An Eventful Christmas at Trevelver Castle

Started by Chris in Prague, December 28, 2023, 08:50:31 AM

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Chris in Prague

With her characteristic caution, Sophie opted to depart on an earlier overnight train rather than wait until December 23rd. She decided to alter her destination, choosing to disembark at Trethillick instead of Cant Cove. This adjustment required changing trains at Wadebridge, where she purchased a Second Class single from the station booking office.

Lady Trevelver's description of Trethillick as "simply charming with its picturesque houses and shops, and colourful fishing boats" had aroused Sophie's interest, influencing her decision to go there instead of directly to Cant Cove. After arrival at the terminus, she checked into 'The Railway Inn' under one of her many assumed names. However, before leaving the London safe house, she had judged it unnecessary to undergo a complete change in appearance, merely altering her hair colour to auburn and her eyes to green with the help of contact lenses which, together with the absence of spectacles or any Italian identity, should render her unrecognisable by any Turkish agent searching for her.

As always, Sophie remained vigilant throughout her journey, but there was no sign of anyone tailing her from London to Wadebridge or from Wadebridge to Trethillick. Now based in the picturesque town, she had ample time to prepare herself for the potential reunion with Riccardo. But, first, she would enjoy a delicious fish and chip supper from the prosaically named 'The Fish and Chips Saloon' on Station Road.

Chris in Prague

Seated together at one of the group tables at the rear of the Great Hall, Sylvia and her friends were complimenting Suzi Williams on the breathless article that had appeared in that week's edition of the 'Chelsea Beat', a limited circulation newspaper that catered to the culture-forward 'Chelsea Set' of artists and socialites.

"Go on, Suzi, read it out to us!" cried Monique.

Blushing, she agreed.

"The Chelsea Set: Suzi Williams, the Poet of Swinging London

Suzi Williams is an up-and-coming member of the Chelsea Set, the group of young artists and socialites who are making waves in the city's cultural scene with their avant-garde ideas and free-spirited lifestyle.

Her poetry is a reflection of the times, capturing the spirit of Swinging London with its themes of freedom, individuality, and self-expression. Suzi's works are characterised by their raw emotion, vivid imagery, and unconventional style, which have earned her a loyal following among the city's literary circles.

As a member of the Chelsea Set, Suzi is a regular at the many coffee shops and bookstores that dot the city, where she spends hours reading and discussing the latest works of her favourite authors. She is also a frequent attendee at poetry readings and literary events, where she shares her own work and engages in lively discussions with other writers and poets.

When she is not writing or attending literary events, Suzi can be found exploring the city's art galleries and museums, drawing inspiration from the works of the great masters. Her love for the arts is evident in her poetry, which often draws on the themes and motifs of the visual arts to create a unique and powerful voice.

Despite her success as a poet, Suzi remains humble and grounded, always eager to learn and grow as an artist. Her passion for literature and poetry is infectious, and she is a true inspiration to the many young writers and poets who look up to her.

The Chelsea Set continues to push the boundaries of art and culture in London, and Suzi Williams is at the forefront of this exciting movement. With her long, wavy, dark blonde locks and deep brown eyes, she is sure to turn heads wherever she goes."

"Well, Suzi", Sylvia remarked with a broad grin after everyone had finished clapping, "at least the article did not start with a breathless description of your looks!"

"True", replied Suzi, still blushing, while her friends laughed happily.

"How about reading that poem you composed, especially for the 'Chelsea Beat', off the top of your head", suggested Eli.

"Oh, no! It's dreadful! I only did it to show that poetry could be written as a stream-of-consciousness rhyming thought without adding editing."

"It's not that bad, Suzi", stated Sylvia. "I know you've learnt it by heart so let's hear it before I ask for another round of drinks to be brought to us by Huw."

"If you insist."

"We do", chorused her friends.

"'The Beat Goes On' by Suzi Williams

The beat goes on, the rhythm of life
A city alive, with freedom and strife
The streets are alive, with music and sound
A symphony of life, that knows no bounds

The people are free, to be who they are
To dance and to sing, to reach for the stars
The world is their stage, and they are the stars
A new generation, that knows no bars

The beat goes on, the rhythm of life
A city alive, with freedom and strife
The streets are alive, with music and sound
A symphony of life, that knows no bounds

The spirit of Swinging London, is alive and well
A new era of freedom, that no one can quell
The people are free, to be who they are
A new generation, that knows no bars

The beat goes on, the rhythm of life
A city alive, with freedom and strife
The streets are alive, with music and sound
A symphony of life, that knows no bounds'."

After Suzi's friends had finished clapping, Sylvia remarked, "It can't be that bad as Enka Lou-Lou has told me that it will be the B-side of her next single."

"Yes", added Eli, "her manager insists that her B-Sides are not taken from her albums."

"Well, thank you", responded Suzi. "That's good news. It will sound much better when she sings it. By the way, where is Enka?"

"Practicing in the 'Owl Tower'", replied Sylvia. "There's still plenty of time until her first set."

"With all the audio-visual equipment setup, I suggested to Enka that, as everything will automatically be recorded in ultra-high definition, I can convert the recordings into analogue and then send a tape to her manager to have pressed as an EP, 'The Queen of Hearts, Live in Cornwall'."

"What an excellent idea, Susan", remarked Suzi, "as long as it doesn't include 'The Beat Goes On'".

