‘What did you grow during lock down?’
‘Herbs, tomatoes and flowers.’
‘I managed peas, lettuce, radishes and carrots.’
‘We could put a salad together!’
‘What did you grow during lock down?’
‘Herbs, tomatoes and flowers.’
‘I managed peas, lettuce, radishes and carrots.’
‘We could put a salad together!’
Dazing lights shone through the night as water played it’s tinkling tune within the fountain. Rising up from the centre was a large pink and white waterlily, posed on the edge of fully opening.
My mum sat on her balcony each clear evening, sometimes with a glass of wine and my dad, looking at the fountain. She didn’t know she was having me until four or five months in. She couldn’t get pregnant and thought it was another phantom.
My parents struggled to name me for weeks but finally one evening on the balcony with me wrapped in a blanket in mum’s arms, she looked across at the waterlily and knew what my name was.
(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/05/27/29-may-2020 with thanks)
Every spring as soon as the grass got cut and the flowers started popping up, my sneezes and watery eyes started. Normally, I’d take some meds and get on with it but this year, my hay fever was worse then ever.
I felt like I had a cold. My nose was blocked and I was sneezing so much whilst my eyes were puffy and always felt like they had something in them. None of my normal things seemed to work, so I went all out on cold and flu things as well. At least they kept some of the symptoms at bay.
The days grew longer, the sun was out more often and spring turned to summer. Still, I was plagued and only cold showers seemed to help. I longed for autumn and winter to come.
It had been years since they had seen rain. The sky was was always clear, icy blue and the black ground dry and cracked. They, the plants and animals survived by the deep holes drilled into the ground and the pumps that let the water come up.
The water was heavily restricted; only two water pots per house a day then additional ones for people with animals and plants. In summer, this was further restricted as the need to make sure the water was saved became a priority.
The look outs, who normally yelled the sightings of travellers and enemies, were the first to spot the cloud back. Only one of them could remember the last time the sky had changed.
The message spread like birds taking flight in a panic. People gathered, faces to the sky then they hurried for anything that would contain the water. The streets became cluttered with pots, bowls, cauldrons and all manor of other things.
With held breath and quietness, everyone waited and after what felt like a life time, the sky became dark and grey. Then the first drops fell, a few spots here and there like a soft cast off of spray.
Then it started pouring down.
The birds were singing the last songs of the day but it was still hot and hazy outside. I lent back in the garden lounger and looked at the wax crayon blue sky. It had been a beautifully day, one of this days ‘miracle’ like days that seem only to be in films.
Shutting my eyes, I relaxed into the heat, wishing and not for the first time that day, that I had a swimming pool to be dipping my feet into. We had had one in the last holiday villa we had stayed at. Oh, how it had been glorious to sit on the edge of the pool, legs in the cool water and sipping some sweet drink whilst the sun set behind the palm trees.
England didn’t really allow that setting. We didn’t have constant sun and heat that other European countries did. Still, on the rare days like this….
The clicking of ice against a glass made my eyes flicker open. My husband was stepping out of the house, two glasses of some pink fizz in his hands. He came over and hand me a glass, I smelt the hint of fruits and took a sip.
‘Something light and sweet for this hot evening,’ my husband explained.
‘What is it?’ I asked twisting the glass in my hand to inspected the drink.
Bubbles coated the sides of the glass and others raced to the surface fizzing and popping. Mint leaves floated along side the chunky ice cubes and the colour was a light pink hinting at the taste summer berries.
‘My own invention,’ my husband replied.
I took another few sips, nodded and spoke, ‘ I love it.’
I was one of the lucky ones during lock down. My small house was on the coast and I could go out for walks along the beach or the cliffs or the patches of surrounding countryside.
I saw on the news about people in their city apartments with no access to a garden or much space to walk. It made me realise how lucky I was.
Crossing another task of my long list of them, I looked through the pages; some computer typed and others handwritten which were stabled together, at the other jobs there. They were all D.I.Y tasks like; paint the fence, fix the bottom draw in the kitchen, put the wheel back on the shelf unit, replace the doorbell.
It was was strange to think that once I hardly had the time or else I would say I’d do it tomorrow and now I needed to fill the daytime up because my job was on hold. What better way to pass the time then getting through my lists?
Everyone else was in the same place and constantly I would hear the whirl of drills, the teeth-on- edge scrapping of a spade against rocks and the blasting chugging of a chainsaw. Voices would drift from other back gardens; children playing, neighbours talking loudly over their fences and the wind slapping shut doors.
I frowned over a scrawling of words at the bottom of the list but couldn’t make them out. The one below it appealed to me more then anything else; build wood plants for herbs and butterfly/bee liking flowers.
That sounded like a nice thing to get making.
The deliveries kept on coming. The mailman paused at the doorstep as he left a stack of boxes there. What were this people buying? he wondered as he walked away.
