Author Topic: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie  (Read 23822 times)

Offline Marie

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When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« on: December 28, 2009, 11:18:34 PM »
Slugger's wife is referred to as "Betty" in this intro but will be referred to by her nickname of "Tiny" in later chapters. :)

Chapter One

Intro

When the snow falls even the windows clothed in mismatched curtains and the old blankets nailed where draughts have slithered into the farmhouse for three hundred years or more can?t keep out the icy breath of the wild wind that whistles hauntingly down from the Yorkshire moors and gives the nearby village of Whistledown its name. Still it determinedly finds every nook and cranny of Follyfoot Farm, chilling me through to my bones despite my thick sweater, despite the heat of the blazing fire, despite Steve?s strong arms wrapped tightly around me as I lean my head contentedly against his chest.

We gather close around the old black hearth where the copper kettle promises solace from all life?s troubles, where the wavering red and yellow blaze crackles and leaps and sparks, where fingers of flame bow and dance and dart like people greeting one another and then hurrying on by.

With a contented sigh, Slugger lays down yesterday?s newspaper folded at the Easy Crossword, puts the stub of a pencil behind his ear and yawns and stretches. He pauses as he flexes his locked fingers, studying the long-haired, denim-clad figure slouched like a dead man in the out-of-place expensive arm-chair, like the two-seater Steve and I share, brought down months ago from the manor house to replace the farmhouse?s crumbling furniture.

Ron Stryker?s head is thrown back, mouth wide open, eyes fast shut, arms and legs sprawled untidily, snoring like a train rumbling out of the station, a drained giant mug of tea close to slipping from his grasp being held precariously enough as it is by only one finger and one thumb curled indifferently around its handle.

?Lazy bloody blighter!? Slugger remarks contemptuously. ?Can?t ride ?is bike ?ome in the ice, ?e says. ?Ave to stay overnight, ?e says. What I want to know is, what?d ?e ride 'is bloody bike ?ere for in first place when ?e knew perfectly well it was ?is day off? After free scoff, that?s what it is! After a bellyful of me famous stew and a fry-up in the mornin?! Thinks it?s a bloody ?otel, ?e does.?

Clicking his tongue, Slugger steps over Ron?s lanky legs, removes the mug to place out of harm?s way (albeit with alarming heavy-handedness) on the mantelshelf, grabs the brass scuttle and shovels yet more coals into the ever-hungry fire. Satisfied at last that the blaze is well fed, he springs to his feet with far more agility than one would expect for someone of his advancing years, absently scratching the back of his pencil-less ear.

?Lazy bloody blighter!? He repeats, his gaze falling on Ron once more, but the red glow of firelight shining on his weathered face betrays his indulgent smile.

Ron is the son Slugger never had. The son that, if only he and Betty had been blessed with children, would have driven them to despair with his idleness and brawls and brushes with the law, and taken their breath away with his generosity. In the irony of life, Ron and Slugger, father and son in all but name, can never be father and son, while Ron and his widowed parent, father and son in name only, tolerate one another at best. Mr Stryker senior, who begged Uncle Geoffrey to give Ron a job, any job, at the farm he owns to ?keep him out of trouble? is a high-profile city businessman embarrassed by his wild only child; Ron is a free spirit embarrassed by his strait-laced parent.

To Ron Stryker, the horses at Follyfoot are ?stupid clapped out old nags not worth me bother?, so he says, while fussing over Copper or Jack or Lady, who nuzzle affectionately against him, for all the horses at Follyfoot sense his love and adore him.

A breathless timelessness descends over Follyfoot Farm, the silence broken only by occasional gentle snorts and whinnies from the stable block, pure white snow lending the night a hushed air of magic. Inside shadows flicker peacefully on the walls, lights dimmed by low voltage as the electric company fights to keep power alive over the blizzard-hit county, and Ron?s snores subside into slow rhythmic breathing as Slugger?s newspaper rustles and the fire roars.

While the snow swirls through the whistling wind.

Uncle Geoffrey is still busy in the manor house, dealing with important paperwork that should have been dealt with last week; soon he?ll take me back with him in the land rover to my luxurious bedroom in the imposing house at the top of the drive and a million miles removed from the old farmhouse. Slugger and Steve each have their own tiny, cramped rooms, once the quarters where the farm workers got what little sleep they could inbetween tending the animals and crops. And where Ron will sleep tonight, he neither knows nor cares.

While the snow swirls through the whistling wind.

There is an old Yorkshire folktale that if a young girl looks out on to the untrodden snow at the stroke of midnight when the moon is full and whispers three times ?Tell me true!? then listens closely to the whistling she will hear the name of her true love. But I already know my true love, I have his heart and he has mine as we snuggle together in the ice cold farmhouse, safe and warm.

While the snow swirls through the whistling wind.

And dreams are born...


To Be Continued

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2009, 04:46:18 PM »
Chapter 2

One Year Before


When the snow falls and buries this wild and rugged Yorkshire earth in a blanket of white, when a hoar frost glistens diamond-like on the bared branches of the lonely trees and a pale, timid sun peeps uncertainly down, the lightning tree thirsts to be loved and nurtured?

We cracked the harsh frozen snow with the heels of our boots, Steve and I, laughing, shoving one another like children.? We lifted a large jagged piece of ice into the tin bucket and, slipping and sliding, we carried it between us to the farmhouse and set it before the roaring fire, kicking off our shoes so as not to incur Slugger?s benevolent wrath, falling clumsily into each other as we tried in vain to negotiate the uneven floor, crying with laughter as we slid downwards, where twenty minutes later still we sit, still soaking wet and helpless with laughter.

?There?s some not right in ?ead wants to watch what they?re doin? or else summat?ll ?appen, summat will,? Slugger mutters darkly to the large pan of stew he?s stirring, tiring at last of our giddiness.

?Wotcher, Slugs!? You gonna poison our lovely Dora and our Stevie boy then?? Aw, no, wait, looks like you?re gonna try and poison ALL of us!??

Flakes of glittering snow fall from the speaker as he enters, leaving the door wide open (?born in bleedin? barn like bleedin? Jesus?, Slugger complains to the stove) and the snow to blizzard inside.? Ignoring, or oblivious to, Slugger?s remark, he stomps about in heavy motorbike boots, trails of muddy, watery footprints marking every step, grimacing at the pan of stew,? snatching up a pickled onion to crunch between his teeth (Slugger reckons he can?t eat anything without pickled onions so there is always a jar of home-made ones), dodging the potato Slugger aims, switching on the old black-and-white TV to squint appreciatively at the weather-grainy image of the sexy, long-legged blonde in mini skirt presenting the music show, turning up the sound, singing along to Sweet?s Wig Wam Bam.

And as I leap to my feet to kick shut the door, he pulls me into a dance half in fun, half because he knows it will annoy Steve.? Kind-hearted, sarcastic, sometimes mean, sometimes caring, Ron can be ten people in one room at a time and ten different people all at once.?

?I can?t dance!??

But, unable to resist his joie de vivre, I swing my arms and hips vaguely, giggling like some twelve-year-old at her first ?grown-up? disco, my statement a lie because I can dance and well, to waltzes and ballroom and all the other dances I?ve been classically trained in at the exclusive academy.? But these glitter bands, this glam rock, I don?t know yet how to lose myself in the music.?

Ron falls purposely on my shoulder, pretending to be a leering drunk, mumbling in my ear with authentic-sounding slur:? ?Don?t matter, darlin?, I?m only after getting? in your???

?The ice is thawed,?? Steve cuts in tersely.

?Oh, we?ve well and truly broke the ice, thanks, mate,?? Ron guffaws at his own wit as he breaks away, flashing a matey grin at Steve, who?s frown flies away as quickly as it came, shaking his head in amused pity at Ron?s feeble joke, retrieving one shoe and looking round in bafflement for its twin.