"No, I suggested the live, extended version of her No. 1 and very first hit, "The Good Times To Come", and then two more depending on the audience reaction."

Chris in Prague

As Lady Trevelver observed her daughter's laughing friends, she reflected on how two of the 'Karadow' – known to others as the 'Chelsea Girls' – Jenny and Angela, shared an unbreakable bond forged through a life-changing event some months previously in the very same Great Hall, after their first meeting at the trendy 'Café Bohème' on Carnaby Street, a favourite haunt of the 'Karadow' and their friends. With her instinctively caring nature, the petite, shy 17-year-old blonde-haired Welsh girl had saved the life of the tall 22-year-old. This selfless act of love had forged a deep connection between them, and they had been inseparable ever since.

Lady Penelope had built up a complete picture of the two Karadow members' relationship and how it had begun on a warm, sunny late spring day in London by talking separately with the two friends without either realizing that they were being extensively questioned. Arriving at Paddington station with the remainder of her meagre savings in the inside pocket of her faded overcoat, a 'London A-Z' and indomitable optimism, Jenny had told Lady Penelope of her determination that that day would mark the beginning of a new life for her.

Completely unknown to herself, Jenny radiated an innocent charm with her short, round face perfectly framed by cascading blonde curls and bright blue eyes sparkling with intelligence and warmth. Picking up a discarded copy of the 'London Evening News' from a station bench as she left Paddington station, she found a job advert for a waitress in the 'Café Bohème'. Walking the two miles there, the café's young continental owner and chief barista, Leo, immediately saw how her natural beauty would enhance the café's allure and hired Jenny on the spot. Leo's Soho coffee bar was a vibrant place where art, music, and counterculture converged in a kaleidoscope of colours, sounds, and ideas. Known for its lively atmosphere and stimulating conversations, the café drew a diverse and discerning crowd of artists, musicians, and intellectuals.

Jenny in waitress uniform

One day, amidst the hustle and bustle of serving customers, Jenny noticed Angela, a stylish and confident 22-year-old personal assistant, entering the café alone. Angela was a regular customer, often accompanied by her friends Sylvia, Eli, and Susan, who were all immersed in the city's vibrant cultural scene of which the 'Café Bohème' was an important part. While Susan seemed around Jenny's age, Sylvia and Eli, both equally attractive and lively, were in their early twenties.

Angela had been immediately drawn to Jenny's radiant smile and shy but friendly demeanour. As she watched Jenny effortlessly make her way around the crowded café, Angela was captivated by her grace and poise. Just like Leo, she was also struck by Jenny's natural beauty and innocent charm. Angela found herself unable to look away, completely mesmerised by the young waitress, and quickly started a light-hearted conversation with Jenny.

Lady Trevelver thought to herself, 'Angela is a stunning woman. Her curly, long hair and above-average height and build make her stand out in a crowd. Her round face, with high cheekbones, is complemented by her pale, hazel-green eyes, which are further enhanced by her fashionable eyeglasses. She is truly a sight to behold! No wonder then, that, upon meeting each other, Jenny and Angela immediately noticed that the other is very pretty with an attractive figure that exudes instinctive subtle sensuality.'

Angela in black business outfit

Chris in Prague

Back in the Great Hall, "so", Jenny remarks to Angela, sitting, as usual, next to her, "Elayne Guillou is the artist, Suzi Williams is the poet, and Enka Lou-Lou the singer-songwriter amongst the 'Karadow'.

"Yes, that's correct, Jenny. We all have our roles to play, and these three creative roles are very ancient and important ones."

Meanwhile, Lord Trevelver and Riccardo Bianchi are approaching the sandwich bar. Standing behind the counter is Lila, a young girl with a heart-shaped face and a warm smile. Sylvia, Huw, and Gwen all agreed that Lila was the best of an already excellent group of local schoolgirls who help out the 'Chelsea Girls' and the Wadebridge Yardmaster at public events such as special trains. As a reward, if they are over fourteen and have their parents' permission, the girls receive invitations to attend the annual all-night Christmas Ball.

Lila in waitress uniform

Lila's hair is a rich shade of chestnut brown, drawn back into a long ponytail that is neatly tied off with a bright red ribbon. Her eyes are a deep shade of green that sparkle with intelligence and curiosity. She has a small nose and full lips that are painted with a light red gloss. But what attracts Lord Trevelver's attention is her impeccable appearance. Lila is wearing a crisp white tailored blouse with a name badge, a mid-length black skirt, a gold-edged red apron that accentuates her slender waist, red tights with a golden sheen, and comfortable highly-polished black flats. What draws Riccardo's attention, though, is her natural grace and poise. The way Lila moves reminds him all too vividly of Sophie's mesmerizing and captivating bearing.

After greeting Riccardo and Lord Trevelver with a smile, Lila asks them what they would like to order. "Roast beef sandwich, please", replies Riccardo with a captivating smile, wondering if Sophie looked like Lila when she was a schoolgirl.

"Of course, gentlemen! Our roast beef sandwich is one of the most popular choices. I'll take two slices of fresh white bread, gently toasted, then add thin slices of the finest roast beef, honey mustard mayonnaise, a little horseradish if you like, gentlemen, some crispy lettuce, and slices of juicy tomatoes. I can even add other ingredients like a slice of cheddar cheese and caramelized onions to make your sandwich even more delicious."

