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Authors: Janie Bolitho

Framed in cornwall

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FRAMED IN CORNWALL

Janie Bolitho

 

 

 

 

 

For my aunt,

Con Gardner

ContentsTitle PageDedication12345678910111213By Janie BolithoCopyright1

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 mercilesslyover 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 without pattern. On some days a jumble of masts could be seen, on others therewere few. It was landing day. The tuna season was over but she had returned from the fish market with two large monk tails which had cost her next to nothing because she knew most of the fishermen.

In the kitchen she rinsed out her mug and inverted it on the draining-board. Through the window which looked out over the sloping garden she could see more and more patches of blue appearing between the clouds but, knowing the inconsistencies of the weather in West Cornwall, she decided to take a waterproof jacket anyway.

Leaving the house by the side entrance which led directly into the kitchen, Rose got into her Mini which was parked on the steep narrow drive beside the house. It started first time because it had recently been serviced. Trevor, the husband of her best friend, Laura, fished out of Newlyn. He had his engineer’s ticket and could make sense of any machinery. Rose’s car was child’s play to him. As he refused payment Rose had bought him a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a packet of his favourite tobacco. Despite the service Rose knew it was time for the Mini to go. For a painter a vehicle was not indispensable, but in her other role as a photographer it was essential. Her equipment with its heavy lenses was impossible to lug around on foot or by public transport.

She backed down the precarious drive with the ease of years of practice, negotiated the bend at the bottom and waited for the Mousehole bus, along with a stream of cars held up behind it, to pass. When it was safe to do so she pulled out and drove down into Newlyn village and turned left for Lamorna Cove.

She was fully aware of her hesitation in changing the car. David had bought it for her. But David was dead and although he had died five years ago it would seem like a betrayal of sorts. He would have wanted you to be practical not sentimental, she told herself, recalling how very different they had been – yet the marriage had worked, had been happier than most.

Rose planned to make some sketches of the cove. She had been commissioned to do a series of watercolours of some of the small Cornish bays. Once complete they would be reproduced on the front of notelets which would be packaged along withenvelopes, ten to a box. She had decided to depict each from a high vantage point so that she could include the granite cottages which sloped down to the bays. It did not matter at this stage if it rained for Rose would only be concentrating on the outline and scale.

The car-park on the quay was busy. Lamorna, with its one hotel and its one pub, the Lamorna Wink, was always popular with holiday-makers and walkers. There were still plenty of people around although the children had gone back to school. In the gently moving water protected by the harbour wall were several divers. Sitting on the wall, legs swinging into the void, were others, their wetsuits gleaming.

Rose turned and began walking. In the distance three people could be seen making their way up the steep cliff path which led back to Newlyn. Glancing at her watch she saw that she had two hours before she was due in Penzance. She slung her canvas bag over one shoulder and began the ascent which would make her calves ache but would lead her to a sheltered vantage point. Her hair, the lighter strands mingling with the auburn, was tied back against the breeze which became stronger the higher she climbed. Twice she stopped to allow walkers to pass in single file.

Between two boulders covered with rough green and yellow lichen, Rose laid down a waterproof sheet and removed an A5 sketchpad and pencils from her bag. She wriggled into a comfortable position, resting her back against a smooth patch of the cliff. The drawings would be smaller than the paper size so she made the necessary allowance. Dressed in old jeans which were faded and threadbare at the knees and a thick checked shirt which had been David’s, she was warm enough in the lee of the rocks towering above her.

The patches of blue had all but disappeared and within half an hour the sky was a uniform grey but the rain held off. Herring-gulls glided overhead and occasionally swooped, squawking noisily when they spotted people in the car-park who were foolish enough to produce food. The birds had become a nuisance in recent years and signs had been put up in many resorts entreating visitors not to feed them, but Rose liked theirarrogance and aggression although she was doubtful if they knew any longer what a herring was. Their staple diet consisted of chips, pasties and burgers. She would include their graceful flight in the sketch; two of them, she decided, their lateral feathers spread as they soared effortlessly.