?Broken,? I correct automatically, unable to bear bad grammar, a habit from years of expensive private education, hobbling round to pull on my carelessly discarded boots, chucking Steve?s missing shoe from under the old sideboard where it landed, a pang in my heart as I notice the scuff marks and worn heel, realising he must have been sending all his wages to his leeching mother again, who?ll waste it on ?booze, fags and blokes?, as Ron puts it, and then demand more.

Ron only pulls a comical face as he flicks back his shoulder-length red hair and, hand on hip, minces his way towards Slugger to tap his shoulder and give a sweeping bow.?

?Me bird?s jibbed me!? May h?I ?ave the plezzure of this dance??

?Don?t mind h?if I do.??

Slugger chortles, showing a mouthful of yellow, chipped and broken teeth, sad tribute to his early days as a boxer, moving the pan off the heat, twisting the corners of his stew-splattered apron to curtsy, and quite how Jeepster can translate itself into a wild, high-kicking, storming barn dance only Slugger and Ron themselves can know.

?Back in a jiff!? I promise.

?Back in a jiff, she says!? Stew all ready and back in a jiff, she says!?

Slugger yells back, still dancing like a madman, glancing at the time on the battered, green-tinged carriage clock that once sat gleaming on a different mantelshelf hundreds of miles and many years away, a wedding gift that, together with the grand sum of ?50, was presented to him and his late wife Betty ?Tiny? Jones nee Mulholland by their friends at the Sword and Dragon where she worked as barmaid and could, when she had a mind to, drink anyone, even he, under the table, and every Thursday turned into a small bundle of tattooed fury in the local wrestling ring, Slugger tells us proudly, when a tot or two of rum has made him maudlin and tears dim his rheumy eyes.

But this is home now, to all of us, this draughty old farmhouse, this Follyfoot, with its ghosts and its memories, with its laughter and its tears, with its unwanted horses and motley people.

There is a magic here.? I know.

One snowy day, long after the balmy summer when I first arrived, I stood at the very top of Whistle Down Lane where the old wooden signpost rocks unsteadily in the whistling wind.? To the right where quaint little shops and houses dot hills and slopes is the ancient village of Whistledown, to the left fields and farms and, hidden far beyond, is the road that leads to other places, other lives.

But something called me, called all of us, to follow the zigzag footpath to Follyfoot.

Where dreams are born.

To be Continued [/cent

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2010, 10:42:11 PM »
Chapter 3

Secrets

When the snow falls and the world is hushed, confidences are whispered and broken hearts mended.

The small boy has no dreams or wishes of Xmas.? His mother told him there was no Father Christmas to bring presents and so there were none.

Nor Xmas tree with coloured Xmas lights though they shine brightly in the window of the house opposite where two little half-Asian boys spill into the foggy, slushy street with bike, pedal car and fist fight.? He watches from his bedroom window as their mother comes to the door, quilted dressing gown that reaches down to her ankles, unbrushed salt-and-pepper hair tousled over her shoulders, waving a ladle that must have been dipped in gravy, for brown dots splatter patches of grey snow as she shouts something he can't hear and the boys grab their Xmas presents and scurry inside.?

Their Daddy owned the shop on the corner of their long, curving street and people grumbled to each other Sayeed should make up his bloody mind whether he was English or Asian, what with celebrating Christian festivals and opening on days Christian folk wouldn't dream of doing business and it was his wife wore the trousers? and pound to a penny his family had ostracized him for marrying an Englishwoman.? Though they never told Sayeed any of this as they shopped there on Sundays and Holy Days.?

Steve liked plump, jolly Sayeed.? He envied the two boys having a father.? He thought he remembered having one too once but he couldn't be sure.? He thought he remembered a tall man who lifted him on his shoulders and took him down to the Farmer's Field where kids went with mums and dads to feed the ponies, but what became of him, if he ever was, he didn't know.? People and things disappeared:? Sayeed and the long, curving street; the house they lived in before and his red zip-up anorak; the black cat who snoozed on the backyard wall and the old lady with the duck's head brolly.? And one day his mother was gone too.?

He didn't cry for his mother in the orphanage.? He heard them say he was a strange little boy and very stoic and he thought stoic meant stick and he was growing up into a stickman so he practised walking like one, arms outstretched, taking giant strides, bumping into Miss Pat, who scooped him up laughing.? He smiled shyly back.? Miss Pat was nice.? Maybe she wouldn't disappear for a looong time.? But he hoped and hoped and hoped the horse hadn't gone!

Now if you believe, and some of you may, that a toy has always been a toy and nothing more, then you have never been four years old.

The small boy bottom-shuffles down the high sweeping stairs, butterflies of excitement fluttering in his stomach.? The bottom step, the beat of his heart , the gap of the half-open door!? His head barely reaches the brass knob as he pushes it open.? By day the playroom is a hive of activity, but now all is deserted, paint easels, games, boxes and chairs stashed against the walls, only the smell of chalks, paints and pine disinfectant giving any hint that it has ever been used at all.?

He giggles breathlessly at the strange whiteness of? the moonlight filtering through the slats of the closed blinds, hears the patter of his bare feet, ice-cold on the uncarpeted floor.? An uneasy draught filters through the unpeopled room, an uneasy silence touches each and every corner of the night, a thrill of daring carries him in its spell.

He slows his step, holding out his empty palm.

?Hey, Freddie,? he says gently.? ?Hey, boy? and in his imagination, the rocking horse neighs and rears.

?Easy.? Easy, boy.? Nobody?s gonna hurt you.? Carrots, see?? I bringed you carrots.??

Biting his lip in concentration, he comes closer to the snorting horse that digs the ground with its hoof - a field now, dark and moonlit and deep in the breath of winter, silhouettes on a pure white landscape like the picture of galloping horses that graces Matron's office.

?Easy, boy,? he whispers again, sure he can hear the rocking horse crunching.? In his mind's eye, the horse lowers its dappled grey head for him to climb on to its back.? He giggles again.

?Good boy, Freddie.??

He stands on tiptoe to catch hold of the reins, clinging grimly on, one foot aground, one foot flailing to reach the stirrup, hopping, skipping, jumping in vain, tears of frustration springing to his eyes as he bangs his heel on the rocking horse?s side and tumbles down.

A flood of light bursts into the room.? Voices raised in subdued alarm.

?Steven, this is naughty, sweetheart.? How the **** did he get down here without anyone noticing??

?Jesus, anything could have happened!? Who's Night Duty??

He couldn't figure why they made so much fuss.? Lots of times he had crept silently downstairs after Mum put him to bed ? often way too early:? sometimes the sun would be blazing down from the late afternoon sky and other kids out playing, for they had moved to the new house when the days were still warm though a slight breeze chilled the air.

He knew why she put him to bed so early.? He heard the clink of the bottle.?

Sometimes, afraid of the gathering darkness, he would totter down and inevitably find her drunk and fast asleep.? He would try to snuggle next to her but she pushed him away even in her sleep.? And so he would sit alone, knees drawn up to his chin, staring wide-eyed at the TV screen waiting for her to wake and yell or slap him.

?Yell and slap you??

Steve keeps his head down,? busy grooming Lady.? ?Any attention was better than none at all.??

?Oh, Steve!?? I jump down off the stable door and lay my hand on his shoulder.

?Hey, girl.?? He laughs, cupping my face and wiping my tears with the pads of his thumbs.? ?It's okay now.?

He kisses me tenderly and holds me tight.

And snowflakes falling, feather soft, silently, silently, all around this magic new world.

