The Lost Property of the Pastons (extract)

Lost Property Office, Norwich: Regulations

1. Do not take anything from the office in case it becomes lost again

2. Do not add anything to the office in case it becomes misplaced

3. If you cannot find the item you are looking for, come back another time

4. Leave umbrellas at the entrance

5. Always wear gloves


Item, The Road to Yarmouth (1)…

It runs like a lizard’s tail up and down the coast, connecting my first home to my wedding bed. I trundle along it fresh-faced, in a cart, a gown of good worsted covering my skin. I am barely eighteen, but ready to bend like a Norfolk reed to the deal that has been struck.

On one side flat lands emptied by the Black Death wait to be plucked. On the other the dangers of the North Sea. They will snatch you from the beach if you dare walk too close to the surf. But if you know the secret place to wait, they will bring you treasures not seen in England yet – paper, light beneath my fingers, smuggled from Italy or from France.

In years to come I will hold this newfangled thing up to the light and glimpse the fruits of far-away lands floating within its weave: grapes and boars, a constellation of stars. But now, as the cart tips me this way and that, the only treasures I own are my good name and my hope.

Item, The Boundary Wall…

My mother-in-law squats in the old manor at Paston. Out in the countryside, surrounded by dark fields, no one shall stand in her way. She cares not whose land she takes next. Her late husband taught her well.

They accost her in the church, block her path from the pew as she would block their ancient way with her new wall. Behind her eyes a red veil, like the red painted on the plaster above – three kings meeting three skeletons in a wood. They didn’t think to paint a queen, but she is here. Agnes. My new husband’s mother. The woman I must call mother too. She would outlive us all if she could. But I listen and I learn, for I know she will not outlive me.

© Mary Paulson-Ellis, 2013

Read the rest at no. 26 on Norwich 26.