An hour and a quarter later her back ached. Getting to her feet she stretched then picked up the sketchpad to study it. Satisfied with what she had produced she packed up. In no particular hurry she stayed for a while, relaxing under the changing sky. Lying on the waterproof she linked her hands behind her head and gazed into nothingness, emptying her mind. It was something she rarely had a chance to do. By the time she left the sea had changed from grey to green with a silken sheen where a ray of sunlight was reflected off the surface. A warm stillness had settled over the cove.

She knew she had been in danger of falling asleep. Many of her nights were restless since she no longer had the security of David’s body beside her. It was not fear of living alone as much as simply knowing he wasn’t there. They had not had any children but to Rose it was no longer a matter for regret. They had had each other.

Before she reached the car she went over the things she had planned for the next couple of days. This afternoon she had arranged to see Barry Rowe and later she was to photograph a Mrs Morgan’s daughter whose eighteenth birthday it was. Informal shots would no doubt be taken at whichever night club the girl ended up in but her mother wanted one which she could frame. Tomorrow was Friday and she would be seeing Dorothy Pengelly. Rose smiled. What a character that lady is, she thought. And tonight, Jack Pearce. The smile faded. She had been seeing him on and off for more than a year. The relationship had not followed the usual form of progression and Rose was not sure of her feelings, only that they were ambiguous. They met when it was mutually convenient and enjoyed each other’s company when they did so. But Jack, she knew, wanted more from her than she was able to give. Alone for so long, Rose had grown used to her independence and, in a way, so had Jack, whose hours were erratic, but she suspected he was one ofthose men who would prefer to live with a woman than without one.

Heading back along the country roads she was glad of the easy familiarity she felt with Barry Rowe. He was an old friend and the only person she allowed to call her Rosie, because he had given her her first break when she came to Cornwall all those years ago and because he had always been in love with her. What she had offered was friendship, no more than that, but she was vain enough to be flattered by his attentions.

 

Detective Inspector Jack Pearce had had a busy summer. From the moment the season proper had started crime had escalated. Not that he kidded himself that this branch of the Devon and Cornwall police had quite as much to contend with as the city boys who were stationed in Plymouth or Exeter. And he should know. He had spent several years in the force in Leeds. Of course the warm weather brought an influx of visitors and more people meant more crime. It also brought a lot of drop-outs to the area. This was not to say that the locals could not make just as much of a nuisance of themselves but the police generally knew where to find them. Recently he had been involved in one of the biggest drug hauls in the West Country.

Tapping a pen against his teeth he wondered what Rose was doing at that moment and if she was thinking of him. He smiled his wolfish smile. That was extremely doubtful. She had probably taken herself to some isolated spot and was immersed in the scenery. Even on a day like today she could find beauty in something. Was she viewing it with her artist’s eye or through the lens of a camera? Jack found it hard to believe she was only two years his junior, she was so petite and youthful. He towered over her by eight inches. He was solidly built with the typical dark Cornish colouring. Although his accent had been diluted by the years he had spent away from the area it was still strong enough to identify his origins.

Petty crime annoyed him. The perpetrators were rarely caught and the victims suffered out of all proportion to what the criminals gained. He sighed. He couldn’t wait to see Rose thatevening and wished he could see her more often. But at least he knew where he stood with her. Rose had made it quite clear that she would not give up her friends to spend more time with him. He accepted there was no choice but to make the best of what little he had. It was, he realised, little enough.

 

It had finally happened, the dreaded time when Marigold needed to be hospitalised. For months Fred had coped, running the shop but relying more and more on his staff, keeping the flat clean and seeing to Marigold’s needs. As she weakened he had received outside help. Cheerful nurses were in and out of the upstairs flat several times a day.

Tears ran down his face as he thought of Marigold in that high bed, intravenous fluids running into her wasted arm. It had been so hard to leave her there. Barely able to speak she had managed a few whispered words. ‘No one could’ve done so much for me. I love you, Fred.’ It was the first time she had said it and he would remember it for ever. All he had done had been worth it in the end. Yes, he decided, even … but he would not allow himself to complete the thought.

