“Mrs Purvis,” Principal Clutch called out to Raelene and Annabelle Purvis as they walked towards the horses, “a few words if you wouldn’t mind”
Raelene turned and walked over to join the Principal of Lushers College for Ladies as her daughter seized the opportunity to escape.
“See you later,” Annabelle yelled to her mum as she ran off to join the other members of the brat pack.
“I am sure there must be some simple explanation, but we still haven’t received your donation for the Purvis Equestrian Centre,” Mrs Clutch said, solemn faced. “I’m sorry to be such a stickler, but the contractors are due to start work next week.”
“I don’t know what could have gone wrong,” A stunned Raelene Purvis replied. “I’ll get Ray to look in to it tomorrow.”
The sight of Annabelle Purvis running had caught the attention of Ruth Goldsmith. She watched as Annabelle joined Shelley and Lou, two of the most faithful brat packers, share a joke with them and then disappear behind the dais for the official party attending the launch of the Equestrian Centre.
It all looked a little too suspicious and conspiratorial to Ruth, so she hurried over to the lines of cars parked beside the dais and found a spot where she could watch the back of the stage without being noticed. She was just in time to see Annabelle wave goodbye to Shelley and Lou and head over to where the horses were tethered. Well that’s all pretty boring Ruth thought to herself, and was about to go in search of her friend Jane when something about the way Shelley and Lou were trying to look inconspicuous stopped her.
At the back of the dais was a row of chairs, each with a cushion, and Ruth watched as the two brat packers quietly moved the chairs to check the name tags on each cushion until they found the one they were after. Shelley then slipped something inside the cushion and the two girls ran off laughing to report back to the horse queen. As they rounded the edge of the dais, Shelley and Lou collided with the Deputy Principal, Miss Smyth, in search of a quiet spot for a quick tipple. Ruth laughed to herself, not sure who would be the most embarrassed.
As soon as the coast was clear, Ruth climbed up onto the dais and immediately saw Jane Thomas’s name on the chair that had been tampered with. Not sure what to do next, Ruth was running through the options when a teacher appeared in front of the dais and called out to her.
“Goldsmith, what are you doing girl?”
“Just making sure everything is ready, Miss,” Ruth replied as she walked over to the microphone and gave it a gentle tap.
“Good,” the teacher said, “and tidy up those chairs and cushions.”
“Yes Miss.” Ruth readily agreed. She carefully pushed the chairs back into line and straightened the cushions. As soon as the teacher had moved away, Ruth swapped the cushion designated for Jane with another, nearer the centre of the row.
As the chairs in front of the dais filled, the school staff and guests enjoyed tea and sandwiches inside the marquee. Mr and Mrs Purvis chatted with Principal Clutch and the Chairman of the School Council, a senior barrister and colourful racing identity. Jane Thomas and her parents stood off to one side, sipping tea and feeling out of place. Through the occasional snide remark, Jane made it clear she was not looking forward to being on stage with the school Principal, politicians and all the other ‘suits’ she could see around her.
“Well ladies and gentlemen, it is time we made a move,” the Principal announced and led the official party out of the marquee and onto the dais. The Principal sat in the centre of the row of chairs, the local Member of Parliament on one side of her and Ray Purvis on the other. There was an empty seat between Ray and his wife Raelene.
The brat pack girls in the audiences nudged each other and started to giggle as the Thomas family walked onto the dais. The giggles were quickly swallowed as Jane settled herself noiselessly into her chair.
After the welcoming preamble, Principal Clutch thanked Mr and Mrs Purvis for their generous support of the school and told the audience that their daughter Annabelle had kindly agreed to open the proceedings with a short demonstration of dressage. As Mrs Clutch sat down, the music started. Annabelle and horse, each tightly groomed and dressed, emerged and gave a very tidy display of precision riding.
When the music stopped, Annabelle rode over to the dais and dismounted to the polite applause of most and wild cheers from the brat pack girls. With a flourish Annabelle strode across the stage to her seat between her parents. She dropped onto the seat and the sound of flatulence, as loud as the roar of a lion, reverberated across the dais.
The stunned silence that followed was finally broken by Ruth’s distinctive voice, “They’ll have to change the diet of that horse.”
A few of the girls in the audience started to laugh. Principal Clutch returned to the microphone, raised a hand and with her firm voice was soon able to get the ceremony back on track. She thanked Annabelle for her fine display of riding, praised her skill, and spoke for a few moments about the plans for the new centre.
“So it is with great pleasure,” The Principal said, turning to acknowledge her benefactor with a polite nod. “I now ask Mr Ray Purvis to turn the first sod on the site of the Purvis Equestrian Centre.”
The audience clapped as Mrs Clutch escorted Ray Purvis off the dais and over to the ceremonial patch of turf where she handed him the small chrome plated garden trowel.
“You’ve probably all heard the story, but, I come from a poor background, where we called a spade a spade and not a shovel.” Ray bellowed, without the aid of a microphone. Holding up the chrome trowel, he continued, “And if you’ve got serious digging in mind, this would be no good. So if you’ll just hang on for a moment, I noticed something over here that will do the job properly.”
The audience laughed in agreement and expectation as Ray Purvis walked over to the marquee and picked up a mattock that was lying beside the guy ropes. Ray strode back to the ceremonial patch and standing between the fluttering school flags, took up his position, much like a golfer addressing the ball.
With legs apart, Purvis raised the mattock above his head. The crowd was silent as he swung it down, burying the blade into the soft ground.
The audience clapped and cheered. Ray feeling pleased with himself, decided to repeat the performance. As he wrenched the mattock out of the ground, there was a hissing sound and a stream of water arced its way through the air and down onto the official dais, drenching everyone.
In the next episode, “Comes around”, Madge and Dean Thomas decide to invest with Regal Mortgage and Jane is in for a surprise. What does Sky Crystal know about Ray Purvis?