All characters are fictitious, If a character name is used in connection with a side, it’s just co-incidence if that given name belongs in that side. Insofar as song lyrics being included I don’t know the legalities or etiquette involved, I have given the opening few and last few lines if that is all that is needed or the song in full if the text needs it and credit to the author in either case, traditional songs are treated the same but credited as Traditional.
This is a fiction story, not fantasy and while there is a lot of passion and some very erotic action in later parts and in book two if you are looking for raw action then I am sorry but this isn't the book for you.
We leave the bar, and go down the steps, turning left towards the exit for the toilets, downhill to the toilets and I tell her once she has changed, to go out the door at the end and find us in the marquee, Jenny goes into the ladies with her carrier bags, and I go into the gents, I might as well since I’m here. When I leave the gents, a queue has formed at the ladies; that could be because of Jenny changing in there, evil I know, but I have to chuckle to myself.
As I go outside I am struck by how warm it seems to be getting, well, it was a warm front that gave us the rain yesterday, so I shouldn’t be that surprised. In the Marquee it is easy to spot who I am looking for, they are fairly striking after all, and when I get to Sue and Val I lower my box and jacket to the concrete.
“Hi Sue, Val, is anyone in the queue yet or am I to have the honour of being the first to open my wallet?”
“Ken’s over there, behind Harry, he got here first, I thought he was rushing for the toilet, so he could hide and avoid the first round.”
“So where is Jenny?” “How did the shopping go?” “Did she spend a lot of your money?” “What did she get?” If they had rehearsed it they couldn’t have got the timing better as they asked alternate questions; it was only when they heard themselves that they burst out laughing and had to stop.
“Right, here we go, Round one question one, Jenny is in the ladies, getting changed, Question two, the shopping went very well considering the difference in our ages and fashion sense, in which I am apparently sadly lacking, my turn for a question now, do either of you know of an underwear shop here or do we have to cross the river?”
“I thought you passed one down the road a bit opposite the Two Brewers,” said Val.
“We probably did then, Hertfordshire Holly were dancing near there, we watched them, Jenny wasn’t impressed, so we’ll go back there after the lunch break. To continue with the questioning, fourthly, she didn’t spend any of my money, she wouldn’t let me pay, next, you will see some of what she bought when she comes in? I was allowed after much protest to buy her a half pint tankard, I told her it was traditional that your first tankard is always a gift; don’t rock the boat, please.” Ken and Harry return with four full tankards which are duly handed round.”You should have tapped us when we were getting these we could have saved you queuing again.”
“I don’t know what Jenny will want; I might as well wait till she gets here and let her read the tasting notes.
“Here she comes,” says Harry, who is facing the entrance, she looks great in the off-white flared skirt with the white floral blouse open down the front tucked into the waistband of the skirt and the orange strappy top under it.
Sue and Val are either side of Harry, Ken is next to Sue so if we open the circle there is space for Jenny between me and Ken. We open the circle to make space for her and she speaks to me first, in a fairly sharp tone, “You perv, I wondered why you were keen on this skirt, now I know, I was checking my appearance in the full length mirror at the top of the corridor, and against the light this skirt is practically see through, I think I will go and put my trousers back on.” Harry, who is facing her and looking into the light, comes to my defence.
“What do you mean? I’m looking into the light and it looks perfectly ok to me, what do you think Val? Or am I a perv as well?”
“Sorry Jenny, I know we are all a different generation to you, but I think you look really good, do you know what this makes me think of? And Jenny, you probably won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, back in 1980 or 81 there was a lot of fuss over some pictures that a newspaper had of Lady Di, while most photographers at an arranged photo call were taking front view pictures, a couple of them sneaked round behind her and took some pictures against the light, again as with you now, her legs were in silhouette, the fuss was that she was a prospective royal and that the picture breached royal protocol. So unless you can show that you have royal connections, you will just have to accept that Frank has an eye for making a girl look good, what else do have? As an outfit what you have on matches together marvellously did you get it as an outfit?
“No, these came from two different shops, as to the rest of it, so far I have a skirt that is too short, I don’t have the legs for it, a jacket, a cardigan and a couple of dresses; and I do still need undies, “
“We have already discussed your undies or the lack of them, you were too busy watching Hertfordshire Holly to look around you, and there was lingerie shop behind or facing you, near the Two Brewers.
“How about christening your tankard then Jenny, I have the tasting notes for what is available, have read through and let me know what you fancy”
“I have a question, was Frank spinning me a line about the traditions surrounding the gifting of tankards.
“Do you mean that you don’t buy your own first tankard, if so that’s true?”Answered Sue. “However who first fills it is entirely up to you. Have you made any sense of the notes?”
“No, afraid not, I am by choice a wine drinker, I don’t know what hoppy or malty even mean. I haven’t tasted either,”
“Look everyone, give her a taste of each of what we have, then she can have one of those or pick something different,
“I’m on Lunchbreak,” says Ken try a drop of this.”
“There’s a lot of bitterness in it and not a lot sweetness or alcohol to off-set it”
“I’m on Frigging” says Harry try this.”
“That’s nicer, sweeter but stronger I think”
“I’m drinking XT,” from Val,
“Not too sure about that, I don’t like the aftertaste.”
“Finally this is an IPA with a top.” From Sue.
“All can notice is the lemonade, although the beer isn’t offensive,
“So what’s it to be then, Friggin’ in the rigging, or something else,”
“What are you having, I could have a taste of that as well, couldn’t I?”
“I’ll have Nelson’s Blood, anyone need a refill?” All declines the offer, so I head towards the bar with Jenny following close behind, it will take a couple of minutes to get served so while I am waiting I ask if that is all the anger she can generate.
“That was more than enough of a display to make Ken pay for the beer; but it was amazing how everyone came to your defence.”
“That’s because I’m right, you really look good, nobody commented on having your hair down; and the skirt is translucent not see through. Modest as well aren’t I? Pint of Nelson’s please” My beer is handed over and Jenny takes a sip,
“I’ll have that please”
“Another Half of Nelson’s please.” I pay for the beer and turn to face Jenny,” you are beautiful, a proper flower, thank you for being here for me.”
“Now, now, we have to make like we aren’t keen on each other for a bit longer, how long till the Bounty Hounds start,” I look to the ‘stage’,
“They are in position, they will start soon. Have you seen much live music?”
