Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Late-flowering Livery

Bunty Pargeter could always tell when Dolly was on the yard. One clue was the untidily parked Fiesta. Also, from her office Bunty could hear the tell-tale peals of laughter, punctuated by the odd cough, coming from the common room.

Unlike several of the liveries and most of the staff, dear Dolly didn’t ever have an “off day”; she never allowed herself to be tearful, hormonal, under-the-weather, under the doctor or just plain depressed like everyone else. Dolly had a ciggie, a nice cup of tea and a laugh and just got on with it.

Although actually Mrs Dolores Grubb, widow of Wilfred Grubb, a farm labourer lately of the nearby village of Wibble, everyone knew her as Dolly.

Prior to her Wilf’s untimely demise in a threshing accident in the lower field, Dolly had for many years been the valued cleaning lady of the Pargeter family.

Nothing was too much trouble for Dolly, who was recognised as reliability itself and an absolute treasure. Dolly’s earnings from cleaning were a welcome addition to Wilf’s labourer’s wages. They just about managed to make ends meet and keep the wolf from the door of their small cottage on the Green next to the Post Office and Stores.

It was a sad irony that one Saturday morning, only a week after Wilf had been laid to rest, Dolly found a spare pound coin in the lining of her handbag and bought a lottery ticket. That evening she found herself looking right up into the cuticle of the great finger in the sky as the sole winner of a rollover jackpot.

Dolly was not tempted to lash out on a mansion or villa in Spain, but did pay off the children’s mortgages and bought them each a new car. She also treated herself to a new Fiesta and had central heating, double glazing and a stylish bathroom installed in the previously damp and draughty cottage.

Her friends and family expressed shock at Dolly’s choice of luxury: a pure grey Highland pony mare called Snowdrop. At well over normal retirement age, Dolly had the satisfaction of achieving a long un-stated ambition and, in the process, surprising everyone.

With Dolly aboard, Snowdrop would process sedately around the lanes near Vaysey Pastures - not unlike Queen Victoria on her Highland pony, but without the steadying hand of John Brown.  
Dolly would return to the yard to spend happy hours grooming and generally fussing over Snowdrop. She took part in chips on Tuesdays in the tack room and drinks with the girls in the snug of the Trugg & Gussett on Fridays.

The yard’s knees-up at the Red Lion with Bert the handyman leading the conga and karaoke was the highlight of each Christmas.

Most afternoons, after her hack, she would join Patsy Pottle, Rita Palgrave and the other more mature liveries in the common room for a cup of tea and to set the world to rights. In any event, Dolly’s world was now in pretty good order.  

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