An indecisive Imogen Green finds herself caught up in the moment
Rural life isn’t always idyllic, especially when it comes to dating…
‘Lonely birdwatcher longs for a happy ending’
EVER SINCE A COW KNELT ON ME AND BROKE THREE OF MY RIBS, I’VE SEEN A LOT MORE OF THE VILLAGE POSTMAN. It’s partly because I’m not allowed to do any milking until they heal, so I’m now in the farmhouse when he drops off the post. But the fact that I make him bacon sandwiches may have something to do with it, too. This morning he was talking about our local gamekeeper, who reared an unusually tame pheasant this season. It began by pecking his ankle when it wanted an extra handful of food, and now it follows him wherever he goes, even flying along next to his Land Rover, peeking in at the passenger window. “So, of course, he can’t let it be killed, can he?” the postman said, pouring himself another cup of tea. “He told me he’s been picking it up and putting it in his shed on shoot days, just to keep it safe.”
Outside, in the frosty yard, our little gang of pheasants – also hiding from the shoot – were hanging hopefully around the henhouse. I even heard the cock pheasant give a series of sharp shrieks, a reminder to me that I’d been chatting too long, and it was time to give the chickens their corn. The postman told me he was off to feed the cats at the Manor (their owner is on holiday), and move a wardrobe for old Mrs Haskins. All part of his daily round, along with delivering groceries, herding sheep and handing out relationship advice. And then, as he was climbing into his van, he added, “That Spanish gentleman you like? Matthew Antiza? Looks like he’s back. His car was in the drive.” I turned away so he wouldn’t see my expression.
The sun was warming the shed roofs, and I watched the mist rise from them, remembering how, at Christmas, when I’d last seen Matthew, he’d explained that he had to go away on business, but would rush back as soon as he could. He’d been so different towards me then – all the usual prickliness gone. He’d gazed at me with eyes that seemed to smoulder. I was suddenly confused by my feelings. Of course I’d longed for his return, but now I almost dreaded seeing him. I still miss my husband, even though he isn’t here anymore, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to move on.
I went out with the feed-bucket and the ewes in the pasture nudged at my legs. Their wool was stiff with ice, and a completely different cock-pheasant popped up beside them. He strutted confidently up to their trough and dipped his velvety head in. I’ve heard that only 37 per cent of pheasants on any estate actually get shot. The rest apparently just disappear. Sometimes I’m surprised the percentage isn’t lower.
Back at the yard, I could hear shouts from the milking parlour. The cows haven’t warmed to my brother-in-law, Andrew, who’s taken over my job. They keep kicking their teat cups off, so everything has to be disinfected and the whole process takes longer. A few older ones, led by our mischievous Jersey, Molly, have even started staging a sit-in round the back. I went there to see if I could help. Molly was firmly settled on the ground, refusing to budge, and each time Andrew called her she would turn her face away contemptuously. I was just about to offer some gentle advice, when his wife got in first. “For God’s sake, you wally!” she yelled. “Drive the others in first and she’ll follow!”
Suddenly I saw Matthew walk through the gate, elegant in his long dark overcoat. My heart leapt, and I felt myself tremble uncontrollably. He went to peck me on the cheek, and somehow, in the most natural way, it became a passionate kiss. I lost myself in it completely – it was wonderful – except that somewhere in the distance I could hear a pheasant shriek.