The Guestbook at Willow Cottage: A feel-good, romantic comedy to make you smile Holly Martin Don’t miss this gorgeous romantic comedy from bestseller Holly Martin!Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a comment in the Guestbook!As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider – whatever her colourful array of guests require. A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.This includes Annie herself – especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!Forget sending postcards saying wish you were here – one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.Praise for Holly Martin‘Holly Martin writes about life and love with such big-hearted warmth and flair – invite The Guestbook into your home today!’ – Belinda Jones'Funny, poignant and riveting as well as romantic. Don't miss The Guestbook! I couldn't get enough of the guests' entries and it's got everything: humour, heartbreak, loss, love.' – I Heart.. Chick Lit'If you’re going to buy any book then buy this delightful one! The Guestbook is splendid, it is beautiful, it is magical and it will leave you with such a smile on your face!' – Reading in the Sunshine'Captivating, romantic, fun, laugh-out-loud funny, effortless, exciting and unputdownable! EVERYONE SHOULD BUY THIS BOOK!' – Victoria Loves BooksPreviously published as The Guestbook. HOLLY MARTIN lives in a little white cottage by the sea. She studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by an even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of her colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years’ service was the moment when she knew she had to escape. She quit her job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, she emerged wide eyed and terrified that she now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. She taught for four years and then escaped the classroom to teach history workshops, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next. But the long journeys around the UK and many hours sat on the M25 gave her a lot of time to plan out her stories and she now writes full time, doing what she loves. Holly has been writing for 9 years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014. She is the bestselling author of 20 books. Also by Holly Martin A Home on Bramble Hill One Hundred Proposals One Hundred Christmas Proposals Tied Up With Love The Guestbook at Willow Cottage Holly Martin Copyright (#ulink_8007ae8d-e6ef-5fd9-96bb-c9f07f47be1e) HQ An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd. 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF First published in Great Britain by HQ in 2014 Copyright © Holly Martin 2014 Holly Martin asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins. E-book Edition © February 2014 ISBN: 9781472090966 Version: 2018-08-08 Contents About the Author Also by Holly Martin Title Page Copyright (#u1216ffa5-d46e-5979-bcbc-34cbe303d29b) Acknowledgements Dear Reader (#litres_trial_promo) Read On (#litres_trial_promo) Advert (#litres_trial_promo) About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) Dear Guests, Welcome to Willow Cottage, I hope you enjoy your stay. I’m only next door, so if there is anything at all that you need, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You may wish to use this guestbook to do a diary entry for every day you are here, tell us where you’ve been and what you’ve done. You may wish to leave helpful hints for other guests or you may just want to leave a short comment at the end of your stay telling me what you think of Willow Cottage. I will come by on Tuesdays to drop off fresh towels, so if there’s anything else you need, you can always write it in the guestbook and I will check on it then. Annie Butterworth. ********** 1st - 8th March Rosie and Jake Hamilton. Saturday: Thanks so much for the flowers and champagne, what a lovely surprise. The cottage is beautiful and Chalk Hill village is so cute. I’m so excited to be here. We’re on our honeymoon, one long delicious week with my beautiful hubby. Yesterday I married my best friend. I really am the luckiest girl alive. Jake says we can go for long walks along the beach and explore the beauty of the Norfolk Broads. Personally I don’t think we’ll be leaving the house much. We’ve been here six hours already and we’ve only really seen the bedroom! We’re getting a takeaway tonight, another excuse to stay in bed. Can I just say for the record now, so it is here in black and white, I love my husband soooooo much. He won’t read this so I’m safe. Mrs Rosie Hamilton. (Mrs!! I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that) Sunday: I’m in love, did I mention that. I can’t stop staring at the ring. It just hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m married!! And to the most marvellous man as well. Jake caught me watching him sleep last night, bet he thinks he’s married a right weirdo. Still there’s no escape for him now. We actually made it to the beach today. The dunes are beautiful. We had a picnic and even had a dip in the sea. Mrs Rosie Hamilton WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I WON’T READ THIS? WHAT YOU FAIL TO REALISE IS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU TOO, EVEN THOUGH YOU SNORE. JAKE HAMILTON. (HUSBAND TO CHIEF SNORER) I do not snore. YOU SO DO. Monday: Annie Butterworth, what a shock! With a name like Mrs Annie Butterworth I was honestly expecting some grey haired granny with half-moon glasses who would bring round homemade lemon drizzle cake. I didn’t expect someone so young and pretty. Jake thought you were a ghost at first, seeing you run through the garden with your long white dress and blonde hair flying theatrically behind you. It was quite the entrance. It was great talking to you today. Where is Mr Butterworth? You both must come round for dinner one night. Love Rosie AS ROSIE IS USING THIS AS HER OWN PERSONAL MESSAGE BOARD IT’S DOWN TO ME TO SAY THAT TODAY WE HIRED A BOAT. SPEED BOAT WOULD BE TOO MUCH OF A GLAMOROUS TITLE FOR IT. IT WAS A ROW BOAT WITH AN ENGINE STUCK TO THE BACK. THOUGH EVEN CALLING IT AN ENGINE WOULD BE A STRETCH. IT MADE A LOT OF NOISE AND PROPELLED US MARGINALLY FASTER THAN A SNAIL. I HAVEN’T LAUGHED SO MUCH IN AGES. WE ENDED UP ON SOME BIG LAKE AND FED THE SWANS OUR LEFT OVER PICNIC. THE BOAT THEN FAILED TO START AND WE WERE QUITE LITERALLY UP S**T CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE. THANKFULLY SOME LOVELY GERMANS CAME TO OUR RESCUE AND TOWED US BACK TO WHERE WE LEFT THE CAR. THEY DIDN’T SPEAK A WORD OF ENGLISH, OR AT LEAST WERE NOT WILLING TO. THOUGH I DIDN’T NEED TO BE FLUENT IN GERMAN TO KNOW THEY WERE TAKING THE PISS OUT OF US ALL THE WAY BACK. JAKE Tuesday: Hi Rosie, it was lovely to meet you too. I’m more than happy to come round with homemade lemon drizzle cake if that’s what you were expecting. I don’t have half-moon glasses but I can wear my reading glasses if that will work. As for the ghost, I was always cast as the angel in the school plays, being a ghost would have been much more exciting. Mr Butterworth - Ha, Nick would have hated been called that - died two years ago so he won’t be joining us for dinner. If the weather stays fine how about you two join me for a barbeque tomorrow night? Let me know if you want some eggs, Suzie and Doris, the chickens, are laying them faster than I can collect them. Annie. Annie, I’m so sorry, I really need to engage my brain before I speak. I’m such a nosy cow. I just assumed that as you were Mrs Butterworth that he was still around. I’m sorry. Rosie Rosie, I just saw Jake, he said you wanted some eggs so I’m just popping them in the fridge. Please don’t worry. I’m not in the least bit upset or offended by you asking where Nick is. It’s been two years and though I miss him terribly, I really don’t mind talking about him. ANNIE, A BARBEQUE WILL BE LOVELY. WE ARE TAKING A BOAT OUT TO BLAKENEY POINT TO SEE THE SEALS TOMORROW AND THEN GOING FOR A DRIVE DOWN THE COAST. I IMAGINE WE’LL BE BACK AROUND SEVEN. I’LL BRING BURGERS AND CHICKEN, THAT’S IF SUZIE AND DORIS