Author Feature – from Counting The Ways by Jude Hayland

The place: Jacob’s Bottom.
The time: the latter part of the 20th century, early spring 1987.

The man and the woman left the car, walked fifty yards or so along the ridge until he halted, propelled her forward a little. Across the mesh of wet, neat patchwork fields, endless sheep, they looked down towards a flat plain that suggested signs of habitation. A church with a spire, outbuildings possibly. Certainly cows.
“There,” the man said, gripping her shoulder with one hand, pointing with the other, you see those buildings? Not the farm, but beyond that. That’s the house.”
The woman, Grace, pulling her coat closer against the fine rain, could see little. Just as they had approached the village, he had swung the car sharply up an incline, headed for a narrow single-track road that weaved its way steeply upwards until they seemed to be hanging precariously above the valley. Now she found herself peering through a heavy mist that shielded clear shapes, blending them into an indefinable blur with the grey sky, the undulating land. But she tried. He was so eager, insistent. The enthusiasm of a small boy who wants to share something newly discovered.
“I think so. I think I can see the house. Is it thatched?”
“No, a slate roof. Do you mind?”
“Of course not,” Grace said. “Slate is better.”
“Is it? I thought you’d expect thatch in this part of the world. I’m glad you’re not disappointed.” Archie took her arm, protectively. She leant against his shoulder.

“I didn’t know what to expect. It’s all such a surprise, really, so sudden. We’ve not even
discussed it properly. The idea of this place, I mean. The country.”
He continued to look down across the valley towards the house. She was unsure whether he’d heard her, her words possibly dissolving into the damp air, snatched away on the westerly wind. It was a nursery plate for children, grazing cattle and haystacks and hares nipping and darting across the land.
“We’re not too far from the coast here either,” he said, “and you know how that’ll suit me. The sea’s no more than three or four miles away, I’d say. And we’re just on the edge of the village so it won’t feel too remote for you. Just what we want.”
Grace felt the dampness of her feet through thin city soles, her hair limp and deflated against her neck. Archie, oblivious, pulled her further down the path so that they could see a cluster of cottages, a building that could be a hall or a village school, then a car park and beyond that a narrow track that led down to a large barn and a long, low house.
“No immediate neighbours, but there are a couple of houses within view. And the lane just leads to farmland so there’s no passing traffic. You won’t mind?” Archie asked then
answered for her. “No, you’ll love the peace after London. No more complaints about
aircraft noise and people playing loud music into the small hours. It’ll suit you, Grace. It’s
what you want. What I’ve had in mind for us.”
“It looks perfect. You’re right, of course. And once there are children…”
“Exactly. Just the place to bring up children. What we’ve planned.”
They had been married sixteen months.

From Counting The Ways by Jude Hayland

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