Creativity / Dunwutherin: a soap at the edge of Bath

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The Independent Online
Today we are proud to present the opening episode in the world's first newspaper interactive soap opera. Weaving together the most appropriate of readers' suggestions for title, setting, characters, plot and snatches of dialogue, we welcome you to Dunwutherin - an everyday tale of West Country misfits, the soap set on the fringes of Bath.

"I'm goin' down the Virgin," shouted Keith Swillsby. With scarcely a glance at his father Colin - or Colleen as he had preferred to be known since the happenings of 1978 - Keith lifted himself out of the comfortable armchair, nodded farewell to the blazing log fire and ambled towards the front door of Dunwutherin Farmhouse.

"You're always down that Virgin," warbled his father. "Your mum would have words to say if she weren't tickling the pigs."

Colin Swillsby and his wife Petronella were practically the only people in the little village of Clinton Eastwood, near Bath, who did not frequent the local pub, The Soon to be Fallen Virgin. Colin rarely left his computer terminal, where he absorbed himself in the accounts of the pig farm. Not that they needed so much work. He was simply terrified that Keith would contact the aliens on the Internet again if he left it unattended. Meanwhile, Petronella had been pathologically shy, except with pigs, since nearly blinded by an attack of dandruff early in their marriage.

As he swung shut the farm gate, Keith looked back through the window of the house to assure himself that his parents were not watching him. Then he turned, not right down the lane towards the pub, but leftwards, in the direction of the library.

In the saloon bar of The Soon to be Fallen Virgin, the most beautiful girl in the world was pulling pints. All who entered the pub were entranced by Lucretia Comfort, if not by her appearance then by her talent for listening and solving other people's problems. Yet outside her work as barmaid, no-one knew anything about Lucretia. Unmarried, unattached, un-everything as far as anyone could tell, she rented a room with the Reverend Dawkins at the vicarage and even he did not know what she did in her spare time.

In his usual chair at the bar, Colonel "Toothy" Gate was, as ever, trying to engage Lucretia in conversation.

"Did you hear the Defence Minister on the box yesterday evening?"

"I'm afraid I must have missed it," smiled Lucretia.

"Said something about a white paper on paying British soldiers according to the number of enemy soldiers they shot. Exactly what I was saying earlier in the day."

"Great minds ..," cliched the bar-maid.

"It's the fifth time this month," said Col Gate. "Damn odd."

A man in a heavy macintosh, sitting in the corner, took out his pencil and prepared to write. Then the door burst open and the chief librarian rushed in shouting: "It's George. I think he's dead. Come quickly."

Who is George? Why is he dead? Who is the man in the mac? What does Lucretia get up to in the evening? Can the aliens cure Petronella's dandruff? Answers and further plot ideas should be sent to: Soapy Pastimes, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. The Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore awaits the most valuable contributions. Meanwhile, normal Creativity will be resumed in a fortnight. We're looking for things to do with the M25. Ideas to: Creativity, same address.

This week's contributors were: Duncan Bull, Caroline Evans, Tony Haken, Len Clarke, Stuart Cockerill, Nicholas E Gough, Des Waller. Prizes to the first three named.