(To be Continued)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2010, 06:44:06 PM »

 
Chapter 4

 
Dora
(Part One)

When the snow falls and the bitter frost of winter cruelly taunts with ice cold heart, so the lonely are left to weep.? Laughter fading, one last shadow, one last goodbye, one last kiss as the sun goes down and darkness covers forever.? And as the snowflakes fly ever faster footsteps gone all too soon and nothing left now but silence and tears.

***

Steve grinned.? ?Your nickname was Daz?? As in the soap powder??

We had stopped the horses at the highest point over the river, our special place, where the panoramic views were ablaze with colour. The early morning's quiet rain had washed the land and the sun's warm kisses held the promise of a kindly summer.? Carpets of yellow daffodils, my favourite flower, danced prettily in the whispering breeze that carried the sweet, heady scents of spring and birds chirped on the boughs where leaves had begun to grow anew.? It was hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago we had still been in the grip of freezing weather and at Follyfoot Farm icicles had hung on the walls.? Hard to believe there could ever be a time for sadness.

?Jimmy the chauffeur gave it to me the day I fell in the snow when I was four or five.? Razzle Dazzle Dora whiter than white, you can see her in the daytime and you can see her in the night, he said.? Somehow it became Daz for short.? My parents hated the nickname.?? I smiled fondly at the memory.? ?I loved Jimmy so much.? He was more family to me than Mother and Daddy ever were.??

And I dabbed my eyes a little for days gone by.

***

I came into this world exactly five hours after anyone even knew I planned to.? ?Jimmy Turner told me.? He told me while I was helping clean the sleek black car that he used to drive my parents all round the country to their important meetings.? At least Jimmy was cleaning the car, polishing it with the chamois leather cloth till it gleamed; I was busy swirling a sponge round in the lukewarm water, fascinated by the rainbow bubbles that were glistening in the soapsuds.

?You gave us all one helluva nice surprise the day you were born, Daz.?? Jimmy had a habit of introducing fresh topics very suddenly same way I did.?

He gently removed my arm from the bucket as he spoke as, wondering exactly how deep the bubbles ran and keen to discover for myself, I?d just plunged it in up to my elbow.? Rolling his eyes and pulling a comical face to make me laugh, he whizzed a small towel from the car's bonnet and quickly towelled me dry.?

?What am I gonna do with you???

?Dunno!? I giggled back my usual response and, now that the towelling was done, deciding to practise hopping on one foot.?

?Did I bring choc'late??? I queried as I jumped.

?What??? Jimmy looked baffled.

?Nanny says don't say what, say pardon me.? Did I bring choc'late for the nice surprise when I got borned??

?Oh, Daz, sure and you'll be the death of me!?

Jimmy was trying his utmost not to laugh and I stopped hopping to stare at him curiously.? I knew he wouldn't die though.? I used to think he might and I would get very upset about it till Jimmy explained it was just a saying.

Jimmy had snowy white hair and twinkling blue eyes and was my best friend before Nanny but after the horses.? He was the only one could get away with calling me Daz.? Mummy and Daddy pretended they hadn?t heard when Jimmy said it but not when the other staff did.? Once, when Millie got told off, I heard her repeat ?The child's name is Do-rrraaahhh? in Mummy's voice when Mummy had gone.

I never told though.? I scrambled out from under the bed where I'd been hiding and Millie dropped? the bed sheets in shock.

?Da...Dora, Mummy told you to go to Nanny.?

?I only pretended.? I ran and came back and crawled under the bed.?? Proud of myself, I waited for Millie to clap her hands and congratulate me on my ingenuity and when she didn't, skipped over to the dressing-table.

?Can I play with Mummy's necklaces??

?Poppet, you know you can't.?? Millie put back down the jewellery box I'd just picked up.

?Pleeeeze? Just for a minute??? I wheedled, smiling.?

I knew I had a dazzling smile.? It was how I got my nickname.? That, and the day Jimmy called me Razzle Dazzle Dora the first time I saw snow.

Except it wasn't the first time.? I just didn't remember the first time, when I came into this world exactly five hours after anyone even knew I even planned to.? When the snow in all its breathtaking beauty had never been more cruel...

To be Continued


Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2010, 10:16:53 PM »
Chapter 5

Dora's Parents


Arthur and Prudence Maddocks were settled.? That was the word they always used whenever anyone asked had they been disappointed not to have been blessed with children (this being at a time when IVF and suchlike was many years into the future).? Que sera, sera, they replied, with resigned smiles.? Oh, yes, adoption did cross their minds, certainly, given the wealth they had to bestow, but they had thought better of it.? Perhaps after all it was God's plan that they shouldn't be parents, what with their busy, busy lives, Arthur being a diplomat and Prudence standing for an independent party.? So instead they made regular donations to children's charities.? It was all one could do, they sighed virtuously.

In politics however it was all about image and the last thing the Maddocks had ever wanted was children.? Muddy, rough, stupid creatures.? Arthur, one of four brothers, had lost count of the number of times some brat had drawn attention to his bald patch.? Prudence, an only child brought up in semi-isolation in a semi-palace and with old-fashioned views even at a tender age, had been mortified the day a small boy loudly asked (when she and Arthur had just been stopped on their way into The Houses of Parliament and an electrifying silence from the gathered crowd awaited Arthur?s response to the question about the prime minister?s mental health, for Heaven?s sake!) ?Mummy, why does that lady have a funny nose??? ?

She was very sensitive about her mis-shapen nose, broken many years ago in a horse-riding accident, and which gave her plummy accent nasal overtones.? Unhappily the surgeon had advised there was a 50/50 chance surgery could actually make the problem worse and so Prudence chose to keep things as they were.? Miraculously, her breathing had been largely unaffected and most people, children excepted, were too polite to mention its lop-sidedness. Yes, children were to be avoided at all costs.? But such being the perverse way of the world, every now and again a child crossed their path.

Once a year, they were subject to the Xmas Eve Family Dinner hosted at Henry Maddocks? imposing castle.? Now this would have been fine, even enjoyable, the chance to quaff a few champagnes and relax away from the public eye that hobnobbing with ministers and governments demanded.? Except??

Arthur?s brothers, Henry and Charles, had two brats each, a boy and a girl, and although they had been brought up to be seen and not heard the whole atmosphere would inevitably be spoilt by eldest brother Geoffrey, who pandered to their every whim, ignored what serving staff were actually there for and cut up their meat or mopped up their spilt drinks, soothed tears, actively encouraged the silly myth of Santa Claus by inventing even more tales about the fat man in the red suit, and played any amount of silly games with them.

 At least there was little danger of Dotty Geoffrey adding to the world population, Prudence and Arthur agreed, when, nerves shattered, they finally returned to the childless haven of their own stately home.? Geoffrey was a lone wolf more interested in saving the planet or the whale or three-legged dogs or some other idiotic pursuit, and while he did, every now and again, bring a girlfriend to the family dinner, they were as eccentric and horsey as himself and far from being the settling down type.

And so the years passed, as years will.? The nieces and nephews grew up and scattered.? Clarissa, a gifted musician, was accepted into the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and decided to concentrate more on her music than boyfriends; Robin, who spelt his name Robyn these days, finally admitted, and as everyone suspected,?that he ?batted for the other side?; Winston sailed the world and occasionally war-torn waters as a Naval captain; and Penelope, now a mother of four, had long since emigrated to Texas, where she and her husband were kept busy overseeing a huge ranch and an ever growing brood.

A wonderful ?no children? lull ensued and peace reigned supreme at the Xmas Eve Family Dinner.? And as if all this good fortune wasn't enough, Arthur and Prudence, to their delight, no longer had to worry about birth control as Prudence had begun the menopause?


