The Shiver of the Vampires
By Joe Fearn
Copyright Joe Fearn.2012
Published at Smashwords.
A heron lifts a foot. At the rim of his world, a cargo ship disembowelled at dock, slides past like a magic-lantern image. Surrounding hills wear rooftops like rusty bangles, where cows, collapsed on reefs of hay, view fields that are groaning with milk. Everything is expecting the lifting of the mist, like something waiting to be said. Light drops into a bulb over the alehouse door as the landlord’s wife puts her shoes back on to call time. Outside, a winter breeze cools the drinks, while seven crows on a high wire form the first bars of a sea shanty, as older men tell younger women of sailing the storms through the ocean of tears.
This is Gainsford, a working class pit village with no pit. Mentioned in the Doomsday Book, it was drained in the eighteenth century by Dutch engineers who made it safe from floods. The workers’ houses are still called Dutch row, and some of the villagers show their heritage with names like Vermuyden, Vandenbrooke and Verhoeven.
Gainsford is an obvious destination for the school field trip. Starting from the edge of the village, the tour goes to the pinder. This is an ancient enclosure used to pen stray farm animals, the owner receiving a small charge for rounding them up from a grateful farmer or smallholder. The owner was also called the pinder, and two descendants, John and James, who own the butchers shop, are both called the Pinder brothers. Then the tour takes in the merchants’ houses, Dutch row, Gainsford old hall and the enigmatic window arch on the bottom of the graveyard wall. The children are told how the Dutch engineers raised the old chapel and graveyard several feet higher, which explains the window arch; it used to belong to the jailhouse, which is now underground. The war memorial is next on the agenda, and shows how the village fared in both world wars; all the named fell in the Second World War; no-one was lost in the 1914 to 1918 conflict, a rarity commemorated on the sign at the entrance to the village, which reads