The Lammas ghosts
‘It’s going to be a hard winter.’
There are few joys known to the Norfolk-born so profound as the joy of well-informed pessimism. The three of us were standing in the kitchen courtyard, looking ruefully at the hawthorn tree that grows in the centre, at the edge of the old dipping pool. Brian’s face, lean and wizened through a life lived largely in the open air, had a rapt look, mirrored exactly by that of his much younger cousin Benjamin, who was helping that day.
‘The start of August, and the hawthorn haws gone red already — whoever heard of that?’
‘Well, it’s the lack of rain, isn’t it? Or the heat, maybe. It’s brought on the autumn early. The sloes in the hedge are so ripe that they’re falling, and the Michaelmas daisies have been out for weeks now.’
Brian and Benjamin listened politely to my contribution, but the little silence that followed was a reminder that although this was my kitchen courtyard, my old parsonage, my land, I was still an outsider, having only lived in the village for a dozen years or so, hence there was a great deal I didn’t know about the place — a great deal I didn’t know about, full stop.
‘Well, it’s a strange old year, no doubt about that,’ said Brian, gently. ‘Best enjoy the sun while we can.’
Brian and Benjamin were there to help lift the pump out of our well. The pump engineer, who drove up from Norwich, had long ago learned that he needed an extra pair of hands, or maybe more, when dealing with our well, which was much older and deeper than most of the others around here.
‘It’s near one hundred foot deep, your well’ he would say with gloomy relish. (He was Norfolk-born, too.) ‘Imagine being the poor sod who had to dig it out at the bottom, with someone else at the top hauling up the earth in a basket — that’s how they done it back then. Imagine being all that way down in the dark.’
‘Hope they thought to haul him up again at the end’ opined Benjamin, pleasantly. ‘Hope he ain’t still down there.’
‘Fancy goin’ down to have a look then, do you?’Read the rest of this entry »