Nancy wiped John’s paws after their early morning walk. She’d decided when the time was right she would have a dog and if she did it would be called John. It had been cold this morning, an early snap of winter in late autumn. She pulled the heavy oak door closed enjoying the safe thud as it met the frame and the warmth of her kitchen soothed. A bonus from putting a couple of the gas rings on before going out. It was something she’d done from around this time last year. It reminded her it was now over a year since she’d moved to the old cottage.

Nancy opened the broom cupboard, home for her wellingtons, John was trying to push his head between her feet. It was also where she kept his food. She gently nudged the jumping spaniel aside with her thigh as she gathered his bowl and breakfast. The sight of breakfast increased his excitement as he followed her across the kitchen. Her feet were toasty, the woollen socked moccasin things Martha her friend from the bank had brought her back from Canada were perfect. She was even able to wear them with her wellingtons.

She could hear the fire she’d set and lit before going out crackling healthily next door. John had gulped his breakfast as usual and she knew he would be settling down, exercised and fed to enjoy snoozing on the warm spacious hearth.

She spied through, sure enough he was already stretching out. She loved watching contentment. Her thoughts were interrupted by the whistling kettle. She’d come across it at a car boot sale and felt it fitted well with the style of the old cottage. That was the same day that she’d bought the two flat irons which were now bookends for best of her collection of the early cookery books that she’d amassed as a hobby during her working life in the bank. A Mrs Beeton’s first edition held pride of place.

The toaster pinged, she wasn’t the soggy buttered type, she liked a bit of crispness so ignored it for the present. She emptied the boiling water from the kettle into the stainless-steel teapot. Breakfast was generally the only time of day she veered towards the tradition of enjoying her tea poured from a pot apart from when she had guests. She’d bought the stainless-steel set, a tray, tea pot, milk jug, sugar dish at yet another car boot sale. She didn’t take sugar so the dish was kept for the few visitors she had who did. She’d used the milk jug initially but had discarded it when she’d began a new procedure with the morning tea. The tea pot could provide enough for three mugs so she added milk directly to the pot after she’d brewed the tea and wrapped the pot in a tea cosy. The tray was still used to bring her drink and toast through to the living room.

John whimpered. Dreaming? She smiled as she placed her toast and mug of tea on the table by her chair. The pot of tea sat a safe distance from the fire ready for the job of replenishing. The eight forty train rolled by. The train she used to take to work, the train that she’d first noticed the signal man’s cottage from, little realising it would become hers.

They’d been whispered caring concerns back at the bank. She’d heard them. How would Nancy cope without her work? It was her life. No partner to share her time with. She’d be lost. They’d been unaware of the sleepless nights as she’d struggled with increasing complexities of the job nor the huge weight her decision to retire had lifted off her shoulders.

The rural life suited. She settled into her “old comfy”. A floppy crinkled brown soft leather armchair, the type she’d enjoyed using in a local coffee shop. This had not been bought at a car boot, it had been in the house when she arrived.

Crunching into her toast she congratulated herself on the tang of her home made raspberry jam. John lifted a lazy eyelid, she saw it, it always reminded of John Wayne and cowboys sleeping with one eye open for some unknown reason. She knew, he knew it was getting close to crust time. She dropped them on the hearth near enough to enable him to slightly stretch his neck and reach without having to move the remainder of his resting body.

She picked up the tea cosied pot and refilled her mug, it still steamed, lovely. Placing it on the table she slipped her hand down and removed her paperback from the side of the cushion. Nestling in she began to read oblivious to the silent falling of the first snow of the season outside. The ten forty whistled in passing waking her. The fire was a little low but the room was warm, John was still dreaming on the hearth. She added a couple of blocks carefully so as not to disturb his slumber.

She checked the teapot, it was drinkable, passable. She remembered she wanted to make scones today, Martha was coming for tea on her way home from work. That would be a late afternoon job. She picked up her book which had landed on the floor and tucked her feet comfily under herself on the chair. She wondered how long until she’d doze off again. Bliss.

Family Matter

Me and Grandad

Dear Mam

I thought it might be useful to report back on my first day with Grandad. There are no areas of major concerns, however as this is how I am going to spend my Thursdays for the next three years I felt we should work within a spirit of transparency from the beginning. I believe it will be an essential ingredient in the success of my relationship with him.

Last Thursday our first day together has raised a few matters which should be addressed if we are going to follow our plan of transparency.

The messy bit to begin perhaps. Nappies, currently they are being applied back to front which is having a bit of an impact on leakage levels. Needs direction from you. There was also an exuberance to change me immediately after my lunch at twelve. If he had left me until twelve thirty it could have saved a second nappy change at twenty past twelve. This not a complaint on my part just a suggestion to consider that could ease his day.

Lunch, he appears to have well sussed. I had intended a bit of spoon grabbing, hand waving and keeping my mouth closed. I became so involved with the spoon becoming an aeroplane flying in food I forgot about any of these obstructions to cause complications at meal times. Lunch was a lot of fun. I was slightly confused however why he opened his mouth in unison with me each time the aeroplane flew in with my food. It was also quite a disconcerting view for me when I was trying to eat.

We went out in the car. Strapping me in was no problem, knowledge of the mechanics of getting the seat safely in the car were unnecessary as Dad fortunately fitted it before he arrived. The journey to the supermarket was dire, musically. Old Macdonald, Hickory Dickory, All the Kings Men, not for me Grandad, in car entertainment should be bit of Rag and Bone man, Sheeran or Shania Twain. Music choice needs dealing with.

Pushchair. Opening was a difficult process, kicking the wheels and, I think I heard swearing under his breath, did little to progress the process. There was a blushed relief at being caught putting the put boot in,so to speak , by a passing shopper who sensitively recognised his predicament and helped him. Manoeuvrability skills were never in question, his one hand driving whilst carrying a shopping basket was sublime. I quite enjoyed the outing. Plenty of comments on “what a happy boy” or “he’s got such a lovely smile”. One soul was forward enough to stroke my cheek in passing. I didn’t really mind as she also had a lovely smile.

Mam I know there were concerns about Grandad, how he forgets or loses his glasses, wallet, phone and car keys. Well he never lost any of these during our first day together. He has also promised me he will never drive away and leave me alone in the Asda car park ever again.

From your loving son

Alfie Butler (aged 10 months)