Lila is polite and friendly as she explains the ingredients to the two smartly dressed men. She smiles, making eye contact with them as she speaks, and is genuinely interested in helping them create the perfect sandwich. She patiently takes the time to answer their questions and happily makes suggestions when asked. She eagerly explains all the possible ingredients for the very handsome foreigner's roast beef sandwich.

"No, horseradish for me", responds Riccardo, not knowing what it is. "Cheese, yes; onions, no." Smelling of onions is not something that appeals to him.

"Thank you, my dear. That sounds delightful. I'll have the same, Lila", adds Lord Trevelver with a smile.

As the two men walk away with their individually made roast beef sandwiches, they both agree that the young girl is doing an excellent job at the sandwich bar, leaving a very positive impression.

Seeing Riccardo's appraisal of Lila but misinterpreting why she had attracted his guest's attention, Lord Charles remarks, "Cornish women are known for their beauty and charm, Riccardo. They are said to be the best looking in the country, thanks to the gene pool, fresh air, and excellent Cornish diet."

Riccardo nods distractedly.

As Lord Trevelver and Riccardo stroll over to the alcohol bar carrying their plates with roast beef sandwiches, Lord Trevelver adds, "If you're looking for a drink to pair with your roast beef sandwich, Riccardo, you might want to consider a tannic red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Malbec, or Barolo. These wines pair well with the rich and savoury flavours of roast beef. If you prefer a lighter drink, you could try a light and fruity red wine with a hint of earthiness, such as Pinot Noir, Barbera, or Chianti Classico. Alternatively, you could also try one of our excellent local beers with your roast beef sandwich. Our Cornish ales, stouts, and porters are all good options that complement the flavours of roast beef."

"Thank you, Lord Trevelver. Pinot Noir from your excellent cellar, please. I drink wine, not beer, if not the summer day."

"An excellent choice, my friend. It is a light and fruity red wine with a hint of earthiness that pairs well with roast beef sandwiches."

Chris in Prague

Jenny deeply treasures the loving care that Angela shows her. Jenny's young life has been marked by tragedy, beginning with the untimely death of her father in a mining accident when she was just a young child. This devastating loss left an indelible mark on her, compounded by her mother's struggle to cope with the pain, leading to alcoholism and increasingly violent mood swings until her suicide. Yet, despite all this, Jenny's resilient spirit perseveres as she yearns for the affection and tenderness she has yet to experience fully.

In Angela, Jenny discovers the first person who selflessly provides the kindness and nurturing she needs. Angela's unwavering support and deep understanding calm Jenny's wounded soul, offering solace and a profound sense of belonging. Through Angela's loving care, Jenny begins to heal, gradually opening herself up to the possibility of the love and happiness she longs for.
Their momentous café rendezvous ends with excitement and anticipation for the evening ahead. They leave 'Café Bohème', their bond strengthened, ready to embark on a memorable and enchanting evening wearing their matching new silk lingerie beneath their elegant party dresses.

Jenny and Angela find a comfortable rhythm that perfectly suits them. Jenny, experiencing life away from home for the first time, fills her days working at 'Café Bohème' in the city's heart. Her hours are filled with the intoxicating scent of freshly brewed coffee and the symphony of clinking cups, saucers, dishes, and cutlery. Meanwhile, Angela, working as Giles Roskrow's PA in the office of his Chelsea wine and spirits import business, eagerly awaits the end of Jenny's shift so that she can whisk her away for a night of adventure and romance.

Each evening, as the clock strikes 6 p.m., Angela's little red sports car pulls up outside 'Café Bohème', its engine purring softly. The car's polished exterior reflects the glow of the city lights, making it seem almost magical. Angela steps out, her long, flowing evening dress swaying with each graceful movement. She smiles warmly, her eyes sparkling with excitement as she catches sight of Jenny through the café's window.

Jenny, her apron neatly folded, and her blonde hair slightly tousled from the busy day in a way that Angela finds so irresistible, beams with happiness as she leaves the 'Café Bohème'. Angela holds her hand as she approaches the car, inviting Jenny to join her in that night's new adventure. Their fingers intertwine, creating a bond that exudes love and trust.

Inside the car, the atmosphere is cosy and intimate. Soft music plays in the background, its gentle melody setting the mood for the evening ahead. Angela's careful attention to detail is shown by the fairy lights that decorate the car, casting a warm and enchanting glow upon the interior.

As they drive through the city streets, Angela shares stories of her day, her voice soothing and melodic. Jenny listens attentively, her eyes fixed on Angela's radiant face. They laugh and exchange playful banter, their connection growing stronger with each passing moment.

Their destination changes each night, depending on Angela's carefully planned surprises. One evening, they might find themselves at a quaint little rooftop restaurant, savouring a candlelit dinner under the stars. On another night, they might attend a lively theatre performance, such as the satirical comedy revue 'Beyond the Fringe', losing themselves in the magic of the stage.

