A few days later we were walking along the opposite ridge for a change, well I was walking and Aggie was running, once more admiring the scenery and thanking Uncle Jim for the opportunity to be here, checking our another Piddle Valley Vista
I came across some beautiful blue flowers and thought that they would make a nice picture, so I stopped and looked for the best angle. One of the things I love about digital photography is the ability to take as many shots as you want without worrying over the cost of film and developing. I’d just put my camera back in the bag after deciding to add a book on flowers to my shopping list; my knowledge of botany matched that of ornithology; when I heard a voice.
I looked back and saw a woman rapidly approaching. As I waited for her, I appraised her, well her appearance. She was slim and looked quite tall for a woman, probably around 5’ 8". Her hair was wrapped in a scarf and her attire was countryside elegance. I put her age at anything between early thirties to middle forties.
‘Hello, ’ she said in a very feminine, and almost posh, voice. ’I’m Jane Garner.’
I shook her proffered hand and was a little surprised at how firm the dainty hand gripped mine.
‘Yes I know, that’s why I wanted to catch you.’
Up close, I saw a woman in her prime, with real natural beauty, not purchased to enrich some cosmetic giant. I couldn’t help but look at her left hand and admit to some disappointment when I saw a wedding ring.
‘I was speaking to Sheila Parsons last night and she mentioned your suggestion about a place to drink for those that can’t stand that awful man at The Falconer.’
I nodded and smiled, just like they film news interviewers, to show that they are paying attention and understand.
‘I like the idea in principle but thought that it needed fleshing out somewhat.’
’Oh I agree, it was just a spur of the moment idea, based on what I used to do, ’ I explained.
‘You have done this before then?’
‘Only for an occasional party, not on any kind of permanent basis.’
‘Okay, that makes sense.’
Before any further conversation could take place, Aggie started barking wildly. I looked up and saw her, about fifty yards away, bouncing along a hedgerow.
’She’s probably seen a rabbit, this area is teeming with them. Let her catch a couple, they are always good for the pot, ’ Jane said knowingly.
I laughed. ‘Kill it? She’s more likely to want to play with it, don’t forget that she’s new to this countryside lark, she’s a city dog at heart. A bit like me, I suppose.’
She smiled politely. ‘Well at least you have come to your senses, my dear.’
‘Any chance that you could come to my place this evening?’ She then asked.
‘No problem, just tell me what time and I’ll be there. Oh yes, and where it is.’
‘Of course you don’t know yet, ’ she smiled at me, ’I’m used to everyone knowing where the Manor is.’
As she explained where it was, I remembered passing it a few times at the end of our walks. It wasn’t what I thought of as a manor, but it was easily the largest house I’d come across in the area. We agreed on eight o’clock with Jane saying I was okay to bring Aggie with me. We then chatted for another ten minutes or so, mainly about why I’d moved here. She laughed when I told her just how impetuous that decision had been.
’Well let us hope that we can ensure that it was a good one, ’ she said as we parted company.
Aggie looked at me as if to say ‘about time’ when I called her to continue our walk. With a polite ‘good morning’, we passed a couple of sprightly pensioners with an even more spirited Springer Spaniel. As it and Aggie bounced around each other I mused if the breed had got its name because it couldn’t keep still.
Much to her chagrin, I decided not to take Aggie with me went I went up to the Manor. As planned, I arrived a few minutes early. One advantage of village life, you tended to walk everywhere, which made judging arrival times so much easier.
‘Hello David, ’ the lady of the Manor said as she opened the door. ’Follow me.’
She turned and walked away before I could answer her greeting. Shutting the door, I followed her into a huge and austere room. There were a number of people there, sitting on the chairs that were the only real furniture in the room. I looked around, admiring the original décor. The ceiling was at least twelve feet from the polished wood floor, with fabulously ornate coving and three large chandeliers with their decorative roses. The room’s main attraction was its massive fireplace, in itself almost as big as my living room.
‘You know Tim and Sheila, ’ Jane said looking in the direction of the Parsons. She then looked at Elizabeth. ’This is Lizzie Hopkins, Sheila’s sister.’
‘Yes, Elizabeth was with Tim and Sheila when they came to my place.’ Elizabeth nodded acknowledgement. ‘By the way, do you prefer Lizzie or Elizabeth?’
‘Liz or Lizzie usually, it’s only Sheila and my mother that call me that, ’ she answered with a smile.
I felt Jane tug at my elbow and then lead me to two men and one woman. ’Peter Styles, Jack Dunstan and Felicity Dunstan, ’ she said as way of an introduction.
’David Powell, ’ I said before shaking hands with all three.
