How to Measure a Cow

How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster Read Free Book Online

Book: How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margaret Forster
Tags: Literary, Literature & Fiction, Contemporary, Contemporary Fiction
Perfectly reasonable. Nancy allowed that. But what about the rest of every weekend? Rain or shine, the woman shut herself up in that house. It wasn’t healthy. There was no television there any more – the nephew, typically, had removed it, and there had definitely been no delivery of another – and if there was a radio surely listening to that couldn’t fill the whole weekend.
    There was no sign of her new neighbour making any church attendance on Sunday, but that wasn’tunusual. Nancy didn’t go any more herself, except to funerals sometimes. She thought about resuming her old habit, ingrained since childhood, of going to morning service but then she remembered how it had depressed her for years before she gave up. So few people there, lost in the echoing place, coughing and shuffling, hardly one of them able to sing a hymn. And the vicar was pathetic, his sermons mumbled with head down, barely audible and without meaning. If it had not been for the white surplice, always pristine (she gave him that) he could have been a tramp who’d wandered in. The first Sunday she didn’t go, Nancy felt defiant. If the vicar came to enquire about her, she was ready with her criticisms and he would just have to accept them. But he never came. She could have been lying dead. It was no good saying to herself that maybe he hadn’t noticed her absence. Not noticed? She sat in the front left-hand pew, right in front of his pulpit, the only one who ever did. Not noticed, when he never had more than eight people in his congregation? Not noticed, when she was always the last out, the last to shake his hand? The only one who looked him in the eye and was in no hurry to scurry off?
    But a gap was created. Nancy had felt restless every Sunday morning since. There were lots of shops open on Sundays these days, but it would have seemed wrong to go shopping, even window shopping. Shopping was Saturdays. She tried going for a walk and sometimes still did. It meant getting ready, which was good, and being out, which was good, but she always felt self-conscious going for a walk that had no objective. If it rained, or was exceptionally cold, as it often was, an aimless walk was not an option. Shestayed in and played patience. This seemed almost wicked, on a Sunday, but it filled an hour. Very occasionally, she had a visitor, and even less frequently she made a visit herself. Those were satisfactory Sundays. She got bored, though, with the women who visited her and whom she visited. They all knew each other too well, the connection between them of long standing but never running very deep. There was nothing new to discover, and these days all of them repeated themselves. Nancy didn’t, but the others did. Even when she said yes, they’d told her whatever it was before, again and again, they still carried on. It was highly irritating. She missed Amy, with whom she had been totally at ease.
    Sarah Scott would be new. Everything about her would be fresh. However ordinary she might turn out to be there was a whole unknown life there. Nancy craved knowing it. She wouldn’t, given the opportunity, do anything as crass as ask direct questions. She didn’t wish to interrogate Sarah Scott. She would be quite content to let her history unfold, bit by bit, year by year. And she would be perfectly happy to share her own story, if Sarah Scott showed any interest. She had nothing to hide. Maybe she hadn’t had an exciting life, but she’d had her moments, as a child, during the war. Sarah Scott might be interested in those experiences. Possibly.
    What Nancy needed, she realised only too well, was an excuse to invite her new neighbour for a cup of tea. An excuse, a convincing one, was essential, otherwise it would be embarrassing. She couldn’t openly admit that she was intrigued by Sarah Scott and wanted to know about her. That would be terrible bad manners.Giving her the nephew’s plant had been a mistake, a miscalculation. It had seemed, and indeed was,

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