“Would you believe I have never seen live music on this sort of scale? My sister had a band at her wedding reception. Band and guests together totalled less than one hundred.”
“Right let’s get back to the rest, see if you can find another sharp remark, then we will go up front to watch and listen.
Ken asks “What did she decide on, Frigging?”
“No, I have found a lady of rare taste and refinement with an educated palate who knows good ale when she finds it, this lady drinks of Nelson’s Blood.”
“Hey Sue, Guess what Jenny’s on.”
“Frigging” “No, Nelsons Blood”
“Wow I don’t know how she can.”
“How can you drink that, Jenny? It’s horrible, like drinking tar,”
“It would appear that my taste in beer is better than Frank’s sense of decency when it comes to clothes”
“If my taste is that bad, try the other skirt and the cardigan instead of that skirt and blouse next time you go to the ladies, let everyone else vote when you get back. Looser buys. Ok.”
“Ok, but I can’t be bothered to wait, I’m going now.”
“What’s got into Jenny today, she was happy enough this morning, what happened?” Asked Ken.
“I don’t know, I have never claimed to understand women, if she asks for an opinion I will give it, if she doesn’t like it it’s not my problem.”
“You didn’t give an honest opinion about clothes to a woman? You did, didn’t you? No wonder you’re in the mire!”
I look into my Nelson’s Blood and smile from ear to ear; I might have got one past Ken. Yippee!
We are in practically in the same positions as when Jenny came in first time round, and this time, because more people have moved to the front for the Bounty Hounds there is a lot more space for her to fill as she enters the Marquee, she looks stunning, the skirt is short, nearly six inches above her knees, she has good legs, the green of the skirt meshes perfectly with the orange of her top, and the cashmire sweater worn unbuttoned seemed to cling to her top accentuating her figure, as she approached her smile was nearly as broad as mine, but nobody was looking at her face.
“Ok folks,” I say, “Time to vote, do I have any form of acceptable dress sense when it comes to ladies clothing, and will those in favour please raise your tankards.
“By a vote of five to one, I declare that Jenny is getting the beer in!” Jenny comes to me and quietly asks do I look nice?”
“Everyone here thinks you look great, didn’t you look in that mirror when you left the ladies? Of course you did, and because you did you know it as well as I.” The Bounty hounds fire up at this point so I have to lean close to her to ask.
“How do we find out about the bet? I want to hold you; I know the dispute is phoney. What do we do next?”
“I don’t know, maybe you can talk to Harry, see if Ken or Sue has given in.”
“Ok if I get the beer in then bladder pressure will give me a chance to talk to Harry.”
“No, I lost, I have to buy the beer,” turning to the others, she asks, “Right, I have to get them in, who wants what, Speak now or go without.”
“Lunchbreak, Frigging, XT and IPA and One and a half Nelson’s Blood is the total order, I carry the men’s tankards, Jenny has the ladies tankards, we get to the front and after a very short wait we get the beer in. Jenny, of course, pays. I am beginning to think that she has standards very close to my own. We get the drinks back to the others who have managed to get a table, as we sit together; we hear that they will be dancing again at two thirty.
“Where are you planning on dancing?” I ask.
“Probably at the Two Brewers or the French Hospital, then try for a spot at the War Memorial, if we can’t get in there we will move round the corner to Ye Arrow. The Bounty Hounds start playing Honour and Praise, “Here you go this is what it’s supposed to sound like;
“On a fine summers morning we lay at the Quay,
The holds were filled high with the treasures of the sea,
So that they could be transported by men such as we,
To homeland and for queen. And so on....
At the end of the song Jenny is looking very moist in the eyes, there is a story in there and I would like to know more, but I won’t mention it, I hope others don’t either.
The next song is another Fairport standard, written by John Richards and titled The Deserter, this is a lament for the execution of World War One shell shock victims, I don’t know why, but all these songs about W.W.1 really get to me, No-one in my family tree on either side were significantly involved, I suppose someone will come up with a psychobabble explanation for it.
“Well it’s twenty past two, bottoms up; it’s time we were getting going again. Are you going to play along for a couple Frank? If you don’t it’s a waste of energy carting that about all day, or is it a status symbol?
“I might well, later on, but first I have to go to the gents,”
“No ribald comments but I had better as well.” Says Harry, “Back in a minute.”
As we are standing in the queue for the gents I ask Harry if he knows anything about the bet he says “I know nothing but Val is doing a lot more smiling at Sue since Jenny had a go at you, If I go back first, I’ll listen for any clues, give me a minute.” As it happens, he passes Jenny in the corridor on his way back, to the table. As Harry sits again to finish his Frigging. Sue announces “All right, I was wrong; I could have sworn they were close, sorry dear, your beer fund just took a hit,”
“Don’t worry about it, I thought you were right as well, I’m glad I didn’t up the stakes to Sunday as well! Still it’s not too bad, A round in Ye Arrow when we finish and a couple more here on the way back won’t clear me out, But you are buying tomorrow,” he said looking straight at Sue and winking. I return to the table and down the last of my beer, and seeing Jenny’s isn’t empty “I assume Jenny’s gone to the ladies, is she coming back or are we meeting outside.” Shrugs all around.
“Right I’ll wait here for her; we will probably listen to the rest of the set while we have another one and catch you later outside or at Ye Arrow.”
I settle in for a bit of a wait and after another couple of minutes, she comes in to the marquee, I stand up to make sure she sees me and after looking all around, crosses to me puts her arms around my neck and kisses me soundly, I instantly put my arms around her waist and rest my hands on her bottom, this lasts a few seconds and as we let each other go, she again looks around. “Feel better now?” she asks, eyes shining brightly as she looks into my eyes. I nod.
“Good, has everyone gone?” “Yes thankfully, otherwise the cat would most definitely be out of the proverbial bag, “Would you like another one,” I ask raising my tankard, “we could then move closer to the front for the rest of the set.” “Please, I could get taste for that.” I go to the bar while Jenny watches our stuff, I watch her while I slowly progress to the front, and she keeps looking down at her legs, almost as though see doesn’t think they are hers. “Pint of nelsons please and half of Hobgoblin please.” Let’s see if she notices the difference, I pay for the drinks and go back to the table and sit to her left, “why do you keep looking at your legs, haven’t you seen them before?”
“I haven’t seen this much of them before in a skirt; I really do think it’s too short.”
