Tales from Corny Cove – Tale #1
This is tale #1 in the Tales from Corny series of novelettes.
A light-hearted, easy read with a feel-good ending.
Read as a standalone or get the box set[
**]which includes[* bonus ‘behind the scenes’*] insights into the stories.
OVERVIEW of Tales #1-5
When Henry and Margaret move down south to ‘live their dream’ on the picturesque coast of Cornwall in England, they soon realise that running a campsite isn’t all plain sailing, and are regularly challenged by a host of bothersome campers as well as the obnoxious red-bearded farmer next door.
All in all, life at Corny Cove is both a blessing and a curse!
SUMMARY of Tale #1 – Beastly Encounters
After a busy Easter start to the season, Henry relaxes with his newspaper only to discover that the murderous Beast of Bodmin Jail is on the loose. But with a brutish, jealous camper running around on site, Henry isn’t sure who his biggest threat is.
Pack up your troubles and take a break at Corny Cove…
**]Get LIVING THE DREAM, the series prequel, when you join the author’s Reader’s Group – just visit http://bit.ly/TCCP-TCCf to get started.
FREE SERIES PREQUEL
SUMMARY of Other Tales
PREVIEW – Tale #2
NOTE TO READER
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ABOUT the Author
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OTHER TITLES by Alannah Foley
A Quick Note on Lingo
The Tales from Corny Cove series is written in British English, so a few words might be different for American readers – eg caravan = trailer, motorway = freeway/highway, bin = trash, etc.
Henry eased back in his chair in the campsite reception area, settling in with a hot mug of tea by his side and his Cornish Voice newspaper for a vital catch-up on local events.
Finally, I can put my feet up, he sighed.
The ten o’clock departure time had come and gone, and – as if by some miracle! – all the holidaymakers had checked out early. His wife, Margaret, was out of his hair, helping Marc in the café due to staff illness. Their two Saturday girls were busy cleaning the vacated caravans and chalets. And only a handful of arrivals were due later that day. So what else was there to do but take a break? he thought, shaking his newspaper, relieved that the Easter holiday rush was finally over now.
Although the campsite he ran with Margaret needed to bring in the punters to keep the finances afloat, he was always glad when things died down a bit. It wasn’t that he regretted taking redundancy from his job and moving from their home in the Midlands to their little corner of paradise at Corny Cove in Cornwall – not at all! It was just that Easter was the first main holiday of the year – and, as such, was like a warm-up training session for the marathon that was the main summer school holiday in Britain.
No one called the summer holidays ‘silly season’ for nothing. Roads, beaches, attractions, and campsites like theirs, would be swarming with tourists. It was as though all the flies within a 200-mile radius were suddenly trying to land on one cowpat. Luckily, between now and then, though, they could expect a less hectic period on site before the May bank holidays and half-term school break.
Henry breathed a contented sigh as he picked up his steaming mug. But as he went to take a sip of tea, a couple came through the door. He tutted to himself, reluctantly putting his mug back down before standing up behind the counter.
Mr and Mrs Botherham were from Cardiff in Wales and had stayed overnight with a relative in Devon, and were hoping for a last-minute vacancy.
“Not a problem,” smiled Henry. “Caravan number 34’s free,” he said, taking their details as they explained that their relative had suggested Corny Cove was just the place to go for a bit of “R’n‘R”, as Mr Botherham called it.
Rest and recuperation, eh? thought Henry, looking him over. The guy’s buzz-cut, khaki vest, dog-tags and menacing demeanour all spoke military. And his wife was a dead ringer for that busty blond woman in Bay Watch, Henry mused. Although, since he’d only ever caught the odd snippet of Bay Watch over Margaret’s shoulder, he couldn’t think of the actress’s name.
“Lovely place you’ve got here,” said Mrs Botherham in rich Welsh tones.
“Glad you like it,” Henry said giving her a big smile. “We live out the back, so if reception’s closed, just ring the bell. We’re always willing to be of service if we can,” Henry looked at the couple and continued beaming. But, as far as Barry Botherham was concerned, Henry’s smile had lingered just a little too long on his beautiful wife. And no doubt he’d been gawping at her cleavage while he wasn’t looking as well. All the blokes did, he thought.
Mr Botherham sized Henry up, eyes narrowed. Dressed in beige gear. Hiking trousers, sleeveless jacket, light cotton check shirt, cloth hat. All from a civilian outdoors shop. And the little round glasses only made him look more of a pipsqueak, he thought.
“Right then, here are your keys,” Henry said cheerily, trying to ignore Mr Botherham’s deepening frown. Mrs Botherham reached out eagerly with a well-manicured hand to take them and thanked Henry.
Mr Botherham couldn’t help noticing how Henry’s touch had lingered just a little too long as he passed her the keys. Or that’s how it looked in Barry’s mind. “Let’s go,” he grunted.
The couple headed for the door. Henry couldn’t help wondering about Mr Botherham’s expression. Most people looked desperate for a holiday by the time they came to Corny Cove, but they didn’t usually look that unhappy, he thought. Was it something he’d said?
As Mrs Botherham went out the door and got in the car, her husband hung back; and before Henry knew what was happening, Mr Botherham had swiftly returned and planted his face firmly up against Henry’s.
“You just leave my wife alone,” he growled in a low, menacing voice, pulling Henry up at the collar from behind the reception desk. Barry Botherham wasn’t in the business of sharing his wife with anyone – and he liked to let lesser mortals like Henry Mooney know just where they stood.
Mr Botherham’s stubbly boxer face was suffocating and sweaty as his nose pressed up against Henry’s. His glasses steamed up with each bullish snort of Mr Botherham’s hot breath. Henry’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped as he felt the tingle of fear shoot down to his toes.
What the hell was going on? he thought. But before Henry could respond to the situation, Mr Botherham was out the door.
There was no doubt in Henry’s mind that he wasn’t about to mess with the likes of Barry Botherham. As the hulk of sweating muscle squealed off in his 4×4 to find their caravan, Henry couldn’t help being reminded of his old secondary school PE teacher. An ex-Marine without a platoon to bend to his will any more, the teacher had delighted in humiliating weaker kids like Henry; and he would often run up beside the skinny fair-haired boy during cross-country runs, blowing a noisy whistle in his face, and hollering negative comments till his throat was raw.
He was glad those days were far behind him. Or were they? he wondered, trying to shrug off the disconcerting incident with Mr Botherham. What on earth was his beef, anyway? Henry had merely greeted his customers in the usual way.
Botherham by name, “Bother ‘em” by nature, Henry couldn’t help tutting to himself. There was never any accounting for folk. But in this case, he’d definitely be keeping his thoughts to himself.
At the moment, Henry noticed Margaret coming back to reception, and it was obvious from her expression that she’d seen the commotion between the two men from afar.
“Oh, I do hope you haven’t been upsetting the customers again, Henry!” Margaret tutted when she came in.
“Eh? He’s the one who upset me,” Henry whined. Was it even worth trying to defend himself? he wondered. Margaret often took the customers’ side over his. And he couldn’t help being irked by it sometimes.
Margaret put a hand on her hip and rolled her eyes at Henry. There was always a valid reason why Henry had upset someone. But surely it couldn’t always be their fault.
“Right, then…” said Margaret, moving on from the topic. It never helped to dwell on things with Henry. He just got more defensive and the conversation would go nowhere. “Marc seems to be managing all right in the café without Jenny, but we’d better remember to buy some more scones. People can’t get enough of our Cornish cream teas this year,” she added as Henry lifted his newspaper.
“Oh, and Marc reckons some food’s gone missing from the café, by the way,” Margaret continued, Henry making an idle hum at her comments as he tried to tuck into the news. “You didn’t take any supplies from the café kitchen, did you, Henry?… Henry?”
Something clicked when he heard his name, and he looked up from the paper. “What is it, Margaret? Can’t you see I’m trying to read?” he tutted. “With you in my ear, all I’m doing is reading the same line over and over again.”
Margaret ignored his complaint. “I just wanted to know whether you’d taken any supplies from the café kitchen, that’s all,” she said.
Henry lowered his paper. “Err… No, why?”
“It’s just that Marc’s sure someone’s taken a loaf of bread and a couple of packets of ham and cheese. He thinks it might’ve been yesterday afternoon when Jenny was off sick. Just seems a bit strange, that’s all,” Margaret frowned.
“No money stolen from the till, I take it?” he asked, matching her expression.
Margaret shook her head. “No, Marc kept the till locked whenever he went out the back to the kitchen.”
Henry lifted his newspaper back up and gave it a shake. “Sounds like some holidaymaker’s too tight-fisted to pay for a sandwich at the café, if you ask me,” he chuckled. “Still, best to tighten up on security – just in case. We’d better tell Marc to make sure that back kitchen door’s locked at all times.”
Right then, he thought as Margaret finally disappeared into the back office, let’s get some serious reading done here. But just as he thought the coast was clear, he glanced over the top of his newspaper and spotted one of their holidaymakers, Mr Naseby, through the large plate-glass window of the reception – and he was heading his way.
Oh, God! thought Henry as he put his paper back down. Not again!
Mr Naseby was one of those people who Henry put firmly in the ‘pain-in-the-posterior’ category. The man had only been on site two days, and already he’d torn through the list of things one could possibly nit-pick about. The children in the neighbouring caravans were too noisy. The distant church bells were too clangy. The mattress on the bed wasn’t firm enough. And he just couldn’t get to grips with gas instead of electricity. Henry heaved a sigh and put down his mug, as Mr Naseby opened the door. What’s it going to be this time? _]he wondered. [_The toilet flushes too loudly?
“Mr Mooney, I’ve come to report some rather odd goings-on,” Mr Naseby said. As usual, Henry couldn’t help feeling like the man was looking down his nose at him. It certainly was long enough, though, _]he thought. [_Olympic ski-jumpers would have a great time on that slope of a nose.
“Ooh, yes, Mr Naseby?” Henry replied, feigning a smile as he put on his mantle of diplomacy.
“Well, you haven’t got any strange wild animals running around in the woods near our chalet, have you?” he asked. “It’s just that we – my wife and I, that is – spotted some kind of dark figure in those woods last evening when we were returning from a walk on the trails. Terrified the life out of us, it did!”
“Well, it could be the infamous ‘Beast of Bodmin’,” replied Henry jokingly, growling and raising his hands into a claw as if he were pretending to be a wild cat. Mr Naseby looked blank.
