Nothing to Lose
A story of love, heartbreak, and happiness, as two determined young women work against overwhelming odds.
When Jasmine’s beloved granddad dies, she is left an odd bequest in his will – his bookie’s stall at Ampney Crucis dog racing stadium.
Despite her snobbish parents’ disgust, Jasmine is determined to make a success of the business.
In London, single mum April works all hours for the dodgy Gillespie family, dreaming of the day her daughter’s dad will return. When April helps collect a debt for the Gillespies, she is left with a manic greyhound named Cair Paravel – but her landlord’s not going to like that …
When the prestigious Frobisher’s trophy comes up for grabs, the Gillespies will stop at nothing to have the race held at their venue –but Jasmine and her friends are determined to have it at Ampney Crucis …
The chorus of ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ roared along the isle, poured through the nave, then soared sacrilegiously up into the sixteenth-century rafters of St Edith’s. The organist, more used to wheezing out ‘The Old Rugged Cross’, gamely tried to keep pace with the toe-tapping mourners. Even the vicar, his elbows resting on the pulpit’s worn carve work, was clapping his hands to the back beat.
Sandwiched between her fiancé Andrew and her parents in the front pew, Jasmine Clegg sang ‘… my oh my, what a wonderful day …’ as the tears coursed down her cheeks. Her grandfather, currently reposing in his silk-lined, oak-veneered coffin at the top of the chancel steps, would have loved every minute of it.
It was, Jasmine thought sadly, exactly what he’d wanted – exactly what he’d detailed more than three years earlier while he and Jasmine had been sheltering from a coastal gale, sharing cheese and onion baps and a tomato Cup a Soup.
‘When my time comes,’ Benny Clegg had waved his crusts under her nose, ‘don’t you dare let your father go for anything mournful like ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ or ‘Abide With Me’, or God forbid ‘The Day Thou Gavest’!’
Jasmine had swallowed her mouthful of soup quickly, raising her voice above the crashing of the sea. ‘What? Oh, Grandpa – I don’t want to even think about it!’
‘Well I do. When I go, I want a damn good shindig. I want all my friends tapping their feet and smiling. No – listen, love. I want my coffin to go into St Edith’s to ‘Entry of the Gladiators’, come out to ‘In The Mood’ …’ Benny had gurgled happily here. ‘Me and your gran had some right old times to Glenn Miller … and I want everyone to have a rip-snorting singsong in the middle. That Zippy tune would be about right …’
He’d started to whistle it cheerfully between his teeth. Bits of bap had sprayed onto the wet shingle, and a seagull had swooped down and scooped them up with a shriek of triumph. Jasmine had looked at Benny in horror. He meant it! He was planning to die! He couldn’t! Her grandfather was the only person in the world whom she truly loved. He couldn’t die and leave her.
‘Grandpa! Stop it, please!’ She’d shaken the raindrops from her hair and shouted against the salt-tanged screech of the wind. ‘I don’t want to hear this! I won’t listen. Anyway, you’d never get away with even a partial humanist funeral in Ampney Crucis. Not with that new vicar.’
Benny had swigged at the soup and emerged with a vibrant orange moustache. ‘No? You don’t reckon he’d stand for it? Maybe not – he seemed a bit of a miserable sod at Harvest Festival, now I come to think about it. He never saw the funny side of the marrows and –’ he’d suddenly regarded Jasmine fiercely ‘– don’t you try to change tack, young lady. This is very important to me.’
‘And you’re the most important thing in the world to me and I don’t want you to die!’
‘Lord love you, I’m not planning on going yet awhile. I just want to get this clear. When I’m dead it’ll be too late, and if I leave the arrangements to your father he’ll go for dirges and things. You know he will, don’t you?’
Jasmine nodded. The Clegg sense of fun seemed to have bypassed Benny’s only child with a vengeance. Her father was the least humorous person she had ever known.
The raindrops were drumming steadily on the corrugated-iron roof, which slapped and flapped above their heads. She’d sighed.
‘If you’re being serious, you’ll have to have some hymns and prayers, especially if you want the service to be at St Edith’s.’
‘OK then, I’ll have a couple of rousing hymns and some nice cheery prayers as a sop to you and the good Lord, then you lay me to rest on the leeward side of that oak tree with your gran so that I get the sound of the sea, the smell of the rain, and the warmth of the evening sun. You’ll see to it. Jasmine, love, won’t you?’
And Jasmine, the last remnant of cheese and onion bap stuck miserably in her throat, nodded.
‘Good girl.’ Benny had hugged her. ‘That’s settled, then. And the rain’s easing, so how about cheering ourselves up with a pint or three in the Crumpled Horn?’