“If you think that is too short, I don’t think you would like to wear that, moving my tankard towards the bar, to the right of Jenny, is a girl with a skirt that only just came below her sex. I bet she doesn’t sit down or bend over very often! Why are you worrying about your skirt, you know you look good, you looked in the mirror, or are you fishing for more compliments?” She colours most charmingly.
“If so, I still think you look stunning, but what do I know, I’m only a bloke.”
“Can we stay here, I know we can’t talk properly, but I would like to listen to the music as well.” She takes a sip of beer.
“This isn’t the same, she looks into her tankard, it’s more red, (pause) tastes of spices, (another taste and pause) smoother and I don’t think it’s quite as strong. Have you still got those beer notes? I want to see if I can identify it.” I twist round to check the table behind us, there is a copy on there so I ask the lad sitting there to pass it. “Thank you.” I pass the notes to Jenny, and she spends a couple of minutes reading then announces.
“It has to be Hobgoblin, it could be Pussy Strong Porter but from the notes I don’t think so.”
“Well done, I couldn’t have done that.”
“Without wishing to sound at all snobbish, because I’m not, wine drinkers have generally a better sense of taste than the average beer drinker, I think that’s because wine measures are smaller, stronger, cost a lot more in terms of pounds per pint and are a lot more complex in flavours, so you take more time and think about it more.” The Bounty Hounds come to the end of a song that I didn’t recognize, and then announce for their last one they will do Matty Groves, a traditional song, again a Fairport standard, and along with a lot of the audience, I join in,
“A holiday, a holiday and the first one of the year,
Lord Darnell’s wife came into the church, the gospel for to hear,
And when the meeting it was done......
.....But bury my lady at the top for she was of noble kin.” This gets an extended round of applause, they go off and don’t return. In the comparative silence that follows conversations around us swell in volume, but not to the extent of making us have problems talking.
“That last song they did, do you know all the words, all the way through? “
“Yes, and some of the variations that Fairport put in.”
“What do you mean by variations?”
“The verse that goes,”
“How do like my feather bed, how do you like my sheets?
“How do like my lady wife who lies in your arms asleep?
“Upon occasion becomes,”
“How do like my feather bed, how do you like my sheets?
“How do like my curtains I got from Ikea last week?
“Why do they do that?”
“I have no idea, one theory is it might help track bootleg copies, but I think that’s a load of tosh, I like to think it’s to keep the fans off balance when they sing along.” Now the Bounty Hounds have finished what will we do next?
“Well we were just going to do the tourist bit, weren’t we? But we haven’t been back to near the Two Brewers yet to get your undies, then wander about, look at a few dances, maybe catch Blackwater doing their last one. We need to finish our drinks first, so while we do that, can you tell me something about yourself, all I know is you are Jennifer, you live in a flat somewhere in Bishops Stortford, your Dad died a couple of years ago and finally you found a crap boyfriend named Dave, oh, I forgot that you have a sister. So how about a potted biography your life in ten minutes, that should leave plenty of gaps and unexplained bits to keep us talking for a fair while.
“Ok it seems fair enough, my full name is Jennifer Anne Saunders, no Ab Fab jokes please, I was born in St Albans nearly twenty six years ago, I am an orphan, mum died in an accident when I was ten, I was then brought up by Dad and my elder sister, Erica, who married three years ago, I am very single, I live by myself in a flat in Bishops Stortford, I am self employed as a property agent, I don’t drive, I like a drink and good food, I don’t do sport, and I have no hobbies.”
“That was less than one minute, what did you do at school, any favourite subjects, what did you hate?”
“I hated senior school, I was bullied by the bigger girls after mum was killed, I think because I didn’t get the emotional support and guidance that just sort of filters down from mother to daughter, and I couldn’t handle the pressure to conform to the standards of the rest of my age group, I felt they were wrong, but didn’t know why, I finished school when I was sixteen, with bare passes in my GCSE’s. I got a job as an office girl in an estate agents, I think Dad got that for me, I don’t know or care how, he was always interested in anything that happened at work and because he was interested I was more motivated to make more of it, I went to college for four years of day and evening classes got my qualifications as a quantity surveyor. Mum and Dad always had what they wanted, but Erica and I were always short of funds, if we wanted something we had to save or work for it, Dad said it was to teach us the value of money.”
“That takes you to around twenty one, what has happened during the last five years,”
“Not a lot really in one sense, but a hell of a lot in another, once I was twenty one, both Erica and I were taken by Dad to an office in Bishops Stortford where we were given what amounts to a crash course in the financial details and property owned by our Dad, we were both stunned at how much Dad was worth, and an outline of how it was planned to form two property enterprises from the one just prior to or immediately after his death. After seeing the look of shock, fear and worry on our faces, he said that he had no plans to die just yet and that the division of his estate would be revaluated every six months to ensure the division was fair and equitable, and things were set up in such a way that he could run what he called ‘his little empire’ by phone and e-mail etc, so he was going cruising in his twelve metre Bermudan sloop and with so much comms gear onboard if anything did crop up he could handle it. His plan was to go south from the east coast down to Hastings or Rye, across to Normandy, staying within twenty miles of the coast down to Spain, Portugal and into the Mediterranean. Sailing from port to port east to Italy, some of the Greek islands, Cyprus and back home via Malta, maybe three to four years, don’t worry if we don’t hear from him for a month or more we would get postcards etc, and if there was anything important we would hear from his agents. He left in July, and he told us both at his leaving dinner, that he would probably stay a week or so at time at most of the Biscay ports, although the boat was easily capable of riding out a Biscay gale, he liked his comfort and would stay in a marina for the duration.”
“We both received postcards every couple of weeks, Erica one week, me a week or so later, I think he did it that way to make sure kept in contact just swapping postcards. It became a bit of a ritual in that every month or so we would meet up in The Red Lion Hotel for a meal, chat and swop cards, we never swopped them back, I still have all Erica’s. He was having a great time, the cards from the French Med coast were usually funny, the Italian ones, usually just scenic. The last few from the Greek islands were mainly in envelopes, and were from clothing optional beaches; the pictures of Dad were carefully posed to ensure no-one could think any dark thoughts about him and his daughters. The next thing we heard, and that was nearly two and a half years ago was that Dad was dead, His boat had motored slowly into a bay off a small island near Crete, it went straight into the bay and stopped when it grounded out on the keel, no-one took any notice until the engine hadn’t stopped some twenty minutes later. When some of the people on the beach swam out they found Dad slumped in the cockpit, the post mortem showed that he had died from a massive heart attack. Despite all Dads planning it still took nine months to get his estate sorted, the most difficult bit, legally speaking, was the repatriation, if that is the right word, of the boat, British boat, Greek waters, a dead body and local laws all combined to make it a nightmare. The legal types Dad had on a retainer earned their money getting it all sorted eventually, and now you have before you a not very poor little orphan.”
