The Island Atelier

Trawling for lifeboats

The final evening of trawling the village with the lifeboat did not go quite as planned. This trawl was of the more remote parts:- 

Began at a cottage I’d never visited before and I couldn’t see a face because the poor woman’s back operation had gone badly wrong resulting in a right-angle bend mid spine.

‘Do you like Martini or tonic with your gin?’ She spoke with the plumiest of colonial accents and is attached to a double-barrel name with an enormous number of syllables.

‘I don’t usually drink this early and I’m meant to be collecting for lifeboats.’

‘It’s 6 o’clock and I prefer to drink in Company.’

There being no other ‘Company’ in evidence, it proved impossible to decline.

‘I’m always going to be two sides of a square now,’ she said without a hint of self-pity as she thrust a large tumbler half filled with neat gin into my hand and led me into her once-beautiful garden.

An hour later I departed on a 2-mile weave along the lane.  

Via a small terrace of farm cottages.

‘My wife is either at the next door or the one after that,’ said a loud male with a strong American accent.

Knocked on the next door to be corrected by the voice from the first: ‘No not that one. That’s where the kids are.’

Went to the next cottage and received a staggeringly generous donation from the American wife.

Went to the last cottage and was about to knock on the door when the American wife yelled out: ‘Don’t go near there – that’s where the dogs are!’

This family is living variously and chaotically in four cottages. Until their recently acquired Manor house is refurbished. A new source of babysitting for K. And serious competition in the Lord-of-the-Manor stakes for Mr Online Casino.

On to next small terrace of farm cottages. The most remote. Only the end ones are inhabited. One by a latter day witch adorned in multiple ayers of multi-coloured crotchet and living amidst multiple layers of crystals and candles and burnt-out bonfires. The other by an unwashed mammoth with porcupine quills masquerading as hair.

‘Yer been ter many ‘ouses wi’ that?’ the mammoth asked with eyes glued to the lifeboat.

Rather stupidly I told him that I had.

‘And is ‘er full of notes?’ The bulbs behind the eyes lit up.

Rapid retraction time. ‘No, it’s only coppers. Everyone seems to be skint this year.’

The door banged shut without another word and I fled a long half mile clutching the lifeboat.

‘It’s such a lovely evening, we were just about to have the first Pimms of the season,’ announced the owners of The Old Mill.

That too was an offer impossible to decline. And one as liberally laden with gin.

Darkness descended during the Pimms and the moon declined to shine but still the cross country route back seemed preferable to encounters with witches and unwashed mammoths. Memory proved kindly accurate in the location of the river and the only unanticipated hazard was a misremembered ditch. Back in the village and only one more house to call upon.

‘Red or white or something stronger?’

After most of a bottle of red it was nearly 1am. Seven hours, several extraordinary characters and an infinite number of units of alcohol since departing the house.

Told K about the witch. She knew exactly who I meant and says she’s seen her beating the bonfires with a proper witch’s broomstick. Looks like I have competition in the local insanity stakes.


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