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Leaving Glairownie

Glairownie was one of those picture postcard villages, set in the mountains amid rolling meadows populated by blissfully grazing cows. Small rivers picked their way down from the high peaks through rocky beds and slopes. Summer flowers nodded and danced in the gentle summer breezes. Old men sat on rough hewn benches, watching younger men toil over wood piles, fences, water courses. It epitomised the word idyll.

High clouds formed, sending scurrying pools of shade across the meadowlands below. A man worked in the field erecting a new fence to replace one that had disintegrated the previous winter. He hammered in stakes, then nailed crossbeams in place using a nail gun. Four old men watched from their bench as he sweated.

'Remember?' said one of the men, not taking his eyes from the worker. 'We never had these nail guns. Sweat of our brow, that's what it took.'

Another scoffed and flapped a hand. 'They don't know work these days. I once fenced the whole of Hamregg's farm, single-handed. Summer of '64. I lost three stone in sweat.'

'But we knew work back then,' said the one at the end of the bench.

'These youngsters don't know work,' agreed the last. All four nodded.

'Remember Thomasz?'



'How he worked us.'

'For sure, he did. These lads today, they wouldn't have lasted a season under Thomasz.'

'He was fair, mind. He always paid up each week, and he gave me the morning off when Ompa died. I never forgot that.'



'These days they're too busy fretting about their cybers and whatsits.'


'Cyber stuff, you know,' the man mimed typing, 'on their number machines.'




The younger man finished the section of fencing at the far end of the meadow and hopped aboard his quadbike, towing a trailer filled with timbers up to the top of the field to resume there. The men watched, chewing and humming.

'Didn't have mini tractors, nor.'

'Lucky to have a bicycle.'

'I didn't.'

'Nor me.'

'Well it was an old one. Barely moved for rust if I'm honest.'

One of the others chuckled. 'Barely moved! You were a terror on that bicycle.'


'I was not!'

'Nearly knocked old Bearmann's wife over that time. He said she woke up screaming in the night for weeks after that.'

The erstwhile cyclist snorted. 'He was always making something of nought was Bearmann. My pa had me reclink his shed for that! I wasn't even near the woman.'

'Ah, they knew discipline back then.'


'He's taking his time over that, don't you think?' said one, nodding at the younger man who was now labouring over the new line of stakes. 'When I was young I could have had that lot done in a morning.'

'Without mechanicals nor.'


'He's making a decent job of it, though.'


'Yes, it should last a season or two,' agreed the third, with considerable reluctance.

They watched as the younger man swung his sledge hammer, striking the post cleanly. He stopped and mopped his brow with the tail of his t-shirt, then moved on to the next post, unaware of the running commentary from the bench.

'Of course, I wouldn't have used pine.'

'What would you have used then?'


'No, not for fence.'


'Pine's for fence. Larch is for cladding.'

'Looks nicer than pine.'

'It's not about looks, it's about sturdy fencing.'

'Should use oak then.'


'True, but who could afford that?'


The other three sucked in air.

'Doesn't like the snow, does stone. One small slide of snow and a stone wall's spread across the valley.'


'Looks nice though.'

'What? Spread across a valley?'


They turned as one as a woman appeared on the balcony of her chalet a short distance down from their bench. She dropped a basket of laundry on the deck and began pegging the clothes onto a line. The watched her in silence for several minutes.

'She's never changed.'


'Nor will she, I reckon.'



'That a woman should grow so out place.'

'She was born out of place.'

'Her mother tried.'

'Father too.'

'Always wilful though.'


'They say she excelled in school.'

'But what use is that?'

'None. Can't see the sense of it myself. We did alright without it. They don't teach what folk need to know anyhow.'


'True, true. I see no reason for leaving Glairownie, for school or otherwise. We have everything a person could possibly need here.'

'She was always wanting to go though, right from when she was tiny.'

The four men shook their heads and sucked air.

'Sad. Something not right in her head.'

'Didn't she leave for a time?'

'Ah. But she only got as far as Dorl.'

'What happened at Dorl.'

'I heard from Arul Foberg that she took work in an office. She lived for a time in a flat in the centre. He used to deliver her post.'

'Well nothing good would come of that. Young women aren't built for living alone in the city.'



'I heard rumours.'


'There was a man.'

The four shook their collective heads.

'They say he was involved.'

'What, married?'

'I don't know for sure, but I heard things. She was never right for Glairownie, though. Too wilful.'

The woman finished her pegging and stared up at the men. She lifted her hand to shield her eyes and glared at them for several seconds before turning on her heel and striding back inside. They shook their heads.

'See? Wilful.'

'Not right.'

'She should have learned some respect.'

'Well, they don't these days.'

'It's computers.'


'Computers. They teach them all sorts of bad ways. Nothing good comes from them.'

'I don't know that she ever had a computer.'

'She must have. They'll have had them in Dorl.'

'True, place is rife with them.'

'I heard she had to come home.'

The men nodded knowingly. Then one frowned.

'What, there was a child?'

'No, no! But she strayed dangerously close.'

'Nonsense. She came back to care for Boris after his stroke.'

'Well, that's what they say, but I heard otherwise.'

'Say what you will, she looks after her dad well enough.'


'True, but she's wilful. How long before she goes again.'

The men nodded sadly, then turned back to the man doing the fencing. While their attention had been elsewhere he had completed the stakes and was now attaching the crossbeams. The fence was almost finished. The men, somewhat irritated by this turn of events, resumed their grumbling.

'He's rushed through that.'


'First puff of wind and it'll be down.'

'I wouldn't have raced at it like that.'

'Youngsters don't know much these days.'




© 2015 Kay Lawrence.

10th October 2015

Oh dear, that sounds all too familiar. I'm afraid I'm turning into a grumpy old man. Lovely story but I'm afraid this comment has been written on a cyber wotzit.


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