Abby Ch. 25

byKezza67©

Abby drove Mr. Brasher down to the station the next day, leaving him to wander around at his own pace. It was some time before he returned to her with a smile on his face. "I always get emotional when I see a place such as this. It looks so forlorn and neglected now, its purpose forgotten. But it was once an essential part of an economy that boosted this Country's wealth and social standards to be the envy of the World. Knowing that it will be restored is a source of great happiness for me." Abby agreed with him, but her emotion stemmed from a different source.

"For me it is all about my family. Even though they are all dead, I come here and connect with them. My emotion is finding a family when I grew up not having any."

Mr. Brasher was understanding of her emotions. "I had a family, but rarely saw them. My father was a Diplomat, the scion of an old family, always away somewhere in the Empire. My mother consigned me to a Nanny from an early age, then to Boarding school, then to Cambridge. I think that in all those early years I never saw my mother for more than ten minutes at a time some half a dozen times a year. I doubt that she saw my father much more than that. I saw even less of him than her. They were both killed in a bombing raid in nineteen forty-one. Ironic really, after being apart for most of their lives, they were together when the bomb fell." These few words convinced Abby of her suspicion that Mr. Brasher came from a privileged background. However it would seem that all that privilege had given him less affection than she. No wonder he had become an eccentric, without warmth in his life, just a fascination for this railway.

The arrival of George Walker in his van spared them further embarrassment. Abby introduced them. Immediately after the introductions George cast about with a worried look. "Is she not here yet? Typical of her, I have never known her to be on time anywhere." His complaining was cut short as Ms. Eaton drove into the yard the very next minute. Mr. Brasher reverted to his previous uncomfortable mode, and produced the photographs, which Ms. Eaton and the builder examined carefully. She seemed to be relieved as they showed so much detail, and declared that as far as she was concerned this was the specification she wanted. George was a little more diffident. The photos showed Barge boards on the gables carved in a very ornate fretted style. These were no longer present, obviously as some time being replaced by plain boarding.

"I can't do that without proper drawings." He declared. Mr. Brasher rummaged in his bag and produced diagrams that showed them exactly. George examined them, nodding his head and humming all the while.

"Yes, I know a Carpenter who can do that." He said finally. Abby opened the doors to the booking office and waiting room. Pleased that she had mastered the knack that Reg had demonstrated. Ms. Eaton looked around fussily, and made various demands of George Walker. He told her that he had already made an inspection and let her know that he would be removing the plaster, but would re-plaster with Lime.

She then demanded that the place was re-painted with colours as they saw.

Mr. Brasher who had also come in coughed. They looked at him. "I don't believe these are the original colours. It had been changed at some time."

George looked exasperated and a little testily asked Mr. Brasher. "You seem to be well-informed. Can you tell me what colours they used?' Mr. Brasher again delved into his bag.

"All woodwork was painted Brown and the walls a dull cream.' He was flicking through papers as he spoke, then lifted two up, looked briefly at them and pulled them out completely. "Here is an official colour photo showing the scheme, and here," he sounded triumphant, "is the names of paint manufacturers who have the original recipes for the colours." George fell upon these with delight.

"Well that will save us a lot of time." Ms. Eaton was even happier. All her problems were resolved it would seem without her having to do the research herself. She was prepared to leave it all in other's hands. However Abby did not want her to get away so easily. Reminding herself of what Mr. Brasher had said last night. She took Ms. Eaton out onto the platform and asked about Grants towards the cost of restoration.

Ms. Eaton's face blanched. She hadn't expected this. "Well I would have to look into this. It's not as if it was a Public Building is it?"

"I was not aware that it had to be. The station is a listed building and isn't being restored as a home. The intention is to create an area, where people can see how the station worked, what the station master and porters were expected to do, and how the station was a part of the local economy. We are going to place old photos and explanatory notices, so that people can come here and understand."

"Oh I see. An educational site. Best thing you can do is let me have a full costing when Mr. Walker can work it all out. Then we can have a meeting with the Museum and Heritage committee, and the Education Department. They will be interested too. Have you thought about putting in an application to the Heritage Fund of the National Lottery?"