Chris in Prague

Earlier that evening, it was Captain Jeremy Corentyn Cador, who had come from Plymouth via Bodmin Road, whose two-coach North British Type 2 diesel-hauled WR train was the first to arrive at one of Wadebridge station's three snowbound platforms. Shortly after, Sophie Andres's two-coach SR steam train from Trethillick drew up behind an M7 at the near side of the central island platform, followed by Enka Lou-Lou's SR steam train from Exeter via Okehampton and Halwill behind a Bulleid Light Pacific on the far side after playing a successful concert at Exeter the evening before. As they each arrived in the waiting room in the main building, they were happy but surprised to see each other, as they already knew each other through Sylvia. Jeremy immediately recognised Sophie and Enka's faces under the hood of their winter coats. After greeting each other, they discovered that they were all hoping to catch a train to Cant Cove station but were told by the stationmaster that, due to the steadily falling snow, there were no trains beyond Wadebridge.

"I'm very sorry. All the snowploughs are busy elsewhere", he told them. "The Refreshment Room is closed, and I'm about to lock up the station as I sent everyone home once I received the severe snow warning. There'll be no trains until tomorrow, at the earliest."

As they disconsolately walked out of the station and into the snow-covered streets of Wadebridge, Jeremy suggested that they walk half a mile from the town centre across the medieval arched bridge across the River Camel estuary to Grovena Hill and the 'Ship Inn'.

"The Ship Inn"

"It's a cosy traditional sixteenth-century coaching inn, I know well, where we can decide what to do as we thaw out".

Sophie and Enka Lou-Lou nodded in agreement. "That sounds like a good idea", Sophie responded. "I could use a warm drink."

"I agree", Enka Lou-Lou added. "I could use a break from this cold and snow. It's a long time since I was in Finland in winter!"

Fortunately, they were all wearing layers of warm clothing and suitable walking boots for trudging through the deep snow. Chatting happily, they made their way to the 'Ship Inn', enjoying the picturesque snow-covered scenery along the way.

As soon as they entered the stone-built pub, after stamping off the snow at the entrance, the landlord recognised Jeremy and said, "Hello, Captain Jeremy! Ladies! Are you all trying to get to Trevelver Castle by any chance?"

"Thank you, Tom. Yes, we are", replied Jeremy. "There's no trains to Cant Cove due to all this snow."

"In that case, I may be able to help you", the landlord smiled. "Jowan Trelawny, the driver of a big yellow Scammell 'Mountaineer' lorry, 'Penmayne Urban District Council Snowplough No.1', is due to arrive, early evening, outside the pub, have a quick meal of sausage, beans, and chips washed down by tea before driving his vehicle back from Wadebridge to Penmayne, at the end of his shift of snow clearing and will be passing the entrance to the driveway to Trevelver Castle."

Sophie, Enka Lou-Lou, and Jeremy were excited to hear this news and thanked the landlord for his help.

"I know Jowan Trelawny well. He's a good man and will be happy to give you a lift along the Penmayne road. You can wait for him here and enjoy the warmth of the fire. I'll be sure to let you know when he arrives."

They quickly agreed to wait for Jowan Trelawny and catch a ride with him to Trevelver Castle. After Jeremy had ordered them all glasses of mulled red wine, they warmed themselves by the log fire admiring the low beams and quirky interior of one of the oldest pubs in Wadebridge.

After giving the two young women their drinks, Jeremy asked the landlord if he could use his telephone for a local call to Trevelver Castle. The landlord kindly obliged and showed him the telephone.

"Hello, Huw? It's Jeremy. There are three of us, Sophie, Enka, and me, stuck in Wadebridge in the 'Ship Inn' due to all the snow and are waiting to get a ride to Trevelver Castle in Jowan Trelawny's big yellow snowplough. He'll be passing the entrance to the Castle driveway on his way home to Penmayne. Is there any way you can collect us from there? We have no luggage as we sent our suitcases on in advance, I hope they have arrived."

Huw replied, "Of course, Jeremy. Give my regards to the ladies. Yes, your suitcases arrived before the snow began falling heavily again. We're looking forward to having you with us. We'll take one of the snowplough-fitted tractors and a Landrover out and wait for you at the end of the drive once I know you're on your way from Wadebridge in the snowplough lorry. Keep safe and warm!"

"Thank you so much, Huw. We'll be with you, soon", Jeremy said, hanging up the 'phone.

"Tom, can you make up some sandwiches for us? And another three of your excellent mulled wines, please."

"I can do better than that, Captain; how about three nicely warmed Cornish Pasties, freshly delivered from the 'North Cornwall Pasty Co.', Penmayne? I ordered extra when I heard the weather forecast, you see."

Excellent, Tom. Many thanks."

Chris in Prague

As Christmas Eve dawned, Sophie had woken up in her room at 'The Railway Inn' still feeling very confused about her relationship with Riccardo and whether she should go to Trevelver Castle or not. But after some reflection, she realised that she simply could not refuse the Trevelver's kind invitation to spend Christmas and New Year with them and attend the Christmas Eve Ball.
So, after an excellent cooked breakfast, Sophie made the decision to leave Trethillick on a local train to Wadebridge, then catch a Penmayne-bound train to Cant Cove and call a taxi from there to take her to Trevelver Castle in time to attend the opening of the ball, although she was pretty certain that Riccardo would be there.

Having decided that accepting the Trevelver's kind invitation was the most important thing, Sophie determined to put her worries aside and enjoy the festivities. As the two-coach train steadily made its way through the snow-covered countryside, its M7 0-4-4T leaving a trail of smoke and steam behind it, she felt nervous anticipation building inside her.

