Monday, 19 August 2019

The Belief In Disbelief


This discussion is likely to become somewhat tortuous. But please hang in there. Try to follow my argument and, if you disagree, please write in and put me right.

We are at this point in time Christians. By whatever means or way we came to this point, be it cradle Christians, born and raised this way, or by conversion to Christianity, or whatever other route we took in life to get to where we are now; we are essentially Christians.

By this we mean basically that we believe in God. We believe that Jesus is His only Son, born of a virgin as a human here on earth, albeit He is/was God, He died for us, raised from the dead and went up to Heaven. And when there He sent us His Holy Spirit. These are the very basics of our beliefs.

Now some of us take these beliefs, put them at the back of our mind, and get on with our busy lives. Getting to work, raising a family, looking after our financial affairs, making sure we have enough savings for when we're ill or for old age; and we live our daily lives, shopping, cooking, taking the trash out every day ... that sort of thing. Life takes over and, although we believe, we still have to be realistic and get on with life.

Some of us, however, take our beliefs even more to heart. They are central to our lives, central to everything we do, they form and guide our every actions in life, to the point of our very existence; breathing even. Our beliefs are ourselves. We are our beliefs. We do not spend time fretting and worrying about the minutiae of life. God exists, He will take care of us, and of our needs.

Such a path of total unwavering beliefs, admirable and laudable though it is, is full of dangers and pitfalls in itself. Our total 100% reliance on our beliefs can in itself, at some point, lead one at times to question those very beliefs which have for so long shaped and formed our lives, our very existence, what we are now and what we have become.

We ask ourselves, is this all real? What led me to the point that I believe what I believe? What evidence is there for it? What proof? I believe through blind Faith; but what if it's all a fallacy, a myth, a man-made story and set of rules just to keep society in check. Our basic beliefs, the existence of an almighty god, having a son of virgin birth, his death, resurrection and the sending of his spirit are in themselves unbelievable.

That point of questioning to the point of doubts of our very beliefs, unbelievable as it seems, does occur to many of those who have followed a hitherto path of unwavering belief.

How is this so?

The devil, who does exist, make no mistake about that, takes our very unwavering belief as an opportunity to cast doubt and confusion in our mind. For he it is who, unaware by us, sheds the odd flash of questioning and uncertainty in our minds. It is he who aims to lead us astray from our beliefs and faith. After all, what is the point of him tempting those who don't believe? They are already in his camp. It's the others, those who believe, that he wants to recruit.

Usually, those who do not believe in God don't have any doubts about their beliefs. Have you noticed how unbelievers are always certain of their position? They believe they know for sure that God does not exist and are eager to prove it to you.

I often wonder about all the Saints we have read about. Were they all 100% totally dedicated to their beliefs and faith and were they all totally unwavering throughout their lives?

The answer is no. Most of them, if not all, had their moments of doubts, their moments of confusion and temptations. But they kept trying, through prayers, dedication, and perhaps outright stubbornness, they kept going on in their beliefs despite all the difficulties these gave rise too. No doubt, they were sinners too. Like you and me. But they kept on trying.

Despite their failings, their short-comings, and their weaknesses - Saints are sinners who kept on trying.

Hopefully ... like you and me.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

It's not important


What is important at one point in time may not be that important at another point in time further down the line.

But at the time, it was very important to you. That is why you argued your case, you took entrenched positions, and you had a strong point of view.

The point was that you were right, and therefore it follows that if you were right then the other person was wrong. And it was your duty to stand up for your rights. It was right that you do so and not walk away and let wrong get away with it.

It was a matter of principle. And where principles are involved it was important that you fight for them.

Eventually, the matter may or may not have been resolved. Both parties may or may not have reconciled or compromised.

It is possible that you both went your separate ways. Perhaps you never spoke to each other ever since. Maybe you have not even met ever since. You both walked away and the issue was left unresolved.

But now, years later, looking back, was it that important after all?

Was it too difficult to resolve? Are you certain you were totally in the right and the other person totally in the wrong? Was it a matter of such importance and a principle worth fighting over to the point where you both lost whatever ground there was between you?

Was what was important then still important now?

Had you known then its true lack of importance would you have fought for it just as much, believing it was more important than it really was?

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Listen to the falling rain


Listen to the falling rain,
Listen to it fall,
And with every drop of rain,
I can hear you call,
Call my name right out loud,
I can hear above the clouds,
And I'm here among the puddles,
You and I together huddle. 
(Jose Feliciano)

Listening is difficult. It requires effort and concentration. When you listen you have to hear, understand, analyse, form an opinion, formulate an answer whether you speak it or not, and act on what you have listened to.

Listening is more than just hearing. We hear many things in our daily life. The sound of the traffic outside, the dog barking or whatever other noises surround us.

But if as we drive we hear a noise from the engine, our brain changes gear to listening, analysing what the noise is and how to deal with it.

Our listening attention depends on who is doing the talking. How important they are. How relevant what they say is to your own priorites and well-being.

It is said that in a successful marriage one of the partners should be slightly deaf. Preferably the husband.

This is because, (so they say), wives tend to prattle on about this and that, what's been on TV, what the neighbour did, what the kids said about school, and so on and so forth. Sometimes the conversation is about tasks undone - taking the trash out, painting the spare room, mowing the lawn etc ... And the husband says, "Yes dear ..." and ignores what's being said. Especially if it interferes with football on the TV.

But if the wife says, "We need to talk ... (it always starts with this sentence) ... I want a divorce!" the husband suddenly listens up and takes his attention away from the TV or whatever he is doing. He knows this time it is serious and he should listen carefully.

We listen carefully depending on the seriousness of what is being said and who is saying it. Our partner, the boss, the doctor, the baby crying ... and so on.

But what if it is God speaking? How important is He? Is anyone listening?

Or is God just speaking to Himself?

Friday, 16 August 2019

How do you feel?


A phrase used often by reporters on TV when interviewing someone is, "How do you feel ... ?"

A celebrity wins an Oscar or whatever other award and the reporter puts a microphone to their face and asks, "how are you feeling right now?"

Someone or other wins a prize on the lottery and they're over-excited and the reporter asks, "how are you feeling about this win?"

There's been a tragic disaster, people have been injured or killed, and the reporter asks a crying person, "how do you feel right now?"

I guess this obsession with peoples' feelings at different times in their lives, whether happy or sad, is to bring it home to us, the viewers, the very emotions that people are going through at the very moment that it happens. We share their joys, or sadness as we see them on the screen. For a moment perhaps we touch their very souls as they undergo the emotions of the moment.

OK ... let me try this on you. Here's the microphone in front of you and I'm expecting a quick response and reaction to the question.

"You are a Christian, what is your feeling about this?"