I didn’t explore the rest of the manor. Hungry and tiredness stalled me. I opened the tin labelled tomato soup. It seemed okay inside, so I put into a pan and close to the fire to warm.
Taking the workman’s boots off and placing them close by, I turned to check on King. He had decided to lay down and rest for a few minutes. He seemed content and warm enough.
I took off the sleeping bag, feeling warm enough from the fire just to be in my underwear. I stirred the soup with a spoon and tasted it. There was a slight metallic ting and it was still cold. Putting it closer into the fire, I picked up the empty tin and looked for used by date.
It was hard as the label had worn but then I picked out some numbers and it seemed the date was over six years ago. Pushing the tin away, I frowned at the red soup and decided if it was boiled then it would be fine. I needed to eat.
Sipping some of the water, I listened to the manor creaking in the storm. The sea could really be heard now, added by the gale force winds into the sides of the island. I couldn’t hear the rain it was too lost.
Listening to the manor move made me think about ghosts. I didn’t believe despite the stories I had heard. There was a woman in grey who was seen from one of the upstairs window. Was she Lady Elizabeth? There was also a baby heard crying – the infant son she had lost or another child? The sounds of someone walking around and wailing had also been heard.
I looked up at the ceiling as if a expecting a ghost to appear. Laughing in my head, I check on the soup then picked up one of the books. It was from the 1800’s, on science of a sort. It was hard to read and I didn’t understand it. I placed it down and picked up another one;
Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Laughing out loud at the how weird this was, I opened the yellow pages and wondered how old was this book? I found the date; 1831. So, it was early but it didn’t mean anything else to me. I had never read it, just seen the movies. I had the time now. I flipped the pages and saw it was illustrated. The ink pictures were very detailed and dark.
It was hard reading but I got through three or four pages and then my soup was ready. I poured it into a bowl because the pan was too hot to eat out of. The soup was warming and there was still that taste of metal in the background but it was good enough to get the rest of the chill out me and settle my stomach.
When I had finished, I checked on King. I had nothing to give him and he had enough water. He was too quiet. Even in his stable he wasn’t like this but he’d been in shock and made cold by the sea water. Still though…
‘Are you feeling all right, King?’ I whispered to him.
He nuzzled into me, searching for an apple or carrot. I give him more snacks then he should have.
‘Sorry, I have nothing.’
He snorted and moved away, flickering his tail about. He searched around the floor, sniffing here and there. He took a drink of water then seemed to settle again.
I felt guilty I couldn’t take care of him any better. perhaps, I should have gotten some of the rotten hay from that stable at least then he would have had something. How much harm could that have done him though? Yes, it was wise not to.
Leaving him, I made a sort of nest on one of the chairs then stacked up the fire and got settled for sleep. I was surprisingly tried. The room was now hot, my stomach full and I was drained after the fall and roaming the manor.
Sleep came to me and I dreamt of strange things; of falling into the sea and finding the manor at the bottom. I was walking in the graveyard and there were baby and child coffins everywhere. Then I was trying to get out of the manor but it was like a maze and I couldn’t escape.
King woke me by pressing his nose into my face. I stirred and reached for him but he had stepped away. I sat up and saw the fire had gone out.
‘What time is it? I had weird dreams,’ I told King.
I drank some water and put the workmen’s boots on. Crossing the hall, I went outside and saw it was daytime. The sky still dark but the storm had passed. I hurried back in, dressed and put King’s tack on.
I took him outside and he was more then happy to start eating whatever greenery he could. Leaving him to it, I went down the driveway and got to the edge of the causeway. The sea was still covering the way. The waves chopping and churning over the rocks. I couldn’t tell if the tide was going out or not but I really hoped it was.
Remembering my phone, I hurried back inside and snatched it up. I tried turning it on but the screen stayed black. Sinking onto the armchair, I wondered what to do. Tears came to my eyes and wiped them away. Thoughts tumbled in my head and it wasn’t until my eyes forced on Frankenstein that I came back to my sense.
I gathered the book and the other five up. I placed them in the basket and took that outside then I went back in and got some fresh water for King and some for myself. I had found some empty glass jars in the kitchen and I used this to make bottles of water. Once again I search for food but found nothing.
I grab a sleeping bag and did think about open another tin but decided against it. We need to get off the island as soon as we could. Going outside again, I saw that King was happy with his breakfast, also the fresh air was perking him up. Setting the water jars into the basket, I looked at him in the daylight and saw that there was some tenderness to his legs which meant he had some cuts and bruises.
‘Well, you could have gotten off worse,’ I said to him, I’m going to keep an eye on the tide. Don’t wander off.’
