, certainly the man behind the counter, was elderly, bald and stooped. His nicotine-stained fingers suggested that a few years ago, a cigarette would have been permanently between his lips. He took Sheila’s blank lottery ticket and took it into a back room. Returning after a few minutes he inserted it into the lottery machine. The tune from the machine announced it was a winner.

“Congratulations, young lady; five numbers and the bonus ball, £180,000 and 3p. You will have to contact Camelot; keep your ticket safe.”

Sheila called Camelot’s special number using her mobile phone, identified herself, scanned the QR code and arranged the transfer of the winnings to her bank in Switzerland. She had left the newsagents with a copy of the Times and then found a call box.

The call was answered on the third ring by a quavery elderly male voice.

“Hello, who is it?”

“Mr Wolf?”

“Yes.”The voice immediately changed to something younger, no longer quavery.

“It’s Little Red Riding Hood. Can I speak to Grandmother please?”

“Grandmother’s familiar voice was calm as usual.”

“Hello, my dear. What can I do for you?”

“I am a little concerned about my next job.”

“He has got a history of heart problems. You are an attractive young lady and very clever.”

“Two policemen were waiting by my car at St Ives after Mr Ambulant died.”

“You should have a list of your next target’s engagements in your pack. You need to be very careful about how you manage things.”

“I am a little concerned about how quickly the police were onto my car.”

“The payment for the next job will be a lot higher, a million from the Euromillions draw. There is less interest in those winners.”

“Who else knows about me and the next target?”

“Just Mr Wolf, the Woodcutter and myself.”

“What about the Witch?”

“She’s dead.”

“Okay then, I will do it, but won’t notify you first. Once I have done the job I will phone you.”

“That’s absolutely fine, my dear. We know you well enough by now.”

Sheila ended her call and went shopping, mainly in charity shops, although she didn’t need new clothes, but the right clothes for the job.

A slightly plump middle-aged woman booked a room at a small hotel near Holborn underground station. She had booked for a week in the name of Mrs June Gordon and produced her driving licence with an address in Stamford as proof of identification. Her clothes were of good quality but not fashionable: sensible suits and skirts.

Sheila’s target was a man of habit. He jogged in Green Park most mornings, usually at seven. His list of engagements included lunch with the prime minister, theatre visits, and talks with dignitaries.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch prided himself on his physical fitness, and his run in Green Park, close to his house, was part of his daily routine. It was the second day in a row that the middle-aged lady wobbled by on a Santander hire bicycle, wishing him good morning. A bit unusual for a woman to cycle in a tweed skirt, he thought, but that was all. He jogged on, turned a corner, and saw that she appeared to have fallen off her bike. He extended his hand and helped her up, holding her gloved hand to do so.

She thanked him profusely, remounted her cycle and rode off.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch never finished his run. A few minutes later, he suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died.

The middle-aged lady parked the hired cycle at the docking station near the toilets and Green Park underground station. She peeled off her gloves and put them on the ground beside her. After taking her capacious leather handbag from the bicycle’s front basket, she opened it and put on a pair of surgical rubber gloves before opening a plastic bin liner. The leather gloves were placed in the bag; a pack of antibacterial wipes was used to clean the handlebars, saddle and frame. She didn’t want innocent victims.

The used wipes and surgical gloves went into the bin bag too. The partially filled bin bag was sealed, placed inside another, and both went back into the capacious handbag.

Sheila found a call box and spoke to Grandmother.

“Sir John Grantly-Crouch collapsed and died in Green Park this morning whilst out for his run. The cause of death will be a heart attack.”

“Thank you, Little Red Riding Hood. Your lottery ticket will be sent to you.”

“I have already bought it. Here is the number; have you got a pen to hand?”Sheila read the number from her ticket.

“That’s not the way it works, Little Red Riding Hood.”

“It is this time. I have plenty of the substance left, Grandmother. Or should I say, Joan? I know where you all live, so no monkey business.”

“There will be none, I assure you.”

The tube was busy with the morning commute. Kings Cross was crowded and they weren’t looking for a middle-aged lady or the older woman who left the train at St Neots.

Three Sheets to the Wind is available to buy on Amazon

Philosophy and History

Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377

By Copy of Silanion, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7831217.

I went to a U3A meeting yesterday at St Neots, they had a number of different displays around the room from different interest groups one was by the Philosophy Group.

Although there are a number of definitions of Philosophy they seem to distil down to what I understand Philosophy to be, the study of wisdom. I have felt for some time that along with History it should be a core subject within the education system. Philosophy should replace Religious Education in my view. Teaching people how to think, would help them make sounder judgements, rationalise and avoid knee jerk reactions to untested statements. It would make us all more questioning and rational less willing to take statements of fact at face value.

Why then history too?

This quote in its various forms is probably the most persuasive argument for the teaching of history:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill

(by Dallon Christensen White board Business Partners website)

The commonly used expression, “Those who ignore history are bound (or doomed) to repeat it” is actually a misquotation of the original text written by George Santayana (1863-1952), who, in his Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1, wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Stanford University online also provides an outstanding and much more detailed background on this important and profound philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist.

Santayana’s quotation, in turn, was a slight modification of an Edmund Burke (1729-1797) statement, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Burke was a British Statesman and Philosopher who is generally viewed as the philosophical founder of modern political conservatism.

(Answers.com)

I was talking to a history teacher of a secondary school a few years ago, when I said I thought history was a very important subject she asked me why I thought it was important?

I replied, that “History teaches us not only about the past but informs us about the present and helps predict the future”.

If we do not know history we have no option than to continue to repeat it as we have nothing to learn from.

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