Are you ... Happy? Joyful? Glad? Nonplussed? Nonchalant? Blasé? Sad? Worried? Fearful? Other?

What does being a Christian mean to us in this day and age? Is it something to be proud of? Something to hide and shy away from? Or just a label we use for convenience when someone asks, or when we are filling an application form or a census form or such like?

Not long ago I ran a small discussion group in our church and we were discussing a Bible reading. I asked, "If someone with a microphone asked you in the street who was Jesus, what would you say?"

The responses I got was, "He was a teacher, a wise man, a healer, He performed miracles, ... and so on."

No one said, He was/is the Son of God.

When I pointed this out they responded, "We don't say that sort of thing in public in this country. We don't talk like that about religion and things!"

Now I may have been in a cocoon these past few years. Either comatose or completely sheltered from this world. But it was not ever so.

Time was when men took their hats off when entering a church, or when a funeral cortège passed by. Women used to cover their heads with a scarf or hat when in church. People used to kneel before taking a seat in the pews. Time was when being a Christian was a good thing.

When I worked in London people there knew I was a Christian. I did not go around preaching to everyone or waving my hands in the air shouting "Praise the Lord!" Talking about religion and politics was strictly forbidden at work; but people knew I was a Christian.

I was in business, made business decisions, tough ones at times that were not palatable or popular. Often my decisions were diametrically opposed to that of others. I fought my corner and lost friends as a result. I made mistakes ... many. And was most probably as good or as bad as everyone else.

Once a colleague and I visited nearby St Paul's Cathedral at lunchtime. It was/is a tourist attraction and as we entered the huge building my friend waved his hand in the air, pointing to the ceiling and all around and said, "Tell me ... do you believe in all that?"

I replied, "Yes ... as a matter of fact I do!"

He said nothing.

I hope that if the same scenario happened today I would reply the same way. I don't know. Pointing the microphone at myself I ask, "How do I feel about that?"

How do you feel about that?

More important ... How does God feel about that?

Thursday, 15 August 2019

I am not worthy



Let us read bits from John Chapter 15, especially the bits I have marked in bold:

5   I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.

7   If you remain in me and my words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it.

10   If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in His love.

16   You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of Him in my name.

When I was young, many years ago, and lived in London, I made many acquaintances with well-to-do people. They were not friends as such, just acquaintances. People I knew and met with often. I wonder where they all are now !!!

One day, one such acquaintance said: "Let's go to my club."

"My club?" I thought, "I wonder what he means."

Moments later we arrived at this very classy building with a man at the door wearing a posh uniform. He saluted my friend by touching his cap, eyed me suspiciously, and opened the door to let us in.

It was a gentleman's club.

As we entered my feet sank into such luxurious carpets so thick that it was like walking through a cloud of feathers. Above me were chandeliers so big and so magnificent that they probably needed their own power stations to keep them lit. Around me on the walls hung the most beautiful oil paintings I'd ever seen, all originals, mostly portraits of old people in ancient type clothings. No doubt patrons of this place from years gone by. There were also a variety of full size marble statues; the kind you would find in a Roman or Greek temple or palace. I didn't know who they were, but they looked as if they belonged to these sumptuous surroundings.

We entered a very large room with similar thickness of carpets and wall-to-wall luxury. It was full of huge leather chairs placed in twos or threes around tables scattered here and there. There were already some men there, sitting quietly and reading their papers.

My friend and I sat at a table. He asked me if I wanted a drink. "No point in asking for a beer," I thought, "this place is far too posh to have something as common as beer. Or indeed, someone as common as me. I do not belong in this place!"

I asked my friend what he'd suggest and he rattled a list of wines all with fancy titles like "Chateaux Very Expensive" or "Chateaux Even More Extravagantly Expensive". He suggested that if I'd prefer a brandy they have a selection of Cognacs dating back several centuries and favourites of princes and emperors from years gone by.

I can't remember what I eventually had to drink; but I knew that I did not belong there. Had I turned up to this place on my own, no doubt the doorkeeper, or maître d’hôtel as my friend called him, would have stopped me getting in and threw me in front of a passing taxi or bus. The only reason I was there, and enjoying a luxurious drink at his expense I might add, was because I was with him. He had the golden ticket to enter this oasis in a busy London, and he had the right to bring in whoever he wants, including riff-raff like me.

When I think about it; it's the same about Heaven I suppose. We don't have a right to be there. We're not really worthy. God has invited us all to His place if we come with Jesus. "No one goes to the Father, except by me." John 14:6

And as Jesus says in the quotations above, if we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit. We will be one with Him, His followers, His friends, under His protection, and loved by Him.

And twice He promises that if we remain in/with Him, we can ask anything in His name and His Father will let us have it.

When we pray, "God, in the name of Jesus, I ask for ..." God will listen. He will respond. And in His own time, and in His own way, our prayers will be answered.

And if we stay side by side with Jesus, hand-in-hand throughout our life, no matter how difficult it is sometimes; then one day we too will be welcome in Paradise. Just because we are with Jesus.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Let's Agree To Disagree

Let's agree to disagree.

I never quite understood what this phrase meant. Does it mean that if I think something is red and you think it is blue, then we agree that neither of us is right? Surely if the choice is binary, between two alternatives, then one of us is right and the other not.

History is full of examples of people not agreeing on something. Nations have often disagreed on various issues and at times the disagreements were such that they led to wars and much suffering and death. They did not say, "let us agree to disagree", when the subject matter was of such importance that it had to be resolved one way or another. It could not be left unresolved ... for ever.

I am sure all of us in our personal lives can recall instances when we had to decide one way or another, to be on one side or another, on an important matter which at the time challenged a hard-held principle or belief.

I half-heard this sentence, "let us agree to disagree", on the radio the other day as I was reading the Bible. And it set me thinking ...

Did Jesus at any time say to His disciples, His followers or listeners, "let us agree to disagree"?

I could not find an example. Perhaps you can. Write me about it if you do.

This train of thought led me to the Gospel of St John Chapter 6 where Jesus says He is "the Bread of life" and later when He says that unless people eat His flesh or drink His blood they will not have life.

As you can imagine, this was very confusing to His listeners; even His followers and disciples.

"What is He on about?" they asked. "How can we eat His flesh and drink His blood? This is cannibalism surely. This is too much for us. We don't want to follow this guy any longer!"

They got up and left. So what did Jesus do?

He didn't say "Hey ... wait a minute. You didn't understand what I meant. This is what I really meant to say ... let me explain!"

After He explained it a second time, He did not say, "All right then ... let us agree to disagree!"

No ... Jesus let them go. He didn't try to justify Himself or what He had just said. It was as if He dissolved the unspoken contract between them. They could not accept a certain clause so He let them go.

Then He turned to His disciples and asked, "How about you? Do you want to go as well?"