WON’T MIND. JAKE Wednesday: We went out to see the seals today. It was amazing; we got so close to them. Jake took some fantastic pictures, but he was always good with a camera. Many of them were swimming around the boat as curious about us as we were about them. Off to a barbeque round Annie’s now, hopefully I won’t put my foot in my mouth again. Rosie WATCHING ROSIE GET SO EXCITED ABOUT THE SEALS TODAY, I THINK I FELL IN LOVE WITH HER A LITTLE BIT MORE. Thursday: My head hurts. Annie is quite possibly one of the loveliest people I have ever met in my entire life. I didn’t stop laughing all night. She looks so sweet and innocent in her pretty flowery dress and huge Jesus sandals, looks like she goes to church every Sunday and probably sings in the choir. So it comes as a bit of a shock when the stories she comes out with are so funny and sometimes even filthy. We must have polished off at least two bottles of wine and too many bottles of cider to count between us. That cider was potent, some obscure local variety I think. By the end of the night Jake was a mess and I was even messier. Annie, however, looked as fresh as a daisy. Did I put my foot in it? Yes probably about a hundred times. I felt like John Cleese in Fawlty Towers when the Germans came; ‘Whatever you do, don’t mention the war.’ I just couldn’t stop mentioning her husband, death or funerals. Luckily Annie saw the funny side. I WAS NOT A MESS, AT LEAST I DIDN’T THROW UP IN MY SHOE THIS MORNING. GREAT NIGHT ANNIE, THANKS FOR THE AMAZING CIDER, WE NEED TO GET HOLD OF A FEW BOTTLES BEFORE WE LEAVE. JAKE Just popped in to change the light bulb in the bathroom. I’m definitely getting a change of wardrobe after that lacklustre description ;-). I don’t go to church apart from weddings, christenings and funerals. Oh no, I mentioned the funeral word!!! I can assure you I wasn’t feeling as fresh as a daisy this morning, my tongue felt drier than Ghandi’s flip-flop. I’ll get you some of the cider to take back with you. Friday: After recovering from our excessive hangover yesterday we spent the day in the garden reading. Jake wears his big glasses when he reads, he thinks it makes him look clever, but he looks more like a nerd. A loveable nerd though. He was reading some big tome on codes used in WW2. Geek! Another day on the beach today. Wells-next-the-Sea really is the loveliest place in the world, the beaches are spectacular. GEEK? NERD? HOW DARE YOU. BESIDES I DON’T THINK I LOOK CLEVER I KNOW I AM CLEVER. NEVER MIND THE FACT THAT I FELL ASLEEP FOUR TIMES READING THE CODE BOOK. IT WAS THE HANGOVER THAT WAS HAVING AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON ME. ANYWAY, WHAT WERE YOU READING, THE THIRD BOOK IN THE FIFTY SHADES OF GREY TRILOGY WASN’T IT? PERVERT. I’ll have you know the Fifty Shades Trilogy has a very good storyline. And yes you are a complete geek and a nerd but I still love you. Saturday: Annie we have had the best time. We are going to come again soon. We don’t live that far away so we’re going to drive down when you have some free weekends. YES, I CAME HERE FOR A QUIET WEEK AWAY AFTER ALL THE STRESS OF THE WEDDING, BUT WE’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO BE COMING BACK ON A REGULAR BASIS. WILLOW COTTAGE IS BEAUTIFUL. THANKS SO MUCH FOR MAKING US SO WELCOME. ********** 8th - 14th March Oliver Butterworth. Black Saturday: I’m here to kill someone and I’m not leaving until I’ve done it. Oliver Black Sunday: I’m thinking of using a scythe, with a jagged serrated edge. Though I don’t want my victim to die too quickly, it needs to be slow and painful, it needs to be bloody. I want her to see her blood drain out of her, slowly, agonizingly feel her life force ebb away. I want her to beg for her salvation. I want that tough hard exterior to crumble in the last pitiful minutes of her pathetic life. I want to see her cry. My best laid plans continue to go awry. As devious as I am in trying to catch my prey, she is as cunning at evading me. I almost respect her for it. Almost. Oh Olly, you do make me laugh. It’s good to have you back. You do realise how this will look don’t you, or is that your intention? I’ll have the police on me for harbouring a criminal. If they come for me, I’m taking you down with me. There’s no honour amongst thieves. Annie x Careful Annie, or I may have to kill you. Oh please do, I’ve been begging you to kill me off for years. The bloodier and messier the better. Could you chop off my head and tear out my innards? Could you gouge out my eyes and keep them about your person as a memento? You could have a whole box of eyes left over from your victims. Oh and could you write some message on the walls using my blood? My brain could be the full stop. I’d love that. I bet you would you sicko. Now leave me alone. I came here for some peace and solitude, not to be bothered every five minutes by the dodgy landlady next door. If you disturb me again I really will consider ripping out your heart and letting you watch as it beats feebly in my bloody hands. Promises, promises. Come for dinner tonight, don’t shut yourself away for the whole week, I’ve missed you. If you come I promise to be good and quiet for at least a day. Right, that’s it, you’re in for it now. I need a big knife. I have one. You’re welcome to come round and borrow it. Monday: After dinner with my sister-in-law I feel much better about the murder. We talked things through and she gave me some great ideas on how to commit the perfect crime. I now know how I’m going to dispose of the body too. No one will ever find her. Claudette Montana is going to die tonight. I will not rest until she is lying in the ground. Claudette Montana? Really? Please kill me off, not her. I am not killing you off. I’ve told you before, Annie Butterworth just isn’t sexy enough to be in one of my books. Annie Butterworth sounds like an old granny with fluffy slippers and someone who wears cardigans no matter how hot it is. Why do you think I changed my name to Oliver Black? Oliver Butterworth would be smoking a pipe and sucking on his Werther’s Originals, he certainly wouldn’t be the number one crime writer in Britain, nay the world. You think a lot of yourself don’t you? And yes, I’m well aware I’m not sexy enough for you. Are we still talking about the book here? Let’s not go down that weird road again. Besides you were in my last book, you obviously didn’t look hard enough. I was not, I would have noticed that. Try the very front of the book. What’s this? The Great Oliver Black having writer’s block? Surely not. Sophia Lorenzo. Cleaner. Oh Annie. Please tell me, with all your money, why you still haven’t got yourself a decent cleaner yet? Why do you still have this old bag hanging around like a bad smell? Oliver Butterworth, don’t think you are too old to be put over my knee. Sophia Oh Aunty Sophia, are you still mad that I killed you off in Behind Closed Doors. I was more bothered that you made me into a prostitute. High class escort actually, I couldn’t resist. Besides Sophia Lorenzo is a much sexier sounding name than Annie Butterworth. You dedicated your last book to me!! How did I miss that? I can’t believe you did that. That’s… Thank you. Oh don’t get all soppy on me. Jeez if I knew it was going to get this reaction I would have dedicated it to my local Chinese take-out, who kept me fed through the duration of the book. And Sophia, it wasn’t so much writer’s block, more murderer’s block. I had made the character of Claudette so clever, underhanded and cunning that she wouldn’t fall for the plots and ploys of Maxwell Hunt. I also needed to make sure the reader would feel sympathetic towards him, they had to want Claudette dead almost as much as he did. Tuesday: It is technically Tuesday. 