COUN­TRY LOV­ING

As a friend finds a suc­cess­ful dat­ing match, Imo­gen Green is left won­der­ing whether there re­ally are plenty more fish in the sea

Country Living (UK) - - Contents -

Ru­ral life isn’t al­ways idyl­lic, es­pe­cially when it comes to dat­ing…

“DID YOU KNOW,” MY FRIEND RACHEL SAID, “that a one-eyed seal vis­its Brix­ham fish mar­ket? And that he likes gurnards best? If you throw him one, he guts and skins it with one claw and swal­lows it whole.”

En­cour­aged by the fact that I found a man I re­ally liked on Coun­try Lov­ing (my prickly wid­ower neigh­bour, Matthew An­tiza), Rachel has been giv­ing the site a whirl, too. Ev­ery few days she texts or drops in with an up­date. The lat­est catch is a gor­geous fish­mon­ger. He pre­sented her with a box of John Dory on their first date, and has a fund of seal sto­ries.

Si­lag­ing had been go­ing on all day, and now that milk­ing was over I had to work on pack­ing the hay down with black plas­tic to keep the air out, cre­at­ing some­thing known as a ‘clamp’. I asked Rachel if she fan­cied help­ing, but she shook her head. “I’ve got you some crabs, though,” she said. “You’ll have to eat them quick, be­cause they’re on the turn.”

A deep golden light lay across the fields, and it was so quiet that I could hear a pi­geon’s wings creak as it flew over­head, and soft laugh­ter from the sty where Matthew was run­ning a pig co­op­er­a­tive with friends, in­clud­ing a teach­ing as­sis­tant called Emma. As I walked past, I glanced over and, sure enough, he was there. It wasn’t Emma with him, though, but an even younger, pret­tier woman with long black hair. She was gaz­ing at him in ad­mi­ra­tion, and I thought bit­terly how un­fair it was that, un­like me, he had no prob­lem at all at­tract­ing part­ners.

Morosely, I be­gan pick­ing up tyres to weigh down the clamp. For half the year they lie about, fill­ing with pongy water, slime and dead slugs, await­ing the mo­ment when I have to col­lect them two at a time and carry them up the steep mound as they slosh their con­tents into my boots. Throw­ing them down is just as bad; the liq­uid splashes up­wards, in a sa­tanic shower of filth.

My arms were al­ready aching when I saw Matthew and his com­pan­ion be­low. They were reach­ing for the tyres, and I called out, “Noooo!” but was too late.

“You’ve been kind­ness it­self, let­ting me keep pigs here,” he said, as he reached me, look­ing hand­some and dig­ni­fied un­der his spat­ter­ing of sludge. “What sort of man wouldn’t help you in re­turn?” “Don’t get Dad started,” the woman said, teas­ingly. Re­al­i­sa­tion dawned. “Are you the daugh­ter who likes mac­a­roni cheese?” I asked, be­cause I knew she’d given him an ex­ten­sive book on the sub­ject.

“Maria,” she said, hold­ing out a slimy hand. “And I hate mac­a­roni. That was to dis­tract Dad. The pigs were a bet­ter idea.”

“That’s the beauty of this hor­rid job, too,” I said. “You can’t think of any­thing else while you do it.”

“There’s al­ways a sil­ver lin­ing,” Matthew mut­tered. We worked steadily af­ter that, as the sky dark­ened into twi­light. A week later, I saw them again. Night had fallen, and I had a sud­den thought. “You know what you said about sil­ver lin­ings?” I said to Matthew. “Can I show you an­other?” They fol­lowed cu­ri­ously as I led them to the very top of the silage heap. Then I cleared a few tyres, mak­ing space to lie down. “My late hus­band showed me this,” I said. “It’s one of the se­cret joys of farm life.”

“Oh!” Maria said, as she wrig­gled be­side me, the cur­ing silage warm­ing her back through the plas­tic. “It’s like un­der­floor heat­ing.”

“Look up!” I said. Above us, stars twin­kled in a mag­i­cal panorama. Matthew was on my other side, and I trea­sured the mo­ment – un­til my phone lit up with a text from Rachel: ‘Sealed the deal!’

‘Sum­mer stargazer seeks sil­ver lin­ing’

MAKE THIS THE YEAR YOU START YOUR RU­RAL LOVE STORY ARE YOU LOOK­ING FOR A PART­NER WHO SHARES YOUR LOVE OF THE COUN­TRY­SIDE? IF SO, THERE ARE HUN­DREDS OF PEO­PLE JUST LIKE YOU. MEET THEM ON OUR DAT­ING WEB­SITE: coun­try-lov­ing.co.uk.

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