As ever, Peter was first to answer, "To whom shall we go?" he asked. "We're in this for the duration, all the way, to the end". Or words to that effect, signifying that he trusted Jesus without question; albeit no doubt he had many questions in his mind. Peter accepted Christ's words without question and stepped out in blind Faith and dared to believe.

This particular Chapter in the Bible has been the cause of much debates, and arguments, amongst Christians for centuries. No doubt it will continue to be so.

The reality is, in my view, we will never understand what Christ meant by these words. Not until we meet Him face to face that is.

But God never asked us to understand Him. Only to trust Him and believe.

That's what Faith is.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Saint Peter's Assistant

You have died ... and you find yourself in Heaven's Reception Room. There, sitting at the computer is Saint Peter searching for your details and information. Standing behind him is a figure pointing at you.

You look carefully and, despite the shroud covering the figure, you recognise who it is; and your heart misses a beat and sinks to your stomach.

There pointing at you is your arch-enemy. You did not even know the person is dead. You had an almighty argument years ago and you parted company the greatest of enemies. You have never met since. What is that person doing here and pointing at you accusingly.

Saint Peter looks up from his computer and says: "Meet my assistant. You two have not met for sometime!"

Your heart misses another beat and sinks even lower to your feet. If your arch-enemy is here there's no point in going on with the preliminaries of reception to this place. He will have told Saint Peter all about you. You might as well go down without a parachute.

"My assistant has something to tell you," continues Saint Peter.

Your arch-enemy speaks. "I am so sorry I have hurt you. I never sought forgiveness nor cared much for it. Please forgive me."

There's a lump in your throat. Your heart gives up in despair unable to go any lower.

Saint Peter explains. "My assistant here had an opportunity to examine his conscience before he died. He deeply regretted the way he lived and asked God's forgiveness. That's why he is here. When he heard of your arrival he asked if he could seek your forgiveness too. Welcome to Heaven."

MORAL OF THE STORY:

If you have wronged someone, seek forgiveness now. You may not get the opportunity before you die. And you may not meet again in the other life. That is unless you both meet at a place where it does not matter whether we forgive or not! 

Monday, 12 August 2019

The Case Of The Mystery Crime - Part 11

Even though the case was now closed, as one would say, with the parrot returned and no one searching for any formula, as it were; I was still curious. At the back of my mind I still wanted to know what François Bordeaux had invented or discovered that was so precious to lead people to crime.

I wrote to Morag McTavish, Bordeaux's ex-housekeeper, and a few weeks later I took some time off work and I took the family to Edinburgh on holiday.

Have you been to Edinburgh, or to Scotland generally? I can really recommend it so beautiful it is.

Anyway, I left the family in Edinburgh and I travelled to Oban. It's a small sea side town in the North West of Scotland where Mrs McTavish lives.

Oh what a beautiful and peaceful place it is. It's so wonderful to stand there by the seaside and wash all your troubles away. If I had the choice, and could do it, I would leave my busy job in London and come and live here in Oban. I understand it has Scotland's smallest distillery which was built in 1794.

As I left the railway station I had some time to kill so I bought a local map and headed for the Cathedral Church of Saint Columba where I spent some time in prayer thanking God for being with me all the way.

What a journey and adventure I had been through these past few weeks. It all started with me hearing the cry for help from Mrs Scrivener's parrot and entering the house. I could have passed by like those two people in the parable of the Good Samaritan. But I chose to answer the call.

Was I stupid and reckless? I could have got into a lot of trouble. What if the burly man had attacked me? What if the police had suspected me of stealing the parrot? What if my wife and family had asked me not to get involved? What if my boss had lost patience with me being late for work and fired me? What if ... what if ... what if ...

What if Eunice Murgatroid had not been constipated? What has that got to do with it?

I left church and went to Morag McTavish's house.

She opened the door and welcomed me in. A small lovely woman in her early sixties I would say.

"Och aye ..." she said, "I been expectin ye. Welcome to Oban. Would ye be havin a wee dram of whisky to keep out the cold? It is from here in Oban. Best whisky in Scotland I would say!"

She was right. It was a very nice whisky indeed.

"Have been preparin somewhat to eat, would ye be joinin me?" she continued, "best haggis and black puddin in the world, with bacon and sausages and eggs. Also Scotch mutton pie. It'll grow hair on ye chest ye ken! It's a late breakfast one might say. But who cares? I live alone and I eat wha' I want when I want. Nae problem. Whit's fur ye'll no go past ye."

I smiled and sat down at table with her.

"And there'll be black bun for after with a nice cuppa tea and toasties with marmalade from Dundee!"

For those who don't know it, black bun is a fruit cake completely covered with pastry. The cake mixture is a combination of raisins, currants, almonds, citrus peel, allspice, ginger, cinnamon and, would you believe, black pepper.

It was a meal, or late breakfast fit for a king. I was astounded at her kindness and generosity to someone she had never met.

I offered, as politely and as tactfully as I could, to contribute to this sumptuous meal. Perhaps by making a financial donation, or taking her out for a meal that very evening.

"Awa' an bile yer heid!" she said with a laugh. Which literally translated means go boil your head, but actually means, forget it ... don't mention it ... in this case meaning thank you, but you're welcome to what I have to offer.

"Yer bum's oot the windae!" she laughed loudly and heartily. I wondered why she thought my backside was out of the window but she explained that it meant I was talking nonsense by offering to pay for the meal.

I asked her if she knew what François Bordeaux was working on in his retirement as a scientist.

"Och aye ..." she said, "he always worked in his laboratory mixing this liquid with that and talkin to imself! I asked him once why he dinnae relax in his retirement and took it easy. He said he was on the brink of inventin somethin that would revolutionise the world"

"Do you know what it was?" I asked.

"Aye ..." she replied, "he said he'd invented the cure to male baldness. A grey cream it was. He even tried on himself!"

"Did he?"

"Aye he did ..." she continued, "he showed me ... he looked for a place on his body where no hair grows. Like the bottom of his feet. He put some cream on it. Just a little. The left foot it was. After a week or so black hairs began to grow. He then put a tiny drop on the palm of his left hand. Right in the middle. Agin black hairs grew after a few days. And they continued to grow. So he put a tiny bit on his head. Just a centimetre area. He was bald at the top. And yet agin black hairs grew, even though his own hairs were grey ... white like!"

"That's amazing" I said enthusiastically, "what did he plan to do with this cream?"

"He said he were goin to sell the formula to some company to produce it and make him rich. I never believed it. I asked him if he were goin to write it on paper like. And he said ... naye ... a formula like this is best kept in the head!"

"That's very interesting," I said to encourage her to keep talking, "tell me Morag, is it OK to call you Morag? Tell me, did François Bordeaux have a parrot do you know?"