3.27 Tuesday morning to be precise. But Claudette has been killed. I feel like singing ‘ding, dong the witch is dead’. I have cracked open a bottle of Whin Hill Cider to celebrate but may sneak next door and top up my celebrations with some of Annie’s amazing trifle. Note to self: When breaking into your sister-in-law’s place either go blindfolded or call out to make sure she is decent first. I don’t know who was more shocked when I walked in to find her stark naked tucking into the trifle. Admittedly we’re experiencing one of the hottest springs since before dinosaurs roamed the earth but still, one should wear a robe when wandering about downstairs. Why should I wear a robe in my own house? Normally my guests don’t just take it upon themselves to wander into my house and help themselves to my food. That’s not part of the service. Besides you have seen me naked before. Yes. You’ve put on weight since the last time. Oh my god! Thanks very much! Annie! You know very well that I meant that as a good thing. You were a bag of bones the last time I saw you. I’m so glad you’re eating properly again now. Nag, nag, nag. I’m just saying, what I saw in the light of the fridge for those brief seconds was damned sexy. Sexy enough to be in one of your books? No. If you won’t kill me off how about making me into a murderer instead? Annie Butterworth, blonde hair, blue eyes, face like an angel, cast as an evil murderer, who would believe it? Wednesday: My sister-in-law has gone mad. Maybe the grief of my brother dying has finally got to her and it’s pushed her over the edge. She tried to kill me three times yesterday. The first time she leapt out of a cupboard with an axe. Scared the bloody crap out of me, but only because she was screaming like a banshee. When I turned around and saw Annie brandishing an axe in her little flowered blouse and denim shorts with those stupid oversized sandals she loves so much I burst out laughing, hardly the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. The second time a quiche appeared in my kitchen with a packet of rat poison next to it. The quiche tasted amazing, Annie always could cook. I had to give her points for trying on the third attempt. I woke to find her straddling me, dressed head to toe in a black leather cat suit, her hair slicked back, her eyes lined with black and a knife pressed to my throat. I must admit she did look mean, but I was too busy trying not to be turned on to be scared of her. Quite frankly if she had killed me then I would have gone with a huge grin on my face. Annie, I know you just don’t have it in you to be a killer. I’ve seen you stop the car for a frog to cross the road. You didn’t even have the guts to use a real knife, you had a spoon handle pressed to my throat. I didn’t want to hurt you. I could be believable as a killer, just you wait and see. Thursday: Annie may be a better killer than I thought. Last night I nearly died laughing. She had made a dummy by stuffing old clothes with newspapers, a head out of an old melon and fastened it all together to look like a body then wrapped it in a black bin bag. Just as it was starting to turn dark she went out to her front garden, and in full view of the rest of the village, dug a hole to bury the body. She obviously wanted to raise suspicions and prove that people would think she was capable of such a thing. She was in luck. David Lambeth, the local constabulary, was driving past and he stopped when he saw her digging. I think she nearly did a little victory dance that he would ask her what she was doing and to explain the body shaped bag on her front lawn. But without a word, David went to the shed, grabbed another spade and helped her to dig the hole only stopping once to clarify how deep she wanted it. I laughed so much I think I ruptured something inside. Even when I told him I wanted the hole six feet deep he didn’t bat an eyelid. I did relent in the end and told him I’d finish the hole the next day. He’s coming round later to help me finish it off. Friday: I’m being kicked out today. Apparently a paying guest is more important than family. You can stay in my spare room, you know that. I promise not to jump you. I’d prefer to keep the boundaries a bit stricter, after last time. Prude. I’ll be back for the grand re-opening of The Painted Plate. Take Care Annie, Sophia, take care of her. I will. Don’t stay away so long next time. Sophia x ********** 14th - 17th March Mrs Applecroft. FRIDAY: THE LAST TIME I WAS HERE MRS BUTTERWORTH WAS GRIEVING THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND. THE PLACE WAS A MESS. I APPRECIATE THAT THE UPKEEP OF WILLOW COTTAGE WAS NOT HIGH ON HER LIST OF PRIORITIES WHEN SHE WAS TRYING TO ORGANISE A FUNERAL BUT STILL I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED SOME STANDARDS. WHEN MY HUSBAND PASSED AWAY, I MADE SURE THE HOUSE WAS STILL CLEANED EVERY DAY. HOWEVER, WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE AND AS I HAD BEEN A REGULAR GUEST UP UNTIL THE WEEK OF THE FUNERAL, I THOUGHT I WOULD COME BACK AND GIVE WILLOW COTTAGE ONE MORE CHANCE. I’M PLEASED TO SEE THE PLACE HAS BEEN REDECORATED AND ALTHOUGH SOME OF THE DÉCOR IS NOT TO MY TASTE, THE HOUSE IS MOSTLY CLEAN. MRS APPLECROFT My apologies that Willow Cottage was not up to the usual standards you had come to expect the last time you were here. It’s such a shame that you have stayed away because of that. We have missed you and your very helpful advice on how to improve the cottage. I know Sophia especially will be delighted you are back. I did let things slip a bit when Nick died and I have never forgiven myself for not being clean and tidy in the months after his death. It is a burden I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Hopefully we can go some way to restoring your faith in us this time. After all Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Annie Butterworth. YOU ARE SO RIGHT. I HAVE JUST BEEN FOR A WALK ON THE BEACH AND THOUGH IT IS STILL BEAUTIFUL I WAS ANGERED TO SEE THERE WERE HORSE FAECES ON THE PATH LEADING DOWN TO THE SEA FRONT. DISGUSTING! IF DOG OWNERS HAVE TO PICK UP AFTER THEIR PETS, HORSE OWNERS SHOULD BE NO DIFFERENT. HAVE WATCHED FOUR MEN LEAVE SOPHIA LORENZO’S HOUSE IN THE LAST TWO HOURS. HER HUSBAND IS SEEMINGLY AWAY ON BUSINESS. WHILE THE CAT’S AWAY… THE SIGN TO BUTTERWORTH FARM IS SQUEAKY AND IN NEED OF OILING. ANNIE BUTTERWORTH SINGING IN HER BACK GARDEN IS DISTURBING MY READING. SATURDAY: THE SUN SHINES TOO BRIGHTLY THROUGH MY BEDROOM WINDOW; IT MIGHT BE AN IDEA TO INVEST IN SOME BLACK OUT CURTAINS. THE PILLOWS ARE HARD. THE BIRDS SINGING ALSO DISTURBED ME FROM MY SLEEP. I SEE YOUNG SHELLIE GILLESPIE STAYED OVER WITH MICHAEL ATKINSON LAST NIGHT, I SAW HER LEAVE HIS HOUSE VERY EARLY THIS MORNING. IT SEEMS THE TINY VILLAGE OF CHALK HILL HAS BECOME A HOTBED OF SIN. JUST GOT BACK FROM A WALK ROUND THE SHOPS. I WAS DISAPPOINTED TO SEE THE WOOL SHOP HAS BEEN REPLACED BY SOME CRASS LOOKING CAKE SHOP. SUNDAY: SOPHIA LORENZO DISTURBED MY BREAKFAST TO COME AND CLEAN. I MUST TELL HER ABOUT THE DUST ON TOP OF THE WARDROBES. I WILL LEAVE A NOTE. I DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE REPRIMANDING THE HELP. The help??? Firstly, if you’d had the decency to cancel your booking when we told you about Nick’s death you wouldn’t have come at the worst possible time in Annie’s life. Secondly, the four men that left my house on Friday night were all builders and decorators who were giving me a quote for a new fitted bathroom. I may be bloody amazing in bed but even I could not satisfy four men in less than two hours. Thirdly, Shellie Gillespie is now married to Michael Atkinson and was leaving early to go to work, but even if they weren’t married this is the twenty first century and what consenting adults do behind closed doors has nothing whatsoever to do with you. Fourthly, if you want to climb up on top of the wardrobe and dust it, be my guest. Sophia Lorenzo AFTER SPEAKING TO MRS LORENZO EARLIER TODAY I FEEL COMPELLED TO SAY HOW CLEAN I HAVE FOUND THE PLACE. FURTHERMORE I WILL DEFINITELY BE BACK. WILLOW COTTAGE IS DELIGHTFUL. MY SINCERE APOLOGIES IF MY PREVIOUS COMMENTS DID NOT DO THE COTTAGE JUSTICE. ********** 18th - 21st March Hetty O’Donahue. Tuesday: Hetty, I’m so looking forward to seeing you again. I know you won’t mind but I’ll be popping in and out during your stay to see to the garden, it’s got a