“Can I ask a sort of personal question?”
“Of course you can, I reserve the right to silence, though”
“Why rent a flat, if you are a lady of some value?” After I few moments the reply comes,
“This is privileged information and goes no further; do I have your word on that?”
“Of course, as Chrissie said, I’m nosey not a gossip.”
“Who says I rent my flat? The last time I checked I owned the block, no-one there knows that and I’d like to keep it that way.”
“Certainly, what better way is there to keep an eye on your tenants?”
“I’ve finished my drink and I don’t even remember drinking it.”
“I’m done as well, are you fit enough to continue the shopping trip.”
With a nod and a smile we rise, Jenny looks at the girl in the micro mini skirt and shrugs her shoulders, I do my Dobbin bit putting my box on my back after clipping on the tankards; the shopping and my jacket in my left arm, as we enter the hotel proper and go up the corridor, I am sure I see Jenny put a bit of a wriggle on as she walks towards the full length mirror at the end, I smile, blow her a kiss and keep my mouth firmly closed.
Once outside in the street, it has warmed up a treat, we turn left towards the Brewers and sure enough there is a lingerie shop opposite, gathering my courage, we go in and are faced with rack after rack of underwear, they seem to have tried to get an entire M&S store stock into a twenty by fifteen shop, with all the people here for sweeps I expected the shop to be very busy, but the staff outnumbered the customers, a sales girl approached us inside five seconds of us entering, and enquired if she could be of assistance, Jenny said what she wanted and the girl pointed to a rack at the back of the shop, on the left hand side, “you can wait here if you like I’ll only be a minute.” I wonder if that’s a proper sixty second minute, or one of those flexible female ones that they keep especially for shopping, it was a proper one, with a couple of packs of panties she is back at the till, paid and ready to go in no time at all.
“That wasn’t so bad was it love?” she says quietly to me as we exit the shop, she holds my hand then quickly releases it again “Ooops, I keep forgetting.”
“Shall we continue on our original course, back to the war memorial and onwards if there is nothing of interest?”
“Can we watch these please, this is the first side with a big band that I’ve seen?”
“Sorry, of course we can, they are Tribal Traditions Border they do a good dance to drums only, well last year they did, and the odds are that it is being given a rest, this was Lynda and my last side.” The drums start up, a very good tribal African rhythm, a couple of concertinas come on top and then the dancers start to move and the sound of the drums swell, they echo off the walls seeming to be all around us, the dancers bob and weave, seeming to clash sticks at random intervals, it all adds to the energy, after a couple of chorus’s and figures at the end of a figure, the drums suddenly stop and the dancers drop like puppets whose strings have been cut. A single large drum starts a slow beat as the dancers slowly lift themselves up and stand in a circle facing out, another smaller drum starts and the dancers sway, and then charge screaming into the crowd, the dancers weren’t the only ones screaming, one of the dancers, Michael, had recognised me and charged straight at me, and Jenny screamed.
“After a few seconds Jenny’s nerves had steadied, “did you know that was coming?”
“I didn’t know but I was not at all surprised.” I reply, “Michael, meet Jenny, Jenny this is Michael Clark once Squire to Tribal Border, how is the side doing.”
“Pretty good as you can see, I’m doing another stint as Squire this year, we have about thirty in the side now, we are starting to challenge the Whitchmen as far as band size goes.”
“That’s the advantage of drum based music I suppose, it probably only takes one practice to learn a part of the music.”
“That’s true and a drum is a lot cheaper than a melodeon or concertina. Look, we were all sorry to hear about Lynda, it was too late for us to get up there for you, and I know how much fun sympathy cards are to read, when they are coming at you from all directions, that’s why we didn’t send one from the side. I know it’s early but” I interrupt, “Ken at Blackwater has already asked me to come back.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say, but it is nice to know someone has poked his head above the parapet, did you bite it off, or were you your usual polite self? What I was going to say was more than half the side think there should be an ale for her one year on, if someone has already beaten us to it fair enough, if not can we host it? If you let us, we were thinking of fifth and sixth of November, we have a farmer in the side and he has a convenient high field we can use, with a bit of work, if there is interest, a barn and it’s yard in the field might be available for camping.”
“That’s a wonderful idea, nobody else has beaten you to it, I hadn’t even thought of it, is there enough interest to make it viable, it will be late in the year?”
“I’ve been putting a few feelers out, asked a few sides who might like to participate and I am up to eight sides and around eighty people that come hell or high water would love to be part of it, so it’s a goer? Right,
“I suppose it’s confirmed then, go ahead with it, thank everyone from me.” I turn to Jenny, she can see I am near to crying again. “I can’t help you here, wear your heart on your sleeve and let’s move on to the war memorial,” there is a cheer from behind us, “what was that about, what is an ‘ale’?”
“An ale is a bring a bottle party but writ very large, some last a long weekend to celebrate something, some sides will probably bring a barrel or have it sent a week or so before, and from the cheer we heard from Tribal, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up with a hundred to one-fifty people.” We are approaching the cathedral and the crowd is getting denser, I can see that Blackwater are up next and the band is this end, I lower my box bag and take out my melodeon I give the empty bag to Jenny telling her to follow me, with lots of excuse me’s and wearing my box so it goes first I make it to the band, I urge Jenny in beside me, I ask Richard what they are doing, Pump the Bilges,
“Is that still Yankee Doodle?” He nods as he starts hitting the drum with a bit of gusto. The rest of the band comes in for the ninth beat and we are off, this is their most showy high energy dance, you can’t do it twice on the trot. The sticking is crisp and enthusiastically loud, the coloured rags flying a treat and from the midst of the band Jenny has a first class view of the dancing, I tell her to get ready to move, either to get out of the way of the dancers or to move forwards with the band. As the dance finishes the dancers go out through the music, the last pair holding hands aloft over the lead musician as they go off, the band then marches forward to occupy the space vacated by the dancers, and finishing the ‘B’ Music on a crescendo and out. We all meet up at the edge of the street where bags, tankards and unused instruments are left.