Abby hadn't even thought about that, but wasn't about to let Ms. Eaton of the hook. "Yes. One will be made, when I get the quotation. But as you well know they seem to like wasting that money on all sorts of politically motivated schemes." Ms. Eaton agreed with that. Wishing that more of that money came to local schemes like this, which in turn would not dent her Authority's budget so badly.

"When you have the final costing. Let me know, and I will be happy to help with the application. They do like bureaucratic jargon you know." They agreed that that was the best way to proceed. Ms. Eaton gave Abby her card. "That's a direct line to my desk. Call me anytime."

Mr. Brasher and George Walker had been engrossed in discussion. And George was now satisfied that he could do as complete a restoration as any he had done. Abby re-joined them, and with confidence that there would be grants available, asked George if he would consider the Goods Shed as well for the work.

"I will, but cannot look at it now. I am expected at another job. Can I come down later this week and have a look?" Abby agreed. He went on to re-assure her about the station. "When I am finished it will look exactly like those photos." He declared. Mr. Brasher was happy that it would be. First Ms. Eaton departed, and then George left. Mr. Brasher was still happy to walk around the site. Abby stood there looking at the Goods Shed. She would ask James and Sam, if they would help her over her nerves tomorrow.

She was startled when Mr. Brasher suddenly spoke behind her. "That was where your grandfather met his end?" Abby just nodded. "It is brave of you to consider that. I think some would have just wanted it knocked down."

"I am going to go in there tomorrow. I shall ask Mr. Perry and James Comberford to go with me though."

He nodded his head. "I understand. Obviously I would like to see inside myself, but I shall wait for another day."

"Oh no, Mr. Brasher. Please come. After I have got over the first bit, I would be very keen to have you tell me all about it."

"Very well, Abby. But I shall make myself scarce for a while. If you could let me have the key to the station I would very much like to immerse myself in the atmosphere a little more." She was pleased that he understood the emotion.

Abby brought the topic round to Mr. Brasher's long conversation with Sam. "You seemed to get on well with Mr. Perry last night."

"Yes I did. It shouldn't be surprising, although we are from different backgrounds, we are of the same generation, and had much in common to reminisce about. I gather that he has taken you under his wing, so to speak?"

Abby smiled. "Yes. Sam has been good to me. I quite look upon him as a surrogate grandfather."

"I believe he looks upon you as a surrogate granddaughter. It would give me pleasure if you were to view me as a sort of great-uncle."

"Why! Mr. Brasher, I would happy to do that." He smiled something that didn't seem a normal expression for him. Abby locked the doors and they walked towards the car.

"May I bring up something else, Abby?" She looked at him.

"I was very impressed with the quality and flavour of the beef last night. I spoke to Sam about it, but thought I would ask you before proceeding, in case it embarrassed you."

"I don't understand."

"I have not for years tasted beef like that. My Club, where I dine most days, gets the best available, but cannot compare at all. Would you see me as presumptuous if I asked to buy some and take it back for the Chef to try as well?"

Abby could empathise with his comments about the food. "I have been similarly impressed, and no, I don't think it presumptuous. I am sure that Mary would be happy to provide you with a joint or two. I would suggest that the Lamb and Pork here is in the same league." Abby laughed inwardly, she was starting to reflect his style of language.

He shook his head. "Perhaps a joint or two would be sufficient to start, but later I would suggest a good size cut would be appropriate, a whole lamb and a side of pork if that would be possible. I am on the catering committee at the Club. I have no doubt they will consider the meat to be as good as I think. They may well ask if regular supplies could be obtained. I think they will be happy to pay a premium for meats such as that."

Abby's brain was working overtime. She had considered the food at the Inn to be very good, but her thoughts had gone no further than that. Now as if by chance there could be an opportunity. If Mr. Brasher's Club were to want regular supplies, who else in a selective market could be approached? A niche market for the finest meat would bring in a valued extra income for the farmers of the valley. This she had to discuss with Sam and James.

"I am not too sure of the supply position. I shall have to talk to people about this. But I am sure that something could be done, if only on a restricted basis."

