Tilly opened an eye and glanced at the large luminous dials of her wristwatch. Six o’ clock was a respectable hour to rise in early Spring-time. She pulled on the side lever of her recliner and was dutifully raised to sitting position.
After taking a moment to gather herself, Tilly reached for her denture mug and dripped the bottom set of choppers over the chair arm and into her mouth. That would do for now, she decided.
It was dark outside; the only light being from a street lamp beaming through a chink in the curtain. Tilly didn’t like to rush on a morning. Today, she’d allowed herself plenty of time.
Today was April 23rd. A special day!
Slowly, she folded the blanket into a neat square on her knee and then folded it again. One by one she stretched each flaccid limb to its full potential and held for a second.
Creaks and cracks were reassuring: “I’m still alive,” she chuckled, rolling a thick lisle stocking just past the knee before skilfully securing it with a knot. Tilly didn’t always sleep in a crimplene frock, but: “Time- saving on a busy morning.” She would say.
By the time the birds were tuning up, Tilly was on her way. Shambling along the footpath, head down, wary of hazards; one determined step after another until she came to the gate.
The post man was on his rounds: “Has it come round again Tilly?” he called. “How time flies, eh!” Tilly returned his cheery grin and was reminded that her top dentures were still steeping on the bedside locker.
The latch on the gate was jammed. Tilly fumbled with aching fingers until the milkman jumped off his float to assist: “Here Tilly, let me do that for you. Mind how you go now; the rains have damaged parts of the path this winter.”
Tilly thanked him and trundled on unabated, through the meadow, following the snaking path of the fast flowing river until she reached the narrow humped back bridge.
And there before her was a first glimpse of the prize, as always in abundant and splendid glory; just as William had so eloquently described.
The verger was unlocking the gates of St Oswald’s before the touristy types turned up in their coachloads. He spotted the familiar local figure over Dora’s field, stooping perilously to pick armfuls of the fresh golden daffodils; obviously oblivious to the overlarge sign that respectfully requested that members of the public refrain from doing just that.
He smiled to himself and shook his head. He knew only too well that this little old lady would do exactly as she pleased – in a quiet polite sort of way!
Undeterred, Tilly stuffed her freshly gathered yield into her shopping trolley and continued her journey.
On arrival at the church, she parked up her load in the vestibule and ventured inside: “Good morning Tilly,” greeted the verger. “It’s two minutes to nine.” He glanced at his watch. “You’re early!”
Tilly clutched the back of a pew with two swollen, arthritic hands and painfully lowered herself to her knees; just as St Oswald’s church bell chimed -on the stroke of nine!
A few late parishioners followed behind and the Communion service began.
At nine forty five prompt, Tilly, fortified by ‘that drop of wine and cream cracker,’ shuffled out of church and into the graveyard. The skies looked promising for April in Lakeland and perfect for the task in hand.
By the time the visitors were trickling in, Tilly was finished and wiping her hands on a large off-white handkerchief.
In the tiny village of Grasmere, every day of the year was busy with tourists. Tilly was bemused by it all. When she was a youngster there were only the locals. Now visitors stopped by from China, America and all over the place; just to see the church where William worshipped and the churchyard where he and his family rest.
Tilly trudged back through Dora’s field, content to have been able to keep her promise yet another year.
William died back in 1850 on the 23rd April. Tilly, as a young child, decided that seeing as William had planted a field of daffodil bulbs in memory of his beloved daughter Dora, being a local lassie, the least she could do was to take some each year to her grave for him.
Another full coach pulled into the car park. The destination read,
Tilly shook her head and plodded on.
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