Kate Fenton


The Colours of Snow
Dancing to the Pipers
Lions & Liquorice/
(US) Vanity and Vexation

Balancing on Air
Too Many Godmothers
Picking Up
The Time of Her Life





'You know what they say about wonky horseshoes?'

'Sure. For the want of a nail the horseshoe was lost; for the want of a horse, the rider was lost, then the battle…'


'And so on, until the whole empire goes down the Swannee.'

'Have you no soul, Janey?'

'All for the want of a horseshoe nail… Sorry?'

'I just meant that horseshoes over doors have to be the right way up, or all the luck and blessings run away. Ancient Brit Feng Shui, yeah? Honestly, here's me laying the spiritual foundations for our future, and you trot out that sad old shaggy dog tale. Typical female. Found the hammer yet?'

'Typical man, more like, head in the clouds, oblivious to everything. My Dad was just the same. We'd be lined up with buckets and spades for our seaside trip, and he'd potter off to polish his car. Inside and out. Am I really marrying my father?'

'I don't see a connection. Good, hammer. Now - nail?'

'We've barely begun moving into this dump - '

'No way to speak of our sanity-saving country retreat.'

'Retreat, exactly, because any minute now you'll be saving your own sanity by retreating back to civilisation and pavements, abandoning me in this Godforsaken wilderness, with not so much as a kettle or mug unpacked. But instead of attacking the fifty million boxes stacked in what the estate agents laughingly call a kitchen, you're seriously talking about re-nailing a bloody horseshoe to the lintel?'

'Lighten up, babe, look forward. Imagine our children romping on the lawn.'

'That hayfield? And not only do we not have kids, we're unlikely to conceive any in the immediate future, because the removal men demolished the bed to get it upstairs. That nail's much too big.'

'Think of this in summer, roses round the door.'

'It's ivy - ouch, and nettles. I'm telling you, that nail is too big.'

'Just hold the water butt steady while I climb up.'

'I must be mad. Was mad to let you brainwash me with pipedreams of rural bliss. I say, Mick, watch out - '

'You'll love it, trust me.'

'Under the ivy, isn't that a - '

'Here we go then.'

' - cable?'


'Yup, Mick, as you hear, I finally have a working telephone again. Thanks to our neighbour.'
'We have neighbours?'

'Just one, over the hill - and quite a handyman, thank goodness. Because British Telecom take a dim view of customers bashing nails through their precious cables and charge accordingly. As it is, the job only cost me a pot of tea and a Penguin.'

'I knew you'd sort it. I'd have come down at the weekend, only I can't afford to be incommunicado. Pain about it being a mobile blackspot.'

'You're not kidding.'

'Because I couldn't warn you about the revised schedule.'

'Schedule? You're not, by any chance, telling me you won't be down this weekend either?'

'Barcelona, worse luck. I'll e-mail the details.'

'No way.'

'Don't say you haven't unpacked the computer?'

'Oh, but I have. Only my ever-so-handy neighbour - he's called Nigel, by the way - pointed out that the crack your damn great nail had driven into our ancient door jamb was right behind the main fuse box.'

'God, I could be dead.'

'And recommended an electrician, who tells me the wiring in this place was probably done by Edison's grandfather, so…'


'You might spare me some sympathy, babe, cooped up in a poxy, boxy hotel room while you snuggle up to supper with candles and roaring log fire.'

'Baked beans lukewarm over a camping gaz. And no fire, because there's something blocking the chimney, and with the blizzard raging outside, I haven't cared to climb up and find out what. But at least I should have power back by tomorrow…'


'Only re-wiring operations led to the collapse of our bedroom ceiling. Fortunately, owing to our bed still being in pieces on the landing, I wasn't underneath at the time, and Nigel says - '


'Neighbour, handyman, all round chum and comforter.'

'Oh, that Nigel.'

'That he can probably fix it by next weekend - when you come down?'


'Look, I'm sorry too, Janey love, but after the week I've had, the thought of two days without running water…'

'Tell me about it.'

'You could've joined me in France.'

'We can't afford plane-tickets and a new water tank. If the bedroom ceiling hadn't crashed down, we might never have known the old one was quietly rusting into Brillo pads up there.'

'Come to London then. I'm missing you.'

'Someone has to let the plumbers in. Besides, as Nigel suggested, I might get them to rationalize the bathroom while they're here.'

'The bathroom's cute.'

'Say that when you've brained yourself on the beam over the loo. Ring me from New York.'


'Dry rot?'

'Luckily just the one wall, where the bath was, but since there's now a gaping hole with tarpaulin, you might prefer to postpone your visit.'

'God, darling, how are you surviving?'

'Don't worry. Nigel's offered me his spare room, but it's only a single bed, so I don't suppose you'd fancy camping out there too.'

'Maybe but… Hell, I don't know how to say this.'

'Try me.'

'They want me in Hong Kong. They want me in Hong Kong for a whole month.'

'A month, eh? Well, should be sorted here by the time you get back.'


'Surprise, surprise! Don't look so gobsmacked, babe, it's only me, back from the East early and… Hey, wow! This is unbelievable. You've transformed the place.'

'Yup, bit of a difference. In, um, more ways than one. Look, Mick…'

'You've even fixed the horseshoe over the door. Now that's what I call progress.'

'Well, it was Nigel did it, matter of fact. Yesterday. I didn't ask him to, but - '


'Nigel. You know. At least, no, you don't know. Actually, I'm not sure how to tell you this.'

'Tell me what?'

'Long story. But… you could say it starts with a horseshoe nail.'


©Kate Fenton 2000