5. NUMBER SEVEN SWANSDOWN COTTAGES

5. NUMBER SEVEN SWANSDOWN COTTAGES

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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The enclave is complete

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Ian Archer had been in the army when there was talk of a peace dividend because the Soviet Union seemed to be imploding and no longer was an obvious threat to world peace. And it was whilst he was in the army that he learned that no matter how quietly a man might speak his mind he’ll never quite conquer a truly magnificent bellow.

And he did have a truly magnificent bellow. It was one that he used on several parade grounds, to the envy of fellow sergeants and the trembling horror of raw recruits. It was even suggested he could be heard in Timbuktu whilst exercising his lungs on Treister Parade Ground, or wherever he happened to be at the time.

Whilst he was bellowing his way through rank after rank of teens he met Danielle in a pub somewhere in the Midlands and managed the almost impossible: he fell for her hook, line and sinker whilst she did exactly the same for him, and all in the twinkling of an eye.

Some said it was the bellow that she went for. True, it was impressive but in the relative quiet of the pub, not deafening. Danielle, on the other hand, had a quiet little voice that was what some called a littler girlie. Until, that is, she went into soprano-mode: and then she was as powerful as he, but widely considered to be more musical. The girlie tones became a banshee howl which impressed those educated enough to think it impressive, and she was widely regarded as a first class performer on stages of arias across the land.

He was still bellowing his way through recruits when they married, in a church with a vicar stricken with laryngitis, a pleasing contrast to the two before him. Their honeymoon was in a sleepy seaside fishing village where they met and were impressed by the Bismouths, with whom they forged a lasting friendship.

They remained childless because children would have interfered with their combined decibels, and anyway her normal speaking voice was quite a reasonable substitute for the cries of a child reacting to its father’s quietest bellow.

The army delivered him to civvy street when he was still young enough to look for another career, and he joined the police force where he was trained in relaxing his larynx except when forceful bellowing was needed, and then his presence was looked on as a bonus.

He soon became a police sergeant and decided to remain in that position until his retirement for two reasons. Firstly, he considered that promotion to a rank above sergeant might involve skills he would never, in a month of Sundays, develop due to an inadequate basic school education, and secondly because Danielle developed a medical condition that required surgery. Whether it was her repeated soaring to the Heavens on wings of song or whether she had inherited a condition from her gravel-voiced mother she didn’t know, but she lost her voice. Permanently, except for a girlie whisper.

Ian retired as soon as he could. Being a sergeant was all well and good, but Danielle was the love of his life and he knew with a certainty that was even more powerful than religion is to Popes that only he could look after her properly. And the fact that she could no longer command the stage in aria after glorious aria depressed her.

In his mind she needed her man with her, and by golly she was going to have him.

“I’m going to get in touch with old Jack Bismouth,” he said one day at breakfast. He usually did the breakfast because Danielle was getting to be increasingly frail despite her relatively young years. Life was treating her unkindly and he wrestled with himself trying to find a solution for her combination of physical and mental fragility.

“That’s nice,” she said, wearily.

“Remember he wrote last week?” said Ian.

“He did?” asked Danielle, not really interested. When you have problems of your own then letters from old friends take a back seat in your mind.

“They’ve moved,” he reminded her, “he said they’ve found a delightful country cottage in the grounds of an old Manor house, a lovely little place away from the beaten track where life is easy and … pleasant.”

“Good for them,” sighed Danielle, trying not to sound pathetic and failing in the attempt.

“I’m going to see if there are any more cottages there,” continued Ian, determined to provide better for her. “And if there are, how do you feel about a move to the country?”

“I don’t know...” murmured Danielle, because she didn’t.

“Fresh country air...” Shades of his military bellow made the prospect sound almost healthy, and a distant look in his eyes suggested to his wife that a move might also be good for him, as long as they got help with the moving. She couldn’t cope, she knew she couldn’t, not with packing and moving and organising. Everything seemed too much to think about let alone actually do.

“Do you fancy a ride to see them?” asked Ian, “I mean, it’s only about an hour away, or so the map says, and I know they’ll be glad to see us.”

“But they might not be in...” whispered Danielle.

“He said in his letter,” replied Ian confidently, “he said any week day if we want to visit. At their new address, the cottage in the country. It would make a nice day out for you, and if you like we could have a cream tea at a cafe in the afternoon on out way home.”

She sighed. “That would be nice,” she said, “a cream tea. It would do you good.”

And you, sweetness of my life: it would do you good, too.” And he meant the endearment, every syllable of it, even every letter of every word.

“I love you,” she whispered, knowing that she did.

It wasn’t so long after breakfast that they set out to visit their old friend. Ian had rung them just to make sure they’d be in, and was told how delighted the Bismouths would be to welcome old friends.

The small French car chosen by Danielle because it offered her a comfortable position when she sat next to her husband at the front was, indeed, perfect for her even on long journeys, an unfortunate woman who found much in life to be uncomfortable.

oo0oo

Jack and Diane Bismouth had settled into their cottage that bordered onto Swansdown Manor, and were discussing the price of fish when Ian rang.

“It’s the Archers,” Diane told Jack. It was normally she who answered the phone, an old habit formed when Jack had been away at sea for long periods, and one Jack was happy to let her keep. He wasn’t so fond of telephones, liking, as he put it, to see the face of the person he was talking to.

“And what do they want?” asked Jack, trying to concentrate on an article about the decline in supplies of cod in a monthly magazine he still subscribed to.

“They’re coming calling,” replied Diane.

“What? Here? Today?” asked Jack.

“They’re on their way,” nodded Diane, “and won’t it be good to see them again? Though Ian says that Danielle is still under the weather. Maybe a breath of our fresh country air will perk her up.”

“Maybe it will,” growled Jack, though deep inside he was glad for an opportunity to see old acquaintances.

“I’ll just pop around with my duster, then,” grinned Diane, expecting a sarcastic comment about the redistribution of dust via the use of a duster. She wasn’t to be disappointed.

“Try to keep it off the telly screen, then,” he mumbled.

An hour, almost to the second, later, the Archers arrived at Swansdown cottages. By that time most of the surfaces in the living room had been dusted, and one or two redusted on account of dust from earlier dustings settling on them, an inevitability predicted by Jack who knew a thing or two about domestic matters, especially those involving dust.

“Isn’t it lovely here,” whispered Danielle, “I must say I wasn’t expecting it to be so nice...”

“Just the kind of place that would be good for you and your chest, dearest,” murmured a non-bellowing Ian.

“You are lucky...” murmured Danielle to Diane.

“There’s still one left as far as I know,” Danielle told her. “What do you think, Jack? Is number seven still free?”

“What’s it like?” asked Ian.

“Just like this one,” replied Jack, “they were all up-dated before being let. I tell you what, if you’re interested I’ll give Lord Damien Dyhungaul a bell. I know he’s keen to have all the seven cottages let, and I can give you a what’s-it, a reference, you know.”

And that was what happened.

A week later, to the day, Sergeant Archer and the lovely Danielle moved into number seven Swansdown cottages.

And the tidiest enclave in the county was complete.

© Peter Rogerson 01.02.19



© 2019 Peter Rogerson


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Added on February 1, 2019
Last Updated on February 1, 2019
Tags: sergeant, army, bellow, soprano, medical problem, surgery

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Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing