Felicity Fortescue-Smyth – Fashionable, frail, fun, frivolous and flirtatious, with a fondness of frequently using the “f“ word! Married for several years to John Smyth, but childless. A retired receptionist, but now an influential chairwoman of several local societies, she is always the life and soul of the party and lives her life to the full with her heavy involvement in many social activities. She spends as much money as she can on new clothes, jewelry or shoes. She rarely does any housework, cooking or gardening, so can preserve her beautifully manicured long nails. Her husband walks her beloved Great Dane, Biba, as the dog is far too big for her to control on a walk. Although she rarely does any cooking, except for the odd cake or two, she always does the washing up, wearing rubber cloves of course! She volunteered for that task on this holiday. She shares the twin room on the first floor with John Smyth and Biba.
John Smyth – Married for several years to Felicity Fortescue-Smyth, and also childless. Placid, sensible and extremely tolerant, he usually complies with his wife’s wishes, to whom he is obviously devoted. Seemingly emotionless, he never seems to get phased by any situation and usually comes up with a logical solution to any problems. He has in depth knowledge of many subjects but his recent hobbies include local history and archaeology. He is a director in what used to be a very successful printing company, which under recent economic conditions has been struggling to survive, so now he is looking forward to his retirement. As Felicity Fortescue-Smyth never does any cooking except for making cakes now and again, he has taken over the cooking in their household and has become quite skilled at preparing good wholesome meals, mostly from produce grown on his allotment. Although the Great Dane, Biba, is really supposed to be Felicity’s dog, he does all the walking with her and can often be seen contentedly studying or photographing the local fauna or flora. Coming from a large house with log fires, he volunteered to be chief fire officer, and to build the fires in both rooms each evening. He shares the twin room on the first floor with Felicity Fortescue-Smyth and Biba.
Belinda Bottomley – Childless, well spoken and well educated, very smartly but conservatively dressed, usually in blues or purple. Widowed several years ago from her diplomat husband who was 30 years her senior, and previously her boss. She speaks several languages fluently, having travelled widely. On her husband’s retirement they returned from South Africa to live in England. She belongs to a local fitness club and regularly swims or plays tennis. She is still working as a project manager in a multinational company, responsible for entertaining their various wealthy clients. Although well over 60, she has no intention of retiring in the next few years, as her over-large house is still under mortgage. She employs a cleaner and a gardener, but enjoys cooking, and fine dining experiences. She has recently paired up with Conrad Conway, a widowed old family friend, to whom she seems very attached, although they constantly bicker about trivial things, usually light-hearted banter. She shares the back double room on the west wing first floor with Conrad Conway.
Conrad Conway – Widowed, an old family friend of Belinda Bottomley who has now paired up with him although they continue to live apart. He was well pensioned from his managerial job in a utilities company and now leads a very fulfilling life in retirement, having numerous holidays each year. A family man with many grandchildren, he is very proud of his children who have all done well in life. A Conservative Councillor, he dresses accordingly with a diamond pattern cardigan over his shirt, tie and braces. He considers himself to be a mine of information, no doubt from the fact that he reads the Telegraph from cover to cover each day, and spends most of his time wherever he goes Googling information on his Iphone. He lives in a house which is too large for him now his family have gone and he employs a cleaner and a gardener. He can‘t cook but loves good wholesome food so he pays for a local company to bring him a supply of home-cooked ready meals for his freezer. He shares the back double room on the west wing first floor with Belinda Bottomley.
Nigella Dawson – With grown up children, and a granddaughter who is a model, Nigella is always dressed glamorously and elegantly, usually wearing strappy high heels. Her current hobbies are art and flower arranging, although she also has dabbled in various other creative activities. She recently won 2nd prize for her flower arrangement in the W.I. competition, and in the past she was renowned for her floral decorations in the village church. Her recent partner in life, Andrew Archer, does not live with her, and she has no intention of changing that situation. She likes to cook and is always trying out new recipes. She has let slip that in a past life she worked in a silver service restaurant. Nigella has offered to take turns supervising the cooking during the holiday. She shares the front double room on the west wing first floor with Andrew Archer.
Andrew Archer – Recently paired up with Nigella Dawson. An ex-squaddy, his current job as a security officer is under threat, and he is not looking forward to the imminent enforcement of his retirement, and the financial hardship that will mean. Archery is his hobby, as are motorbikes. Andrew Archer and Brenda Bridges are coincidentally distantly related, as it was discovered when he was researching his family history, which he has explored in depth. He also has been actively involved in the local history society, as he has been studying history all his life. He can look smart when the need arises, or under Nigella’s influence, but prefers to be comfortable in jeans. He shares the front double room on the west wing first floor with Nigella Dawson.