Taking the basket, I went to the end of the driveway and looked for a good place to sit. I wasn’t worried about losing King as I was at the only way off the island. I zipped up the sleeping bag and placed that on the wet grass. I sat down on and watched the sea rocking back and forth. Then I pulled out Frankenstein and read some more.
The tide eventually went out. The Grey Causeway appearing from under the waves. The sky was clearing and the sun was out warming things up. I drank some water then put that and the book in the basket. I abandoned the sleeping bag and went to find King. He hadn’t wondered far.
I decided not to mount him but led him across the Causeway. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to risk him falling again but even if he did it was safer, I was worried about his legs. He seemed to be walking if a little slower and he’s quietness worried me. It was like all the wildness had been knocked out him and he had become meek and over tame.
The Grey Causeway was wet and slipping with large pools in every gap between in the rocks. I saw crabs and other creatures about and seaweed masking the rocks. I watched my step and made sure that the rein’s were loose and that King wasn’t walking too close behind me. My riding boots didn’t have a great grip on them and they weren’t made for rough walking.
I watched the sea lapping at the Causeway. The waves were topped with white and were dark blue, green underneath. I couldn’t see the bottom but at least it was still going out. I had to keep my eyes down and it seemed we were walking the Causeway forever. The basket was heavy in my hand and I put it up into the crook of my elbow or I switched hand with King’s reins.
For a few moments, I thought we were never going to leave the island but as I stopped to get my breath, I saw we had made a lot of distance from the manor and the beach was close now. This helped to push me on and I did pick up my pace as the tide had been out for longer the closer we got to the end.
At last, my feet and King’s hoofs hit the sand.
‘We made it back,’ I cried and rubbed King’s muzzle and head.
We stopped for a longer break. I drink some water and shared some with King. I sat in the damp sand and King stood beside me. I watched the sea and the distant island. Clouds were forming again and the sun was playing peek-a-boo. It was going to rain again.
‘Let’s go home,’ I said and got up.
Picking up the basket and leading King on again, we walked along the beach.
We stood inside the entrance hall of Brierwell Manor, water dripping off us and pooling at our feet. We were both shivering with cold and shock.
It was hard to make much out in the gloom but the hall seemed vast. I could heard the wind driving the rain against the windows and plants moving wildly outside. In the close distance the sea was mounting an attack on the island. Large, powerful waves were hitting against the rocky sides and splashing up into the gardens.
I slide off King’s back and took him to the first open door along the right wall. He followed me slowly, perhaps limping a little. It was too dark for me to see if he was hurt or if he was just tried.
‘We need to get warm and dry,’ I said quietly but still my voice echoed in the abandoned manor, ‘let’s try in here and hope we can find some blankets. Or something…’
I went through the large door and King squeezed himself in behind me. I let go of the reins and felt across the walls either side of the door frame. I guess this was more of an automatic response on entering a dark room.
My fingers came across the switch and I flicked it up. Surprisingly, light flicked on above. It was a dim glow as if the bulb was going but at least we were no longer in darkness. The room was large parlour, suitable for greeting a big family of guests. The windows were mucky glass and boarded from the outside so I couldn’t see through them. The walls were bare dirty plaster and there was a scattering of dust covered rugs on the floor.
A number of armchairs and tables were placed before a fireplace in the wall to my left opposite the windows. Rubbish was piled about; some of it from the builders, others from people who had been staying here. There were food and drink containers and other items that people had abandoned here.
Squatters were unlikely to have been camping here because it was too far out so it must have been local teenagers or adults. Maybe, they had become homeless or they had just used this place as a break from normal life?
‘We can make a fire,’ I pointed out to King.
I dropped his reins and hurried to the fireplace. Taking off the riding helmet and protective vest, I got busy stacking wood on top of the ash pile all ready there. The wood looked like it was broken from furniture and there was paper torn out of books to help start the flames.
‘We need matches or….’
An orange lighter was on the rug before me as if someone had tossed it to me from the shadowy corner. I scooped it up, pulled open the lid then flicked my thumb over the little metal wheels. Praying a spark and flame would appear, I kept at it.
‘No, it wouldn’t work,’ I cried and threw the lighter away.
I heard King stamp his foot and moved around the room as the sound of the lighter bouncing off the wall spooked him a little.
Scrambling around, I searched for anything else that would help me. There was a lot of rubbish, butts of cigarettes and half burnt things. I found another lighter but it was metal and mostly rusted.
My breath misted before me, I was shaking like crazy and I could feel the cold in my bones. I took off my wet clothes, stripping to just my vest and underwear. I hung my clothes, boots and socks across two armchairs, in the hopes they would dry out a bit. It would help I released on many levels not to having anything on.
I recalled my mobile phone out of the blue and swearing, scrambled for the inside pocket of my fleece. Pulling out the small phone, I saw it was off and and tried to turn it on.
