The Secret Of Ivy Garden Book Tour – Extract
Whenever I think of the Cotswolds, where Ivy lived the last decade of her life, I think of the row of pretty golden stone cottages skirting Appleton village green and the gnarled old oak tree by the cricket pavilion. In my mind, it’s always summer there and the sky is always blue.
But when I step off the train at Stroud – the nearest station to Appleton – I’m faced with a rather different view of the Cotswolds. Storms have been raging all week, causing destruction right across the country, and today appears to be no exception. I peer out of the station entrance at people scurrying for shelter from the steady drizzle and gusty wind.
I can’t afford to hang around. There’s only one bus to Appleton every two hours – and the next one leaves in ten minutes.
Grabbing a firmer hold of my suitcase, I start running for the bus station, dodging passers-by and puddles of rainwater. As long as the bus doesn’t leave early, I should just about make it.
And then it happens.
I round the corner a little too briskly, step to one side to avoid a man with a briefcase, and instead, cannon right into someone else.
Momentarily winded, I register the black habit and white veil the woman is wearing and my heart gives a sickening thud.
Oh God, I just nearly decked a religious person!
But worse is to come.
The nun, who I notice is remarkably tall, stops for a second to regain her balance. But she lists too far to one side and ends up staggering off the pavement into the water-logged gutter.
To say I’m mortified is a vast understatement.
‘I’m so, so sorry!’ I reach out to her, then draw back my hand, just in case she’s taken some kind of vow that forbids any form of physical contact during high winds. ‘God, are you all right?’
Shit, why did I have to say ‘God’?
She’s bending to retrieve her glasses, which mustn’t fit very well because they seem to have gone flying when she over-balanced. Her attempts at picking them up are failing miserably – so, flushed and overcome with guilt, I dive in, swipe them off the ground then rub them clean on my coat before handing them back.
She puts them on, almost stabbing herself in the eye, and that’s when I notice something odd. The glasses are attached to a large, false nose.
She sways and I grab her arm to steady her, wondering what on earth is going on.
‘Seen a bunch of people dressed as monks and nuns?’ she slurs in a voice that’s surprisingly full of gravel and several octaves lower than I was expecting.
‘Disappeared. And it’s my turn to get the beers in.’
Stunned, I shake my head. So not a nun, then. Not female either, come to that.
I glance at my watch.
Thanks to this stag-do buffoon, I’ve now missed the bus to Appleton and there won’t be another one along for at least two hours.
An arm snakes round my waist. ‘Hey, why don’t you come along? Join the pub crawl?’
Actually, how it sounds is Heywhydntcmlongjnpubcrawl? I stare up at his stupid false nose and black-rimmed glasses, the lenses of which are like jam jar bottoms. I’m amazed he can see through them. No wonder he charged right into me.
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