“You know… The scary black panther that supposedly roams about Bodmin Moor – and anywhere else in Cornwall it fancies making an appearance, it seems,” explained Henry dramatically. Mr Naseby just stood there open-mouthed, staring vacantly at Henry as he jabbered away.
“I suppose you could say the Beast of Bodmin is a bit like the Loch Ness Monster. Unsurprisingly, no one can ever get a decent photograph of the blighter. Not even in this day and age when just about everyone has a phone camera,” Henry chuckled.
Mr Naseby wasn’t sure he liked the site owner’s upbeat delivery at all. He pierced him an angry stare, but Henry’s eyes just smiled back at him through little round glasses as if he were oblivious. Was the curious little man even taking his problem seriously?
“Look here! My wife was petrified – and we’re sure we heard something shuffling about round our chalet last evening as well,” he said, raising his voice to get the point across.
“Err… Sorry, Mr Naseby, I didn’t mean to make light,” Henry replied. “I expect the noises round your chalet were just the kids nearby playing hide and seek or something. And you do come across a fox in the woods on the odd occasion… But, don’t worry. They usually stay away. Won’t do you any harm.”
“Ruddy big fox, if that’s what it was,” Mr Naseby replied, his jaw tensing. Henry could see that Mr Naseby probably wasn’t going to be pacified unless Henry went out to the woods himself with a shotgun and blasted anything and everything that moved. The Council might have laid out proper forest trails for walkers, but the woods were still quite a wild place, full of shadows and haunting sounds which often put the wind up city folk who were more used to wires and windows than leaves and branches.
“Don’t you worry! I’ll keep an eye out, Mr Naseby. Let me know if you have any other trouble,” said Henry, adopting a more suitable, serious tone. “We don’t want your wife getting upset on her holiday now, do we?”
Mr Naseby raked a hand through his thinning ginger hair and dropped his shoulders, realising he might have been over-reacting. His wife said he’d been wound up like a coiled spring ever since they arrived on site. Ever since they booked the chalet, in fact. The word ‘holiday’ just wasn’t in his vocabulary.
Mr Naseby hadn’t had any time off in a long while. His job as a solicitor had been squeezing the life out of him for years. He imagined his office right now, files stacked up like the basalt blocks of the Giant’s Causeway, growing higher by the day. He shouldn’t be here in Cornwall taking time off work when there was so much to do. He should be back in his London office trying to catch up.
But the recent death of a colleague had shaken him to the core and made him take stock. His wife had phoned in the news that he’d died of a heart attack, and promised she’d have someone return his case files to the office.
It turned out that his colleague had nearly half of his case files piled up in his office at home and had been working on them in what should have been his time off. It was with some consternation that Mr Naseby realised he was no different. Was he on the path to the same fate? His wife seemed to think so if he didn’t make some serious changes.
Mr Naseby raked a hand through his hair again and blew out a sigh as he looked at Mr Mooney. Perhaps he just needed to cut the chap some slack. After all, he had replaced his mattress with a nice, firm one when he complained about it.
“Have you taken a look at our selection of tourist brochures here, Mr Naseby?” Henry said somewhat cheerfully as he came out from behind the reception counter. “Might be better to leave the woods alone for a while, eh? Some lovely places to see down here in Cornwall.”
Henry waved his hand over the leaflet rack against the wall, looking like someone in a TV game show presenting the prizes contestants could win if they played their cards right. He knew there was plenty to do right on the doorstep, but most of the time, tourists seemed to prefer selecting from the designated ‘tourist menu’ rather than explore the unknown that lay within easy reach. And they often didn’t think twice about travelling farther afield in order to stick with places whose names they were more familiar with. The world-famous biomes of the Eden Project, the artistic town of St Ives, the beaches at Newquay, King Arthur’s home at Tintagel. And most didn’t consider their holiday complete without a visit to the famous landmark of Land’s End.
Henry didn’t think the cliffs at Land’s End were any more spectacular than those around Corny Cove, and was always surprised that people were happy to sit in the holiday traffic for well over an hour to get there, even if it was only to take a few snaps and say they’d visited the place. Still, when he thought about it, he and Margaret had done the same when they’d first gone down there together. It was like getting a Scout badge to say you’d done the rounds of well-known tourist spots. Going back home to say you’d skulked around a backwater slate mine didn’t have the same ring to it as boasting you’d stood aloft the panoramic cliffs at Land’s End, did it?
“The Eden Project isn’t very far. The eighth wonder of the world, they’re calling it,” Henry said as he pulled a leaflet out of the rack and proffered it to Mr Naseby. “Huge great biomes at the Eden Project,” Henry went on. “Plenty of greenery. And, more importantly, definitely no beasties there!”
By now, Mr Naseby wasn’t sure how to react. On the one hand, he’d come here with a complaint – and the site owner didn’t look in the least like he was going to act on it. But on the other hand, Henry’s shower of optimism and his own growing realisation that he needed to unwind, had taken the wind out of his sails.
“Oh, give it here,” Mr Naseby muttered. And, before Henry could say another word, he had snatched up the leaflet and was out the door.
Typical! Not so much as a thank you, Henry thought, raising his eyebrows as he watched Mr Naseby make his way back to his chalet. I don’t know! Dark figures in the woods, indeed. Bloomin’ city folk!
Henry walked back behind the reception desk. Oh, well, now he’s gone, I can get back to my cup of tea and a read of the paper, he thought, rubbing his hands together.
But as he went to sit down, he heard the reception door open behind him. Ooh, now what? Henry thought, swivelling round, half-expecting Mr Naseby to be standing there with another complaint on his checklist. But instead, it was a woman in her mid-to-late thirties wearing a pink jacket. She had long wavy hair that was dyed burgundy, and judging by her injudicious application of makeup, Henry wondered if she might’ve been an enthusiastic cosmetics merchant who thought it a shrewd move to model her sales line – all in one hit.
“Hello there, I’m Mrs Candy,” the woman said in a loud and friendly sing-songy voice that Henry couldn’t mistake. She was from the Midlands – the region he and Margaret had moved down from. Only they lived in what he thought of as the more refined Staffordshire area. And Mrs Candy, with her resonant tones, was definitely from Birmingham – she was what they called a ‘Brummie’. Even after years working in and around that area, though, Henry couldn’t help cringing at the accent sometimes.
“Mr Mooney, is it?” Mrs Candy asked. Henry nodded. “My husband and I have booked a caravan for the week.” He glanced over her shoulder to see him sitting outside in a silver car which was starting to show signs of rust. Two pre-teen youngsters, a boy and a girl, were in the back and the husband looked like his temper was being tested by their bickering, which he was trying to referee from the front.
“I’m sorry we’ve come early. It’s just that my husband likes to set off early to avoid the traffic on the motorway,” she continued with a cheery smile. “I don’t suppose our caravan would be ready, would it? Only I think Andy could do with a bit of a lie-down after all that driving. He’s had nothing but a flask of coffee to keep him going since we left home.”
Henry was just marvelling at the folly of doing what would’ve been at least a four-hour journey with nothing solid in his belly, when Margaret walked in from the back room where she’d overheard the conversation.
“Good morning,” she smiled through warm green eyes. “The girls are cleaning the caravans just now, but we’ve got a spare one Mrs Candy can go into, haven’t we, Henry?”
“Oh, err… that’s right. You can have number 21.”
“Ooh!” Mrs Candy suddenly said, as if she’d just found a gold coin. “Whereabouts are you two from, then – originally, I mean? ‘Cos that’s not exactly a Cornish accent you’ve got there, is it?” she enthused, moving in and placing her gaudy pink faux-leather handbag on the counter now.
Oh, no, here we go again! thought Henry. It was the same nearly every time a Midlander came down to stay. They’d pick up on the fact that Henry and Margaret had a similar accent and start asking questions.
Some holidaymakers were almost star-struck, treating them as though they were celebrities who had ‘made it’, somehow managing to escape all the way down to idyllic Cornwall, while they could only dream of living what they saw as a luxurious life.
After a few years of owning the site now, Henry and Margaret were quite blasé about it. They played host to people from Britain as well as overseas; and, although they felt truly blessed living in the more temperate clime of picturesque Cornwall, they still had their daily concerns and problems like the rest of humanity. Still, no one ever believed them, so they’d stopped trying to convince them life wasn’t always perfect.
Trouble in paradise? No way!
“We used to live in Lichworth… In Staffordshire,” Henry replied.
Mrs Candy looked at him, perplexed, and rubbed a hand, manicured with false, painted nails to match her handbag, across her chin. Typical! She’s never heard of the place, he thought.
Quite frankly, Henry had met more Midlanders on the site than he cared to remember, and Mrs Candy’s Brummie accent only reminded him of his former life. But he had a new life now, he thought. They weren’t Midlanders any more. They were Corny Covers. Somehow, they were a part of this paradise they’d found – at least that’s how he felt.
“It’s about twenty-five miles from Birmingham,” Margaret explained. It was surprising how many Brummies didn’t have a clue what lay within a short distance of their own city. Oh, just tell people we used to live ‘near Birmingham’, Margaret would always say to Henry. It’s just easier that way.
At that moment, Mr Candy came in, wondering what was taking so long. “Ooh, Andy!” his wife continued in the same high pitch, oblivious to his obvious state of exhaustion and irritation. “Mr and Mrs Mooney here are from Birmingham!”
Henry attempted to hide another cringe while Mr Candy gave a weary look and tried to appear interested. Not only was he wrung out from the drive down, but he had two screaming kids in the car who were now moaning about being desperate for the toilet. All he wanted to do was get the keys, flop down in the caravan and crack open a beer while the kids made themselves scarce. But no, Mandy always had to talk… and talk… and talk, he thought. Where on earth did she get all that energy?
“We’re from Lichworth, actually,” Henry corrected, showing a cool face. “It’s in Staffordshire.”
In the corner of his eye, he caught Margaret giving him ‘the look’ – the look that told him he should stop being such a snob. He always hated people thinking he was from Birmingham, because deep down, he couldn’t help finding most Brummies just a tad uncouth, a fact he’d admitted to Margaret on more than one occasion over the years. He didn’t know why he found them so. Maybe he’d worked as a traffic warden for too many years and just bumped into the wrong sort of person in the wrong circumstances.