“Ye gods Ken, I needed that, It still clears the cobwebs a treat.”
“Is Jenny all right,” he asks, nodding towards her.
“I think it’s a bit of an emotional overload, she thought you were brilliant at the Eagle, here she was beside me in the band, seeing the dancers, feeling the drums and hearing the music when we marched down she was in the middle at the end. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns into a bit of a Morris junkie, she will be ok and Sue and Val are with her now.
I met Michael Clark down the road a bit, Tribal want to do an ale for Lynda, the fifth and sixth of November is pencilled in, venue and camping and caravans are sorted. You should have heard the cheer from them when Michael told them I gave the go-ahead.”
“Will we get an invite?” Ken asks,
“I thought you might already be involved, Michael said the has had a positive response from eight sides already, since we were only ever part of seven, I had assumed you were one of them, of course you will be invited as a side, I’ll catch Michael later or e-mail him.
“It looks like another border side have joined the spot, I haven’t seen them before, any idea who they are?”
“I think they might be Blackbird Border, a new side from Bedfordshire, I saw their kit when we were looking for Billington yesterday. How many have you done here so far?”
“Two so far, I don’t think we will get a third, there are five sides here now, we may as well move on to Ye Arrow,” He moves off to muster the troops to the new location, We eventually make our way to the next spot, when we get there we are the only side here, that won’t last long. Ken is looking round to see who he has and what he can do, He moves among the dancers, Tinner’s Rabbit, dance, dance, dance, that’s one set, Richard you bang, he taps 3 more dancers, set two, Kath, can you and Frank lead the music, everyone else play, shake, or bang something. I have a quick moment of panic.
“Kath, is it still Uncle Bernard’s Polka?”
“Yes, A,thenA,B,A,B, etc. you start with an ‘A’ then I will come in for the second one.”
The dancers move into position, I look to Ken, he nods, I look to Kath, she nods the time, one, two, three, and four, off I go I’m on autopilot again, chorus, one hey, chorus, three sticks in, chorus, two hey, chorus, three hands in, chorus, three hey, chorus, ending on the yell, drum beats on for four, box back in with the A music, dancers lead off and the music follows with the drums last. After we have finished playing I find Ken.
“Thanks for that, there are a few memories tied up with that one, do you remember dancing that with the Widders at Cropredy.” During the time we were doing our dance, Bishop Gundulf’s clog side join us, while they are doing one Coton Morris also join us, they follow Bishop Gundulf’s. Blackwater go on again after Coton, and Ken announces this will be the last one for the day, we will end with Salmon Slapping, This is a four man dance they double it up for eight, the sticking in this is very enthusiastic, it’s another very showy dance, lots of swinging and turning, making the rags flutter. The tune is Jackie Tar, again I join the band and Jenny stands beside me with a shaker, she is really getting into this. At the end the dancers dance off then come back behind the musicians for a final flourish, shouting and brandishing sticks as the B music climaxes with a drum thrashing.
It is now four o’clock and we all go into Ye Arrow for a pint, we are lucky enough to get a table when some Dark Horse members leave, As Jenny sits down she makes a show of trying to pull the skirt a little lower, Val and Sue note this and ask” Why are you so worried about that skirt, leave it alone or you will split a seam, or worse!”
“I have to; he knew this would be too short, I don’t know why you all supported him.”
“Look Jenny, he tried to help you, I don’t know how you normally dress, but please, take our word on it that the vote was in no way rigged, we thought you looked good and voted accordingly.
“What are you drinking, Jenny,” Ken asks,
“What do I have a choice of, so far I’ve preferred dark beers,” Ken looks behind him to the bar, “Hobgoblin or Guiness by the look of it.”
“Hobgoblin please Ken,” “Val?” “Master brew please,” “Sue?” “Master brew please,” “Harry?” “Spitfire please,” “Frank?” “Hobgoblin please.” “Can you give us a hand with this lot, Frank?”
“Sure.” Ken gets the beer in, the only hiccup being getting a pint in for Jenny, we manage to get them all back to the table, and as space is a bit tight, I stand behind Jenny, so I only hear her reaction when Ken puts a pint glass in front of her.
“I’m only on halves, Ken, I can’t empty that,”
“I’ve been watching you, no you don’t have to blush, you have really got into it today, Frank reckons you could be a Morris junkie, don’t look at him like that either it’s not an insult, If there was a festival in the next town to you would you go?”
“I suppose so, yes.”
“That’s the definition of a Morris junkie, I didn’t even say what sort of festival. That means you drink pints in the company of a Morris side, you don’t have to empty them at the same rate.”
Jenny says, “Can I ask a question please?”
“Yes, I suppose so, who are you asking”
“Anyone who will give an honest answer will do. The question is who won that outrageous bet about Frank and me this morning?”
“What bet?” “How did you know?” “Val did.”
“Is that why Ken got the beer in again?”
“Yes, that’s why.” Jenny stands up and says “We have a confession to make,” she turns to me puts her arms around my neck and gives me a lingering kiss, I put my arms around her waist and rest my hands on the top of her bottom, we break and face them arms around each other.”
“When and how did you find out about it,” Sue asks, I give Jenny a little squeeze, as I say, “Jenny found you out, she can lip read, not well, according to her, but enough to make some form of sense out of the conversation. When she told me, we weren’t that pleased at being the subject of a bet, and so devised the fashion scam to confuse you both, so Sue, at what point did you admit defeat?”
“When Jenny came in ranting about the see through skirt I was worried and when she lost the vote on that skirt I was convinced I was wrong and threw in the towel.”
“If I can ask a personal question of the pair of you, when did you know there might be something between you both?”
“I’ll go first if that’s ok love, last night, or rather early hours this morning I was woken by Jenny crying I felt sympathy for her so I turned over, I put my arm over her and just held her, for a couple of hours or so, that’s all I did.