bit tangled of late. Annie x My lovely Annie, the garden looks great but yes of course you can come in and tend to it. The house looks spectacular. I loved it before, but now it’s amazing. I’m so glad to be back. Hetty x I’m so glad to have you back. The money to do up the place came from Nick. He was apparently insured up to the hilt. It seemed a fitting tribute to him to use the money to do up Willow Cottage, what started as an on-going project for us five years ago and make it into the place we always dreamed it would be. I have also used some of the money to renovate The Painted Plate, my little pottery painting studio. It has sat closed ever since his death as I couldn’t face working with the public anymore. It seemed weird that people would come in, happy, cheery, life continuing as normal when my life had stopped. I couldn’t bear it. But I’m in a really good place now and the grand re-opening is in a few weeks. We’re just doing Sundays and Tuesdays to start with. I really need to be around to greet guests when they arrive in the peak season on Saturdays. Chloe Sayles is going to be trained up as my Saturday girl so she can run the place for me on those days in the summer. You’re looking good. I’m so happy you are on the mend. Would Oliver have anything to do with your beautiful smile being back on your face? Olly was a great help after Nick died. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t have got through those first few months without him. The whole of Nick’s family were so supportive, especially Sophia and Olly. He stayed with me for nearly seven months, helping me get through each day one step at a time, he sorted out the insurance, bills, everything. We drew very close but now we are just friends. You three used to be as thick as thieves growing up. Mary Gillespie and I always used to joke that you had two boyfriends and would probably end up marrying them both. I loved them both, still do. Though I think what I have with Olly is a brother/sister kind of love. Hell, you’ve seen him in the magazines, on the arm of a different woman every week, turns up to all these glamorous parties and premieres. He’s hardly going to give up all of that for me. Why does he have to give it up? He’s a writer. He can write anywhere and it seems, reading some of the other messages, he gets his best ideas around you. The parties and glitzy lifestyle are only a small part of his life. At the end of the day he still wants a place to call home. You’re talking like this is an option. Sometimes he can hardly bear to look at me. Well after the accident he probably felt guilty, he was driving after all. He probably thinks he could have done something to prevent it. It wasn’t his fault, he knows that. I don’t blame him. Yes, but he’s alive, Nick’s not. He’s bound to feel guilty about that regardless of where the blame lies. You should go and see Butterworth Farm whilst you’re here, William would love to see you. Nice change of subject there. Ok, I won’t say any more about it. For now. And are you still trying to get me and William together? Unless I had black and white spots and went moo, William wouldn’t give me a second glance. He loves them cows. He does, but he likes you too. There were five calves yesterday, there may be more today, little new-born babies, surely you can’t resist. I may pop over. If you do, pop in and take some muffins and eggs with you. I also have some Shepherd’s Pie I made for him; they’d be plenty left over for you tonight if you didn’t want to cook. I saw the cows, the little ones were very cute. William said ten words to me the whole time I was there. Ten, really? Yep I counted them. Oh dear. Wednesday: I found an engagement ring on the beach this morning, beautiful little thing, a diamond the shape of a teardrop and two clusters of tiny sapphires on either side. It looks antique. Makes me wonder how it got there. Was the girl lost at sea, did it belong to a sailor who lost his bride to scarlet fever and wore it as a memento of his sweetheart? I wonder how long ago it was given as a token of some man’s affection. Hetty, you old romantic. I hate to break it to you but knowing Sally Jenkins down the road it probably belongs to her. She has been engaged more times than I’ve had hot dinners; to the same man three times and to eight others at the last count. She never marries them though. Lucky thing seems to be having men practically queuing up to offer their hand in marriage, always some rich bachelor too. At the book club last night she told us the last one, some Lord somebody or other, had the audacity to give her a cubic zirconia ring instead of a diamond one, apparently it ended up in the sea, along with the rings of the other men that either cheated or lied to her. I’d be grateful to get any kind of ring. I’m still tainted at the moment, the grieving widow. Half the eligible bachelors in the village and surrounding areas, of which there aren’t many, look at me like I’m an unexploded bomb and they’re scared I may go off at any time. They let me win at pool in the pub and they never charge me for car repairs just in case I might start crying again. The other half still see me as Nick’s and think it would be disloyal to him to go behind his back and court me. I’m not really looking for a man at the moment. It’s still hard to think of being with another man that’s not Nick. But although I’m not in the market, an appreciative glance wouldn’t go amiss, instead of the looks of pity or fear I get from most men. You need to get away. You’re welcome to come and stay with me in Tenby. I can take you over to Skomer. If you come in a few weeks they’ll be hundreds of Puffins. Olly said the same thing when he was here. He’s offered me his beach house in California. I may go there for a few weeks before the peak season hits. Tenby beach or California? Lord I know which I’d choose. Though I do have the added bonus of my lovely gardener, Connor. He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. The most amazing arms, so muscular, thick strong thighs, lovely hands. I do so love a man who is good with his hands. If I was thirty years younger I wouldn’t mind having a go myself. He might be just what you need as a distraction. Thursday: Mmmm Tenby is looking more and more tempting. To see the Puffins of course. Yes, maybe Connor could take you over to Skomer to see them. There’s loads of secluded remote sections of the island. Haha, Hetty, you are wicked. Come for dinner tonight and we can discuss this in person rather than through the medium of this book. Not my fault you always seem to be out when I pop in. Not to burst your bubble my lovely, but I do have other people to see whilst I’m here. I’m cramming in as many morning teas, lunches and afternoon cake sessions as I possibly can with the lovely people of Wells. I’ll squeeze you in at seven tonight. I’m honoured. Friday: It’s been lovely seeing you again Annie. It was great chatting to you last night and I’m so looking forward to paying back your hospitality in Tenby in a few weeks. Give my love to William, that’ll freak him out. ********** 21st - 24th March Mr and Mrs Slater. Saturday: Thank you for the welcome basket and flowers. We are looking forward to a nice quiet weekend away. George is especially looking forward to the fishing. Thank you so much for the book on fishing and the bucket of ragworms you left us. I never thought I’d be saying thank you for them. They are the most hideous, disgusting creatures I have ever laid eyes on, but George is delighted. I am reliably informed ragworms are an excellent sea fishing bait. Mrs Slater The fishing is spectacular. I caught two big bass and a pollack today. We are barbequing the bass later. George Slater Sunday: The little beach huts are so cute. Is there any way to rent one for the day or weekend? Mrs Slater Just popped by to drop off some eggs. Most of the beach huts are owned by families and passed down through the generations. Many of the huts have been there since the Victorian era though there are many newer ones. They are a few on sale for around 