Author Topic: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie  (Read 33043 times)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #30 on: November 28, 2010, 07:51:08 PM »
Sometimes I wonder what this story has to do with Follyfoot… ::) Apologies if this chapter sounds a bit sexist in parts, it’s set a long time ago.  :)

 
***Chapter 23***
***Rose*** 
 

It was Davey who came up with the solution to his friend’s dilemma.  Jimmy had had long chats with his wife and still hadn’t reached a decision although the merciless clock was ticking away all that was and all that would be.  Accepting the Maddocks’ offer of the important posting in London would mean him playing a major part in shortening, perhaps even averting, the impending war, as well as repaying his employers’ generosity.  But Rose and the children loved Whistedown and besides how could he risk them being in what would be the most dangerous city to live in during a war?  Of course, he knew the Maddocks would do their utmost to keep them all safe, but who knew what might go on in wartime?  Yet what was the alternative?  If he stayed in Whistledown until such time came - as indeed it would, so promised those who had lived through the terrible Great War  - every man was called upon to don uniform and fight for his country he would have let Arthur and Prudence down and achieved nothing.  Perhaps the answer was for Jimmy only to go to London, but then again how could he leave his family all alone in Whistledown? When countries were at war, transport and communications often broke down and he might not hear from them in months, perhaps even years.

Rose wept a little and then, mindful that the children would soon be home from school, quickly dabbed her eyes when Jimmy first told her that Follyfoot Farm was to be closed and of the London job offer.  She loved their homely cottage and pottering in the large garden with its blackberry bush, apple tree and pear tree and where they grew too many of their own vegetables.  Other women might want careers in this fast-moving, modern world, she often remarked, and good for them, women SHOULD be lawyers and politicians and company directors if they so desired.  But as for herself, SHE was quite content and at her very happiest being a homemaker.  But she understood too how much the Maddocks were depending on her husband to help in their top secret war work though Jimmy was not at liberty to tell even his wife of exactly what it involved.  If it meant living in London, she said, drawing a shaky, tearful breath, so be it.

Rose Turner was a quiet, old-fashioned soul.  She had come to Whisteldown to live with her widowed great-aunt Maud, her last living relative, when she was nine.  Maud Prole, who always smelled of lavender and wore her silver hair in a tight bun, was a very stern but kind old lady and a trifle eccentric.  With an eye to helping her  great-niece overcome her shyness, or so she thought, she would every Monday send Rose to Whistledown (Mixed) Junior School with slices of home-baked pie filled with cherry, apple or rhubarb (sometimes all three) to share among her schoolmates. 

Poor Rose came to dread Mondays when she and Aunt Maud would walk to the gates carrying a full basket each, for the very moment her aunt left, the hitherto polite little children who had greeted her with a cheery “Good day, Mrs Prole.  I trust you is well?” would turn suddenly into ravenous beasts as they surrounded Rose and snatched the thickest pieces they could find, leaving many more of their companions angry at being left without and Rose blushing furiously.  Now this unfortunately earned Rose the nickname “Rosy Red, The Pie Girl” and made her even more timid and reluctant to make friends than ever before. 

One particular morning, when the swarming crowd pushed her so far back against the wall that Rose burst into terrified tears, Jimmy, who, I’m afraid until then had been as rough and greedy as the rest, took pity and loudly demanded - and amazingly GOT his request to the great amusement of Miss Thompson, who had come to investigate the commotion - that the urchins immediately form an orderly queue. 

After that, things settled down a great deal.  Miss Thompson, now that she was aware of the reason for the regular Monday hubbub in the junior playground and why many of the pupils didn’t eat their packed lunches, thanked Mrs Prole for her kind gesture, diplomatically suggested that she cut the slices of pie much thinner and wrap them in  paper napkins, then appointed Jimmy “Pie Monitor” to help Rose dole out the sugary snacks - AFTER lessons only.  Their friendship blossomed and in time Rose outgrew her shyness.  It was almost inevitable that in later years they would fall in love and marry.

If only there was family to help out, Jimmy thought, sighing heavily as he worked with Davey securing windows and doors (for much of Follyfoot was to remain unused for the foreseeable future) the London decision would not have been so difficult.  But there was no one at all. 

Maud died soon after they married and Jimmy was the only one left now of his own family:  his father and two eldest brothers had been killed in the Great War; two sisters died of dysentery when they were very young and his poor mother, who survived them all, was long since passed away from both exhaustion and grief.  If only there was someone he could trust to care for Rose, Peggy and Johnjo.  Rose was of course perfectly capable, but looking after a home and two young children as well as growing fruit and vegetables and working at the laundry would leave her spent.  And what of the heavier jobs, if a tree needed chopping or a fence fixing or a window replacing?  Of course they had friends but friends had their own families who needed such help even more now that many of the men were joining up and blood was thicker than water.

And then Davey made his suggestion.  “You know, Jim,” he said thoughtfully, totally unaware it was a course Jimmy and Rose had already been considering.  “If Rosie and the bairns were to stay in Whistledown while yer went to the smoke, I could keep an eye on ‘em, me and Beth both, while I’m caretakin’ Follyfoot. What could be better?  The Maddocks is keepin’ an emergency telephone line in the manor ‘ouse so yers could each pass messages through me and so what if the enemy got clever and brought down the lines, I’d just ‘ave to find meself a Black Bess and ride all the way to London!”

It was the perfect answer.  Davey was like a son and the children adored him.  He was far from being the brightest button in the box but he had the biggest heart and Jimmy trusted him more than he trusted anyone else.  Emotionally, he jumped up and hugged him. 

“Steady on now, mate!”  Davey grinned good-naturedly, staggering backwards at the force of the hug and slightly embarrassed, for this was a time when men thought such gestures unmanly.  “And, mind, not too much lovey-dovey stuff in your messages back and forth, I wouldn’t feel right sayin’ such things to another man’s wife.”

Thus it was settled.  The night before he told the Maddocks, Jimmy and Rose sat talking, weeping, kissing and hugging deep into the night, with gallons of scalding tea consumed and biscuits dunked, with the hint of winter whistling down from the moors and shadows flickering on the walls in the cosy glow of the firelight. 

Jimmy would go to London alone. 

And if I break your heart in the next chapters with what I have to tell you about the years to come, well then, it happened so what can I do I but break your heart?



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2011, 05:55:01 PM »
Short chapter and I got carried away describing Regal Gardens  ::) but just to let you know I am still working on this story inbetween other writing projects.

***chapter 24***

 ***Regal Gardens***

The week before war broke out, the Turner family, in their Sunday finery, had attended as usual the old Whistledown church that, with its stone gargoyles crouched above the arched entrance, its ancient headstones and twisted spire will be so familiar to many of you.  It was a bright, sunny day and Jimmy and Rose decided what did it matter if best clothes got muddy from last night’s downpour, they would take advantage of both the warm sunshine and what little time they had left together and take the children for a long stroll before dinner. 

Back then, before exceptionally harsh winters and, in particular, the great floods of 1947 destroyed much of it forever, there was a place that was hugely popular with walkers of all ages and ability.  Now nobody could recollect how Regal Gardens had ever acquired such a grand name, but over the course of a century, and as if to prove they could do just as well as any city dweller, the Yorkshire folk had created their very own park in the Yorkshire countryside! 

Stone walls surrounded the sizeable area.  Here could be found a children’s playground complete with swings, slides, seesaws and climbing frames, wooden benches carved out of fallen logs, and a two-seater swing covered by a glorious bower where many a love-smitten youth proposed to his sweetheart.  Regal Gardens even boasted its very own bandstand that doubled too as a draughty “theatre” where village schools performed summer shows and, good, bad or indifferent, amateur actors/singers/comedians, indeed, anyone, with or without a talent, entertained anyone who might or might not want to watch.

At the heart of Regal Gardens was a chattering, sparkling brook, called simply, and with a peculiar lack of imagination, The Beck, across which had been built two wooden bridges known as, for reasons long lost in the mists of time, Queen’s Walk and King’s Walk.  It was rumoured that the bridges were magic and granted wishes to the favoured, for they led to a small copse in which were dozens and dozens of wooden sculptures of characters and creatures from every fairytale and many children’s stories. It had long been a Yorkshire tradition to carve and hide the sculptures in the copse and a superstition that, once placed, they should never be removed or bad luck would follow.  The ornaments, it has to be said, were not always good and sometimes they were downright unrecognisable, being made as they were by amateur craftsmen and women, but this only added to the fun.  It was charming to see parents and grandparents taking children over “the wishing bridges” to search for and try to identify the sculptures just as they had once done themselves. 