In any case, to him, such large towns and cities were overcrowded and drab, despite the numerous facelifts and cultural makeovers councils sometimes invested in. Henry wasn’t a city person at all. He much preferred the semi-rural setting they used to live in, where he could go birdwatching in the evenings or meet up with the Ramblers for a jaunt in the countryside with Margaret at the weekend.
“How on earth did you manage to escape from Birmingham down to here, then?” continued Mrs Candy, as if she hadn’t heard what Henry had said. He was hiding it well, but Margaret knew Henry was losing his patience with the woman.
“Henry was made redundant, so we decided to sell up and ‘live the dream’ as they say,” Margaret said, picking up the baton again from Henry. “The moment we came to Corny Cove, we knew it was for us – like we belonged here. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to,” she added, remembering how difficult it had initially been to make the decision to give up her nursing job.
“The place was a bit run down by the time we got to it. We’ve spent the past few years trying to bring it up to scratch,” said Henry, forgetting his annoyance and feeling proud now.
“Henry calls it our Goldilocks site,” said Margaret. Mrs Candy’s forehead creased quizzically. “…Because it’s not too big and not too small,” she explained.
“Ooh, very good,” Mrs Candy smiled. The name had obviously tickled her fancy. Mr Candy, on the other hand, stood there with his hands in his shorts pockets, his leg jigging from a combination of impatience and excess caffeine on an empty stomach. How long does it take to check into a piddling little campsite, for heaven’s sake?
“The place is off the beaten track a bit, but you can reach most tourist attractions easily enough,” Henry chimed in. Mrs Candy eagerly listened and nodded, totally fascinated, oblivious to her husband’s growing annoyance. It was her first holiday this far down the country and she wanted to learn all there was to know.
“There’s a lovely beach down below the site for the kids… Lots of steps, mind you – but saves you having to work out on a step-board, that’s for sure!” Margaret joked. “And there are plenty of walks you can do – the South West Coast Path’s right on our doorstep. A lot of people come here just for the peace and tranquillity – some real getaway time. People seem to need that more than ever nowadays, don’t they?” she added. Mrs Candy hummed in acknowledgement and looked at her husband as if to say Margaret had been describing him to a tee.
“As you probably noticed, there’s a shop right next door. And, if ever you need anything, come to reception. We live in the bungalow out the back, so just ring the bell for any emergencies if we’re closed,” said Margaret.
“Well, here’s your welcome pack, Mr and Mrs Candy, and here are your keys,” said Henry, pulling them off a hook on the board behind him. “Just follow the signs for your caravan.”
Mr Candy snapped up the keys with a grunt that roughly translated as ‘thank you’, then whisked out the door to start the car. Mrs Candy raised her eyebrows, wondering where the fire was. Weren’t they supposed to be on holiday, chilling out? He’s hardly said a word all the way down, she thought. Mind you, I did sleep most of the journey.
“Err… Hope you have a pleasant stay…?” Henry tried to say, but by the time he’d finished his sentence, Mrs Candy was already out the door in pursuit of her grouchy husband.
“There y’go, Margaret. Just like I always say…” Henry tutted, folding his arms and shaking his head. “…Uncouth!”
Margaret rolled her eyes. Mrs Candy seemed a pleasant enough woman as far as she was concerned, even if her makeup did have a touch of the theatricals about it.
“I don’t know. At this rate, I’m never going to read my paper,” Henry sighed, turning back to his chair. He sat down and picked up his mug. “Oh, that’s just great. Me tea’s gone cold as well now,” he moaned.
“Oh, give it here. I’ll make you another one,” Margaret tutted, taking the mug and disappearing out the back. The reception area adjoined the bungalow where the couple lived, so it was a short journey to the kitchen to make another brew.
A few minutes later, Margaret reappeared in reception with his tea. Henry looked up from his newspaper. “Ooh, you’re an angel!” Henry beamed as she handed him a steaming mug. He let the heat permeate his hands before taking a sip, then looked lovingly up at Margaret.
For a fleeting moment, it occurred to him that his wife was still as beautiful as the day they’d met. She might be in her early fifties now, but she had weathered well. To him, she was still the same slip of a lass, with short straight fair hair and a twinkle in her emerald-green eyes. And, no matter what the occasion, Margaret was always well turned-out. Even in her day-to-day attire of simple slacks, top and light body-warmer, she looked somehow elegant, he thought. She was what they affectionately called “a bostin’ wench” in the Midlands. And on rare occasions, he even told her how he felt…
But right now wasn’t the time.
Right now, what was important was getting back to his newspaper. And, for a change, there was something a bit more exciting to read about than council cutbacks and local residents screaming blue murder about new housing developments.
He picked up the paper and slapped the front page with the back of his hand. “Here, Margaret, take a look at this! Funny I should have mentioned the Beast of Bodmin when Mr Naseby came in earlier…” Henry said as she sat down beside him with a smaller cup of tea. “They’ve got an article here about that ‘Beast of Bodmin Jail’. Y’know, the convict who escaped the other day… The one who was on the telly.” He scanned the text. “Apparently, he’s still at large and police are combing the area for him,” Henry reported.
Margaret frowned as she lifted her reading glasses and looked over at the newspaper. “Ooh, I don’t like the look of him!” she winced. The life-sized photo was almost too real. The Beast of Bodmin Jail had the mean, grisly features and five o’clock shadow of a gunslinger in a ‘spaghetti’ Western. “It’s like his eyes are piercing right through you,” she added, dropping her glasses to hang from the chain around her neck. “But I can’t remember anything about him on TV.”
Henry creased his brow and paused to think. Then his expression relaxed and he looked her way. “Oh, that was the night you went off to bed early to read that book of yours.” She was a sucker for those soppy romance novels, he thought.
“Hmm… I think I’d remember if I’d seen him,” Margaret said.
Henry looked back at the article. “He was convicted of murder, burglary and GBH mostly… Crikey! Wouldn’t want to meet him on a dark night,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to meet him in broad daylight!” replied Margaret.
“Ah well, looking like that, he isn’t exactly going to blend in, is he? You’d spot him a mile off. And he’ll be on foot, with nothing to eat. He won’t stand a chance if he’s out on those cold, windy moors at night. Anyway, says here the police are tightening the net – so I expect they’ll have him back behind bars in no time,” Henry said confidently.
“Right, I can’t sit here idling my time away like some people,” said Margaret, drinking the dregs from her china teacup. “I’d better see how the girls are getting on with their ‘van cleaning. Back in a bit.”
“And I’ll be right here, busily manning reception, my love,” replied Henry. Margaret raised an eyebrow before going out the door, leaving him to finally relax with his paper.
The next morning was gloriously sunny, and Henry took the opportunity to sweep up the area not far from the outdoor swimming pool. It was a beautiful spot surrounded by hedges and bushes, but he hadn’t managed to give it a decent clean since the Easter crowds had left, and was keen to brush up the leaves that were forever blowing into the area.
From a distance, Henry noticed a small movement in one of the bushes. It was a bird, but it was too far away to tell which one. Being an avid birdwatcher, he often had his lightweight binoculars strapped round his neck for just such an occasion, as he did now. And he eagerly picked them up for a closer look.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Botherham had decided to go for a dip in the swimming pool. What better way to relax on holiday – especially as the poolside was quiet right now?
Barry Botherham normally stayed close to his wife, but he’d forgotten the tanning lotion and went back to their caravan to get it. He liked nothing more than smearing it all over his wife’s voluptuous body knowing that other men could only watch, stare and drool with pitiful envy. And now that he’d paid for her to have that boob job she wanted, she looked just like Pamela Anderson in Bay Watch, he thought.
Mrs Botherham was slipping off her clothing at the poolside, revealing her bikini swimsuit beneath. She folded her things neatly and slipped into the pool, wading in the shallow end, keeping her permed blond curls above the water.
As Barry Botherham returned to the pool enclosure, what could he see a short way off but the site owner, Mr Mooney, looking through his binoculars – and pointing them in the very direction of his wife? As it was, he hadn’t been happy with the way he’d looked at his wife the day before – he’d even warned him to keep away from her. But there was no getting away from it this time: the puny weed was definitely ogling his missus, getting a nice little close-up through his binoculars.
Barry’s stride grew heavy and his muscles tensed as he made a beeline for Henry. The dirty old pervert’s tongue was hanging half way out of his mouth and he was cooing with excitement. And all in plain sight!
Wrapped up in his birdwatching, Henry was oblivious to Mr Botherham who was now standing at his side, seething. Gradually, he became aware of laboured breathing beside him and realised he was not alone.
“Hello, Mr Botherham!” Henry said, turning his way. But Mr Botherham didn’t look pleased and Henry’s friendly smile began to fade. Mr Botherham didn’t look like the type who would be pleased by much anyway, Henry had decided.
“Like starin’ at birds, do you?” asked Mr Botherham, his blood pressure rising.
“Ooh, yes, a lovely pair of tits here… wouldn’t you say?” asked Henry, gesturing in the direction of the birds he’d been watching with his binoculars. “Haven’t seen any of those for ages,” he added, creasing his forehead at Mr Botherham’s rigid demeanour.
“I bet you haven’t,” Mr Botherham said gruffly, craning his neck round slowly and following Henry’s hand. But all he saw was his wife splashing about in the pool, the innocent victim of Henry’s sordid depravity.
How could the man be so blatantly pervy? He read about people like Henry in the paper every day and they disgusted him. One thing was for certain: he’d teach the dirty old bugger a lesson and knock him into the ground like a tent-peg.
Why on earth was Mr Botherham so red-faced? Henry wondered, turning his head in the direction of the birds he’d spotted and looking quizzical. It was only then that it dawned on him why Mr Botherham was so upset. Oh no… NO! he thought.
“No, I was looking at… Err… Long-tailed tits!” he said in a panic, pointing with his binoculars. He felt totally intimidated. How on earth could he hope to placate the man? Every word he uttered just seemed to rouse Mr Botherham’s anger even more.
“Cute little things,” Henry added with a nervous laugh, realising he’d run out of luck. Mr Botherham was not convinced, and grabbed Henry up by the scruff of his collar.
The last thing Henry remembered before things went black was a large muscular fist heading towards his face.
