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Tommy Thorpe (32), who farmed alone, was whistling as he worked on maintenance of the highway boundary fence-line when he saw an on-coming cyclist making hard-work of riding up the incline.
He finished replacing missing staples on some of the battens (droppers) strung between two supporting posts on the almost mile-long of that section of fencing and smiled. The cyclist was pedalling with some effort.
“I bet he had a night of boozing or whoring, perhaps both,” Tommy grinned, speaking to himself as he’d become used to doing for almost five years since taking over the farm. The nearest neighbours, the Simpson’s, lived four miles away.
He put three galvanized staples between his lips (not recommended practice), moving to the next string of 8-wire fencing.
“Good morning,” called the cyclist.
Tommy looked up in surprise and said, “Christ, you’re female.”
She said firmly, although not appearing alarmed, that she might be carrying pepper spray.
“No, I mean I saw you crawling along in the distance and thought that guy must have had a hard night and was buggered.”
“I tumbled off coming down a steep section about three miles back, after hitting a diesel spill the sealed surface.”
“Oh, are you hurt?”
“I was shaken but escaped with just a bruise hip, I believe.”
She stopped, leaning on her presumably good leg.
“It’s heaven up here with very little road traffic and one hears livestock and the birds.”
“I apologize to speaking softly, you must have hearing impairment hammering away.”
Tommy sheepishly removed his ear plugs and she giggled.
“Actually, I’m surprised that a foreign woman, you sound English I believe, would be almost in rhapsody in this under-populated place with not much going on but moos, baas and tweets. However, as you are touring under pedal power, you probably enjoy spaciousness and at times enjoy true quiet solitude.”
“Yes and no, it has its moments.”
“Look, my name is Tommy Thorpe. Lean your bike against the fence and climb over and come to the farm utility vehicle. I have a thermos of tea there and some thin beef slices on thawed ham rolls. Then I’ll load your bike and drive you through the pass until we reach the point where it’s all downhill to the coast, err more or less.”
“I can’t take you away from your work. Besides it’s many miles through the pass.”
“Lady, I can’t have you grinding up these foothills and possibly damaging your bruised hip more seriously. That would ruin your cycling tour. You’ve obviously got guts cycling alone in a foreign country but you don’t look stupid, so accept my offer.”
“Very well kind sir. I’m Claire Reynolds.”
“Hi Claire. Park your bike, take off your backpack and I’ll lift you over the fence, as you have a sore hip.”
“I’m too heavy to be lifted that high,” Claire protested.
Tommy ignored that. He leant over, told her to back up and he’d grip her under her arms and instructed when he called jump, she should jump lifting her knees high and he’d do the rest.
“Alternatively. there’s a locked gate into this paddock about 200 yards down the incline and…”
“No, let’s see if you’re capable of the lift. You look scrawny but that will be mostly sinew and muscle I guess.”
“Thanks, that’s a compliment.”
Claire appeared to float over the fence.
It was approaching mid-summer and they sat on the grass. Claire, sipping tea with both hands on the only cup, was offered a ham roll.
“And why not?”
Caught by surprise, she said because it would be part of his lunch.
“Look Claire, your accent suggests you come from south of London, probably Kent. When I and two male buddies went of a backpack cycle tour down the west coast via Barnstaple to St Ives and over to Penzance and around to Plymouth and then back to London, we received wonderful hospitality from several local people who recognised the New Zealand flag on our backpacks. And now it’s my opportunity to reciprocate, eat my lunch.”
“Yes sir,” Claire giggle and took the filled bread roll.
“Actually, I come from a farm in West Kent and teach at a primary school in Maidstone. This roll is lovely; you’re a great cook.”
“And you have humour.”
They laughed and Tommy thought they were comfortable with one another.
Thirty minutes later, Claire looked at her watch and said she should be off and he could get back to his work.
“Or alternatively you could choose to stay the night or longer.”
She looked at him.
“Yes, I live here alone and if you wish you could sleep in the shearing quarters attached to the woolshed. Alternatively, if you are relaxed about it you could sleep in the house in the guest-room and the door can be locked from the inside.”
“What’s your motive for offering such extensive hospitality?” she asked calmly.
