The vultures gather – Joyce Janes

At the foot of Parkhouse Hill at the bottom of the dale sheltered from the harshest weather is Glutton Grange.

I stand in front of it now the house where I was born 9 years ago, the only home I have ever known.

Looking up I can see a sturdy and solid building of 3 floors with evenly spaced windows.  I can see the edge of ragged grey curtains at my bedroom window and can picture myself inside the room.  My bed is pushed against the wall directly beneath the window.

When I shut my eyes I can remember how I would wake and push those curtains aside to see what the weather was like before I got up.

In my head I see my belongings each a precious memory.  The little wooden cart and horse carved by grandfather from a piece of broken tree we found in the dale.  A chair made by father from broken old crate that had passed usefulness on it the soft cushion, hand stitched, by mother and stuffed with feathers from our own geese.  Counting markers I made from twigs when I was only 5 and most cherished of all my belongings the marbles.

Squire Rowland came to visit mother when I was only 3 or 4.

He bought the marbles from a foreigner in a place called Liverpool and gave them to me.  I love the way they glisten and sparkle when I hold them up to the light.  As my finger and thumb rub together I can almost feel the rough sacking drawstring bag containing my treasured possession, my precious marbles.

Have they found them or are they still hidden under the bed?

I am sad now knowing they will be spread on tables with the rest of my family’s belongings.

To my left the farm equipment is laid in neat rows waiting for them to arrive.  Vultures my father called them, vultures picking over the remains of broken lives.

Mind you in the past I can recall visiting some of these sales with him.

One time we went to buy a new cheese press.  The sale was over the other side of Monyash and it was almost midnight when the old nag Polly dragged our heavy cart into the yard.  The press was desperately needed to replace our old one, which had finally given up after many years of service.  My father didn’t complain then, yet, that time we had been the carrion fighting to buy cheap as possible.

Here at Glutton Bridge my family have made cheese for centuries to sell each week at Longnor.

Many people come through our busy market because we are on a crossroads between Leek, Buxton, Bakewell and Macclesfield.  They are big towns and one day I will visit them, maybe get a trade.

I turn away from the house and walk toward the bridge.

It is sunny today but I can’t feel the warmth at all.  The sky is beautiful bright blue with occasional snow white clouds drifting slowly overhead.  I love this countryside so much.

As I settle on the low wall I dream of sun filled days playing with my brother, paddling and fishing in the brook.  I smile when I think about the hours we chased around the fields and over this bridge when we were younger.

Looking up I turn my head to the west, Dowall Hall Farm home of Squire Rowland half hidden from sight and the root of our troubles.

Father says everything that has happened to us is because of him.

My family have occupied the house at Glutton Bridge for as long as anyone can remember but it is the squire who owns our property and land.

A long time ago my mother worked at the big house but when she married my father she moved to the Glutton Bridge.

I was born first, followed by a boy, my brother Tom and 4 sisters.  None of the girls survived all of them died before they reached the age of 3.

I remember each of those sad times.  Then tragedy we lost Tom in an accident.

It was not long after that our real troubles started.  Years of bad luck made our life impossible.

An exceptionally bad winter robbed us of livestock, sheep were born early and lost because of harsh conditions.  When summer eventually came endless rain flooded the valley and we waded in thick knee high mud.

The following year a rotting disease devastated our herd and without cattle there was no milk for us to produce cheese.  Without cheese we had no income.

Squire Rowland allowed us a year to find the rent.

The 3rd winter was hardest of all.

One night father went out and didn’t return and it was only as the snow melted days later that his frozen body was found halfway up Chrome Hill.

Mother and I went to see Squire Rowland.  I stayed outside with the cart.  When she came out her face was white and taking the reins she drove us home.  We must have been going too fast and as we reached Glutton Bridge something jammed in the wheel.  The horse reared and the cart heaved onto its side hovering for an age before falling over the parapet the bridge.  The horse screaming and writhing was only silenced when it smashed into the stony riverbed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I can see them gathering now, the vultures.

They will pull, prod and poke h our belongings, search our precious possessions.  They will pay a pittance and drive home with our treasures stuffed on their carts.

I see a small hessian bag raised in the air and my beautiful marbles pour into the hand of the auctioneer.

‘How much for these?’ he shouts, ‘come on gentlemen found in the lads room, a trinket any child would want.’

He calls again ‘Who will give me a penny for them?’

I stand next to the auctioneer and look one last time as my beautiful marbles reflect the light.

A voice calls out, ‘5 shillings.’

I am shocked as are the rest of the audience, 5 shillings is a fortune.

My eyes search out the owner of the bid and see it is Squire Rowland.

~~~~

 It is over now and all is quiet, I will walk up the dale one more time then I have to go.

Mother and father are waiting.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Joyce Janes writer for children

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