"Och aye ..." she laughed, "he was obsessed with his red parrot. He called him Archibald. Meaning genuinely bald ... ye ken. That's what he told me any road. He called him the Third because the other two he had died. He was as mad as a box of frogs, Professor Bordeaux was. But a braw man nonetheless!

"I once caught him tryin to hypnotise the bird. He sat there in front of it swinging his pocket watch on a chain and sayin ... ye gettin sleepy ... eyelids gettin heavy ... very heavy ... sleepy ...

"I laughed so hard in secret that I pissed maeself. What a stupid man ... hypnotisin a daft bird that didnae know todae from tomorrae ..."

"What happened next?" I nodded.

"Well ... I heard him talkin gobbledygook to the bird ... things like 5 milligrammes somethin or other ... 2.5% dilution in some long word I never heard before ... temperature something degrees Celsius ... incubation period ... he also mentioned algae something or other and pig's excrement. He kept it in the garage, the pig's poo. Put me off me black puddin it did! He kept repeatin all these things to the parrot over and over again.

"I tell ye, I was out in the corridor out of sight hearin him ... and I laughed and laughed so much I pissed maeself till mae underpants were drenched. I wanted to change them but I had none with me. So I took them off and went without all that day! I tell ye ... it was cold that day down South with no underpants on. But it were worth it all the laughin I had done! Have ye ever worn a kilt and nothin underneath? It's really cold fer yer danglin bits, I tell ye!

"I was careful mind that day when we were in his library and he asked me to get up the ladder and get him the books from the top shelves. He always asked me to go up the ladder. He feared heights, ye ken! With me havin no underpants on ... I went up the ladder and he held it fer me. I didnae want him to look up mae skirt and see mae backside! What a shock that would be fer the wee man! Seeing the moon in full daylight! That would have made hair grow where he had none."

She laughed heartily for a moment or two and then continued.

"Ironic really ... he had a mortal fear of heights ... what possessed the mad person to go up the roof on his ladder? Nae wonder he fell to his death poor man. I liked him dearly. He were kind and gentle. When he died some solicitors paid me handsomely and I came here!"

"Yes, his death was very tragic," I said, "tell me Morag, whatever happened to his cream? Did he have any left over somewhere in his lab perhaps?"

"How should I know ..." she shrugged her shoulders, "after I left I was told by the solicitors that all the contents that were in the house were sold as well as the house. Any pots of cream or various liquids and stuff he had was probably thrown away as rubbish ... trash ... who would want to buy a grey cream they know nothing what it's for?"

I bit my lip in silence and thought ... if only ... if only ...

"One last thing, Morag," I asked, "did you ever hear the parrot, Archibald the Third, talk?"

"Och aye ..." she said, "talked all the time non-stop. Talked like a parrot. Singin too. Am Archibald the Third I am. Yes I am. I am. I am. Am Archibald the Third I am. I am. I am. I am. I am ...

"To the tune of that song I am Henry the Eight I am. By Herman's Hermits it were.

"He also said many rude things that the professor taught him as a joke like ... Show us ye knickers ... meaning underpants ... or ... were ye born with this nose or did ye pick it yerself? ... also ... and from whose nose were ye picked then? and ... were ye born annoying or were ye educated at college this way?

"One day the vicar came to visit ... may he rest in peace ... and the parrot said to him ... ye're boring man ... wouldn't wanta spend eternity with ye in Heaven!"

"The reason I ask," I said, "is that the present owner of the bird, Archibald, said that she has never heard him speak in the three years she had him!"

"Aye ... that's true," said Morag, "from the day I saw the professor hypnotise the bird ... he never spoke a word. For at least six months or more I was there after he hypnotised the parrot, and he didnae speak one word. Then the professor died, and the bird was sold and I left. So it is possible he does nae talk at all. Maybe he took a vow of silence ... like them hermits ..." she laughed heartily again.

On my way back to Edinburgh on the train I could not help wandering about everything I had just learnt from Morag McTavish.

Can you imagine? Somewhere in the past three years someone in Cambridge discovered the cure to male baldness. What a discovery that would have made! No wonder the director of that firm was so eager to get his hands on the formula. Instead, the formula is imprinted in the bird brain of a dumb parrot.

And no wonder he can't talk. He needs the professor to hypnotise him again and unlock his brain from its silence.

Unless ... unless ... one day he might talk again all by itself. After all, I did hear him talk. I did not imagine it.

But some good has come out of all this. Veronique and Mrs Scrivener became great friends and visited each other often. We too as a family became friends and went up to the mansion often. Eventually, and very slowly, Veronique started visiting our church on Sundays, and has started getting involved in church activities.

I even understand she has been seen a few times with a young man her age.

*******

 This story is dedicated to a scientist I once knew. Even though he was retired he continued writing scientific papers, give various talks, and spent his spare time experimenting on this and that.

FOOTNOTE: As you know, dear readers, this story has been written "live" over a period of eleven days. I wrote one episode each day and set myself a target and discipline to write the next episode within hours. I did not know from day to day how the story would develop. But your support and encouragement by visiting me each day here, and some of you commenting, has kept me going. I hope you have enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I thank you for all your kindness and generosity.

Perhaps I shall get these eleven posts published as a story in book form. I'll try to keep the price as low as possible. Hopefully you'll buy a souvenir copy.

Thanx and God bless.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

The Case Of The Mystery Crime - Part 10


I decided to keep the parrot at home until Mrs Scrivener returns from Anglesey. He looked really ugly with no feathers on. Like a new born baby bird. My wife suggested we keep his cage near a warm radiator or heater in case he gets a chill. Good idea. The last thing I want now is a supposedly non-talking parrot with a cough! Mind you, he would be a good advert on TV for cough mixture or syrup. We'd wait until he gets his feathers back to full glory before his traumatic abduction and then have him on a perch coughing whilst a voice-over would say, "When you're as sick as a parrot try ... whatever the name of the product is". We could make a fortune for Mrs Scrivener. She would be as rich as Veronique!

Ah ... Veronique. I chose not to get in touch with her. For the moment. I decided to wait until Mrs Scrivener is back. This is another dilemma on our hands. Who is the rightful owner of the parrot? Mrs Scrivener, whose husband bought him legally from the pet shop, or Veronique who may have a moral or sentimental attachment to the bird?

But then, who am I to play King Solomon in this case? I only got involved when I heard the stupid bird crying for help. Perhaps one woman could have the bird and the other could have a photo of the bird. Cheaper to have the photo. It could be framed and hung on the wall. No feeding or cleaning the cage is necessary.

