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Authors: John Evans

Lettuces and Cream

BOOK: Lettuces and Cream
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‘Look Mike, his little thingy is, well, big.’

‘His what?’

‘His thingy, you know, his whatsit,’ Jan had euphemisms galore for the male, you know what, and these were two of them. ‘And he’s making funny noises and rolling around on the floor. He’s acting really odd.’

Mike crossed the room, moving carefully between the randomly stacked boxes and packages to take a look.

‘I’ve never seen that before. Blimey, big? It looks little to me.’

‘Oh I don’t know, I’ve seen smaller,’ Jan said with a mischievous grin.

‘Ha bloomin ha, don’t you be so cheeky,’ Mike retorted, smirking at Jan’s witticism ‘I thought those tablets supposed to make him sleepy-not randy. How many did you give him?’

‘The vet said two, but said it wouldn’t hurt if we gave him more. Poor old puss he’s not very happy’

‘We’ll just have to leave him for now, Jan, we’re running late and there’s loads more to pack yet.’

‘What time is the van coming?’

‘He said about twelve.’

Saturday August the twenty-sixth nineteen seventy one, the great day had arrived at last. It was the first time that Jan and Mike had moved house. Moving from the flat that they had begun married life in didn’t really count. In those days they didn’t have boisterous children, or much furniture to haul. And in any case it had been only a few hundred yards down the road from the flat to their first real house. A couple of carloads and the job was done. But now they were leaving the small, late Victorian terraced house which Mike had renovated and were heading into the Welsh countryside with two kids in tow-and a seemingly demented cat.

‘Where have the kids got to, Jan?’

‘Mandy is at Rita’s and David is in his room, what’s left of it, most of it is already boxed.’

‘Right then, I’ll go up and bring the boxes down into the hall.’

Upstairs, David their eight year old was sitting hunched in a corner of his room his arms clasped around his knees. He wasn’t crying but close to it. After all, his entire little world had been torn apart, his books, toys and other precious bits of string and sealing wax, packed away. He didn’t want to leave this friendly room, his school pals, and face an unknown future.

‘What’s the matter son? Why are you sitting there, eh?’ Mike crossed the room and sat on the floor beside him. He guessed what was troubling him because despite his own excitement at starting a new life away from the stinking Plastics factory, Mike too was feeling a little sad at leaving their home.

‘It will be okay son, honest,’ he put his arm around David’s shoulders. ‘You’ve seen your new school, it’s okay isn’t it? You’ll soon make new friends and your old friends can come and stay with us ‘cos well have a spare room won’t we?’

David relaxed a little but said nothing. Mike seized the moment.

‘And don’t forget we can have a dog and more cats as well, if you like. And think of all the bird life down there. The Red Kites, Buzzards, all sorts yeah?’ David had a keen interest in wildlife, particularly birds.

‘What sort of dog, dad?’

‘Well any sort really. We’ll see when we get there, okay?’

‘Great,’ he replied enthusiastically

‘Good lad, come on, you can help me carry these boxes downstairs.’

This move to the country had taken a long time to sort out. It had been about Christmas time nineteen sixty-nine when Janice, Jan, had began suggesting that they begin a new life away from the Welsh seaside town of Barey. The town that they and their parents and been born and raised. This wasn’t a random whim on her part, but neither was it an entirely altruistic suggestion. Although Mike was under the impression that her idea had been her thoughtful way of renewing or strengthening their marriage, which had gone through a very odd patch. Odd, because although the problems they had experienced might in general be very common, the path they had taken because of their difficulties was less usual. It couldn’t really be said that they had had affairs, they hadn’t been ‘in love’ with anyone else so in their eyes their adventures, as with time they came to think of them, couldn’t receive that title. Nor could it really be called wife swapping although, all bar one of those involved were married. The whole business had really been a series of circumstantial ‘accidents,’ rather than deliberate planning. Yes, unusual indeed, although for the time, almost fashionable. Perhaps oddly, for such a basically close couple, they had never discussed details of their individual experiences during that time-it didn’t seem a nice thing to do. But what Jan was really trying to do now, was to escape from the never- ending, innate disaffection with herself. Of course moving ones physical body to a new location doesn’t necessarily change what’s going on in the mind.

Anyway, finding a suitable small farm and then arranging a mortgage and all the legal delays had taken nigh on two years. On top of that the previous owner still hadn’t moved out but intended to do so on the day they moved in. A very unsatisfactory arrangement but one that they had to put up with. The whole business had been very stressful indeed and had involved many one hundred mile trips deep into rural mid Wales to see what the hell the problem was. And the stress wasn’t over yet as they could both sense it was building up again. It was going to be a long day.

‘You were a long time, Mike.’

‘Yes, well, David was a bit upset about leaving.’

‘Aw, love him; he’s such a lovely boy. Is he alright now?’

‘Oh yeah he’s fine.’

‘Well I’ve nearly done here and then we better have something to eat before I pack the foodstuffs. Sandwiches okay?’

‘Okay Darl,’ Darl was their pet name for each other, short for darling.’I could do with a break’

As Jan entered her small kitchen she too felt a little nostalgic. Over the last seven and half years or so, she had spent a lot of time in this room, most times happily, some not. Overall she would be glad to leave it, but it wasn’t going to be easy. The big old farmhouse was an ancient monument when compared to this place and would need a lot of time and money spent on it. But Mike was giving up a well paid job of some thirteen hundred pounds a year and a subsidized mortgage, so it was to be a risky if exciting venture. They had taken out a mortgage for the full price of the property and although not massive, was, at four thousand six hundred pounds pretty huge, especially as they didn’t have a secure income. But she trusted Mike to make a go of growing crops and it would take them away from the town, which had now, in her view, become tainted with their ‘adventures.’ Overall they were both massively excited and confident about the move and their plans to make a living.

