by Philip Brian Hall
If it is true that the Devil makes work for idle hands, then the Devil never met Old Joe. For as long as anyone could remember, Old Joe had been well past working age; indeed no-one in Micklethwaite could really recall his former trade.
Mavis Claythorpe, who knew everyone’s business and could not bear to admit to ignorance of anything, claimed her grandfather had worked with Joe as a thatcher, but Janet Armstrong, the blacksmith’s widow, who had comfortably exceeded her biblical span, was prepared to swear Old Joe had already been ‘Old Joe’ when she was a little girl. To the best of her recollection, the fallen tree beside the duck pond on the green, into which a seat had been roughly hewn by the removal of a quarter-round section, had always been the vantage point for the graybeard’s observation of the slow rhythms of village life.