50-60k and a handful that are rented out in the summer months. I think if you just type into Google ‘beach huts, Wells-Next-The-Sea’ you’ll be able to find a few companies that rent them out. Nick and I rented one for a week for our honeymoon. We slept there, even though we weren’t supposed to, on sleeping bags and air mattresses on the floor, there was nothing more exciting than waking up and opening the door and stepping out onto the beach every morning. Pure heaven. Annie Annie dear, I’m 73, George is 76, we don’t have much need for Google. I’ll get you the telephone number. If you let me know what dates you are interested in, I’ll email them on your behalf and find out if they have any availability and what kind of price you’re looking at. Monday: We’ve had a wonderful stay and George is most impressed with the fishing. Thanks for the help with the beach hut. We may rent one in the summer but we’ll stay here too, we’re too old to be sleeping on the floor at our time of life. ********** 28th - 31st March Mike and Sarah Littleton. And bump. Friday: What a beautiful cottage. I love the log burner. I definitely want to come back in the winter and sit by a big fire whilst the wind is roaring outside. Of course, we’ll be a threesome then. Our bump, getting bigger by the day, is due in four weeks. Mike is sure it will be a boy, I have a feeling it’s a boy too but I wind him up that’s it’s definitely a girl. He kicks a lot, so he’ll probably be a footballer. Or an Irish dancer. Sarah. Ha, I knew it was a boy, for the last nine months I’ve felt sure it was a boy. Just from the way you are carrying our bump and your cravings, the books say it’s probably a boy too. That’s it then, when we get back, I’m painting the nursery blue. Annie do you have a hot water bottle by any chance, Sarah’s back is hurting. We’re going down the beach now, if you read this before we get back and you have one, just leave it in the kitchen. By the way, the phone reception from the house is not great, any ideas where I can put a call through. Thanks Mike. I’ve left you a hot water bottle in the kitchen and a bottle of my favourite bubble bath, a good soak might help to ease the aches a bit. Go to the bottom of the garden to make calls, phone reception is good there. Annie The beach is lovely. Shame I had to cut our walk short, bloomin Braxton Hicks. I’ve had them for the last two weeks now and they’re getting closer and more painful. Perfectly normal says my nineteen year old male doctor when I went to see him last week. He even told me they weren’t that uncomfortable. How the heck would he know? I felt like kicking him in the balls and asking him whether that was uncomfortable. Thanks for the hot water bottle Annie. I’m off for a bath and then an early night. Sarah. Saturday: Braxton Hicks continues. According to my prepubescent doctor walking is good for it. So we’re going down to the beach today. I’m determined not to spoil our last holiday together by sitting around the house moaning. The weather is beautiful so I’m going to make the most of it. Personally, I would prefer her to take it easy, but there’s no persuading her to sit still. Managed to persuade her to sit on the beach today rather than walking too far. She’s so uncomfortable bless her. Another early night, but she’s not sleeping well either. Shit, Shit, Shit! SUNDAY: AS VISITORS TO WILLOW COTTAGE WE FEEL COMPELLED TO WRITE IN THE GUESTBOOK. BABY LITTLETON WAS BORN THIS MORNING AT 2.27AM. BABY WEIGHED IN AT 7LBS 2OZ. MOTHER AND BABY DOING WELL. JIM AND KATIE, PARAMEDICS. We would like to welcome into the world our new baby. Willow Rose took us quite by surprise a little after midnight. By the time the paramedics got here the head was already out. She was delivered shortly after. She is quite possibly the most beautiful baby I have ever seen in my whole life. I know all Mums say that, but she really is stunning. Mike was amazing, so calm and together. Though reading his previous comment maybe he was panicking under the surface just like I was. Although mine was more on the surface panicking. Sarah How can I fall in love with her so quickly, so immediately? I cannot stop staring at her. She is perfect in every way. We didn’t have a girl’s name; we were both so sure it was going to be a boy. But Willow, after the cottage seems to fit perfectly. Sarah was fantastic, so brave. Mike I can agree. Willow Rose is the most beautiful baby in the world. A first for Willow Cottage. We’ve not had babies stay here before, let alone be born here. What a wonderful surprise to wake up to this morning. Annie x Just came round to check on the mother and baby. Both seem to be doing well. Willow Rose is a good weight and is responding well to breast milk. Sally Jenkins - Midwife. PS Annie, the house looks amazing x Monday: We’re extending our stay by a few days. We need to get a car seat to take Willow home and Mike is not willing to leave us alone just yet to go and buy one. My parents are driving up from Cambridge and are going to stay in the other room. They are bringing all the things we need and we may go home Wednesday or Thursday. Luckily Annie doesn’t have any other guests coming until the weekend. Our baby Granddaughter is beautiful and what a lovely place for her to be born. Thank you Annie for accommodating us at such short notice. Mr and Mrs Baxter (Sarah’s parents) Tuesday: Annie, thanks so much for the rubber ring. It is painful to sit down at the moment, how very thoughtful. Sarah Thursday: We’re going home today. Thanks so much for having us. I can’t believe how our life has changed so much over the last few days. Love Sarah, Mike and Willow Littleton ********** 5th - 19th April The Meechams Mrs Butterworth, the house is beautiful. Thank you so much for the Easter eggs for Megan and Isabelle, that’s so thoughtful. Mrs Meecham. MY EGG HAD CHOCOLATE BUTTONS WITH BITS ON TOP AND A PUZZLE ON THE BACK. ISABELLE’S HAD SMARTIES SO I HAD HALF OF HERS AND SHE HAD HALF OF MINE. I FOUND A SHELL THAT LOOKED LIKE A CAT TODAY. IT EVEN HAD WISSKERS WHISKERS. MEGAN AGE 6 ½ Tuesday: I’m so glad you liked the eggs Megan and that you are enjoying the beach. If you would like to see some baby cows let me know and I’ll take you up to Butterworth Farm. Annie Butterworth THURSDAY: THE COWS ARE SO CUTE. EIGHT BABY CALVES. WILLIAM SAID I COULD NAME THE BABY ONES. I CALLED THEM JAKE, BELLA, FIZZ, MILO, DORA, DAISY, SPOT AND SPLAT. SPLAT IS CALLED SPLAT BECAUSE HE DID A BIG SPLAT WHEN I WAS STROKING HIM. SPLAT IS MY FAVOURITE. SPOT HAS A WHITE SPOT ON HER FACE. ISABELLE LIKED SPOT BEST. MEGAN FRIDAY: THERE WAS A SANDCASTLE BUILDING COMPETITION ON THE BEACH TODAY. ME AND DADDY AND ISABELLE MADE A HUGE ONE WITH TURRITS AND FLAGS AND SHELLS AND WE CAME SECOND AND WON ICE CREAMS. I HAD CHOCOLATE WITH NUTS AND MARSHMALLOWS AND CHOCOLATE BUTTONS. SATURDAY: WE SAW THE SEALS TODAY. WE WENT ON A BOAT AND SAW THEM. ONE WAS VERY FAT AND HAD BIG EYES. SUNDAY: IT RAINED SO WE PLAYED ON THE WII. I BEAT DADDY AT THE BOAT GAME BUT MOMMY WAS BETTER THAN ME. TUESDAY: IT’S STILL RAINING BUT I HAVE A PUZZLE BOOK. ISABELLE HAS A COLOURING BOOK WHICH I AM HELPING HER WITH. IT ALSO HAS STICKERS. MY PUZZLE BOOK DOESN’T HAVE STICKERS. You can come round and help me make cakes if you want; I need help with the icing part too. Annie x THURSDAY: FOUND A FROG IN THE GARDEN. I DREW HIS PICTURE AND MOMMY HELPED ME TO TAKE HIS PHOTO ON HER PHONE AND PUT IT ON HER FACEBOOK. I CALLED HIM SLIMY. GOOD FRIDAY: I MET MR BUTTERWORTH TODAY. HE WAS NICE AND FUNNY. WHEN I ASKED HIM IF HE WAS ANNIE’S HUSBAND SHE SAID NO BUT HE SAID YES. BUT HE MUST BE IF SHE IS MRS BUTTERWORTH AND HE IS MR BUTTERWORTH. HE IS HERE BECAUSE THERE IS A PLATE OPENING TOMORROW. I’M NOT SURE HOW A PLATE CAN OPEN BUT MOMMY SAYS WE CAN GO ALONG BEFORE WE LEAVE AND I CAN PAINT SOMETHING. DADDY SAYS HE LOVES MR BUTTERWORTH. HE KEPT SHAKING HIS HAND AND SAYING HOW MUCH HE LOVED HIM. GOOD SATURDAY: WE ALL WENT TO THE PLATE OPENING TODAY. I PAINTED A FROG JUST LIKE SLIMY. I GAVE HIM PURPLE SPOTS BECAUSE I LIKE PURPLE. ISABELLE HAD HER