To be Continued

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2010, 07:42:52 PM »
 
Chapter 6

Jimmy
 

The world was changing so fast it sometimes left Jimmy Turner breathless.? In the new towns that were springing up, ordinary working class folk lived in houses with gardens and indoor bathrooms.? Instead of the mines, they went to work in factories and some could even afford to buy television sets and? cars.? His daughter Peggy and husband Tom, who still rented a two up, two down, and were expecting their first child, talked of saving to buy a home of their own.? He laughed till he cried the day he visited and found a toilet roll, if you please, in the ramshackle wooden outside toilet instead of the usual torn squares of newspaper and Peggy smiled good-naturedly at his teasing about there having been nothing to read and said, well, they could afford it nowadays and it was more hygienic so why not?

Jimmy watched the unfolding of 1950s England with awe.? Born as the century began, he had known harsh poverty, and had often been so hungry that he hunted in dustbins for food, where once he and his brother found orange peel that they devoured like a feast.? Until the age of ten, when a kindly neighbour passed him a pair of hobnail boots that her son had outgrown, he had walked barefoot and it was not uncommon to hear of a friend?s death from the likes of diptheria or scarlet fever, childhood illnesses that had been largely eradicated in this brave new world.?

As a boy, he earned a few precious coppers for his family helping Alfie Archer deliver milk transported by horse and cart and when one day poor Dolly was startled by a cruelly thrown firework and reared, about to bolt through a crowded outdoor market, he leapt on her back and amazingly managed to calm her.? (?Little Cowboy Jimmy? is a Yorkshire tale that has been handed down through generations and you may well be familiar with it today.)? The news of his affinity with horses soon spread and he would often be asked to help at stables and farms.? Years later the incident was to secure him permanent employment and, as we shall come to see, lead to him playing a huge part in Dora?s childhood and in her love of horses.

It was a cold January day during the Great Depression of the 1930s when Jimmy, having like many a man in those troubled times lost his job, climbed the steep hill of Whistle Down Lane to Follyfoot Farm, where he?d heard a wealthy newly-married couple had lately taken up residence in the manor house.

The lady and gentleman were about to go for a brisk ride and dressed in all their finery sat on two beautiful black horses as the groundsman pushed open the driveway?s wrought iron gates (these magnificent gates would later be removed during the second world war purportedly to provide material for munitions).? Clutching his cap, shivering in thin shirt and ragged trousers and waistcoat as snowflakes fluttered in the wind, Jimmy enquired about work.

?I?m sorry, my good man, but we have more than enough staff already.?? Arthur Maddocks spoke sympathetically.? ?Perhaps, if something were to come up in future?Hargreaves, be so kind as to take this fellow?s name and see he has a bowl of soup before he leaves.??

?Very good, sir.??

Hargreaves produced a leather-bound book from a satchel worn over his shoulders and licked a pencil and Jimmy?s heart sank as he saw what was obviously a long list of names.?

?Jimmy Turner of Loppington.??

His voice caught with unshed tears.? Sympathy didn?t put bread on the table for his wife and two small children and for a man proud as he, charity, however well meant, was a bitter pill to swallow.

?Wait!? The Jimmy Turner of Loppington?? Little Cowboy Jimmy?? Why, we heard about you but two days ago.? How very quaint!??

It was the first time the lady had spoken and Jimmy, apart from a deferential nod as he removed his cap, had paid her scant attention, for in those far-off days men did all hiring and firing.? Now he looked up and saw a handsome young woman, her looks a trifle spoilt by a petulant mouth and condescending manner.

?Aye, ma?am.? Happen I were though a good many year ago.?? He replied politely, surprised his fame should have reached the ears of ?quality?.

?I was curious and asked to know more when I overheard the gardener telling the story to Davey, our stable boy, who sadly is only all too willing to stop work for whatever reason.?? Arthur Maddocks explained, smiling, and whether or not he was aware that the stable boy, half hidden behind the wall, was curiously watching and listening (fourteen-year-old Davey wisely slipped back to work) is anybody?s guess.? ?My dear,? he added, turning to his wife.? ?As you know, I had intended to travel to York tomorrow morning to begin conducting interviews for head groom now that Buckley has left us to join the Army, but perhaps it would do no harm to give the man a week or two?s trial and see if he really is as good with horses as his reputation suggests?? Young Davey is finding it difficult to cope and we can hardly expect Caldwell to help indefinitely when he has the gardens to upkeep.? ?If it doesn?t work out, well, we can always fall back on our earlier plan.?

?Indeed.? And I do so hate it when you are away.? But come, Arthur, we?ve wasted enough time here and Magic and I are impatient to be off.? Surely you can discuss this tiresome business tomorrow??? Ignoring Jimmy, Prudence rudely tugged at the reins of her horse.

?Be here seven o?clock sharp tomorrow morning and, mind, bring a character reference from your previous employer,?? Arthur ordered, turning back briefly, for his horse was keen to gallop after its companion and savour the crisp wintry air.? ?We?ll discuss wages if I find all satisfactory.?

And with such little ceremony, the man (who though none of them knew it yet) was to be the Maddocks? rock during the War years and, much later, a grandfather figure to Dora, was Jimmy Turner hired...

To be Continued?
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Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2010, 07:58:08 PM »
Chapter 7

Uncle Geoffrey

When the snow falls silent, crisp and new and not a single footprint mars the pure white earth for miles around I am alone. I always have been.

Prior to a new posting in Brazil, father and mother, dressed as becomes ambassador and dabbler-in-politics wife, are out on yet another important social gathering where all the right people must be seen and all the right words spoken.

While I curl up in jeans and comfy old T-shirt, re-reading Wuthering Heights, my heart free and wild as Cathy?s as she gallops with Heathcliff across the Yorkshire Moors though I?m warm as toast, snug as a babe in arms, listening to the loud ticking of the pendulum clock and the scream of the wind as it tries in vain to find a gap and in the bitter night taunts with icy breath.

Should I need them, Sonia Trent, the housekeeper, and her husband John, the handyman, are a phone call and stone?s throw away in the gatekeepers? lodge that they will live on in still when my parents are in Brazil and I am shipped out to Uncle Geoffrey?s home in some backwoods Yorkshire village called Whistledown.

Uncle Geoffrey, ex-Army colonel, ex-magistrate, ex-beneficiary of the family will ("Oh, Good Lord, what would I do with yet more money?? Please, Mother, I beg of you, divide the spoils between Arthur, Henry and Charles who all have wives and I daresay will have children too some day. Leave me only father?s book collection or I swear to you I?ll throw every penny I inherit into the Thames?) is alarmingly eccentric.

Family stories of Daddy?s eldest brother abound.

As a young boy he broke down crying when he came across three bugs accidentally squashed beneath a toy box and buried them with all due respect and solemn ceremony. Once he broke an arm and a leg climbing a tree to ?rescue? a cat who needed no help whatsoever and jumped down and ran off as soon as he got there. Best of all, when he was six years old and concerned about the many frogs being killed and ?families of frogs orphaned? by the increasing number of cars on a nearby road, he decorated the rockery of the garden pond with a grand selection of aquarium ornaments, ships, cannons and anchors, lighthouse, fairytale castle and treasure chest, every week for months spending all his pocket money at the village pet shop, then begged/cajoled/browbeat the bemused gardener into erecting a wooden signpost on which was brightly painted ?Home for Unwanted Frogs?.

Never married, since his retirement from the Army and the Bench, the mild quirks of youth have become full blown eccentricity in his dotage.

Instead of the residing in comfort in the manor house that graces the large estate of Follyfoot, apparently he only ever uses it to sleep, preferring to spend most of his time hobnobbing with the ?country yokel hired hands? in the old, draughty farmhouse, never seeming to notice that he?s often wearing odd socks or some days has even forgotten to eat, despite the best efforts of Bertha Harris, the lady who daily comes up from the village to clean and cook.

