Under Two Shires Oak – Episode 51

“HOW was London?” Holly greeted her grandfather, in the hallway of the house where they lived, three generations of them, and happy as anything together.

“Tiring.” Phil removed his hat and threw it on to the stand in the hallway, a trick which always reminded her of someone playing hoopla at the fairground. “But good. I saw a couple of my old chums in the Academy – Jefferson and Mary. Your grandmother’s probably mentioned them to you as she liked them very much.” He broke off to call out to her gran. “Grace, guess who I saw!”

“I’ll have to hear about it later,” Holly said, indicating the guitar on her back. “I was just on my way out. I’m playing tonight.”

Holly’s engagement was in the upstairs room of a local pub. They had a monthly folk night and she and her friends often performed there.

Glyn, her boyfriend of a few months, was waiting for her at the door when she arrived. Or, at least, he was at the door, but she was aware he might simply have come out to make a phone call. Glyn was active in environmental matters, green issues. In this he reminded Holly of her father, Tom. Like her dad, Glyn was concerned about “bigger things in the world than just home and hearth”, to use his own words.

“There’s a good crowd up there, Hol,” he said, pushing his long, wavy hair out of his eyes as he opened the door for her. “All come to hear you.”


“Well, you’re the one I’ve come to hear, anyway,” he told her.

“That I am pleased about,” she replied. “You’ll notice that we’re doing a couple of new numbers, and I’d like your opinion on them. I wrote them myself.”

Holly felt shy. She had recently started trying to compose some of their material and really wasn’t sure whether her stuff was any good.

“I’ll pay particular attention,” he assured her.

That was what he had said, but all the time she was singing she saw that he hung about by the door, constantly slipping outside. And during both the new songs, he just wasn’t there.

She knew what this would be about. The conservation group in which he was a leading light was presently concerned about something up in the Lake District. At the moment, it was taking all his energy.

But she knew, too, that if it weren’t the thing in the Lakes, it would be something else. She saw it then, in a flash. Glyn reminded her of her father, whom she adored. But it was her dad’s dedication to his work with the overseas aid people that had been responsible for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. She was sure they still cared about each other, but her mum had wanted, quite reasonably, an ordinary home life, not one moving from one scene of devastation to another.

If things developed between Holly and Glyn, would it be the same for her? His concerns were not the same as her father’s, but would his deep commitment to them nonetheless prevent them having a regular life? And would she be OK with that, or was she like her mother?

Collecting her jacket, for though the day had been hot the night was chilly, she went outside to find him. He was walking towards the entrance, clearly on his way back inside. But then his phone started ringing – again! She was about to ask him if he couldn’t ever turn it off when she realised it was her own phone, which she’d left in her jacket pocket in the little room put aside for the performers’ things well away from where they sang.


Her first thought, when she answered it, was that it would be work again. They were still involved in the big project and she was still on stand-by.

But it was her grandad, though his voice sounded like someone else’s.

“Holly? Oh, Holly, can you come home, love?”

She suddenly felt a new chill that had nothing to do with the clear night sky. Was that someone weeping in the background . . .?

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.