Frank hadn’t a great regard for clergy. For years he had rented church land in an arrangement between himself and the parish. Then a new clergyman had come and insisted everything must be put in a proper footing, an agent must come in and value the land and the rent must be paid through the agent. Of course, the rent rose and the parish received a little more, but the chief beneficiary of the arrangement had been the agent.
Frank’s alleged dislike for clergy was no reason not to go to visit him, there are plenty of clergy who don’t like clergy, and Frank was great at telling stories from a life and a world that had vanished. Frank’s stories were chiefly against himself and would conclude with a chuckle.
A bachelor for all of his eighty-odd years, he said there had been a long-time “understanding” with a lady friend. “A good thing we never married, we would have been divorced three times.” The logic of the statement was always difficult to fathom, the likelihood of a farmer remarrying someone after divorcing them once was slim, remarrying after a second divorce would not have been contemplated. After some reflection on other stories, the three divorces seemed to be an assessment of three periods when the “understanding” had not been in place.
Frank wasn’t just wary of clergy, he was wary of any stranger who called at the door, with good reason. His old farmhouse was furnished with family heirlooms, things that had been passed down through the generations. “This man called one day and asked me if he could see some stuff in the front room. There was an old table, a round oak one. Anyway, he said he would give me £50 for it and I told him it wasn’t for sale. Then he offered me a hundred pounds and I told him I wasn’t selling it. Anyway, there was an old piano in the corner that no-one had played for years and that no-one wanted. He goes over to the piano and plays a bit and asks if it was for sale. I said it depended on the price and he said he would give £200 for it. Well, I was delighted and said he could have it. Then he said to me that if he gave me £200 for the piano, would I sell him the table for £100 and I thought he was mad to offer £200 for an old wreck of a piano, so I agreed to the deal. He went out to get his van and brought it into the yard and said he would have to come back for the piano because it wouldn’t fit into the van, that he would take the table then. Anyway, he gave me a hundred pounds for that good oak table, and I never saw him again. I was in a shop one day and saw a table not nearly as good for £500.”
Frank laughed at the story. What more could he do?