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