Author's note: This story uses British English and also features a generalised Northern England dialect and vocabulary.
Bryan Walsh was visiting a new client for the first time. After graduating from university with a degree in Accountancy and Management, he had worked for a firm of accountants for a further five years before going it alone, two years ago. Now, at twenty-nine, he was building his portfolio of clients, of which Nancy Estensen was the most recent. She owned and ran a farm in Derbyshire and he had been recommended to her by another farming acquaintance. She was a few years older than Bryan and she had grown up with sheep; her parents having been farmers.
The farm was quite isolated and could only be reached by a long drive up an unmade road. Forewarned, Bryan had borrowed a friend's 4X4, which bumped it's way up the deeply-rutted track. It was early-August and the track was dry, but Bryan didn't much fancy having to make the same journey in mid-winter, or when the track was thick with mud.
Nancy was outside with her dogs and a well-earned mug of tea when he arrived. They shook hands: his was soft, while hers was the hand of someone who grafted and didn't have much time for pampering.
"Do you want a brew, Mr Walsh?" she asked.
"That would be nice!"
"Then come inside, Lad!"
Bryan was five feet ten, Nancy a few inches shorter. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt over a shapely and well-defined body. Her arms weren't over-muscled, but he guessed that with her job, they must be quite strong. He had a job that required very little physical exertion, but he had always liked sport at school and afterwards continued to play squash and tennis, so he, too, had very little excess fat on his body.
"As I told you on the phone, Mr Walsh, Trevor McIntyre recommended you to me-he says you've done wonders for his bookkeeping and admin! I know that's important when you're in business, but it's a reet chore after a long working day, and at lambing time I hardly ever seem to get enough time to do anything extra like!"
"Please call me Bryan, Miss Estensen. Yes, I can sympathize; but, fortunately, my job doesn't make the same demands on my time as yours does. But hopefully I can take some of the pressure off you from now on. What I try to do is give my clients a routine system that they can follow: which is basically just the best way to file away all the evidence that relates to money in and money out; if you can do that, then I can come along every month or so and make some sense out of it. I can also hopefully offer you advice about your money management skills. It is possible to make money work better for you, rather than just paying it into a bank account and then paying out from the same account."
"Aye-that sounds the ticket, Bryan. And it's Nancy to you, Lad!"
"Okay, then, now I'm here, shall I make a start. Have you got time to sit down and tell me what you usually do-and if you can sort out all your bills, invoices, receipts, etc-"
Bryan had been in this situation many times before: he knew that sole-traders usually didn't have much idea about anything other than their particular specialism, so he was often just presented with loosely aggregated collections of complete and incomplete paperwork, which he then had to get into order. Nancy's was no different; although it was at least filed loosely my year, and within the years the individual month's documents were kept apart, so there was already a semblance of a system there.
They sat close together at Nancy's kitchen table, going through her basic bookkeeping journals, and she seemed genuinely interested in what he was doing. What he wanted to do, he said, was to get a mental picture of everything in his head; then he could visualise and systematise everything. When he had done that, he took a laptop computer out of his case and began to set up Nancy's account.
"You look like you've got everything sorted there, Bryan-can I offer you a spot of supper later, or have got to be getting off?"
"No, I'd like to get the basics done now, then I can take all this stuff away with me and go through it in more detail. Thank you, I'd like to stay for supper."
"It's no bother, Lad! I'll just quickly wash up, then get it on. You carry on-don't mind me!"
Bryan was sitting about six feet from the kitchen sink and Nancy stood in front of it. She ran the hot and cold water into it and then got a towel, which she placed nearby within reach. He expected her to just wash her hands, but she first pulled her T-shirt over her head, and then reached round and undid her bra. Without a further word, she stood at the sink and washed her upper body! Bryan didn't want to stare, but it was so unexpected, that for a moment he completely forgot what he was supposed to be doing.
Nancy pulled the plug to drain the water from the sink, then she picked up her discarded clothes and turned to face him. She grinned when she saw his face.
"-Close your mouth, Lad-I'm sure you've seen a woman's boobies before-and mine aren't so bad, are they!" Then she turned and walked out of the kitchen.
When she returned to the kitchen she was wearing a different top and a short skirt; which Bryan thought showed that her legs were equally as nice and shapely as her upper half. They sat down at the kitchen table, with all the paperwork now safely stored away. It was good, wholesome food: meat, potatoes, and other vegetables that the self-sufficient sheep farmer had picked from her small garden that day. It had occurred to Bryan that here was a relatively young and attractive woman, living and working by herself in a challenging location, and he wondered why.
"So have you always lived and worked the farm alone, Nancy-you're pretty exposed out here." She'd already decided that she liked him, so she smiled.
"-Hey! Are you still going on about my boobies, Lad!" she said, jokingly, "-But seriously- The answer's, no! I'm thirty-one now, and when I first came her I had a business partner; who was also my partner in other ways, too. I come from farming stock, so I was the one who had sheep and farming in their blood; and the determination to try and make a go of it, whatever it took. But, John, bless him, was always a bit of a dreamer-he had money and a warm heart; but he also had soft hands! Yes, life can be hard here, Bryan-John tried, but he only lasted five month or so. We had an informal financial agreement, and I've been paying him back as best I can, and now nearly have completely.
"But I've decided, Bryan, that from now on, if a man wants to share my life-including my bed-then he's got to be able to pull his weight around here, too. My folks are sheep farmers, so I grew up with the lifestyle; and I reckon that any man I take on needs that attitude as well, and there's not many out there now as wants it!
"But what about you, Bryan-no disrespect intended, Lad; but I reckon you're a townie-you've got soft hands, too!"
"Yes, that's true, Nancy, but my parents aren't rich: I come from Fleetwood, in Lancashire. It was once a busy fishing port, but that's all but gone now, and there aren't that many opportunities for work any more. But I was quite bright at school, so my mum and dad encouraged me to get into university, and then they made lots of personal sacrifices to help me out financially while I was there. I don't think there are any other accountants in the family as far as I know; but we figured that, unlike the fishing industry, money management wasn't going away any time soon.
"And although I may never make it into your bed on your terms, Nancy, I have you and a few other farmers as clients now, so I'd really like to get a bit of first hand experience of the lifestyle; it might help me to understand what your business needs are, and how I can help you better."
Nancy sat for a moment just looking at him and smiling. She definitely liked him, and she was intrigued by the possibility of helping him.
"-Well, maybe we can work something out then. Lambing is the busiest time, but that's months off yet-you need to try and come and stay here for a week or two, if you can fit it in with your other clients; that's the only way to get a real feel of the life."
And don't be so hasty about not sharing my bed, Lad, she thought to herself.
"Then I'll see what I can do!" Bryan replied.
A short time had passed since the initial visit, and a longer one had been arranged. Bryan had borrowed the 4X4 again for the duration of his stay and he took his case and his briefcase out of it. The door of the farmhouse was open and the two border collies trotted out to meet him. Nancy was once again dressed in her working clothes. On her advice Bryan was dressed similarly, including a pair of stout, waterproof walking boots. He followed her to the spare bedroom; there were no frills, but it looked both comfortable and functional.
"I hope you ate hearty this morning, Bryan, because we're off t'see t'sheep now-it's mainly walking to check on't beasts. They graze and stay on't hills this time o' year; but they're not the smartest of creatures, so they get themselves into trouble at times! How are you managing your time, Bryan, wi' your other clients?"
.... There is more of this story ...