Mud, mud, glorious mud – part three
Charlie found the bus he needed outside the railway station, an elderly double decker with an equally elderly driver. He was the only passenger in a three piece suit and brogues, and he got some strange looks as he boarded. He sat by the window and waited to see what would happen.
The bus swayed alarmingly as it pulled out of the station. Charlie settled back to watch the foreign world of dark stone buildings and dramatic hills unfolding outside the scratched glass. He soon became aware that he himself was being watched. A small boy in the seat in front had turned around and fixed him with a solemn gaze. Charlie gazed back, then felt in his pocket, and extracted a half-eaten packet of Polos. He offered one to the boy who grinned and quickly put it in his mouth. Charlie worried he’d done the wrong thing when the boy’s mother turned her head, but she just smiled and made her son say thank you.
The gaps between stops grew longer and the bus was heading up onto the moors. Just when it felt like the engine must surely expire with the strain of the climb they reached the top of the pass and Charlie stared out, entranced. The hills stretched on forever, green and brown and purple under the leaden sky, and the bus began to descend again.
The next stop was a stone shelter seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but the woman and her child looked like they were getting off. She stood the boy in the aisle as she gathered up her shopping but he did not follow her to the door. Instead he took his thumb out of his mouth and held out his hand to Charlie.
“Come on mister,” he said, so Charlie took the sticky hand and went. The boy jumped from the bus and pulled Charlie down with him, so that he stumbled untidily at the woman’s feet.
She put down her bags and looked at him with eyebrows raised.
“Is this Holmfirth?” Charlie ventured hopefully. All he could see around him was moorland, sheep and a long low dry stone wall with an open gate set into it.
“Not quite.” She pointed past the rapidly receding bus towards the valley several miles away.
The little boy tugged at his sleeve. “We live down there,” he said.
Charlie looked through the gate down a muddy track to a cluster of small farm buildings. An old man emerged from a barn and stomped up the track towards them. The wooden gate had the words Top Farm carved into it, and propped up against it was a handwritten sign that said simply “help wanted”.
“Grandad!” the boy smiled happily as the man reached the gate. He picked up the shopping and then turned to Charlie, looking him up and down but saying nothing.
Charlie took a deep breath and then stepped forwards. He sank ankle deep into glorious, rich mud which oozed over his shiny shoes and silk socks. He grinned at the stunned farmer and stretched out his hand:
“My name is Charlie, I’m here about the job.”