Henry’s eye still stung by the time evening had come around. “Why don’t you go off and do some owl-watching in the forest or something?” Margaret suggested, hoping it would take his mind off his bruised face and equally battered ego. Henry nodded dolefully. He wouldn’t be able to sleep feeling like this anyway, he thought.
After making up a flask of tea, Henry changed into a warmer jacket and packed his night-vision binoculars in his field bag. With torch in hand, he breathed in the crisp evening air as he headed off in the direction of the woods. Perhaps a spot of owl-watching would occupy his mind and make him feel better. Fill him with that sense of adventure he loved. After all, he had been itching to check out the local goings-on in the owl world ever since the Easter holidays had ended.
Henry had heard that a couple of tawny owls had set up home in a bird box, put up on a tree by a local organisation he belonged to called the Friends of Corny Cove. With the retired ex-school ma’am Mrs Feathercock at the helm, all sorts of events were organised to look after the local area and educate people about it.
Although Henry thought of Mrs Feathercock as a bit of a busybody, he had to admire her zeal for rallying support for events such as woodland nature days and litter picks on the beach. People like Henry always seemed too busy with their own lives to dedicate that much time and energy to community projects. And one of those projects had been to plaster bird and bat boxes around the forest in the hope that it would encourage more wildlife. Henry was keen to find out whether the owls had made a nest and laid any eggs yet. If they had, it would take another month or so for them to hatch, and he always thought the downy-feathered baby tawnies were the sweetest things he’d ever seen.
Low-lights were dotted around the campsite for night visibility. But it didn’t look like anyone apart from Henry really needed them. The only signs of life were the flickering lights and muffled sounds coming from the TV screens through the caravan and chalet windows.
With spring well under way, bluebells were starting to push through in the forest, rhododendrons were getting ready to flower, and the leaves were making a come-back on the deciduous trees. Henry switched on his torch as he entered the forest. It wasn’t as easy to see as Henry had hoped. Branches reached up like contorted, arthritic fingers that arched over and blocked the light from the darkening sky, as if holding him prisoner within their shadowy grasp. Still, what little light there was from the waxing crescent moon dappled the way, and seemed like a welcome friend as he waded through the encroaching darkness.
For a while, Henry followed the designated nature trail. The track was no doubt the Council’s way of giving visitors a woodland experience that felt wild, whilst falling within health and safety guidelines, Henry thought. Deeper within, the forest was a fathomless green cornucopia of new and ancient trees, fresh rushing streams, waterfalls, giant boulders, and small manmade waterways, known as leats. Camouflaged beneath the ivy, brambles and mosses were the odd decaying remnants of Cornwall’s mining heritage – crumbling engine house chimneys, miners’ cottages, and rotting waterwheels, the iron rusting away at the mercy of the elements.
At a certain point, Henry turned off the dried muddy path in the direction of the nature hide. Here, the trail was less defined, and barely discernible in the gloom, even with a torch.
Crunching through decaying leaves that had fallen from the likes of beeches, oaks, sycamores and willows last autumn, Henry stepped more carefully now. He may have trudged through the undergrowth on countless occasions at night, but he’d never really gotten used to the strange feeling he had once he was off the main path. It was the sensation of stepping into the shadowy heart of the Unknown – an all-consuming darkness that could swallow you up without trace, and no one would ever know where you’d gone.
An owl’s hoot seemed to echo in the stillness and Henry looked up, only to see the eerie outlines of scratchy lichens clinging onto trees like crusty scabs. The five-minute walk to the nature hide, accompanied only by the scant light from his torch and the moon, seemed to last an eternity.
The hide was a small wooden shack built by the Friends of Corny Cove, and was set close enough to the nesting box where the owls had moved in to get a decent view with binoculars, but it was deemed far enough away so as not to stomp on their territory. The hide was used for anything from badger-watching to bird-spotting, to a stop-off point for a cuppa for the Friends group after a nature day. By day, it looked like a welcome rustic retreat. But in the patchy darkness, it took on the guise of a hovel for evil witches and other nasties that came out at night to haunt, Henry thought.
Henry approached the hide. He didn’t know why, but he immediately sensed something was wrong. There was a strange, fetid smell in the air which grew stronger as he moved tentatively to the open doorway. The hairs stood up on the back of his neck and his breathing sped up a notch. Was he just imagining things? Letting shadows whip his imagination into a frenzy?
Slowly, Henry peered through the doorway of the hide. Despite the stink and a sense of dread, he ventured inside. In one hand, he had his torch and was waving it as though it were a protective light-sabre; in the other, he clung onto his tartan thermos flask as if it might double up as a makeshift club. There appeared to be no one around – but someone, some-thing had been in there recently. Was it animal or human? He couldn’t tell. The smell was indescribable and could’ve been either.
Suddenly, there was a rustle of leaves outside. Henry froze and pricked his ears to listen. Leaves crunched heavier, closer. Henry stood stock-still, rising panic swirling in his gut. A snap of twigs. And another.
Henry’s breathing stopped and his body went stiff. He couldn’t even move to switch off his torch, let alone use it as a light-sabre. And his fingers were glued rigid to the flask – paralysed, useless. Only his eyes seemed to be able to move, and the best thing he could do with those right now was to close them and pray.
Leaves crackled and crunched, faster and faster now. And before he could react, something had appeared inside the hide and stopped abruptly in front of him. It scuffled about next to his shins, sniffing about.
Henry opened his eyes and looked down. A badger! he frowned, blowing out a heavy sigh. It was just a bloody badger!
It took a second or two for Henry’s heart to start beating again – or that’s how it felt – and by that time, the badger was on the scent of something else and was gone.
He tutted at the irony of the situation. He’d sometimes had difficultly spotting the creatures – but now here they were sniffing him out.
Henry slumped onto one of the small stools in the shack. As he did, his torch alighted on a plastic bread bag on the ground. He moved the torch to the side and saw a ham wrapper and picked it up curiously. The sell-by date on the packet hadn’t even gone by yet.
Henry creased his brow, pondering the situation for a moment. Surely these wrappers couldn’t be from the food that had been swiped from their café kitchen, could they? It seemed too much of a coincidence. But if they were, it could mean that the thief wasn’t a holidaymaker after all. Maybe it was in fact someone hiding out in the shack. After all, it did stink to high heaven. Perhaps a tramp had taken up residence.
Henry blew out another sigh and tried to shake off the feelings of adrenalin that had been pumping wildly through his veins. There was no way he was going to settle into any owl-watching tonight. They probably wouldn’t give two hoots anyway, thought Henry, trying to cheer himself up with a joke.
“Well, I won’t be[_ _]using this hide for a while,” Henry muttered to himself. “Think I’ll try shinnying up a tree to do my owl-watching instead… At least no night creatures can get to me up there.”
The light-sabre torch lit the way back through the darkness. Henry couldn’t get back to civilisation – and decent lighting – fast enough. This had not been one of his better days! And to top it all off, he was being pelted by a sudden downpour of rain.
Towards the end of the next day, Margaret watched as Henry came into reception, still nursing his black eye as he sat down.
“It was just lucky I whipped off my glasses off before looking through my binoculars,” he whined. “Otherwise, who knows what damage that Botherham man’s fist would’ve done.”
“Ooh, stop playing with it!” Margaret said, slapping his hand as he reached up to rub another itch. He’d been at it all day. Having worked as a nurse for years, she knew patients like Henry tended to ham up their injuries and milk the situation for as much sympathy as they could get. It was a bit like ‘man flu’. Henry gave Margaret a wounded look, but he should’ve known better by now.
“Well, how d’you think I feel with this thing,” he said, jabbing a thumb towards his black eye. “It’s bloomin’ embarrassing having to tell people I tripped and fell onto a door handle. I can’t exactly tell them one of the campers saw fit to deck me one, now, can I? What would they think?”
“Now, we’ve been through all this before, Henry. It was a perfect misunderstanding with Mr Botherham yesterday,” she replied, tutting at Henry’s annoying ability to go over and over old ground sometimes. “It’ll heal up soon enough.”
“Anyway, talking of the Botherhams, Mrs Botherham came in just now. Just as well she caught me – I was closing up reception late today,” Margaret said. Henry flinched. Now what was the matter? he thought.
“Everything’s all right,” she tutted. “But they’ve got trouble with their awning. It’s got a slump in it and last night’s rain has filled it.”
“You don’t think I’m going to go round there and fix it, do you?” Henry replied anxiously.
“Look, now stop fussing, Henry! Mr Botherham’s popped out for a bit, so just go on over and take a look at it, will you?” Margaret said, getting irritated now. “It can’t take you more than five minutes. What possible trouble can you get into in five minutes, for heaven’s sake?”
“But I… Oh, never mind,” he said, trying to wriggle out of it. What’s the point?
Margaret ushered Henry out of the reception door and locked up, putting out the late arrival sign, and Henry ambled off in the direction of the Botherhams’ caravan, the image of Barry’s fist meeting with his face still fresh in his mind. He didn’t fancy a rematch.
The caravan in which the Botherhams were staying was in the line of ‘vans that ran along one side of the campsite and, since Henry was in no hurry to see either of them, he decided to walk the long way round. That way, he could do his usual peripheral checks of the site at the same time. It always made him feel like he was keeping an eye on the place – and you never knew what interesting wildlife you might spot in the hedgerows as you went along. Henry always came prepared, just in case, with his binoculars strapped round his neck… Although he wasn’t sure just how much he’d be able to see through them with just one good eye.
The day was cooling, Henry noticed, as he looked up at the blackthorn trees on the woodland side of the park. Delicate white petals had now formed on their branches, making them look like they were covered in snow. But with the cool winds coming in off the coast, they weren’t going to cling on for long.
As Henry wandered round, he waved to people who were returning home for the day or leaving to go out. One or two couples were dolled up, looking as though they were going out for a romantic meal. Another couple, the Joneses, were dressed casually and had kids in tow who were squabbling about whether they were going to go to Pizza Hut or McDonald’s.
Henry paused for thought. Should he let them leave and die of starvation trying to find the place, or warn them that there was nothing of the kind for some miles in the ‘remote wilderness’ of Corny Cove? In the end, he decided to walk over and put them out of their misery.
Although there were various eateries in the towns round about, the closest place to go at this time of year was the village, with a couple of restaurants and a pub offering decent grub. Henry always got one of two responses from pointing people in the direction of the village for an evening meal… One was of curiosity, “how lovely and quaint it would be to dine somewhere local, somewhere truly Cornish”.
