Joyce crabbed her way through the downstairs hall with the shopping, winding her way through towers of boxes to reach the kitchen. Alan was digging around in a crate trying to find the tin opener.
“Hiya love. Shops ok?”
“Yeah - I took a wrong turn on the way, but I got there eventually.”
She dumped the shopping on the fraction of clear surface by the sink and sighed with relief, rolling her shoulders.
The kitchen - the whole house - was a disaster, but it didn’t matter. After so many months they were finally here, ready to live their country village dream.
“Everything ok was it?” asked Alan, still rummaging.
“Yes it was lovely - it’s exactly what we imagined - a nice little high street. Lots of independent shops - bakers, greengrocers, you know. And the Tescos is very discreet - all built in the same stone as the rest of the street. It’s quite charming.”
“Good love, good,” but Joyce could tell Alan wasn’t really listening.
“Actually there was this one dreadful man there. He was rude and loud and - well revolting, actually. He was behind me in the queue and he kept standing too close to me. I think he was trying to see down my blouse!”
Alan straightened and shot Joyce a grin “Can’t say I blame the fella.”
“Alan - I’m serious. Honestly, I nearly had a breakdown, right there in the supermarket. He was dirty too. His trousers were those elasticated joggers that some people wear - they were bright purple and had stains on them. And he had this dreadful beer belly that kept poking out of the bottom of his t-shirt, which, by the way, had Al Capone on it - you know, that one from that violent film about gangs...”
“You mean Al Pacino, love”
But Joyce didn’t hear. She shuddered and tried to push the revolting individual to the back of her mind. She had thought that those sorts of people would be a thing of the past now they had scraped it together to become happy Middle-Englanders in a pretty Midsummer-esque village.
But, she supposed with a magnanimous sigh, they had to shop somewhere, didn’t they? Popping to the pretty little high street to get his oven chips or his four pack of strong lager was probably the highlight of his week. And he had to go back to some horrible squalid little flat somewhere, while she, Joyce, got to enjoy the magnificence of Rose Cottage...
She left Alan to his pottering and went upstairs. The light streamed in through the back bedroom windows. She would keep the quirky hot air balloon print paper the last owners had left. It was pretty. This could be my sewing room, thought Joyce, swept away in her country idyll, quite forgetting that she didn’t even know how to sew on a button.
As she started out the window across the back garden of her neighbours, admiring their trellises and pergolas, something in the garden of the big house opposite her caught her eye.
In the middle of a perfectly manicured lawn, stretched out fast asleep on a sun lounger and clutching a can of strong lager was a flabby, beer-bellied man snoring belligerently in a pair of stained purple joggers.