A small lottery win enabled Stanley Potter sell his luggage shop in Kidderminster and attempt to fulfil his wife Denise’s ambition to be one of the leisured village folk you saw in television series like Miss Marple, or read about in P.G.Woodhouse. Things have of course moved on since the days depicted therein, but Denise was convinced that with sufficient floral furnishings they could simulate enough Olde Worlde charm to get by.
Denise was a determined woman, as anyone in the Tanning Salon business has to be; within weeks, the Potters had found their dream cottage in a tiny Wiltshire village called Cowing, and paid an exorbitant price for it.
Their first night in the dream cottage, an owl appeared on the fencepost at the end of the garden. It called in a melancholy and persistent manner. Stanley, knowing Denise’s nervous disposition, threw a slipper at it out of the bedroom window. Both bird and slipper disappeared. Even so, Denise was distracted by the all pervading silence and had to put her earplugs in.
Next morning they found a dead crow on the front path, but besides excoriating the local waste disposal services, Denise said no more about it, while Stanley lifted it gingerly on a garden fork and slung it over the back wall, where the owl had been.
That evening after they’d walked into the village to find the store had closed early “for family reasons”, they found a straw dollie nailed to the cottage door with a dead dormouse dangling from each arm.
“Bless!” purred Denise. “It’s just their shy rustic way of saying welcome to Cowing. We’ll get all sorts of invitations, once they pluck up the courage to say hello properly.”
That night the cottage burned down; Denise had her earplugs in and missed it.