’One more to come, ’ Jane said just as the door opened.
Hearing no ring or knock on the front door, I assumed this would be Jane’s husband. It was however an extremely attractive young lady, and there was no mistaking the lady bit. Ultra feminine chic that even I could tell must have cost a small fortune. Once again I found it difficult to put an age on her, but couldn’t see that she was over thirty, more like mid twenties.
‘Ah! My daughter Virginia. Ginny meet the new man in the village, David Powell.’
I looked at Jane with amazement, either she was a lot older than I’d guessed or her daughter was a lot younger.
‘Mother!’ Virginia admonished with a little laugh, before explaining. ‘Jane is my wicked stepmother.’
‘Wicked?’ I asked with a grin.
’Yes, as in wicked sense of humour, ’ she replied laughing.
‘Now that we are all here, let’s begin, ’ commanded Jane.
Pulling the chairs into a rough circle and with just one chair to spare we all sat down.
’David here had a disagreement with Seth, ’ Jane began.
Jack laughed. ‘Not the first and won’t be the last to do that, welcome to the village.’
‘Well, unlike us, David made a suggestion that means we do not have to put up with it. Would you care to explain. Oh yes David, think on using this room.’
’Thank you Mrs. Garner, ’ I started.
‘Jane please, we are all friends here.’
‘Okay, thank you Jane, ’ I started before going on to explain what I’d discussed earlier.
Everybody thought it was at least something worth pursuing. It was during these discussions that I realised just how bad the feelings were towards the pub landlord. He had upset at least half the village, but as was explained to me, he had bought The Falconer outright, after a lottery win, and seemed quite content to run it as his private drinking club, banning anyone how he took a dislike to.
After about an hour it was agreed to go ahead with the idea, using the room we were in as a makeshift bar room. The women discussed the décor, wanting better seating than the usual pub, whilst the men discussed beer and whisky. Being an English village, they of course set up a committee to run things. Any new member must be recommended by one of us and be acceptable to the committee. Nobody else would be invited to join in the first month while we got up and running.
I had a large three piece suite in store that took up more space than I actually had in the cottage. Now that I was certain that I was staying, there seemed no reason not to donate it to the cause. I also had a foot pump that could be used for the beer. Whether it was worth buying a proper pump could be decided at a later date. I also agreed to make a small bar, knowing that I was already set up to make complete kitchens so it wouldn’t be too much to do.
Peter had an import business and said he was sure that he could scrounge an array of glasses. All the others, except Virginia, chipped in with something. Only Sheila was a smoker so it was agreed that the room would be smoke free.
There was a fine vintner in nearby Dorchester that would supply us wine. I’d found them within a day of my arrival. I could do without beer but not my wine. Sheila was a member of a large national chain of Cash & Carry stores and was sure she’d seen beer barrels on sale. The men agreed to get together and check it out.
We agreed a sum that we would pay each month and that it would be reviewed every month for the first two, then every three months after that.
Finally, Jane, who I discovered was a local magistrate, said she would find out exactly how we stood regarding the law.
’On the whole, a good meeting all round, ’ Jane said as we made our way out.
I was about to leave when I had a very pleasant surprise. Virginia was standing by the door saying goodbye to everyone, but she actually kissed me, on the cheek I’ll grant but I’ll take anything from pretty young ladies.
Lizzie who was behind me laughed at my flustered reaction. Once we were outside she stopped me and reached up to my face. My reaction was to back away slightly.
’Lipstick silly. I was just going to wipe it off, ’ she said with more laughter.
I blushed and let her. I quite liked her when she laughed. Thinking about it, I quite liked her when she didn’t too.
‘She!’ Lizzie shouted to her sister, although it took me a few seconds to work out that ‘She’ was her abbreviation of ‘Sheila’. ‘David is walking me home.’
‘Okay. Be careful.’
I was more than a little surprised, first at the fact that I was walking Lizzie home and second that her sister thought that she needed to take care around me.
My bemusement was obvious to all. ’She’s warning you, not Elizabeth, ’ laughed Tim.
‘Hmm!’ mumbled Lizzie, trying hard not to laugh. ‘Come David, let’s go, ’ she said as she linked her arm in mine.
The laugh turned into a real giggle. ‘Of course you don’t know. What must you be thinking?’ She managed to say. ‘I live two cottages down from you.’
‘I know it, with the red Punto.’
She giggled some more. ‘Typical bloody man. Has no idea who lives in a house but knows exactly which car belongs there.’
The cottage in question was another of the village’s thatched ones, with white cladding all over.
When I continued walking past my own cottage, Lizzie stopped. ’I am able to manage the last hundred yards on my own, ’ she said with a smile.