Chris in Prague

At Trevelver Castle Huw immediately went to inform Lord and Lady Trevelver of the telephone call he had just received from Captain Jeremy. He found them standing in the Minstrels' Gallery, looking down, with approval, at the work being done to prepare the Great Hall.

"Milord, Milady, I have some news", Huw announced.

Lord Trevelver turned to face him. "What is it, Huw?"

"Captain Jeremy, Miss Sophie Andres, and Miss Enka Lou-Lou are stuck in Wadebridge due to the snow. They are expecting to get a ride from the 'Ship Inn' to the entrance to the driveway to the Castle. I told them we would be happy to help them the rest of the way."

Lady Trevelver was relieved to hear this news. "Thank you, Huw. We were worried about them."

Lord Trevelver added, "Yes, we were. But I'm glad they're safe and sound. And it's a pleasant surprise that Sophie is coming after all."

Lady Trevelver was surprised. "Did you say Sophie Andres, Huw? I thought she wasn't coming. We've heard nothing from her."

Lord Trevelver replied, "Neither did I. But it seems she's on her way. I'm looking forward to seeing her so we can thank her in person."

Huw assured them, "Yes, Captain Jeremy clearly said that he was with both Miss Sophie Andres and Miss Enka Lou-Lou. They'll be getting a ride to the entrance to the castle's driveway in Jowan Trelawny's big yellow snowplough. He'll make sure they get here safely. But I will need your help, Lord Trevelver, so that we can drive one of the snowplough-fitted tractors and a Landrover to the end of the driveway to collect our guests. Captain Jeremy will telephone when they are about to leave the inn. I'll have the vehicles ready, with the engines running, outside the castle entrance. Fortunately, they all sent their luggage on ahead. It's in the cloakroom next to the entrance; unlike the others, Sophie's has a name and address on it I did not recognise, so I was not sure whose it was."

Lord and Lady Trevelver thanked Huw for his help as he left to get the vehicles ready so that they could pick up Jeremy and his friends.

Chris in Prague

Jowan Trelawny entered the inn just as they were about to give up hope. As he approached the bar counter, he noticed three strangers sitting at a table near the blazing log fire.

"Hello, Jowan, welcome back", said Tom. "I'll have your meal of sausage, beans, and chips ready for you in a jiffy. I just need to finish cooking it and heating the kettle for your mug of tea."

"Thank you, Tom. That sounds great."

When Tom returned with Jowan's meal and tea to his table on the other side of the blazing log fire from the friends, he explained, "These three young people, Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka, are on their way to Trevelver Castle for a Christmas Eve party, but they have no means of getting there through the deep snow. They're stuck here at the inn, and they're quite upset about it. They are hoping that someone with a suitable vehicle could give them a ride to the castle. Do you think you could help them out?"

"Of course, Tom, I'd be happy to help. As I'm driving a great big snowplough, I should be able to get you there safely", Jowan replied with a laugh.

"That's very kind of you, Jowan. Let me introduce you to them."

Tom politely pointed to each in turn, "This is Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka."

"Pleased to meet you all. Are you Enka Lou-Lou, the singer who had a No.1 hit with 'The Good Times To Come'?" Jowan asked.

"Yes, I am, and it was my very first single," replied Enka in her customary disarmingly direct way.

"Wonderful. We all love that song."

"Thank you, Jowan. I'll tell my manager to send you an autographed copy of my forthcoming album if you telephone the Castle with your full name and address."

"Thank you so much, too, Jowan. We really appreciate it," responded Jeremy.

"Yes, thank you, very much. We were starting to think we'd never make it to the party", added Sophie.

"You're a lifesaver, Jowan. We all owe you", smiled Enka.

"No problem at all", Jowan replied with an answering smile. After he had finished his meal and drunk his tea, he got up and said, "Let's get going before the snow gets any deeper."

"I just have to make a quick 'phone call, Jowan, please." Tom placed the telephone on the counter, again. Jeremy walked over to the bar counter and dialled. His call to the Castle was immediately answered: "Huw, it's Jeremy. We're about to leave the inn in the cab of the snowplough lorry."

"Ah, excellent news, Captain Jeremy", Huw replied. "We're all very glad you found a way to get here. How's the weather?"

"It's pretty bad, to be honest. The snow is really deep, and the roads are impassable for normal vehicles. But we're in good hands with Jowan. He's driving the snowplough, so we should be able to make it to the castle safely."

"That's great to hear", responded Huw. "I'll make sure the gates are open for you when you arrive!" he laughed. "But, seriously, Captain Jeremy, Lord Trevelver and I will be driving one of the snowplough-fitted tractors and a Landrover out to the end of the Castle drive to wait for you. We'll take you the rest of the way to the castle. Just look for us when you get there."

"That's very kind of you both. Thank you so much, Huw. We'll see you soon."

"Take care, Captain Jeremy. See you soon and don't worry about being late. The party won't start until everyone's here."

"Thanks, Huw. We really appreciate it. We'll see you soon."

"Take care, Captain Jeremy. See you and the young ladies soon."

The three friends then climbed into the large cab of the lorry, which had blankets and a flask of hot cocoa provided by Tom to keep them warm.

As they climbed up the steps to the cab door high above the snow, Jowan warned them, "Sorry, folks, but there's only room for two people to sit next to me. Someone will have to sit on someone's lap."

"Who wants to sit on my lap?" asked Jeremy.