Christine Christie – A twice divorced career girl, known as Chrissie, who currently writes mystery novels, but used to be an accountant who specialised in exposing fraud. With two children, who have fled the nest, and a couple of grandchildren, although an adequate cook herself in the past, she preferred more competent cooks to take the lead in the kitchen on this holiday and nominated herself as the kitchen skivvy, where she felt she would be more useful. She has a wardrobe full of designer suits which she hardly ever wears these days, but on holiday and at home she prefers to dress casually and comfortably. However, she has brought a couple of “posh frocks” with her, on advice from Nigella Dawson. Having been an only child, she is a bit remote, usually preferring to sit in the background “people watching”. She shares the large front bedroom on the east wing second floor with Norma Nightingale and Harriet Hunter.
Kevin Cashman – A widower whose second wife had succumbed to MND. His first wife, and mother of his two boys, had divorced him many years before, after which he moved down south. Christine Christie had a fling with Kevin Cashman, and had introduced him into their social group a few years ago. They have long since parted company, but remain friends and he still attends the occasional social gatherings of the group. A retired postman, he has a wealth of knowledge, and has won many general knowledge quizzes, including Mastermind. His passion is trains, and he spends many a weekend with other train spotting anoraks, travelling the country on special train trips. He is naturally an avid collector of railwayana. In the past Kevin used to perform with the local operatic society, and his other interest is am-dram. He has recently developed an interest in the social scene in Manchester, where he travels once a month to meet his friends. He usually wears either shorts and polo shirt, or black shirt & trousers with a red tie or bow-tie and a white jacket. He’s not much use in the kitchen department but he is always cheerful and chatty. He is in the little single room on the second floor.
Norma Nightingale – A widow with three grown up girls and grandchildren, Norma Nightingale, distantly related by marriage to Florence, is a retired hospital administrator. She is very popular as she tends to “mother” everyone, and is a real family woman – she is very proud of her children, who have achieved so much in their very different walks of life. Lacking in confidence herself, she has elected to remain as a helper in the kitchen, although she is a perfectly good cook in her own right. A very busy lady socially, she belongs to several social and walking clubs. Widely travelled due to her frequent holidays, she also has numerous hobbies, including walking, swimming, keep fit and dancing. Her garden is her pride and joy, and she frequently throws parties for all her friends. Very good natured, but beware, she is a Scorpio, and can turn! Happiest in smart casual clothes. She shares the large front bedroom on the east wing second floor with Chrissie Christie and Harriet Hunter.
Colin Cockell – A divorced primary school supply teacher, an ex boxer, very popular with the schoolchildren he teaches. Not coming up for total retirement for a few years yet. He has grown up children he sees now and again. He quite likes gardening but he mainly likes to travel the world and once a year he takes himself off on a very long holiday, covering several countries. He seems to be a very affable chap, always cracking corny jokes and always willing to help out with the kitchen chores. He usually wears shorts and a T-shirt, but dresses up in smart casual when the occasion demands. Well known for his hearty snoring, he is in the little single room on the first floor, which is not directly connected to any other bedroom.
Harriet Hunter – A cheeky divorcee, full of fun and always popular with men and ladies alike. There is an aura of slight naughtiness about her, and a twinkle in her eyes. She was a country girl, always into country sports and horses. She has a very artistic eye for colour and a wealth of botanical knowledge. She recently won 1st prize in the W.I. flower arranging competition, and she also enjoys art. She likes cooking, but balked at the idea of cooking for such a big group of people, and elected to just be a kitchen assistant on this holiday. Harriet Hunter comes from a huge family, who all holiday together each year, surfing in Cornwall. Having been a doctor’s receptionist for many years, one can always rely on her to be discrete with one’s secrets, but this also gives her an air of mystery, and one is never quite sure what mischief she has been getting up to! She shares the large front bedroom on the east wing second floor with Chrissie Christie and Norma Nightingale.
Irene Iglesias – A divorced, elegant and well educated lady who spends a lot of her time with her nose in a book. She has a wealth of historical knowledge, due to her love of reading the classics. She is fluent in Spanish as she lived in Spain for many years, running a bar alongside her drunken Spanish husband, who she eventually divorced after he had squandered all their money. She returned to the UK after the divorce, and now lives on her own, except for frequent long visits from her daughter. She loves her garden, still studies languages and is a member of several local social groups. A very independent lady, she can often be seen walking alone – her passion is to keep walking. She used to act in Am-Dram. She can play the piano and she sings beautifully in a choir. Not wishing to cook for such a large number, she has also volunteered to kelp in the kitchen. As she is aware that she snores, she had asked for a room on her own and she is in the double room on the second floor.
