Cocksfoot and Clover

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In the sheep country of Canterbury and Otago the native tussock lands had reached the end of their useful life by the 1870s and were sown with European grasses – mainly ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot and clover.

Rural New Zealand in 1876. A time of prosperity for Applecross sheep station. However, dark clouds are gathering over the settlers of Mackenzie’s Basin.

James Mackenzie is good at his job. Quality wool from his flock is valued around the world. But his son, John James sees the future differently, embracing new ideas and opening up new markets. Will father and son reach a compromise that will allow Applecross to survive through the threat of pestilence and fire? Will Captain Shepherd’s legacy offer the opportunity for his beloved family to spread their wings?

Join James, Sophia and all the folk of Applecross as, once more, they celebrate triumph and success while joining together to face adversity and tragedy against a backdrop of an ever-changing world.

Excerpts from ‘Cocksfoot and Clover’ –

At that exact same time, Samuel and his passengers were approaching the ridge above Applecross. 

“Samuel, you will stop, won’t you?” Nancy asked.

“I always do,” Samuel smiled. He knew very well that Nancy would be anticipating the panoramic view of the Basin community from the vantage point at the summit of the track. As they climbed, the weather had been improving a lot, and now, as if on cue, the sun came out from behind the clouds, flooding the Basin in glorious golden light. Samuel pulled the horse to a halt, immediately jumping down to help Nancy and Edmund alight too. For a few moments, the bright sun dazzled them all, but as their eyes began to focus, the whole valley lay in front of them in all its glory. The three of them stood, silhouettes against the skyline, absorbing the view that Nancy had been waiting so long to see once more.

Nancy took it all in from right to left, saving her old home until last as if it was the final chocolate in the box, the one with her favourite filling. Smoke rose from Ngahuia’s fire, the chapel and school stood quiet, the Penders’ house too, apart from the tiny figure of Rex chasing shadows in the garden. She could hear him yapping. The row of workers’ cottages, the home fields full of sheep, the old Applecross house, and the new, the yard where washing flapped in the breeze, Jack and Daisy’s house, then Lucy’s place, the orchard and finally Combe. 

“What the devil?” Edmund was saying. “Samuel get me down there as fast as you can. What on God’s earth has happened to Combe?”

Guy Pender bent down to look through the lens of his camera. “Hold still, everyone. Three-Two-One, and hold,” he called out to the families of the bride and groom as he opened the shutter.

At that very moment, Vicky felt a terrible itch on her nose. She dare not put a hand up to scratch it, but could only pull a face that made her look a little cross-eyed and would now be recorded in that way for posterity in the wedding photograph album of Mr and Mrs George Latham. Guy had time to take in the composition of the picture as he counted down the necessary ten seconds to expose the photograph. Framed by the chapel door, George stood proud and happy, his arm crooked so that Heather could rest her gloved hand on his wrist. Next to him on the left was Edward, who, if truth be told, was looking nervous about having to make a speech at the wedding breakfast. Then Mr and Mrs Latham, with George’s aunt and uncle behind, a necessity in Guy’s view, in order to hide George’s aunt’s hideous floral outfit as much as possible. 

Guy had managed to balance things out by persuading Vicky to sit at her sister’s feet with little Saul beside her cross legged, there being many more people to fit on Heather’s side. The bride had, in Guy’s opinion, never looked so beautiful as she did today in her wedding dress of palest green. The perfect foil to her flaming red hair which shone in the sunlight, sparkling with tiny pearl decorations sewn into the veil. Around the hem, neckline and cuffs, Amelie told Guy that Sophia had embroidered strings of heather flowers in various purple shades, and a last minute change to the bouquet to include the Scottish heather, perfectly matched the dress. The corsage of purple heather reminded Guy how lovely it had been to see each guest with a tiny buttonhole to match. He could catch the scent of his own as he breathed in. What a shame that the photograph would not record the colours. Guy hoped he would live long enough to be able to take coloured photographs. He knew there were people around the world trying to find a way to do so. But then, there were people trying to make machines that flew, and he doubted he would see that happen in his lifetime.

James and Sophia stood next to each other beside their eldest daughter, James tall and proud and Sophia, her cheeks a little flushed, but with that sparkle in her eyes that Guy had always admired. She hated having her photograph taken, even though Guy had told her many times that she had a good face for the camera. Then the three senior bridesmaids in the palest purple with matching hats, a positive sea of mauve flounces and folds. From his position behind the camera tripod, Guy could barely tell which was which. Was it Susannah next to Sophia, or maybe Caroline, and Adey Rose at the end? Guy smiled to himself as he remembered Adey Rose telling him about the awful pink dress she had been forced to wear at her brother’s wedding. She had never been one to enjoy dressing up. 

At the back stood Freddie, head and shoulders taller than the girls, and Ngahuia, who was another person who made a good portrait but was shy of the camera. Guy hoped he would one day manage to persuade her to sit for him in a series of photographs. Her tawny complexion, strong features, proud bearing and faraway gaze were beauty personified, in Guy’s opinion. Freddie was a lucky man.

All these thoughts went through Guy’s mind as he counted down to the perfect point between under and over exposure. “And, breathe,” he called out, at last.

There was a general drawing of breath from those in the photograph. Guy couldn’t help smiling as he realised that even those watching had been holding their breath too. And, as so often happened, there followed a wave of laughter and applause, as if he was performing a magic trick. He was reminded of that very first photograph of Friday taken at Applecross on his first visit. Freddie, just a boy then, had been fascinated by it, and Guy had doubted that the dog could sit still. But she did, of course, and the photograph was still one of his favourites.

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