It was like constantly living on a precipice where any moment a bomb would be suddenly dropped and then they would all fall into a chasm of despair and self-loathing made worse by the censoring of a community that was so quick to judge, but at times slow to help. Could it ever change? They all hoped so as they got on with their lives where money was fed into local coffers.
One way of earning money generally involved getting out of her warm bed very early indeed. There she rested close against a big stone in the belly of their pretty town; where many decades since village life had been administered. She felt restless and cold round her neck and her knees, hoping her brother would not waste time in the shops. They had already discovered from other potato picking days it was always best to get there as early as possible in order to find the best spot in the field.
Whatever was her brother doing? As she stood against the stone she thought of her aunt Rose and how she had been quite eager to tell her how once their village had been run from that particular stone by the important folk of the town…and there was little vandalism…you could leave your doors open as well as leaving milk cheque on the doorstep. No talk of muggings, rape, or murder so it seemed to her then! She was a kindly and loving lady. As she beat the hell out of four eggs in a brown earthenware mixing bowl, before finally deftly and lightly scattering the self-raising flour into her mix she talked of the past…her past…and that stone.
So it was that as Esther stood there against the stone still waiting for her brother to reappear from the shop she thought of Pottery Bill and how her aunt said he would arrive from the next village in his old van. He would then proceed to carefully set out boxes of china, loose tea sets as well as odd cups and saucers along with other oddments which he carefully spread around the same stone. People would visit so it seemed after a gentle stroll and buy one or two nice bits.
Her auntie had said, as they stood once in her best room, where one day she would be laid out, how she recalled her and a friend seeing a man from her same needle straight street buying a bedroom toilet set. How folk had laughed when the same unfortunate purchaser had dropped the bloody lot and himself as well through the hedge of Wisteria Cottage. What an awful shock the courting couple had received who were quietly laying there as a Poe landed on their heads and they then forced to hurriedly pick shattered china from their Sunday best underwear.
At last Esther’s brother reappeared and she ceased her musings and shared willingly with him salted crisps from a small white paper bag.
As she cycled alongside him down Grafton Hall Lane with their metal buckets swinging and rattling against their bikes it began to rain. In a way they welcomed that for it would mean less competition in the nearby potato fields, and that offered them the opportunity to crawl in the earth and claw the muddy potatoes from the freshly overturned earth. It wasn’t easy work; why then did she lend the money she grafted so hard for to her stepfather Joe on a rather long, non-return basis? Why didn’t anyone do anything to help in their house of shame where any pride or self-respect Esther had once worn had been tipped down the cracked but bleached sink with the beer and the whisky or stubbed out in Joes overflowing ashtray.
Up past the old cemetery where some of her ancestors were buried and then quite close to the cricket field where in the warmer months there could be heard the crack of bat on ball, of spins, chants and claps whilst over the road was a converted school, where a bull dog romped on the lawn, where boys had played marbles or fought and where her own brothers had gone only a few years since. Right next door to this was the church where a progressive young vicar had faced fury from his flock when he tore out a few pews so there was room for kids to play.