Tommy said laconically and smiling, “I could say it’s because you’re a great-looking young woman with probably a hot-looking body under that protective illegal bahis clothing. But I repeat my earlier comment that this is an opportunity to return some of the hospitality I received when I was in England the summer before I began studying for my degree in animal husbandry.”
“If you decide to stay, I’ll take you to inspect the shearer’s quarters where I’d leave you with one of my better trained dogs for security duties.”
After a slight pause, Claire said she’d decided to accept the offer of hospitality, partly because a hot bath would be good for the bang she received to her left hip. She would prefer to sleep in the guest room and there would be no need to lock herself in.
“Are you sure?”
She nodded and he said, “I’ll get your bike and then run you over to the homestead now and you can have a bath and settle in. Or if you have second-thoughts for any reason, I’ll take you through the pass and drop you off as I’d suggested earlier.”
“You are so kind. You’ll be lonely male being isolated out here but I feel no concern about that. I suspect you are an honourable chap.”
* * *
Claire’s heart sank when they drove to the brow of a hill and stopped. Tommy pointed down to the rather tired-looking single-level family home that he called a homestead and said it had four bedrooms and the outbuildings included stables, dog kennels and two barns, one used for vehicles and the other stored farm machinery, implements and tools.
“Why didn’t the original owners build on a hilltop to enjoy the wonderful views?”
“The original homesteader was a canny Scot who figured the prevailing westerlies would sometimes turn stormy and roar over the alps and down across the foothills and so pitched his tent in the shelter of the valley on tableland on the lea of that steep rising hill which forms is the start of real foothills up to the alps. That location provided shelter from the wind and some relief from snow and yet was up high enough to be safe when the river through the valley flooded, as it does two or three times a year. He and his sons built the first house on the site of the present homestead.”
“So, he was a small farmer and his descendants gradually brought more land and…”
“Jock McLean arrived in New Zealand a wealthy man and secured the original lease of 810,000 acres, much of it semi-barren land as it rose into the higher country. But with clearing of scrub growth over the generations, those uplands of tussock and native grasses became useful summer grazing at low stocking rates. Much of that original leasehold was gradually relinquished and farmers of more recent years, including my father, bought the land they occupied from the Government.”
Arriving at the house, Claire noted that the porch around the sides of the house in view had been re-decked and modern twin doors made for an impressive entrance. Inside she was amazed to find that the interior had been completely modernized and the kitchen and bathrooms were fitted with the latest appliances.
“This kitchen is hugely impression as if it was straight out of a kitchen designer’s catalogue.”
Tommy said she’d guessed correctly. His father had sold his 1100-cow dairy farm on the plains near the east coast for a small fortune on the peak of dairy prices when deciding to buy a retirement dry-stock farm in the hills.
His father tore pictures from magazines and Tommy accompanied him to a home design company in Christchurch. His father said he wanted the interior of his homestead up in the hills completely renovated.
“Dad produced the tear-sheets and said, ‘And ma’am, fitted out with stuff like this please’. He then said to the mouth-opened receptionist, ‘What deposit would you liked sweetheart plus meeting my request for on-site work to begin in a fortnight?’ He then pulled out his chequebook.”
“God, what a character he must have been.”
“Yes, many of his generation with big farms and plenty of money were like that.”
“I’m more reserved and have had more education that earlier farmers and speak mildly to non-farming people.”
“Ah, Mr Nice are we?”
Tommy flashed her a toothy smile and thought he heard her mutter, ‘Oh god.’
“Well I’m off to resume work on the boundary fence. I’ll be back sometime between 5.30 and 7.00, but probably closer to 5:30 with you being here as my guest. Just rest and I’ll rattle up chow, probably a dozen scrambled eggs with a bowl of mashed spuds from last night.”
“Wow, what a treat,” Claire said, a little facetiously.
Tommy had suggested a dinner of eggs and potatoes in the hope that after her bath, she’d scratch around and find more than enough food in storage to supply meals for at least a couple of weeks. If she found and explored the chiller room, she might rattle up a beef roast or roast lamb dinner, that is if she could cook.
Shortly before 6:00 Tommy sat on the boards of the raised porch decking outside the laundry at the rear of the house, pulling of his boots before going inside, as he’d been illegal bahis siteleri trained as a kid to do by his mother who died eight years earlier from breast cancer.
