(Title again courtesy of LazyScot
For those wanting the loose ends in Tumbledrier neatly tied up (or at least explained), this might help. Eventually.)
In a small, picturesque village in East Sussex stands a quaint-looking teashop. Not too surprising really as many small, attractive villages in East Sussex - and, indeed, other parts of England - have quaint-looking teashops. They help keep the tourists around and spending money for that little bit longer. This particular teashop had the obligatory quaint name referencing a part of the local area - in this case, it was called “The Market Cross Tea Shop” even though it was in a small alleyway a few minutes walk away from the market cross, and the very small square in which it stands. The square is now more of a traffic hazard and a place for coaches to drop tourists off at than anything, although as all the buildings surrounding it aren’t modern, it was clearly never very much of a square to start with.
Despite not being on the square, and despite there being competition from other teashops and the like, The Market Cross Tea Shop pulled in a fair amount of business, even out of season. The reason for this could be seen on a board outside proclaiming that it sold “The best Spotted Dick Pudding… in the world”. The sign, drawing the usual sniggers from pre-adolescent boys and some tourists, might be taken for the normal self-promotion, except that it did actually sell the best spotted dick pudding most people had ever tasted - there are always one or two naysayers who will proclaim their grans was the best, or the one they did at prep school was better than anything, and so on. It had gathered a following by word of mouth, and - very late to the party - by food critics who somehow overcame their distaste at not reviewing a top restaurant to sample the wares.
And the alleyway wasn’t such a bad location for a teashop, anyway - after the tourists had ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the quaint old buildings, they would walk down the alley towards the tiny church (famous despite it’s size), and then on to the river, which meandered down to the sea. And then, of course, back up past the teashop to meet their coach, and hopefully time for a quick cuppa before it leaves.
Not that this was the only alleyway in the village - far from it. But tourists, there only for a day or less, tended not to find the smaller ones. Oh, they probably heard about them - the village had its fair share of stories about smugglers, hidden paths and tunnels between buildings. But they weren’t that easy to find, even now. The more jaded tourist will tend to believe these tales have been made up to get more business and bear no relation to the truth, the less cynical will merely think them embellished, possibly heavily so. In fact most of the stories aren’t that far from the truth - the village could have been the template for smuggling stories. Some things have been glossed over, true, and others romanticised, but the tunnels, larger-than-life characters, rowing boats coming up-river in the dead of night… all true.
Which brings us back to the The Market Cross Tea Shop. Local tales have it that one of the tunnels links, among other places, one of the village inns (there are several), a cottage near the church (and the river), and the tea shop. The current owner, like her parents and grand parents before her, refuses to verify this - laughing it off as one of the few embellishments made to the tales. And even though running a tea shop in a small village in East Sussex is not the most lucrative of businesses, and even though she is not - as far as anyone knows - independently wealthy, she has also refused every offer to sell the family’s recipe for spotted dick pudding.