|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.
Monday evening sees my supper appointment with Jeremy, the churchwarden, to be followed by a viewing of his Peruvian holiday slides. Monday is a good night for me to go out, as my son, Alex, goes to scouts. Jeremy has asked me for six thirty, which I feel is very early, and will mean that I have to miss The Archers.
Jeremy has cooked lasagne, followed by fresh strawberries. The meal is delicious, but conversation flags. In desperation, and noticing that the time is rapidly approaching seven oclock, I ask Jeremy if he listens to The Archers. He immediately jumps up with a look of relief on his face and switches on the radio. Whether he is pleased to be able to follow events in Ambridge or because it spares him the necessity of attempting conversation, I cannot say.
After the broadcast, we drink coffee and discuss the doings of Shula and Doctor Locke. I maintain that if she really loves him, she should be prepared to follow him to Manchester. Surely the distance between that city and Ambridge cannot be too great, just a couple of hours up the M6. (I speak as one who was prepared to follow the love of my life to Botswana, whither he had gone to teach. At his suggestion, I got fixed up with a contract, only to succumb to depression when I discovered that he had begun living with an African woman). Jeremy, in common with many people who attend St. Marys church in Berringden Brow, knows this, and is sympathetic. However, he forecasts, correctly as it turns out, that Shula will remain in Ambridge and possibly even resume her relationship with the vet.
So that has helped the conversation along nicely and now it is time to watch the slides. They are wonderful. The church clock strikes nine as the final picture is shown. Alex will be returning from scouts and it is my cue to leave. I thank Jeremy and scuttle home.
The following day my friend Claire rings to hear how I got on. She is also an unemployed, desperately job-seeking single parent with a good degree; however, unlike me, she is having an on/off affair with her next door neighbour, a plumber. She has tried to end the relationship on several occasions, but when she feels lonely, or needs some sort of household repair doing, or her hormones start screeching, she at least has help at hand. (When she asked me how I managed in such situations, I forbore to reply. All I am prepared to say is that, I am at least quite capable of dealing with a blocked sink unassisted).
I report that Jeremy is a good cook and an excellent photographer, but we had made rather heavy weather of the conversation until saved by The Archers. Claire agrees that it is difficult to find a man who is easy to talk with. She and the plumber dont talk. I suddenly remember Ben and tell Claire that there is indeed a man who appears to enjoy a conversation.
Who is he? she enquires.
The librarian. We have interesting chats about books and films. The only problem is that he keeps having to break off to deal with people bringing back their library books, or returning their videos, or asking where they can consult a map of the Norfolk Broads, and I dont like to distract him from his duties.
Why dont you ask him out? suggests Claire. You obviously have things in common. Maybe I will, perhaps
But first I had better establish whether he is available, or whether he has a partner. I have to work out how to do this, apart from the obvious method of asking him, which for some reason I dont feel able to do - probably because it is so obvious. I know his surname from a list at the library. Luckily, it is fairly uncommon, and when I check the telephone directory there are only three people listed, and only one with the initial B. A good thing hes not ex-directory, or my enquiries would have reached a dead end.
The next step is to look at the electoral roll for Berringden Valley. This is kept upstairs in the reference section, whereas Ben works downstairs in the lending library. Since the electoral roll is a list of all the residents of each street of every ward of a Parliamentary constituency who are entitled to vote, Bens name should be on it. Feeling rather like a private detective, I collect this document from his colleague, the young woman librarian who runs the reference section, and check the street where Ben lives. I feel quite uncomfortable about doing this while he is in the same building, but of course, all the information I have obtained is in the public domain. I find that his is the only name given at that address, so it does not seem as if he has a partner. I return the electoral roll to the young woman at the counter and go downstairs. Ben, dark-haired, and suitably studious looking for a librarian, with brown eyes and glasses, gives me a friendly nod as I pass. I smile back at him, hoping that my face does not have guilt written all over it.