Tuesday 30 May 2023

The Post Box Topper Photo-Opportunity by Dawn Knox, latte with oatmilk



Well, not so much brainstorming, as brain-draining, Vera thought. Petronella had suggested holding the session so they could decide on a design for June’s post box topper display.

The alien coronation topper they’d created for May would be hard to beat, and many eyes would be upon them. Petronella was now poised with a felt tip pen over the large piece of paper laid on their usual table in Bonzer Buns. Much of it was covered in words and arrows but little of it would be any use.

Stuart puffed himself up to his most pompous. ‘Well, obviously, we’ll have lots of flowers, and since my roses were so successful in the February Valentine's Day Topper, I’ll volunteer to knit some more.’

Vera’s sharp eyes intercepted the dismayed gazes between Petronella, Levi and Sally. Stuart’s knitted creations had borne as much similarity to delicate, velvet roses, as frayed, tarry rope did to silk thread. But thankfully, no one had pointed that out – so far. Vera thought it was probably only a matter of time...

‘Flowers? No,’ said Levi firmly. ‘That's too predictable.’

‘But nothing says June like summer flowers,’ Stuart protested.

‘How about saying June in poetry?’ Sally asked.

Stuart scoffed, ‘You mean like the moon in June? The only other things I can think of to rhyme with June are spoon and croon.’

‘Well recently I've been trying my hand at poetry,’ said Sally. ‘And I think it can be done.’

Vera barely suppressed a groan. She suspected Sally had been writing love poems and her fears were confirmed when Sally gazed lovingly at Levi and pointed out his name didn't rhyme with anything. Thankfully, if he'd noticed he said nothing.

Am I getting too old for this? Vera wondered. Her position as chairperson of the Creaping Bottom Post Box Topper Society was becoming harder to maintain. There was so much to think about, especially since the May topper had been featured in the national press. Stuart was becoming increasingly difficult to control… She was growing weary. Perhaps one more month and then she’d resign?

‘June, soon, moon, spoon, croon.’ Petronella wrote the words on her brainstorming paper.

Stuart wore his most patronising expression. ‘Are you suggesting we knit a moon and a spoon? I suppose someone with a lot of experience like me might manage that, but how do you propose we represent croon?’

‘Where there’s a will…’ said Levi.

‘Let’s move on,’ Vera said hoping to steer the conversation away from Sally’s poetry, as well as from random objects that rhymed with June.

There was silence for a few moments as everyone pursued their own thoughts.

‘Tune?’ suggested Levi.

‘How do you knit a tune?’ Stuart asked.

‘I was just saying, tune rhymes with June.’

More silence.

Beryl approached the table. ‘More coffee anyone?’

Well, thank goodness for that, thought Vera. By the time everyone had ordered coffee and Darwin Dream Puffs – Beryl’s cake of the day – all thoughts of moons, spoons, and crooning tunes would be forgotten.

Beryl brought their order and as she placed the last mug on the table, she said, ‘Prune. And balloon. Oh, and baboon.’

Vera decided enough was enough.

‘Well, since this is only a brainstorming session, let’s not get carried away along one avenue of possibility. Would someone care to come up with something else that screams June, but doesn’t rhyme with it?’

‘Weddings,’ said Sally with a gaze from beneath her lashes at Levi. ‘June is the month for weddings.’

Like a tyre with a puncture, Vera felt her enthusiasm – and her will to live – escape in a whoosh. This was turning into Sally’s veiled declaration of love to Levi. Surely Petronella, the practical one, would steer them back towards sense.

‘I think that’s a marvellous idea,’ Petronella said. ‘We could knit all the figures in a wedding ceremony.’

‘With lots of summer flowers like roses,’ Stuart added, his eyes alight with excitement.

Even Levi nodded his approval.

Vera considered bringing forward her resignation as chairperson. She’d almost lost control of the meeting again. Surely, it was time for her to go? On the other hand, the more she thought about it, the more Sally had a point. June was a month for weddings. And perhaps, with a little imagination, she could rein in Sally’s overexuberance.

