So the idea had been to escape the Great Flood of London by taking Marie to stay with cousin Beth and her husband Zak up in Yorkshire. There Marie could have the baby in peace, safe in the knowledge that Beth had only six months earlier given birth to her own son John. It had seemed like a good idea at the time – and to be fair, there hadn’t been a lot of time for planning. It had been a question of grab the transport and go. If only the transport hadn’t happened to be Beppo’s ancient ice-cream van with the dodgy electrics. If only they weren’t now lost in a narrow lane somewhere in Norfolk, with dusk falling and snow threatening. They were never going to make it.
Sepp looked at his watch. Four-thirty, and the darkest month of the year. His thoughts strayed to London. He’d tried to get a signal on his mobile phone a minute or two back – no joy. Whatever was going to happen in London – the barrier being breached, his and Marie’s extended family and all their friends – all still there, though moving to higher ground – it must be happening right now. If only he could get online… but no, he must concentrate on Marie and the baby. He had been watching her out of the corner of his eye. He had a horrible feeling her pains had started, but she wasn’t saying.
‘Are you OK?’
‘Yes, just… a touch of indigestion… probably. But maybe we should try to find shelter for the night. We were never going to make it to Yorkshire, were we?’
‘With the benefit of hindsight, no, my angel.’
She laughed. ‘You can still make me laugh. That’s why I love you, Sepp.’
‘You mean that’s the only reason?’
‘That’s just one of them. But let’s get a move on before this old van conks out altogether. You look out the driver’s side and I’ll look out of this side, and we’ll stop at the first house we come to with a light in the window. Agreed?’
‘Agreed. Thank goodness for this moon – so big and bright. At least we’ll have moonlight on our side. And now that snow’s beginning to lay, we’ll have… snow-light as well.’
‘It’s a supermoon. I saw it on the News before we came away. It’s when the moon comes really close to the earth. Every fourteenth full moon or so there will be one… oooooow!’
‘Marie, you’re a mine of information, but that’s not indigestion!’
‘No, I’m afraid… I’m afraid…’
‘Next house with a light on.’
But there were no houses. The lane seemed to be going on and on for ever, twisting and turning, taking lengthy diversions round fields – or what might be fields if you could see them. The high hedges obscured their view. If anything the lane seemed to be getting narrower. It was obviously rarely used since a line of grass was growing in the middle of it, in the places where the tarmac had broken.
‘I hope to God we don’t meet anything coming the other way. I don’t fancy reversing this thing back to the last passing-place.’
‘Have we actually passed…. Ooooooow … a passing-place?’
‘I can’t remember. Oh come on, there must be a house somewhere down here. Plenty of sheep, plenty of donkeys, but where are all the human beings?’
‘It’s not London, you know. It’s just… sparsely populated.’
‘This isn’t sparse – it’s deserted. There is nobody!’
‘Look, this side – a gateway.’
She was right, there was a gate –one of those metal farm things with bars, held together with a loop of thick, frayed rope.
Beyond the gate was a track, and almost into the woods at the bottom of the track, lights.
‘Could it be a farm?’
‘I don’t know. Those lights – they’re all dotted about, not like normal windows. It looks odd. Maybe it’s those – what do they call them on the Fens? Will o’ the Wisps.’
‘I don’t think Will o’ the Wisps would be that square, Zepp. And they’d be jiggling about, wouldn’t they? Aren’t fireflies supposed to dance? Anyway, I can hear music.’
‘Creepy, heebie-jeebie-type music?’
No, Irish-type music. Fiddles, accordians and stuff. Owwwwww!
‘Good enough for me,’ said Sepp, jumping out to open the gate.
‘Fiddles it’s going to have to be.’