Indigo’s Granny THREE

Indigo’s Granny 3.

Indigo’s Granny looked over the poorly carved grave. February 13th was brighter this year than most; the ground warm enough but the clay had made Indigo’s Granny’s task hard enough. Behind her, looking mournfully from the kitchen window and past her towards her past-life, spilling over the path between this place and the next, the round-faced Indian lady, Maya, cradled Sophie, her cat.

Indigo’s Granny knew that, even though Sophie was perhaps as old as twenty-six, she had not always been Maya, the round-faced Indian lady’s cat. Sophie had enabled her to explain. Things are rarely as straightforward as they seem and it turned out that Maya wasn’t an Indian lady at all but rather a round-faced girl who’d grown old and lost her roots. The clue was in the fudge.

Indigo’s Granny’s relationship with Maya had not started well. Even though everyone knew it was silly, villages thrive on silliness and so it was often suggested that the judges had done it on purpose. Indigo’s Granny had won the ‘best fudge’ cup at the village fete for decades, as had her mother before her and although she’d been determined not to cry she had simply fallen to pieces when best, first and second awards went to Maya, not her, in 2004 and again biannually for a decade. The cats hadn’t helped.

Murray and Walker, Indigo’s Granny’s cats, were rough black moggies. They liked to roam, scrap and cause trouble. Nobody liked them and they didn’t like each other very much. They terrorized Sophie and took it in turns to saunter through her cat flap and eat up the dainties Maya gave her that they never got at home. Maya pounced, when she caught them, coating them in a fine spray of Mr. Muscle, which made Indigo’s Granny sneeze when they got home. She’d sneeze and wander along the path and in through Maya’s door, another scavenger, looking for forgiveness for her bad boys and a cup of tea. They had shared stories of life, differently as their moods altered but Indigo’s Granny understood that Sophie was more than just a cat.

There had been a man. A much beloved and he had left for decades only to return and leave again in 2003. Sophie, his cat, had stayed though. Sophie had lived longer than she should, keeping Maya warm and loving her. Maya had explained and Indigo’s Granny knew when she saw her there, standing in her kitchen that morning, amongst the bleeding roses, cradling her cat. They had gone together, Indigo’s Granny and Maya with her Sophie, and they’d come back from seeing kindly Paddy, the vet, with a dead cat.

It was about 4.30pm by now on Friday 13th February, still light and chilly. As Indigo’s Granny looked over the grave, Maya past her to the fields beyond, Indigo and Monty moved again to sit side by side along the front bench of the VW Camper Van. Indigo turned the key, eased off the clutch and the van moved along the path towards the jumble outside the tumbling back-fence of Maya’s garden. At home, Murray and Walker hissed over a torn mouse beneath rosewood.

Indigo’s Granny. 2.

On Friday the thirteenth of February all was as it usually was. Indigo could see that when she looked in through the side window as she jumped down from the stile. Murray and Walker were curled up, one on each of the battered hot-plate covers of the long-extinguished Rayburn, lured by Indigo’s Granny’s 24-hour day-light lantern suspended there, in lieu of psychotherapists. Indigo’s Granny had told Indigo all about psychotherapists and even if the lamp didn’t really work like the garlic in the vampire story she thought it must be worth a try. You didn’t want people coming round asking lots of questions. Murray and Walker had been getting on famously since the arrival of the lamp.

Peering under the top half of the stable door, there was Monty asleep on his enormous, oily cushion and the place was in a bit of a mess. It was always in some sort of disarray and although this time the muddy floor was strewn with deep-dark-sharp rose leaves trimmed from stems; the sink, the garden bin and even the compost bin had been emptied, washed, filled with water and dragged in to nurture long, bleeding-heart, red roses, Indigo saw nothing but her Granny’s absence and knew just where to look.

