It’s nearing the end of my week off, yesterday was a beautiful spring day and so Man and I drew up a pretty ambitious list of eight Churches Conservation Trust Churches to go and look at. I’ll tell you about those in due course.
We headed for remote areas of Lincolnshire and successfully ticked off four of the eight churches when things started going pear-shaped.
We arrived in the next village we were looking for from an odd direction.
There is a lovely church in the middle of the village. I say “It can’t be that one, it still looks in use,” and we drive down a road that was just a little lane, believing it to head towards a chapel we could see about a mile before we arrived at the village.
We were wrong. Okay, okay I was wrong :)
We drove for about half a mile down this lane as it got less and less road like and became a dirt track (seriously, I was throwing up dust clouds behind me). Eventually, maybe after about half a mile or so we came to a junction.
We could see a farm in the distance ahead of us and one to our left. I wanted to go straight ahead but then we noticed a woman in front of the farm to our left waving at us. We headed towards her instead.
When we got there, I lowered the window and was about to ask if she knew the location of the church when this little old lady dissolved into floods of tears.
I stopped the car and we tried to ascertain what was wrong. She was pretty incoherent and it took a while but we worked out her name was Rosemary and she used to live on the farm. She said she had got a lift from home to the village and walked the half mile to the farm and her husband was meant to be coming to pick her up and he hadn’t turned up and she didn’t know what to do.
She said she had come out to the farm to feed the pigs. Well, having a quick scout around, there were certainly animals there but no people. There was an extremely old and run down pre-fab building that Rosemary said was an office and a place to make a cup of tea when they were there working.
She had expected the door to be open, she said, but it wasn’t. There was a dilapidated old caravan covered in moss and lichen that obviously wasn’t in use, but there was new light machinery in some of the sheds and a lorry that looked like it was in working order. There were just no people and Rosemary was still confused and crying.
We asked her if there was anyone we could call for her and she said she wasn’t very good at phone numbers. She started pulling bits of paper out of her handbag and one had a mobile phone number on the back of it. I tried to call it but there was no answer.
Rosemary sat in the drivers seat of my car and we tried to get some more information out of her.
She said she was waiting for her husband who was coming to pick her up. He was working somewhere in the fields, she said … at least she thought he was. To be honest by this stage, I wasn’t convinced poor Rosemary had a husband.
Maybe we should take her home. I offered but Rosemary said she lived a long way away near Lincoln and she wasn’t quite sure of the address. I tried to call the mobile number on her piece of paper again – still no answer.
By this time poor Rosemary had been crying on and off for about half an hour, she was getting more and more confused, we appeared to be on an abandoned farm in the middle of nowhere and no one had arrived, driven past, even been seen on the horizon so we decided to call the police.
We called the non-emergency number and told the guy what had happened and that we weren’t at all sure what to do with this confused old lady we had stumbled across.
He said he’d send an officer out immediately. We told Rosemary that a policeman was on his way to help her and she got more upset. Kept saying that she was a stupid old woman and she’d ‘get a pasting’ when she got home.
Then she said she had to get something from the dilapidated pre-fab. I helped her walk over there (and suddenly wondered how she’d managed to walk to the farm as she was so unsteady on her feet).
The pre-fab that she had said was locked was, in fact, open and in she went. She refused to let me go in with her saying the dog would escape … and there was a lot of barking inside.
I sort of hovered by the front door not quite sure what to do and just as I was beginning to get worried, Rosemary reappeared again.
She went and sat back in my car. She told us she had lived on the farm for 17 years before moving to Lincoln and said again she had got a lift and walked to the village because the animals needed feeding. She said her husband was 60 (Rosemary appeared much older than that) and was working in the fields. He would be back to pick her up but she wasn’t sure whether that was meant to be at 5.30pm or 7.30pm or maybe not at all (it was about 4.30pm). She kept saying she was a stupid old woman and everyone would be cross with her and then bursting into tears again. And that she had expected to find someone at the farm when she had arrived.
About 20 minutes after I had called the police we saw a car in the distance and a four by four drove towards us. A man, bit older than me I suppose, looked at us with a ‘who on earth are you’ look.
It was Rosemary’s son. Two minutes later the policeman appeared too.
It turns out Rosemary doesn’t live in Lincoln, she lives in the old pre-fab on the farm. Her husband wasn’t working on the farm, he had gone to Lincoln, and he wasn’t coming to pick her up and take her home, she was already home. Her son had just driven out to check on her.
He decided to check on her because this wasn’t the first time Rosemary had decided to go on a little adventure: in fact the last time she had made it all the way to the village at 10.30pm, quite an achievement along a dirt track that’s not lit in the middle of nowhere with deep ditches either side of it.
I’m just glad we didn’t stuff Rosemary in the car and drive off with her as we had thought about doing. You can imagine the scenario, son would have turned up, reported her missing, we would have to explain how two strangers ended up on a remote private road, kidnapped a random old lady and driven her to a town miles and miles away.
Poor Rosemary. It wasn’t the fact that she had dementia that worried me, it was the fact she was so upset. My grandmother had dementia but was perfectly happy about it. She was always smiling and thought it was funny when she couldn’t remember anything or got things mixed up. Rosemary was just very confused and upset.
I suppose if we hadn’t have chanced upon her, in that hour she could have wandered off, fallen in one of those roadside ditches or hurt herself some other way.
Oh, and the church we sailed past with me saying it was still in use turned out to be the one we were looking for after all :)