Gran climbed slowly up the steep field towards the road. Eighty-two years had taken their toll. The large bucket that she'd carried to the pigs was heavy even now that it was empty. Still, there would be pork and bacon for the family at Christmas time.
She glanced up as a motorbike slowed and stopped in front of her cottage. By the time she reached the road and opened the gate the young man and woman had climbed off the gleaming machine and were waiting for her.
"Hey up, you two." Gran grinned at them, showing pink gums and a shortage of teeth. "Have you come for some cake?"
The girl took off her helmet and let her hair stream in the wind.
"We've come to show you Mick's new bike. But I can always eat some of your cake. Shall I put the kettle on?"
"You know where the things are." Gran stared at Nell and she responded as she always did by stretching to show how flat her stomach was.
Gran chuckled and looked at her grandson standing with his helmet off. "I don't know what you men are coming to. You've been going with Nell for two years now and there's no sign of my great-grandson." Gran said to the girl, "Is he no good?"
"Oh! He'll do." Nell looked fondly at Mick and laughed. "There's plenty of time for kids yet. You'll have to wait a bit. Mick couldn't have afforded that bike if we'd started a family."
Gran prowled around the big bike. "By heck!" she said to Mick, "I'll bet that can shift, even with a great lump like you on it. Not like when I was a lass. Harry and me thought we were going well if his old Norton did sixty."
She chuckled again, "Mind you, the roads were that bumpy you didn't half get a thrill. Harry could do anything with me after five miles on that old bike."
Mick looked at her and she straightened herself. "I didn't always look like this you know. When I was a lass I could pick and choose. Now then, how about a ride for your old Gran?"
"Where do you fancy?"
Gran scratched her whiskers and thought. "How about up on Morridge? You can see half the world from there. And the road's straight and quiet. You can give me a thrill."
"Do you still get a thrill?" the girl teased.
"I should be so lucky," the old woman retorted. "When you get my age it's only your memories that get stirred up. Just you wait. Make sure you've got a good few remembrances for when you're old."
"Are you right?" Mick was getting impatient. "You'll have to wear the helmet or the cops'll have us."
"Don't be daft, lad," she grumbled, "There's no cops up there. Half the fun is having the wind blowing your head off. You just leave the cops to me. Give us a hand, lass."
Mick was on the bike, canting it so the girl could boost the old woman onto the back, her ancient jodhpurs stretching across the seat. She settled herself with her arms round her grandson and nodded to the girl.
"You get the kettle on while we have a spin. There's flapjacks as well as cake. Get stuck in. You're thin as a lath."
Nell went into the cottage and Gran's eyes followed her. "You don't deserve that lass. She's too smart for a daft sod like you. But you're a handsome devil; I'll say that. Just like your dad. He was handsome and brainless, but the women all went for him."
"Come on, Gran! Just because Dad never took to farming like Uncle Jim and my aunties, you've always been down on him."
"He never took to farming or ow't else. Breeding tells, whether it's pigs or people. Your dad took after his father."
"What do you mean?"
"Never you mind. Come on, now. Let's have this spin."
The bike started with a roar and Mick drove up towards the ridge.
This was the rough country of the East Staffordshire moorlands. The dry walls of brown gritstone were tumbled down and patched with cracked posts and rusty barbed wire. The fields were small and going back to sedge and bracken. Black faced sheep ignored the boundaries and made a living as best they could. The farms were surrounded by ranks of rusting machinery abandoned by successive generations.
Despite it's unthriftyness the moor had character. The light was like mother-of-pearl beneath the grey clouds. On the ridge, twelve hundred feet up, the rough fields were scattered among skylark-haunted moorland and the view opened up before them. As Gran had said, they could see half the world and from this ridge the Potteries were a smoky blur and the Cheshire plain stretched endlessly to the hills of Wales. It was a place of light and singing air and freedom.
Mick turned the bike along the ridge and accelerated to ninety. He felt Gran's thin arms tighten round him and the shift of weight as she peered round his shoulder. He sensed her pleasure and opened the throttle further until he had to slow to cross the main road.
"Not so fast on this bit," she said. "I'll tell you when to stop."
She was looking intently to the left as he cruised along the ridge and then she squeezed his arm. He stopped the bike and turned off the engine. There were tears in Gran's eyes that weren't caused by the wind.
"What is it?" Mick wanted to know.
"Just remembrancing," she murmured, hardly audible above the singing wind. "We came up here, Harry and me, that first time. When I'd picked and chosen my man."
They'd stood beside the old Norton, hearing the engine ticking as it cooled and Harry had gestured towards the bright grass of the little field. She'd let him help her over the wall for the pleasure of his touch.