What a brilliant idea! We could provide all lonely people with photos, or replicas of birds, or animals, with a computer microchip that would make them do bird sounds, or miawoes, or barks or whatever depending on the animal. No more feeding them, taking them out for walks, or cleaning after them or changing the litter tray and all the other boring jobs that pets make us do.

I am really in good form today. I have solved the problem of having pets with a cheaper trouble free alternative. No more vets visits and expensive bills, no need to leave them in a kennel or cattery when you go on holiday, no more heartache and pain when they die. If they stop working just throw them in the re-cycle bin and buy another one.

As a novelty you could have dogs that miaow, or cats that bark, or even parrots that talk for a change. They could talk in any language and any accent depending on the computer chip inside them. Or you could even have exotic animals like bears who can sing, "The Bare Necessities" and all sorts of other things.

I think I'll keep this idea to myself and be rich. No need to share it with Mrs Scrivener or anyone else.

Talking of whom, I received a post card from her today. She said she was enjoying her holiday in Anglesey and would be back home in two days. She had ice cream with Edna on the beach.

Why do people write inane things like that in post cards? What do I care whether she had ice cream on the beach or anywhere else for that matter?

Anyway, when she returned I gave her her parrot back. He was beginning to grow his feathers back again. You should have been there to witness the tears of joy. From Mrs Scrivener, not the parrot. He was as dumb as the day I clearly heard him talk. But no one believes me. Not even you reading this, I guess.

The next task, having returned the parrot to Mrs Scrivener, was to get in touch with Veronique.

This time I made an appointment first and then drove to her house to see her.

We met in her living room. She was wearing a tight fitting red T-shirt and white shorts. This time she offered me a whisky believing that Crème De Menthe would go to my head. But I chose a cup of tea instead. I make it a rule never to drink anything alcoholic when I'm driving. The last time most of the Crème De Menthe went on her rather than in me!

I explained to her what the burly man had told me. That her uncle deserved the money fair and square since the owner of the Trust, the top man as it were, was not interested in getting his money back. It was a director of the firm who was acting on his own selfish behalf who instigated the break-ins in search for Bordeaux's formula. And now, even he, this director, is no longer pursuing the formula.

I told Veronique that if she wanted to we could prosecute him for the break-ins. The burly man had agreed to act as a witness in Court even though this would put him in line for prosecution too for carrying out the break-ins at her uncle and at Mrs Scrivener's.

Veronique wisely decided not to pursue matters further.

Then came the question of ownership of the parrot - Polly or Archibald the Third, depending on one's point of view.

I told her that the bird had been shaved but otherwise unharmed. He is slowly getting his feathers back and his experience does not seem to have affected his appetite. He is with Mrs Scrivener who is over the moon at having him back in her life.

To my surprise she said, "That's good ... she deserves it. She should have her pet back!"

That sentence showed a great generosity of spirit and good character. I was so relieved to hear her say it.

"Is it possible to meet this Mrs Scrivener?" she asked, "I'd like to get to know her if this is all right."

"Yes ..." I replied, "I am sure it would be OK," then acting on instinct rather than intelligence once more I continued, "I can take you in my car right now!"

"That's very kind," she said standing up from her armchair, "I'd better get out of this blouse and shorts first and put on some shoes and something more decent!"

I smiled and said nothing.

She stood there tall and proud in a pose that a female fashion model would hold on the catwalk and said with a smile, "Would you like to throw your tea at me now or when I get changed?"  

On our drive to Mrs Scrivener we talked about this and that. She told me how life has been lonely these past three years since she lost her husband and uncle. She thought that by moving in her luxurious mansion things would be different but she is more lonely now in her self-imposed prison.

"It may be a golden cage," she said, "but it is still a prison!"

She had not made any friends. The community keeps itself to itself and she does not mix with the neighbours. She employs Cynthia, the housekeeper who opened the door for me the other day, to do the cleaning and the occasional cooking. Otherwise she lives alone in the mansion and spends her time sunbathing, or swimming in the pool, or exercising in the fully fitted gym at home.

"What a life," I thought, "but would I want to live like that and all alone?"

Mrs Scrivener welcomed us in her humble abode which must have looked and felt very different to Veronique compared to her surroundings.

She immediately recognised her Archibald the Third by the missing feathers round its left eye.

Despite their age and background differences the two women seem to have got on well over a cup of tea and biscuits ... not dog biscuits ... and talked about this and that, whilst I sat there silent like an unwelcome fart in a space suit.

"Why don't you come and visit me?" asked Veronique, "we can have picnics by the pool, or you can teach me how to bake these delicious biscuits?"

"I don't know ..." hesitated Mrs Scrivener, "it is so far away and I'll have to take two different buses. They're expensive you know?"

"Don't worry about that!" insisted Veronique, "I can come here and pick you up, or you can come by taxi. I'll pay the taxi ..."

"That will be nice," succumbed Mrs Scrivener, "but not on Wednesdays, because I am with Edna next door on Wednesdays!"

"Bring her along too ..." enthused Veronique.

On our drive back I was pleased that Veronique had made a new friend with Mrs Scrivener, and who knows, perhaps with Edna too. I noticed she was more relaxed and at peace with herself.

"Tell me ..." I hesitated, "did your uncle have any friends or colleagues? I am intrigued at what he was working on with his formula or discovery or invention?"

"No ... none that I know ..." she said, "the only person I know of was his housekeeper. She used to come in and clean for him. Her name was Morag McTavish ... a Scottish woman. After my uncle died she went back to Scotland. I have the address somewhere!"

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Case Of The Mystery Crime - Part 9


A plan was beginning to formulate in my mind. It was a bit reckless. Dangerous even. But sometimes in life we do stupid things for the greater good. Or what we consider to be the greater good. Although in reality it is just a temple to stupidity.

In this case we had a distraught Mrs Scrivener who has all but given up hope. She has stopped eating, saying she has no appetite, and if we leave her to it she will soon get ill and fade away. There's a limit to what the Saint Vincent Society and her friend Edna can do. It seems Mrs Scrivener is determined to give up hope.

Well ... she was central to my plan. First I had to get rid of her, get her out of the way, out of harm's way as it were. I spoke to Mrs Pontifract from the Saint Vincent Society and suggested that maybe the Society can take Mrs Scrivener on holiday somewhere for a week or two. Devon and Cornwall are nice, or it could be somewhere in Wales. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on the island of Anglesey is nice. I've been there. It is the place in Britain with the longest name. I am sure the Saint Vincent people can afford to send her there for a holiday as a good charitable cause. They can take Edna there too to keep her company. I'd be willing to contribute generously towards the holiday.

Mrs Pontifract thought it was an excellent idea and agreed to make the arrangements for a date suitable to my master plan.

Next I went to see Eunice Murgatroid who works at the local newspapers. I asked her if she was still constipated. Partly as a joke. It is my stupid sense of humour coming to the fore at the most inappropriate time. She took me seriously and said, "Oh it's all cleared up at last ... it's the problem of the Sewerage Department now!"