“My turn now? As Frank said I was crying, he held me; his hands didn’t wander at all, I felt that I could trust him. I slept for a while, He needed a toilet break at first light, so just for being good and to further tempt him, I opened my sleeping bag and folded it back, I know it could have been a risky thing to do but I was convinced I was safe with him, when he came back to bed I asked him to hold me again, this time it was just over his t-shirt that I was wearing, again his hands didn’t wander, once I was sure he was asleep I pulled my t-shirt up a little bit at a time until his hand was on my tummy. When we both woke up, his hands still didn’t wander, that’s when I knew he might be someone special, certainly different to any other bloke I had heard of. I knew he could be trusted, because I trusted him, he trusted me. In a more usual relationship it could take a year or more to build the level of trust we had in 12 hours. Frank showed me I could do things that I knew I couldn’t; tonight if there is singing in the awning we will do a song together.
Val asks, “Well Jenny, we now know you were conning us over the two skirts, what else did you buy?” At this point Jenny’s phone rings she lifts it from her bag, “please excuse me, it’s Chrissie, I was supposed to ring her this afternoon.” As Jenny leaves the bar, I slip into her place on the bench seat and the interrogation continues.
Outside, it is a little quieter so that she can hear the news from home, after a couple of minutes listening, she exclaimed “Chrissie, that is brilliant, Thank you so much, I would like to say that you have made my weekend, unfortunately something else has happened that makes your news just the icing on the cake.”
Chrissie pleads, “Pray tell me, please, you know you shouldn’t be cruel and dangle bits of news in front of nosey people like me, I need the whole story.”
“Sorry Chrissie, you aren’t getting the whole story, not yet anyway, this story might have a while to run.”
“Jenny girl, you’ve found a bloke, haven’t you? What’s he like? I hope he’s better than that last load of trash you found.”
“Chrissie, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but just to whet your appetite, we lay together on his bed last night, and he didn’t put a finger out of place. He’s a gentleman, and I now trust him completely. I have to go soon but before I go could you take some of my council tax cash and stock the fridge with bacon, sausages, hash browns and black pudding, I just got a taste for full English this morning; I have fallen in with a Morris side, they are called Blackwater and are great fun, they have me drinking pints and enjoying it. See you Monday evening Chrissie, Bye.”
“Bye Jenny, be safe.”
Meanwhile the interrogation of Frank continues inside the pub.
“How did you manage to pull the wool over our eyes so effectively? It’s so unlike you to be as devious as this?”
“Ah, that’s easy, as you all know I can’t lie to save my life, and I know it therefore I don’t do it, but if somebody leads you off in the wrong direction, or you decide to bark up the wrong tree and there is nothing to make me correct your error, silence can be a very effective way of lying by proxy.”
“So what did the pair of you buy, you really do have the eye for clothes, don’t you, did you sort Lynda’s wardrobe, she always looked good.”
“Not really, she bought what she liked at the time, and it went into the wardrobe or a drawer, when we were going out I just helped her select items that went together from what was available.
Jenny re-enters and comes to sit next to me, she is grinning from ear to ear.
“What’s happened? Did Chrissie have some good news?”
“You could say that, Dave, No, David tried to force his way into my flat just after midday, Chrissie called the police. They were there very, very quickly, less than two minutes according to Chrissie, he was still banging and swearing at the locked door, He was arrested for a public order offence. Once he had been removed she let the police in, and gave them a statement and lots of tea and biscuits. I have to also give a statement when I go back.” Jenny sees my crestfallen looks and giggles,
“Don’t worry love, I told her I wouldn’t be back till late Monday.” I instantly smile back at her.
“He does wear his heart on his sleeve, doesn’t he?”
“I can’t help it, that’s the way I am and though it can be a nuisance I wouldn’t want to change.”
“To resume the previous question, what did the pair of you buy on your shopping spree?”
“Not a lot really, I would like a couple more tops, to go with the two skirts. We had a, I don’t know, a bet I suppose you would call it, Frank would select an item for me and he would buy it, but I did have right of veto. You work out which item or items he chose.”
Jenny stands up and picking up the bags, placed them where she had been sitting, In the top of the bag was the grey jacket, This slips easily over the cashmere cardigan, she gives a twirl, and takes it off, next is the grey dress, this is just held in front of her.
“That’s nice, how are colours together?” asks Val.”
“They are far enough apart to go, but not so close as to look like a faded suit, and lastly, as a treat I suppose, I have this, and she holds the green dress in front of herself.”
“I bet you a pint that Frank chose that one, it’s perfect for you, maybe an inch or two too long, but that’s very nice. Is it a good label, what are the others?”
“Frank did choose this and the grey dress, he told me to choose one which he was going to buy for me, so what is it with you lot and my legs? This is Monsoon, the grey dress is Karen Millen as is the jacket.”
“That must have set you back a fair bit Jenny.” Said Sue.
“I don’t know how much the green dress was, Frank’s not telling, but the grey K.M. jacket and dress together were less than twenty pounds,
“That’s brilliant value; I wonder why they were so inexpensive, I assume you checked them?” stated Val
“Frank had given the dress a better check than I would,”
“I’m guessing that whoever priced the stock up, didn’t know materials or labels, if I have time I would like to go back with Frank and see what other bargains we can find, as you said earlier when I was having a paddy at him, he does have the eye and as he said earlier, ‘trained well I was by an expert.”
“Jenny, how about us going back when we have finished our drinks for another rummage, if they are already closed then we can wait for Ken and co in the Gordon.”
“Please sir, can Val and I keep you company.”
“Do you have a problem with company Jenny?”
“No, of course not, the more the merrier.”
“Ok, bottoms up, those who want a trip aboard the shopping express.”
We leave the pub and head back to the scene or our previous purchases. As we go in Jenny and I are greeted with a “Hello again.” We nod and smile in return. I hand over Jenny’s previous purchases to the lady behind the till.
“Would you look after these for us please?”
“Certainly.” We move into the shop.
“What are you looking for this time?”
“We are looking for a couple of tops, and any other bargains that I like the look of.” We head to the racks and are going through the hangers, side by side, she skips straight over a rich cream blouse; I take it off the rack,” what’s wrong with this, I think it would suit you,”
“It’s too see through,”
“In bright daylight you are probably right but in subdued evening light it would be ok or over that strappy top or with a flesh bra under, I feel you should go with it,”
“I hadn’t thought of the orange top under, is it ok, how much?
“One pound fifty.”
“I think I can run to that.” I lay it over my left arm, and lean into her, kissing her head and holding her hip. Val approaches with a navy two piece skirt suit, the skirt is pleated, and the jacket looks nicely tailored.