He stared at his surroundings. The flat was cold and empty without Marigold. Kneeling, he tried to pray but no words came. Not since his boyhood had he missed church on Sunday but he thought he would stop going now. Sometimes he found it hard to believe he worshipped the same God as the rest of the congregation. The one he knew was a personal friend with whom he held conversations. How could He have time for all those others, for the women, some of whom still wore hats and who gossiped outside after the service? His parents had been strict Methodists, bringing him up to fear shame and dishonesty, to act in a way which could not offend or cause gossip. He had not caused gossip, he had been very careful on that score.

Fred had offered his soul in return for Marigold’s health. All he had ever desired was someone loyal and kind, someone worth loving, someone worth living for. Whilst many paid lip service to the familiar words of the litany Fred silently communed with God. He had suffered and he had paid the price of his sins. Shewould not pay the price of hers, he had seen to that, but without her he was nothing.

 

Dorothy Pengelly’s younger son, Martin, had just passed his thirty-fourth birthday but looked much younger. He knew what people said about him, that he was simple, that he wasn’t all there, and it hurt. Worse, it made him self-conscious and confused in strange company, which only served to perpetuate the myth. Alone he was a different man. Only his mother understood him fully and accepted him as he was. In return he loved her unconditionally.

Martin lived in a caravan which had been abandoned some years ago. Technically he was a squatter but it was unlikely anyone would return to claim it now. He had been out walking one day when he first discovered it about a mile from his mother’s house. It was on rough ground, surrounded by clumps of bramble and obviously uninhabited. Many times he had returned but it remained empty and was becoming dilapidated. One day he had plucked up the courage to try the door. It was unlocked but the handle was stiff. On closer inspection he saw why it had been abandoned; it was fit only for the scrap heap. To Martin it was a challenge. He spent a month making repairs which may not have been aesthetic but which were effective. A few weeks later, when he was certain no one was going to lay claim to the van, he packed up his belongings and moved in, knowing that his mother would be pleased at this first step towards independence.

His income came solely from government benefits because despite his efforts to find work there was nothing at which he was able to succeed. The few employers who had given him a chance mistook his insecurity and shyness for stupidity and he had been asked to leave.

The caravan was comfortable and equipped with a battery-operated radio, Calor gas for cooking and heating, an oil lamp and a pile of pornographic magazines which he bought surreptitiously when he went to Truro. To Martin the women were not sexual objects but real people who would not laugh at him andsnigger behind his back in the way in which the local girls did. His only downfall was drink. He couldn’t handle it in the way other men seemed to. When he had money he walked into Hayle or Camborne and drank pints of cider and let his mouth run away with him. It allowed him to feel normal, part of a society from which he mostly felt excluded. When people spoke to him when he had drink inside him he was neither tongue-tied nor confused but he always suffered for it the next morning.

Once a month Peter, his brother, would invite him for Sunday lunch. No one particularly enjoyed these visits, least of all Gwen, Peter’s wife, but none of them seemed capable of breaking with tradition. The invitations had originally been extended to please Dorothy because she had suggested it would be good for Martin and there was her inheritance to consider. Martin had not known how to refuse. He felt uncomfortable in the almost sterile atmosphere of Peter’s house but his niece and nephew enjoyed the hour he spent with them, playing, before they ate.

He had woken yesterday unable to remember quite when Mrs Trevelyan was coming to see his mother; the days were all the same to him. But she hadn’t turned up. It would have been nice to have a friend of his own but where would he find one?

By the evening the air was heavy and oppressive. Martin studied the horizon as dusk fell. Tomorrow it would rain and there would probably be thunder. He sensed it and it made him restless but he had no money for a drink. Dorothy would lend him some, she often did. It was never begrudgingly, never handed over with anything other than a simple ‘of course’. He always paid her back. This was one of the reasons why he was her favourite, one which Peter, who was encouraged by Gwen to push for all he could get, could not understand.

Martin kicked at the springy turf with the heel of his shoe and stared in the direction of the house. Its squareness and the two tall chimneys were outlined blackly against the darkening sky. He walked towards it, his hands in his pockets. Pressing his forehead against the kitchen window he saw Dorothy sprawled in her high-backed chair over which a knitted patchwork blanket had been thrown to disguise the threadbare fabric. Voices from the radio reached him faintly but Dorothy was sound asleep, hermouth partly open, her knees apart and one of the cats curled into the cradle made by her skirt.

