Friday 7 June 2024

Daphne’s Story by Dawn Knox, a green smoothie

Previously: An unusual stranger has shaken up the neighbourhood. Gladys, Minnie and schoolboy, Cyril, have all witnessed the exotic man. Now Daphne tells us what she saw on that bizarre morning…


Daphne Didcott patted her dachshund’s head and opened the kitchen door to let her into the garden. Bathsheba trotted onto the patio on tiny legs, raised her delicate nose and sniffed. She growled softly at the robotic lawn mower that trundled past. Propelled forwards by the traction-enhanced rear wheels, the mower collided with Daphne’s raised bed and, after pausing as if dazed, changed direction and continued its course. The dog pattered to the other side of the lawn, keeping a wary eye on the robot.

Daphne glanced upwards as if she could see through the kitchen ceiling to her bedroom where husband, Derek, would still be asleep.


She tiptoed as quietly as her gardening clogs would allow into the garden to retrieve the robotic mower. After turning off the four torches and the ultrasonic device fixed to its top, Daphne returned the mower to the shed, glancing, once again, at her bedroom window. The curtains were still drawn.

Not that it mattered if Derek saw it. Daphne had paid for it. And she’d also bought the attachments, which she’d fitted. But Derek would know why she’d done it, and he’d make such a fuss about her motives. Then, he’d nag her to join one of his yoga classes and learn how to relax. What, Daphne wondered, was the point of yoga? No one ever won.

Derek rolled his eyes and said it wasn’t a competitive sport.

But Daphne needed a challenge, and if she beat someone while she was at it, so much the better.

Even if Daphne had wanted to do yoga, she certainly didn’t want to accompany Derek to his open-air lesson in the park each morning. Performing in public wasn’t for her. Not that there were many people out so early, but that wasn’t the point. She’d once considered joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer to learn something energetic, like bodybuilding, but the thought of all those muscular people watching had put her off. A personal trainer at home might have been a good idea, but there was only room to do a workout in the garden, and she didn’t want to be on view to the neighbours.

Eventually, she’d decided not to bother. After all, it wasn’t as if she needed a push to do more – she was self-disciplined enough, and she had sufficient drive to power an army tank. The problem was how to express her energy.

And that was the cause of the friction between Daphne and Derek.

‘You’re so uptight, Daph, you need to relax and unwind. Take time to smell the roses,’ Derek often said when he was trying to persuade her to join his yoga class.

But Daphne’s energy needed an outlet other than folding herself up like an Origami bird or waving her arms around like an octopus caught in a whirlpool. She was a woman who was full of competitive spirit, whether Derek liked it or not. And anyway, if she was going to smell roses, they would have to be the biggest, most fragrant, most colourful and most abundant. What was the point of sniffing anything inferior? And if go-getters like Daphne didn’t put in the hard work growing those spectacular blooms, what would all those relaxed people like Derek sniff?

You couldn’t help how you were born, and Daphne had been born to win.

Early in their marriage, Derek had condemned her aggressive nature and insisted she attempt his breathing exercises. At first, Daphne had told him what to do with his breathing exercises. She knew how to breathe, thank you. She’d been doing it for years and she didn’t need practice.

He'd tried to persuade her she’d feel better if she learned a new breathing technique, and Daphne had once again told him what she thought. Her usual breathing technique was working fine, thank you. That had led to a full-scale row and resulted in Derek packing his suitcase to leave. However, after an uncomfortable night on the small, lumpy sofa, he’d changed his mind. The hours without sleep had probably given him a chance to consider how expensive it would be if he moved out – and Derek was not a man who spent money unwisely.

Despite the argument, Daphne had been pleased he hadn’t gone. She didn’t enjoy being on her own – even if the alternative was being married to Derek.

A fragile truce had begun, and as the years progressed, they settled into their grooves with Derek only occasionally pushing Daphne to join his yoga lessons, and Daphne concealing her competitive nature and refusing to attend his classes.

Bathsheba, who was trotting around the perimeter of the garden, had been one of those sneaky efforts to affirm Daphne’s autonomy. She’d decided on a dachshund when Derek had suggested they get a dog.

‘Petting animals has been proven to be therapeutic and relaxing,’ he’d said, and Daphne had agreed a dog would be a good idea. Derek had been too busy organising new classes to select a dog himself, so Daphne had chosen the miniature dachshund and brought her home.