HANDS AND FEET PAINTED AND PUT ON A PLATE. SHE CRIED. MR BUTTERWORTH ALSO PAINTED A MUG THAT SAID HE WAS THE WORLD’S BEST WRITER. THERE WAS LOTS OF GLASSES OF WINE BUT I HAD A GLASS OF ORANGE JUICE IN A SPECIAL WINE GLASS. Annie, we have had the best time and you have made the girls feel so welcome. Thank you so much. Love Rebecca, Ben, Megan and Isabelle Meecham ********** 19th - 21st April Oliver Butterworth. Black I’m glad I get to stay here tonight. The spare bed in Annie’s house is very uncomfortable. The grand re-opening of The Painted Plate was a huge success. The press turned up and there were even a good number of customers. Not bad for Annie’s first day. So many of the locals turned up as well to support her which was lovely. They all love her here, that much is clear. I wasn’t comfortable with the questions the press were asking about the reason The Painted Plate had stayed closed for so long. I just palmed them off with tales of decorating and renovating. Thankfully they were only local press and not the damned paparazzi that hounded us after Nick had died. Oliver Black After flying in from New York yesterday, I’m feeling so jet lagged it’s like I’m drunk. My mind is racing and I’m clearly not thinking straight. I just offered to accompany Annie on a walk on the beach. She always goes for a stroll on the beach after dark, she’s done it as far back as I can remember. Why I felt the sudden compulsion to go with her I don’t know. It’s a recipe for disaster; moonlit stroll along the beach, the waves lapping gently on the sand, the deserted solitude, my beautiful best friend, what on earth am I thinking? What’s worse is that I’m now putting my innermost feelings in this damned book. I have already betrayed my brother in the worst possible way just six months after he died, I can’t let it happen again. I just have to remember that she’s my brother’s wife, she is not the girl who rode on the back of my bike as a kid, she’s not the girl I shared my first kiss with. She is my brother’s wife, nothing more than that. Arghhh why am I writing this stuff? Sunday: Early hours Sunday morning. I’m so tired now, think I’ve been awake for thirty nine hours. Of course we sat on the beach and talked, of course she got cold and I put my arm round her, of course she sat next to me with her head on my shoulder. I didn’t do anything. She’s my brother’s wife. Oh Olly! Woken up around lunch with breakfast in bed. Annie is a wonderful cook and I’m feeling a lot better now that I’ve slept. Yesterday was just the inane ramblings of a madman. Flying back out to New York tomorrow, for which I am thankful for. I did not go for a walk with Annie tonight. Monday: Take care my Annie xx ********** 25th - 28th April Rosie and Jake Hamilton Friday: Hi again Annie, just back for a weekend. It’s so sweet that Willow Littleton was born here. Jake and I are in the middle of doing up our new home so it’s nice to have a break even if it is only for a few days. Rosie HI ANNIE. IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK. JAKE Saturday: Another day at the beach today. I could walk on that beach every single day, I love it here. I’m trying to persuade Jake to move. Whoa! The power has just gone out. We’ve not had any dinner yet. A QUICK CHECK HAS REVEALED THAT THE WHOLE VILLAGE OF CHALK HILL IS OUT AND BY THE SOUNDS OF IT ALL OF WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA IS OUT TOO. Wow! What an amazing night. Shortly after the power went down and we were wondering what we were going to do for food, someone set up a barbeque on the village green. People started coming out of their houses with burgers, chicken, sausages and whatever else they had in their fridges. Annie told us to come out too even though we didn’t have anything to contribute towards a barbeque. There was so much food and drink that everyone in the village was catered for. Someone built a big fire and many people returned back to their houses to bring out blankets and duvets. We all sat together well into the night eating each other’s food and drinking cups of hot chocolate and chatting until the early hours of the morning. There was such a huge sense of community. THE POWER IS STILL OUT BUT I HAVE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER (EXCLUDING MY WEDDING DAY OF COURSE). WE HAVE MADE SOME REAL FRIENDS TONIGHT AND I CERTAINLY COUNT ANNIE AS ONE OF THEM. JAKE Sunday: The power is back on, just in time to cook breakfast. I’m not sure eggs and baked beans would be easy to cook on a barbeque. I think I might be pregnant. It’s so early in our marriage and I wanted time alone with Jake before we had kids. We have spoken about it though. Jake would like a whole football team. WHAT??!! YOU WRITE THIS IN THE BOOK AND NOT TELL ME FIRST. Monday: I’m not pregnant. Though I wanted more time, I can’t help feeling a huge sense of disappointment. I had already started to think about names. MY DARLING ROSIE, THERE’S PLENTY OF TIME YET. I LOVE YOU AND WE HAVE THE REST OF OUR LIVES TOGETHER. TILL NEXT TIME ANNIE JAKE X ********** 2nd - 6th May Phil and Sue Martin We have had a lovely time here in Wells-Next-The-Sea. Our dog Jack loved the beach so much he had to be carried off it at the end of the day. Not an easy feat considering how big he is. Willow Cottage is delightful. The Frog and Rhubarb does fantastic food and even lets in dogs, which was great for us. Phil, Sue and Jack the dog. ********** 10th May - ? Barney Quinn SATURDAY: ALTHOUGH I AM HERE AS A GUEST, I WILL SOON BE A PERMANENT RESIDENT OF CHALK HILL. MY NEW HOUSE, APTLY NAMED THE SANDCASTLE FOR ITS YELLOW COLOURING, IS JUST GOING UNDER SOME MUCH NEEDED RENOVATIONS. I’M STAYING HERE TO OVERSEE AND HELP WITH ITS UPGRADE BEFORE I MOVE IN A FEW WEEKS FROM NOW. I’VE NOT MET THE LANDLADY OF THIS LOVELY COTTAGE YET. THOUGH I SPOKE WITH ANNIE BUTTERWORTH ON THE PHONE, SHE WAS NOT HERE TO MEET ME. APPARENTLY THERE WAS SOME PROBLEM WITH HER PAINTING STUDIO AND SOPHIA LORENZO LET ME IN INSTEAD. THE LOCAL VILLAGERS I’VE MET SO FAR SEEM TO BE SO FRIENDLY AND SO WILLING TO HELP. I EVEN HAD AN OFFER TO SEE SOME COWS FROM SOME MAN CALLED WILLIAM. NOT WISHING TO OFFEND HIM I ACCEPTED AND SPENT A RATHER DULL HOUR LISTENING TO HIM TALK ABOUT THEM AS I WATCHED THEM GRAZE. I WOULD LIKE TO SAY A HUGE THANK YOU, ANNIE, FOR THE BOOKS, MAPS AND INFORMATION LEAFLETS OF THE LOCAL AREA THAT YOU LEFT FOR ME. THIS WILL BE A HUGE HELP IN THE COMING WEEKS. MY TEMPORARY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR IS BEAUTIFUL. I’VE JUST SEEN HER IN HER BACK GARDEN CHASING THE CHICKENS BACK INTO THEIR PENS. THIS MUST BE ANNIE’S GRANDDAUGHTER. WOULD IT BE CONSIDERED BAD FORM TO DATE THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF YOUR LANDLADY? I CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF HER. GOD THAT ARSE. HAVE JUST MET THE BLONDE VISION. SHE’S CALLED ANNIE TOO, PROBABLY AFTER HER GRANDMOTHER. ANNIE WANTED TO KNOW IF I HAD SETTLED IN ALRIGHT SO I IMAGINE SHE HANDLES THE COTTAGE WHEN HER GRANDMOTHER ISN’T HERE. I’M GOING TO ENSURE ALL MY DEALINGS ARE WITH THE YOUNG ANNIE FROM NOW ON. SHE IS LOVELY. THE DRESS SHE WAS WEARING WAS SLIGHTLY SEE-THROUGH IN THE SUNLIGHT, SHOWED OFF HER LEGS BEAUTIFULLY. SHAME ABOUT THE BIG SANDALS, KIND OF RUINED THE IMAGE A BIT, BUT AT LEAST SHE WASN’T WEARING THEM WITH SOCKS. I’VE ASKED HER TO DROP ROUND FRESH EGGS EVERY DAY. HAVE JUST BOUGHT SUPPLIES FROM THE VILLAGE SHOP. LOCAL MILK, LOCAL BREAD, LOCAL CIDER, LOCAL CHEESE, LOCAL BUTTER AND LOCAL MEAT SO SAID THE VERY ELDERLY LADY AS SHE SERVED ME. NOT LOCAL CONDOMS THOUGH. SHE THOUGHT THIS WAS VERY FUNNY. SHE WAS STILL CACKLING AT HER LITTLE JOKE WHEN I LEFT THE SHOP. SUNDAY: LAST DAY OF REST TODAY BEFORE THE BUILDERS DESCEND TOMORROW. I’LL ASK ANNIE TO JOIN ME FOR A PICNIC ON THE BEACH. WILL PACK ALL THE LOCAL PRODUCE FOR LUNCH. AND NON-LOCAL PRODUCE FOR DESSERT!! WELL, JUST IN CASE. Just dropping eggs off. There seems to be a bit of confusion. I am the Annie Butterworth you spoke with on the phone, I own Willow Cottage. The only living grandmother I have is called Cerise