George, the Jack Russell, bristled then relaxed when he saw it was Martin. The greyhound did not stir. She was going deaf.

Martin had let himself in with his own key and helped himself to a ten-pound note from his mother’s purse then left her a note in his rounded block capitals to say he had done so. ‘I’ve lent ten pounds. Martin,’ he wrote on the back of an envelope. There were six other banknotes of the same value in her purse so he knew he was not leaving her short. He kissed Dorothy gently on the forehead and made sure the lock on the back door clicked shut behind him.

Beads of sweat formed on his skin as he trudged across the scrubby slopes until he reached the main road into Camborne. There, in one of the pubs, he had spent all but a few pence of the ten pounds before he was bought a drink by a man whose name he could no longer recall. It was after midnight before he’d got back to the van and he’d fallen asleep, fully clothed, on top of his bunk. When he opened his eyes it was daylight and his head was thumping.

 

Barry Rowe’s shop was in a prominent position in Penzance. He made his living producing greetings cards which sold throughout the country as well as locally. He also stocked maps and films and other bits and pieces that appealed to tourists. In the summer he kept the shop open until trade dropped off because the season was so short yet, surprisingly, he also made a reasonable income during the winter. Much of what was on display was based on the work of local artists or, at least, depicted local scenery. Rose Trevelyan provided him with two things: original watercolours, which he reproduced, and a sense of joy whenever he was in her company. She also photographed landscapes which he sold on to postcard companies.

He had known her since she first arrived in Cornwall, having just completed three years at art college. She had come to study the Newlyn and St Ives artiste for six months before taking up a career but she had never gone back. Oils had been her favouritemedium and she’d initially sold one or two each year through the cafés and galleries which served as outlets, although photography had taken over now.

It had been love at first sight on Barry’s part. He would never forget the day she bounced into the shop, her long flowing hair burnished copper by the sun which streamed through the open door. Her enthusiasm and vitality were almost tangible. Then she had been pretty; now, with maturity, she had become more than that.

Barry pushed his glasses up his nose. Every pair he had ever possessed worked loose and the habit, so strongly ingrained, caused him to do so when there was no need. He knew he was no great catch. His hair was greying and rather thin, his shoulders were stooped and he was underweight but his devotion to Rose had not ceased. He was long over the pain he had felt when David Trevelyan had walked into his shop to buy a birthday card. Rose had been there at the time and Barry bitterly regretted telling David that the artist was standing behind him. The look which Rose had given David had been identical to the one he had given her a few short months previously. With that simple introduction Barry had known that his chances were nil.

When David died Barry had been genuinely distressed because he had liked and admired the man and knew that he had made Rose happy. Shamefully he struggled to stifle the thought that Rose might now come to accept him as more than a friend. It had not happened. Then Jack Pearce arrived on the scene. At least Rose hadn’t dropped him completely in favour of the arrogant Inspector Pearce.

At precisely one o’clock Rose walked through the door, surprising Barry who was used to her tardiness. He grinned. ‘It’s all yours,’ he said to Heather who was the latest in a long line of temporary or part-time assistants.

‘Oh, I expect I’ll cope,’ she said wryly, rather liking the serious man for whom she worked.

‘We’re going out?’ Rose had only expected to collect payment for some work.

‘Just up the road for a quickie. There’s something I want todiscuss with you so I thought you might as well buy me a pint.’

‘Fair enough. As long as you’re about to hand me an envelope containing a cheque.’

‘Mercenary bitch.’

Rose laughed. ‘It’s taken you long enough to find that out.’

They strolled up to Causewayhead and entered the London Inn. The front bar was busy where a group of fishermen who had landed that morning, along with their women, had been making an early start. Rose acknowledged the ones she knew before following Barry around to the small back bar where he was already ordering their drinks. Rose handed over the money.

‘Okay, I’ve kept to my side of the bargain.’ She held out her hand.

Barry shook his head and reached into his jacket pocket, taking out the cheque which Rose had been expecting.

