As Susan, Linda and their parents were preparing to go to bed in Granny's tiny spare bedrooms, Susan asked Mom why they never slept at Auntie G's place. "She even has a real toilet, not this smelly outhouse."
"Auntie G often work night shift, so she do not like other people sleeping in her home. I also think she often brings home friends after work. She won't disturb us, or let us disturb her."
Next morning after breakfast, which they ate in the garden by the flagpole, Dad said it was time to go home.
"Oh," Granny said, "I had hoped you'd have stayed for a couple of days, we need to have the roof re-thatched, and Auntie G and her girls can't help all day. Myrtle has as you all know, started her own life, and only come visiting occasionally, The two younger cousins have both taken various jobs around here, and Auntie G has been called to work all week. It seems a lot of the staff at the hospital is either ill or on holiday."
"Roof thatching?" Mum said, "I don't know anything about it at all."
"Actually it's quite easy," Auntie G said. "I can teach you before i have to be off for work. It's not difficult at all, just tiring, that's why we need many people to do it. You have to sit in the attic, there's not much room, but it's OK, The thatcher does all the hard stuff on the outside, he then puts a giant needle in through the reeds. Our job is to return the needle to the outside, in the right spot."
"Oh that's what all those giant rolls of reeds outside is for," Linda said. They smell so good."
Cousin Helen stood up and emptied the coffee pot at the base of the flagpole.
"Does it grow?" Susan asked.
"No, I don't think so," Helen answered. She carried a tray full of stuff inside Granny's kitchen and soon after they could see her head bobbing away over the hedge, biking off to work.
"I'm off too" the youngest of the cousins said. "I'm helping out at a lawyer's office for the summer holidays," she said to Mum and Dad,
"Well," Granny said. "The thatcher will be here shortly. I'll do the dishes, Susan could you please help me dry?"
Granny's kitchen was like herself, old, worn, practical and full of nice smells. Susan quickly and carefully dried all the thin plates and cups they had used for breakfast, then all the silverware, the pots and pans and finally the big bowl used for dough. Together Susan and Granny put away all the things. while granny cleaned out the sink, Susan shook the coffee grinder in the small bin for coffee grounds.
A knock on the door startled them and Granny hurried out. Susan stayed in the kitchen, straightening things, watering plants and listening.
It was one of the ladies from the nearby tiny fishing village, one of the men down there had had an accident. Granny grabbed her bag and left with the neighbour.
Soon after, the thatcher arrived. Auntie G took first Mum, then Dad, who was rather too big to fit into the attic, then Susan and finally Linda up and showed them how and where to return the big needle to the thatcher. As she had said, it was tiring, but not difficult. They took turns returning the needle all morning, Granny returned while Susan was up in the attic, and could follow her by looking through the rafters. Susan saw her put her bag back on the hook go into the kitchen, she heard the refrigerator door, and then Granny came out carrying a basket, which she took into the garden to harvest strawberries, salad, kale and peas for today's lunch. She called on Linda to pull some carrots, and Dad to fill the through by the pump.
The thatcher ate together with them, he was a local, and soon he, Granny and Mum were talking of people, they knew, their children, cousins, uncles and aunts. Susan and Linda slunk away when the strawberries were all eaten. Rye bread with sliced strawberries tasted good. And the freshly smoked eel, which Granny had brought back from the fisher's village was delicious.
They did not work for long after lunch, as the thatcher ran out of twine, but he promised to return with more the next day.
Auntie G returned early, and she, Mum and Granny took Susan and Linda for a walk. They went through the white painted gate in the back of the garden, along the brook to the fishing village, passing many rickety piers and teepee-like constructions of long poles. In the village many of the inhabitants greeted Granny, Mom and Auntie G.
They turned right into a cobbled street, passing the smokehouse with its characteristic chimney and turned right once again on the big road. They walked on, past Granny's house and the pottery, past the big memorial stone and all the way out to where the road became hemmed in by water on both sides.
Out there Granny opened her basket. It contained coffee, mugs and pastry. It was a treat, and they all sat in the grass eating and talking.
Susan went exploring, and found a tiny graveyard almost hidden by the rushes. She went back and asked Granny why people were buried out there.
"It's the pest-cemetery," Granny explained. "Your great-great-grandmother, my maternal grandmother, is buried there as well. Long ago, when the village here was much smaller than today, and the roads worse and the water more often inundated the roads, my grandmother lived here. She was a wise woman, some might have called her a witch. She helped birthing ladies, set broken limbs, cleaned and bandaged wounds, and made herbal teas for minor illnesses. You must remember that a journey to town was long and hard for an ill person, and a visit from the doctor cost a lot of money, which the serfs and fishers here did not have. You can see the castle out there. The baron closed the gates and put out guards when the plague came here. He and his family all survived,. My granny was not so lucky. She and all the other plague victims were buried here. But all this happened long ago."