’I was tasked with escorting the lady home and that is what I shall do, ’ I replied with deliberate pomposity.
Lizzie laughed again, something that to my delight, I found she did frequently. At her front door she too gave me a kiss on the cheek. ’Sis was right, the ladies will need to be careful around you, ’ she said afterwards with a grin.
‘Does that include you?’ I asked mischievously.
’It might do, ’ Lizzie responded coyly, or at least how she thought a bad actress would do coy.
Back home, I grabbed Aggie’s lead and we went for what was intended to be a short walk. I thought about the drinking club that I’d somehow initiated and how different those people were to my first encounters with the villagers. I was certain that I would enjoy village life.
I also thought about Lizzie. She wore no ring and from what I’d gathered, had no significant other. She was just my type as well, slim build, longish dark hair and really pretty. The problem was, she lived too close. I was quite happy to have a brief fling with her, assuming that feeling was mutual, but I wasn’t sure that she would be happy with the brief bit. That was one bit of village life I hadn’t considered. Everyone knew each other and we all lived only a short walk away.
If I was to continue with my non committed liaisons then it would probably need to be done away from the area. Laughing with Lizzie had rekindled the flame that my move had let die down. It was almost midnight by the time I got back and I went straight to bed and straight to sleep too.
The next day I decided to make a start on the bar, figuring it would be a good exercise before my next hull arrived. It would enable me to iron out any little problems with my machinery and new layout. I was sure that a couple of days would see it finished, awaiting varnish.
Aggie loved the new workshop, being on a farm there was loads of smells for her to explore. Bert, the farmer, worked an agricultural farm, growing various cereals. He had no problem with Aggie running about as long as I took responsibility if she got hurt.
Driving home, I remembered that the Dorchester vintner had a tasting on that evening. I had already stocked up when I moved and hadn’t planned on going but because of the Village Club, as I’d come to think of it, I decided to go and check out a few things. As I pulled up outside my cottage I saw Lizzie talking to a woman I didn’t know.
Disregarding the previous evening’s decision I walked up to her and impulsively asked if she wanted to accompany me to the tasting. Blushing ever so slightly she accepted then introduced me to another of my neighbours. Penny Abbot lived a further fifty yards down the road in a cottage that seemed, from the outside at least, a mirror image of mine. Penny was more than a little overweight and rather plain. She did seem an otherwise very nice lady. I felt a pang of guilt when I thought that it was good that here was a village woman that I didn’t fancy.
‘A wine tasting you say?’ she asked after our introductions.
‘Yes, in Dorchester.’
‘You need a taxi?’
Lizzie laughed. ‘Typical Penny, always on the lookout for business.’ Seeing my bemused look she continued. ‘Her husband Tom drives the local taxi, so if ever you need one give Penny a call.’
On cue Penny handed me a business card. I thanked her and made arrangements for Tom to take us there and back. She said, ‘Tom will work the rank for the hour or so that you are there so don’t worry about when you’re done. Just give him a call, preferably ten or so minutes before you need him.’
Lizzie looked fabulous when she came to the door a few minutes before the taxi was due. ‘Wow, I didn’t realise that I’d asked Miss Dorset to the tasting, ’ I told her.
‘Why thank you kind sir, ’ she replied, then in a more common voice added, ’though flattery will get you nowhere.’
‘David, a quick warning. Tom is a nice enough chap but anything said in his cab will get back to Penny and from there to everyone in the village, so don’t mention the drinking set.’
‘Okay. Does that mean I’ve already set the tongues wagging by asking you out in front of her?’
‘It certainly does, but no harm done. Neither of us have anything to hide and besides it just might improve your reputation to have the Ice Queen go out with you.’
’I’ll tell you later, Tom’s here.’
I nodded and escorted her to the taxi and held the door for her. Tom Abbot was a typical cabbie, a balding, portly man who could talk for his country, although he did seem a lot more jovial than his city counterparts. As instructed I kept to safe topics despite his obvious attempts to probe.
Once out of the cab I received another kiss on the cheek as a reward for my good behaviour.
‘Well Lizzie, I’ve never met a more warm and bubbly Ice Queen, so pray tell.’
‘It started when I was still at school and wouldn’t date any of the local boys. Then, when I was nineteen I moved away to Southampton where I met my husband. Big mistake there, he didn’t really want a wife, a just wanted a sperm receptacle and a punch bag. It took four years to build up the courage to ditch him, then just before I did he made the mistake of hitting on the wrong woman, and I mean both senses of the word. Seems that she was in the same lowlife club as he was because she was the owner’s daughter, not as he thought, one of the entertainers. The owner wasn’t too pleased and Nick was worked over well and proper. Then the idiot, my husband that is, had the nerve to report it to the police. Less than a week later he was dead, a heroin overdose they said. Now Nick was a bastard and an idiot but he wasn’t a druggie.’