Too much information - my brain shouted, but I said nothing and smiled.

"I'd like a favour Eunice," I asked, "is it possible to publish another story in the papers about Mrs Scrivener? Nothing much. Just a follow-up to your excellent story which is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize or an Oscar or whatever thing you journalists get!"

"Don't lay it on too thick," she said, "or you'll make me constipated again!"

"Eh ... OK ..." I muttered, "what I'd like you to write is that after losing the parrot, Mrs Scrivener was throwing away his cage and she found a piece of paper hidden under the feeding tray with some words and numbers she did not understand. She kept the paper as a souvenir and only reminder she has of her missing bird!"

Eunice agreed to discuss this with the editor and publish the story.

The final part of my plan involved my computer friend, the one who helped print the posters, and another friend I have known since school.

As soon as the newspaper article was published my plan began to work. The first night nothing happened. But the second night whilst we were waiting in Mrs Scrivener's house, at about midnight someone came in through the front door which we had inadvertently on purpose left open.

The intruder entered the living room and searched the cupboard in the corner and the drawers. There were two or three flashes of light. He panicked and made his way out only to be blocked by Big Fat Tommy, my friend from school and the rugby club. Tommy is so big that if he sat on someone they would suffocate in minutes, especially if he has had beans for lunch.

I switched the lights on. To my surprise ... or possibly not ... the intruder was the big burly man who stopped me in the alley way. He was out-numbered three to one. Or four to one if you count Tommy twice because of his size.

My computer friend said, "Smile!" as he took another photo of all of us together.

"What we have here," I said to the burly man, "are some photos which could buy you few years in prison. I suggest you sit down and talk ..."

He had no choice. It appears that he had previous convictions and if caught would be in very serious trouble indeed. So he sang like a canary, or talked like a parrot. Something which Polly has only done to my hearing alone.

He said he was employed by a small business firm three years ago to break into the home of François Bordeaux in search for the formula.

"The outfit is not a pharmaceutical company," he said, "it is just a name ... a front. The firm has never manufactured or sold anything and it has a staff of five people at the most. Its business is to buy patents, inventions or discoveries and sell them them on to larger multinationals at a great price for them to manufacture and profit. It is all above board and legal. The company is like a middle man between an inventor and the eventual manufacturer. It helps the small man as it were bring his invention to market. The company is owned by a Trust which in turn is owned by a very wealthy investor. So it is very difficult to find out who the top man is. But it doesn't matter, because as I said, it is all legal and legitimate.

"The firm intended to buy from François Bordeaux the formula for something or other he seems to have invented. I don't know what it is, nor do I care. The intention is that they would have full ownership and legal right to sell, produce, manufacture or do whatever they wish with the product world-wide. François Bordeaux agreed and received a great sum of money for this.

"And I mean a great sum of money," he continued, "enough to get Veronique Sullivan to buy the luxurious mansion and live in luxury for the rest of her life. But all this is peanuts, a mere drop in the ocean, compared to what the firm would have earned by re-selling the formula. They could easily afford it.

"Unfortunately François Bordeaux died before the contracts were signed. Understandably, the firm was furious and at first tried to get the money back through the Courts. But because of the bad publicity, especially since François Bordeaux died such a tragic death, and his beneficiary from the will, Veronique, had herself lost her husband on honeymoon, the owner of the Trust, the top man, decided to let it all go. He considered it as a charitable donation to a good cause. Something that would ease his way past St Peter and enter Heaven. After all, he could well afford it.

"But some director from the firm, unbeknown to anyone else, saw it differently. He hired me to break into François Bordeaux's house and steal the formula. He had some information on me that would get me into trouble; so I had to comply or else. His plan was to take the formula for himself and sell it privately without anyone's knowledge."

The burly man stopped for a second or two and then continued.

"I broke into the house twice with no success. Then this director believed that maybe the formula was on the parrot. You know ... a microfiche stuck to his body. A very tiny piece of plastic film containing microphotographs, small photos or small writings like the formula we're after."

"Yes, I know what a microfiche is," I said.

"Well," said the man, "by then the parrot had been sold to a pet shop ... wasn't it? I went to the pet shop in question and all they said is it was sold to a short man. Do you know how many short men there are in the world? I seem to have searched for all of them over the last three years. It's been my only form of employment. The firm's director kept paying me as was intent on finding the parrot and the formula. Eventually I narrowed the search to Mrs Scrivener and this house. I waited outside watching the house for a few days. Then I saw you visit here ... but you are not short are you? I thought I'd got the wrong place. So I followed you and heard you talk to the wine merchant in the market and mention François Bordeaux. That was the missing link as it were. I needed to be sure so I stopped you in the alley way to gauge your reaction when I mentioned François Bordeaux.

"Somehow, I was sure I got the right place. The first time I got in the house the parrot made quite a noise and I had to run away. The second time I got him in a sack and got away."

"Where is the parrot now?" I asked.

"It's with me at home," he replied, "the director got him and had him shaved ... humanly like ... and searched his body for microchips. He found none. He lost interest in the whole project and gave me the parrot. He said he does not want to see me again."

"OK ..." I said after a short pause, "I want you and Tommy here to go home and you give him the parrot. No funny tricks mind ... remember we still have the photos and Tommy here would flatten you like a pan cake!"

"Are you not calling the police?" he asked.

"No ..." I replied, "you give us the parrot and we don't want to see you ever again. Understood?"

Friday, 9 August 2019

The Case Of The Mystery Crime - Part 8


As I left Veronique I could not help feel sorry for her.

It must have been terrible losing her husband and her uncle in such a short period of time and in tragic circumstances. And on honeymoon too! What a tragedy. How does one recover from such a traumatic event? One moment she is happy enjoying life with the love of her life and the next she is holding his dead body.

How did she cope in a foreign country with all the paperwork and documentation to bring the body back to England? Was she insured I wonder? It must have cost a fortune and she was all alone in America with no family or friends to help. She was twenty-nine at the time. A mere child having to deal with all that.

It is perhaps morally dubious as to whether she should have kept all that money. But what was she to do? She inherited it fair and square.

She did nothing wrong. The money belonged to her uncle and he passed it on to her. When we inherit money, or when a rich person gives us a cash gift, should we check first that it is honest money?

When someone gives money to the Church, or a charity, does the priest check first that it is honest money, honestly earned? And if it isn't should it be returned? Or spent to feed the orphans or whatever it is the Church or charities do with moneys?

Anyway, was the money in any way dishonest? The company had considered getting the money back from the deceased's estate and then thought better of it. They abandoned their claim. Perhaps they could afford it. Perhaps they did not want to attract publicity. Or perhaps ... maybe ... they were behind the break-ins into the uncle's house and realised that someone might make the connection.