"I'll sit next to you, Jowan", stated Sophie firmly.

"I'll sit next to you then, Sophie".

"I'll sit on your lap, Jeremy. I'm lighter than Sophie, so it'll be easier for you to hold me," replied Enka with a smile.

"Are you sure, Enka? I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"I'm sure, Jeremy. It'll be fine. Let's get going before the snow gets any deeper."

"Alright, everyone, hold on tight", announced Jowan as the vehicle slowly moved off.

"Enka, I noticed that you're not travelling with your beloved Spanish guitar. Is everything okay?" asked Sophie as they made themselves comfortable.

"That's right, Sophie. I decided not to bring it with me because it's too valuable and fragile to transport in these snowy conditions. I've entrusted it to my manager, who has already arrived at Trevelver Castle. He's checking with Susan to make sure that everything is set up and ready for my concert early Christmas Day morning."

As they made their way through the snowy countryside, grateful for the warmth and safety of the lorry, Jowan regaled them with stories of his adventures as a snowplough driver. He told them about the time he had helped a group of deer escape from a snowdrift and the time he was sure that he had seen a Roman centurion in his plumed helmet marching across the snow.

"Christmas is a magical time", replied Enka solemnly.

Despite the treacherous conditions, Jowan expertly navigated the lorry through the snowdrifts and icy roads. After a while, they arrived at the entrance to the drive to Trevelver Castle. Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka thanked Jowan for his kindness and climbed out of the lorry and clambered down to the ground, feeling very grateful to have made it to the castle safely.

"Thank you very much, Jowan" they chorused.

They were relieved to see Lord Trevelver and Huw waiting for them at the end of the Castle drive in a snowplough-fitted tractor and a Landrover. The two men helped them into the Landrover and, with the tractor in the lead, slowly drove them the rest of the way to the castle, navigating the treacherous snow-covered drive with ease. As they approached the castle, they were greeted by the warm glow of Christmas lights and the sound of carollers singing. It was a magical sight, and they knew that they were in for a wonderful evening.

Chris in Prague

The choir of the schoolgirl helpers is singing Christmas carols in the Great Hall while Lord and Lady Trevelver patiently await the arrival of the last guests, Captain Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka. The girls are dressed in white tailored blouses, mid-length black skirts, red tights with a golden sheen with matching red ribbons in their hair, and highly polished black flats. The Great Hall is decorated with garlands of holly and ivy, and a large Christmas tree stands in the corner, adorned with twinkling lights and glittering ornaments. The girls' voices are sweet and pure, filling the room with the joy and wonder of the season. Lord and Lady Trevelver, seated at the head of a long table, listen with rapt attention, their eyes shining with delight. Suddenly, one of the side doors to the Great Hall opens, and Captain Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka enter, their faces alight with excitement. The girls' faces turn to face them, and the music swells to a crescendo as they join together in song, their voices blending in perfect harmony. It is a magical moment, one that will always be remembered by everyone present.

Chris in Prague

Lord and Lady Trevelver have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Captain Jeremy, Sophie, and Enka so that they can formally open the 1962 Christmas Ball. Finally, the trio enters from the changing rooms. The girls are dressed in their finest ball gowns, while Captain Jeremy is wearing his naval uniform. After making their way down the beautifully decorated Great Hall to the long table, the girls curtsy to Lord and Lady Trevelver at its head while Captain Jeremy bows.

The room is filled with the happy voices of guests, echoing off the grey stone walls. The flickering light of the log fire casts shadows across the faces of the assembled guests. Lady Trevelver is seated on Lord Trevelver's right, with a pair of empty places for their most honoured guests to their right and left. The other guests are seated according to their rank or status, with the most important guests seated closest to the host and hostess. The table is set with a white tablecloth and red placemats, creating a classic and festive look. The green napkins add a contrasting colour, while the gold chargers and candlesticks provide an elegant touch. Miniature holly and pine branches on the table add a natural and seasonal touch. The beautiful table is set with fine china, silverware, and crystal, and the seating is arranged to allow for easy conversation and interaction among the guests. The flickering light of the candles illuminates the table, casting a warm and inviting glow over the room.

Lord Trevelver stands up and speaks, "Welcome, Captain Jeremy, Miss Sophie, and Miss Enka Lou-Lou! We are delighted to have you here at Trevelver Castle. Please, take your places and make yourselves comfortable. Now that our honoured guests are here, it will give me the greatest pleasure to formally declare this year's Christmas Ball open. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, and dear friends welcome to the Trevelver Castle Christmas Ball of 1962. It is an honour to have you all here tonight, and I am delighted to see so many familiar faces and new ones alike.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate a tradition that has been honoured here for many centuries. The origins of Christmas celebrations in England stretch back thousands of years to prehistoric celebrations around the midwinter solstice. However, the earliest known date of Christmas in England was when Saint Augustine of Canterbury baptized 10,000 Saxons in Kent on Christmas Day in 597. Although the Trevelver Castle Christmas Ball has a long and rich history, it only dates back to the Middle Ages, exactly when the family records are unclear. What we can say, though, is that the ancestors of the Trevelvers go back many centuries, as far back as pre-Roman Celtic times. More specifically, the Trevelvers claim to trace their ancestry back to a Romanised Celtic chieftain in North-West Cornwall who was the Roman official responsible for the management of the tin trade in the area. What we can state with certainty, though, is that Christmas celebrations have been a time-honoured tradition for generations of Trevelvers, a testament to the enduring spirit of the holiday season.

