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29 October 2014

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Voices: This Norfolk Life

Aunt Joan's wedding
Aunt Joan's wedding

Joan Leaves Norfolk In Her Slippers

by Anna Bartle
Anna was inspired to write for This Norfolk Love by two events which she combined in this fictional story about following your heart.

Anna knew that Aunt Joan had gone to London wearing her carpet slippers and had never returned to live in Norfolk.

Anna was convinced that those slippers were not like the slippers that Joan's sister, Dora, was now wearing.

Aunt Dora's slippers were soft and chintzy, their rolled fluffy edges sagging as her fallen arches swept over them like a flood of fleshy blancmange.

"Quick, my woman! Up the hedge, due you'll miss Sir Dimmock!" Her aunt's voice roused her.

Anna raced out of the conservatory, across the gravel to the box hedge. She sensed her aunt watching from the kitchen door, wiping floury hands on her pinny, shifting from one arthritic foot to the other.

Clawing at the branches Anna gained a foothold on the bank, choking as the summer dust showered over her. She stood on tiptoe, heart pounding. The coach was out of sight, but she heard the hunting horn not far off.

Aunt Joan's flight from Norfolk was not a family scandal; she was after all, happily married to Uncle Les. He was the saddler's son from Holt and said to be well-to-do.

Anna, aged 10, did not know what this meant, but was captivated by the romance of the couple's story.

Fifteen years before, in 1944, Uncle Les was returning to his regiment in London.

He could not face saying goodbye to his beautiful Joan in Heydon village, so they travelled together to Reepham.

He could not say goodbye to her on the platform at Reepham station, or even at Norwich station, so Joan, still wearing her slippers, went with him all the way to London - forever. 

Surely Joan would not really have worn ordinary slippers, but fashionable mules, thought Anna, like those she had seen in Jarrold's store last week whilst she was shopping with her mother.

Anna thought Joan's mules might have been pink. Totally impractical for carrying water in the leaky metal pail from the well to the scullery of Aunt Dora's bungalow in Reepham, or for going down the long, muddy garden path to the outside toilet at Nanny Bartle's cottage in Heydon.

Unlike her sisters, elegant, radiant Joan had beautiful waved hair and her laugh was like the sound of a silver bell. She smoked expensive cigarettes in an ebony holder and wore bright lipstick.

Now in Anna's family this would usually have been considered 'not quite the thing' but as Joan now lived in London it was considered to be all right.

Anna craned forward. The coach was coming up from Salle Patch. They came fast as usual, no-one else on the open road. Anna held her breath.

Four shiny, black horses strained at the creaking, swaying coach. With his tweed hat and voluminous cape, the coachman looked like the picture of Sherlock Holmes in Anna's library book. He looked strong and scary. Would he be angry seeing her watching him?

The coach flashed past, on towards the bridge at Reepham station. From within the carriage could there be a wisp of smoke and a tinkling ripple of laughter?

last updated: 17/03/06
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Good start to what could be a full length novel....?

Lisa Turner Smith
I loved this story. Beautifully written.

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