‘What’s that?’ Derek had asked, frowning at the small sausage-shaped dog. ‘Aren’t its legs too small for its body?’

‘Certainly not. Bathsheba is perfect.’ Daphne had replied, failing to add she’d chosen her because dachshunds had been bred to hunt badgers.

Not that she expected Bathsheba to attack a badger – but as long as she recognised one and barked to keep it out of Daphne’s garden, that would suffice. If Bathsheba could also see off foxes, squirrels and the other vermin that regularly visited and destroyed Daphne’s plants – even better. Assisting Bathsheba was the robotic lawnmower with its attachments of torches and ultrasonic animal scarer.

Daphne didn’t want to harm animals – simply persuade them not to enter. And if they accidentally blundered onto her property – she wanted to persuade them to leave swiftly. There were so many other gardens in the area, why did the local wildlife always choose her garden in which to root around and to dig up valuable plants?

For example, why didn’t they invade the garden of Minnie Pegwell, who lived at the bottom of Daphne’s garden? Minnie obviously lacked imagination, as she simply had a rectangle of grass with flower beds on either side. However, from Daphne’s bedroom window, she could see the grass didn’t have pot-holes like Daphne’s after miscellaneous animals had used it for burrowing practice.

Next door, in Gladys Winterbottom’s garden, there wasn’t any damage, although that was probably more because yappy, snappy mongrel, Robert Louis Stevenson, frightened anyone off. He certainly scared Bathsheba, who hadn’t shown fear for any other animal.

Neither was there any evidence of animal activity on the other side of Daphne’s – in Geoffrey Sharples’ garden. But that was probably because, as a member of an English Civil War re-enactment group, he often dressed up in pikeman’s uniform and practised advancing and retreating across the garden with his pike. It was reasonable to assume animals wouldn’t be queuing to go onto his property.

Two doors along in the other direction was Mr Johnson’s garden, but Daphne couldn’t see into it. Perhaps he had rioting badgers, foxes and squirrels digging up his lawn. However, she doubted it.

No, it was a conspiracy. The local fauna had banded together, intent on destroying Daphne’s flora. But she wouldn’t stand for it, particularly since she intended to win at least one prize in the summer show. Well, to be honest, she intended to win everything she entered, but that was unlikely if the local wildlife wouldn’t give her a break.

Her runner beans were coming on a treat and cucumbers and marrows were showing promise. However, there were still several weeks to go. Recently, one of those marauding animals had burrowed perilously close to her cabbages and had dared to eat several carrots. And what’s more, her tomatoes had suffered a nasty attack of greenfly, obviously brought in by one of the vermin.

Daphne patted the robot and put the torches and ultrasonic gadget back in their box. Each night, she set the mower off to trundle its endless journey around the garden, clipping as it went. The grass was scalped, and she certainly wouldn’t win any prizes for her lawn, but she was thinking of the bigger picture. The four torches and ultrasonic device appeared to be doing the trick. She’d noticed less damage in the garden. And so far, she’d managed to pull the bedroom curtains before Derek had gone to bed, and he hadn’t seen the mysterious object glowing in four different directions as it wandered around the garden.

She’d tried to think up an excuse for the modifications if Derek spotted them, and so far, the best she could come up with was that she’d fitted them to prevent a poor, unfortunate animal from being accidentally run over and chopped to bits. Of course, Derek would know that was unlikely. He’d also know why she objected to animals in her garden – because her eye was on the prizes at the summer show. And then a lecture would follow about the beauty of nature and how improper it was to grow things to win prizes.

Daphne went back into the kitchen as Derek entered. ‘Morning, Daph, would you like a smoothie?’

‘No, thank you, dear,’ Daphne said brightly, choking back her revulsion of the green sludge Derek made for breakfast. She wondered if he was green on the inside.

Soon he’d leave for his outdoor yoga session in the local park, and she’d make herself toast and jam – a breakfast Derek would undoubtedly criticise for containing too much carbohydrate. Then he’d have frowned at her coffee and warned her the caffeine would make her jumpy. Well, who cared? She wanted to be dynamic – not balanced and relaxed.

‘Bye, dear. Back later,’ Derek shouted from the front door, and Daphne dived for the jam pot and white, sliced bread she kept at the back of the saucepan drawer.