Stepping into the laundry, he identified the drifting aroma from the passage that linked the kitchen and day rooms to the laundry and bedrooms, indicated that an oven roast was well underway. He licked his lips and murmured good girl.
After a quick shower and changing his clothes, Tommy moved quietly in his socks, entered the kitchen undetected and stopped just short of the Englishwoman.
As expected, Claire was startled and spun around to eye the intruder.
Tommy grabbed and kissed his visitor.
“Thank goodness it’s you,” she said in relief and kissed him back. “You move like a ghost.”
She was dressed in tight and high-cut shorts, a shirt with the top buttons undone and obviously, no bra.
That rude comment, although a compliment, was ignored.
Her decided not to apologize and smiled, “Red wine, or if you prefer white wine or whisky or a gin or even a beer?”
“A glass of red would be lovely. I’m cooking a roast, as you may have guessed by now.”
“Yeah, and what a wonderful surprise. Thanks.”
“I decided to treat you.”
She waited with a raised eyebrow, possible expecting a flirting response. With no comment forthcoming she remined him he’d mentioned a drink.
They sat sipping Pinot Noir in the kitchen because soon she had to make the gravy and keep an eye on it.
“You store a lot of meat.”
“Yeah, well I do a bit of entertaining, sometimes large numbers.”
“But you are in isolation?”
“I live in virtual isolation but I’m not isolated in real terms, if you know what I mean. There are approximately twenty families within 30 miles of here and many of them were dad’s friends and now I get his invitations. Most weekends I’m invited to dinner or a barbecue somewhere, sometimes they are on both days and I reciprocate that hospitality. Sometimes I throw out an invitation to several families to a big bash, a barbecue usually because I don’t really cook. Sometimes I barbecue all meals in a day, bacon and eggs for breakfast, patties for burgers for lunch and a steak and fried potatoes for dinner with greens thrown into a pot.”
“Yuck, how unhealthy.”
“Do I look unhealthy or need to go on one of those stupid diets city folk rave about?”
“Err, no actually.”
“Exactly, work hard and you burn off the fat before it can get to your arse or midriff or tits.”
Claire nodded her understanding of the point he was making, adding that he had a simplified way of explaining things.
“I’ll do a choice fillet of home-killed venison tomorrow night.”
“That’s kind of you but I don’t think…”
Tommy said, “You’ll be here because you’ll want to look over the farm and, in a few minutes, when you get busy with our dinner, I’ll call the Betts family and invite them for dinner tomorrow. The parents were in their late thirties when they arrived almost ten years ago after selling their farm not a great distance from Maidstone. Their youngest daughter is very keen on me but she’s only 18 and their oldest daughter is about your age…”
“I had thought 27.”
“Good guess, I am 27. Well I guess I’ll be spending another night here. You are rather hospitable.”
“Nicely said. You should call your folk on my landline around 9:00 tonight and report in. Tell them we’ll tour some of the farm on horseback from 6.30 in the morning.”
“Horseback, you have horses?”
“Yep, three and you can take your pick.”
“B-but how did you know I could ride?”
“When we looked down at the homestead earlier today, I saw your eyes flicker sharply when I mentioned stables.”
“Well Mr Sharp Guy, I had a horse from the age of eleven until just before I left home for university.”
* * *
During their excellent dinner, having received compliments three times for its quality, Claire said, “May I ask how is it you came to be farming here alone?”
Tommy, now 32, told the story.
His father was an only child and five years ago Tommy inherited the property, then 21,960 acres on the death of his widowed father. At that time, Tommy and his fiancée were jointly managing a salmon rearing farm to the north in a sea inlet. He had been raised on a lowland dairy farm and decided to have a crack at farming sheep and cattle plus the 140 deer on the land he’d inherited in the high-country.
“My fiancée Annabelle was aghast and yelled she wanted nothing to do with living remotely and away from the sea.
“We battled verbally over this major change to our present cosy life and Annabelle was adamant; she was staying put.”
“I attempted to sell the farm as a going concern, without success as meat and wool prices were somewhat depressed and deer prices were even worse. I visited neighbouring property owners and discussed selling off parts of his land. Two families were canlı bahis siteleri interested and eventually I was left with 2882 acres and offers to lease those acres for grazing were unattractively low.”