In the Joneses’ case, he got the other kind of response – the upturned nose, the “what the hell would we want to eat in a pokey little out-of-the-way place with no brand name?” response. Yet, for a village, Corny Cove had a lot going for it – the seafood restaurant in particular was renowned for its top-class fare. Lobster, crab, red mullet, mackerel, gurnard, lemon sole and the like were most often caught that day by local fishermen – and the restaurant’s moules marinières were reputedly to die for.
If Rick Stein, the TV chef who had a restaurant in the fishing village of Padstow, had had his name slapped on the place, he was sure they would’ve had customers backed up on the waiting list for months. His name drew so many people that he had shrewdly cashed in on passing trade by opening a fish and chip shop in the village. In fact, Padstow was so linked with the celebrity that locals often referred to the place as Padstein.
Glad to leave the Joneses behind – and wishing now that he’d let them starve instead – Henry rounded the top corner of the site and stepped up onto the stile leading into the adjoining field, which belonged to their obnoxious neighbour, Farmer Gates. How that man loved to block their way whenever he was out in his tractor down the narrow country lanes, thought Henry… Or splash muddy rainwater up the side of their car. The red-bearded old duffer was a total menace!
Henry looked around over the sprawling fields of green that were turning to grey in the dusky half-light as he breathed in the scent of cut grass still lingering in the air. A short distance away, rabbits chased each other about as they hugged the periphery. Cows munched on grass, and some looked up, staring, half curious, half wary. And the nearby field would be alive with scarlet poppies in a few months’ time.
To the left was the forest, and as Henry scanned the fenceline dividing the woods from the fields, he saw a barn owl on one of the fence posts. The posts along the boundary lines were favourite spots for birds of prey to perch on at dusk or dawn, Henry had noted. He quickly raised his binoculars, his heart racing. He hadn’t seen any owls this year and was beginning to wonder if he ever would after all this time. Seeing the barn owl sitting peacefully and majestically like that only gave him a renewed resolve to get back out with his night-vision binoculars to see if he could spot the elusive tawnies in the woods. Since he’d treated himself to a decent pair, it had really transformed his nature watches.
Eventually, his beloved owl flew off and it crossed his mind just how many owl motifs he saw nowadays whenever he went shopping with Margaret. Bags, T-shirts, notebooks, brooches and cushions were all plastered with pictures of owls. Everyone seemed to love them. But Henry couldn’t help wondering just how many of the owl-maniacs knew even the first thing about the beguiling creatures.
When Henry turned round and jumped off the stile, the low lights of the park had kicked in. He’d been so absorbed with the owl that he hadn’t realised how dark it had become. And standing about doing nothing but ogling nature’s wonders, he’d gotten chilly, and wished he’d put on a jacket.
Reaching the Botherhams’ caravan, the front door was open and the lights were on, but the place looked deserted. Mrs Botherham suddenly popped her head out the door.
“Hello!” she smiled, looking completely oblivious to the fact there’d been an incident between Henry and her husband the previous day.
“I was gonna get Barry to fix this awning,” she explained, “but he’s popped down the pub for a pint. Been a bit stressed lately. Helps him relax. Any chance you could take a look at it?” she continued, stepping out of the ‘van. Henry was relieved Mr Botherham was nowhere to be seen, but couldn’t help wondering how long he would be. Perhaps he shouldn’t have taken the long way round after all.
Mrs Botherham stood next to Henry and they looked up at the awning. It had sagged massively with the weight of the rain. “Oh, yes, I see the problem. Shouldn’t take too much work to sort it out, though,” said Henry confidently, starting to raise his hands up towards the awning.
At that moment, Mrs Botherham called out to her husband, who was just returning. Henry reflexively turned and froze at the sight of Mr Botherham. What the hell was doing back?
It was bad timing for Henry. Unfortunately for him, his hands had stopped right at the height of Mrs Botherham’s chest. And from a distance, the scene did not look the least bit innocent. Mrs Botherham turned to notice Henry practically cupping his hands round her breasts. She gave him a quizzical look, confused as to how they’d got there without her noticing. Henry looked up at Mrs Botherham in horror and pulled his arms down to his sides quicker than a hare on speed.
Barry Botherham grew wide-eyed and red-faced, his leisurely gait turning into a stomping power-walk. Things weren’t looking good, Henry thought, noticing Barry’s neck veins threatening to burst. “I thought I told you to stay away from my wife!” he roared.
Henry’s attempt to explain the situation fell on deaf ears. Mrs Botherham gave her husband a look that pleaded with him to calm down and Barry Botherham took a deep breath, stepping next to his wife and putting a protective arm around her shoulder.
“I just came to fix the awning,” Henry repeated as he watched Mr Botherham attempt to self-soothe.
“Our awning works just fine,” he said in a low growl, glaring at Henry. And, with that, Mr Botherham raised his arm up and pushed at the awning where the water had pooled. It sploshed over the edge – onto the ground – and onto Henry. Barry Botherham’s rigid stare didn’t waver.
Henry stood there, drenched from head to toe in cold rainwater, quietly taking what was being dished out by Mr Botherham.
He looked rather sorry for himself as he ambled back to the house. How was he going to explain this to Margaret?
Look on the bright side, though, he thought, I might be completely soaked, but at least I haven’t got another black eye. I’d look like a bloomin’ panda then.
Henry decided he wasn’t going to be deterred from his owl-watching. But after finding the wooden nature hide in a stinking mess the other day, and being scared witless by a rogue badger, he decided he needed to rethink his line of attack.
After some consideration, Henry realised he’d have to up his game and was now opting for the ‘stake-out’ approach. So here he was, a few hours before dawn, up a tree not far from the nature hide, waiting for his nocturnal feathered friends to swoop onto the scene. He didn’t have such a good view of the nest box, but at least here, he’d be more on their level and might manage to see a tawny diving down with talons ablaze to catch a rodent scurrying about in the undergrowth.
Dressed in camouflage gear, with his newly-acquired night-vision binoculars, Henry felt invincible, like he had transformed himself from a bespectacled wimp to an intrepid, rugged hunter, outwitting his prey in the wilderness… Even though, technically, he was really only a stone’s throw from civilisation – and even though, technically, he’d really only been forced to rethink his garb because of Margaret. She’d been complaining he was returning home with his beige trousers filthy and covered in bits of bark, and was getting fed up of having to scrub them clean before putting them in the wash. Henry told her in no uncertain terms that there was no way he was going to miss out on any birdie action on some laundry technicality. And a shopping trip to a military surplus store was borne.
Through the leafy canopy, the sky was turning blue-black. And in the still of the early hours, lying along the branch, his senses were keen. He hoped he hadn’t perched up too close to the owls. If they had a nest – and he imagined they could by now – they would fearlessly defend it. They’d been known to attack humans as well as animals, striking at the intruder’s head with their sharp, unforgiving talons if they felt the nest was in danger.
Even the famous bird photographer, Eric Hosking, was not immune, and lost an eye whilst attempting to photograph a tawny near its nest. Henry reasoned that, back in Eric’s day, they probably had to get in really close for a shot with the camera. He could only pray that, without the shelter of the nature hide, his new high-magnification binoculars put him at an unthreatening distance.
After an hour or so of motionless stalking now, the gnarls on the branch were starting to poke and prod in the most awkward of places and his bladder was getting fuller and in more urgent need of relief.
Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoooo. Henry’s ears pricked up. The sound of a tawny owl echoed a little way off and unwelcome images started rolling round in his mind… of Eric Hosking’s mishap with the owl… of his gory eye dangling out as he writhed about in bewildered agony in the middle of a lonely forest somewhere. Henry hoped he wouldn’t share the same fate.
A fox barked in the distance and its voice was lost in the low mist. Henry took a bite of his energy bar. Gotta keep me blood sugar up, stuck out here in the wilds! he gulped.
Suddenly, down below and to his rear, he heard a crackle underfoot. From his awkward position, he couldn’t twist round to check it out. The usual crackles, snaps and rustles, he tried to tell himself. Probably another badger. Positive self-talk, he realised now, was a must. Stuck out in the woods in the dark with only a half-hidden sliver of moon for company, he already knew the shadows had a knack of playing tricks on the mind.
There was another snap of twigs. Perhaps it was a fox on the lookout for a night-time feed. His heart beat faster. Calm yerself, Henry, he thought. A badger was one thing, a fox was another. And, although he knew foxes weren’t supposed to eat humans, his mind couldn’t help running wild. He pictured a ravenous, rabid fox desperately sniffing about down below, on the scent of human flesh. He could be stuck up here for hours, waiting for it to give up the hunt. C’mon, man, pull y’self together! At least you’re safe up here!
Another crackle. This time louder and closer. Maybe it was a werewolf. Oh, of course it wasn’t! They didn’t exist any more than the Beast of Bodmin, the big mythical black cat he’d told Mr Naseby about… But maybe Mr Naseby had seen the Beast of Bodmin. Maybe it wasn’t mythical after all!
Henry’s heart raced. He took another bite of his energy bar, chomping more quickly now, as if all his fear and fretting were transferred into his jaw.
Although he’d spent a few years nature-watching in the area now, he’d never really got used to the forest and favoured bushes to skulk about in instead. Despite the nature trails laid down by the Council, the woods had a dark heart that he’d never really fathomed. Just when he thought he knew every nook and cranny, he’d find a way in to another part that he’d never explored before.
By now, the bravery instilled in him by the camouflage gear was draining away. And he finally had to admit to himself that the fear stirred up with his run-in with the badger at the shack the other night was still running round his system.
He began to wonder what had possessed him to ever go into the forest at such an ungodly hour. Oh, yes, it was the owls! It was their fault – with their stunning beauty and their irresistible majesty, he thought. Plainly, he’d been seduced.
Another rustle and a snap of twigs under foot. Right beneath him now. He held his breath, his senses keen, and as the crackling below continued, it dawned on him that the way the creature moved just didn’t sound right for something with four legs. It had to be a [_human _]creeping about down there.
But who but an eccentric birdwatcher like Henry would be skulking about at such an hour?
“Who’s there?” said Henry. It had meant to be a bold cry but came out as a pathetic squeak. There was no reply, but he could swear he heard heavy breathing. And then, suddenly, someone or something sounded as though it were trying to climb the tree!
