The above is a picture I took on Friday. We’ve been at a civil partnership ceremony and weekend party for some old friends in Broadstairs in Kent. On Friday morning, we checked into our B&B and took in the marvellous view. Our host made an aside that stimulated this three part short story. Any ideas I saw!?
Eileen Pentangle sniffed the sea air, took in the cawing of the gulls, tried to ignore the temptations of the scent of a thousand double fried chips, shivered at the autumnal bite on the breeze and knew she’d arrived. Every year for the last 41, Eileen had caught the train out of London, extracted her knitting and sat back. One hour forty minutes later, she alighted from the train and let go her senses. Those sounds and smells told her she had reached her destination. Broadstairs on the Kent coast, holiday resort and mini Victorian marvel (in Eileen’s humble view).
Taking her time, she wheeled her luggage with its precious paraphernalia to her base in the Victoria B&B and checked in.
Lorraine Thwackgerbil twitched nervously. She had looked out for Eileen all day, fearing, with no good reason that she might fail to arrive. But here she was, in her usual attire of lace, chiffon and work boots, looking distracted and smelling like her old granny’s wardrobe. Lorraine relaxed. The town’s saviour was here. Eileen would see them right.
The two women had formed that uniquely close bond that is the way of relationships forged over countless years between the owner of a seaside B&B and her guest. They were frosty, snarky and passive aggressive. While Lorraine emphasised the importance of her many rules (‘no boots on the counterpane, all stool floaters to be flushed away, breakfast ended at 8.30 sharp’) Eileen challenged the quality of the toilet paper, the cleanliness of the windows restricting the promised sea view and the sad inadequacy of the front door lock which meant the inevitable incursion of uninvited interlopers.
When these rituals had been observed the two women withdrew to the guests withdrawing room for tea and Lincoln creams.
Lorraine began before they’d sat, an unusual if minor bruising of the accepted etiquette. ‘Madam Alphonse…’
Eileen coughed, a sweet if rather poisonous smile playing havoc with her dentures, ‘My dear, I am not in character yet. I need to prepare.’
Lorraine wasn’t listening. Her worries were too intense. Indeed the town was relying on her. ‘We need your help.’
Eileen settled back, her comfortable if oddly asymmetric bosoms wrestling themselves into a defensive alignment. ‘Pray, tell…’
‘We are under attack from malign forces…’
‘The local council?’
Lorraine gave a curt nod.
‘And what can I do?’
‘We need another hex…’