Our house was once a hay barn so it is high and wide and should be whitewashed inside and filled with light. But the exposed brick walls are dark and the heavy rafters bear down on me.
A village story says a Victorian labourer hung himself from one of the beams; I imagine it was the highest one, the one facing our bedroom. Sometimes I see him hanging there, his eyes staring sideways into mine then closing for ever. Our furniture is deep mahogany and the massive sofas and armchairs are upholstered in a burgundy which makes me think of blood. I turn the teak handle and walk inside, feeling the familiar depression, something closing down.
I always try to shut the kitchen door gently but it rebounds against the hinge and slams behind me and the sound echoes in the large empty spaces. By the stainless steel rotisserie lies Richard’s note in bold black ink.
‘I’ll be late. Make sure you prepare enough this time! R’
Wearily I survey the bulky bloody packages, which must be unwrapped and cut and hammered and marinated. Our guests require a prodigious amount of meat. Bailey jumps up at the nearest package so I drag him out of the kitchen and am slowly pulling off my sodden raincoat when I hear asthmatic breathing and heavy footsteps in the passageway.
Mrs Dilkes lumbers around the door in her wide apron, complaining. She nods at the meat, which fills a whole side of the kitchen so that it resembles the butcher’s counter.
‘Have you not started on it yet? I’ve had the bathrooms and all the stairs today.’
I stammer an apology and begin tugging at the string on the longest shape, a bloody fillet which makes Mrs Dilkes click her tongue because she and Mr Dilkes have lately turned vegetarian. This conversion doesn’t seem to be improving their health or temper and I know Mr Dilkes hankers after bacon and faggots because I often see him staring sadly into the window of Black’s, the village butcher’s.
© Copyright Miss Steel and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. This photo is copyrighted but also licensed for further reuse.But Mrs Dilkes is a farmer’s daughter who knows the ways of meat and soon the two large processors are whirring and the soft pink blurs of pork and beefsteak give off the cloying smell of Black’s at the end of the morning.
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