The dawn chorus has been added to lately with the muffled BOOM of the bird scarer in the farmers fields nearby. Which seems a waste of time to me, if you saw the numbers of pigeons that descend on it from time to time, all of whom are layabeds and so don't hear the BOOM, and probably wouldn't care anyway.
I was in the shop the other morning, enjoying a mardle with Daisy, when in burst Elsie, making the little bell almost tinkle itself out of its bracket. I love the sound of this bell, much preferable to one shop in the next village which has this awful buzzer concealed under the doormat, so everyone who steps on it makes this loud BUZZ, and you can imagine the fun local children have, running in and out! No, a little tinkly bell is much more civilised and more suited to spinster ladies. Sorry, one 'unclaimed and unattached for now' lady and her 'quite a bit elder' sister! Daisy's words, not mine. Anyway, whenever Elsie bursts in anywhere, you can bet your bottom five pence piece that it's because she has news to impart, ie gossip.
'Guess what I just saw, go on, guess, betcha can't can you?' came out, all of a rush. Daisy and I looked at her, then at each other, then shrugged our shoulders, and before we could say anything, Elsie informed us that she had just seen Mr Bartholomew carrying Miss Asquith over the threshold of her little cottage! Daisy and I didn't know what to make of this, was Elsie hallucinating, had she been at the nettle wine again or what?
'Are you sure Elsie dear?' asked Daisy.
Elsie sniffed, which she does a lot really, usually more out of high dudgeon than a case of the sniffles. 'How could I be mistaken about something like that pray Daisy?' she said, in what she calls her 'best voice' usually reserved for the vicar and senior members of the WI - which she only joined because they occasionally meet up with a certain other WI with 'Royal Connections' as she puts it. 'How could anyone mistake seeing a tall, distinguished, quite handsome considering his age, gent (and this confirmed our suspicions that secretly she fancied him herself, despite comments about men being useless lummoxes etc., etc.) carrying a small, genteel lady over a threshold attached to her cottage. Go on, tell me!'
Well, of course we had to concede defeat, but needless to say both Daisy and I were intrigued to say the least. We suggested Elsie ought to go round on some pretext or other, find out what was going on. She said she wasn't as nosey as some folks, so them as wanted to be nosey could just go ahead and be so... said all the while staring at me!
We were trying to figure out, in as disinterestedly a way as we could so as not to appear nosey, how we could find out the reason behind the over the threshold carrying, when Esme entered from the back of the shop, announcing she was just going to take a few essentials round to Tilly's cottage, just to keep her going until her cousin Martha arrived tomorrow.
Three heads turned towards her. 'What?' she asked in that snappy, snitty voice she sometimes uses... well, her normal voice actually.
'Why does Tilly Asquith need essentials, why are you taking them, why can't she come herself, and why is her cousin going, and why do you know all this?' asked Daisy.
'Heavens Daisy, it's like twenty questions living with you sometimes. In no particular order Tilly needs a few essentials taking to her because she is incapacitated with a badly sprained ankle, sustained when she was out walking, and slipped on the stile going into Sprocketts Field, which was wet due to the rain. Luckily she was with Hugh at the time, and he had his mobile with him... you know he only just got it recently and it took him ages to figure out how to make a call. But he rang the local surgery, helped Tilly hobble down there, luckily only a short walk from the new surgery as it happens. The doctor then ran them back to Tilly's cottage, Hugh carried her indoors, and then Tilly rang me to fill me in on all this. Her cousin is coming up from Oxfordshire to look after her, but won't arrive until tomorrow. Does that answer your questions Daisy, satisfy your curiousity Elsie?'
Of course it did, thank you Esme.
My friend Rowena, she of the ribboned, braided hair and penchant for fancy walking sticks, has had to give in and get herself a gardener. Many years ago she was involved in a car accident which left her with a permanently damaged left knee, which seems to get worse as she gets older, though she is only 55. When she was in her late forties, she and her husband divorced, and she bought one of the old outbuildings belonging to the Sykes family farm, no longer farmed and sold off, piecemeal, several years ago. A strange sort of set up in that none of the barns are close to each other, but each stands in it's own little plot of land, some bigger than others, and there has been much speculation over the years as to what they really were used for. Anyway, she bought herself one on a largish plot, bought mature fruit trees to create a small orchard, some hens, and rare breed sheep. She had the building gutted, and whereas one of the others close by has been renovated in a modern style, Rowena's is full of interesting objects picked up on travels overseas sometimes with her ex-husband, and the usual flea markets and charity shop finds too. Trained as an accountant originally, she now makes a living designing and making knitwear, some of it from her own fleeces. Over the years, her other main hobby, her garden, has grown and developed, and she has her own organic fruit and vegetables, salads and herbs which she gives away or swaps for other things, a cottage garden bursting with flowers, and a beautiful lawned area, where she plays croquet! By herself usually!
But then she had the accident and although for several years she has managed to look after the garden, of late it has been too much, and she has made the decision to get a gardener. As luck, or fate would have it, in the latest issue of our village magazine was an advert put in by Dilys, a lady gardener newly moved to the area and looking for work. Rowena rang her, and the next day when I was visiting and sharing some of her delicious coffee, Dilys came over and the two hit it off immediately. In return for a small wage, and a share of the produce, Dilys is taking over the garden. Rowena naturally gets first say as to what she wants from it, and will go and pick it herself, but the rest Dilys can use. They will make joint decisions as to what to plant and where - for now Dilys is going to plant cut and come again leaves, herbs, and other veggies as they decide on together. The tomatoes are already started and coming on, as are peas and beans, but Dilys has plans to introduce different beans next year, not the usual broad and runner types apparently. Rowena had been fighting against getting help in, but knows that now was the right time after all, for her angels had sent Dilys. Or fate. Or nothing more than pure coincidence, depending on your outlook.
We are an area blessed with lots of sites full of allotments. Some of them are decades old, matching the age of the delapidated buildings on them and the gardeners are even older. You can see a variety of buildings, from the neat and tidy real potting shed type, to one made out of old packing crates, belonging to an ex-Serviceman (both shed and crates that is) and which looks like it should have fallen down years ago, but which has stood over ten years now, and makes for interesting reading, destinations painted on the odd one or two, comments scrawled on it by fellow allotmenteers too. On fine days you can see people working their own allotments, or standing around sharing a flask of tea and having a chat, putting the world, and their absent allotment neighbours plots, to rights. Several women now have their own allotments too, and on one site it took a while for the male gardeners to accept them, so I was told. The women were ignored, and so formed a little group themselves, often sitting late into a summer's evening, a bottle of wine and a plate of sandwiches between them on a rickety old table, the ladies themselves on a variety of old chairs, enjoying the late evening sunshine before heading back home. It seemed this looked an attractive way to end the day, and gradually the men began to talk to the women when they were working on their allotments, to the point where you can often drive by in an evening and see them all chattering away, and at weekends, spouses and children come along too, creating a lovely family atmosphere, everyone getting involved in the work of the allotment and sharing the food and fun after.
For residents of a certain village though, they have been given their own, very new site, on some unused land owned by the council, where small allotments have been fenced off, each with a spanking new six by three shed as well. The site is a lovely open one, very slightly on an incline, but not enough to be a problem, and nearby is the old parish church. You can imagine working in your allotment, listening to bell ringing practice on a warm summer's evening, and offering up a prayer maybe for a good crop.