No, she wasn’t ready to relinquish her grasp of the society. And realistically what else would she do with her time if she resigned her chairpersonship? As soon as A Godbin learnt she’d moved on, he’d divert his complaining emails to whoever took over. With surprise, Vera realised she’d miss them. They made her hackles rise, but they gave her a reason to get up in the morning with the determination to carry on.

‘But it can’t be just any old wedding,’ Petronella said. ‘Remember, the eyes of the world are upon us after our alien coronation topper. We need something with just as much je ne sais quoi. And even more pzazz.’

Vera’s voice came out in a squeak. ‘You’re not suggesting an alien wedding, are you? Or a wedding between an alien and a human?’ That would throw up all sorts of moral issues. What would Reverend Prendergast say?

‘No,’ said Petronella. ‘Definitely not. I’d rather forget about aliens. What I mean is we need an extra ingredient that nobody else has thought of.’

Four pairs of eyes stared at her blankly.

How could they come up with something nobody had ever thought of? Gradually, everyone’s gaze slid towards Levi, who was now staring at the ceiling as if receiving a message from above.

Well, he was the creative one. If anyone could know quoi and come up with an idea that nobody else could think of, it would be Levi.

‘How about something that would ensure people wanted to have their photograph taken next to our topper?’ he said finally.

‘Such as?’ Vera was disappointed. People already did selfies by their post box toppers. She’d hoped for something more pzazzy than that.

With a faraway look in his eyes, Levi added, ‘I was thinking we could knit a bride and a groom—’

‘Well, obviously,’ Stuart said snippily. ‘How can you have a wedding without a bride and groom?’

‘No, wait!’ Levi stretched out one arm, his finger pointing as if he could see a vision. ‘What I mean is an almost life-size bride and groom – well, post box sized, anyway.’

Vera had bought into his vision so completely that on hearing such stupidity, she once again felt like a deflated tyre. ‘We can’t possibly have anything so large on top of a post box. The wind will simply blow it over.’

‘Not 3-D stuffed figures on top of the post box. I meant 2-D, knitted bride and groom panels dangling down either side. What we’d do is attach their heads to the topper bonnet and let them hang down. We’ll attach some weights on their feet, so they won’t blow about. Passers-by can link arms with the knitted figure and have their photos taken.

‘I think that’s a Bonzer idea,’ said Beryl, who’d crept up to listen. ‘That would certainly bring the crowds.’ Her eyes lit up at the prospect of all those thirsty, hungry potential customers in her café.

The more Vera thought about it, the more Levi’s idea appealed.

‘Well done, Levi, I think your idea has legs,’ said witty, Petronella.

Everyone laughed except Stuart. ‘Well of course they’ll have legs. You can’t have a legless bride and groom. But d’you think we’ll be allowed to attach anything to the side of the post box?’

‘Well, we’re not blocking the aperture, so I don’t see why not. And I can always check with the postmistress first,’ Petronella said.


Tilly pushed open the door to the café, her usual bored expression replaced by a look of astonishment.

‘You’re late,’ Beryl growled. ‘I don’t pay you to bludge.’

‘I’ve just been at Hurrah House seeing Nan and you’ll never guess what…’

‘I don’t pay you to keep me guessing, either,’ Beryl said. ‘There are tables to clean.’

‘There was nearly a punch-up between your cleaner, Effie, and one of the old dears,’ Tilly blurted out.

That caught Beryl’s attention. ‘Fair dinkum?’

‘Yeah. It was Effie and the weird old bag who lives next to my Nan. They almost ended up in a fight. Apparently, Effie snuck into her flat to empty the bin. You know how she can’t keep her hands off rubbish. And the old bag, who’d been down to check the post, came back and found her. You should have heard the language…’


Ten minutes later, during which time Levi had drawn several sketches of the knitted bride and groom panels that would dangle from the topper’s bonnet, Effie entered the café.

She was quivering. Her face contorted with rage.

‘I’ve never been so insulted in my life,’ she said, one sausage-fingered hand against her chest. ‘I think I’ll have an oat milk latte with honey and two shots of caramel syrup, please Beryl. I need something to calm myself down. That Alice woman is the rudest person I’ve ever met. I was trying to do her a favour. And she turned on me.

