They were in shock! It was so sudden and unexpected. Well, perhaps not unexpected as much as sudden. The half insane Edie Penrhyn of Harfinsain was dead. She died on her 104th birthday. Trying to come to terms with yet another twist in the very colourful life of Edie, the vicar cast his mind back to the events of the last two years…
“Oh Lord, why hast Thou burdened me with this impossible task? “ The Vicar of Harfinsain was on bended knee in front of the altar in his Church. His heart was deeply troubled. Edie Penrhyn, the local 102 year old eccentric celebrity was solely responsible for the distress in his otherwise relatively sedate life.
Since Edie’s rise to fame following the infamous incident of the patent leather thigh high boots and purple leather mini skirt, she had become impossible to manage. Harfinsain was booming. The economy was riding the heady wave of Edie’s colourful fame as the local expert on all things to do with the Old Man of Drake Lane.
Some of the locals, however, were concerned about an increase in troubling rumours. Whenever untoward or nasty things happened in the surrounds of Harfinsain, speculation peaked about the culprit being the monster tree turned man of Drake Lane. Edie shamelessly embellished the stories, making them even more outrageous.
So worried were they that The HISS (Half Insane Secret Society) had been created. It appointed the vicar to manage Edie. Being a devout and serious young man in charge of his very first parish, he felt it his God-given duty to accept the task. It was a cross he had to stoically bear as the Shepherd of his small flock. Edie was after all the oldest member of his parish.
She never missed a service. Truth be told he wished with all his heart that she would sleep in just once in a while. Then hastily admonished himself for such sinful thoughts. There she sat in all her glory in the front pew every Sunday morning without fail. She sang all the hymns lustily and loudly. Off key and either behind or ahead of the rest of the congregation. It was most disconcerting. Come sermon time Edie’s head would droop. Without exception she snored her way through all of them.
He clearly recalled being told by his father, the Father of All Saints Parish, that he always knew he had preached a good sermon if at least one member of his congregation fell asleep. That was cold comfort as far as he was concerned. From his memory there had been no one anywhere near the likes of Edie at All Saints Parish.
Ushers learnt to avoid Edie come collection time. She had a tendency to help herself to generous handfuls of the good Lord’s cash. The congregation tolerated Edie’s irreverent ecclesiastical behaviour doing their best to ignore it. They were faithful, loving, tolerant and good Sunday Christians.
What they could not ignore was the threat to their newly found wealth courtesy of Edie and her outrageous behaviour. Despite the general consensus that she was half insane, nothing could be further from the truth. Edie was simply having a ball. All her life she had been a frustrated thespian. It was an unfortunate fact that as a young girl her father had forbidden her to follow her dream career. It was not what genteel ladies of good breeding did – become actresses. So she was a good girl. Frustrated, but well behaved. Until the passing of her parents. Then her life took a downturn into the dangerous portals of the ungodly thespian world. There was no-one in her life to stop her. So Edie plunged into the deep end.
Sadly for her Edie never made it as far as the stage. To compensate, she made her life a stage. She put her heart and soul into each performance. But it was lack lustre. A one woman show with unlimited potential, Edie longed to soar. And soar she did thanks to the Old Man of Drake Lane. The last few years in Harfinsain made her feel like she owned the goose that laid the golden egg. But Edie was aware that the goose may very well stop laying. She had to do something about that before it was too late.
Edie had a secret. She had a dicky heart. The only thing that kept it going was daily dosings of tablets. Knowing her days were numbered in more ways than one, she plotted and schemed to find a way to exit on a high note. Better to go out in a blaze of glory than to be managed into oblivion sitting staring at four walls in a nursing home somewhere. No, that simply would not do at all!
While Edie turned her mind to solving her dilemma, life in Harfinsain continued. Tourists came and went. The Edie extravaganza continued unabated, entertaining them delightfully. Mystery happenings and tragedies were few but enough to add some extra juice and fire to her tales. Harfinsain reaped the reward in pennies and pounds.
The Vicar did his utmost best to persuade Edie to at least tone down, if not cease and desist. He presented her with countless creative solutions and suggestions. All to no avail. Edie, being an equally good Sunday Christian as her fellow Harfinsainians, listened to him with the greatest of respect and head nodding. And blithely continued on her own merry way.
Alone at night in her cosy little cottage, Edie plotted and schemed her demise. She’d had many offers to upmarket her profile. There must be a way of using one of them to boost her into the After World. Some of them were downright ridiculous in her view. There was simply no way she was prepared to be a Big Brother contestant. The others would not stand a chance against her! Besides, she had a job to do right here in Harfinsain. Likewise, being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent held no interest for her. Now, had they offered to let her on as a contestant, she would have jumped at the chance. If only she could be on stage like that Susan Boyle! But they had been very clear that was totally out of the question.
