Friday 27th January
Sometimes they would play outside, Harriet and Jane. They were never more than a few streets from the open country, and they spent hours in the fields and hedgerows in the summer, or had picnics in little copses, a blanket spread on the ground and their few dollies in a row in front of them. Harriet would make sugar sandwiches and boiled eggs, and with a bottle of Corona (Jane’s favourite was Cherryade) and a bag of Smiths Crisps with its’ little twisted blue bag of salt they would set out with a battered old teddy in a little toy pushchair for a picnic. Sometimes they would just wander up country driveways and look around the farms (the farmers never seemed to mind), and look at the pigs. It was always the pigs they headed for, especially the fat old sows on their sides in the farrowing sheds, with their rows of bloated red teats hanging out, and all the squealing little piglets fighting for a teat to suck, fighting and squabbling with each other when just a few inches away there was always one going spare. The old sows would look up at them as they hung over the rusty metal railings above them, imploring them for some food.
“Do you think they are thinking like us?” Harriet would say. “You know. Thoughts, like we think, people thoughts. Or do you think they just think piggy thoughts?”
“I don’t know, they can’t speak, can they? So maybe they can’t think their thoughts in words like we do.” Jane replied, “but I am sure they do think about things all the same.”
And later Jane would recall how much humanity there was in those sow faces, how their eyes were almost human, somehow far more human than the human sow faces she saw in the streets, not really sows at all she used to think. Though she never said this to Harriet, she might think her stupid or something, but maybe they knew they were just a few litters away from bacon themselves, maybe they knew they were really far cleverer than us. Or maybe they were just hungry and could smell our sandwiches from a few feet away.
* * *
Harriet nagged her father into having the pool installed. She nagged him until he got one. It was not a real pool, no-one had real pools, but this was no blow-up affair either. This pool was a dark green canvas and metal pole construction that was at least three feet deep and several yards long. They had white plastic basket-weave loungers and chairs around it too, and it was here that their mother often entertained her friends to long lunches around the pool, the drinks flowing freely, as the late afternoon sun slid past the fruit trees and the long shadows crept over the lawn and right up to the pool itself. The girls wore little sundresses and floppy white cotton hats, or sometimes when it was really hot they would run around in just their pants as their little bodies turned first to gold and then to brown. No-one bothered about suntan lotion or skin cancer, the sun was there to be worshipped, and the sun was one of the few things June did seem to worship. With a glass of red wine in her hand and her eyes shut she seemed absolutely contented with her life in the sun by the pool, or maybe it was just the wine that made her feel good, drifting and dreaming of being somewhere else entirely.
Too hot to play or make up games Harriet and Jane would lay on a lounger together and whisper secrets until one or the other of them would drift off into sleep. And then when they woke all bleary-eyed in the sun there would be a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of biscuits or rock cakes to eat.
* * *
Harriet had wanted a pool, and so she had asked Daddy for one.
“Now what do you want a pool for Harriet? You know that Mummy will take you to the big swimming pool in town anytime you like, you only have to ask her?” He said, trying in that sly adult way to divert and placate her.
But she wasn’t going to be fobbed off that easily. “Penelope Watkins says they have one in their garden, Penelope’s father is a Doctor, and they have a house near Ipswich and they have a real pool in their garden and she can swim every day if she wants to, in her very own pool.” she said with what she thought was impeccable logic.
“Well, my Dad, your Granddad in Norwich, you know, he is a Doctor too, and he doesn’t have a pool. And we wouldn’t want to have to dig a big hole in that nice lawn in our garden would we now?” Daddy countered. As if the digging of the hole had anything do with anything.
“Can’t we have just a little pool then.” If a big hole was such a problem, we could have a smaller hole dug reasoned Harriet. “Please Daddy say you’ll think about it.”
“Oh I’ll think about it, thinking about it won’t cost anything.” He said, as if that had finished the discussion. But Harriet kept reminding him, every day when he came in from work she would ask if he had thought about it yet. She didn’t miss a single day, until one day he told them to get in the Bentley, they were going to look at swimming pools, and though they didn’t have a real concrete pool built into the garden they did have quite a large pool, and it took two men a whole day to build it, and almost a day to fill it up with a hose that stretched all the way to the garden tap at the front of the house. So; triumphed Harriet ‘Penelope Watkins, you aren’t the only girl in the school with a pool, we have one too.’
* * *
June certainly thought the pool was wonderful; it took the edge off her boredom between calls from Ted. All her old girlfriends and some of the mums she met at the girl’s school were so jealous, and she would invite them round on sunny days in the summer, and they would sit around and drink wine and chat about old times when they were at school together or working at Dormans, and the afternoons would slip by so easily. It was the evenings June was beginning to resent.
She was killing time really, between the quite infrequent visits from Ted. He couldn’t just slip away from work, he had to be away from the farm on some business, buying a piece of equipment in Ipswich, or if old farmer Turner was away himself, and June never knew from one time to another when he would be able to get away again. She had to make sure too that her sister wasn’t planning on coming around, the last thing she wanted was her barging in on them, so she told Ted to always make sure to let her know a couple days before he would be coming to see her, and she would pop round to see her sister and let her know she was going to Norwich on Tuesday, or some other excuse. She even used the ruse that she would be home late once or twice and could she do June a favour and look after the girls ‘till she collected them on her way home (on her way home after dropping Ted off first of course). She felt terribly guilty but then she felt guilty about the whole thing, though guilt somehow becomes manageable the more you have – and at least Julie would have her hands full with her two, so she wouldn’t be sitting there wondering where Ted had got to.
And then for days June would be so excited, just thinking about Ted and his kisses, and those rough hands rubbing themselves all over her body. Sometimes she didn’t know how she kept going between his visits; it seemed as if she only came alive in his arms, the rest of the time she was just going through the motions, not really living at all.
Of course, the pool was a great distraction, and in the school holidays she would make it up to Julie by inviting her and her boys round nearly every day. But Ted and she always had to put their activities on hold when Jane and Harriet were off school anyway. Why on earth did they have to be off for six whole weeks every summer though; she used to long for September and her freedom again.