The End of a Heroine

Extract from the Grantham Gazette – 30th September  

Scourge of the supermarket, Shirley Smith, dies, aged 78 

Residents of Pumley Green yesterday expressed their sadness at the death of their most famous resident, Shirley Smith, who died last week, peacefully in her own home, aged 78. 

Smith, a quiet lady, gained nationwide fame when she came up against increasing pressure from her local council to sell her house to make way for a new building development. The development, which was to include the building of a large supermarket, would have meant the demolition of Smith’s house, along with those of her neighbours 

In a battle reminiscent of David and Goliath the diminutive Smith refused to sell even when offered increasing amounts of money. Speaking a year before her death, she said, ‘My parents bought this house in the 1920s. I was born in one of the bedrooms and I’ve lived here all my life. The house means more to me than money.’ 

In a landmark legal battle Smith won her right to stay in her home and the nation celebrated her victory.  

‘She was,’ remarked neighbour Alan Teasdale, ‘a true underdog. Her fight against the big companies meant she secured a place in our collective hearts. As a neighbour and a friend I can confirm that she will be sadly missed.’ 

20th September 

Alan Teasdale stepped out of his front door carrying a casserole dish in one hand and his front door keys in the other. For once he was more preoccupied about what he was carrying than he was about the amount of litter clogging up his front garden. He didn’t even notice the plastic bag currently strangling his gladioli. 

He opened his front gate and stood, looking first one way and then the other. His lip curled when he saw the lads hanging around at the end of the street. Some were sitting; some were standing and they were half-heartedly dribbling a football between them. Why didn’t they get jobs? Or go to college? Anything to stop them being there: day in, day out. 

One of his neighbours, Judith, slowly shuffled up to him. 

‘How are you, Judith?’ 

‘I can’t complain, although my hips are hurting me something terrible.’ 

Alan nodded in sympathy, he knew all about Judith’s hips. 

‘You been cooking?’ Judith said, pointing to Alan’s casserole dish. 

‘The missus has, aye.’ 

‘You taking it round to Miss Smith?’ 

‘Aye.’ 

‘You taking care of her?’ 

‘Aye’ 

‘Well somebody has to.’ 

After that Judith began her slow shuffle down the street, towards the corner shop. Alan didn’t watch her go. Instead, he turned and entered his neighbour’s front garden. 

He stepped over a chipped garden gnome and rang the buzzer. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually he heard Shirley Smith make her slow way down the corridor to her front door. 

‘Good morning,’ he said brightly as the door opened. 

‘Good morning, Alan. Do come in.’ 

Alan stepped through onto a carpet, which hadn’t been changed since the 1960s. 

The pair made their way back down the corridor and into the sitting room. Every available space was covered with china and the walls were covered with framed memorabilia. As usual Alan found he couldn’t take his eyes off it. 

‘Ah, yes, you like my cuttings don’t you, Alan’? 

‘Aye.’ 

‘My proudest moments.’ 

Shirley settled into a chair and indicated that Alan should do the same. Alan sat; he knew from experience that this would take some time. Not many people came to visit Shirley these days and so when she got him there she liked to talk. 

‘Imagine, little old me on the front page of the Guardian,’ she pointed at one of the framed cuttings, ‘and there I am with Jeremy Paxman. Such a charming man.’ 

Alan knew the script. Shirley would give him a tour of all the publicity she had received over her two year battle to keep her, and the rest of them, on this street. He’d heard it so many times he knew it all off by heart.  

As Shirley came to the end of her monologue, Alan was finally allowed to explain the reason for his visit. 

‘I’ve brought you over a meal,’ he said holding up the casserole dish. ‘It’s a stroganoff.’ 

‘Thank you, my dear.’ 

‘Shall I pop it in the kitchen?’ 

‘Please.’ 

‘No need for you to get up. I can find my way. I’ll put it in the fridge. All you need to do is heat it up.’ 

After Alan had put the dish in the nearly empty fridge he took a quick look round. Spying a set of keys he picked them up and stuffed them in his pocket. 

‘I’ll be off now Shirley. Give us a shout if you need anything. I’ll be back in the next day or two to pick up the dish.’ 

‘Bye, my dear.’ 

Alan let himself out and made his way back home. 

His wife was waiting for him. 

‘How did it go?’ 

‘Fine.’ 

‘Do you think she’ll eat it?’ 

‘Aye.’ 

‘Did you get some keys?’ 

‘Aye.’ 

‘So you’ll go and get the dish and clean up.’ 

‘I’ll take care of everything. Stop worrying.’ 

‘Do you think it will work?’ 

‘Aye,’ he paused for a moment and then added, ‘they’re not called death cap mushrooms for nothing.’ 

Extract from the Grantham Gazette 16thFebruary 

Pumley Green Development Gets the Go-Ahead 

Exciting new plans for the development of the Pumley Green site were revealed today. 

The controversial site, which had been dogged by bad press, has finally been given the go-ahead. The complex will provide the town with a gym, a movie complex, exclusive living accommodation, a supermarket and eateries.  It’s estimated the development will generate around 800 new jobs. 

Former resident of the now demolished houses Alan Teasdale said, ‘The area had been in a steady decline for many years so we’re thrilled to hear that the area is finally going to be revitalised. 

Asked if he was planning to move into one of the new apartments when they are finally built Teasdale said, ‘The wife and I are really happy where we are and won’t be moving back to Pumley Green.’