It was here on the King’s Walk wishing bridge that they bumped into Davey and his pretty young wife Beth. 

“The very people!”  cried Beth in delight.

“Now didn’t I tell you wishes came true on these bridges?”  Davey winked at his wife, as he held out two tiny wooden horses painted black.  “I don’t rightly know if they counts,” he said to Peggy and Johnjo; “seein’ as they was never in a story like Black Beauty and they never was famous like ‘Opalong Cassidy’s ‘orse Topper, but if anyone asks we could always pretend they was two of the king’s ‘orses tryin’ to put ‘Umpty Dumpty together again.”   

He was a talented artist and had captured their very essence.  Anyone who had ever seen Follyfoot Farm's Beauty and Magic, even if only once, would have known known them immediately…

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #32 on: January 23, 2011, 07:56:59 PM »
Author’s Note:   Apologies in advance for the poor quality of this chapter.  :( I kind of lost my way a little with this story, serves me right for never planning them out!  I need to get back to another writing project for a while, but in the next chapter we’ll return to Follyfoot and catch up with Slugger.  :)


 
***chapter 25***

 ***Friendship**** 



It always saddened Jimmy to know Davey and Beth were atheists, falling in with the modern way of thinking that religion was, at best, for gullible fools.  Davey had even told Jimmy and Rose that the only reason they’d married in a church had been to “please Beth’s Ma and Da”. 

The sun was pleasantly warm and Regal Gardens, with its majestic trees, wild flowers and birdsong, held a timeless beauty to captivate the coldest heart and music to soothe the weariest soul.  But Jimmy found himself sighing.  He and Davey enjoyed many friendly debates, over sport, over whether or not the Loch Ness monster really existed, over whether sausage and mash or hotpot was the most filling meal, over a dozen and one other inconsequential things, but religion, something which mattered a great deal to Jimmy, was the one topic on which they strongly disagreed.   It worried him that his friends never prayed or attended church or even owned a Bible.  Keep holy the Sabbath day, the Commandments said, but Davey and Beth would have laughed at anyone who even suggested they should.  Rose would of course ensure the children kept their faith but what sort of influence would Davey and Beth’s views have on Peggy and Johnjo in the years to come?

Yet as he stood on the wishing bridge that day and a little scene unfolded he couldn’t help but wonder if the young folk had it right. 

Beth was deep in conversation with Rose and from her giggles and Rose’s amused smiles, he suspected they were discussing their menfolk.  Davey was leaning against the bridge, talking with Peggy and Johnjo, who each held one of the wooden horses he’d sculpted to represent Beauty and Magic.  And, it seemed, they were not destined for Fairytale Copse after all.

“’Cos it wouldn’t be right if we said they were the King’s Horses when they weren’t,” Peggy was saying gravely.

“Mam and Dada say we should never lie,” Johnjo chipped in.

“So now…” Davey scratched his ear and screwed up his face, feigning bafflement, but he knew perfectly well what they were hankering after. “This is a knotty problem and no mistake. If we’re not allowed to put Beauty and Magic in Fairytale Copse ‘cos they never got to be famous and never got to be in a book or on the flicks, I don’t rightly know what we’re gonna do with ‘em.”

“Well…I s’pose I could look after Beauty…”  Peggy drawled, as though the idea had only just occurred to her.

“And I could keep Magic!”  Johnjo finished.

Stifling his amusement, Davey raised his eyebrows in askance at Jimmy.  It had been by happy coincidence that he’d met the Turner family in Regal Gardens today.  He and Beth had planned to follow the old Yorkshire tradition of placing the sculptures in Fairytale Copse and to take the children there at a later date to surprise them with the carvings of Beauty and Magic. 

“Seems the only solution, mate,” Jimmy shrugged, and laughed at Peggy and Johnjo’s delight.  Espying two large gull feathers on the wooden platform of King’s Bridge, he stooped down to pick them up.  Regal Gardens teemed with birdlife and dozens such were often to be found here.  “Well, I’m blowed, Davey!”  He declared, placing them in his children’s hair.  “Peggy and Johnjo have turned into a couple of Red Indians!” 

“Oh, Dada!”  Peggy sighed, as she immediately untangled the feather from her toffee-coloured tresses again.  “I’m eleven now, I’m too big to play Red Indians!  Though I might use it to make something some time.”  She added kindly, with a tolerant smile as though the roles had reversed and she were the parent and Jimmy the child.

Johnjo too pulled the feather out of his hair.

“My name is John!”  He said tearfully.  “It’s John James, Dada, not Johnjo!”

Poor Jimmy felt his heart surely snap in two. He hadn’t realised just how fast Peggy was growing up and he’d forgotten Rose told him Johnjo’s friends had been teasing him lately over his “baby” name.  He’d been so busy with his chauffeur duties, ferrying Arthur and Prudence Maddocks to and from their important political meetings.  Some nights he got back so late and was required so early in the morning that he never had time to go home at all and stayed the night at Follyfoot Farm. 

Rose and Beth, who had been walking a little distance ahead, came back to see whatever was the to-do with Johnjo, but Davey already had the little boy laughing again. 

“You’re lucky 'cos yer got two names like me and only special people got two names like that.  Me mates call me Davey and me family calls me David. Yer can be John with yer mates and Johnjo with the family.  As for this feather now…”  he tickled Johnjo’s chin.  “Me old Ma always said angels leave ‘em for us to find to let us know when they’re thinking’ of us.”

“Exactly what my grandma used to say too!”  Beth said.

Peggy gasped, enchanted.  “Do you think it could be the very same angel who collected Beauty when she died and took her to Heaven and the very same angel who collected Magic when Magic died to take to Heaven?”  she asked, without pausing for breath, while Johnjo waited in wide-eyed anticipation for Davey’s answer.

“Could be,” Davey said gravely, and winked at Beth.  “What d’yer reckon then, girl?” 

“Could be!”  She chided, slapping his shoulder teasingly.  “Why, Davey, of course they were the very same angels!”

“Well, that’s that then, it must be so,” Davey said firmly.  “And seein’ as all this magic is around and we’re standin’ ‘ere on a wishin’ bridge we’d all best close our eyes and make a wish.”

“You know, all that really matters is true friends,” Rose whispered to Jimmy, slipping her arm around his waist and smiling with him at the little group, Davey and Beth half laughing, half peeking at each other, Peggy and Johnjo with eyelids shut tight in concentration.

Jimmy nodded agreement.  Rose was right, he realised.  What did it matter if Davey and Beth were non-believers?  What did they need of grand ceremonies?  They would teach Peggy and Johnjo the far greater values of love and kindness.  And the world was full of hypocrites.   Only last year there had been the terrible scandal in Ashtree when a bank official, a “churchgoing pillar of the community” was discovered to have been embezzling charity funds for years, stealing thousands of pounds meant to help the families of men killed or wounded in the Great War.

“You know what I wish for, love?”  Rose remarked, snuggling closer.  “That this evil man Hitler could be stopped in his tracks.  That the whole world could be friends.”

“Me too, Rosie, me too,” Jimmy murmured, and kissed her cheek gently.  “Who  knows?  Maybe it will come to pass.  Maybe another great war will never be.” 

But even as he looked up at the perfect azure sky and sent a silent prayer for peace, the sun slipped sadly behind a cloud as if it knew.

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #33 on: March 04, 2011, 10:34:35 AM »
Well, finished it!  I have the day off, the landlord has already given me the keys, and I’m meeting a friend later to take some things down to new place.  This it’ll be it for some weeks tho, till my PC is up and running again, as I’ll be off line from around 11th March.  :)


***chapter 26***

***A Promise***


The closure of Follyfoot Farm was imminent.  Only a handful of essential staff remained now.  Some of the older staff, such as Keeper of Keys, had been pensioned off.  Everyone else had been transferred to new locations or joined the Army, Navy and Airforce.
 