and lives in France. Thanks for the comments about my bum and legs, very much appreciated. I’m glad you are making the most of the local produce and the non-local. It is always good to be prepared!! A picnic sounds lovely. I’ll bring the chocolate chip cheesecake I made this morning for dessert. Much tastier than eating condoms, they can be a bit rubbery!! HAVE NEVER BLUSHED SO MUCH IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. ANNIE COULDN’T STOP LAUGHING ABOUT IT. SHE HAS THE LOVELIEST LAUGH I’VE EVER HEARD. PICNIC WAS LOVELY. WE TALKED A LOT. ANNIE IS VERY FUNNY AND SWEET. I GET THE SENSE SHE WAS HOLDING SOMETHING BACK FROM ME. SHE’S BEEN HURT IN THE PAST, SOME CHEATING EX-BOYFRIEND SCUM MOST LIKELY. WE’RE TAKING THINGS SLOW FOR NOW. MONDAY: URGH, THE BUILDERS HAVE ARRIVED ACROSS THE GREEN AT SOME UNGODLY HOUR. BETTER GO AND MAKE TEA AND SUPERVISE THE EXTENSION AND NEW FITTED KITCHEN. DESPITE THAT I HAVE FOUND THE BEST BUILDERS MONEY CAN BUY, DESPITE THAT I HAVE PAID THEM EXTRA TO HAVE THIS JOB FINISHED QUICKER, THEY STILL STAND AROUND A LOT AND DRINK TEA, THEY TOOK AN HOUR AND HALF FOR LUNCH AND HAVEN’T BROUGHT ALL THE PARTS/TOOLS THEY NEED TODAY. MY DAY HAS JUST GOT ONE MILLION PER CENT BETTER. I HAVE JUST SEEN ANNIE NAKED. OH MY GOD! SHE IS BEAUTIFUL. SHE HAS A TINY MOLE ON HER BUM, A SCAR ACROSS HER SHOULDER, BUT SHE IS PERFECT IN EVERY SINGLE WAY. I PERHAPS SHOULD ADD WHY I SAW HER NAKED, I’M NOT A SLEAZY PEEPING TOM. THERE WAS A FOX IN HER GARDEN AND ANNIE SAW HIM JUST AS SHE WAS GETTING OUT THE SHOWER. WITHOUT A MOMENT’S HESITATION SHE RAN DOWNSTAIRS AND OUT INTO THE GARDEN TO SCARE HIM OFF BEFORE HE COULD EAT THE CHICKENS. I OF COURSE RAN ROUND TO HELP TOO, THOUGH THE FOX HAD ALREADY GONE BY THEN. ANNIE WAS A LITTLE EMBARRASSED TO HAVE ME SEE HER NAKED BUT SHE STILL HAD THE GOOD GRACE TO INVITE ME ROUND FOR DINNER. I DID ASK WHAT THE DRESS CODE WAS AND WHETHER I SHOULD COME AS CASUALLY AS SHE WAS DRESSED. SHE SAID MAYBE I SHOULD WEAR A TIE. SORELY TEMPTED TO TURN UP JUST WEARING A TIE BUT NEED TO REMEMBER WE’RE TAKING THINGS SLOW. TUESDAY: A GREAT EVENING WITH ANNIE, SHE MAKES ME LAUGH A LOT. Just dropping off fresh towels. I had a lovely evening too. I’ll be at the painting studio all day today until quite late tonight but maybe we can do it again on Thursday. I WOULD LOVE TO. THE BUILDERS HAVE MADE GOOD PROGRESS TODAY DESPITE THEIR CONTINUAL TEA BREAKS. Wednesday: Hi Barney. I’m Sophia, the cleaner, we met on Saturday. I normally pop by once a week to tidy things up but we’ve not had any long term residents before. If you would prefer to be left alone rather than me coming in and disturbing you then please let me or Annie know. Annie is walking around with a huge grin on her face about her dates with you. I haven’t seen her this excited and happy for a long, long time. She’s had a difficult few years so just be careful with her. Be patient and I promise you it will be worth it. She is a lovely girl with a beautiful heart. I’ve just been told off for writing this, apparently she doesn’t want you to know about her past so I’ll say no more about it. Though quite how she expects to keep it quiet in Chalk Hill is beyond me. I am not made out of china; I do not need to be treated as such. Though I do appreciate you’re only looking out for me. EVERYONE HAS BAGGAGE SOPHIA, I’M SURE ANNIE’S IS NO WORSE THAN ANYONE ELSE’S. IF SHE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT THEN I WON’T PUSH HER OR ANYONE ELSE FOR INFORMATION. WE ARE TAKING THINGS SLOW AND AS I AM MOVING INTO CHALK HILL PERMANENTLY I HAVE NO INTENTION OF HURTING HER OR TREATING HER BADLY. I WOULD BE A FOOL TO, NOT LEAST BECAUSE I’D THEN HAVE TO FACE THE WRATH OF YOU AND THE OTHER TWELVE VILLAGERS THAT HAVE ALREADY WARNED ME OFF HER. BARNEY I’m sorry the villagers have felt the need to speak to you about me. They’re very protective. I promise you I don’t have any foul or hideous diseases. But if you want to call it off, I’d completely understand. Annie x GLAD TO HEAR OF YOUR GOOD HEALTH! I’M VERY MUCH LOOKING FORWARD TO DINNER TOMORROW NIGHT. EVEN VILLAGERS WITH THEIR PITCHFORKS WOULDN’T STOP ME. THURSDAY: WITH AN EXTRA CASH BONUS HANGING ON THE END OF A STICK FOR THE BUILDERS IF THEY FINISH IT ALL BY THE END OF NEXT WEEK, THEY ARE NOW WORKING LIKE TROJANS. THEY ARE STILL GOING THROUGH MORE TEABAGS THAN I’VE HAD HOT DINNERS BUT AT LEAST NOW THEY ARE DRINKING WHILST THEY WORK. HAD A LOVELY DINNER AGAIN TONIGHT WITH ANNIE, DRANK A FEW BOTTLES OF LOCAL CIDER AND THEN A VERY DISAPPOINTING WALK ON THE BEACH. IT COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE ROMANTIC WITH THE MOON SHINING OVER THE WATER BUT WE STILL HAVEN’T KISSED YET. IT’S SO FRUSTRATING. I KNOW I SAID WE WERE TAKING IT SLOW, BUT AT THE MOMENT WE AREN’T EVEN MOVING. Friday: Just popping some eggs in. I’m sorry you were disappointed with last night. There are quite a few single girls in the village and surrounding areas who would be more than willing to move quicker. You’d probably be better off with one of them. Annie MY LOVELY ANNIE. PLEASE DON’T GET UPSET BY MY SLIGHTLY DRUNKEN RAMBLINGS, THAT CIDER IS POTENT STUFF. I DON’T WANT ANY OTHER GIRL, I ONLY WANT YOU. I SUPPOSE I THOUGHT THAT IF WE HADN’T EVEN KISSED YET THEN WHAT I REALLY WANT TO BE DOING WITH YOU WAS A VERY, VERY LONG WAY OFF. I’M HAPPY TO WAIT, BUT I DON’T WANT TO JUST BE FRIENDS WITH YOU, I WANT MORE, MUCH MORE. IF YOU DON’T SEE US GOING THAT WAY, THEN I’D RATHER KNOW NOW. JUST GOT BACK FROM A DAY AT THE HOUSE, THE KITCHEN IS NEARLY DONE AND THE FOUNDATIONS ARE FINISHED FOR THE EXTENSION. NO WORD FROM ANNIE, I BETTER KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ANGRY VILLAGERS WITH BURNING TORCHES. Saturday: I like you Barney, I really do, and definitely more than just as friends. I’m just not sure I’m ready for a relationship yet. This is all so new for me and quite honestly more than a bit scary. JUST GOT BACK FROM A RUN. I DON’T WANT TO RUSH YOU ANNIE, I’VE GOT ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. I’M HEADING OVER TO THE HOUSE NOW, THE BUILDERS ARE PUTTING IN HALF A DAY TODAY. I’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU OVER FOR DINNER TONIGHT. NO CIDER THIS TIME THOUGH. ANNIE’S COMING FOR DINNER TONIGHT, WHAT ON EARTH DO I COOK FOR SOMEONE WHO IS SUCH A BRILLIANT COOK HERSELF. MY TALENTS LAY FIRMLY IN THE ‘SOMETHING ON TOAST’ DEPARTMENT. MAYBE A TAKEAWAY IS THE ANSWER. I CAN SPEND MORE TIME CHATTING WITH HER THEN. FEEL LIKE SUCH A SHIT. HAD ANOTHER WONDERFUL EVENING WITH ANNIE, BUT SHE FINALLY TOLD ME WHY SHE WAS HOLDING BACK. THERE WAS ME THINKING SHE’D JUST HAD A CRAPPY EX-BOYFRIEND NOT THAT HER HUSBAND, HER CHILDHOOD SWEETHEART HAD DIED TWO YEARS AGO. NO WONDER SHE IS HESITANT TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP. SHE MUST FEEL GUILTY FOR MOVING ON AND CONCERNED FOR WHAT THE VILLAGERS WILL THINK ESPECIALLY HIS FAMILY WHO LIVE HERE TOO. Sunday: Please don’t feel bad. That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. I have enough pity from the locals without you joining in too. It was nice to be treated normally for a while. Though I felt like I owed you an explanation for my reticence which is why I told you. I don’t feel guilty for moving on. My life shouldn’t stop just because Nick’s did. And I’m not concerned about what people will think. They can think what they like. Most of them will be happy for me and those that aren’t I don’t care about anyway. Nick’s family will be supportive too. They wouldn’t expect me to sit in mourning for the rest of my life. No the reason I’m holding back is purely the thought of being with someone that isn’t Nick. It feels very weird. Knock on my back door when you wake up, maybe we can go for a drive. WHAT A FANTASTIC DAY. THOUGHT IT WAS TIME TO SEE THAT BEAUTIFUL SMILE BACK ON ANNIE’S FACE SO WE DROVE DOWN TO GREAT YARMOUTH AND WENT TO THE PLEASURE BEACH. WE SPENT THE DAY RIDING THE ROLLERCOASTERS, RACING EACH OTHER ON THE GO-KARTS AND EATING CANDY FLOSS AND FISH AND CHIPS ON THE PIER. THE HIGHLIGHT FOR ME WAS HER GRABBING ME IN