Katherine is 81. She lives alone on a farm in the beautiful Northumberland countryside. It was her husband’s family farm but he so sadly died 7 years ago one starry night. Her 2 daughters live with their families not too far away but her son, John, comes over every morning from his expensive barn conversion at the end of her lane. He manages the farm and takes care of the day to day running of it.
Katherine has never been bothered by the way she looks…overalls and mud smeared cheeks don’t really go with fancy makeup. She keeps her white hair short and neat … longer hair would only get in the way plus she wouldn’t know what to do with it !
She never stops (well rarely) as the chickens need feeding, eggs collecting and her son often needs help bringing the cows in for milking. But that is the way it has always been. She married when she was 21 and this farm is the life she knows and loves.
But she is getting old. She sees the years look back at her from the mirror as she washes her face every day. She sees the pathway of her memories …happy and sad… carved into her skin. She feels the many steps she has walked tapping themselves out in her joints as she wanders around the fields and barn.
But Thursday is different.
When Bert was alive they drove in together. To the town 10 miles away, through twisting roads and across the river. He would drop tools in to be repaired, talk to the wholesaler about feed for the animals and then meet his friends in The Crown for half a mild and a ham sandwich before joining Katherine at the corner at 2pm.
She would do her shopping, buy the weekly paper, drop shoes off to be repaired and then call in to Burton’s Tearoom to meet Mary and Sarah for tea and cake.
It was the part of the week that was their oasis of calm amongst their busy, repetitive week.
But Bert had died, Mary had recently moved away to live closer to her daughter and Sarah didn’t get out much at all these days.
But still, every Thursday she wakes with the lightness of heart she had felt every day for the last 30 years.
She drives the 10 miles alone in the old, rusty car that should be replaced but really won’t be. Parks in the same place very week, slowly walks along the high street to buy the groceries she needs, the weekly paper , any clothes she may need ( but where does she go to wear anything but serviceable skirts and thick sweaters?) and then The Crown.
It has changed hands since Bert was last in there. Smart chairs, a few sofas, dim lights and a little area at the back where you can order food.
Everyweek she is greeted by the young staff with affection and concern. And every week they wait for her order although it is always the same.
The cheese board from the dessert menu … with enough cheese to keep her going for a week at least, and a glass of milk topped up with fresh pouring cream. Living on a dairy farm has given her a taste for the good stuff that will never be sated.
So for an hour she eats, drinks, eats, drinks, asks about the young staff and the unseen chefs and their families.
She is a small, ageing lady, in a clean but old outfit, with her glass of milk and mountain of cheese and crackers, enjoying her Thursday treat which, even though the characters have changed, is a big part of the story of her life.