Tonight, we come together to celebrate the joy and warmth of the holiday season, to share in the company of friends and loved ones, and to reflect on the blessings that we have received throughout the year. We are reminded of the importance of family, community, and tradition, and we are grateful for the opportunity to come together in this beautiful setting to celebrate the season.

As we enjoy the festivities tonight, let us remember the true meaning of Christmas. Let us remember the spirit of giving, the joy of sharing, and the love that binds us all together. Let us take this opportunity to reach out to those in need, to share our blessings with others, and to make a difference in the world around us.

So, without further ado, I declare the Trevelver Castle Christmas Ball of 1962 officially open. Let us raise our glasses and toast to the holiday season, to the spirit of Christmas, and to the joy and warmth of this special evening. Cheers!"

The audience rises and applauds loudly.

"Yes, welcome! We have been eagerly anticipating your arrival. How was your journey?" adds his wife as Huw shows the three friends to their places at the long table, Jeremy to Lady Trevelver's right just below the empty seat, which he presumed was intended for Riccardo, with Sophie and Enka to the left of her husband. Next to Jeremy was a pair of empty seats, which he was certain were reserved for Sylvie and then Eli. Sophie, looking around, wondered where Riccardo was as there was an empty place directly opposite her.

"Thank you, Lord and Lady Trevelver. Our respective journeys were long and not uneventful. But, as you can see, we are finally here and are most honoured to be your guests", replies Captain Jeremy with a warm smile before taking his place.

"Yes, thank you for inviting us. The castle is even more beautiful than I remembered it", adds Sophie as she took her seat.

"As one of our two most honoured guests, we are delighted that you were able to join us", states her host quietly as he leant over to Sophie. "Alas, we are unable to publicly acknowledge you and Riccardo's achievements", he adds very quietly. "But please know that my wife and I are more grateful than words can ever express for your daring mission, which helped to save our daughter's life."

Sophie nods and gives a small smile in acknowledgement.

Then, in his normal voice her host addresses the three of them, "Huw will take your orders for drinks while you study the menu in front of you."

"It's a pleasure to be here, despite the difficult journey. I look forward to playing here again soon", responds Enka as she sits next to Sophie, and they give Huw their drinks orders.

"We are very delighted to hear that. Please, let us know if there is anything we can do to make your stay here more comfortable. The Castle's Christmas Ball is a very special event, and we hope you will enjoy it", replied Lord Trevelver in his normal voice.

"Please order whatever you would like. We have spared no expense. We want you to feel at home here at Trevelver Castle", adds his wife with her most gracious smile.

"Thank you, Lord Charles and Lady Penelope. We are honoured by your hospitality", responds Captain Jeremy before giving Huw his drinks order.

"Yes, thank you. We are very much looking forward to the splendid feast", adds Sophie.

"Thank you so much, Lord Charles and Lady Penelope. We are grateful for your kindness," smiled Enka. "But, now to business. Is my manager, Sven, here, please?"

Chris in Prague

Although according to the rules of social etiquette, guests are typically seated according to their rank or status, with the most important guests seated closest to the host and hostess, Huw and Gwen, in consultation with Lord and Lady Trevelver and their most important guests, agreed the following less formal seating arrangement for the table for the most important guests at the Trevelver Castle Christmas Ball, with the three most important guests, Riccardo Bianchi and Sophie Andres, plus Enka Lou-Lou, closest to the host and hostess, followed by their daughter, Sylvia, and her best friend and business partner, Eli Guillou, and Sylvia's boyfriend, Captain Jeremy:

Here is the revised seating arrangement for the Trevelver Castle Christmas Ball:
Head Of Table (the host and hostess):
Lord Trevelver (host) of Trevelver Castle – RIGHT
Lady Trevelver (hostess) of Trevelver Castle – LEFT
Along the Table
Riccardo Bianchi (joint VIP) – LEFT (1)
Sophie Andres (joint VIP) – RIGHT (1)         
Captain Jeremy Corentyn Cador – LEFT (2)
Enka Lou-Lou – RIGHT (2)
Sylvie Trevelver – RIGHT (3)
Eli Guillou – RIGHT (4)
Lord Poldain, of Port Perran Manor – LEFT (5)
Lady Poldain, of Port Perran Manor – RIGHT (5)
Lord Oliver Trevarnon, of Tregonning House – LEFT (6)
Lady Emily Trevarnon, of Tregonning House – RIGHT (6)
Lord Neil Churston, of Churston Manor – LEFT (7)
Lady Cherie Churston, Neil's wife – RIGHT (7)
Baron Toby Tiverton – LEFT [8]
Lady Annabelle Tiverton, Toby's wife – RIGHT [8]
Sir David Antrobus, Chairman of Headland Brewery – LEFT (9)
Lady Rosemary Antrobus – RIGHT (9)
Sir Alan Walton-Parfitt – LEFT (10)
Lady Celia Walton-Parfitt, wife of Sir Alan Walton-Parfitt – RIGHT (10)
Sir Horace Speakman Court, of Withy House – LEFT (11)
Lady Alice Speakman Court, of Withy House – RIGHT (11)
Sir George Widgeon III – LEFT (12)
Sir Gordon Knott, owner of Knott Industries – LEFT (13)
José Maria de La Vega, Mayor of San Cristofol, Principality of Izaro (Principat d'Izaro)  – LEFT (14)
Sofia de La Vega, daughter of José – RIGHT (12)
Xurde Valdez, Mayor of Tutera – LEFT (15)

Chris in Prague

Lord Trevelver excused himself from Riccardo Bianchi at the alcohol bar in the Great Hall to talk to Sir George Widgeon III. As he walked away, Lady Trevelver, as astute as ever, noticed that Riccardo needed someone to talk to about his confused feelings for Sophie, who he knew as Lola. Being a warm, motherly, caring, older woman, Gwendolyn would, she knew, be the ideal person to put their very important guest at his ease.

