Home > Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(9)

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (Little Beach Street Bakery #3)(9)
Jenny Colgan

Huckle shook his head. ‘I hope that isn’t a ruse to get out of going to the town meeting.’

‘Rumbled,’ said Polly, though in fact she’d been trying to change the topic of conversation as much as anything else. ‘I thought maybe if I took you upstairs and did that thing you like, you might not make me leave the house again. Because I am never leaving the house again, like I told you. Once I’m in for the winter, I’m in. Summer we can stroll along the beach and eat outside and enjoy paradise. Winter time I am going to put on four stone and never change out of my sixty-denier tights and possibly not shave my legs, and you’re just going to have to deal with it.’

‘I will deal with it,’ said Huckle, ‘and I will deal with you, young lady, in absolutely no uncertain terms. After the town meeting.’

‘Noooo!’

‘Get your coat on.’

‘My coat’s wet!’

‘I’ll take you for chips afterwards.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘Come on! And if you don’t, I’ll get Samantha to come round and sign you up for the committee.’

‘I can’t believe I’m supposed to be joining my life together with such a bad, bad man.’

Huckle grinned. ‘It’s my innate drive and decisiveness. Move your ass.’

Chapter Four

The village hall was surprisingly crowded – or rather not surprisingly when you considered how organised Samantha liked to be, and how relentless her pestering if she didn’t get what she wanted.

It was vicious outside, rain seemingly dancing all ways in the sky, with a distinct promise of snow on the air. It didn’t snow much on the island, simply because they were surrounded by too much salt water, but it wasn’t unheard of, and the icy wind definitely seemed to make it feel like a possibility. Huckle put his arm around Polly, but it didn’t help that much as they trudged up the hill to the old schoolhouse at the top, Huck clutching a box under his other arm. Polly had okayed Jayden to make some extra apple turnovers that afternoon and pretend they were leftover stock so they could donate them, though that only made lots of people tut at her and tell her about stock control and how she shouldn’t be so wasteful if she was going to run a successful business, so she pretty much wished she hadn’t bothered.

There was lots of chatter and some crying in the hall. Muriel from the grocer’s was holding baby Cornelius, and Samantha had brought her daughter Marina, so the place sounded quite lively. Most of the village was there, it seemed to Polly, including lots of the older residents, who were out for a free cup of tea and a bit of excitement – nothing wrong with that; as well as Mattie, the part-time vicar, and a stern looking woman Polly didn’t recognise, obviously the council worker from the mainland. She had a sour look to her.

Samantha cleared her throat, ready to call the room to order.

‘Welcome, everyone, to the Mount Polbearne town meeting… You will find agendas and minutes on your seats…’

Everybody pretended to look at them.

‘Now, tonight we’re here to talk about the possibility of reopening the village school. As of the next calendar year, we’ll have nine babies ready for nursery and a total of fourteen children up to the age of eleven. As this would be the largest school roll in Mount Polbearne in over twenty years, we feel the time is right for the county council to allocate us school services.’

She continued in this vein for rather longer than was possibly necessary, extolling the virtues of Mount Polbearne ‘not as a monument of ancient Britain set in aspic, but as a living, breathing, growing community’, and Polly, as she listened, rather found herself falling under her spell.

Mount Polbearne had grown and flourished for hundreds of years, the generations continuing through fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. It was only recently that the place had started to die, as holidaymakers travelled further afield and people began to favour convenience in their lives over all things. Was it possible, thought Polly, that now they could reverse the process? Keep alive their little corner of the world, with its inconvenient access, winding roads, inclement weather, terrible broadband and lack of home delivery services?

She had been up for a very long time, and it was warm in the hall. Samantha’s soothing tones washed over her, and she found herself snuggling under Huckle’s large arm, her eyelids drooping. Huckle nudged her and smiled.

‘This is where ours will go one day,’ he whispered in her ear, and she smiled sleepily.

Then, abruptly, Samantha stopped speaking, and after a short pause, another voice started up. This one was harsh and abrasive, and Polly jerked awake, blinking.

‘We have a responsibility in our district to ensure the health and safety of all our customers,’ said the annoyingly nasal voice. ‘Now I can see here that two years ago Mount Polbearne fought very strongly against a new bridge to the mainland that would have enabled ambulances and other vehicles to get through in a timely fashion. I simply can’t see a situation in which anyone would allow a school to function in this place.’

And it’s all your own fault, the voice implied, even if it didn’t actually say it out loud.

There was a clamour of dissent, and a raft of questions, but the woman – whose name was Xanthe – simply closed her very thin lips and shrugged her shoulders. It was not going at all well.

Polly suddenly discovered that actually she did care, more than she’d realised, and she sat up straight and wondered how you would make a case for a child who fell over in the playground and couldn’t get to a hospital on the mainland if the tide was in. One option would be to have the GP there more often, but the local doctor wasn’t fond of the Polbearne beat either – that old timekeeping issue.

She sensed that Xanthe thought they were all totally ridiculous, clinging to a rock in the middle of the sea and refusing to move to modern identical boxes on the mainland, all neat and tidy and squared away for the convenience of the NHS and the local council and the postman and the people who picked up the bins. It made Polly quite determined to do the opposite. This was a free country, wasn’t it? Why should they toe the line and conform just so some suit from the council could tick a bunch of boxes about health and safety? She sat up straighter.

‘Couldn’t we just have the school open when the tides are favourable?’ she asked. Huckle glanced at her, grinning. Polly never could keep her natural enthusiasm down for long.

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