Once, having given his chauffeur the afternoon off and permission to drive his daughter and school friends around in the Rolls as a birthday treat, on a whim he asked to be dropped off in a town he?d never been to before, and, approached by animal charity collectors, he happily stuffed every note and coin from his wallet into their collecting tin, then, having no money for transport, managed to get lost several times on unfamiliar, deserted country roads, walking twenty miles or more home in torrential rain, and all but collapsing into the arms of a very relieved Bertha when she opened the door to a very faint knocking and a very hoarse voice pleading to be let in.

My relatives roar with laughter as they swap tales of ?poor old Dotty Geoff? when we gather for the one and only time we all try to get together:? the Great Xmas Dinner held every Xmas Eve in the Grand Hall of Maddocks Castle owned by Uncle Henry.

Sometimes my cousins, much older than I and strangers to me, are there too:? loud, brash Penelope with her broad Texas accent; Winston with his conceited tales of derring-do; nervy, sensitive, skinny Clarissa, who?s always too preoccupied with and too anxious about some upcoming music concert to take much interest in conversation; Robyn, who sulks all through the meal because of never being allowed to bring a boyfriend.

I've never met my eccentric Uncle, who's been deeply involved in Follyfoot Farm and Whistledown since before I was born. The cousins, particularly Robyn (who caused a scandal in Whistledown when he first visited by arriving at Follyfoot Farm hand-in-hand with effeminate Michael although, probably because Uncle Geoffrey never turned a hair, the gossips tolerate Robyn now) remembering the kindly uncle of their childhood stay in touch; even self-important Winston sends regular letters.

But Uncle Geoffrey himself never attends the Great Xmas Dinner nowadays, partly because the ?hillbilly village? as my relatives mockingly like to call the tiny old market town, is usually cut off by snow but mostly because he?s far too busy preparing another Xmas Eve Dinner, paid for out of his own pocket, to which all the villagers of Whistledown, young or old, are invited.

And I smile too as everyone, even the serving staff, shakes their heads in amused pity for one so obviously afflicted by some nameless mental malady.

But I like the stories of the Animal Charity and the Home for Unwanted Frogs and the Burial of the Bugs. I like that someone can give away all that they have just to dream dreams. I think he?s happier than my snobbish relatives will ever be.

And as I lay down the book to peek through the curtains at the newness of that silent white, untrodden earth, I wonder if at Follyfoot Farm I might find a dream too?

To Be Continued

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2010, 07:02:08 PM »

Chapter 8

Follyfoot Farm
(1930s)

Sometimes we slot so well into a new chapter in our lives that when we look back on our earlier self it?s almost as if we?re viewing somebody else.

Jimmy Turner, after years as a miner, in the Great Depression suddenly found himself unemployed. A true countryman to whom fresh air was fine wine, he had never enjoyed being denied it but the wages and camaraderie of the mines were good and he had a young family to support; when the pit closures meant men took what little work was available when and where they could, he detested the noisy, soul-less confines of mills and factories even more.

Now and again someone might remember ?Little Cowboy Jimmy? and ask his help with some horse-related job, but cars were becoming a more common method of transport and tractors were being used more on farms and the requests for help dwindled. Follyfoot was a welcome turning point in his career and Jimmy took to his new role as head groom as though he?d been there forever.

His fears that the stable hand, young as he was, might have been banking on promotion and resent the newcomer proved unfounded.

A few weeks short of his fifteenth birthday, Davey was a slow-witted, good-natured, gangly lad, his large hands always knocking things over and his large feet always tripping themselves up. He thought of his job as nothing more than a means to put money in his pocket and he neither liked nor disliked the only two horses kept at Follyfoot Farm, being far more interested in the local lasses than his work.

In turn, Beauty and Magic neither liked nor disliked the simple but affable stable hand who brought them food and water and generally tended their needs, and it amused Jimmy greatly that these proud, magnificent creatures seemed to regard Davey in much the same kindly, but distant manner that Arthur and Prudence Maddocks regarded all their staff.

The Maddocks were not harsh employers despite their snobbishness and complete inability to truly understand what it was like to be poor (well, why ever don?t you buy some new ones, you silly little girl? Prudence had snapped when, on the coldest winter day Yorkshire had known for a decade, she found one of the kitchen maids sobbing over having lost her winter gloves, completely ignoring the fact she was the sole breadwinner in a family of five - though she did later present her with an old pair of her own, albeit thin, pretty, fancy gloves, suitable only for wearing to grand balls and expensive theatres.? Seeing her benefactor?s proud face however, even Sarah didn?t have the heart to tell her, if she ever dared, that they would provide little warmth).

The staff often laughed till they cried at how Prudence and Arthur were so out of touch with the ?real world?.? Oh, but nor would they ever hear a word said against them by ?outsiders?!? They were well aware that they were treated extremely well and at Follyfoot there was a strong community spirit and a fierce loyalty. If Jimmy hadn?t been happily married with two small children who adored him, he might well never have returned to Loppington each evening and, even if it meant sleeping in the stables, would have lived in like some of the House staff. He loved his job and never had he felt more at one with nature than when he exercised Beauty or Magic, for an affinity with animals especially horses had always been in his soul.

And then came,? just as they will when we least expect them, a twist of fate.

(chapter 8 continued next page)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2010, 07:20:41 PM »
Chapter 8 (continued)

Follyfoot Farm
(1930s)

There being only two horses to care for at Follyfoot and both he and Davey to care for them, Jimmy was sometimes tasked with other jobs around the Farm. Eddie Prendergast, the Maddocks? regular driver, had been with the family a great many years but he had lately begun to suffer badly from rheumatism worsened by the cold weather and on particularly cold days the Maddocks would give him instead light duties around the manor house.

It was on one such cloudless but wind-chilled late autumn day when Jimmy was busy sweeping leaves from the drive that Arthur Maddocks came flying down the steps, carrying? a leather briefcase and still pulling on his overcoat.

?Turner!? Jimmy, hurry, man, drive me to the Town Hall at once!?

Jimmy started. ?But I don?t drive, sir!?

?What?? Not ever??

Jimmy glanced at the gleaming vehicle, sparks of sunlight glinting off its polished bodywork. He had, unbeknown to the Maddocks, taken Charlie, as it was affectionately known, for a few turns around the Farm. Eddie, who was a good mate of his, had encouraged him to ?have a go? and Jimmy turned out to be a natural driver. But it was without the Maddocks? knowledge and he was reluctant to ?land Eddie in it?. He chose his words carefully.

?Well, I did take a friend?s car out for a spin once or twice, sir, but not on the open road. I?m really sorry, Mr Maddocks. Perhaps I could telephone a cab for you??

?Devil take it!?? Arthur checked the time on his gold fob watch. ?I can?t possibly wait for a cab. I?ll drive myself.?

Without further ado, he climbed into the car, revved up the engine, Charlie screeched forward a few feet, shuddered?

??And stalled.

Arthur cursed, pulled the clutch again, Charlie screeched again, fired up some stones as if meaning business, moved a few more feet, shuddered once more?

??And stalled.

At the third or fourth attempt, with Charlie?s ear-splitting protests reaching a crescendo before the inevitable stall, an anxious Jimmy tore after man and beast.

?Mr Maddocks, sir, perhaps I could try drivng you??

?Splendid!??

Shaken, Arthur tried to regain his usual composure although his heart thudded against his chest. He had never tried driving before but had assumed from watching Eddie that it was a simple task and, even though there was talk in Parliament of introducing a compulsory driving test, he had done nothing more than sign the proposed legislation, believing the carelessness of pedestrians contributed heavily towards the rising number of accidents on the roads.

Thank Heaven for Jimmy Turner!? The man exuded calm and common sense. There and then, he decided Jimmy would always stand in whenever Prendergast was unavailable, with an appropriate pay increment to reflect his extra duties.