Oh, my God! Barry Botherham must be coming to finish me off for good, Henry thought, total panic overwhelming him. And there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Suddenly, there was a loud CRACK! and the branch on which Henry was lying jolted. He knew it had been secure when he climbed the tree. But now he could feel someone yanking it up and down. Whoever it was had the strength of Hercules. But all Henry could do now was react. There was no time to think about hows and whys.
He tried to lift himself up, but it was like trying to cling to a writhing yacht in a storm. The branch was clearly snapping away and he needed to get off it – ‘ASAP’.
But he was too slow!
The branch detached swiftly from the tree and he fell like a boulder, catching on the lower branches as he went.
And everything went black.
When he regained consciousness, Henry could see a tinge of light blue sky through the leafy canopy. It was early morning.
He lay still, trying to get his bearings, and finally remembered what had happened. How long had he been lying there? Even beneath his gloves, his hands were freezing cold.
Weak, he struggled to sit himself up and looked around. There was nothing and no one in sight. No stray feathers or blood to show he’d been gouged by some bird of prey. No sign of the fox he had imagined would ravage him to death. All was silent bar the sound of his beloved owls, gently hooting in the distance. Were they chiding him for venturing out in the wee hours? Or lovingly urging him on home?
Two things were certain: firstly, Margaret would not be pleased – but most importantly, that branch had not snapped off by accident. Someone had been there. Someone had planned to do him harm – and left him there for dead.
But who – and why?
By now, Henry was feeling battered and bruised. He’d had a black eye from Mr Botherham, been ousted from a tree branch in the middle of the night by some mysterious being, and he was now sure he was catching a cold after being drenched, courtesy of the rainwater from the Botherhams’ awning.
Margaret was sure Henry was exaggerating and being paranoid about his experience in the forest. In any case, what the heck was he doing climbing trees? He wasn’t a boy anymore on an adventure weekend with the Scouts. Margaret wasn’t surprised the branch had fallen under an adult’s weight. He was just lucky he hadn’t broken anything.
And where did all this talk come from about someone trying to kill him, for heaven’s sake? Who on earth would want to do such a thing? But Henry wouldn’t be talked out of it. He was convinced he knew who was after him. It was Barry Botherham, their brutish camper – jealous over nothing at all.
Still, when a local bobby came round to drop off some WANTED posters for the escaped Beast of Bodmin Jail, Henry mentioned the incident to him.
“I’ll make a note of it,” said Officer Clemo, swigging from the mug of tea Margaret had made for him. “You never know.” Well, at least the policeman seemed to be taking him seriously, Henry thought, even if he did raise his eyebrows and exchange strange glances with Margaret a few times while he wrote it all down in his notebook.
“You don’t really think the Beast of Bodmin Jail would be roaming round these parts, do you, officer?” Margaret asked, stroking her chin thoughtfully. The idea seemed far-fetched in a small community like theirs.
“Well, as our sarge says, we can’t be too careful, I suppose – best to put up the posters just in case. Forewarned is forearmed,” he said as he plonked his empty mug on the counter. He tipped his helmet goodbye and headed off to his next poster drop-off point – and no doubt to another mug of steaming tea. It was nice getting out of that stuffy police station for a change. He’d been chained to the desk for weeks. It wasn’t exactly the action-packed life he’d envisaged, being on the Force.
Henry’s mind started racing. What if it wasn’t Barry Botherham who was trying to kill him after all? What if it was the Beast of Bodmin Jail? he thought, panic rising again.
Surely not! Pull yourself together, man! He’d had a few bumps and bruises lately. Who wouldn’t over-react and get a bit jittery? Margaret was right. Paranoia was definitely setting in.
“You don’t look right, Henry,” Margaret frowned, putting a hand to his temple. “You’ve come over all pale and cold all of a sudden.”
After his concussion, she decided she’d be keeping a close eye on Henry, especially for the next twenty-four hours. You never knew what could happen when someone had had a fall and hit their head.
“Why don’t you take things easy and do a bit of birdwatching close by? I’m working late today, so I’ll be right here if you need me,” she suggested. “And there’s no going into the forest this time!”
Finally, Henry was getting the sympathy he felt he deserved. “You’re my Florence Nightingale,” Henry said, affectionately brushing aside Margaret’s tidy blond fringe and kissing her on the forehead. He always called her that whenever she played nursemaid to him.
“Shoo!” Margaret tutted, playfully brushing him off. “And here!” Margaret added as he picked up his binoculars to leave. “Make yourself useful and take one of these posters. Put it up on the shower block noticeboard out there, will you?” She indicated towards the small building through the window. “And hurry up, it’ll be dark soon.”
Henry took the rolled-up poster and headed for the door. “And stay where I can see you!” she called after him.
As Henry wandered off, a couple of Canada geese honked across the cool sky, its tones darkening to a deeper blue. They’re probably heading back to the lake by the village, Henry thought. Nestled only a stone’s throw from the ocean, Corny Cove’s lake and neighbouring marshes were home to a host of birds – swans, all sorts of gulls and ducks, coots, moorhens and the like – and locals and holidaymakers alike enjoyed walking along its banks and feeding the birds.
Henry reached the shower block and unfurled the poster. As he pinned it up on the noticeboard, he shuddered and the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. Beneath the bold word WANTED, the face looked larger than life.
Somehow, the grim gnarly expression reminded him too much of Barry Botherham. Maybe they’re related, he thought. Either way, he fancied his chances more with the Beast of Bodmin Jail right now than with Mr Botherham. For someone who was supposedly looking for a bit of “R’n‘R”, he was hardly trying to chill out. The guy was far too highly strung for Henry’s liking.
Henry was eager to leave the poster and get on with some birdwatching – and he knew exactly where he wanted to go, he thought as he headed off to skulk in a bush near the café. He was still in view of the reception so Margaret could keep her promised eye on him.
Henry was sure he’d seen some blue tits nesting nearby the day before; and since this part of the site was so quiet at the moment, what with the Easter crowds dispersed, he’d have a chance to check out the birds undisturbed.
Dusk was setting in as Henry pocketed his glasses and lifted his binoculars, checking out where he thought the nesting site was in the hedge. Yes, the blue tits were there! he thought, watching them flitting to and fro in the semi-light, gathering nesting material. It was a lovely sight to see. Before long, they’d be laying eggs and rearing their young. It was Henry’s favourite time of year to bird-watch; and it was always a thorn in his side that the site started getting busier just when he wanted to watch the youngsters growing up.
Engrossed in his cloud of serenity behind the bush, Henry didn’t hear someone creeping up behind him. A very big someone with a sweaty, grimacing face and a grisly five o’clock shadow. A huge kitchen knife was held aloft, poised to come down into his back at any second now. If Henry had turned round at that moment, he would’ve fainted before the knife went in.
But instead of seeing the menacing figure behind him, what he did see – or thought he saw – as he swung his binoculars round to check out another bit of hedge, was another menacing figure – Barry Botherham.
Henry quickly readjusted the focus on his binoculars. It was Mr Botherham, all right. Henry lowered his binoculars, panic taking hold. All he could see without his glasses was a large blur, but he could tell this much: Mr Botherham’s hulking figure was racing towards him at an alarming pace. What on earth had he done to upset him this time? he wondered, terror mounting. He certainly didn’t want Barry Botherham’s fist planted in his face again.
As he sped towards Henry like a bull flying at a matador’s red cape, Mr Botherham brought up his fist as if to land another punch in his face.
A huge blurry hand was the last thing Henry remembered seeing before everything blacked out.
Tucked away in reception, Margaret had looked up right at the last moment and seen the whole thing. “Henry!” she cried, shooting to a standing position. She wanted to run to him, but even in her panic, she hesitated and made the right decision to pick up the phone – and she called the emergency services as fast as her shaking hand could dial.
Henry was making a bad habit of passing out, it seemed. And when he came to, the first thing he saw was Barry Botherham’s face looking down on him. Henry jerked. He’d woken up into a nightmare. Oh, no! “Please don’t kill me!” he cried, trying to wriggle away.
Mr Botherham chuckled. “He’s still with us,” he said, glancing over at Margaret, who looked relieved.
“It’s all right, Henry,” Margaret said, gently pushing him back into a lying position. “You’re safe with Mr Botherham.” Henry could hear sirens and looked around, feeling woozy. Then he realised he was lying in an ambulance. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Mr Botherham saved your life, Henry,” Margaret smiled. “That Beast of Bodmin Jail was about to stab you in the back and Mr Botherham jumped in and beat him to a pulp!” She sounded quite excited.
“Beast of Bodmin Jail?” Henry frowned, trying to get up again. “What? That escaped convict?”
“Turns out he was hiding in the woods, and you rumbled his patch when you went owl-watching,” Margaret explained, pushing her husband back down as they rounded a corner, sirens still blazing. “With you skulking about with those binoculars, he must’ve thought you were onto him, and so he, well…”
“… decided to neutralise the threat,” Mr Botherham continued. Margaret nodded. That explained a few things, thought Henry, putting it all together. The strange dark figure the Nasebys had seen, the missing food in the café, the tree branch…
“I thought you were going to neutralise me,” said Henry, frowning at Mr Botherham.
“Err… Yeah… Sorry about that… Me missus said I should come over and apologise for my behaviour the past few days. Said I was bang out of order,” Barry explained looking sheepishly at Margaret. “And your wife explained everything – the birdwatching at the pool, you coming to fix the awning… I just get a bit, well, jealous sometimes.” It was the first time Henry had seen Mr Botherham looking sorry for himself.
“Well, I had noticed. But there’s no need to feel jealous in my case,” said Henry. “Apology accepted.”
Mr Botherham held out a hulking great hand for Henry to shake. He wasn’t sure whether to accept it. Not because he didn’t forgive the chap, but because he’d had enough injuries for one day and didn’t want to add a crushed hand to the list.
“Please, call me Barry,” he said as Henry tentatively accepted his hand. Despite his earlier encounter with Mr Botherham’s fist, he found his hand was surprisingly warm and friendly.
“It’s a shame you passed out when Mr Botherham came along, Henry,” Margaret said with renewed excitement. “You should’ve seen him punch the guy’s lights out.” Henry could easily imagine the scene. “That Beast of Bodmin Jail was huge. Once he came to, it took three policemen to wrestle him to the ground and sedate him. You’re lucky to be alive, Henry,” Margaret smiled, squeezing his hand. “Anyway, we’re taking you to the hospital to get you checked out. You’ve been fainting a lot lately and I want to be sure you’re all right.”