“I returned to the company-owned home on the salmon farm we lived in and told Annabelle I’d decided definitely I was going livestock farming.
“She said to me to go as my mind appeared set. She added while I was away negotiating the sale of the farm, or downsizing it if I received no offers from buyers, she called an old boyfriend living in Hong Kong and he was prepared to come home and work with me and share her bed. I had to admire her for her quick action.”
Tommy said as he was about to depart for the farm, towing all of his possessions although Annabelle didn’t offer to hand back the engagement ring), they parted with a listless hug.
“I drove off thinking I had a farm but had lost a potential wife and Annabelle was probably right, no lively woman in her right mind would wish to relocate to such a remote property.”
“I recall sighing and saying ‘Oh fuck, I’m destined to a life of a hermit’ and turned up the sound system load and listened to songwriter-singer Adelle cranking out ‘Someone Like You’. And here I am, happily thriving on my own land on the left flank on one of the mountain passes to the west coast and presently in the company of my first overnight guest since I returned to settle here five years ago. I have day visitors of course and some of my dinner parties last until the small hours before the last of the guests departs as rarely has anyone stayed over-night in recent times.”
Claire ran around the table saying “Oh, you poor darling” and hugged and kissed him.
The kiss lasted almost 10 seconds and ended only when their tongues touched.
Claire jumped as if she’d been shot.
“Christ, Tommy this has to stop. I haven’t had sex since before I left home six weeks ago and I feel ready to explode.”
“I understand,” he said softly, knowing there were a couple of ways for her to get relief, and only one would involve him.
“You go and run hot water on to your bruised hip and I’ll clear away and will bring dessert to your room.”
He raced to clear the table and then put items into the dishwasher that hadn’t been used for a couple of weeks. He grabbed a pot of sports injury rub and when to Claire’s room and knocked on the closed door.
“I’m nude after the bath.”
“Fine, may I come in?”
There was a brief pause before she said yes.
He entered, thinking she would have grabbed a towel to cover herself or would be under the bedding. But no, she stood nude in the middle of the room facing him defiantly.
Tommy almost spluttered before he managed to close his mouth. Well it had been a shock revealing moment for him.
“There, I-I knew it,” he said triumphantly.
“What do you know?” Claire said, sounding a little puzzled.
“That would be a gorgeous-looking body hidden under the protective cycling gear you wore when I first saw you.”
Her eyes widened and she looked down and said she wished her breasts were larger.
“What and have them flopping around when you ride a horse?”
She giggled and thanked Tommy for quick-thinking compliment.
He handed Claire the blue container and said to rub some of the contents on her battered hip.
“I use it after getting knocks on the farm but it’s main purpose is to cope with minor sports injuries.”
“Oh, what sport to you play when you are located way from civilisation out here?”
“We have a township sixteen miles from here with a primary school, a one-man veterinary practice, general store, butchery plus farm kill service, electrical and household sales and servicing shop as a side-line to the main business of farm machinery repairs and the garage workshop includes petrol and diesel sales. The district’s community hall has two squash courts attached and I play there on Tuesday evenings.”
“In the winter season on Thursday late afternoons I drive 40 miles to veteran grade rugby practice and return for a game at our ground or go away to another venue. On most Saturdays during the winter and after the rugby season ends, I play golf most Saturdays till rugby training resumes three weeks before the winter season of games resumes. Oh, for four or five months centred of the colder part of the year I often go skiing,”
“Omigod, busy boy.”
“What is there to do if you’re not busy?”
“Oh, good point Tommy.”
“I called Margaret Bett and invited them to dinner tomorrow night to meet a tourist from near Maidstone. She asked was it a young schoolteacher a Miss Reynolds who her sister had told her was on a 10-week cycle tour of New Zealand and I’d replied yes. She shrieked in joy and that almost cost me my hearing.”
“Golly, what a coincidence she had been told about me. Do you wish to rub this stuff on my bruised hip?”
“Ah, I better not because I might get carried away.”
Claire giggled and blew him a kiss goodnight and the mobility of her breasts when she raised her arm to do that almost sent Tommy’s head in a spin.
When he reached the door, he turned and said he’d give Claire a call at 5:45 in the morning. He’d pack lunch and she would find him over at the stables.
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