A Country Caper
“Where the fuck?” Simon Hurst murmured under his breath as he thumped the steering wheel of his Audi TT convertible whilst clutching a ragged piece of paper bearing hand written directions. An AA map of Great Britain, open at the heart of rural England, lay beside him on the passenger seat. The packaging of a recently consumed motorway service station sandwich and a Snickers bar lay discarded in the passenger footwell.
Having made good progress since leaving London at eight o’clock that morning, Simon, a young at heart thirty five year old entrepreneur, had now spent the past thirty minutes driving aimlessly around country lanes on the outskirts of civilisation, looking for the house of a retired potato farmer, where he had arranged to view a tractor for sale on behalf of a friend. However, he was hopelessly lost; all country lanes looked the same to him. And he was late, which annoyed him more than anything else.
Pulling over, he took another look at the scrap of paper. “Latchkey Farmhouse,” he muttered. “But this is Latchkey,” he fumed. “I’ve been trapped in Latch-fucking-key all fucking morning!” He was clearly not amused. Tossing the scrap of paper onto the road map beside him, he set off once more for another tour of the hamlet. Reaching a fork in the narrow lane, he suddenly spied the smallest of signs, a hand made board, bearing the name ‘Latchkey Farm’.
“Halle-bloody-lullah,” Simon chirped, bearing left off the main road. Rounding a corner, a large dwelling with a series of outbuildings came into view and Simon sped on with renewed hope, cursing the damage the potholes in the badly worn drive might be doing to the suspension of his precious sports car.
Passing through the wrought iron gates of the recently renovated farmhouse, Simon circled the ostentatious roundabout and drew up alongside a mud splattered RAV4 4x4, bearing a distinctive personalised number plate. He smiled to himself. "Welcome to Yuppieville!" he mused. Descending from his car he walked the twenty or so yards to the large oak panelled front door and gave the large brass knocker a hefty rap. A dog from within immediately began barking. He waited a minute or so and then tried the knocker again. The dog retorted as if playing a game with him, but no-one heeded his call.
A cool breeze blew across his face as he surveyed the house for signs of life. Walking towards the rear of the building, he noted the freshly mown lawns, the sweet smell of cut grass, and toys strewn across the patio. Off into the distance, beyond the immediate garden area, he caught sight of a lone horse grazing in an adjacent paddock. Suddenly a young woman emerged from a block of stables, clutching riding tack. She approached the horse and began hoisting the saddle onto its back. Simon began to make his way purposefully across the lawn towards her as she began to harness her steed. The swirling wind changed and he caught the sound of her voice as she gently comforted the animal. With her back to him, she was oblivious to his presence as he reached the gate separating the garden from the paddock.
Simon leaned against the gate and hesitated for an instant as he digested the scene before him. The young woman was wearing a white blouse with tight cream jodhpurs and black knee length riding boots. Her shoulder length blonde hair blew wildly in the breeze. She was difficult to age from behind, but he ventured that she was in her early to mid thirties. He could not help but notice her pert arse in her jodhpurs and his mind began to wander momentarily. There was a distinct harmony between this woman and her horse, which fascinated him. She was clearly at one with her beast.
Reluctant to break his silence, Simon spoke nervously. "Hello..." he began.
The young woman turned instantly, clearly very startled. In a glance, Simon was captivated by her beauty. But she was not so impressed.
"What the fuck?" she screamed. "Jesus, I nearly shat meself!"
Simon could not help but smile at the reaction he had caused. “I do apologise if I startled you,” he said. “My name’s Simon. Simon Hurst, and I have an appointment with…”
“Do you make a habit of sneaking up on people like that,” she interrupted him. “I nearly had a fucking heart attack.”
Simon laughed. “Well it’s plain to see you’re not the lady of the manor!”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him, as if trying to inflict a curse. Simon continued to smile. He found her attitude surprisingly refreshing. Ignoring her question, he endeavoured to come to the point of his visit.
“I assume you’re Mr Davis’s daughter. I have an appointment with your father.
“Old Man Davis’s daughter?” the woman howled. “You must be fucking joking! Do I look as though I’ve got a spud shoved up my arse? Don’t tell me, the lost townie’s looking for Latchkey Farmhouse. Well this is Latchkey Farm. I’m Jenny. Jenny Preston. Old man Davis lives a couple of miles back down the lane. Such a bugger having similar property names, don’t ya know? You’d think the postman would have it sorted by now, wouldn’t you? But no. Almost every day I get something of his and he gets something of mine. It’s a right pain in the backside. And Old Man Davis is such a miserable git. Says it’s all my fault!” She stopped suddenly, realising that she was ranting. Simon simply looked on at her in awe.
“Well I am sorry for disturbing you,” he said genuinely. “I can see you’re busy. Off out for a ride are you?”
“Yes, just for an hour or so,” Jenny replied, a little more calmly. “He needs his daily exercise.” She had turned back to her horse and was making the final adjustments to the saddle and harness. “Do you ride?” she asked.
Simon was taken aback by the question and before engaging his brain to think about it, answered untruthfully “I have done in the past. Been a while though, must admit. Work load and all that. Never enough hours in the day.”
“That’s a shame,” said Jenny. “I love it. Nothing like a good hack across open countryside first thing in the morning. Cures the hangover, that’s for sure!”
They laughed together as she turned to face him once more and their eyes met suddenly. In a flash, Simon sensed that she seemed to mellow in attitude towards him. She turned back to her horse and patted him gently on the side of his neck. She then turned and made her way to the gate, the two of them now leaning on either side of it.
“So what brings you to these parts then, Mr Hurst?”
“Well Ms Preston,” mimicked Simon, “I’m trying to source a tractor for a friend of mine. He’s recently bought a piece of land down south and wants to ‘go green’ as they say. The chap’s barking if you ask me. Anyway, Old Man Davis apparently has one for sale and I said I’d check it out for him.”
She smiled at his use of the expression ‘Old Man Davis’. “So is this a fleeting visit then, or are you planning on spending some time up here?” She eyed him quizzically.
“Supposedly a fleeting visit,” he replied with an air of uncertainty. “But if I don’t meet up with the old boy soon, I may be forced to extend my exile from the deep south for another day or so.” He shot her a solemn look in a mock attempt to convey how inconvenient such a change of plan might cause him.
“Oh dear,” teased Jenny. “The wife won’t like that now, will she?”
Simon laughed, holding up his bare left hand. “Oh no,” he gestured. ”Got shot of the wife a couple of years ago. Oh and along with half my wealth. But hey, I lived to tell the tale!”
Jenny laughed. “Snap!” she exclaimed holding up her equally bare left hand. “But I decided I wanted to keep all the wealth, so I hit him over the head with a spade and threw him down that well over there. But hey, don’t tell anyone!”
They both laughed, but Simon was unsure. He glanced over at the well in the garden behind him and felt a tad uneasy.
Jenny roared with laughter. “I’m only kidding! Sadly the bastard lives on and continues to be a right pain in the butt. But at least he’s out of my bed!”
Simon reflected on her words for a second and recalled the vision of her arse in her jodhpurs. “More’s the pity for him, I’m sure!” he exclaimed.
“Absolutely,” Jenny replied. “A right tosser in the sack though. Did not have a clue!”
“Really?” Simon interjected with interest. “Then you were right to dismiss him. No woman in her right mind should have to put up with an under-performing husband?”
“Too bloody right,” she said succinctly. “Listen to this,” continued Jenny. “He once asked me if we could have a threesome. You know, him, me and another woman. Even suggested a friend of mine might be up for it. I says to him, listen buster, you can’t even satisfy me for Christ’s sakes. Why the fuck do you want to piss two of us off for?”
Tears of laughter filled Jenny’s eyes. Simon laughed too, but inwardly he began to sense a strange warmth towards the woman opposite him. He barely knew her. She barely knew him. Their first encounter had been quite hostile, yet in a matter of moments they had both apparently warmed to each other. Or was he imagining things?
“Do you fancy a coffee?” she asked, suddenly.
The question took Simon by surprise. “But I thought you were off on a ride.”
“Scrumpy won’t mind waiting, will you boy?” she turned to the horse as if seeking an acknowledgement.
“Well I do have to find the old boy,” Simon pondered. “And I am over an hour late already. And if he’s as miserable as you say he is, he’ll be hopping mad I’ve kept him waiting this long.” He looked at his watch and then up at Jenny, who was eyeing him with interest. He hesitated and then said “But do you know what?”
“What?” she taunted, playfully.
“If you’re willing to delay your hack for a cup of coffee with a stranger, then Old Man Davis…”
“Can go fuck himself, Mr Hurst?” suggested Jenny.
“You took the words right out of my mouth, Ms Preston.”