Blackberry Lane – Episode 15

THIS visit felt very different to all of the others Jeanie had made. The old farmhouse itself was different. It was as if the heart had been ripped out of it.

The reason was obvious. Although Kate stood at the range and produced food as she always had, her work was carried out mechanically.

She was unable to take it in that her beloved Kenneth was dead. Each time the truth hit her afresh, her eyes would flood with tears.

Ted, predictably, buried himself in his work. He filled each and every day with tasks, allowing himself no time to think about the tragedy. Even late into the evening he would carry on, making full use of the latest generator which Archie had rigged up for the farm.

Archie wished that talking to Ted was as easy as working on a generator. Though he’d got on OK with Ken, they’d been several years apart in age so hadn’t spent a lot of time together. He understood what a dreadful blow this was to Ted, knowing all his hopes and dreams had centred around passing the farm on to his son.

Annie kept close by Kate’s side and tried to offer her unspoken sympathy. She was aware that Kate’s grief was something she couldn’t totally appreciate. She’d never had any children herself, so hadn’t experienced that special bond between mother and child.

Jeanie had, though. The very thought of something happening to Russ or Marty made her blood run cold. And so, on the second morning of her visit to the farm, she went and stood beside Kate at the range, and placed a hand over hers.

For the first time Kate felt there was someone she could reach out to, and she rested her head on Jeanie’s shoulder and cried as if her heart would break.

Choosing just this moment to arrive indoors, Archie took in the scene before him. Crikey, he thought, turning and heading straight out again. It occurred to him that Jeanie was probably just the sort of person Kate needed right now. In fact, from what he’d seen of her, Jeanie Pryce was a very special sort of person in many ways.

Spring, 1942

A restless feeling had taken hold of Jeanie. She found it harder and harder to keep thoughts of the boys at bay. Her work didn’t help as it once had. Although she told herself that she was helping the war effort, somehow it wasn’t enough. She needed something new to occupy her mind.

A notice pinned to a board at work caught her attention one day. It read: “People required to train as mechanics.”

Jeanie delved into her bag, and eventually she found some paper and a pen and scribbled down the details.


Bernard Shilling drew his car to a halt outside the farmhouse door. He didn’t get out straightaway, but took a few minutes to check that his papers were all organised and to gather his thoughts.

He’d had a very upsetting morning, having to serve an eviction notice on an elderly farmer about 20 miles away. It had left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. The poor old man hadn’t acted deliberately. He merely had neither the energy nor the resources to meet the government’s quotas. What was this war doing to us all, Bernard asked himself.

Taking a deep breath, he hauled himself out of the car and knocked on the kitchen door

“Oh, Mr Shilling.” She beckoned him to enter. “Come in. I’ll find one of the men.”

He knew there’d be no problems at this farm, though even here he found it difficult to make conversation these days. Ted Proctor was a changed man, and understandably so, since the death of his son.

Kate returned, and to Mr Shilling’s relief it was Archie who walked in alongside her. The men shook hands.

The men then did a circuit of the yard. Arriving in the barns, Archie complained, “We’re finding it hard to get enough petrol to run the machinery. I don’t know how we’re going to manage come harvest time. That thresher uses no end of fuel.”

“A lot of farmers are converting their engines to gas power,” Mr Shilling replied.

Archie looked at him with interest.

“How does that work?”

“I can send you an instruction leaflet.”

Bernard Shilling paused, and asked diplomatically, “Would you be able to follow it, do you think?”

Many farmhands that he knew were unable to read or write.

“Oh, aye, I’ll be able to follow it. Whether I can actually do the conversion is another matter.”

“I understand you’ve made a generator before. If you can do that, I shouldn’t imagine this would give you very much trouble.”


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!