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   I am the editor’s secretary, called in from the pondside to run the presses and take all the blame when Mr Fletcher’s crossword is mis-transcribed.

   I began life in the Far East and my features do hint at this since the Chinese are somewhat hazy about the true delineation of an English gnome’s face. Mr Fletcher had been staying in Finchley with the Brands, being entertained by the sight of them putting a pond in the garden. After he left he bought me and sent me to them as a thank you present. I have never understood their reaction on opening the box.

    I was named Rip after the Ripon Hornblower, an iconic figure in the life of Mr Fletcher. Wherever in the world he holidays his postcards frequently portray the

R H. He once sent the Brands a Guernsey calendar with figures of said Hornblower peering from behind rocks and emerging from the sea.

   I was placed by their pond with my little fishing rod and its pendant boot and stood there for some time, enjoying the friendship of Finchley’s wild life. The boy friend of one of the Brands’ daughters recognised me as a kindred spirit and joined me up to  CND, giving me a banner to hold. Alas the weather destroyed it and I was totally ignored while a whole colony of ants built their home around my person.



    It was some years before the editor, in a rare moment of gardening enthusiasm, decided to clear a space round the pond, discovered my plight and rescued me. By now I was showing my age. There was a hole in my hood filled with ant chewed earth and my fishing rod and boot were lost. Still I was appointed secretary to the newly published Alverne Gazette.

    I was content to labour away at this enterprise until a terrible mess was made of one of Mr Fletcher’s crosswords and I was blamed. Jolly, amiable Ken turned overnight into apoplectic Disgusted of Guernsey and I was fired. Minnie-the-cat-next-door was given my position and a very poor job she made of it. Whenever something needed doing Minnie wasn’t there.            Eventually wonderful Mr Green formed my Supporters’ Club, Worcester Branch, and after a long campaign I was reinstated.