The Good Life would be theirs…

As she busied herself slicing and buttering the bread, she gave the memories of last nine years of marriage a quick look over and realised that they had both changed since they married. As most people do of course over time, married or not. People modify their beliefs and actions to suit the ever-changing world that surrounds them, and the individual perception of those changes. For instance, Jan’s experiences had made her more confident and assertive, although the assertiveness was still rather covert. She wasn’t one for going public neither with her thoughts, nor with displays of bossiness, not even with Mike-well very rarely anyway. Like many women, she had more subtle ways of getting her own way. But her attitude to her body hadn’t really changed and she constantly fretted about what she ate and worried that she was fat- and short. Yes, she wasn’t tall; some five foot three, her hair black, and large blue eyes. Mike told her she was beautiful but she didn’t believe him.

Mike had changed too, certainly physically because he had grown a beard and longer fair hair, now very curly, which hid his ears that he considered too prominent, and of course he was still tall and lanky, but apart from this the other changes were more, conciliatory. After nine years of marriage their love for each other had grown to be of a deep and considerate nature. More so since the unusual times they had experienced during their adventures, but sex was still a deeply submerged aspect of their lives. It was although it was a feature to be added on to their relationship as an extra and not an essential element that Mike considered it to be. But, with their continuing maturity and understanding of each other, and with the benefit of her knowledge gained from her adventures, Jan was a little more honest with Mike about her likes. But of course unbeknown to Mike, still preferred her own private and secret way to deal with her needs. Thus sated, it meant she didn’t respond to Mikes advances as often as he would have liked, but rather than having silly tiffs about the situation he had, apart from indulging in the five-fingered ministrations of his own, learnt to suppress or divert much of his sexual drive into other absorbing interests. One of which was Jan’s life changing idea they were now embarking upon far away, they presumed, from the sexual temptations of town. Although he was still as interested in ever in the theoretical and psychological aspects of male female relationships. He had for many years browsed the philosophy section of his local library trying to find clarification as to where the line between love and sex, lay. Perhaps to assuage feelings of guilt about their past liaisons, or perhaps to find a logical and acceptable reason to indulge in them again. Whatever is was, his quest for an answer was as keen than ever. Whether or not he would find the time –or a library, in this new life, time would tell.

Naturally enough the parents on both sides were not happy about the grandchildren moving so far away and Mikes mother had been especially vociferous. But then she had very adamant views on many issues. Jan’s father was a little more reasonable and agreed that Jan and Mike were still young enough to be able return to civilization and get a job. True enough Mike was only twenty-eight, Jan twenty-six and jobs plentiful so he could easily get work. Probably back in his old job as a Control Chemist at the Factory.

‘Well that’s the last meal we have here,’ Jan said with a sigh, stubbing out her cigarette. Mike gave her a quick glance and nodded towards David. He was afraid that the comment might bring him to tears. Jan read his glance and switched to happy mode and continued cheerfully, ‘Come on troops lets clear up, the van will be here soon.’

We’re not troops, mum,’ David giggled, and added helpfully, ‘shall I go and get Mandy, Mum?’

‘No leave her until were ready to go, she’ll only be in the way.’

Mandy their six year old had been deposited a few doors down the road with their neighbour Rita. Rita and her husband Keith had a boy and girl of about the same age so they all got on really well. Mandy was an energetic, flighty little madam and as fast as they had been trying to pack her things into boxes, she had been taking them out, so had been banished.

‘It’s nearly twelve, where’s that van?’

‘Don’t worry, he’ll be here.’

‘I’m not too sure of this idea, Mike; perhaps we should have got a proper firm. Are you certain that he’s qualified to drive the van?’

‘It will be all right, stop fussing, a real firm would have cost a fortune.’

‘Dad, there’s a big van outside, and a man in a funny coat.’

‘There you are. He’s here.’

‘Funny coat, David?’ Jan said, an anxious frown on her face. She looked out of the now curtain less windows onto the busy road. ‘Oh my god, he’s a hippy, he’s got hair to his shoulders and one of those hairy coat thingy’s on.’

‘Yeah well he’s a mate of Crows.’

‘I might have known.’

‘Well he’s cheap.’

‘Huh, I hope he gets our stuff there all right. What’s his name anyway?’ ‘Zac.’

‘What sort of name is that? Nearly as bad as Crow.’

‘No it’s not, at least Crow was part of his name,’ Mike said defensively. Crow had been Mikes best work mate from the Control Laboratory, who, after his divorce had gone to live and work abroad. Mike still missed him because he had had so few male friends in town, and neither of them knew anyone at their new home area.

Now that the van had arrived, packing and loading began in earnest. The large items were first, including the piano that Mike had bought for Jan a couple of Christmases ago. It had been a huge and expensive surprise and he has just finished paying off the two hundred and forty two pounds ten shillings on Hire Purchase. The gift had been his way of showing Jan that he loved her and that he wanted to end the strange situation they had drifted into and make a fresh start. Nearly two years later and here they were making a very fresh start indeed.

BOOK: Lettuces and Cream
11.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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