Bathsheba trotted into the kitchen, nose twitching. She could smell raspberry jam at a hundred paces. Daphne checked her watch. There were two hours before Derek would come home for a shower. He’d make an amber-coloured smoothie, full of carrots. And then his ‘traffic lights of fruit and veg’ would conclude with a smoothie made of red berries halfway through the afternoon. Washing up the blender was always colourful. And fiddly.

After all the smoothies, it would be time for Derek’s meditation. Daphne’s teeth ground at the thought of the tinkly-tinkly music that Derek favoured. It drove her mad. There was no tune to it, just plinking and plunking. And while that was playing, he complained if Daphne listened to the Jazz she loved, with its frenetic beat.

She wondered if she ought to get her daily dose of Jazz now and stood up to go into the lounge to her record player – there was no substitute for needle on vinyl. But before she’d reached the door; she became aware of a sort of tinkly-tinkly music at the edge of her hearing. Even Bathsheba was sitting upright – or at least as upright as her short front legs would allow – her eyes darting from side to side, her nose twitching and her ears raised. She could obviously hear something unusual, too.

It was coming from the back garden. Daphne ran to the door to check Derek hadn’t come back and was yoga-ing in the garden.

He hadn’t. But the air was filled with a strange chanting and rattling. Gladys Winterbottom’s voice also rang out. She was talking to someone. Another woman, although Daphne couldn’t hear what they were saying. Yappy, snappy Robert Louis Stevenson was out in the garden with them, grunting and snuffling.

Bathsheba growled softly; she didn’t like the frisky canine next-door neighbour. He’d once hurled himself at her when he’d broken into the garden. Daphne had soon put a stop to that by turning her power jet hose on him and dampening his ardour.

She dragged a wooden patio chair forward and, standing on it, she could see Gladys and Elsie Scrivener peering through a gap in the fence into Mr Johnson’s garden.

What on earth was going on?

Well, whatever it was, Daphne couldn’t see, and rather than risk falling off the chair, she’d make herself busy in the garden and keep listening. She decided to water everything before the sun became hot. The whoosh of water from her hose lulled her until a crash, a scream and frantic yapping broke through her reverie. What were they doing next door? Daphne grabbed the chair, pulled it further towards the fence and clambered onto it, the hose still playing on her runner beans.

Infuriatingly, she still wasn’t tall enough to see what was going on, although she heard the chanting and rattling stop, and a man yell. Rustling from the top of the tree in Mr Johnson’s garden caught Daphne’s eye. A cat bounced several times as it fell through the branches, and a woman screamed, ‘Cyril, watch out!’ A thud suggested the cat had not landed on its feet. Angry voices rose, and it was hard to tell who was most outraged because everyone was shouting at once.

Daphne was so intent on listening; it took several seconds before she saw the face appear above her fence. She shrieked and teetered on the chair as a bare-chested man heaved himself up. Pausing for a second, he glanced back into Gladys’s garden, presumably at Robert Louis Stevenson, who was flinging himself at the fence, barking.

Daphne stared in disbelief as he threw himself into her garden. Other than shoulder-length dreadlocks, white streaks on his face and beads around his neck and wrists, the man had nothing else on.

Daphne stepped backwards. A bad move as the chair rocked perilously, and she fought to keep her balance. Should she run into the house and call the police? He might be a murderer. However, his eyes were open wide with alarm, and he shrank away from her, his beads rattling as he trembled. More frightened of her than she was of him.

Now what? Daphne thought. Should she say something? But what did one say under such circumstances? Good Morning? That suggested this was a perfectly reasonable meeting. Which, of course, it wasn’t. What was she thinking? This wasn’t a garden party. She didn’t have to be pleasant.

‘Errr,’ the man said as he scrambled to his feet. He tiptoed sideways to hide behind Daphne’s beans and peered out at her. So many thoughts flooded into her brain; they collided in the middle. Should she call the police? No, she’d left her mobile in the kitchen. Should she escort him to her front door? No, she wouldn’t be comfortable inviting him into her home. And anyway, he was naked. He couldn’t just stroll down her path to the street. What would the neighbours think? And then, the snarl-up of thoughts was instantly untangled when he side-stepped again, and the sound of trampled plants assaulted Daphne’s ears. Her onions were almost screaming at her to help. Rage filled her, and without considering how he could get out of the garden, she turned the hose full blast on him to stop him from damaging anything else. He yelped with shock, and springing onto the compost bin, scrambled up over the back fence.

