When we first moved to our village there were two sixty-something brothers and their younger sister who used to walk about the lanes. I’d only been here a few days when I walked past them, causing them to stop in their tracks and stare silently at me with some intensity until I’d gone past. The look on their faces unnerved me somewhat, and from then on every time I saw them they would do the same. Their heads would swivel, tracking my movements until I had disappeared around the corner.
It rapidly dawned on me that these poor souls were obviously not the full shilling. After I’d got to know some of the other villagers they told me that George, Gerald and Ida had been born and raised in the village. They all lived together, and previously Ida had worked as a cleaner and the brothers I think might have been manual farm workers. None of them had ever married. There had been three brothers and Ida to start with, but now one brother was pushing up the daisies in the ‘overflow’ cemetery. Apparently they always stared at strangers, and it occurred to me that they might resent us Londoners infiltrating their country idyll.
They lived three doors down from my mother Dot in a sheltered housing complex, in the days when Dot could bear living in the arse end of nowhere. Ida would catch Mum every time she stepped outside and tell her about her problems ‘down below’. Mum would tell her to go to the GP, but Ida obviously never heeded Dot’s advice because a few years after we had moved here Ida died of uterine cancer.
And then there were two.
One day there was a knock on my front door. I opened it to find George and Gerald staring at me with that peculiar look of theirs. An unwashed odour wafted in on the breeze. I smiled and said hello, and then George, the braver of the two, asked if I ran a taxi service. I told them I didn’t. One looked at the other, and then they both walked away.
They might have been somewhat backward, but in their later years they learned how to play the Social Care system. The warden of the sheltered housing complex moaned at Dot that the brothers always plagued her with requests for new furniture and white goods. Rather than clean out their fridge they asked for a new one and they created havoc until they got it!
Over the years Gerald became more infirm, and George pushed him around the village in a wheelchair. Suddenly it was just George walking about, as Gerald had joined his siblings in the cemetery. George weathered a few more years on his own, before Social Services moved him into a care home. It took many weeks for their house to be cleared of years of accumulated rubbish.
Yes, there are many colourful ‘characters’ here in sunny Suffolk. Perhaps I could write a book about them…