As they were very soon to be separated, Slugger suggested that he, Jimmy and Davey “sup a farewell pint” together.  Realising that with the impending war it might be several years before they had the chance to do so again, the Maddocks readily agreed.  And so, having gained the consent of their employers for a rare night off, the afternoon of the planned outing the three friends sat round Follyfoot Farm’s kitchen table. They needed to “map out a plan of campaign”, as Slugger termed it. 

With Davey contributing geographical knowledge, Slugger licked a pencil and began sketching a map on the back of a Woodbines packet of the quickest route to all the village pubs.  They should start and finish at Whistledown, Slugger proposed, calling at Kettlefield, Foxhill, Froglea, Loppington, Haydingle and Hillingwood inbetween.  Poor Jimmy was scandalized.  When he’d agreed to the drinking session, he’d imagined they would retire sedately to his local, Whistledown’s The Three Bells, where they would chat demurely and enjoy three or perhaps even four beers and a leisurely game of darts.  But Slugger was adamant and an adamant Slugger with the gift of the gab was a force to be reckoned with.  Before very long Jimmy, without knowing how, found he had agreed, and even enthusiastically, to the pub crawl.

Oh, that enchanted night with thousands of stars!  A night born to be cherished and remembered forever, to be plucked from memory year after year, dusted down, and re-lived with tears and smiles.  With all minds on the looming war, there was a mixture of patriotism and sadness and a wonderful camaraderie in the village pubs.  Sings songs and drunken dancing broke out at a moment’s notice, lipstick-stained kisses were to be found on many a man’s face and neck, people who had never met before bought each other drinks and gave away precious cigarettes.  Wiping damp eyes, shouting advice, coarse or otherwise, on how to deal with the enemy, strangers waved off strangers as though bidding farewell to lifelong friends.  Smoky breaths rose high on the crisp air as men blew on their hands and stamped their feet, for although it was late August and the days filled with glorious sunshine, a sharp frost fell in the open, rugged Yorkshire countryside by night.

Slugger, Jimmy and Davey, as pleased with themselves as only the drunk can be, at last staggered out of The Three Bells, the start and finish of their journey.  Arm-in-arm, singing a loud repertoire of songs, from A Long Way to Tipperary to Little Brown Jug to Whistle While You Work, they headed jovially back towards Follyfoot Farm. 

Now I’ve thought long and hard about it, I really have.  But I still can’t tell you how it was our inebriated trio managed to make their way up from Whistledown Village to the very top of the frost-coated and notoriously steep hill of Whistledown Lane without ever once falling over.  Yet, lurching like ships on a stormy sea, bellowing Knees Up, Mother Brown, somehow they made it.  (Jimmy, a devout churchgoing Christian, blushed at Slugger’s  introduction of bloomers and sexual innuendo into the song, but as a swaying Davey, holding on to the signpost, was as keen to learn the risqué words as a speech-slurred Slugger was to teach them, he decided where was the harm for once and joined in with  gusto). 

They stopped at the very same spot where Dora, one winter’s day many years later, when snow glistened diamond like on bare tree branches, would pause to admire her first breathtaking view of Follyfoot Farm covered by a blanket of white.  Perhaps it was the drink that made them maudlin, perhaps it was the magic they say touches the very air here, believe what you will, but a silence descended upon the three companions.  Down at the bottom of the hill, the Farm was dark and quiet like a shadow of its former self.  Only the stables, long empty and neglected, gave any hint that all was not yet quite deserted, for nearby the lightning tree swayed and shone eerily silver in the moonlight, while the night-grey grass, rippled by the whistling wind, seemed dented by the footfalls of some ghostly procession.

Davey broke the silence. 

“Mates.  I’ve summat to tell yers.  When I was on the Wishin’ Bridge and the bairns made a wish, so did I.  I wished the tree struck by lightnin’ would grow again and Follyfoot could be 'ow it was.  I know, I know, it’s daft, and I’m no bairn to believe in such tales, but…”  He gave heartfelt sigh.

“T’ain’t daft at all, lad,” Jimmy said, patting his shoulder.  “We all wish Follyfoot Farm could go back to how it used to be.  A home for so many of us, somewhere to belong.  There’s nary a man, woman nor bairn don’t wish for such a place.”

Slugger gazed pensively down at the moonlit tree, recollecting his days with Eddie Shaw’s Travelling Fair.  “Aye.  Took us in when we ‘ad no-one, they did, the great unwanted and the great unwashed themselves.” He shook his head nostalgically and passed a hand over his face.

“Anyroads,” Davey continued in the same croaky voice.  “I got to thinkin’ ‘bout the daffodils that grow year on year in yon meadow.  And I thoughts to meself if the daffodils can grow again why not our lightnin’ tree?  It were there for us through thick ‘n’ thin at Follyfoot, it WERE Follyfoot, who’s to say it won’t be again?”

“She said the tree with the strongest heart would stand,” Slugger nodded agreement, pondering on Madame Zola’s prediction.

Davey grinned sheepishly.  “Well, boys, yer might say I’m not the full shillin’ and I wouldn’t blame yer if yer did, but every mornin’ I’ve been takin’ a bucket of water to chuck over its roots.  See, if dreams were to come true now…well, dreams would come true.”  He looked down at the pool of moonlight and his voice, a little choked, trailed away.

“Follyfoot Farm WILL be Follyfoot Farm again one day,” Jimmy promised stoutly.  “We can only be patient and hope the coming war is done with quickly.  There’s nowt much we can do till then.”

“B****r nowt we can do, lads!”  Slugger declared heatedly.  “Let’s make a solemn promise ‘ere and now.  Each of us, whenever we can, we’ll pour a bucket of water over our lightnin’ tree till Follyfoot grows again!” 

With drunken whoops and shouts, with much waving of fists in the air and pattings of backs, they shook hands on it, all three, turning away for a while from where moonlight danced.

A dream then.  It had to be a dream.  This Follyfoot, this heart, this whisper that calls the lonely home.  A slip of the moon, a stir of the lake, a whistling of the wind.  Down by the lightning tree, two silhouettes, surely two horses, black as night, and then gone.




Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #34 on: April 06, 2011, 07:26:39 PM »
 
***Chapter 27***

 ***The War Years***

It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning when the Maddocks requested their employees gather in the polished, cluttered parlour with its bright, airy windows and panoramic views of the distant moors.   In preparation for its closure, most of Follyfoot Farm was boarded up and unused now and its remaining occupants very few indeed.  Prudence and Arthur still kept a distance from their staff, but the old-fashioned, almost Victorian, upstairs/downstairs etiquette of the old days had gone, to be replaced by a guarded friendliness.  Now this might have been the sombre realization that death makes all of us equal or it might have been the influence of the eccentric genius Colonel Maddocks.  Ignoring Arthur and Prudence’s frowns, Geoffrey would often stop to chat with anyone at Follyfoot, no matter how lowly their status, usually about animals or the wildlife that abounded in the glorious Yorkshire countryside. 

“For an Army man, who ought to be occupying himself with fighting men and matters of war, my brother is a deal too concerned about horses, dogs, ducks, shrews, foxes and bally well ANYTHING that has four legs or fur or wings,” Arthur was heard sighing to his wife.  And he quaffed his brandy so quickly that his moustache received an unexpected soaking.

But in time and by that fateful morning their dreadful snobbery was slowly crumbling tier by tier.

Dust motes danced in through sun-sparkled windows, the crisp scents of autumn swept inside, and birds chirped merrily down from roofs and treetops, welcoming the beauty of the day.  But in the manor house everyone stared gravely at the wireless set. 

Two or three of the group kept their hands clasped and their eyes cast down; even the garrulous Slugger Jones was quiet for once, and a single, silent tear rolled unchecked down the cheek of Mrs Crane, the cook, to sink unheard into the luxurious thick carpet.  It was no surprise to anyone in Britain that war was on the horizon; the only question on anyone’s lips was when.  All that morning there had been frequent pauses in the lofty classical music while the BBC broadcaster warned the nation to “stand by for an announcement of international importance”. 

And at 11.15, just as the antique pendulum clock, for the first time ever in its 125-year-old history, skipped a tick like a heartbeat, that announcement came.