Monty stirred as she stooped, now grown taller, to crawl under the locked upper-stable door; he yawned a smile and rolled to show her four feet in the air, an optimistic tummy and the note written on a scrap torn from a Weetabix packet, strapped to his right-fore paw. Indigo sat on the edge of Monty’s filthy bed and untangled the note with her right hand while paying him his tummy-rub reward with her left. The note began, unsurprisingly: Darling Indigo. New brownies in the yum tin. Help yourself! Now then:

Monty pawed Indigo as she ploughed through her Granny’s dreadful handwriting and although Granny was so odd that she couldn’t be surprising, reading had made her completely forget about Monty’s biscuit. She apologized, picked up the yum tin and yanked it open, eventually and after some struggle, ancient yum being stronger than super glue, took two brownies for herself, tossed two in Monty’s direction and picked out the keys to the Camper Van from beneath the greaseproof layer at the bottom of the tin. Sealing the lid tightly against Murray and Walker who just sniffed cakes and never ate them, except for just once when apparently they’d gobbled up Granny’s famous ‘carniverous surprise’, Indigo slipped out through the open stable door and across the common-land to the pale blue VW camper van sheltering behind the coppice.

Monty, a three year old Dalmatian who had every faith in someone who gave him brownies, however small, padded alongside Indigo and climbed into the passenger seat beside her with the air of a man who knew how to read a map. Indigo, eleven and a bit, although quite good at driving on bridleways, the Ridgeway and stretches of the B3072 when her parents were out of the country and Gran was over-tired, decided against a need for seat belts and turned the key.

The camper van looked back up along the short stretch of bridleway that ran to the right of the house as you faced the common-land, looking out of Indigo’s Granny’s stable door, if ever it were unlocked. The path allowed tractors, sheep and dogs with elderly walkers to go through the gate next to the stile that led to and from the close which once had been nothing but green fields. The bridleway continued in both directions, away from the street, across the common-land and into the pasture beyond and ran the other way too, up and back along the backs of the houses that Indigo walked past in the other direction on the parallel street when on her way to see her Granny.

Moving up along the boundary that separated domesticity from the raw and natural fight for life in the wild just on the other side of the bridleway, one might glimpse from the back the underbelly of the lives occupied by the gardens and houses, strung in parallel lines, sandwiched between farmland and paving, with intermittent street lighting for workers coming home at night and hyphens, painted bright-white, in the middle of the road beyond. It was supposed to be safer, on the paving and under the lights, where Steve puffed, Simon sweated and nasty Annie scowled. There was the familiarity of the round-faced Indian lady’s fudge on the paved side and the guinea pigs further along but you knew the whole story, more or less. Although Indigo was not really supposed to walk along the old path that ran behind the houses on her own, she did and she knew it very well.

The lawn-mower man’s dead brother’s house was bounded at the back by bright, light, tall, thin slats of wood, carefully laid like feathers to overlap so that no crack of sight might escape and show the emptiness of the dark house or its past. Just tufts of craggy grass escaped beneath the fence and paper thin-folded-cans, crunched under Range Rover sheep-men drivers’ cars, bound themselves to nettle roots, twisting into sticky tarmac around fence-post feet. Indigo had strained, closing one eye, squashing her face hard against the cold, resin of raw pine where slats of fencing warp or twist but nothing but a green blur showed itself.

The writer’s house had a rickety broken fence and a bright blue, brand-new gate leading out of the garden onto the bridleway. Here, on the footpath, was a small wooden chair, the sort of chair that folds up and slides into a corner; an old and rusty baked-bean tin, still with some of the green/black label clinging to the rust, full to the brim with cigarette ends, and a huge ceramic pot growing a vine which was perhaps responsible for overburdening the fence. Often there was a mug. But nothing much else apart from the odd soggy cardboard sag-bag of guinea-pig compost. It was the round faced Indian lady that caused all the trouble when it came to the end of the line, because hers was the first house in the close, so that last had to be passed on your way from the coppice, past the street and on to the world beyond.