Margaret looked up. “And we might finally get there, too, now that we’re on the main road! We’ve been stuck behind that bloomin’ Farmer Gates and his tractor for the past three miles. I’m sure he was blocking us on purpose,” said Margaret, irritated.
With Margaret’s hand in his, Henry smiled weakly. “My Florence Nightingale,” he said and drifted back to sleep despite the noisy sirens and jostling of the van as it pelted on to the hospital.
By the end of the week, Henry was once again in fine fettle, back to manning the reception desk with Margaret. The ginger-haired solicitor, Mr Naseby, who had spent his first few days complaining about all and sundry, had just checked out and Henry was amazed to see what looked like the glimmer of a smile on his face. He was sorry to leave, he said, but hoped to be back again some day. Margaret reported that his complaints had surprisingly dwindled to nothing while Henry had been ‘off duty’.
“That’s the magic of Corny Cove for you,” Henry said almost proudly.
A moment later, the Botherhams arrived to hand in their keys and head back to Wales.
“Sorry for all the trouble,” said Mrs Botherham as she looked at Henry and Margaret. “Barry’s been in the army, fighting overseas. Gets a bit wound up now and again. Got that PTSD thing, haven’t yer, love?” she looked at her husband. “But once you get to know him, he’s a big cuddly bear, aren’t you, Barry?” she giggled, putting an arm round his hunky shoulder and tugging affectionately at his cheek with the other hand.
I’ll have to take Mrs Botherham’s word on that one, thought Henry. A handshake was the limit to which he wanted to go with the man.
Mrs Botherham proceeded to shove a hand beneath her husband’s open-neck shirt and rub his dark carpet-thick chest hair. Henry noticed the dog-tags were gone as Mr Botherham gave a wide smile at his wife’s attention.
Once Mrs Botherham had finished massaging her husband’s chest rug, he leant over to shake Henry’s hand once again. “Yes, thanks for everything, Mr and Mrs Mooney. I reckon this place has gotta be Cornwall’s best kept secret,” he said, still beaming.
Hmm… thought Margaret to herself. ‘Cornwall’s best kept secret’. I like that… Maybe we could use that in our advertising.
Henry tried to take things in good humour, but it was difficult when your face had shared space with the guy’s humungous fist. Still, he had to concede that Mr Botherham – Barry, as he now insisted on being called – had managed to turn up in the nick of time and save his life. And, looking at him standing there with his wife, he did seem to have gone through somewhat of a transformation.
Managing a campsite, you had all sorts coming through. You just had to try and muddle along with folk as best you could. Some were just easier than others. Henry and Margaret waved the couple a cheery goodbye through the reception window. But secretly, Henry hoped he wouldn’t be seeing them again for a very, very long time.
As Mr Botherham got into his car to leave, he looked back over the place and smiled. After only a week on the site, he felt like a totally new man. He didn’t know how it had happened, but it was like all the tension had miraculously drained away. He hadn’t felt this good in a long time. And Mr and Mrs Mooney had turned out to be such a lovely couple. Barry would definitely make a point of coming to the magical Corny Cove again – very soon!
2. Fly in the Ointment
When a top-notch customer like the retired air marshal turns up on site, it seems that things are looking up. Sadly, the dishevelled Mr Chigwell lets the side down by tramping around each morning looking like he’s drunk. However, as events unravel, Henry and Margaret discover that appearances aren’t quite what they seem.
3. Cornish Hospitality
Captivated by medical romance books set in Cornwall, Margaret can only dream of how wonderful it would be to be swept off her feet by a handsome young doctor. But when she finally meets one, she begins to wonder whether a life of passion is all it’s cracked up to be.
4. No Bed of Roses
With the imminent arrival of the judges for a campsite flower competition, Henry and Margaret are hotter than ever on cleaning up the degenerating doggy-doo situation. But do they stand any chance of success with the unruly Mrs Gladstone roaming around on site?
5. Harvest the Sun
Henry and Margaret fear their place in paradise is in jeopardy when they receive the news that a huge solar farm may be built on their doorstep. But will their voice be heard, when the obnoxious red-bearded farmer next door is set on making it all come to pass?
Catch a preview of the next tale below…
FLY IN THE OINTMENT
The sun had slowly been rising as the old air marshal approached the magnificent granite cliffs of Cornwall’s north coast. Out of the cockpit window, he scanned the landscape below and banked the plane round, positioning it to land.
He’d timed it well.
The white concrete airstrip was easily visible, contrasting with the surrounding greenery. Although, in the dim light, everything still looked painted in shades of grey. The wheels screeched as they hit the runway, rolling on giddily for some distance, before slowing as the plane neared the hangar.
The marshal steered the plane in an arc to park it in position for a quick and easy takeoff, should the need arise, then killed the engine and breathed out a sigh of relief.
The journey was finally over.
Dressed all in black, the marshal pulled himself out of the cockpit and onto terra firma, pausing for thought as he lit a thin cigar.
He watched the sun rising higher, illuminating the cold concrete stretch with warm shades of gold. All was still, the place deserted. Today was Monday, and he knew the flying club only ran on weekends, so it was doubtful anyone would be manning the hangar and adjoining office until then. But gaining access shouldn’t be a problem – no problem at all, he thought, shrewdly narrowing his eyes.
He patted the side of the plane in satisfaction, then gathered up his briefcase and holdall. Finally, his dreams were becoming a reality. And before long, he’d be having the best holiday of his entire life.
A large herring gull glided over the cliff-top campsite, its feathers barely ruffled by the air currents as it scanned the area on the off-chance of scavenging a meal.
Over the passing seasons, the bird had lost an eye and a foot, making food-finding that bit more competitive. But sometimes he was lucky. People would occasionally leave a morsel on their plate after breakfast in the café. Sometimes they’d barbecued outside their chalet or caravan the night before and there’d be a bit of bread or meat left on the ground. Or campers in tents or campervans would occasionally leave food outside their dwelling while they were busy inside – and if they weren’t quick enough, the seagull would swoop down and snatch up the free meal before they knew what had happened.
After a few circuits of the site, peacefully idling on the cool breeze with nothing to show for his efforts now that the busy Easter holidays were over, the bird landed on the roof of the reception building at the Corny Cove Campsite owned by Henry and Margaret, oblivious to the conversation going on within.
“Marshall’s the name,” said the campsite’s new arrival. Henry stood at the reception desk, poised to write. “That’s with two Ls, I take it?” The man nodded stiffly.
“So, Mr Marshall…” Henry began to say before he was cut off.
“Everyone just calls me Marshal,” he corrected Henry. “Marshall by name, marshal by rank… Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Retired, of course,” he said in clipped tones, jutting his chin and lifting himself onto his toes.
It didn’t surprise Henry to discover that he was once a highly-decorated pilot. The clues were in the appearance: handlebar moustache, hands clasped behind his back, chest thrust forward in a proud cock-like stance, dressed in a tweed jacket and matching flat cap – his unofficial retirement uniform.
“Oh, so technically, it’s ‘marshal Marshall’, eh?” Henry smiled, thinking he was making a joke.
Civilians can be so crass sometimes, thought the marshal, clearly not amused. He looked Henry up and down, his piercing laser-blue eyes burning a hole right through his attempt at humour. The site owner wore little round glasses, yet in his all-beige get-up, he looked as though he were planning to go on safari. Who did he think he was? Daktari?
“It’s just ‘Marshal’, thank you,” he replied tersely. Margaret looked up from the computer behind the counter and gave Henry an irritated look. Why couldn’t she trust him not to inadvertently upset the customers all the time?
“Back in a sec, just nipping out the back,” she said, getting up and giving Henry a look for him to tone things down.
Henry was just writing the marshal’s details in the book when the reception door opened. He looked up to see the German couple who had checked in over the weekend. Side by side, Henry couldn’t help thinking they looked a bit like Laurel and Hardy. The man obviously enjoyed his bratwursts and schnapps and looked like he’d been shoe-horned into his trousers, whilst his wife had a drawn face and the emaciated physique of a starved catwalk model.
He glanced down and noticed the man was still wearing the brown leather sandals he had on when they checked in. Bit early in the year for footwear with an open toe, he thought. But at least he had the sense to wear them with long socks.
“These are the Schnitzels, Marshal,” said Henry. They nodded politely and smiled at Henry and the marshal as they approached the counter. “All the way from Hamburg in Germany, they are. We get a lot of foreigners here,” he added proudly.
“Ah, yes, Hamburg,” said the marshal with a faraway look in his eye. “Father did a spot of landscaping over there once.”
Henry nodded. “Ooh, a keen gardener, was he? When was that?”
“1943,” the marshal replied dryly. The Germans continued to nod and smile. Obviously, they hadn’t cottoned onto the war reference. Just as well, thought Henry, ignoring the comment. No doubt it hadn’t occurred to the marshal that it might have caused offence.
Margaret broke the silence when she came back into the reception, and immediately set about looking after the Germans, who’d come in to ask for some tourist advice, using a mixture of stilted English and sign language to communicate what they wanted.
“So, err… Marshal…” continued Henry, seeing that Margaret had everything in hand. “Did you enjoy your journey down?” he smiled, searching the pegboard for the marshal’s chalet keys.
“Flew down early this morning. Dropped the plane at Porth Perran Airfield not far from here,” he replied.
“Ooh, yes, I know it,” nodded Henry enthusiastically.
“Hired a car for a bit of sight-seeing, you know the sort of thing,” the marshal went on.
“Err… I happen to have a plane of my own,” said Henry hesitantly. “Just a small one, mind. Lovely little beauty. Not in your league, of course, I’m sure, Mr… err… Marshal.”
Henry’s smile faded when he saw Margaret looking across at him again, frowning. He wondered what he could possibly have said wrong this time – and at the same time, he tried to work out how his wife always managed to listen in on his conversations while she was busy looking after other customers.
The marshal cocked an eyebrow at Henry’s comment, his interest piqued. “Oh, really?” he asked, pleasantly surprised. “What have you got?”
“It’s a Pitts Special biplane. Built her with my own two hands,” replied Henry, hoping for a breadcrumb of approval from someone who obviously garnered respect himself.