THE HAUNTED HOTEL. Ha ha! I was holding you because you were clearly scared, I was offering comfort. I had the best time today, thank you so much. MMMM FINALLY A KISS!! MONDAY: THE BUILDERS ARRIVED AT SEVEN THIS MORNING, OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE KEEN TO GET THIS CASH BONUS. Tuesday: Barney, I’ve just taken a last minute enquiry for half term next week, do you think you’ll be out by then. No worries if not. YES I SHOULD BE. THE HOUSE IS STARTING TO LOOK AMAZING. THERE ARE A FEW THINGS HERE AND THERE THAT NEED TO BE FINISHED BUT I’M KEEN TO MOVE IN NOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I’M GOING TO MOVE IN ON FRIDAY SO I’LL BE OUT OF YOUR HAIR THEN. I WOULD LOVE YOU TO COME OVER AND SEE IT. I’LL MAKE YOU DINNER SATURDAY NIGHT IN MY NEW KITCHEN AND IF TRAVELLING BACK ACROSS THE GREEN IS TOO FAR FOR YOU, YOU COULD ALWAYS STAY OVER AFTERWARDS. Dinner will be lovely, though I think I can manage to find my way back across the green again. WELL IF YOU’RE SURE, I’D HATE FOR YOU TO GET LOST. I’ll think about it. WEDNESDAY: I’M OFF TO BUY NEW BEDDING FOR MY KING SIZE BED, CAN’T WAIT TO SLEEP IN IT ON FRIDAY IN MY NEW HOME AND HOPEFULLY CHRISTEN IT ON SATURDAY. Barney, can I just remind you, you’re supposed to be taking things slow. Sophia Lorenzo. Sophia!!! I’m more than capable of saying no if I’m not ready. And Barney, please don’t write things like that in the guestbook, other people will read it after you’ve gone. SORRY. BARNEY X Me too. I worry about you that’s all. I’m sure Olly would be worried too if he knew. Which is why he doesn’t need to know. Olly would have me dressed in black and mourning his brother for the rest of my life. Is that what you want too? No of course not, I’m pleased that you’re having fun, really I am. I just don’t want to see you hurt or rushing into anything you’re not sure about. I love you and if you’re happy then I’m happy. Sophia x And Barney if you hurt her I’ll have your testicles on a plate. DULY NOTED. Sophia, you do make me laugh. I’d be quite proficient at serving Barney’s testicles on a plate myself if it comes to that, I am a culinary queen after all. ERM FEELING QUITE NERVOUS ABOUT THE SAFETY OF MY TESTICLES NOW. MAYBE SOPHIA WOULD LIKE TO CHAPERONE OUR DINNER ON SATURDAY AND ESCORT YOU BACK SAFELY ACROSS THE GREEN AFTERWARDS. THEREFORE YOUR CHASTITY AND MY TESTICLES REMAIN INTACT. That won’t be necessary. THURSDAY: HAVE SPENT A VERY LONG DAY UNPACKING BOXES AND CLEANING IN AN ATTEMPT TO MAKE MY HOUSE A HOME. EXHAUSTED. I’VE JUST GOT BACK HERE VERY LATE TO FIND A CHICKEN PIE FRESHLY COOKED AND JUST IN NEED OF REHEATING FOR MY DINNER. ANNIE I MAY ACTUALLY BE A LITTLE BIT IN LOVE WITH YOU. FRIDAY: THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR HOSPITALITY OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS. I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO OUR DINNER TOMORROW NIGHT, WITH OR WITHOUT THE DESSERT. ********** 24th - 31st May Gemma, Sean and Charlie Chadwick Saturday: My maternity leave is coming to a close. Next week, after half term, I return to the classroom. I haven’t been a teacher for a year now, since Charlie was born and I’ve enjoyed just being a Mum. He has grown so much and I will miss not spending every day with him. Though I am looking forward to having my brain filled with other things rather than dirty nappies, poo explosions and nursery rhymes. Thankfully all the children I’ll be working with are toilet trained and have long since out grown nursery rhymes. They’re more bothered about who’s dating who and whether Harry Styles is fitter than Justin Bieber. The weather is forecast to stay nice, at least for the next few days, so we’ll be enjoying the beach and spending the last bit of family time together. Next week I’ll be up to my eyeballs in marking and meetings and Charlie will be spending his days split between his grandparents and nursery. Gemma Chadwick Monday: It’s very early hours of Monday morning now. Charlie has been awake all the night; he’s either teething or coming down with a cold. With nothing to do but comfort him I’ve been reading this book. It makes for a gripping read. Annie, I can’t believe your brother-in-law is Oliver Black. I love him. His books and films aren’t bad either. Sean is completely in love with him as well, though apparently it’s more an appreciation for his work than for his body. I think it’s a man crush!!! Sean follows his progress more avidly in the gossip mags than I do. I have to ask you, why are you not with him? It’s clear from his messages in this book that he has a thing for you. I’ve not seen this Barney but surely he can’t compare to the great Oliver Black. And you probably won’t answer this but did you stay over with Barney on Saturday night? Tuesday: Yes the guestbook has taken off in ways I never expected. It seems that not having the pressure of talking face to face means that people can put what they really feel in this book. Oliver and I are good friends. We have been since we were little. What you perceive as him having a thing for me is nothing more than a fondness from him. He sees me as a little sister, especially since I married his brother. Since Nick died, Olly has looked out for me, but being with him is not an option. I’m sure you know from the gossip mags that Oliver has been engaged to the beautiful actress Vivienne Lake for over two years. As for Barney he has been sweet, patient and a lot of fun to be with. Plus he’s very fit too. We had a nice time Saturday night, though I’ll say no more about it. Annie Curses! And you and I both know that the thing with Vivienne Lake is a complete farce. I have very close female friends but none of them are as close as Vivienne and her ‘best friend’ Darcy. If this thing between Vivienne and Oliver is real then he is either blind to the fact that his girlfriend is gay or maybe he’s ok with it and one of those men that likes to watch. Wednesday: As far as I know Oliver and Vivienne are very much in love with each other. You shouldn’t believe everything that you read in the papers. Oliver is a lovely bloke and the papers always make him out to be a complete tart, it simply isn’t true. Annie Spoken like someone who is completely in love with him. Although comments in the papers can be taken with a pinch of salt, photos don’t lie. For months after your husband died you and Oliver were pictured walking hand in hand along the beach. He stayed in your house every night. Don’t tell me that nothing happened between you. Many critics believe this ‘relationship’ with Vivienne was Oliver’s attempt to get the press to leave you alone. Nothing happened. We’re friends, that’s it. When Nick died I fell apart, Oliver stayed to help pick up the pieces. Gemma, you are a guest in Annie’s house. Just because you have paid for a week’s accommodation doesn’t give you the right to give her the third degree about her private life or to be bitchy about her or Oliver. Sophia Lorenzo, Cleaner. It’s fine Sophia. People will always be interested in Oliver Black. Wells-next-the-sea and the people he grew up with will naturally be of interest too. People will make their own minds up about him with or without my help. My apologies if my comments hurt you, that wasn’t my intention. My brain has become addled with worthless gossip since I’ve been on maternity leave and living next door to you for a week and therefore Oliver Black by proxy, is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Apart from getting married and giving birth to Charlie of course. Apologies Annie, my wife is not normally this blood thirsty for inane gossip. Sitting at home with Charlie all day has sent her doolally. Your house is lovely and we are having a lovely time enjoying the beach. Sean Chadwick. Thursday: Speaking of Oliver Black, he has made it back into gossip in chief magazine ‘Purple Moon’ again. He and Vivienne were seen having a row in Covent Garden last week. Seems the ‘very much in love’ couple are not quite as in love as you thought. 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