This story was published last year by The Blue Nib. Marston’s Pedigree is a well-known beer in the East Midlands, celebrated as a local legend and denigrated as headache-brew, in roughly equal measure. Pedigree is still served at the Rifleman’s Arms on Bridge Street in Belper, where the story begins.
Amongst my short stories, Pedigree has some of the closest links to The Wood Road North and its counterpart To Hawthorned Door, of which more later. But the story is familiar, ancient and eternal. A woman of a certain age feels the biological clock ticking down, and her husband is no help. She takes matters into her own hands, finding a way to get what she wants, and at the same time giving something back. So to speak.
Despite telling a story, framed by a bedroom scene, Pedigree is another slice-of-life window into the life of a character who might otherwise be seen as minor, socially as well as in fiction. And the constraints are on show again – Angie’s rings, and the scale of her home – but here these are barriers which present opportunities, requiring secrecy and allowing for comings and goings. So to speak. Angie couldn’t carry on like that if her house was overlooked by neighbours.
Pedigree has attracted several compliments about the feat of writing from a woman’s perspective, but I think Angie pre-empts this herself when she considers whether Andy will boast to his friends about their encounters. She decides they won’t believe him, and I think the same events, told from the young man’s viewpoint, would suffer the same fate. The two characters share a physical experience, but for Angie that’s only a small part of the story.
Angie appears briefly in The Wood Road North, but Andy will play a bigger part in To Hawthorned Door. For now, mine’s a pint of Pedigree. What are you having?