Sheila Shackleton – A divorced retired primary schoolteacher, hair always immaculate in spite of her activities. In true tradition, inherited from her Irish exploring ancestors, she is a keen rambler and has several rambling holidays each year, both in the UK and abroad. To this end, she has studied several languages, whilst pursuing her other academic interests. She is always nicely dressed whether in her walking gear or in smarter attire. Her two sons have only recently realised that their fiercely independent Mother may need a little help now she is older. Sensible and investigative, Sheila Shackleton has a dry sense of humour, however she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She has volunteered her help with the kitchen chores. She shares the twin room at the top of the service staircase with Brenda Bridges.
Brenda Bridges – A tall commanding lady who dresses simply, but always looks elegant. Her main hobbies are cooking and her garden, but she also enjoys various crafts which she teaches at her local W.I. She is a very self-sufficient lady. She has to be, her son is never around to help her out, and she has no desire to ever be involved with a man again. Brenda Bridges used to be a dinner lady at school when her children were small and she came from a family of 12 kids, so she was well used to defending herself and also for catering in large numbers. She is not one to be “fiddle-faddling” around decorating food, but can provide a tasty wholesome feast in a very short time from the ingredients she has available. Her culinary delights are always admired and she was the obvious choice to be the “Mrs Bridges” of Hardstonecourt Hall, for which role she readily volunteered. She is outspoken and always ready to go into battle with anyone who disagrees with her views, which possibly came from her involvement in her job as complaints officer in the council, from which she retired a few years ago. In spite of her gruff exterior, she has a heart of gold, but heaven help anyone who crosses her! She shares the twin room at the top of the service staircase with Sheila Shackleton.
Claud Claws – An ex-shop steward and staunch socialist. Claud loves his beer and is a large, jolly looking fellow, with white curly hair and a long white beard. For years everyone has thought that he looked like Father Christmas, and in fact he had spent the pre-Xmas period working in his local department store, as Santa – dangling little children on his knees and giving them presents. A retired lorry driver, he has been a collector of objets d’art most of his life, mainly acquired from visits to the local market or junk shops, while he was making his deliveries. He now keeps his collection in a lock-up, and organises frequent car boot sales and occasionally rents a stall at his local market, trying to sell his “antiques” at a profit. His daughter lives in Cornwall, where he usually spends a holiday with his partner, Meg Mystique. He shares with Meg the second floor room at the back of the house in the west wing
Meg Mystique – an elegant and well-spoken ex-school teacher who now practices hypnotherapy and holistic healing. She is generally a quiet lady who spends more time listening to what is going on than joining in the general conversation. However, when she does speak, it is usually to say something deep and meaningful, as she has spent a lot of her years assessing people’s characters. She likes a drink, but is very conscious of her healthy diet, and will not tolerate “junk” food. She also swims regularly and has therefore maintained the sylphlike figure she had in her ballet dancing days. She has a son who lives in Germany, an executive in a major car manufacturing company. She shares the second floor room at the back of the house in the west wing with her dear companion Claud Claus, on whom she dotes.
Giles Farmer – A true gentleman and an upright citizen, with a long history in the farming industry. Well spoken and well educated. A prominent figure in the local Conservative Club, where he helps out with canvassing and campaigning for elections. In his retirement he is now an enthusiastic worker for a local charity, and he also enjoys the arts, actively supporting the local orchestra. He is full of mischief, and his twinkly eyes have charmed many a lady in his social group over the years. A widower with married children and now a couple of young grandchildren, he loves entertaining both his family and his friends and is famous for his frequent magnificent bar-b-cues, and other jolly gatherings. He shares the front bedroom in the second floor west wing with his partner Amanda.
Amanda Armstrong-Jones – Following family tradition, Amanda is a brilliant photographer. Known as Amanda – do NOT call her Mandy! Since her retirement from being a head-mistress, she has been on the board of governors of the local Comprehensive school. She has a passion for walking, and goes on many walking holidays. She also enjoys a very active life with her local activity group, loves reading and the arts. She took up painting a few years ago, which she has taken very seriously and has proved to be very talented, so is now taking commissions. She has recently been commissioned to do the paintings to illustrate Chrissie Christie’s new book. She is an excellent cook and is especially renowned for her splendid pavlovas which she has promised Chrissie to provide frequently on this holiday. She shares the front bedroom in the second floor west wing with her partner Giles.
Mary and Cary Farey – Good friends of most of the group. A retired police superintendent, although Cary is a bit stroppy some of the time, he is also very kind-hearted. They often host the New Year party, and other large gatherings where the group enjoy dancing in his large conservatory. Both Mary and Carey enjoy cooking, Mary loves her garden and Carey loves watching football. Mary is very good friends with Norma, with whom she used to work, and Brenda, who she used to know in the village where she lived before she married Cary. They own a second home in Brittany, where they regularly spend time, and often entertain members of the social group there for holidays. Because they like their independence, Mary and Cary are staying in the converted stables just down the lane, with another couple of ladies in the social group who they brought in their car with them.
More to come…………………..