The first step back is always a long one it takes me to GWIMILO.
I can see a child being tugged reluctantly along by a young woman up the back bork through the narrow twists of this path beside St. Werburg's church & out under the massive spread of an old graveyard elm.
"'Where angels fear to tread' starts off like an Enid Blyton," said Rosine, "So a certain audience is immediately captivated." She returned the book to a pile on the table & rolled her eyes at him. "One that believes a fragrance of a landscape can become the smell of the future, if it holds out long enough."
"I've got it. Thanks for the tip." I smiled. Because that was the part.
* * *
With an unusual excess of zeal & thinness of intent on the part of the girl, we were now in a low bare room which served as a shop. No more than a box, really. In it there was a very large heap of cabbages against one wall spilling into a corner & that was all. Through an open door I could see another back-shop room its floor entirely covered & piled high with potatoes. Totally obstructing my view of the yard in which I could hear a gruff man berating a child, "You break everything, everything". And the child piping lies to defend itself.
"Torn to pieces. Torn to pieces." He shouted at the thin voice, which sounded as though the head producing it was being buffeted.
"I didn't pinch it," wailed the child.
"So it flew here, did it. Is that what you're claiming?"
Behind the makeshift counter was a narrow alley & above it a stuffed crocodile was fixed to a beam by two iron rods. The keeper, in fingerless mittens, as if a wary dealer in rare objects, hovered in front of the bright viridian light of an obtrusively modern fly-killer. I had never dared come into this shop alone. She pointed up. "This is what your mermaid was. Take a good look at her. Nice skin."
With the accuracy of this opening sally it was as if she had been lurking observing in one of the shadows of his dream & had stolen an object he was sure had been concealed perfectly, by listening in. Making him feel that any hiding place was entirely inadequate. It was a loss that felt like theft.
She flicked the banana advert dangling from the crocodile's tail.
"Wouldn't want to kiss this in the morning? Eh."
The child held his mother's hand. He could feel the contempt & was puzzled by the taunt as they had never entered the place before. His grip tightened, tugging her back.
"Love to get a nibble on the ear from them gnashers? Eh." She planted her arms on the bare counter & blew a few thin wisps out of her eyes.
"That would be a bloody good way to be woken up. Better than next to that old fucker & his glue," & she jerked a thumb over her shoulder at a dark green wall. Outside a heavy lorry changed gear on the steep hill & as they crashed the labouring engine's vibration swallowed up the sound of her laughter. And so as the petrified child stared at a silent gaping red bird mouth with fluttering lip wings, the woman's head seemed to transform into that of a pig, while the nondescript jaws & jagged brown stumps of the crocodile's teeth shook above her.
"Now you know what contempt is. It's a crocodile." Shouted the old woman with red-rimmed eyes. "I've told you."
"Spoken by a woman waiting for the man she really loves," muttered the young woman as she was dragged out of the low door, invisible in rejection, by the child's hand. "Who is dead." She added loud enough for the old woman to hear.