“Hmm…” replied the marshal, looking suitably impressed. “That takes me back a bit. Haven’t flown one in years. First-class aerobatics.”
“You’re welcome to come out with me and take her for a spin if you like,” Henry added.
It was an attractive offer. The marshal wondered if perhaps he’d misread the funny little fellow after all. “Jolly decent of you, Mooney. I’d be delighted,” he said, suddenly warming to him.
The Germans left and Margaret decided it was time to take a break. She couldn’t help feeling annoyed with Henry for so obviously sucking up to the marshal. Might as well make a cup of tea, she thought. I’m not hanging round here. And with that, she disappeared into their kitchen in the bungalow out the back.
“That would be wonderful, Marshal. When would be convenient to come out?” Henry smiled weakly, his eye following Margaret as she left. Henry had hoped to reprieve himself, but she was clearly bothered about something. He’d have it out with her later. This certainly wasn’t the time.
“Hmm…” the marshal said, promptly raising his arm to look at his watch. “Bit late in the day now. I’d like to unpack my things and settle in. Get an early night’s rest and all that.” He thought for a second. “What say we rendez-vous back here tomorrow at Campsite HQ at, say, sixteen-hundred hours. I can settle my bill at the end of the week, I take it?” asked the marshal.
“Fine on both counts,” replied Henry, beaming. “I’ll drive us over to the airfield tomorrow.”
“Would you like me to show you to your chalet, Marshal?” Henry asked ingratiatingly. It wasn’t the normal protocol, but Henry wanted to show such a high profile customer every courtesy.
“No need. Just point me in the direction. If I can land a plane in a snowstorm, I’m sure I can find a little old chalet no problem,” he replied haughtily. Henry stood there in amazement. The man was a hero.
The marshal went out the door and Margaret presently came back in with two hot drinks. She handed one to Henry. “You know he won’t be interested in your plane, don’t you?” she tutted, rolling her emerald-green eyes.
“And why ever not?” he asked. Henry had been impressed with the marshal, and he was sure the marshal had felt the same way about him. Margaret was just being a kill-joy.
“He won’t want to fly a little plane like yours.” Henry looked wounded. Why couldn’t she just be happy for him? “Mark my words,” she said knowingly, taking a sip of hot tea, “you’ll be disappointed!”
As he watched the marshal drive off, all Henry could think about was what a decent, top-notch customer the man was. They didn’t get many like him. He was Henry’s sort of chap, right down to the ground. Forthright, upstanding, no doubt a stickler for the rules, beyond reproach. He’d have no problem with the marshal.
Why not pick up tales 1-5 in the series?
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Stay tuned for more…
My infamous ‘faux reviews’ by pseudo-celebrities,
A link to where you can download the series prequel for free, plus
Find out more about me and my other titles…
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tale set at the fictitious Corny Cove in the south of England. And I also hope you’ll join me for the other tales in the series… There are plenty of other characters still for you to meet, with poor old Henry and Margaret left trying to deal with the challenges that come their way.
Although I like to give my stories a humorous edge, I also love to weave in aspects of the glorious, inspiring landscape which is around me where I currently live in Cornwall. Despite all the ups and downs that Henry and Margaret face, they always fall back on nature and their beautiful surroundings. These are the things that feed their souls and are the very heart of Corny Cove.
By the way, if you were wondering how the two of them ended up at their little Cornish paradise, why not pick up the series prequel, Living the Dream, and find out? I wrote it especially for subscribers to my mailing list. So if you’d like to read it, see the link below.
There are currently five tales in the series, set over the course of a British holiday season. And I’d love to spend time writing more stories following on from there. However, at the time of writing (April 2016), all my energies are being focussed on a mystery series starring Scott Chevalier. He’s a character who I describe as a bit like a young Crocodile Dundee with a campervan and surfboard. Scott and his sidekick crew go from location to location filming the Campervan Bushman TV show – and, inevitably, a few mysteries crop up which need solving along the way.
The Campervan Bushman Mystery Series isn’t quite the same as Tales from Corny Cove, but the stories [_do _]have an edge of humour, a sense of adventure, and a hint of romance, so they’re more than just a mystery. If you’d like to check out the series, click here to find out more.
Once again, thank you for picking up this title, and remember to pass on the good news if you’ve enjoyed reading!
aka The ‘Pyjama Writer’]
**]Get LIVING THE DREAM, the series prequel, when you join the author’s Reader’s Group – just visit http://bit.ly/TCCP-TCCb to get started.
The Campervan Bushman Mystery Series
[An Edge of Humour
A Sense of Adventure and
A Hint of Romance]
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By Pseudo-Celebrities for Tales from Corny Cove
Here are just a few of the author’s infamous ‘faux reviews’ of the spurious kind for the Tales from Corny Cove series…
No mozzies, no snakes and no lethal sharks… Corny Cove sounds like a fair dinkum paradise. Trouble is, what the heck would a fella like me do with his time without crocs to hunt all day, eh?
Crocodile Dundee (‘Mick’ to his mates)
After ditching my RV back in the States to buy a small camper for my trip to the quaint little British Isles, Alannah recommended I visit Corny Cove – and I thought, “Why not?” Boy, has she done the place justice in her book! Nearly got lost in the forest but the beach was real cool. Unfortunately, the place was so remote I couldn’t get a burger anywhere. The upside? – I never got hit by the paparazzi or crowded out for an autograph once. Five stars all round!
Actor turned Motorhome Nut (after reading the author’s Campervan Capers book)]
Cornwall is so hot right now! Oh, hold on a second… Are we talking Cornwall, Ontario or Cornwall, England?
Corny Cove sounds like a great spot for a good old-fashioned Wild West-style showdown… It’s remote, full of character, and has a campsite full of troublesome folk just begging to be picked off at gunpoint. The only thing I’m concerned about is whether they’ll end up banning smoking on site – only, a cowboy can’t pose properly without a cigar, now, can he?
Whilst I heartily relished the tales set in Corny Cove, I did wonder where all the smugglers and pirates were. Having said that, some of the characters did behave just as roguishly, so full marks for that, at least.
[Daphne du Moore-Dumerrier
Wouldn’t mind a visit to Corny Cove. Tawny owls, barn owls and a plethora of flora and fauna in the forest to rummage around in near the campsite. The place sounds like it might be up for one of my awards. Might even stop by for a brew at the Corny Cove Café if I’m down that way.
My publisher’s on my back about deadlines again, so this’ll have to be quick. OK, here goes… Alannah’s stories are a fantastic read. She even writes one decent tale with an irresistibly-handsome doctor in it – a character from my latest novel, by the way. So if you liked that, you might like my books as well… Check them out!
Cornwall-based Medical Romance Author
(Featured in Tale # 3)]
Another fantastic piece of writing set in a drool-worthy location – one of the few places in the world I haven’t managed to travel to – yet! By the way, you still haven’t told me when you’re going to let me plug my books!
Embittered Travel Writer (after reading the author’s Campervan Capers book)]
Sorry, mate, I can recommend the book, but forget about havin’ a holiday at Corny Cove… Place is way too quiet – except for the local wildlife, that is. Noisy little blighters! I got back home more knackered than when I arrived.
Former Top London Record Producer
(Featured in Tale #2)]
Why go to the lengths of travelling to Siberia when Corny Cove is right on one’s doorstep? It sounds like another frontier of remote wilderness up for some serious exploration. I’m sorely tempted to shack up in the forest, light a fire from scratch and live off the local wildlife. Sounds like there’s plenty around to pick off.
N.B. – Disclaimer (to be referred to in cases of acute gullibility):
As denoted by ‘faux’ and ‘pseudo’, the above reviews are completely spurious in nature. Although they are loosely based on real-world characters, note that they do not reflect the opinions of any person, whether alive, dead or fictitious. Needless to say, no offence is intended upon the original characters.
Alannah Foley… aka ‘The Pyjama Writer’
Raised in the UK, Alannah lived in her Aussie birthplace for five years in her twenties, where mozzies regularly used her for target practice. She managed to return to Old Blighty devoid of shark or snake bite, however, and currently lives in picturesque Cornwall with her cycling-obsessed partner.
To date, she has two fiction series – the Campervan Bushman Mysteries and Tales from Corny Cove – both of which are light, easy reads with a few twists, turns and tickles along the way. Her nonfiction titles span topics as diverse as capers in a campervan, the vagaries of living with an obsessive cyclist and her adventures Down Under.
Find out more about the author and where she got her Pyjama Writer nickname on her website at www.thePyjamaWriter.com/about.html.
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Alannah Foley is the author of both fiction and nonfiction works, including such titles as Campervan Capers, Cycling Widows, the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series and Tales from Corny Cove.
To see what’s new on her shelf and to find out more, visit the Books page on the author’s website at
If you don’t want to miss a new release, why not join the author’s Reader’s Group? Get a free download of your choice when you sign up – to learn more.
This work is from a new edition of Tales from Corny Cove
Original Copyright 2014 Alannah Foley
2nd edition Copyright 2016 Alannah Foley
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This eBook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please go to the author’s website to purchase your own copy at:
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A light-hearted, easy-read novelette with a feel-good ending set in an idyllic holiday location. BEASTLY ENCOUNTERS Tale #1 - Tales from Corny Cove series OVERVIEW of Tales #1-5 When Henry and Margaret move down south to 'live their dream' on the picturesque coast of Cornwall in England, they soon realise that running a campsite isn't all plain sailing, and are regularly challenged by a host of bothersome campers as well as the obnoxious red-bearded farmer next door. All in all, life at Corny Cove is both a blessing and a curse! SUMMARY of Tale #1 â€“ Beastly Encounters After a busy Easter start to the season, Henry relaxes with his newspaper only to discover that the murderous Beast of Bodmin Jail is on the loose. But with a brutish, jealous camper running around on site, Henry isn't sure who his biggest threat is. Read as a standalone or get the box set of 5 tales which includes bonus 'behind the scenes' insights into the stories. BONUS DOWNLOAD Signup link inside to get the FREE series prequel, Living the Dream - the story of how Henry & Margaret travelled round in a camper in hot pursuit of their dreams, only to discover a few potholes on the road to paradise. Life in a Cornish paradiseâ€¦ What could Possibly go Wrong? Find out as you join Henry & Margaret in Tale #1 from the Tales from Corny Cove seriesâ€¦