It's all a question of making the connections!

My thoughts then turned to the pharmaceutical company. Is it possible they were behind the break-ins at François Bordeaux's house? She did not name the company, but let us assume it was not a big reputable company but a tiny unscrupulous outfit; then it is possible that in compensation for the money they gave Bordeaux they felt entitled to the scientist's formula.

It is possible that they, or someone in that firm acting on his own behalf, would hire some thug to break in the house in search of the formula.  

This explains why they did not take any small cash and jewellery from the house. They were looking for something more valuable. And they didn't have the sense to make it look like a burglary by taking some money.

They did break-in twice for a thorough search though. So they were obviously determined. I wonder if they found what they wanted? Probably not.

On the other hand, what if they had found the formula or invention? Can you imagine? Who knows ... perhaps out there in the world there is a product or a cure somewhere invented by François Bordeaux.

With a name like that would it not be ironic if it was a cure for hangover? Why is it we wake up with a headache and a dry throat after we have been drinking too much? Where are you François Bordeaux when we need you? If only you could speak from beyond the grave! Or is it beyond the grape? Ha ...

I parked the car at home and decided to take the dog for a walk to clear my head from the many questions overcrowding it.

As I approached Mrs Scrivener's house I noticed a police car outside once again. I tied the dog to the gate post and went in to investigate.

Mrs Scrivener had a break-in. This time her front door was locked but they broke in through a window at the back. Nothing seems to have been taken although the house was ransacked. Drawers had been emptied on the floor, pictures taken off the walls, cupboard's emptied, the bed turned over ... it was obvious someone was searching for something. No money or anything else was taken. Mrs Scrivener, like many elderly people, left her money in an old china tea pot. The tea pot was broken but the money still there on the floor.

Mrs Scrivener was heart-broken and devastated. She was sitting there on the sofa crying her heart out.

Mrs Pontifract from the St Vincent de Paul Society in our church was there consoling her, and so was Edna from next door.

There were two policemen, different ones, trying to take a statement from amongst the tears. Whilst a police photographer and another man were taking fingerprints from around the broken window.

I was surplus to requirements. I had a couple of discreet words with Mrs Pontifract who assured me that Mrs Scrivener will spend the next few nights with Edna. I asked her to keep in touch with me and left.

When I got home my head was still buzzing with a million thoughts all going round with no obvious connections.

I believe life is full of connections and that often one thing leads to another. It is all a question of making the connection ... joining the dots ... putting the right bits of the jigsaw puzzle in the right place ... and eventually we will get the full picture. Tenacity. That's what's wanted. Tenacity and patience. Yes ... tenacity and patience is what is needed here. And determination. Tenacity, patience and determination will solve this case. And the ability of making the right connections, and joining the dots, and doing the jigsaw puzzle thing ...

Wait ... let's start from the beginning. We need the ability to make the connection, joining the dots and so on ... as well as tenacity, patience and determination. Yes, that's it. Anything else? I don't think so. Not for now at least.

I decided to run a bath and lie down in the warm soapy water contemplating. Often, by sitting there doing nothing the thoughts in my mind begin to make sense. Unfortunately thoughts are usually jumbled up words and pictures all inside your head fighting each other for attention. They don't come with punctuations. Or in a set order. Or catalogued in priority or importance. So you can consider each one in turn and act on it or not as the case may be. No ... thoughts all come at once and if you are not careful some may be missed altogether. They fall off the edge of the table without you noticing them. That is if you have a table in your mind on which to put your thoughts and pictures and images. Some people prefer to lay them on the ground. More space there than a table.

Anyway, I sat there in the bath, lying in the warm soapy water for thirty minutes looking at this and that. Not much to look at when you're lying in the bath. Just this and that, and you wonder why the soap bubbles gather in certain areas and not others. Why they cover certain bits and not others. Do they follow the contours of what is in the water ... namely you ... or is it haphazard the way the bubbles spread out on the water? What if I were to re-arrange them? Some over here ... and some here ... and a few over here ... That's better!

Now let's see if we can make any connections between the bubbles ... connections ... the connections ...

I suddenly jumped up and got out of the bathroom shouting, "I got it!!!"

My wife stopped cleaning the ornaments on the mantle piece and looked at me attentively.

"Listen to this," I cried enthusiastically, "I have made the connections. Connections are important. Pay attention at this ... First we know that Mrs Scrivener loses her parrot. Second I put an article in the newspapers. Veronique sees the article and recognises the bird as belonging to her uncle the scientist. So we make the connection between Veronique and her uncle François Bordeaux who discovered a formula for something or other we yet don't know what it is. Are you following me so far? We know the house of Veronique's uncle was ransacked twice; probably someone looking for the formula or his invention. Somehow, I think the same people who did this are still looking for the formula and they connected it to the parrot. I've still to work out that bit. But that's why they stole Polly ... but they are still looking for the formula, I think, because today they broke into Mrs Scrivener's house yet again looking for something. It's plain and obvious and in full view for all to see. Don't you see it?"

"I see it ... I can hardly miss it," said my wife, "I have seen it clearly all the time you've been talking.  I think you should now put some clothes on!"


FOOTNOTE: A colleague of mine at work years ago told me that she rehearses her public speeches and presentations at home by standing naked in front of a full-length mirror. She said it teaches her about poise and body language.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Case Of The Mystery Crime - Part 7

As I left Veronique my mind was all confused. So François Bordeaux was her uncle? Why did she not mention it up-front? But then, she did not hide the fact when I asked her. Why does she want this bird so much? Is it just a case of sentimentality or is there something more sinister behind her interest for the bird?

I left her cheque, which she insisted I took with me, in my desk at home. I had no intention of cashing it into my bank account. I am not a detective and I am not working for her. My interest here is helping poor Mrs Scrivener who has lost her pet.

As the days passed by less and less people phoned regarding the adverts I had posted or the newspaper article. I could see the posters I'd stuck on lamp post disintegrate and fall to pieces as it rained every day. The story of the missing parrot was losing interest and will be soon forgotten.

Understandably, the police were not interested either. They were far too busy dealing with real crimes to bother about a missing bird; whom they believed had just flown out of the open door.

The French farmers market had gone and all traders were most probably back in France. So I doubt there's any trail to follow there.

The burly man who stopped me in the alley way, perhaps the same man who stole the parrot, was never to be seen again.

All I was left with was an old Mrs Scrivener getting sadder and more morose by the day and losing the will to live. I never thought that the loss of a stupid parrot would have such an effect on her. But then, when you are old, lonely, and the only company in life is a pet; then its loss is far more serious than most of us would imagine.

