|A new novel from Jill Robinson
Berringden Brow by Jill Robinson was published this October by Pennine Pens. We are are going to publish chapters on the Hebden Bridge Web in a similar way that we have published John Morrison's View from the Bridge. This novel is in the same vein but quite different.
Half dead at forty proclaims a Guardian piece, giving a list of celebrities who will have attained that age this year. I know how they feel, having reached the stage where, not only the policemen but also the Prime Minister and now the new vicar are younger than me.
Last year I made the horrifying discovery that I had actually taught one of the England Test cricketers when he was a seven year old boy. (He had bowled me out, first ball, for a duck in the staff vs. pupil match in 1977, but the umpire had declared himself to be unsighted, and made me return to the crease to face yet another fiendish delivery from Mike Smith. After again being clean bowled, it had become obvious to all that the kindest thing would be to let me retire forthwith ).
Now stranded in middle age, without a regular job or steady relationship, I feel rather like Bridget Joness elder sister. Its all very well for Julie Birchill to say that it is possible to leave one relationship in the morning and be in another one by the evening; maybe thats true in Brighton, but not here in Berringden Brow, our village in the chilly, hilly South Pennines.
I survey the list of possible candidates. There are none. Mary, who runs the Parish Pop-in shop, selling second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac, and who never lets anyone out of the shop without buying something, tries to encourage me. What about Jeremy, the church warden? He seems nice, and hes divorced. Youd make a good couple. I explain that I did once ask Jeremy if he would like to accompany me to an outdoor musical event in Leeds, Opera in the Park, for which I had been given free tickets. He had replied that he was intending to do his ironing that night. Well, maybe that really was the case. Why dont you try again? Oh, before you go, Jess, what size are you? Its just that Ive got these nearly new Sloggi bras, in really good condition I make my escape, muttering that I have sufficient stocks of underwear at present.
It so happens that I am having a group of friends round at the weekend, and we are going to an event at the Hebden Bridge festival. Maybe Jeremy would like come. I decide to ask. Jeremy thanks me, but declines, saying that he has to scatter his uncles ashes on that day. At this I explode. Really Jeremy! I have heard some novel excuses from men not wishing to spend an evening in my company, but that is truly the most original. I suppose that if I ever ask you out again you will tell me you are staying in to wash your hair! A deep flush spreads across Jeremys bald head, as he goes on to inform me that he really has to attend the ash scattering ceremony this weekend, although he would far rather come to my party.
I feel awful, and can scarcely bring myself to report back to Mary. She agrees that I have made rather a faux pas, and insists that I have a good look around the Pop-in shop. In my dejected state I allow myself to be persuaded to purchase an ancient lawn mower, which I trundle home noisily, much to the amusement of the local youths. The phone rings; it is Jeremy, the bereaved churchwarden, inviting me to supper at his house, followed by an opportunity to view his holiday slides of Macchu Picchu. We have a date for the following Monday evening. I dare not tell Mary, as if I set foot in that shop again I know she will make me buy those bras.