Not without some qualms, Jimmy carefully steered Charlie steadily towards the gates. But despite his doubts, he enjoyed being behind the wheel; the exhilarating freedom and cold breeze blowing on his face and playfully riffling his hair (for the roof cover was open) was not unlike riding Magic or Beauty.? ?

A very surprised Davey put down a bucket, sloshing water over his feet in the process, to give him the thumbs-up as he drove past and Jimmy grinned back.

He?d never been happier than he was at Follyfoot, as he?d told Elsie Crane, the cook, only yesterday.

And call me fanciful if you will, but at times I can?t help wondering if some malevolent Puck really does sit on rooftops and listen down chimneys, seeking to destroy all that we have?

To Be Continued...
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Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2010, 07:40:43 PM »
Way too long!? ::)? To avoid anyone getting too bored, here's the first part of this chapter; will work on second part later in the week.? :)

Chapter 9
Pastures New

The day began like any other. Jimmy saddled up Beauty and Magic and Arthur and Prudence set off for a ride.? He watched as pompous Mr Hargreaves (or Keeper of Keys as his underlings called him behind his back) unlocked the gates and the two horses, heads held high, tails swishing, clip-clopped their way down Whistledown Lane in the summer sunshine. And not for the first time he wished the stables at Follyfoot were his own.

Sadly, most were empty and unused. Many years ago a whole fleet of horses had been kept there, hired out or schooled or tended to while their owners went about their business, but nowadays, aside from Beauty and Magic, Follyfoot stables were neglected.? It was such a shame they were left unused and to see those wide open spaces and verdant fields where horses could run free instead of the constant grind of work in smoky cities that was the lot of many of these proud, beautiful animals. Only last week there had been a picture in his newspaper of a pathetically thin, elderly carthorse dying in a busy London street from the strain of pulling yet another heavy load. It was not the fault of its master. The desperate fellow had been using the horse, all that he had, to earn money to provide food for his five hungry, motherless children. Children who should have had full bellies, medicine when they were sick and warm clothes when it was cold; toys and books to entertain; to play in pure, clean air, perhaps even learn to ride. But only the wealthy, untouched by the Great Depression, could afford such luxuries. He was lucky to be in work when others lived hand to mouth.? Sighing, Jimmy picked up paint and paintbrush. Arthur Maddocks had told him to paint the cellar door and he wanted to have the second coat dry before the heavy rain forecast for afternoon.

He was busy painting, dwelling on whether or not he should inform Mr Maddocks? of the flaking paintwork he?d noticed on the kitchen window-sills or if it might be considered getting above his station, when there was a terrible commotion.

 Being one of the youngest employees (and certainly the speediest with his lanky legs even allowing for the number of times he bumped into things or fell over) Davey would often run errands and Cook had sent him to let her husband know she?d be late home as the Maddocks had decided to host a dinner party that evening. But he returned barely twenty minutes later, nowhere near time enough to have reached Brentwood Farm where Bill Crane worked, two fields and five miles away, breathlessly rattling the gates, pressing the bell and yelling loudly for ?Mr H?Argreaves!?? (Davy still had presence of mind to insert the initial ?H?, having been told off about dropping it often enough, even if he did make it sound like H had no business at all being there in the first place) ?Quick, let me in!? ?Urry up, ?urry up!?

Startled by the din, people abandoned work.? ?Mr Hargreaves, tight-lipped, threw down the paperwork he?d been attending to and strode furiously to the gates.

?How dare you address me in such impudent fashion, ignorant young pup!? said he when he reached there, and rapped poor Davey?s knuckles with the dozens of keys he always carried gaoler-like on a large silver key chain.

?Owww!?? The boy quickly pulled back his sore hand. ?I finks they?re all goners, I do!?? he added hysterically. ?The motorcar driver AND the butcher AND the ?orses AND Mr and Mrs Maddocks??

One of the kitchen staff screamed. Somebody gasped. Gertie of Laundry staggered as though about to swoon. Finding himself surrounded by anxious faces and questions, Davey, barely fifteen, and hardly more than a child, felt suddenly overwhelmed. His mind turned to mush. Keeper of Keys was yelling angrily and, unable to take in a word, he burst into frightened tears.

Jimmy shoved his way to the front. Somebody had to take charge. Hargreaves wasn?t helping matters, shouting like a madman for Davey to ?spit it out, you ****** stupid? great ape? and Eddie Prendergast, normally second-in-command by virtue of his age and longest time employed, only stood there trembling. Jimmy could have sworn too he saw tears shining in the older man?s eyes and remembered Eddie had told him his only family, a sister, had emigrated to America. Follyfoot and the Maddocks were all he had.

?Move back, move back!? Give the poor b****r some space. Davey, slow, deep breaths, lad. Like I showed you.? Jimmy (who?d discovered Davey?s fear of heights when he froze while climbing a ladder and taught him breathing exercises) laid a hand on the young boy?s shoulder. ?No stopping without my say-so.?

Davey nodded, gulping back a sob. His father had been a workshy drunk who?d walked out on his family years ago and Jimmy had become a father figure, helping him with the sums and letters that jumbled up in his head, explaining to him how easy it was to get a young girl ?into trouble? and why, no matter how ?fired up? he might be, he had to be careful - and, Jimmy added sternly, he must respect a lass too.

Jimmy had intervened more than once when even Arthur Maddocks? remarkable patience finally reached breaking point with Davey?s blatant laziness. He had been on the verge of sacking him three times (the last time when he found the stable hand drunk and fast asleep in the hayloft clutching a bottle of cider) but each time Jimmy pleaded his case, pointing out his youth, pledging to take personal responsibility, and Arthur had relented.

After the boy had taken several deep breaths, Jimmy, ignoring Hargreaves? protests that a beating would soon knock some sense into him (and, Jimmy strongly suspected, had there been no one there to witness it, Keeper of Keys might well have delivered a few blows) he deemed him calm enough to tell his story..

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 06:00:56 PM »

Chapter 10

Changes Part One

For reasons best known to himself, Davey had decided to head for Brentwood Farm via the tiny village of Foxhill but he never reached there (if anyone at Follyfoot remembered Davey?s current girl lived in the next-but-last cottage in Foxhill nobody chose to mention it).?

At Fiveways Fingerpost, he had been stopped by a police constable he didn?t recognise.? This alone was enough to set alarm bells ringing.? Back in those more innocent days, a solitary constable was allocated per two Yorkshire villages and, as people spent a great deal of time travelling to and from them, the village policeman, in his blue uniform and silver-badged helmet, dealing with petty squabbles, providing first aid or arresting someone a little the worse for wear, was well known.

Should a major incident occur, the busy town of Ashtree, which boasted the only main police station for many miles, served all the villages, from Whistledown to Loppington, even faraway Kettlefield.? Fortunately, major incidents were almost unheard so this rarely happened and few villagers knew the Ashtree police - nor, I should add, particularly wished to make their acquaintance, for Ashtree dealt too with the most serious of crimes.?

No traffic or pedestrians allowed through, sonny, the constable had told Davey, in the much faster Yorkshire dialect he immediately recognised as being that of an Ashtree man, and would explain himself no further, but merely pointed curious onlookers? attention to the official sign:? Police - Traffic Accident - No Access. Oh, but rumours were rife!?

On the corner of Buckets Lane, under the spreading branches of a benevolent old apple tree stretching over the orchard wall, being stared at by some baffled cows in the farm over the way, a crowd had gathered and, having to cross the cobbled road, Davy found himself among them.?

Several recollected they had that day been passed by two horse riders who seemed to be heading towards Foxhill, but horseriding was a common enough mode of transport and they paid them scant attention although the general consensus was that the riders had been a man and a woman.? Many had later heard the screeching of wheels, a loud bang, horses neighing, and, most terrifying of all, two bursts of gunfire!?

Some said it was a daring robbery gone terribly wrong; some said it was a dreadful accident with the ?gunfire? being the car backfiring; some said, their voices rising in breathless stage whispers, King George and Queen Mary had been riding incognito and been assassinated!? ?

A skinny young man resting on a bicycle told how, fifteen minutes before he?d cycled past two horse riders on his round trip delivering newspapers, he?d cycled past a man he was quite sure was Harry Hunt, the butcher from Loppington, walking hurriedly and shiftily away from Whistledown towards the little road that bypassed Foxhill but would take him to lengthy Windmill Road, which led towards Loppington (and, after another great distance, a few turnings and several changes of name, to Ashtree) and hadn?t everybody heard the gossip that Harry, a womaniser and a drinker since his wife?s death, had very lately taken up with an unknown fancy woman in Whistledown?? Someone else happened to have visited Loppington that very morning and confirmed Hunt?s Butchers hadn?t opened.

But nobody could shed any light on the mysterious motor car.

Everybody had heard it but nobody had seen it, which suggested it had been travelling in the opposite direction, from Ashtree itself, AND would explain the Ashtree police being so quick on the scene, said the skinny young man - OR that the Ashtree police knew all about a secret holiday, added Mabel Cooper, a firm Royalty-in-Disguise advocate, normally the first on hand with any gossip (indeed Mabel had provided the information PC Hughes of Foxhill/Whistledown had broken his leg hence his absence) and unused to being usurped, she hitched up her ample bosom, folded her arms and glared daggers at the young upstart, daring him to disagree.

But no sooner had he opened his mouth to (unwisely) begin a war of words with Mrs Mabel Philomena Cooper when an ambulance van, red cross emblazoned on its side, bell clanging tinnily, sped past on its way to the hospital in York.?

The second one and they must be dead or dying, someone remarked, and that was when Davey panicked and ran all the way back to Follyfoot.? He knew for a fact the Maddocks planned to ?turn off at Fiveways Point and take the little road bypassing Foxhill?; he?d overheard them.? Wiping his tear-streaked face with an equally grubby fist, Davey, omitting to mention he?d eavesdropped while hiding about to light a cigarette, looked to Jimmy, as did everyone else, for what to do next.

 
(Part Two continued on next page)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 06:30:47 PM »
Chapter 10 continued Changes Part Two

 A telephone call quickly established the truth of the matter, provided by a very bored and disgruntled Police Constable Bert Hughes.? Despite being in ?grand residence? in Loppington Town Hall (at least Loppingtonians liked to refer to it as such; it was actually the old home of the late Squire Peamale bird, mostly fallen into disarray but the grandest building they owned nonetheless, nowadays used for important business being still the only building with a telephone) to where he?d been driven from his Police House, the nearest telephone being situated in a telephone box in Kettlefield, this fact and the fact none of the village constables owned phones or cars, seeming to amuse the Ashfield police greatly.?

A policeman for twenty years and more, greatly respected by his community, Bert felt like a youngster fresh out of training school, left alone as he was with broken leg and crutches, to try and make his way as best he could to the kettle or outside toilet, a desk, a sheaf of papers with standard answers he?d been ordered by Sergeant Driscoll of Ashfield not to deviate from, and a telephone which, to judge by the clicks on the line whenever he answered, he was pretty sure Wendy of the telephone exchange was listening in on.?

Follyfoot Farm was way down on the Official List.? The very last to be stamped ?Approved Enquirer? and not ?No Comment? as had been the case with most of the expected callers, an afterthought scribbled at the end of the page, several blank lines after Reverend Paul Barlow, who was in turn three lines below Miss Anne Gibson (and Family), a perfumed letter from Miss Gibson having been found in Harry Hunt?s pocket, establishing her as the mystery sweetheart, the said Miss Gibson, thanks to PC Hughes' telephone answering service, now with Reverend Barlow planning Service and Funeral, for Harry Hunt had no relatives left on earth.

It seemed Arthur and Prudence Maddocks (and Families) had their own telephones and access to information, as did Jack Conroy (and Family), dashing young, newly qualified veterinary surgeon.? There being very little to do, the shrill ringing of the shiny black telephone startled PC Hughes out of his doze and he drummed his fingers as Wendy announced in her chirpy, affected voice ?You?re through, Caller!? and clicked the line to listen.

PC Hughes cleared his throat and referred to his official list.? Mr and Mrs Maddocks sustained Minor Injuries, most serious being Broken Nose.? ?One Fatality.? No, he was not at liberty to reveal the identity.? Good God, man, of course Royalty hadn?t been involved!? (Wendy gasped audibly.)? Whatever makes you ask such a ridiculous question, Mr Hargreaves?? (Davey never knew why Keeper of Keys suddenly swiped him across the ear.) Gunshots?? Yes, the police were well aware of the gunshots.? The motorist (who?d swerved in vain to avoid The Fatality) was legally entitled to carry a rifle with him in the course of his work.?

?Mrs and Mrs Maddocks in hospital with minor injuries.? One death.?? Hargreaves replaced both earpiece and mouthpiece and spoke authoritatively to Jimmy, Eddie and Davey, who?d accompanied him to the office.? ?Now I suggest we?ve wasted enough time and you all get back to work immediately or I will make it my personal mission to ensure wages are docked.?

Over the coming weeks the story knitted together.? Harry Hunt, still drunk from the previous night's lovers' tryst, had indeed been the fatality, staggering in the way of Jack Conroy, the new Ashtree veterinary surgeon's car, causing him to swerve into the path of the Maddocks.? Arthur managed to avoid the collision but Prudence had been thrown from her horse and fortunately on to a grassy verge, apart from a few cuts and bruises, suffering no more than a broken nose.?

But there was another casualty.? One that no one thought worth mentioning and broke Jimmy?s heart. Magic had been so badly injured that Conroy deemed it kinder to put the horse out of its misery. Two shots ensured the job was done.

Beauty returned to Follyfoot alone.



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2010, 08:52:29 PM »
 
Chapter 11

***A Gathering Storm***


And so the golden light of summer turned to autumn and the brittle leaves of autumn swirled and fell till they lay buried beneath the harsh snows of winter.  The dark of the morning sky hung late while the gloom of twilight fell early and a hush descended over Follyfoot Farm that touched the mood of all.  There was a grave expression oftentimes now to be found on Arthur’s once genial countenance and Prudence was given to scowls and sighs that had little to do with her spoilt tantrums of old. 

Matters were afoot, the staff whispered worriedly to one another.  Perhaps being so close to death in the accident had caused it; perhaps money was tighter than it had been; perhaps they were simply growing apart.  Perplexed as to what it could be, they minded their Ps and Qs much more carefully than they had done in the laissez-faire atmosphere that prevailed when the carefree, newly married young couple first stepped over the threshold of the manor house.  Jimmy however, while obviously aware of the change in his employers, had too other things on his mind.

Without her mate, Beauty crumpled.

It was all the head groom could do to persuade her even to eat or drink.  He spoke to her constantly.  About his family.  About his work around the Farm.  About Magic.  Her sad brown eyes would look at him as though she understood every word but she was a shadow of the proud, spirited creature she had once been. 

Occasionally, some of his colleagues would bring treats and she would affectionately nuzzle their hands in gratitude, but Jimmy was the only one she brightened with and then only briefly.  Davey, never known for his timekeeping, began arriving for work earlier and leaving later than usual and, because he steadfastly believed in never working a minute over the time he was paid for, would simply sit on an upturned tin bucket, elbows on knees, chin in hands, chatting to Jimmy as he fed her or rubbed her down after a ride.