Neville Chambelain’s sombre voice broke through the crackling airwaves. 

“I am speaking to you from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing Street.

This morning the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11.00 a.m. that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.

I have to tell you that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”


Mrs Crane’s silent tears turned into muffled sobs.  Outside, the tree branches suddenly shook like fists as the wind whistled eerily down from the wild, barren moors.

*****

The war dragged on longer than anyone had anticipated and in time every man, including Davey, received his call-up papers.  “Caretaker to Follyfoot Farm” was NOT considered an exempt occupation, even if your employers had once been members of Parliament (only the prime minister and a handful of trusted people knew that Arthur and Prudence were secretly still very much involved in war work; to all intents and purposes they had quit the political scene altogether).  Although they tried, the Maddocks could pull no strings to prevent his conscription without blowing their own cover and, in truth, Davey, being young and idealistic, and having established that both Rose and Beth were more than capable of managing on their own, was quite glad to go.

“I’m proud to wear a man’s uniform,” he told a weeping Beth as he bolted the doors at Follyfoot for the last time.  “Don’t fret, lass.  And make sure yer keeps that kettle on the boil, I’ll sort out the Jerries and be back before yer’ve blinked.”

Changes were afoot everywhere, and, just as in the First World War, women took on new responsibilities.  Beth, missing her husband greatly and itching to play her part, went to train as a nurse.  Rose too was kept  extremely busy, being very much involved in Whistedown School and the invasion of the evacuees. 

Like many villages, Whistledown had received an influx of city children, rough, ragged urchins, pale, skinny and nasal, who stared in wide-eyed disbelief at the open countryside, picked fights with the local youngsters, and ran away screaming from sheep and cows, the like of which they’d never seen any before.  But the dust settled and those not taken back home by anxious mothers pining for their offspring soon thrived on the country air, and grew healthy and strong.  One in particular, Tom Stokes, arriving as a sturdy, scowling boy of twelve, motherless from the age of seven, and having nobody in the world but a violent, heavy drinking stepfather rejected even by the Army in their hour of greatest need, progressed in two years from loud-mouthed bully to an extremely likeable youth.  Tom would often help Peggy and Johnjo take groups of little ones out pony-riding and it gladdened Rose’s heart to watch as they headed towards Follyfoot Farm, taking the same scenic route as Davey used when they rode on Beauty.  And though she worried that Tom and Peggy were of an age when innocent kisses might lead to much, much more, and Peggy turned pink as the sunset sky when her mother told her of the birds and bees, the two teenagers proved surprisingly responsible. 

At Ashtree Picture House, an impromptu conga dance spilled out onto the streets when Pathe News reported on the overwhelming success of D-Day and, as other victories followed thick and fast, a wonderful mood of optimism prevailed.  Everyone  talked excitedly of being reunited with loved ones, Winston Churchill made stirring speeches, and it seemed nothing could mar the happiness as an end to hostilities became an ever brighter glimmer on the horizon.

But one bleak morning when, for the third day in a row, rain fell in a steady grey drizzle, and farmers despaired of waterlogged fields and ruined crops, a telegram boy cycled from Ashtree Telegraph Office to Whistledown to call at a certain pretty little cottage with a horse-shoe nailed on its door…



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #35 on: April 17, 2011, 12:58:26 PM »
This chapter was getting way too long again  >61<  ::) so decided to split it into two chapters and work on the last half over the next few days.  Have to go do my ironing now  :(  :( :(  :( , serves me right for leaving it all and enjoying the sunshine yesterday. :)


 ***chapter 28***

 ***Memories***



Oh, how the wind whistled and blustered around Follyfoot Farm that day!  Although it was May and the early sun had been tentatively warm, petals were torn away from spring flowers, shutters rattled furiously and small silver clouds raced each other over hills and dales as the wind determinedly gathered all its might. 

The small knot of people caught in its cruel breath shivered with cold.

They had brought with them down to the lightning tree but a single wreath, for the one so loved hated fuss and never stood on grand ceremonies.  But something more had to be done.  Something more than a minister reading a long eulogy in a church where he never worshipped, quoting passages from a Bible he never read, putting faith in a God he never believed in.

And so, days after the end of war and shortly after the official funeral, those who knew him best came to remember him here at Follyfoot Farm, the place, man and boy, he had loved most.  Davey would never come home; his footfall would never again dint the soil nor his cheery voice call out in greeting, but long ago Follyfoot, as only Follyfoot can, had stolen and kept his heart.

There were few to attend the tender tribute.  Ironically, Davey had been killed in action only a week before the signing of the Armistice and his  many friends were still scattered among the Military or still working in posts far away.  His large family were drinkers, fighters, gamblers and thieves, and they had long since washed their hands of their only “black sheep” law-abiding citizen.  Although they turned out in force for the no-expense-spared after-funeral function held at Ashtree’s grandest hotel (Whistledown and nearer villages not being grand enough even to own one) and paid for by the Maddocks, three or four of Davey’s relatives managing to get themselves arrested for being drunk and disorderly in the process.

But his estranged family was of no concern to the group who stood by the lightning tree in a fitting and unique tribute to their friend.  Nobody wore black, as they had in church.  Davey always said life should be celebrated, not mourned, and then folk move on; why should the dead stop the living from living?  Nobody said any prayers, at least not aloud.  Davey always said prayers were invented to control the brainwashed masses; why must folk mumble to themselves like madmen? 

Instead they shared, with laughter and tears, the memories they held so dear.

His heartbroken widow, thin, pale and beautiful, kissed a rose and laid it gently on top of the garland.  And then, wiping her eyes, Beth smiled a tremulous smile and told of their first kiss. 

It was shortly before Christmas, Beth recalled.  She had trudged through ankle deep snow from Loppington, where she worked as shop girl for an exclusive dressmaker, with a selection of fancy ribbons for Lady Prudence Maddocks to choose which she would prefer for the new Christmas ball gown she was having made.  Protocol dictated she walk round to the back door, but, cold and tired, Beth dared take the front.  She had heard on the grapevine that the Maddocks were kindly employers and she hoped the housemaid would simply overlook the transgression. 

Before she could ring the bell, however, the door burst suddenly open, the “stable boy”, as first she knew him, winked at the mistletoe above, planted a hasty kiss on her lips, and hurried on by, immediately followed by, rather curiously, a black cat with a kipper in its mouth, a man’s boot, a scowling, one-shoed man carrying a bunch of keys, and a frantic kitchen maid begging him "not to hurt the boy".  But the kiss tasted sweet as honey, Beth recollected, and no wonder, she continued, smiling nostalgically, it turned out Davey had helped himself to a thick slice of honey on toast from the silver breakfast tray and treated Sally to the best slice of fish.  Young Miss Harris, however, had a sweetheart and firm morals, and, despite the sweet kiss, remained unimpressed…



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #36 on: April 24, 2011, 11:38:59 PM »
Way too long and rambling - again!  Never mind, I haven’t written ANY of the next chapter yet and I’m back at work Tues so you’ll have a breather from me for a while.  :P ::) :)


***chapter 29***

***Tears and Goodbyes***

It would be some years later when Beth and Davey would meet again, at Loppington’s Annual Harvest Festival Dance, and fall in love.  Davey had by then grown into an honest, hard-working young man, thanks to Jimmy, Beth finished, dabbing her eyes at the tender memories held in her heart. 

Jimmy, who’d been given special leave to travel to Yorkshire, had many anecdotes of their time working together; Rose half laughed, half cried as she told of Davey’s escapades in the early days when she first knew him; while Peggy and Johnjo talked fondly of when they rode Beauty and pointed to where the mis-spelt name of “Booty” could still be seen carved into the lightning tree. 

Shadows began to fall on Follyfoot Farm.  The lake, that in years gone by had gleamed with sunshine and teemed with ducks and swans, dimmed and dulled as darkness stole like a thief across the evening sky.  Birds folded wings, flowers closed buds, and the creatures of the night, bats and beetles, mice and owls, scurried about their busy worlds.  Still they talked on.  There was so much about Davey to remember.  So many tales to tell.  And who to tell them if not those who loved him best?