I didn’t know what to say, so said nothing. Seeing my blank stare, Lizzie said softly, ‘sorry, strayed a bit off subject there but it still rankles. Anyway, as you could imagine when I came back to the village five years ago I was pretty much off men. Most of my contemporaries were married anyway, not that that stopped a few from wanting to console the widow. Those that weren’t wed, weren’t for good reasons. It took me a year living with Sheila before I had the courage to buy my own place and a lot longer before I could trust a man again. Do you realise that you are the very first man from the village that I have ever been out with.’
I was shocked at that revelation and told her so.
‘Enough talk, let’s go sample some wine and when we come out it’s your turn to open your heart.’
‘Okay to the first, I’ll consider the second.’"
The tasting was what I expected, a couple quite good, a couple bad and the rest pretty average. Wine tastings, at least ones like this, never had any really good wines available, they were just too expensive for the clientèle that attended. Still I had a really good time with Lizzie and got a few leads for our club as well as an invitation to a whisky tasting the following week. It was Scottish single malts only and there was a charge per ticket, though that would be refunded against any purchase.
Before I could even ask, Lizzie said, ‘you can count me out of that, I can’t stand the stuff.’
‘No problem, I’ll ask Tim, Jack and Peter. Actually that reminds me, what about Jane’s husband, is he likely to be a part of this?’
Lizzie laughed and said, ‘sorry I shouldn’t laugh but Jane has been a widow longer than me, the difference is that she loved her husband, so she continues to wear his ring. Of course it also helps keep the wolves at bay.’
‘Oh! I still have a lot to learn about the locals.’
As the tasting was finishing I was about to call Tom when Lizzie suggested an evening stroll around Dorchester. I was more than happy with that, but rang our taxi anyway to tell him we would be ready in another hour.
Picking up on her comment about Jane and wolves, Lizzie said, linking arms with me again, ‘now tell me about David, is he one of those predators we village ladies should beware of?’
‘I don’t think so, ’ I responded, ‘it depends on what you are after. Whereas I might be interested in a little love and romance, I am not looking for anything long term.’
‘Oh, and why is that?’ Lizzie asked, stopping to stand in front of me.
I explained about my wife and subsequent serious girlfriend, and how I had lived my life since.
‘So you are just looking for sex?’ Lizzie said with more than a little anger in her voice.
‘Not necessarily. Like tonight, I must admit that I’ve really enjoyed your company, yet I have no expectations beyond maybe a goodnight kiss. I’ve already thought that, given how tight our small community is, a bed partner from the village might not be a good idea.’
‘So why did you ask me to come with you tonight?’
‘Because I enjoyed what bit of your company I’d had and thought I would enjoy more of it. I was right, at least up until this conversation, ’ I responded, adding a smile at the end in an attempt to lighten the mood. ‘I sought nothing more than your company.’
Lizzie didn’t seem convinced, so I asked her what she thought were my intentions and why she had agreed to come.
‘I believed, and still do despite your denials, that your intention was to bed me. I enjoyed your company too, and was reasonably certain that you were a gentleman, so seduction would be on the cards. I’d already decided that if you were as nice as I thought, then I’d let you win, eventually and … I suppose I hoped it could lead to something lasting.’
I was amazed at her honesty. ‘You mean all that went through your mind in the few seconds that it took to answer?’
’I’d already had some thoughts along those lines, but otherwise yes.’
‘Look Lizzie, I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you but I have no intention of getting serious with anyone and I’ve told you that as soon as I could.’
’You’re right, it’s not as if you’ve led me on or anything, or that you’ve had what you want from me. I guess I’ve realised just how short of affection I am.’ she said sadly.
I felt quite awkward, this evening had started off great but had become a little morose. We had a slow walk back to await Tom and a very quiet return trip. I said goodnight at her door and unsurprisingly received no goodnight kiss, not even on my cheek.
After taking Aggie for a brief stroll, I went straight to bed. Before I managed to get to sleep I revisited the evening and the events leading up to it. After a while I accepted that I had done nothing wrong and it was not really my fault that I failed Lizzie’s expectations. My final thoughts reinforced my earlier decision to look for female company outside the village.
This is a slow romantic story from my imagination and is not biographic, although some parts are close.
There will be 9 chapters in all.
If you haven’t already, please read chapter one first.
Please tell me about any silly typos and such