Her decision made, Lady Penelope walked across to where the Housekeeper was talking to one of the schoolgirl helpers and asked Gwen if she could spare a minute. Once they had found a quiet corner where they could not be overheard, Lady Penelope told Gwen that she was the perfect person to help Riccardo discuss his confused emotions and gave her a ready excuse to want to talk to him, his sleeping arrangements. Lady Penelope instructed Gwen to assure him that both Lola and he had been given separate bedrooms, but with a wink to add that their rooms were next to each other.

Gwendolyn approached Riccardo with a friendly smile. "Hello there, Mr. Bianchi. I'm Gwendolyn, the Head Butler's wife and the Castle's Housekeeper. I hope you're enjoying yourself."

Riccardo smiled back. "Yes, thank you. This place is very good. It is very impressive."

Gwendolyn nodded. "It certainly is. But I can imagine it might be a bit overwhelming for someone who's new here. Is there anything I can help you with?"

Riccardo hesitated for a moment before speaking. "Oh, yes. I was thinking about my sleeping place. Lady Penelope said that Lola and I have different rooms, but they are next to each other. I don't know if that's okay."

Gwendolyn gave him a knowing look. "Ah, I see. Well, let me assure you that it's perfectly normal. The Castle has a long-standing tradition of providing separate bedrooms for unmarried guests. It's just a matter of propriety, you understand."

Riccardo looked relieved. "Oh, I understand now. Thank you for telling me, Gwendolyn. I am grateful."

Gwendolyn, knowing that Riccardo needed someone to talk to about his confused feelings for Sophie, said: "Mr. Bianchi, I've been thinking. I believe that you might benefit from having someone to talk to about your situation. Someone older who can listen and offer advice."

"I thank you for your worry, Gwendolyn. But I don't want to trouble you", replied Riccardo.

"Nonsense, Mr. Bianchi. You're not a burden. You're a guest here, and it's my job to make sure that you're comfortable and happy. That's why I've decided to take you to my office, where we can speak freely over a nice cup of tea."

"Your office?" Riccardo asked.

"Yes, my office. It's a quiet and private place where we can talk without any interruptions. And I promise you, Mr. Bianchi, that everything you say will be kept in the strictest confidence."

"Thank you, Gwendolyn. I appreciate your kindness."

"You're welcome, Mr. Bianchi. Now, let's go to my office and have that cup of tea."

Chris in Prague

As Riccardo and Gwendolyn enter her office, he notices the soft pastel colours and cream-coloured floral-patterned wallpaper that enhances natural light during the day. The room is elegantly furnished with a mahogany desk and comfortable chairs. A bulletin board shows staff schedules and announcements. Family photographs, snapshots of important events, and fresh flowers add a personal touch.

Gwendolyn offers him a seat in one of the comfortable chairs while she makes them a pot of tea. After pouring them both a cup, she sits down across from him at her mahogany desk and says in a warm, motherly tone, "Now, Mr. Bianchi, please tell me what's been troubling you."

Chris in Prague

"Please call me Gwen, Mr. Bianchi."

"Call me, Riccardo, please. What mean you, Gwen?"

"Well, I noticed you were avoiding lola in the Great Hall, and Lady Trevelver has told me that everything is not okay between you two."

"Ha! Not okay. Not okay at all."

"Lady Penelope has told me that you have a ... complicated history."

"Ha! Very complicated!"

"But I thought you had moved on. You have a new girlfriend, right? Lisa, I think her name is.

"Yeah, Lisa. She's pretty. She's nice. She's sweet. She cares for me. She's... not here, with me.

"Where is she, Riccardo?

"She's in London, in Chelsea. She's a customer at Giles Roskrow's wine shop. That's where I meet her when delivering samples of my wines. I give her glass of my best wine and a nice smile. She like my wine, and she like me. We give our telephone numbers. We started going out together a few months ago."

"That sounds lovely, Riccardo. Why didn't you bring her to the Christmas Ball?"

"I don't know, Gwen. I didn't want to impose. I didn't want to complicate things. I didn't want to face Lola with Lisa."

"Riccardo, you wouldn't have imposed. The Trevelvers would have been happy to invite Lisa. They would have been happy to meet her. They would have been happy to see you happy."

"I know, Gwen. I know. But I'm not happy. I'm not happy without Lola. I'm not happy with Lisa. Lisa does her best. It's me. I'm not happy with myself."

"Riccardo, you can't let Lola control your life. You have to move on. You have to be happy."

"I know, Gwen. I know. But it's not easy. Not being with Lola not easy. She always in my mind, in my heart, in my dreams."

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