This is a bit unusual on this blog. It’s a bit of writing by my wife. I came upon it in a letter she sent to my sister in 1996 and I am horrified to realise that was twenty years ago.

Anyway, here goes!

I met one of our neighbours for the first time on Thursday. Although we know the people next door quite well, we don’t see so much of those living down by the end of our field. You could call it nosiness, but I like to know who they are. I wouldn’t like to think they were in trouble and no-one around knew about it.

I was concerned when I heard they’d had a baby that died and I did keep an eye out for them in the cold weather. I figured they were alright as I saw their footprints in the snow and from time to time I noticed they’d done a bit of winter digging – not that they’re very tidy gardeners.

To be honest, I don’t really know much about them. They don’t seem to be around at the same times as us – not that I’m down that end of the field very often. They haven’t been here as long as us, though I guess they’re a local family. They probably moved in about ten years ago, but they’ve added some ramshackle extensions since then. I suppose they needed a granny annexe or somewhere for the teenagers that haven’t left home. Actually, I never saw a planning application – I get the impression they don’t have much time for doing things by the council-approved way. We probably should have complained more at the time, but we’re not very assertive – “Live and let live” seems a more hassle-free philosophy for the most part.

I imagine they’re country folk through and through – country rather than village, in that they seem not to be involved in local events, but stick together as a clan. It would be fascinating to know them well and get a feel for their view of our shared environment. Anyway, I can’t see that happening. As I say, I was surprised enough to have a quick, chance meeting on Thursday evening.

I went out to feed the animals about ten to nine, when it was still quite light. I’d fed and counted the twenty-one sheep and knew they were all eating behind me. As I was closing the pop-hole on the duck-house, I was looking skywards, watching an intermittent firework display on the plain above the church, when I saw a movement before me out of the corner of my eye. “Not a sheep,” I thought, “perhaps a fox” and I lowered my gaze for a closer look. To my surprise, I saw a figure, crossing the field in front of me. It’s funny how some folk aren’t obviously male or female at a first glance. I wasn’t sure which of my neighbours I was about to meet.

The figure was wearing one of those all-weather country coats, snug-fitting and cosy, designed to last a life time, irrespective of changing fashion. Heavily built and stocky, with short, sturdy legs, it jogged with a surprisingly jaunty gait and, as it approached me, I prepared to make eye contact and introduce myself. But it continued along its path, eyes focused firmly on the ground ahead, purposefully minding its own badger business.

Let’s finish with the one photo I ever managed to get of this neighbour (or a relative), and that, too, was in 1996.


This all reminds me how lucky we are to live in this age. Both letter and photo come from an earlier age. The letter was written on a computer of long ago and printed out and posted. I could scan it back in as a document. The photo – obviously at night – was taken on film but I have improved it digitally now


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