Slugger was last to speak.  He pulled a folded, crumpled envelope from inside his Army jacket, extracted several crumpled pages, blew off some real or imaginary dust, coughed importantly and began in his own inimitable style:-

“The gaffer Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks, ain’t a bad bloke for a toff, take ‘em as you find ‘em, I say, ‘ad some bloody guts with the enemy, ‘e did, ‘Is Nibs Lord Maddocks and ‘is missus, Lady Maddocks, bit up ’er own a**e, that one, send their kind regards and regrets…”

Now if I were to report verbatim how Private Jones chose to translate the Maddocks’ letters, we would all still be scratching our heads, filtering out the (oddly non-offensive) swear words, and straining our ears at his colourful colloquialisms a year to this day.  Nor, I feel, would it be wise to record in full the long tributes and explanations Geoffrey, Arthur and Prudence had composed, for, in keeping with their vastly expensive and cloistered schooling, the words, though well meant and genuine, were as large and lofty as the handwriting itself.  Suffice to say, I will instead do my utmost to explain how things came to be.

Beth, who, like Davey, had no parents, and regarded Rose and Jimmy almost as mother and father-in-law, had notified each as soon as she received the dreaded telegram.  Arthur and Prudence generously told Jimmy to take the Rolls and as much time as he needed in Whistledown.  Essential Government affairs prevented them from returning themselves, they explained, but in any case, they observed dismissively, nor would it be appropriate for them to attend a servant’s funeral, especially one of the lower orders.  Snobbish and foolish as they often were, however, and horrified though they would be that anyone should find out, I don’t mind telling you that Lord and Lady Maddocks secretly wept together in each other’s arms over the loss of Davey and, in truth, I think better of them for it.

Moreover, remembering that Slugger had struck up a strong friendship with both Jimmy and Davey, Arthur had thoughtfully telephoned his brother. 

Colonel Maddocks and his batman had lately been posted to Normandy and, with small tears raining shamelessly down his cheeks, Geoffrey called Private Jones to his office and broke the sad news.

“I am so, so sorry, Jones.  He was a good man.  I’m sorry, too, that the delicate political situation makes it impossible for me to attend the funeral.  In any case, the confounded transport problems still upon us makes the possibility of either of us reaching Whistledown in time remote.  I only wish there was something I could do…” 

He blew his nose hard and distractedly shoved aside some confidential papers sent from Charles de Gaulle, which, such being their importance, he had instructed his aide to carefully re-check before delivery, as if they were of no matter.

Slugger wiped the rough khaki cuff of his sleeve over his own eyes.  They had lost many comrades in the war but Davey’s death, even though they’d only known him for a very short while, cut them to the quick.  There was something timeless, almost mystical, about Follyfoot that enfolded all, a feeling of second chances, of life and hope and love, of promises and dreams.  That Davey had gone from it seemed harsh indeed.

“Not your fault, colonel, sir, that the Frogs are almost as bad as Eyeties for not knowin’ which bloody side they’re on and now we’re stuck out ‘ere sortin’ out the mess,” he replied emotionally.

“Good Lord, there IS a way!”  Geoffrey, deep in thought and barely registering his companion’s alarming lack of political correctness, suddenly thudded his fist down on the desk, and narrowly missed spilling the contents of the inkwell over the sensitive documents.  “Although, admittedly, it’s highly irregular and I can only spare the whirlybird for a couple of hours…”

 /continued next page due to over 8,000 characters (and a cast of thousands!)  ;D

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #37 on: April 24, 2011, 11:47:26 PM »


continued from previous page/   :)

Thus was Slugger transported, by exclusive private helicopter, first to London, where he made a hasty telephone call to fiancée Betty, ate a quick snack with his pilot in the Maddocks’ kitchen, flirted briefly and harmlessly with the doe-eyed girl hired to wash dishes, and collected the accolade to Davey, jointly written by Arthur and Prudence, to be read out at Davey’s funeral.  Then, to the astonishment and terror of several sheep, who had hitherto been placidly munching grass on an uneventful Wednesday afternoon, he landed slap bang in the middle of their Yorkshire field and, holding on to his hat, ran like a madman, leaping streams, dodging cow pats, and cursing sheep droppings, all the way to Whistledown church. 

It was an unusually rowdy affair for a funeral. 

Mindful of the goodies waiting at The Ashtree Hotel and the fleet of free cars to take them there afterwards, Davey’s relatives laughed, joked and jostled, scandalizing the elderly minister and the Whistledown congregation.  At one stage, even the grieving widow found herself pushed to one side, and Slugger came from nowhere to catch Beth’s left elbow just as Jimmy caught her right. 

“Please don’t make a fuss,” Beth pleaded, as, bristling with rage, Slugger drew a breath to unleash a torrent of  swear words at the crowd and clenched his fist into the dangerous right hook he was famed for.  “Davey and I never believed in a God.  I’d much rather get the service over with quickly as possible and honour him somewhere else.”

Their friend’s sudden appearance wasn’t totally unexpected (although they were unaware of his bizarre travelling arrangements) as Colonel Maddocks had telephoned in advance to say, weather and transport permitting, Private Jones would definitely attend the funeral.

“Beth’s right.”  Rose frowned at Davey’s irreverent family and drew closer to her own little fold of Jimmy, Peggy and Johnjo.  “This isn’t what Davey would have wanted.”

Slugger rubbed his ear in puzzlement, accidentally tilting his cap as he did so, a habit that would still be familiar to all who knew him even years later, when a well-worn woollen hat had long since replaced the smart Army head gear.

“Fing is, I’ve got these ‘ere tributes the colonel and the other pair specially wants me to read out.  Where would I do that if not in the church?”

Yet, even before he’d finished speaking, Slugger knew the answer.  They all did.

With the pages riffling in the wind that whistled through every nook and cranny of Follyfoot Farm, he finished reading the eulogies and respectfully removed his cap.  Jimmy picked up the bucket filled with water from the grey lake and poured it solemnly over the roots of the lightning tree.  The friends, each with their own thoughts, stood in reflective silence until, as though the very sky would weep too, the silver clouds darkened and large raindrops began to fall, splashing through the trees in melancholy song, drawing the ceremony to its natural close. 

They paused to look back once at the top of Whistedown Lane, at the very point that the first magic glimpse of Follyfoot can be seen, where, even now, there are those among us, the seers and the sensitive, who claim to have heard Davey’s voice echo through the wind.

“I got to thinkin’ ‘bout the daffodils that grow year on year in yon meadow.  And I thoughts to meself if the daffodils can grow again why not our lightnin’ tree?  It were there for us through thick ‘n’ thin at Follyfoot, it WERE Follyfoot, who’s to say it won’t be again?”

But by the loneliness of night, by the stealth of the moon, the wind picked up the wreath and the rose, spun them and cast them, muddied and broken, far into the distance.  Drenched now from the earlier rain, the lightning tree stood alone, solitary guardian of all that had been, watching and waiting for a new dawn.

The days afterwards slowed and calmed.  A benevolent sun blazed from an azure sky as the future beckoned, golden with optimism and peace.

Down in the quiet meadow, nodding their heads in the gentler breeze, the daffodils grew.





Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #38 on: May 14, 2011, 11:18:04 PM »
Apologies for the wooden writing in the first half of this chapter, but it gets better as it goes along.  Apologies too for killing people off; I had too many characters.  ::) I’m going to take a break and read Nokumarie’s story “Trust Me” now.  :)


***chapter 30***

***The Years Pass By***


What’s past is past, and though the world stops on the loss of a loved one, life can and must go on.  As broken-hearted as Beth had been by Davey’s death, she was still only young. 

When American Harry Jackson, an ex-GI who’d spent some time in England during World War II, came back on a six month vacation, he visited the same hospital in which he’d once been a patient, to take a bouquet of flowers and large tin of biscuits as a thank you to the staff.  He was pleasantly surprised to bump into the same pretty young nurse who’d first treated him when he’d been so badly burned during an Army training exercise. 

A friendly chat and, upon discovering they both loved the movie, an agreement to catch the re-showing of the Wizard of Oz, became the regular meetings of friends.  Even before the vacation was over, they had fallen in love and Beth set sail to America as Harry’s wife.  To begin with, her letters home were newsy and full of photographs, as were the Turners’ in return.  But, as time went by, she became the mother of twins, moved house two or three times, and had Harry’s increasingly frail elderly mother, no longer able to care for herself, come to live with them.  As so often happens when our lives move busily on, the letters dwindled and then stopped.