‘Thanks,’ she said, glancing quickly at the figure before stuffing it into her shoulder bag. It had taken her a long time to become businesslike about her transactions. Initially she had imagined a sponsor or agent would deal with the monetary side of things. Her financial position was now secure but without her work she would be lost. The house had been paid for upon David’s death and the capital from his insurance policies paid the bills. What she earned gave her freedom. ‘What was it you wanted to discuss?’

‘How are you at wild flowers?’

‘I can tell a daisy from a buttercup.’

‘Honestly, Rose, you know what I mean.’ He wished she would not grin at him in that way, it always made him want to kiss her. ‘I’m talking about notelets, the usual, ten to the box and packaged nicely.’

‘It’s been done to death.’

‘Yes but they’re popular and I was thinking of a different angle.’

‘Go on then.’

‘This time with an appropriate background, something simple, say a cliff or a disused tin mine, something which shows where the plant can be found with the location printed on the bottom.Take a look at this.’ He slid a sheet of paper across the table and pointed at it with a thin finger. ‘See, like this. Western Gorse, common enough down here and in Wales, I believe, but rare elsewhere and there’s –’

‘All right, all right, I get the drift. You’ve obviously done your homework,’ Rose interrupted before he could get too carried away, as he tended to with new projects. ‘But isn’t it a bit late in the year to be starting on something like this?’

‘Aha, that’s where you’re right. I have done my homework. Most of the plants on the list flower until October. If you’re not too tied up with other work you could make a start and finish the rest in the spring.’

Rose was impressed. Scrawled in Barry’s untidy hand were the names and locations of over twenty wild flowers. She raised an eyebrow. ‘Usual rate?’

‘Of course.’

‘Oh.’ Rose chewed her lip thoughtfully. ‘October? I might get wet feet.’

‘Honestly, woman. Okay, plus five per cent.’

‘It’s a deal. Now I can’t sit around all day drinking, I’ve got to go. Things to do, you know.’

Barry shook his head, grinning at her cheek. He rarely indulged in more than one or two pints, Rose enjoyed a drink far more than he did. The smile faded as she walked away and he was left to wonder if Jack Pearce was on her agenda.

 

Since the time Fred Meecham had taken over the shop in Hayle he had spent an hour or so with Dorothy Pengelly at least once a week. But that was before Marigold’s illness had taken hold and he had discovered his secret might not be safe. Despite the difference in their ages they got on well. It had started when Dorothy had given up the car and begun sending in an order for heavy goods such as a case of cat or dog food which he delivered free of charge. A strange kind of friendship had developed. He knew she did not buy everything from him but he did not resent it. He understood how much she enjoyed her trips to Camborne or even Truro with Jobber Hicks.

It was Dorothy to whom he had confessed that his wife had run off with a rep from a biscuit company who used to call at the shop. ‘She took all she could carry,’ he had told her, ‘but she didn’t take the boy.’ Fred had been left to bring Justin up as best he could. Five years later, at the age of sixteen, Justin, too, had left home.

‘Where did they go?’ Dorothy had wanted to know.

‘To hell as far as I care.’ Fred had left it at that. He had tried hard to make the marriage work. Divorce was against his religious principles but Rita had gone away, waited the stipulated period and filed the papers without any resort to him.

He thought about what Dorothy had said a few years afterwards, when Marigold had moved in. ‘Time you took over your own destiny, Fred. It’s all very well your sister running your home and helping out in the shop but a man like you needs a wife.’

He had nodded and smiled and gone on to talk about the chrysanthemums he grew in the small garden behind the shop. Dorothy had made a joke about them being the wrong sort of flower, they ought to have been Marigolds.

She had been deeply sad when he came to say that Marigold had been diagnosed as having cancer. ‘It’s so unfair, she’s so young.’

‘I’d spend every penny I’ve got to find a cure,’ Fred had continued. ‘Every bloody penny. I want the best treatment money can buy.’

Dorothy had reassured him that she was probably getting it anyway and that he would be wasting his time by paying for private care.

But Fred had not been able to let the matter go. ‘I could send her to America. You read about people who get sent to specialists over there and get cured.’

How hopeful he had been in the early days of the disease. He had had an estate agent look over the shop and give him a valuation but even with his savings and any other money he could scrape together he knew he would never get Marigold to the States.

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