The Call Of The City – Episode 09

Juliet and Grace in New York Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“All right, love?” Andrew asked as he ambled into the kitchen, pulling his dressing-gown around him.

“Yes, fine. She got there safely.” Meg frowned at him. “I thought you were off to bed. You’ve been shattered this week.”

Working as a country GP sounded like an easy life for a doctor, but Meg knew the demands the system was piling upon hard-pressed and under-staffed surgeries.

Andrew now had to travel between four different surgeries to cover various practices; there simply wasn’t the staff or the money any longer.

He’d seemed worn out all day; Meg had insisted he get an early night.

“I was,” Andrew answered, “but I heard the phone ring and I wanted to know how our girl was.” He smiled and then yawned. “Glad to hear she’s doing well. And how’s Juliet?”

“Fine, I think.”

Andrew glanced at her.

“You didn’t talk to her?”

“She was busy.” Meg tightened the sash of her dressing-gown. “It’s far too late for us to be up wittering away in the kitchen about nothing. Let me make you a cup of tea. You can take it up to bed.”

“You’re a wonder, love.” Andrew stooped to kiss her cheek, and Meg smiled at him, determined to banish those worries about her younger daughter.

In three days Grace would be back home again, full of stories and brimming with excitement. Hopefully she would never need to go to New York again.

Kerry pulled into the muddy yard in front of Embthwaite Farm and let out a sigh. The place was dark, not a light on, no smoke from the chimney.

It was half past six and she’d spent the day driving the length of the North York Moors National Park, seeing various farmers and inspecting their farms, their hedgerows and waste-disposal systems and, of course, their sheep.

Her insides sloshed with multiple cups of tea and no food besides a granola bar.

She was tired, hungry and dispirited, and would have given anything to come home to a warm, cosy house, with a fire burning in the sitting-room and a bath running upstairs.

At least she’d had the foresight to chuck some ingredients in a casserole dish slow-cooking in the Rayburn, so there would be something for tea.

But when Kerry came into the kitchen, the room was dark and cold, with no comforting rumble from the Rayburn and no fragrant smells of beef stew.

She let out a sound that was half sigh, half groan, and switched on the lights, blinking as the full mess of the kitchen came into view.

Papers and old post covered the table, the breakfast dishes were still dumped in the sink and a tangle of muddy boots and coveralls lay by the door.

“Daniel?” she called, even though she doubted he was home.

It looked like he’d been out all day, which was to be expected, since it was lambing season.

Still, that morning as she’d left he’d promised to do the washing-up. And what about the stew?

Kerry opened the door to the Rayburn, to find the ancient oven stone-cold.

It had gone on the blink again, which was no surprise considering it was 40 years old, a relic from Daniel’s childhood when his parents had run the farm.

The last time this had happened it had been four days before someone had been able to fix it. The only qualified repairman lived in Penrith, and was reluctant to drive all the way across the Yorkshire Dales to see to one faulty oven.

“Hey, love.” Daniel came into the kitchen, tramping mud everywhere, with Rosie, his springer spaniel, trotting at his heels and just as muddy.

“The Rayburn’s gone off,” Kerry said flatly, knowing she sounded unfriendly.

But she was so tired, and this meant there would be no hot water for a bath and no heating for the house. It was already freezing, with frost on the corners of the window-panes and a damp chill in the air.

“Oh, blast, has it?”

Daniel shucked off his muddy outer things, leaving them on the floor, and came closer to inspect the lifeless appliance.

“Yes, it has.” Kerry turned away, annoyed that he had to look at the thing for himself. “I think I can tell when something’s broken.”

“Hey.” Daniel straightened from his inspection of the control panel to look at her with a frown. “What’s wrong?”


Kerry answered as a matter of habit, but right then it felt as if everything was wrong.

The oven, the cold house, the long day. The way marriage felt like a slog already and it had only been a few months.

To be continued…

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.