Rose and Johnjo, too, are no longer part of our Follyfoot story, their fate being a much sadder one.  Some of you may recall having heard from much older relatives about the terrible outbreak of tuberculosis that affected the rural areas of Yorkshire in the hot summer of 1948, spreading like wildfire in an alarmingly short space of time.  The source was eventually found to be an itinerant farm labourer, who had no outward symptoms and was unaware he carried the deadly disease.  He readily agreed to be quarantined, but by then several lives had been claimed, Rose’s and Johnjo’s among them. 

Soon afterwards, the Maddocks announced their move to Kensington was to be a permanent one and offered Jimmy and Peggy a cottage in the vast grounds of their luxurious home.  To be away from Whistledown for a while seemed the perfect solution - especially as Peggy’s  teenage sweetheart Tom Stokes, now her fiancé, had gone back to his home city, in a  less affluent part of London, to continue with his plumbing apprenticeship.

The young couple returned to Whistledown two years later, to marry in the ancient village church where Rose and Jimmy had been married, and where lies, close to the church door, that famous seventeenth-century grave of the original owner of Follyfoot, Sir Richard Maddocks, bearing the Maddocks’ family crest of horse, lion and eagle enclosed in a shield and the Latin motto vires  per licentia (strength through freedom). 

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #39 on: May 14, 2011, 11:28:40 PM »
/continued from previous page

There never was  a prouder father than Jimmy on Peggy’s wedding day, with the bells ringing so loud it was as though they would burst for very joy and the sun peeping in through the stained glass windows to dance golden beams of light in silent song. 

And as he walked his daughter down the aisle, with the Wedding March playing on the church organ, and the day so perfect with its cloudless blue skies and kindly summer breezes, two brightly coloured butterflies fluttered inside too, further enchanting the packed congregation, many of whom, even Prudence, dabbing her eyes, and her hat and dress too showy for a tiny village church, and Arthur, standing ramrod straight, in full military uniform decked with medals, gasped in awe at the beauty of the bride.  The superstitious said later, although they did not explain how butterflies can know such things, that it surely forecast a long, happy marriage blessed with children and nary a cross word between them.

After a honeymoon paid for by Lord and Lady Maddocks as a wedding present, the newlyweds settled in Whistledown, in the very same cottage that Peggy had grown up in, and that Prudence and Arthur had long ago bought for Jimmy and his family. 

But it could never be the home it had once been.

Many times Peggy would push open the cottage door, and for half a second think her mother or brother to be there, even drawing breath to speak with them.  And then, remembering, she would feel her heart snap in two all over again and would sit on the rickety kitchen stool that Johnjo had made in school, to “weep a little weep”, as Rose would have said, drying her eyes on the apron her mother had sewn.  For the reminders of those happy yesterdays were everywhere:  the musical jewellery box with a dancing ballerina, a gift to Rose from Beth, on the sideboard; the drawing of a neighbour’s cat that Johnjo, when four or five, had scribbled on the coal cupboard door; Rose’s half finished rag rug and her handwriting on the herb jar labels; the tulips that Johnjo had planted and his “lucky” penny that he always kept on the mantelshelf…Oh, sometimes it was all poor Peggy could do not to break down and sob forever and, save that Tom seemed very happy to be back in Whistledown, she surely would have done.

At last, she confessed to her husband, who hugged her close and admitted that, being born and bred a “townie”, and, much as he still loved the country and had loved Whistledown when a boy, he found the small village far too slow and quiet now he was a man.  But, he added, with a wry smile, he hadn’t wanted to upset Peggy by telling her so.  They laughed and cried together then, promising they would never again keep secrets from each other.

Neither wanted to live in a big city however and so, to compromise, they put a deposit down on a house in the busy little Yorkshire town of Ashtree and had then the best of both worlds, being close to the glorious Yorkshire countryside and close to a train station with a direct route to London.   Visits between Jimmy and his family were frequent and even more so when, as was becoming fashionable among the working classes, Tom and Peggy bought a motor car.  And, just to make their happiness complete, Peggy gave birth to a daughter, Susan Rose, the apple of her doting grandfather’s eye.

And what of Follyfoot?

Ah, Follyfoot Farm had not been forgotten!  How could it ever be?  In all who ever knew a dream, there is a stirring of the soul, a plucking of the heartstrings, that would lure the dreamer, with sighs and sweet memories, to an earlier place, a slower time.  But in this world there are bonds that tie us, responsibilities, finance, everyday matters, always more pressing, trapping us in the frantic, hurried business of living. 

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #40 on: May 14, 2011, 11:33:39 PM »
/continued from previous page

Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks, though he longed to pursue his boyhood ambition of caring for animals (and sometimes his mind would wander while meeting with heads of state as he daydreamed another life at Follyfoot Farm where he did just that) was committed to his work in France, treading a fine line smoothing over diplomatic relations between France, America and Britain (General de Gaulle, though considered a war hero of the French resistance to Nazi occupation, was as disliked and distrusted by Winston Churchill as he had been by Roosevelt). 

His batman Slugger Jones would also often find himself ruminating on the short, but very happy time he spent at Follyfoot and yearning to return. 

One night, one strange, memorable night, when the exceptionally hot weather broke with a fierce thunderstorm, Slugger, unable to sleep in such oppressive heat, got out of bed, sat by the window, unscrewed the top off a bottle of warm beer with his teeth, and lit a cigarette.  He had just told the silver-framed photograph of his wife Betty exactly how long it would be, in weeks, hours, minutes and seconds, to his next period of leave when a sudden lightning flash illuminated the neatly manicured gardens below and made him splutter on his beer.

For, under the saturated horse chestnut tree, in the brief second that night lit a flickering lamp in the sky, he thought he saw the long dead gypsy fortune teller Madame Zola.

But Slugger Jones was not given to flights of fancy, and so he only rubbed his eyes, saw no one when he looked again, concluded it had been a trick of the light and a lack of slumber, leaned back in his chair, took a leisurely swig of beer and concentrated on blowing smoke rings at the ceiling.

*****

The storm had finally passed by, the lightning become faraway flashes, the thunder distant growls.  It was barely five o’clock as Jimmy stood at the door of his London home, inhaling the fresh scent of rain on the early morning earth.  Lord and Lady Maddocks slept late when they had no prior engagements and he had no need to be up from his own bed so early, but old habits died hard.  Besides, he wanted to savour this moment.  For almost a fortnight, much of Europe had sweltered under temperatures that soared to the high Nineties, even, on occasion, triple figures.  The fresher air was a blessing and the thick mud a glorious sight.  Had his little granddaughter been here, she would have immediately donned wellingtons to jump in puddles, tramp in mud and dig through the sodden soil with a twig to curiously study any insects that emerged. 

He smiled as he thought of four-year-old Susie.

Like Peggy, the little girl loved animals and being outdoors, but, at the same age, Peggy had also loved to wear pretty dresses and to help Rose sew or bake.  Susie had no time or patience for girlish pursuits.  She had given the sales assistant a look of withering scorn last year in the toy department of a well known department store when the lady asked if she was hoping for a big doll from Father Christmas.  Top of Susie’s list (not counting the inevitable pony, that she begged for almost every day, Peggy and Tom, in addition to having already provided two dogs, a cat, rabbits, white mice, guinea pigs, tortoise and goldfish, thinking her as yet a little too young and reckless to ride on her own) had been a train set, cricket bat and football.

One day, when she was old enough to ride, he would take her riding in Whistledown, to feel the magic of Follyfoot and the freedom of the wind in her hair.  He would tell her the stories of the people who worked there, of Beauty and Magic, of Sally the cat, of the long-necked swans that had glided majestically on the rippling lake.  Storms always reminded him of the lightning tree and made him nostalgic for Follyfoot, but Arthur and Prudence were adamant they had no intention of ever returning.
 
And so, Follyfoot was left all alone with its memories.  Except nobody knew it as Follyfoot anymore.  It had acquired a new name. 

The Haunted Farm.