So Edie continued to perform while she waited for the perfect opportunity to arise, as she knew it would. After all, she had had words with the Good Lord Himself presenting her case to Him for special consideration. She was confident it had been well received. It was just a matter of waiting.
And sure as eggs, one day she had the perfect phone call. Survivor wanted to use Edie’s acting talents to promote a brand new contest for the fit and adventurous elderly citizens. It was to be called Survivor Olds. They wanted Edie to be the face that launched it. In collaboration with The UK Wilderness Foundation and survival guru Bear Grylls, promotional filming was to take place in Carmarthenshire, Wales. Bear Grylls, as the consultant and safety expert, would be with her throughout. Now Edie had never heard of Survivor or Bear Grylls before, but by the time she had finished asking questions, she knew enough to know that this was it.
Edie insisted on absolute secrecy. She did not want even a whiff of a rumour getting out about what she was up to. All the arrangements, negotiations and planning took place away from Harfinsain. It was not unusual for Edie to leave the village on a regular basis to attend to business. Survivor meetings fitted in neatly with her schedule. Meeting Bear Grylls was a delight. He fell in love with Edie and she with him. It was a perfect partnership.
Edie had one request. She wanted a live airing of the filming on her 104th birthday. As that did not pose any problems for the network it was a done deal.
Television commercials advertising the live Survivor Olds promotion went to air two weeks before the great event. There was no mention of what it would involve other than saying that Edie and Bear Grylls were to be the stars and the shoot would be live on site. Harfinsain was abuzz with excitement. Edie lapped it up. Try as they might, no one could coerce Edie to divulge any information.
Edie had been very busy preparing for the filming. She had lines to learn. Safety equipment to become familiar with. And hardest of all, she was expected to follow orders exactly. Without question or compromise. All of this, she readily agreed to. A week before the event, she packed her bags. Edie left Harfinsain early the next morning. Everything was being filmed Segments would be released periodically as teasers in the lead up to airing the first episode. Agog with excitement, the villagers watched as Bear Grylls tenderly led Edie into the waiting Survivor van, strapped her in, and closed the door. That was to be the last time they saw Edie alive.
The day of the shoot was beautiful, warm and sunny. They had trekked to Sqwd yr Eira (Waterfall of the Snow) two days earlier. Transporting Edie safely to the site had been a priority. She rode in on a white pony. A new skill she had learnt as part of the planning. Edie loved it. It made her feel like royalty, so well was she treated. Rehearsals and briefings took up most of the two days. But there was enough time for Edie to take in the stunning scenery. What a way to go, she thought! What a place to exit from!
Edie’s demise at the hands of the slippery rocks behind the Waterfall of Snow was perfectly executed. At least as far as Edie was concerned. She had stopped taking her heart medications when she left home. Her dicky heart was really struggling to keep her alive, one beat at a time. Such a good actress was Edie, that no-on was any the wiser. Just as she was to descend the rocks and step into the kayak for some fun in the water with Bear Grylls, Edie slipped and fell, hitting her head on the way down. The shock of the fall would probably have been enough. The combination of the fatal heart attack, the fractured skull and neck of femur made it a complete package. Edie died with a big smile on her face. Edie’s trajectory catapulted her into the Beyond. And world wide fame. At last.
It is said the ghost of the Half Insane Edie of Harfinsain walks the streets at night. Some say that she tags along on the tours to the Old Man of Drake Lane. She is regularly seen in the cemetery.
Harfinsain continues to reap the benefits of Edie’s gift. These days the tours include a stop at her grave, a visit to her cottage, afternoon tea in the church hall presided over by the Vicar. Items from Edie’s extensive wardrobe are available for purchase. She had been quite specific in her will that any monies raised should be put in the collection plate every Sunday. An Edie look-alike dummy has been dressed in the thigh high patent leather boots outfit. It has pride of place outside the local Post Office.
Postscript: As Edie had requested, her exit was live streamed. It caused quite a sensation. After recovering from the shocking turn of events, Survivor Olds seized the opportunity to promote the contest as a celebration of life in Edie’s honour. It was a runaway success. She left her fees and share of royalties to The HISS, renamed The Harfinsain Tourist Commission.
Written as a 2 part sequel to an original story by Jane Basil.
Read the full story from the beginning by following these links – The Mandrake of Harfinsain
First sequel – Edie of Harfensain
© Raili Tanska
Images Pixabay and personal albums