JoJo, DoDo and William lived at Blue House Farm. When I visited Gran, I always called on them for eggs, Gran holding my young hand tight, then by myself when I was sensible enough to stay on the grass verge.
JoJo, DoDo and William bought the farmhouse and four acres from the Fosters in the early sixties. While the rest of Britain was going mad for miniskirts and Minis, the Byrds and the Beatles, freedom and Free Love, they got a smallholding a hundred miles from London.
JoJo was diminutive, solid and compact, and wore her pink face naked, topped with a mess of blonde hair. She drove erratically, the more-rust-than-white van’s leaf springs creaking madly as it bounced across post-war pot-holes, but drove the majestic old tractor as carefully as if it were a baby’s pram, slowly ploughing for market garden vegetables. Her behaviour was just as capricious as her driving; popping into The Newfield for a half of bitter, winning at darts and causing at least one argument before leaving.
William was as tall and heavy as JoJo-was short, and ever in cap and boiler suit, with short-sleeved shirt and tie, fat end tucked carefully away. He laboured and mended fences, in all senses. He dug post holes and took a dozen eggs to JoJo’s latest outraged victim, especially when the injured party was a customer or a supplier, inevitable in such a small village. William spoke little, but in a curiously high pitch, as if his voice had never properly broken. It sat well with his bright blue eyes, flushed, smooth cheeks and small smile.
It was clear that DoDo was in charge. She was as tall as a man, tanned, slim and elegant. Even in dungarees, waist cinched with an old leather belt, she was a fifties film star,
printed scarf wound around her shiny cocoa brown waves, long nails glowing shell pink, as if she never lifted a finger. William doted on her, always called her Dolores, eyes following her everywhere, while JoJo’s abrasive sharpness ensured small arguments, quickly resolved with a smile, a hug, the attention she needed. DoDo looked after the books, found buyers and got the prices she wanted, but was often to be seen planting and cropping, feeding the hens, packing boxes, and sometimes just standing, shading her eyes from the late sun, and drawing on a cigarette.
When I heard that William had died, by then grown up myself, I realised I had understood all along. Everyone in the village had known, but that awful, intrusive newspaper article was picked up by a national rag, making a fuss, then a scandal about the secret lesbians. William was called Elizabeth, and the three women had lived and worked together for nearly fifty years. JoJo and DoDo left the village after the funeral and never came back.
Jane and I bought Blue House Farm, and sometimes, I just stand there, shading my eyes from the late sun, and drawing on a cigarette.