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #41 on: May 30, 2011, 10:10:48 PM »
**sigh** I used to write much better than this!   >47<  Next time I write a story, I’ll work out a plot (I hope!)  Just a filler chapter that lost its way.  I’ll get back on track with the next chapter, which will be entitled “May 1954”.  Anyone want to guess what happens then?!  ;)

***chapter 31***

***1950***


Through the changing seasons, as the years came and went, children played about the deserted Farm.
 
Faces ruddy with cold, they would bring wooden sledges to slide down Whistledown Hill, or bombard each other with snowballs, or create whole snow families out of the thick, crunchy snow, the motionless figures shining eerie and silent when all alone by moonlight.  Tanned by the country sun, they would bring picnics of home-baked bread and cheese, supplemented by summer fruits or autumn berries; when it rained they took shelter in the soft yellow hay of the stables; when the wind whistled furiously down from the moors, forcing the trees to bow to its might, their voices only carried louder in their games. 

Sometimes they would peer curiously through the broken, grimy windows of the manor house, farmhouse and outbuildings, wondering at the abandonment of the once grand residence, with its locks, bolts, and shutters, with its vast grounds tall with tangled grass and weeds, with its lake stagnant and grey.

Now Yorkshire is an old land, steeped in the history and traditions of time, such tales, whether wise, wild or wonderful, being passed down from generation to generation.  And so it came to be with Follyfoot. 

In the years following the war, horse-riders began to report on how, as they rode by the deserted Farm, at a certain spot their horse would often prick up ears and come to a dead halt for several minutes before moving on.  Some said it was nothing more than the high pitched whistling of the wind that spooked them; others said it was if they waited for something unseen to pass by.  They spoke of the curious phenomenon in the villages, and children listened to adult conversations, as children will, and created their own tale.

It was the word Booty, carved into the lightning tree, coupled with the stories they’d heard and a fierce thunderstorm, that fired their imagination. 

One hot day towards the end of August, four ten-year-old boys, and one seven-year-old sister, tagged on to an extremely reluctant older brother by an extremely stressed mother under threat of bed by seven for a week (of course, nowadays, we would call it being “grounded” but in the more innocent days of 1950 an early bedtime was just that, with jam, bread and cocoa for supper, and no televisions or computers to alleviate the boredom) alighted from the infamous 22B bus.  It was a service that delighted holidaymakers, who had all the time in the world to spare. and infuriated any locals who were in a hurry, with its twice-daily journey that meandered leisurely along scenic country lanes, and up hills and down dales, stopping at several villages, country inns, stately homes, castles, markets, railway halts, and almost anywhere else it could think of along the way.  At any rate, under the stern gaze of one of 22B’s two regular conductors, Norman Butterworth, who unfairly believed “every kid allus finks they can fool about on buses, they do” the group stepped down off the platform outside Tockwith Library, having decided to tramp through a field and take a short cut through Follyfoot Farm, which would chop some 45 minutes off their journey home.

/continued on next page


Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #42 on: May 30, 2011, 10:18:31 PM »
/continued from previous page

They had been to the Saturday matinee at Ashtree Picture House, and their excited chatter was all about the film they’d just seen.  It had been an abysmally bad time-travelling comedy about gangs of bungling crooks from past, present and future, who, to stay one step ahead of the law and each other, had to keep digging up and re-burying their ill-gotten gains, or booty, in more and more outlandish locations.  But its young audience, not being too concerned about the improbable, had happily lapped it up.

Even seven-year-old Ellen had (eventually) been impressed.  Knowing brother Michael was still on a good behaviour bond over skipping school and smoking, and claiming little sister rights, she yawned, grumbled and grizzled through all the action scenes until bribed into silence with sweets.  However, she suddenly perked up when Melody, a dappled grey pony, began to appear in several shots, and fell in love with the idea of having a pony of her own.  Now she was pretending to ride, skipping over twigs and brambles and “hushing” the imaginary Melody, who, she’d decided, was a very brave but nervy horse.

Crunching on some ripe apples they’d picked (except for Ellen, who was “feeding” the invisible Melody an apple) they were thrilled to suddenly espy the word “Booty” and an accompanying arrow etched into Follyfoot Farm’s lightning tree.

“Bank robbers have been here!  They’ve been HERE!” 

Paul, who was first to see the writing and draw it to the attention of his companions, almost danced, clenching and unclenching his fists with excitement.

“Or pirates!” 

“Or the thieves from the future!”

“Or a Robber Gang from Whistledown!”

The fact it was highly unlikely any self-respecting bank robber, pirate, thief from the future, or even Robber Gang from Whistledown would take time out to leave clues for fellow members of their gang, as they had done in the movie, sailed blissfully over their heads.  A game was a game and, like all pretend, there was always the heart-skipping half-belief it might be real.  Assuming the “booty” was buried near the tree, the boys immediately busied themselves digging and poking the ground with hands, heels, sticks and stones, in short, anything at all they could find.

Ellen, who didn’t have a clue what Booty meant as she’d paid scant attention to the plotline of the film, being far more interested in Melody, groaned loudly in protest but nobody took any notice.  She’d pushed as far as she dared with annoying her brother, she was bored now, and wished they wouldn’t waste time.  And perhaps the gods heard and granted her wish because at that very moment the heavens chose to open, and a torrent of rain fell so fast it was as though buckets of water were being emptied out of a vast river in the sky.  (You know, I hesitate to think of Davey throwing buckets of water over the lightning tree, but sometimes I do have to wonder at these strange coincidences…)

A sheet of lightning crackled and flashed.  Almost immediately, a loud crash of thunder roared overhead like an angry lion woken from slumber.

From the shelter of the stables they’d run to, hair plastered against their faces, soaked to the skin in thin summer clothes, the five youngsters peeked out in breathless awe at the alien world Follyfoot had suddenly become, for never was the Farm more beautiful or more dramatic than when a thunderstorm painted land and sky.  A curtain of rain rolled down from the distant misty moors, while all around alternately brightened then darkened, shaking trees, casting shadows, sending streams of water gushing along gutters and down rusty drainpipes.

“It’s haunted,” Michael whispered wickedly, noticing how warily Ellen was watching the wild flashes of lightning, and having had more than enough of her antics today.  His little sister screamed and, satisfied, he continued.  “By the ghosts of the robbers.  Who kill people.  That’s what the horses see.  That’s why everyone who lived here ran away years and years and years ago.  They had to or they’d be MURDERED!”

“That’s why the storm came,” Roy added, joining in.  “The ghosts didn’t want us taking their buried treasure.”

He laughed when he said it.  They all did, as they added to the story.  Yet oddly enough they never did go back to search for riches.  Nobody ever did. 

The playgrounds at the village schools relayed to each other tales of the Haunted Farm, the stories embellished with each telling.  And while nobody over the age of twelve or thirteen believed for a second that mayhem and murder had occurred at Follyfoot, the nickname somehow stuck with all.  The stables and farm stayed empty.  The Haunted Farm would remain undisturbed for twenty years…



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2011, 05:46:07 PM »
This chapter was getting too long  ::) and as the word count here is limited, I thought I'd post the first half.  Will do a bit more work on the second half and post in a few days.  :)

***chapter 32***


***January 1955***


“London is so splendid by evening!”  Lady Prudence Maddocks trilled happily to Lord Arthur Maddocks, her diamond necklace and ear-rings flashing a myriad of colours through the neon-lit night, as she sank in a flurry of expensive perfume and evening dress into the comfortable leather seating of the Rolls.

She was feeling extremely pleased with herself.  Two days earlier, they had attended a dinner party hosted by Viscountess Charlotte Fitzcharles-Webb, a second cousin twice removed of the new young Queen Elizabeth, who had frequently met, and even spoken with, Her Majesty.   This wintry evening, with its swirling snowflakes and icy breaths of wind, they were off to the theatre to meet with same.  Titles and Royalty greatly impressed Prudence.  Nobody was anybody unless they had a title or connection.

“I can’t think why we EVER once chose to live in a backwoods little village like Whistledown.  Nothing but disgusting animal odours and country yokels in such dreadful places!”  she added, shuddering and wrinkling her nose as though the “disgusting animal odours” were floating under it at that very moment, and either forgetting or ignoring the fact her chauffeur hailed from one such “dreadful place”.