“I think they have a changing room, but I wouldn’t ask, they would worry about the face paint and concealing items under the rag coat, is it the right size, and are all the seams the same colour and consistent spacing.”
“To check for alterations and repairs.”
“I never thought of that.” Val moves back to Sue, I see them talking and looking at the navy suit, Val doesn’t put it back, I return my attention to Jenny, she has pulled out an olive jersey knit sweater, She holds to herself , The colour isn’t right with that skirt, but I like it.
“What do you think?”
“I like it but not with that skirt”
“Do you think it’s too...slinky? It’s the only word that I can think of that fits, it is a size eight but looks very snug.”
“I think it really suits you; when you first held it I was concerned that it might gape between the buttons, but they are closely spaced, take a chance on it.” Jenny turns to face me.
“That’s the two tops that I needed, do you have any thoughts about what you would like to see me in.”
“Thanks for asking, but I don’t want to deafen the whole shop when my halo falls off!”
“The things we have bought today, back at the van later, and then maybe a cuddle together, I am a man of simple pleasures. One thing does occur to me now that I have the time to just look at you properly and with my mind’s eye, not just the ones either side of my snout, I am going to ask you a question and I know I have to be ready to duck, but is that your natural hair colour, I see you with red hair, that’s why green looks so fitting on you.”
“How did you find out? Did they miss a bit? I’ll have them if they have?”
“Calm down, they didn’t miss anything; your guilty little secret is safe with me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Trust, remember, we have it.”
“I am a natural carrot top, the colour of Ron in the Harry Potter series, you can have no idea, how I hated that colour, as soon as I left school I dyed my hair and it’s been this colour ever since, and I’m not changing it back. So there.”
“As I said a few seconds ago, keep calm, I have absolutely no desire to change you, but, and there usually is a but, If you want to change yourself, as I hope you will, it will have nothing to do with me,”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You now wear a skirt above the knee, I don’t think you possess any skirts of that length, I like it, my friends, correct that, our friends like it, and judging by the wiggle you put on in the corridor of the Gordon on our way out, you also like the way it looks. I might have pointed you in that direction, but I did not change you, if in the future your skirts tend towards this shorter length, you will have done that not me. Also, remember earlier in Ye Arrow, you said ‘we we will do a song together’ have you ever done that before? Have I changed you? The word ‘changed’ in this context has connotations of force that is totally at odds with the way that we evolve as our relationship evolves doesn’t have. I think we will evolve ourselves in the future, not in the Darwinian sense but in relation to each other. There will be now or may be in the future some aspect of me or my behaviour that over a period will change, I may not even be aware of the change, but it will happen.”
“That sounds sort of spooky, how do you know it will happen.”
“Twenty twenty hindsight, I recognised the changes in Lynda, over our twenty three years together, as I acknowledge the changes in me over the same period. Anyway that’s enough heavy stuff for now, shall we go and see what Sue and Val have found, or would you like another rummage amongst the racks,”
“No thanks, we’ll go see Val and Sue, but no more shopping for me, I will have to find a hole in the wall later or tomorrow.”
“Do you need a sub, to keep you going?”
“No thanks, I should still have around thirty pounds. That should keep us in beer until tomorrow. Hi ladies, have you spent out yet.”
“Not spent out, but we have finished looking,” says Sue, “what have you bought this time?”
“Cream blouse and a green sweater”
“I don’t want to rub it in, but Frank selected the blouse for the orange top, didn’t he? He did the same thing for Lynda time and again. Right, everybody out, let’s pay for this lot and find the rest of the men and a drink at the Gordon.” I don’t see what Val and Sue have bought and how much they spent, but Jenny has change out of a fiver.
We make our way across to the Gordon, the streets are getting very quiet, and it’s getting close to five o’clock, there aren’t many Morris people about, soon the local teenagers will be out reclaiming their streets back. If we have a pint here it will be a quick one, we are just going down the corridor past the toilets, when Ken and Harry come towards us.
“We were about to come and look for you, It’s time we should be getting back to the vans, It will be five thirty before we clear the town, once we are back outside loads are redistributed, Jenny gains a stick bag, and loses her shopping, Val, looses the small drum but gains all the shopping, Harry has both drums, Ken gets two stick bags, I have my box and all the tankards. As we go past the Two Brewers, the Irish music has stopped and Technocrap music has started, at the wine bar near The Eagle, closed during the day, staff are busy preparing to open, The Eagle itself has bouncers, two at each door, rock music, and a lot of youngsters inside. As we continue towards the end of the High Street, Jenny comes close. “I don’t think I have ever felt as uncomfortable in a town in the full light of day as I have during the last fifteen minutes, is it always like this?”
“I am afraid it is here, the dancing is listed to finish at around four thirty, the local lads and lass’s want to reclaim their patch as soon as possible after we vacate, sometimes before, that’s why there are so many police about. I have to go into the convenience store at the end, the butcher’s closed over an hour ago, and we need some meat for tea tonight and something to do with it, what would you fancy for dinner? Assuming they have the fixings.”
“I have a better idea, I will fix dinner, what do you fancy,”
“I daren’t tell you! Seriously though I am not a foodie, it is body fuel, having said that I eat most things except cockles, shrimps and that sort of thing.” I call out to Ken, “we have to do some shopping, see you later, at the van.” “Ok.” I remove my box, and carry it by its handle; it’s safer and easier to move that way, and we go into the shop, They don’t have a lot of meat, to be honest it is too small to carry a lot of stock, and perishables like that can’t be profitable, especially with a butcher over the road.
“Let’s go,” from Jenny, “there is nothing here to make a decent meal, I will order some stuff online and have it delivered to the campsite.”
“Do you want to catch up with rest of Blackwater?” I ask.
“If we go back the way we came down, we could sit in the playing fields and sort out and place the order, and be back before it’s delivered,” We walk back towards Fort Pitt, and when we reach the bottom of the playing field we see Blackwater nearly at the top, we continue walking past the play area and take a seat overlooking the bowls green. Once we have unloaded ourselves, we sit and enjoy the peace, as we cuddle on the bench, I explain that I am not that technologically capable, it’s all down to you Jenny, to sort it out, I will settle up with you after. It takes a couple of minutes of screen sliding and button tapping; I am asked one question, the reg. No of the vehicle or caravan, “all done, spicy tuna with a pesto sauce and a pasta bake. Sound ok for you love?”