Indigo was no novice. She’d learnt to drive three years before, when she was just eight and Uncle Neptune had been staying in the camper in the Coppice; he had taken her round and round the common-land and up ad down the bridleway in an unreliable Fored Fiesta that had once been the mainstay of family life, teaching her the basics and talking about fish. She understood only too well that if your Granny’s note advised you to put the camper in gear when you park it since the handbrake was losing its grip, it would be in gear when she started it. She knew she had to depress the clutch otherwise it would stall but what she hadn’t banked on was having to get the thing to grip before she and Monty started to slip backwards down the coppice towards the pasture beyond. Indigo was a bit rusty and had really not done very much driving since there’d been all that trouble over the trip to Cornwall. She stalled, lifting her foot from the clutch and the camper van lurched to halt. Monty slipped over the back of the front seat into the space behind and nudged the fridge-door open, finding nothing but three bottles of Proseco and 4 Picnics. He ate a Picnic and most of the wrapper while Indigo tried again and again to start the camper van, flooding it and her face with impatient tears.

Indigo rolled over the front seat of the camper into the back where she and Monty shared the last two Picnics; she, twisting long swirls of toffee between her mouth and her hand; he pouncing on crumbly biscuits and chocolate falling.

Indigo’s Granny

There were a lot of funny people living in Indigo’s Granny’s street. In the first house, the one with the orange door and the wind chimes that made you think of the wolves who made friends with Peter, there was a funny old woman with an Indian name and a round face.  You weren’t supposed to talk to her and it was especially bad to go in and eat fudge and sit in her cosy armchair watching the patterns the raindrops made on the thin glass between you and the passing world. And if Brian’s exwife, nasty-neighbour-Annie, saw you through the window, as she picked at the dandelions on the Indian lady’s side of the front path, you knew you were in trouble.

John’s widow lived at number 11 and had what your mum called ‘lodgers’ and your best mate’s mum called ‘her boyfriends'; they weren’t boys though. Welsh Simon was there first, when she first started walking down to Granny’s alone.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, in the summer, if she dilly dallied on the way home, he’d be out there, rubbing and shining, sweating and wheezing into a large green handkerchief stuffed into and pulled out of a dark grey slip of elastic hanging over the top of fat-man-jeans. In the Autumn he disappeared and instead there was Steve, sitting in dank November gloom, puffing out smoke from papery tubes he made himself, gawping at an iphone. He never noticed her as she scuttled past the hedge, knees bent, torso right-angled to the path, too scared to glance through the slats of the gate at his form.

Then there was a writer who never went to work but just sat, instead, with her back to the outside world, recording and reviewing Jeremy Kyle, Homes Under the Hammer and Peter Andre’s Sixty Minute Makeover. She kept guinea pigs even though she didn’t have any children and from the frames of windows facing the street hung mobiles, lanterns and climbing plants which seemed to have bound together souvenirs and knick-knacks, ordering chaos. The writer didn’t wear proper clothes but would wander out to drag in a bin in the middle of the afternoon wearing sparkly shoes and an Ermin coat or a dressing gown, depending on her mood. Some people said she drank too much cider in her teens and went bananas but nobody really knew much about her; not even her name. Some people said that she’d murdered her own mother and buried her under the landscaped garden out the back but she didn’t seem quite big enough or cross enough for the story to ring true.  Nobody really knew much about the writer-guinea-pig lady except that she had a secret past and therefore could not really be trusted.

There was one dark house, its curtains always drawn against the world and its neatly tailored front-garden bounded by four posts, one in each of its flat corners, each joined to the other by spiralling winding lines of barbed wire. A man came on Thursdays and cut the grass.  He told her once it was his dead brother’s house and she always thought it odd that you’d bother keeping a house if you were dead, just so your brother could cut the grass even though, with the curtains closed, really no one would ever see the nice grass without the daisies your dad hated. It was the last house at the end of the road that led to the culdesac where Indigo’s Granny’s house sat proudly reviewing the county.

Indigo’s Granny’s house was a very, very, wide, oblong shaped farm-house which stood with its back dead centre to the approaching street, facing commonland, looking over bumpy, farrowed pasture bounded by spindly coppices and poorly tended hedgerows. You had to knock on the back door, facing the street, clamber over the stile on the right and walk round the side of the house to the stable door at the front; here the top half of the door would almost always be locked tightly shut as the lower half flapped against the side of the house to let in the dog, the cats and sometimes a hen, forraging for food on the cold, muddy flagstones that stood in for the carpets and pristine woodblocks that hated shoes and dogs at home.

Indigo’s Granny’s house was a bit like Indigo’s Granny. Different.