When I left for Hope Green, the wind was bitterly cold, but at least the sun was shining, making it feel comfortably warm inside my ageing little Polo as I headed down the M3. I’d waited until the nausea had settled before setting off. It seemed that now it had started, it was going to be a regular thing every morning. In the last few days at work I’d really hoped that I wouldn’t have any further episodes, or I’d have had to come clean about the pregnancy sooner rather than later. But fortunately my morning sickness was limited to just that – the morning – and I left London feeling at ease, if a little hungry. I turned on the radio and sang along with the music, trying to get myself into a happier frame of mind for when I arrived at Nana Peggy’s. I was supposed to be there to keep her company, and I wasn’t going to be very good company if all I kept thinking about were my own worries.
I realised Claire had been right when she’d said Hope Green wasn’t going to be quite the same at this time ofyear as when I normally visited in the summer. Then, it always looked like a picture postcard, with every little pink or white thatched cottage sporting hanging baskets of brightly coloured summer flowers – geraniums, lobelias, fuchsias, petunias. Front gardens were full of roses, marigolds, dahlias and sunflowers; grass verges were sprinkled with forget-me-nots and wild basil. The village had either won, or been runner-up, in a Best-Kept Village contest for as many years as it had been going, and the residents worked hard to keep their lawns immaculate, the paintwork of their houses spruce and their roadsides litter-free.
I’d never visited outside of the summer holidays – for other family occasions, Nana was usually brought up to the family home in Norfolk – so I was used to the village having a festive atmosphere, with tourists strolling along the main street taking photographs of the church, the duck pond and the ancient stocks on the village green, and families relaxing in the pub garden or outside the tea room. Luckily, Hope Green never got completely overwhelmed with visitors as, although it was only a mile from the sea, that area of the coast was inaccessible except by footpaths. The nearest seaside town was several miles away and the one road in and out of the village consisted of a long, winding and very narrow hill, which was enough to put off all but the most intrepid drivers if they weren’t familiar with the area. So, despite the village pub and only guest house usually being fully booked for the season, a large proportion of the visitors were walkers, and none arrived in coach parties. It’ll probably be really quiet and a bit dreary at this time of year, I told myself as I eventually turned off the main road on to the lane that climbed up to the village. The sun had suddenly gone in, and there was a spattering of drizzle on the windscreen. But that’s OK. It’ll suit me to be quiet and dreary at the moment. I just need a bit of peace and a chance to get my head together.
But coming into the village, I was welcomed by bright, colourful daffodils and grape hyacinths clustered around the village sign on the green. Despite the weather, the village still seemed to exude a warm, welcoming feel and I let out a huge breath that I had unknowingly been holding.
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