“Ah, we were young and foolish then, my dear,” Arthur responded mildly,  puffing contentedly on a long cigar.  “Young and foolish.”

Jimmy sighed inwardly as he walked around the car and in turn held the door open for Lord Maddocks, who, at least, acknowledged him with a brief thank you.  Prudence had barely given him a second glance.  Which was perhaps just as well because he couldn’t help but grimace at the mink stole she wore over her shoulders.  Had they stayed in Whistledown, he was sure, even Prudence’s abhorrence of animals, particularly horses since the accident, could only have begun to diminish with the beautiful sights of fields full of new lambs and foals.

Unlike Prudence and Arthur, he privately thought Whistledown had almost been the making of them.  Deep down, each owned a good heart that had however been stifled by a privileged upbringing.  Like wayward children, under the quiet influence of the slow pace of village life, they were being moulded into better people.  Now all the good work of Whistledown was coming undone as London appealed to their vanity and their snobbery over-rode everything else. 

It could have been so very different.

As newlyweds in the 1930s, they had come to live in Whistledown on a whim.  Arthur, second eldest brother, had inherited Follyfoot Farm on the death of his father, when eccentric eldest brother Geoffrey insisted he didn’t want or need any fortune and so the fortune duly bypassed him.  Sheer curiosity brought Arthur and his wife to view their newly-acquired property, but they had been unexpectedly smitten by the breathtaking beauty of Yorkshire and charmed by Follyfoot Farm with its unusual buildings of circular windows and spiral staircases.  It would be “great fun” and a “super jape”, they agreed over a glass or two or six of vintage champagne from the bottles found in the manor house wine cellar, to mix with commoners for a short while.

They were not the first and they would not be the last to be so enchanted by the farm nestling at the bottom of Whistledown Hill.

It had been built, or so it would appear to suggest by the Maddocks family crest and name above the manor house door, by Sir Richard Maddocks in 1668.  The history books at Tockwith Library tell a different story. 

Sir Richard, an eccentric Yorkshire bachelor who owned much of the county, fondly imagined himself to be an architect and engineer.  After creating some puzzling structures (or “follies”) on his estate, he moved to the villages where he hired men to build a dozen or more structures to his exact specifications.  Ashtree, to its permanent embarrassment, still has two badly-built giant stone chairs in its town centre, while the infamous crooked Long Wall in Kettlefield only crumbled completely in the last century, and perhaps the least said about the tunnels that zig-zag randomly under the Yorkshire countryside the better.  (To be fair, rumour has it, probably correctly, that these ventures were Sir Richard’s misguided way of providing work for the poor.)

It’s thought that the pleasant village of Follyfoot may have derived its name from the Norse meaning “place of the horse fight”, but, according to legend, locals spoke of “Sir Richard’s new folly at the foot of Whistledown Hill”, which became shortened to, at first, “Richard's folly at the foot” and then simply “Follyfoot”, from which the village took its name.  If legend is true, they were left with egg on their faces, for the manor house, farmhouse and outbuildings proved to be well-made gems of  architecture.  This was due to Sir Richard, perhaps feeling out of his depth, deciding to travel abroad and hand his most ambitious project over to architect William Drumgold.  Drumgold, who would later construct some of Yorkshire’s finest buildings, wisely ignored the original blueprints in favour of his own.  What Sir Richard thought about this is not recorded, but it is known that he returned to England with a wife and a year later an heir to his fortune was born.

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #44 on: June 19, 2011, 08:51:54 PM »
***chapter 32 (continued)***

***January 1955***


Follyfoot Farm was to change hands many times over the years although it remained the property of the Maddocks family.  From the very first, it had been blessed with a magical quality, but quite how this quaint little piece of Yorkshire, where the wind whistled keenly down from the moors, and could, when it had a mind to, chill right through to the bones even on the brightest day, managed unseen to snatch, bottle and preserve that magic forever nobody ever knew.  Although other animals were kept, the farm’s main trade was horses and, whether the blazing sun of summer scorched the earth or the hoar frost of winter coated the grass, from early morning till late at night, the stables were a hive of activity, filled with men’s voices and the stomp of men’s boots, with a neighing and snorting and clip-clop of hooves.

The thriving business quickly gained a reputation for excellence that similar establishments could only dream of. 

Rich gentlemen and ladies who might wish to hire or purchase a horse told servants tasked with the errand “it must be the very best, it must be from Follyfoot” and it’s claimed that once a handsome, swarthy gentleman, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain foreign crown prince, visited one day with his manservant who, when questioned about his master, answered only that he was a man of “noble birth” and refused to say more.

Back when it was all that many people could do to find enough to eat, it was often only the very wealthy who could, if they so desired, spare the time and money for animals to be given particular consideration.  But the animals kept on Follyfoot Farm were very well looked after.  Sick or elderly horses were not despatched to the knackers’ yard, as was more common practice, but instead they were allowed to live out their remaining days grazing peacefully.  It was a tradition, I’m happy to say, that continued with each and every change of ownership, this compassion filtering down to even the lowliest member of staff.  Caring, whether about people or animals, became a byword for Follyfoot and mothers told their children that if they grew to be as “kindly as the Follyfoot Farm people” they would do them proud indeed.

Oh, I wish I could tell you it was always so.  I wish so much I could tell you that nothing changed.  But time has no compunction, progress no tears for the past.  As the twentieth century dawned, horse-pulled carriages were being replaced by motor engines and more and more people travelled by car.  And perhaps, even then, things may have continued as they were for just a little while longer, but then came the Great War. 

By the 1920s Follyfoot Farm had closed down.

For ten long years the buildings would remain silent and empty.  That is, until a chance visit by the newlyweds and then the magic the villagers still spoke of in awe cast its net and weaved its spell all over again.  Arthur and Prudence were arrogant and selfish when first they took up residence in the manor house.  Yet within weeks they had begun to mellow, so much so that they justifiably earned their reputation as being generous employers, and caring was the word everyone used to describe Follyfoot again.

But, just when it seemed all that had been lost was re-gained, that symbol of hope, the tree that had flourished there for so long, was struck by lightning and another war tore the world asunder. 

Pulling himself out of his reverie, Jimmy looked back to check the flow of traffic before veering left.  The bright lights of London streaked in through the car windows, shining on the faces of Lord and Lady Maddocks, who were engaged in an animated discussion.  Was it his imagination or did they look more smug, even “piggy”, these days?  Certainly, in the last few months, both, especially Prudence, had piled on the pounds. 

Arthur, his face round and red, particles of snow clinging to his moustache, was haw-hawing loudly at something Prudence said as he unscrewed the top and took a sip of rum from the small silver flask he always carried with him in winter.  Prudence, smirking at her smart remark, greedily crammed two chocolates into her mouth from the heart-shaped box on her lap.  From the snippets of conversation Jimmy overheard, it was obvious they were mocking a neighbour. 

Mrs Vera Funk, the neighbour concerned, was the widow of Peter Funk, who, from humble beginnings, had done so well in building up his recycling business that, upon his retirement and selling off the company, he was able to purchase a small property near to the Maddocks.  Prudence however was distinctly unimpressed and was frequently heard to comment that this area of London was not for commoners (not, I must add, without a little racial prejudice too, for Mr Funk had been of German descent, although he and his wife had hated the Nazi regime with a passion).  Victory V, as she was more commonly known, due to her habit of decorating her clothes and hats with dozens of home-made union jack badges, had, since her husband’s death, begun stopping people and talking rambling nonsense.  The poor woman was lonely and her mind gone with age and grief, but Prudence and Arthur regarded her affliction as simply a source of amusement, Jimmy thought sadly, yearning for those golden years at Follyfoot when his employers were more sympathetic people. 

Pulling to a stop outside the theatre, and nodding at Vinny Oswald, the commissionaire, with whom he often shared a chat, he paid scant attention to the car phone ringing shrilly from behind and the murmur of Arthur’s voice in answer.

Not until he heard Lord Maddocks blaspheme furiously.

“What is it?  What’s wrong?” Prudence sounded frightened.

And, as if in a dream, Jimmy heard Arthur’s reply, meant to be a whisper, but unintentionally loud with shock.  Peggy, Tom and little Susie had been returning home from a panto only for the car to skid on ice…