‘I guess it got too wet. I need to dry it out,’ I uttered, trying to hold back tears.
Putting the phone of the seat of the chair with my clothes on, I stared at it as I tried to think what to do. Maybe, there’d be no signal here anyway? Perhaps, a rescue team was all ready on the way? My parents must have seen the time and the arriving storm. When they released I hadn’t come back they must have gone and do something to help me.
A blast of wind sent a chill through me and I needed to move again.
I went over to King and took his saddle off. The rug underneath was dripping wet and like me, I knew he’d be more comfortable not to have any of the tack on. I placed the saddle and rug on the back of another chair and then took his reins off. The leather was all wet and dark.
Once free, King seemed lighter. He stood for a few moments then moved around the room, brushing against everything as if he was looking for something.
‘We need some towels or blankets or curtains….anything dry we can cover up in.’
I didn’t want to tug my boot back on, so I went barefooted out of the room. The sense that it was dangerous to do so filled me. What if I stepped on something sharp or cut my foot open on broken glass?
With shuffling steps, I searched the entrance walls for a light switch and found a panel full. I flipped up all the switches and some of the lights came on. The space was has large as I had first thought with a grand staircase before me. It was all made of wood with tall pillars topped with pine cone statues or something very close to it.
I could see many doors leading away and as I moved over to them, I almost stumbled over a pair of worn and plaster covered workmen’s boots.
‘That’s lucky!’ I cried and easy put them on.
I was a size seven and these must have been tens or elevens. They were like clown shoes on my feet and I had to be careful not to trip but at least my feet were safe now.
I explored the rooms and found that like the parlour, some of them had been lived in. Others though were totally blank and waiting like an artist’s canvas to be decorated upon. It was hard to know what each room’s intention had been but I had little time to think about such things.
I found some sleeping bags and took the ones that looked clearer and less damp. I dumped them back in the parlour, unzipped two of them and used the first to dry down King.
He was too quiet for my liking but I could see no blood, cuts or bruises. It was properly cold and shock. I talked softly to him, words tripping out of my mouth till I didn’t know what I saying. King calmed under my hands and voice and the gentle padded sleeping bag towel. I made sure he was as dry as possible before putting the second sleeping bag on top of him as I would his own quilted horse coat.
Unzipping a third sleeping bag, I wrapped it around me and sat on the edge of an armchair until I felt warm again and no longer numb.
‘At lest we have shelter and are getting warmer,’ I said aloud, ‘I’m hungry though….’
I hugged my stomach and listened to it growling. I doubted there was anything edible here but I wanted to look anyway.
Keeping wrapped in the open sleeping bag, I searched the room. I cleared all the rubbish into a corner, giving King a safe place to be in. The last thing we need was him to step on anything sharp.
Next, I carried on explore the manor. In the kitchen which had been turned into something like a 1940’s farmhouse style set up, I found a wicker basket which would be good for carrying things in. There were some rust tins that I didn’t like the look of but maybe the food would still be okay? I put them, a bakelite tin opener and a metal fork and spoon into the basket.
I searched around the fireplace which had been used to burn what looked like a table. There was a box of matches with three left inside on the floor next to a poker. I picked both of this up and went back to the room I had claimed.
Striking one of the matches, I carefully held it against a crumbled book page and once it took, placed that against some smaller bits of wood. It took the longest few minutes ever but then a steady fire appeared. I warmed myself close to the flames, feeling the tingle of coldness leaving my fingers.
I added some more wood in the fireplace then calculated I’d need to find more. I went back to the kitchen took the remains of the table out of that fireplace and brought it to my one. Then taking the wicker basket once more, I searched for more wood and paper or anything else to burn.
I found some books but didn’t have the heart to burn them. Perhaps, they’d help to pass the time? I found a pan to either cook food in or collect water. As that thought came to me I realised how thirsty I was.
Turning on the kitchen tap I listened to the gargling and pumping of pipes. There was a splutter and brown water dropped out. I turned the tap fuller, hoping it would clear. The water came from a natural spring and hopefully it was still safe to drink.
Leaving the tap and trying not to think about how thirsty I now was, I searched the rest of the kitchen and found a few rusty knifes and a broken chair which I could add to my firewood pile. Then I turned back to the water and saw it was clear. Crying out in happiness, I rushed over and put my face under the small waterfall.
I scooped handfuls into my mouth and felt so much better. The ting of sea salt lingered against the insides of my cheeks and my throat. A small cut on my bottom lip stung. The cold, fresh water cleaned the salt and dryness way. I washed my face and hands then used the edge of the sleeping bag to dry off on.
In any large containers I could find, I collected water for King and myself then went back to the parlour.
To Be Continued…
Author, Educator, Adventurer, Foodie
The little and large things making my life delicious!
A verse of stories, short and long.
And so it goes...