"I understand. Perhaps we could discuss this further. If my committee are as pleased as I have been, I shall get in touch with you."

That afternoon Mr. Brasher opted to go to a preserved railway known as the South Devon Railway. Abby questioned him about this and decided that it would be well worth a visit at some time, as from his description it reflected more closely the sort of railway that had existed here in the valley. She wanted to talk to James about the opportunity that Mr. Brasher's comments had suggested. She telephoned Lyney House and having no answer decided that he was probably out and about on Cassie. An impish smile crept over her face, as she thought that if she were to drive down to the station again, he would probably turn up. She was right. It was soon after she got there that she saw him riding along the track from the direction of Huish Coppice. His smile told her how glad he was to see her. Having dismounted he came close, but made no further move to greet her. Abby was not going to allow this. She moved up and raised her face to meet his lips.

"I thought we were not going to do this."

"I don't care." She replied. "Now kiss me properly." After a few minutes when neither of them could speak as their mouths were otherwise pleasantly engaged. James stepped back.

"Whew! You meant that."

Abby had a very happy smile on her face. "We are a very close brother and sister." this was said with laughter in her voice. "I did want to see you, so I thought that if I came here alone, you may well have turned up."

"I see. Am I that predictable then?"

"Oh no. Well only when I want you to be. I just think about you and you get a message."

"You witch." He grinned as he said this.

Abby had a secret smile. "Am I?" He nodded. "How nice. I never thought I could be a witch."

"Yes. A witch and a hussy. You deserve a good spanking."

"Ooh! That might be nice. I may let you do that, one day." They both laughed at the thought.

"Now why did you send me the message?" He enquired.

Abby explained what Mr. Brasher had said about the beef. "He thought that if his committee agreed they would want regular supplies. Could that be done?" James didn't have to think long. "Most of the regular slaughter is taken up by butchers in the area, but I would think that they could increase production. But you had best talk to Roger, Harry, Nat, and Abe about it. They really are the ones who would be involved."

"Would they want to talk about it?"

"They would, but it is going to be difficult for you. Farmers are stubborn, independent blokes. You are a relative newcomer to the valley. Roger and Harry would be alright. But I think that Nat and Abe may not want to listen."

"Nat and Abe?" Abby queried.

"Nathaniel Gaunton and Abe Stone."

"Well you could talk with them, couldn't you?"

He shook his head. "No. I am the landlord. They would view it as interference from the Squire. They have to be persuaded. Your best bet would be to talk to Sam first of all, then try and get Roger and Harry on your side. If they then chat to the others, it will not look so much as if you are interfering."

Abby could see the sense of his thought. "I was going to talk to Sam anyway. If he doesn't come in tonight, I will drive down to Gallow Farm and see him."

"I wouldn't wait until tonight. Go down and see him now, he'll be around the farm somewhere." She agreed.

"I'll go down now."

"Right, I'll ride that way as well. I won't get involved, but if I can add anything I will be there."

Abby found Sam without difficulty. He took her into the cottage, where Mavis, ever pleased to see Abby made tea. Sam nodded his head wisely as Abby explained.

"I wondered why he questioned me so much about the farming here. Now it all falls into place."

"What do you think, Sam? I spoke to James and he said he would not get involved."

"Well we would be fools if we didn't explore any avenue that could give us a better income." He drank some tea before continuing.

"Let me get Roger in, see what he thinks." He went off to find his son. Mavis had listened carefully to what Abby had to say.

"Men! Always have to have a conference. It sounds like a great chance to me. But they will have to talk about it, look at it every way, and take so long that it will be months before they do anything." She was dying to ask Abby how she and James were getting along, but mindful of the talk that Sam had with her, she held her tongue. Sam had said nothing about the chat that he and Abby had. Preferring to let her think, like Mary, that any gossip now was likely to upset Abby.

Roger took little convincing. Even so he looked to his father for his agreement. "I like the idea, Abby. What should we do next?"

Abby waved her hands defensively. "Oh no. It's nothing to do with me. Mr. Brasher spoke to me about it and I am merely passing the message on."