‘She’s just a weirdo,’ Tilly said in an unfamiliar show of solidarity with Effie. ‘I shouldn’t take no notice. My nan says she’s a right old misery. Never joins in with anyone. And if someone knocks at her door, she won’t open it. She talks to them through the crack. I reckon she’s got dead bodies hidden in there.’

‘That wouldn’t surprise me at all.’ Effie sniffed with the air of a martyr. ‘It didn’t smell too good in there either, which is why I wanted to clear out her bin for her. My brother, Des, who’s in the flat on the other side of her, says she might be quiet when she’s in the lounge with everyone else, but when she’s in her flat, she’s really noisy. Tapping and whirring. He thinks she chops up fruit and puts the bits in one of them blenders what you make smoothies in. A health nut. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was right. She’s stronger than she looks – she had my arm up behind my back before I knew it and frogmarched me out of her flat.’

‘I bet she’s a secret mass murderer,’ Tilly said. ‘She probably chops up the bodies and then puts the bits in the—’

‘That’s enough!’ Beryl said. ‘This is a respectable establishment we don’t need to talk about…’ She mouthed, dead bodies. ‘I’m sure you’ve got tables to clear, Tilly. And, Effie, I’ll get you a double espresso with oat milk and all the trimmings. And a Darwin Dream Puff. And if you stop talking about…’ She mouthed, dead bodies, ‘I’ll bring you two puffs.’


Despite the inauspicious start of the brainstorming session, everyone agreed, the June, wedding-themed topper was a huge success. Even the Reverend Prendergast had stopped Vera in Snyde’s Butchers and complimented her on the display. It appeared to have prompted several couples to book their ceremonies at All Saints’ Church.

Thankfully, as far as Vera was concerned, Levi and Sally had not been one of those couples. Not that Vera wanted to keep them apart, but their relationship – such as it was – could be thought of as very one-sided, and eventually, Sally was bound to be disappointed. Levi lived for his art And Vera was certain it would never have worked out.

Once again, tourists had begun to arrive in Creaping Bottom to have a photograph taken next to the post box. Men and women queued up to link arms with either the bride panel on one side of the post box, or the groom panel on the other.

Although the postmistress, Miss Witter, had initially given her permission, she later claimed she hadn’t understood exactly what would be involved. She was often to be found outside the post office with hands planted on hips, frowning at the queue next to her post box. But nobody else had complained.

Well, that wasn’t quite true. Of course, A. Godbin had sent Vera an angry email. She grinned at the thought. He’d accused the June post box topper of being sacrilegious and had told her he intended to inform the Archbishop of Canterbury who’d personally put a stop to the nonsense.

Vera had laughed out loud. She assumed the archbishop had more important things on his mind. And anyway, unknown to A. Godbin, the Reverend Prendergast, one of the archbishop’s minions, had already praised her for extolling the virtues of marriage.

Vera wasn’t sure the topper was such a wonderful example for marriage, anyway. It appeared to be more of an excuse for putting a photo on the Instagram – whatever that was. Tilly had explained, but it still made no sense to Vera. Tilly also stressed photos must be accompanied by some sort of hashtag code – #CreapingBottomWedding. Vera took her word for it. She had no idea what, nor where the Instagram was. Neither did she know what trending meant. But Tilly had been impressed and had even posed next to the groom. She’d wrapped his knitted arm around hers and with the silly pout she assumed when she took a selfie, she’d snapped herself.


The month of June also saw a bizarre alliance form between Tilly and Effie. They’d joined forces, both firmly believing that Alice, the woman who lived between Effie’s brother, Des, and Tilly’s Nan, Dora, was a mass murderer. They were taking it in turns to keep her under surveillance.

When Vera pointed out, there had been no murders in the area, for as long as she could remember, the unlikely pair of sleuths were forced to reconsider. The following day, a dog went missing, and they suggested Alice was the culprit. After all, they pointed out, how many pets went missing each week? She could be responsible for all of them.

Privately, Vera didn’t think many pets went missing at all. Certainly not enough to feed the blender that both Des and Dora could hear whirring away, well into the night, as well as the tapping and chopping.

