When Fred was declared dead, Katrina inherited as next of kin.
I ask Katrina if she ever visited Ball Beard after her parent’s divorce.
“Not frequently. My father’s relationship with my mother was a …. difficult one. Do you know anything about the state of Ball Beard Farm in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up? Have you visited it?”
I say yes on both counts.
“Then you’ll know that there was no sanitation, that the farmhouse had dirt floors, there were feral cats looking at you malevolently with their rheumy eyes as they sat on the dining table waiting for food and there was a single pipe bringing water to a sink in the kitchen from the trough outside.”
Suddenly, Katrina sounds angry. “How anyone could expect my mother to bring up a child there is beyond me. My father fought against any form of mechanization on the farm. He would ride his horse and cart around New Mills and offer me a lift. Can you imagine it – a teenage girl in a cart? At that age I would rather be seen dead.
“After my father’s disappearance the police came to visit me at home and I think I’m perceptive enough to know when someone is suspected of murder. But who am I to point a finger? Who am I to say Janet killed my father?
“I knew that ultimately my father’s relationship with his wife and me was strained because he was in love – but he was in love with Ball Beard Farm, not with Janet.”
I take this in silently. I am getting to know Fred Handford through his daughter. She was estranged from him but she understood him and not many people did. Even Janet had been unsure.
I can now see that Janet and Fred shared a common love but not for each other; they shared a love for Ball Beard Farm. Fred didn’t have that with his wife or his daughter – but he had it with Janet.