Roger didn't agree. "You have to get involved, Abby. I like the idea, and I am happy to talk to the others. But we are all independent businesses. That's no good for your Mr. Brasher. He needs one point of contact. You are the obvious person."

Abby shook her head again. "But I know nothing about selling beef, and I would imagine that lamb, pork and poultry would also come into it. I don't know what prices should be charged, how the stuff is shipped, whether we have to go through a wholesaler, what certificates are needed, nothing."

"That's no problem, we sell direct to butchers in the area, so there is little difference to selling to what to all intents and purposes is a catering establishment. The slaughter house in Paverton is registered, so all carcasses are certificated. Prices? Well I don't know what they are paying in London, but I am willing to bet that it is more than we get around here. I reckon that Farmers Weekly will be a good guide though."

Abby wondered if she should protest again, then thought that she would make a concession. "Well I am not saying I will do it, but I will have a look to see if I can access the information, and think about it. But I am new here. It doesn't seem right that I should interfere." Out of the corner of her eye, Abby saw Sam smile. He was a wily old fox, and saw that Abby was making them come to her, rather than being seen as a newcomer trying to organise everyone. Roger promised to talk to the other farmers as soon as possible. Abby asked him if he thought that Mr. Brasher could have a joint or two to take with him.

"Of course; I'll get a couple of Top and Hips down from the Cold Room in Paverton." He turned to Mavis.

"I'll have a quick cup of coffee, Mum, then I shall have to be off." Abby took her leave, giving Mavis a kiss on her cheek, and walked outside to see James just arriving.

Sam, who walked out with Abby to see her off, greeted James. "Hello again, Mr. James. If you came for the conference, you're too late. It's all settled. But Roger is trying to persuade Abby to be our contact with Mr. Brasher. She's reluctant, so you will have to convince her."

James dismounted and murmured to Sam. "Sam, if you continue to talk with your tongue in your cheek, you are going to bite it off!"

Sam grinned. "Abby played a blinder." He turned to Abby. "But you are going to have to keep it up. Nathaniel and Abe will be the difficult ones."

James agreed with Sam's assessment. "We will have to be careful with them. Try and make it look as if it's their idea. Are you leaving now, Abby?"

"Yes. But before I go, can I ask you both something? Is there any chance that you could be with me tomorrow? I have decided to open the Goods Shed, and I would appreciate you both being there." For neither one was there a conflict. Nothing would have kept either away.

Abby drove down to the station with Mr. Brasher, arriving just a few moments after Sam. Abby had already given Mr. Brasher the keys to the station, and after greeting Sam in his normal courteous manner, he went off to browse around the platform and station building wallowing in nostalgia. Sam's first words to Abby confirmed that Harry Webster was all for the idea of selling to Mr. Brasher's Club.

"He reckons we can get a much better price per carcass. Roger has gone to see Abe, and Harry is going to put the idea to Nathaniel. It seems to me that we are going to need your business brain before too long."

Abby demurred. "I don't know Sam. My business brain as you put it was trained in a very different business than farming."

"Don't underestimate yourself, Abby. Commerce is commerce, whatever the product may be. Roger and Harry will talk the others round, and we will need someone slightly detached from us to handle the organisation, else there will be arguments galore."

They were diverted by the arrival of James in his battered old Land Rover. "Morning." He smiled, and without thinking gave Abby a kiss. Sam had the biggest smile on his face, so pleased that they felt they had no reason to hide their feelings from him. It didn't concern him at all that their parentage was in question. As far as he was concerned there was no possibility that they were brother and sister. "I have brought some tools. I noticed that the door had been boarded up."

"Well I am glad the Army taught you to think ahead, Mr. James." Sam wanted to keep this a light as possible for Abby's sake.

"Yes, but it didn't teach me to keep my boots polished. Did it Abby?' This was lost on Sam, until Abby explained about the porter at her flat, and his comment to James. Sam understood the joke, and immediately compared his boots with those of James.

"Well it would appear that I didn't learn that lesson either, but then it was sixty years ago, so I claim old age as an excuse."

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