Framed in Cornwall - Janie Bolitho


Janie Bolitho

For my aunt,

Con Gardner


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By Janie Bolitho


Dorothy Pengelly sniffed the top of the carton of milk and shrugged. The expiry date had elapsed but it smelled all right and the cats wouldn’t notice. One of her uncles used to drink a pint of sour milk every day of his adult life and he had lived to be over ninety. Dorothy did not use milk in her tea or put butter on her bread, she could not abide dairy products.

She had three cats and two dogs, one of them a retired racing greyhound an old friend up Exeter way had given her, the other a snarling Jack Russell.

Her granite-built house was none too clean but only because she refused to admit that her eyesight was not as good as it once was so she was unable to spot the cobwebs or the spills on the flagstone floor. The place was too large for her but she would never move. It had been her home all her married life and she intended dying in it. Besides, she knew the number of years left to her were limited and she could not bear the idea of upheaval.

She filled the three saucers which were lined up in front of the metal legs of the ancient cooker. They had concentric circles of cream in them ending in yellow crusts. Peter; she smiled wryly. Her son couldn’t wait for her to die. He and Gwen would sell their house in Hayle and move into something far too grand for them. Her son had married unwisely. Gwen was a schemer and tended to forget that Peter had a brother. Martin might not be as bright as Peter but he was her flesh and blood and she loved him dearly. Oh, well, she thought, they would all find out in time.

Her will, made on a visit to Truro with Martin, would give several people a shock. Her assets were worth a lot more than many imagined and Rose Trevelyan had put her wise as to the value of her paintings.

The house was situated on sloping ground between outcrops of boulders. The grass between them was tough, seasoned by the blistering sun and the harsh winter storms which swept mercilessly over the terrain. One or two stunted trees, bent to the angle of the winds, barely survived but the low gorse thrived and flowered twice a year when its almond scent filled her nostrils and made her nostalgic for her youth. In the distance was the glimmer of the sea although, on dull days, it merged greyly with the sky on the horizon.

There were two outhouses, one of which was almost in ruins. The other was only suitable for storing junk as the corrugated iron roof leaked. At one time the dogs had slept there until Dorothy had finally relented and allowed them into the house. The cats were never to be seen at night.

Once a week she got a lift into Camborne or Penzance with Jobber Hicks, a neighbouring farmer she had known since childhood, and whom she had once seriously considered marrying. Apart from those shopping expeditions she rarely went out. Fred Meecham used to share a pot of tea with her when he dropped off her groceries, but not so frequently now that Marigold was so ill. In fact, although he had called in two days ago she hardly saw him at all and she had an uncomfortable feeling she knew the reason why. But there was a lot for Fred to come to terms with, she did not know how he would cope when Marigold finally went. Rose’s visits were awaited with pleasure. If the weather was fine, they would take a stroll or go out in the car and have tea in a café. Dorothy decided to give Rose a ring and ask if she would mind bringing over a couple of pints of milk when she came tomorrow.

Rose stood in her lounge window in the manner of someone waiting for a guest. In her hand was a mug of coffee. She stared across the wide expanse of Mount’s Bay trying to make up her mind what the weather was going to do.

The view was spectacular and ever-changing. On clear days she could see the white sands of the beaches of Marazion and the whole of St Michael’s Mount rising majestically, almost menacingly, out of the sea. To her left was Newlyn harbour where beam trawlers and netters came and went