“Smashing job, thank you, sweetest.”
“It will be delivered to Fort Pitt campsite in thirty minutes.” I turn towards Jenny, and placing my right hand on her leg, lean forward to kiss her, it turns into a long, gentle, lip massage, I am tempted to open my mouth and try to use my tongue, but I worry about how fresh my breath might be, I’ve had a few drinks, no I’ll stick with this lip massage, it’s nice, I stroke her leg, gently, from knee to hemline, going no higher, my left hand is gently coaxing across from her shoulder to her neck, I am so involved with the kiss, I fail to hear the approach of a group of people.
“Ain’t love grand,” “Do you think they’ll surface before supper,” “I think they are having supper” “They are having something” “Wakey, wakey, Frank, Jenny, Time to be sociable,” We break the kiss, we are both well coloured, and I don’t think it’s all embarrassment.
“Michael, have you no tact? Look how you’ve embarrassed the young lady, and the rest of you are no better. I didn’t think you camped, you are practically local.”
“Some of the youngsters wanted to try camping; we knew that you needed to be on someone’s books, so we made it a side weekend, we didn’t expect a sex-ed lesson on the way back though”
“Stop it, Michael, I don’t think Jenny even recognises who you are, this collectively is Tribal again, in civvies they almost look human don’t they?”
“Sorry Michael, as Frank said, I didn’t recognise you, I suppose that’s what the kit is supposed to do. I would guess it is time for us to start moving anyway, it’s amazing how time flies,” “when you’re enjoying yourself,” finished a tall curvy blonde haired woman as she held Michael’s hand in a most proprietary way. “This is my wife, Julie and the bump, due to make an appearance in October”
“I didn’t know you had remarried, congratulations to you both, when did that happen?”
“Early December, probably when you were feeling at your lowest, sorry you didn’t get an invite, there were only thirty guests all told, we were both second time around, and it didn’t feel right thinking about a big do.”
“Don’t worry yourselves, the way I was feeling then I would have been as welcome as Banquo’s ghost. It was a real effort to contact a side and ask them to put me on the roll for this weekend; I was so close to changing my mind again and not coming.” As I said this Jenny looked at me and almost looked shocked at maybe us not meeting and she says I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
Michael asks, “What are you doing tonight, fancy coming out for a couple in the country?”
“Sorry Michael, we are booked into Blackwater’s awning tonight once we have had some food and got cleaned up and changed, by the by could you add Blackwater to the Ale list I don’t know their numbers. It looks like the rest of your lot have had enough of standing around and are making a bid for freedom.”As I point to some of the younger, more energetic people running up the hill.
“I am getting too kind in my middle age, I’ll work them harder tomorrow, the seaweed readers are threatening us with twenty five degrees and light winds, and they won’t run up the hill this time Sunday. Jenny looks at her watch,
“We have less than ten minutes to get to the camping field, or we will be going hungry tonight, come on then, Banquo.” I am up and loaded in short order, and we all continue the climb back to the school. As we walk across the car park a supermarket delivery van comes up the hill and pulls into the car park, Jenny leaves us and waves her arm at the van driver, he stops and Jenny goes to his window, there is a short conversation and he gets out and opens one of the shutter doors on the side, removes a box and lowers it to the ground, inside are four heavy duty carrier bags, that seems a lot for a meal for two. Jenny signs something, the driver says something and Jenny waves at the driver, who re-enters the van and drives off.
Michael and the rest of Tribal have continued walking while the shopping was being sorted, I cross to Jenny and attempt to pick up one of the bags, “Oh no you don’t, no peeking! If you can take the stick bag, I will take this lot. With everything re-allocated we stagger more than walk back to the van I drop the stick bag and unzip the awning, reversing to allow Jenny in first, it is very warm in the awning still, the sun is still shining on the roof but at a low angle so it isn’t putting much heat in now. I zip up and open the van proper.
“Would you like a cup of tea, love,” “yes please, while you are in there could you give me a crash course on your cooker and fridge,” I fill the kettle and put it on to boil and turn the hot water on.
Jenny enters the van and we are in each other’s arms without even remembering how we got there, we kiss and this time it’s no peck or gentle lip massage, her tongue is eager to get into my mouth to do battle with mine, I return the kiss with as much enthusiasm as she is generating, after a few seconds of this, I am running hot, as is Jenny, she pulls me towards the bed and we lower ourselves to it without breaking the kiss, it can’t last long, it is so intense; my hands want to wander, as we lay together, we wriggle further onto the bed and angle across it, the kiss has to end, I pull away gently, she is crying.
”What’s wrong love, I stroke her hair and face, wipe away the tears with my fingers, and drop my face back to hers and give her a gentle, lip massage kiss long and slow, not fiery and passionate but warm and loving, after a minute or so we break again as the kettle starts to whistle, I look again at her, ”back in a second” I turn the kettle off and return to her, the tears are still flowing and I don’t know why
“Please love, what’s wrong, why are you crying?” I lie beside her and just hold her, waiting for a reply. Jenny answers, oh so quietly,
“You aren’t the only one who wears their heart on their sleeve, I’ve known you for twenty seven and a bit hours, and in that time I have changed in more ways than I can count, as you said, you didn’t change me I changed me, I have never ever kissed like that, you could have done anything and I wouldn’t have been able stop you.”
“You didn’t have to stop me, I stopped me, I also have never been raised to that level of passion by kissing I could easily have tried to undress you and make love to you, I am so glad I didn’t, it wouldn’t be right, especially with all the curtains open. If we get to the stage of wanting to make love with each other I hope it will be in private and that we will both know about it before hand. We will have to do the rounds of the charity, hardware and sex shops around here to find one or both of us a chastity belt. Now come here and give me another one of those kisses, we close and begin kissing gently but after a couple of minutes the kisses again become wilder and again I calm the kissing down without breaking the kiss as my hand starts to drift towards Jenny’s breast, Her hand covers mine and lifts it to her breast, I just rest my hand over and gently stroke across the height of her breast as she lets go of my hand and her nipple springs to life in response to the caress, the kisses are again raising the temperature in both our bloods, I calm the kissing down again, my, my, we certainly know how to raise each other’s passions. I lift my hand from her breast and she sighs against me, calmly, calmly, the kiss cools, and we just lie and cuddle.
“No man has ever held me like that, and it felt really beautiful.”