For Jimmy still took her for her daily exercise, riding over the same hills and fields where he, sometimes accompanied by Davey had often taken Beauty and Magic.  Once he tried a different route, thinking a change of scenery bring some light back into those soulful eyes, her but the beautiful black horse came to a dead halt.  He jumped anxiously down.

“What’s wrong, girl?”

She looked at him with a look that tore his heart to shreds and her eyes spoke volumes. 

Do you really need to ask?  Have you forgotten Magic so soon? 

They never took a different route again.

 (continued on next page)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2010, 09:11:47 PM »
chapter 11/  A Gathering Storm (continued)

The accident had had a profound effect on Prudence, who unfairly blamed poor Beauty and Magic for something that would never have happened if a motorist hadn’t swerved to try and avoid a man who staggered all over the road, still drunk from the previous night’s excesses.  She was overly sensitive about her badly mis-shapen nose, broken when she was flung from her horse, and even more so when she learnt that surgery could only offer a 50/50 chance of success and might actually make the problem worse. 

Jimmy froze in horror when he collected the Maddocks from a hospital appointment (Eddie’s rheumatism was now becoming sometimes too painful for him to even undertake light duties and Jimmy was being required to chauffeur more and more) and Prudence ranted and raved about selling Beauty for horse-meat.  But Arthur calmed her down and later sought out Jimmy, who was mucking out the stables (actually Davey’s job, but Davey had sneaked off for a snooze, and, though he’d promised Jimmy he’d do the mucking out before he left and, unlike in the early days of their working relationship, never backtracked on promises anymore, Jimmy was never one for being idle). 

“My wife spoke in anger and haste and of course she has no intention whatsoever of carrying out her threat.  Beauty will remain with us for the foreseeable future although I’m afraid our horse-riding days are over.  Other matters are paramount and could call us away at a moment’s notice.”  Arthur absently patted the horse as he spoke, seeming distracted, which he was quite often of late.  “And where, pray, is Davey?  I haven’t seen him in quite a while.”

Jimmy thought fast.  “Call of nature, sir.”
 
“And, given the length of time he’s been gone, no doubt decided to take the scenic route on the way back!”  Arthur gave a half smile and shook his head, but made no further comment.  It was a rare moment of humour from him these days. His shoulders hunched almost as soon as he turned away. 

For the foreseeable future!  It sounded as though there was no certainty.  For Beauty’s sake, Jimmy had to know.  He took a deep breath.  “Mr Maddocks, sir, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but is something troubling you?”

Arthur turned and looked Jimmy square in the eye with such severity that for a terrifying few minutes he was sure he was to be fired on the spot for asking such a personal question.

“Yes,” he said at last.  “But what I’m about to tell you is in the strictest confidence.  It must go no further.”

“You have my word.”

“Good enough.”  Arthur looked towards a winter-ravaged tree where a trilling robin soared into the yellow winter’s sky, shaking small droplets of snow from the abandoned branch in its wake.  He sighed heavily, grinding down snow with the heel of his boot.  “I fear there are changes on the way, Jimmy.  Great changes.  Being involved in Government affairs, Mrs Maddocks and I are at the very helm, so to speak.  I spoke with Mr Baldwin only yesterday.  It seems if talks break down at this crucial stage - and sadly each day that passes we are no nearer reaching a solution - there could well be a political unrest in Europe, the like of which has not been seen since the Great War.” 

A shiver ran down Jimmy’s spine.  His own father had been killed in the early days of the Great War;  two older brothers he barely remembered had perished in the Battle of the Somme.  Three times he had seen his mother break down after receiving the dreaded telegram.  A neighbour, who’s only son had lied about his age to run away and join the Army, drowned herself after hearing of his and her husband’s deaths on the very same day.  Another war and the pain it brought was too terrible even to contemplate.

“I wish there was something I could do, some way I could help you and Mrs Maddocks, sir…” he said dejectedly.

“In the fullness of time, there might well be. For now, we can only both hope and pray I am wrong.”  Arthur patted Beauty once more and headed back to the manor house like a man carrying the weight of the world.

The snow had begun to fall again even before he  reached the path, flurrying around his coat and hat like ice cold tears.


Offline Marie

  • Cross Country Rider
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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2010, 05:53:22 PM »
Chapter 12

 Halcyon Days

Despite their kindness as employers, Prudence and Arthur Maddocks never made any secret of the fact that they had little time and patience for children. Staff were strictly forbidden to have their offspring on the premises for whatever reason; employees were told they must make their own arrangements with carers for very small children and older siblings who might be sent with urgent messages from home had no choice but to kick their heels at the gates and gaze at the imposing notice “Strictly No Children Allowed" until Hargreaves deemed fit to see them. Failure to adhere to the no-children rule, Arthur informed new employees, could even result in dismissal,   Children were a distraction and did not belong in a place where important matters of state were often discussed and government officials were likely to call at the drop of a hat.

But two small children did pass through the gates of Follyfoot one November afternoon.  They walked hand in hand with their father as the bells of the ancient church in Whistledown chimed in the distance and a fog rolled down from the Yorkshire Moors. Jimmy had sought and been granted such rare permission for them to be there.

Six-year-old Peggy Rose, who had unruly brown hair, wide blue eyes and pink cheeks, was normally a lively little chatterbox, but today she was uncharacteristically quiet. John James, or Johnjo as the family knew him, a pale, serious child of three, still snorting asthmatically from a recent race his older sister had indulgently let him win, stared wide-eyed at everything:  the clucking hens in the hen-house; the iced-over pond where a flock of birds squawked and squabbled over a bowl of freshly-provided water; the large, frightening man, possibly a giant, with the booming voice and wild eyes, who had the power to lock and unlock the Giant Gates…there were so many questions he wanted to ask, but whenever he looked at Peggy she still had her lips firmly clamped together and Johnjo always took his lead from his big sister.

Peggy just about stopped a song she’d learnt in school escaping from her throat. Dada had said they must be on their very best behaviour and Peggy interpreted “best behaviour” as staying silent although it was very difficult to keep her voice locked inside. But she couldn’t help herself when she saw the magnificent black horse being led towards them.

“Oh!  You’re beautiful!”  she cried, and she immediately let go of her father’s hand to run towards Beauty, her small brother scrambling quickly after her. “We brought you a present!  We made it specially!” she added, dancing and skipping with pure happiness, waving a paper bag full of finely chopped apple, carrots, beetroot and turnip under Beauty’s nose.

“Me too!  Me too!”  Johnjo demanded, jumping up to snatch the bag, and narrowly missing knocking it to the ground in his enthusiasm.

Davey lowered the reins. “One at a time, yous two. Littlest first so’s me and Peg can make sure you do it proper.”  He winked at Peggy, being eldest of a large family himself and understanding the need to keep younger siblings pacified. “Now keeps yer palm flat feedin’ Beauty, Johnjo, me lad. Just a little bit for now, mind, ‘orses can’t stomach too much veg in one go.”  He fussed around bossily, thoroughly enjoying the novelty of being in charge.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship, and not just between Beauty and Jimmy’s little son and daughter, but for Peggy, Johnjo and Davey themselves too. Although he still spent as much time as he could with Beauty, Jimmy had now been made official chauffeur, with a salary increase to reflect his new found status, and Eddie, almost crippled now with rheumatism, quite happily settled for “permanent light duties” (which inevitably meant nothing more strenuous than dusting the books in the manor's extensive library) especially as he took no drop in pay.

As a result, it was more often Davey than Jimmy who took Peggy and Johnjo out for a ride. The two children adored both Beauty and the affable older boy who gave them so much time and attention on their regular visits (as it did seem to be helping Beauty on the road to recovery, provided they stayed in the stables area, kept well away from the manor house and behaved themselves, they were welcome to visit again, Arthur told a delighted Jimmy, whose idea it had been).


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