I could ill afford the time to look for a missing parrot and care for Mrs Scrivener. Besides, I had to go to work every day. I did not have time to play detective chasing a bird who by now is probably a tasty meal for a stray cat somewhere. My boss was beginning to get irritated by my getting to work late and leaving early.

I spent every spare minute thinking about Mrs Scrivener and worrying about her. One thing intrigued me though. You know how sometimes we get a thought at the back of our minds that will not subside or go away? "Who is or was this François Bordeaux? Is he just Veronique's uncle or is there something more sinister here? How could he be looking for me, as the burly man in the alley way said, if he is dead? Or is he?"

I called a friend of mine who practised law. He is not a lawyer as such, but what is known as a legal executive. The sort of person who does all the background work for solicitors. I have known him since college and we kept in touch through the years. I asked him, "is it possible to see the will of a deceased person?"

Apparently you can. All wills of dead people are registered somewhere by the authorities and are available to the public on payment of a fee. My legal friend promised to find out more about this François Bordeaux.

And sure enough, a couple of weeks later he contacted me with the information he had dug up through contacts in the legal profession. (Thought: perhaps I should not have used the words 'dug up' under the circumstances!)

Acting on instinct rather than intelligence I jumped into my car and drove to Veronique's house. As I approached the heavily gated community the security guards at the gate, all three of them, stopped me and asked for identification. I told them I had no previous appointment to see Veronique and they kept me waiting for about fifteen minutes until they contacted her mansion to check. Eventually, they let me pass through the gate and I drove up the hill and parked outside her house.

A woman in her fifties opened the door and said, "Miss Sullivan was not expecting you. You should make an appointment in future. She is in the pool for her daily exercise. I'll take you there!"

We walked into the hall and through a door leading to a patio area and a huge outdoor swimming pool. Veronique continued swimming a whole length of the pool and then came out wearing a very tiny white bikini revealing a toned body which Venus would be proud of. Is it Venus who's supposed to be the epitome of beauty or is it someone else? Or was it Aphrodite? For some reason this reminded me of a limerick we had made up as kids in school ... There was a beauty called Aphrodite ... Who wore a pink see-through nighty ... How else did it go? I remember it was somewhat rude but can't think of the ending. My mind was all over the place seeing Veronique in a white bikini.

She sat on a beach chair nearby.

"You have news for me?" she asked.

"Yes ..." I mumbled, "but it is probably news that you already know."

She raised an eyebrow and said nothing. I continued.

"I have discovered that your uncle François Bordeaux was a scientist living in Cambridge. He was British from French descent and had lived in Britain most of his life. He had made a very important scientific discovery which he tried to sell to a laboratory which would produce it and sell it world-wide. They had given him a very large sum of money as an advance before contracts were signed and a deal made. Unfortunately, he died before contracts were signed and the laboratory wanted their money back. They intended to fight it in Court but after legal advice they eventually gave up the fight because they did not want bad publicity. His whole inheritance went to his only relative, his niece named Veronique Bordeaux. Which presumably explains this luxurious mansion!"

She did not speak for a while and continued to dry her legs softly with a towel.

She then looked up at me from her chair and said, "Bravo ... so you've discovered a little about my uncle ...Yes, he was a scientist and had discovered a very important formula that would be of great value to the whole world. I don't know what it was. He never spoke to me about it. And yes, he did get a very large sum of money from the pharmaceutical company or laboratory, or whatever it was in payment for his discovery or invention. When he died suddenly by falling off a ladder whilst he was fixing the roof of his house the company tried to get their money back through the Courts; but thought better afterwards because of the bad publicity this would create. And you are correct. I did inherit the money to buy this place and live in comfort for life. Is that wrong on my part?"

As I stood there I saw her upper lip tremble a little.

"What you don't know," she continued, "is that this happened some three years ago. At the time I was on honeymoon with my husband in America. I was twenty-nine at the time and had been married two weeks earlier. My uncle was at the wedding. It was the last time I saw him alive. He walked with me up the altar because my parents died long ago."

She stopped and took a deep breath. It was obvious it was very difficult recalling what had happened. She bit her lip to control her emotions and went on.

"Whilst we were on honeymoon ... in America ... my husband was tragically killed in a road accident. I was slightly injured, not serious. I had to deal with the situation and cope with the trauma of it all. I was almost penniless and trying to get my husband's body back to England to bury him here. I don't know how I did it ... how I managed ... it took about six weeks in the States to make all the arrangements. When I finally returned to England with the coffin I found a letter from a solicitor in Cambridge telling me my uncle had died. I was devastated. In a short period of weeks I had lost all I had ... the only two people who meant the world to me! Both killed in tragic circumstances."

She burst out crying uncontrollably. I did not know what to do. Do I say something? What do I say that would help in such a difficult situation? Do I move forward and hug her? Is it OK to hug a young woman in a tiny bikini? I mean ... she is practically naked. I would not know where to keep my hands. Should I ask her to get dressed first before I hug her? Or should I change into my swimming trunks and then it is OK to hug her? But I haven't brought my trunks with me. What should I do?

Once more, I think all these difficult situations should be listed in a book somewhere with suggested solutions.

She stood up from her chair and hugged me tightly. I held her close for a few minutes and could feel my clothes getting wet from the water on her bikini. It was an uncomfortable situation, I tell you. What if the housekeeper who let me in saw us?

Veronique then sat down again and said, "What's worse, is that after my uncle died his house in Cambridge was broken into twice in a week.They ransacked the place. It's obvious they were looking for his formula or his discovery. Nothing was stolen. They left money, and some jewellery belonging to my late aunt, untouched. I could not cope with the situation and asked the solicitors to sell everything; the house and its contents, and settle the estate. It was then they told me I had inherited everything. I knew nothing about this. And I did not realise that he was so wealthy because of the money he got from the pharmaceutical company. He always lived like a pauper and wore twenty years old tweed jackets or suits with leather patches on the elbows. You know the ones?

"I asked the solicitors whether it was OK for me to keep the money my uncle got from the pharmaceutical company, and the solicitors said it was legally mine. The company made it clear they would not pursue the matter further. I would be silly to give it back. That's when I left Cambridge and moved here. It wasn't until six months later that I remembered the parrot. I got in touch with the solicitors again and they said they'd sold it to a pet shop."

She had calmed down a little. "I'd better get dressed," she said, "what must you think of me in this bikini?"

I chose not to record my thoughts here.

We went indoors and I waited in the living room. Moments later she came in and asked me if I wanted a drink, "not Crème De Menthe this time in case you throw it all over me again!" she smiled.

"I would really like you to find the parrot," she said, "sentimental value. You understand?"

I understood clearly, but then, if I were to ever find this parrot who deserves it more? Her or Mrs Scrivener?

What do you think?
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