But so long as Effie and Tilly were on friendly terms, Beryl was reasonably content – and as for Vera, she didn’t care. She had problems of her own. The bride and groom knitted panels were proving so popular they’d become rather tatty.

The members of the society had already replaced both figures twice and there were still another few days of June left.

Would they last until the July topper was ready? It was looking unlikely. And what’s more the wedding ceremony taking place on the top had been disturbed too. Not vandalised, exactly – just disturbed. The figures hadn’t been removed, but they were somewhat…well… crushed. Why somebody would squash their post box topper figures wasn’t clear. And there had been rubbish on the topper too. Bits of vegetation too heavy to have blown up there, so, somebody must’ve deliberately dumped it on top. It was very disappointing that someone could be so spiteful.

Each morning Vera arrived in Creaping Bottom High Road with a dustpan and brush. She carefully plumped up the knitted figures in the wedding ceremony on the top and brushed away the debris.

But at last, some good news. Ravi from Gadgets-A-Go-Go promised Beryl her laptop would be ready by the last Thursday in June. The technician would then return to ensure the CCTV camera worked and recorded footage.

By Friday morning, Vera would know who the culprit was. Assuming Beryl’s laptop didn’t blow up again, of course. Vera controlled her urge to skip as she made her way, handbag over her arm, and dustpan and brush in her hand, towards the post box. She would soon know the identity of A. Godbin.


On Friday morning, Sally, Petronella, Stuart, Levi and Vera sat around the laptop in Bonzer Buns, holding their breath as Beryl located the CCTV software and rewound the footage.

That morning there’d been a hole in the bride panel as if someone had slashed it with something sharp. The groom had also been torn and there’d been quite a lot of rubbish as if someone had picked up a handful of leaves and other litter and thrown it on the top of the post box.

Could A. Godbin have been so petty? Honestly, what was wrong with the man?

All eyes were on Beryl’s screen.

So far so good. The laptop whirred gently and although Vera sniffed, afraid of detecting the smell of hot plastic or metal, it appeared to be working perfectly.

‘Here,’ said Beryl, stopping the video and pressing play. They all leaned in, their heads side-by-side. Vera noted Sally had sat next to Levi and leaned her head against his, but Vera wasn’t concerned. Everyone’s undivided attention was on the laptop screen. They watched in silence as the perpetrators… yes, not one, but several – damaged their June post box topper display. When all had become clear, they leaned back in their seats.

‘Well,’ Vera said finally. ‘I wasn’t expecting that.’

Her words prompted everyone to speak at once. Beryl went to fetch coffee and slices of Adelaide Angel Cake.

Vera sighed. She’d been so certain she’d uncover the identity of A. Godbin. On the other hand – and quite perversely – she wondered whether it was a good thing he hadn’t been involved. She still had that mystery to solve. And solve it she would.

But in the meantime, the vandals of the June topper had been uncovered.


They’d used the two knitted panels as ladders and had scrambled to the top, to sit up there eating nuts and doing whatever squirrels do in the middle of the night.

Vera began to laugh, and the others joined in. Well, there were only a few more days left in June and then they’d replace the wedding scene with the July topper. And A. Godbin was still out there, possibly poised to send her another aggravating email. One day, she’d have the satisfaction of tracking him down and exposing him.

Vera raised a toast with her coffee to the Creaping Bottom Post Box Society. The others echoed her words.

Oh yes, Vera thought to herself, as aggravating as the post of chairperson is, I love every minute.


To read the previous stories in this series:

Part 1 – Post Box Topper Outrage – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/02/the-post-box-topper-outrage-by-dawn.html

Part 2 – Post Box Topper Surveillance – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/02/post-box-topper-surveillance-by-dawn.html

Part 3 – Post Box Topper Confusion – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/03/post-box-topper-confusion-by-dawn-knox.html

Part 4 – Post Box Topper Shock – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/04/the-post-box-topper-shock-by-dawn-knox.html


Part 5 – Post Box Topper Triumph – https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2023/04/the-post-box-topper-triumph-by-dawn.html

1 comment:

  1. Fun, as ever. How does Dawn keep these flights of fancy flowing?