Valentine’s Day in 1947 must have been a rather wintry affair. The Cotswolds had already spent two weeks under deep snow and for Eleanor, heroine of debut novel Ghost of a Lie, the day must have started something like this:
I’ve gained a shadow. It seems unlikely because just as it is elsewhere in the country, the sun hasn’t been visible for weeks and the only shade to be found is the deeper gloom that hangs beneath the shrouded trees. But all the same, I know he’s there.
It began a week ago, the morning after the latest great blizzard. Just as I have done this morning, I started that day by trudging my way along the line of stables, greeting each occupant and rewarding his or her friendly whicker with a small treat from my pocket. The wind had scoured the snow from the fields and dumped it messily between the high hedges that line the road, between the stout gateposts that mark my yard and against the old greyed wood of the stable doors so that even this sheltered corner shone white. It was as I made the turn at the end towards my feed store that I noticed him.
He came as a black flutter of movement at the corner of my eye; a quick challenge to the senses before darting out of sight again as I turned swiftly back. The next time it happened, I must have turned more slowly and was rewarded with a brief impression of head and the turn of his body before he vanished again. Every day since I have felt his gaze upon me whenever I move about the yard, a distant scrutiny as I carry feed and hay or sweep up crumpled straw; and each time he becomes a little bolder and draws a little nearer.
So now I am strategically more wasteful as I measure out feed. I am careful to spill a little of the chopped vegetables that form the bulk of my horses’ meals. We have no cereals – animal feed regulations make that the reserve of dairy herds – but the blackbird is prepared to make the best of things. And now, it seems, the word has spread to his friends.
Eleanor’s experiences as recorded in Ghost of a Lie take place in mid March 1947.