Excellent. He’d found his own way out.

Daphne leapt from the chair and, hurling herself forward, continued to spray him until he’d dropped into Minnie Pegwell’s garden.

When she was sure he’d gone, she turned off the hose.

Her heart was racing. What a shocking thing to have happened. Where were her guard dog and husband when she needed them? Bathsheba was sitting on the patio, the tip of her tail tapping the ground, watching with what Daphne interpreted as a puzzled expression.

Presumably, Derek was still yoga-ing in the park. Daphne wondered what he would’ve done had he been there. Probably invited the man in for a cup of green tea or a smoothie because he’d probably have assumed the man was one of his esoteric, hippy, drippy friends. That thought caused Daphne to wonder. Perhaps that’s exactly what the naked man was.

She held both hands out, palm upwards towards Bathsheba. ‘What sort of dog are you? You didn’t even bark.’

That wasn’t fair because the dachshund’s job was to guard against badgers, foxes and other vermin, not human trespassers. She’d probably never seen the like of the intruder who’d briefly received a drenching. Neither had Daphne – well, not in the flesh, as it were. He’d been such an exotically handsome man. Daphne placed a hand over her heart. It was still beating wildly, and she decided on a triple espresso to calm down. Then she’d investigate the damage he’d caused. She was almost afraid to look.

After coffee, Daphne went back into the garden and inspected the area where the man had landed. Several plants had been flattened, but considering the man’s size, it wasn’t as bad as she’d feared. She listened for any hint of what was happening in the surrounding gardens, but all was now calm, other than in Minnie Pegwell’s garden. Strange thumps, moans and rattling came from her shed – and most of the moaning was from Minnie.

And then Daphne had the answer. She’d seen enough of Derek’s esoteric, hippy, dippy friends to recognise them. The intruder was a New Age guru. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. He must have been taking a session with Mr Johnson in his garden – and that was what Gladys and Elsie had been watching through the fence. Horatio the cat had fallen because of the mayhem below, causing more chaos, and the guru had fled when Robert Louis Stevenson had attacked him. His clothes had probably been torn off in the fracas. What wasn’t clear was why he’d been in Gladys’s garden unless the splintering of wood had meant Robert Louis Stevenson had broken into Mr Johnson’s and the man had tried to escape. Then, once in Daphne’s garden, she hadn’t given him a chance to explain his unorthodox appearance – she’d turned the hose on him.

That all sounded feasible. It didn’t, however, explain what he was doing in Minnie Pegwell’s shed. Whatever was going on was quite energetic.

Extreme yoga, perhaps? Well, why not? There must be many more types of yoga other than the dull, boring version Derek taught.

Minnie Pegwell wasn’t someone who lived slowly and calmly. Daphne had seen her charge around the supermarket with a loaded trolley and a get-out-of-my-way look in her eye. Not that Minnie appeared to be the type to be interested in breathing exercises or in integrating physical movements with mental focus, but then judging by Derek’s students, they were all a varied bunch, anyway.

If Minnie had booked a private session with the guru, holding it in her shed had been a great idea. Outdoors, but not on view. Why hadn’t Daphne thought of it? From the sounds Minnie had been making, the session sounded like fun.

‘You missed an excellent lesson in the park,’ Derek said when he arrived home later. ‘What have you been up to?’

‘Nothing much,’ she said. ‘I’m just off to take Bathsheba for a walk. When I get back, I’m going to clear the shed.’

While she was out, she’d drop in at Minnie’s and ask whether she’d recommend the man, and if so, how Daphne could contact him. He looked like Daphne’s sort of man. And she was sure that whatever Minnie had been doing, Daphne would soon be better at it than her.


If you’d like to read the previous stories you can find them here:

Glady’s Story is here -

Minnie’s Story is here -

Cyril’s Story is here -

About the author

Dawn’s three previous books in the ‘Chronicles Chronicles’ series are ‘The Basilwade Chronicles’, ‘The Macaroon Chronicles’ and 'The Crispin Chronicles' published by Chapeltown Publishing. 'The Post Box Topper Chronicles' is coming soon. 

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