‘What are you doing here?’

Continuing Janet … and wondering how far this will go.

In the district council planning office, two men stood over the map spread on the wide table.

‘There, and there.’ One, a beefy fellow who looked like he enjoyed his Gregg’s pasties a little too much, stabbed his thick finger at two spots on the map marked with rows of tree symbols – the kind that kiddies draw, with straight trunks topped by an upturned bowl of green.

‘Hmm.’ The other, more ascetic looking man, stroked his fuzzy chin. He’d been trying to grow the beard all year, one of his New Year resolutions being to try to appear more serious, so people would take him more seriously. Sadly, he suspected the bit of fuzz wasn’t doing the trick, but his wife encouraged him, so he stuck to it. And he also suspected she was laughing with her friends over these unmanly gains, but, frankly, he no longer cared.

What are you doing here? Ancient oak and farmland

‘There’s some old trees in there,’ he said. ‘Might even be ancient woodland.’

‘Oh,’ the other responded airily. ‘We’ll leave those. The developer wants to call the estate Forest Leaves.’ His smile revealed his cynicism. ‘Loves the idea of three-hundred year old oaks scattered here and there, or even–’ he touched the side of his bulbous nose ‘–a copse of woodland, for the kiddies to play dragons and fairies in.’

They both chortled. Neither had kiddies of their own.

‘And the rest? Why does he want the rest?’ the fuzzy-chinned one asked.

‘It’s adjacent this farmland, see?’ Beefy laid his sweaty palm on a pale green area marked into fields. ‘Which is across the road from the bit of land – here –’ he moved the palm ‘–which the old farmer, the one who died, left to his heirs. They’re desperate to flog it off, got plans of their own which don’t involve moving back to their childhood home.’ He snorted his laughter.

Fuzzy chin joined in, although, to be honest, he was fond of the village which he had grown up in. He kind of liked the trees too, having played among them as a child. He was sure that once, and once only, he’d spotted a dragon overhead. A girl with a shining crown and flowing golden hair rode the magnificent beast.

But it had been winter, and dusk, and he knew it must have been his imagination. This colourful part of his brain had been active before he went to the village school, where they advised him to rein it in and not blather about dragons. He rather wished he’d gone against that advice. Look at JK Rowling. Too late now.

Beefy was saying something about supermarkets and parking, and how convenient for the new estate to have these across the road, although hidden from view by a single line of old trees. It would all be very upmarket, and if they could keep the number of affordable houses (he grinned) as low as possible and tucked away out of sight, facing the bypass so the residents there got all the noise and traffic fumes – well, this was going to be awfully good for the whole area.

Standing straight, Beefy pulled in his stomach as far as it would go. He nodded slowly at fuzzy chin. ‘What the job of a planning officer is all about,’ he said, with ponderous solemnity.

Fuzzy chin wasn’t listening. His attention was on the sound of angry voices in the corridor outside.

The door to the planning room burst open and a young woman with flowing golden hair stamped through the door. She was red-faced and furious, hands on her hips. She smelled faintly of fire. Beside her, a short ancient man wearing a paper crown, scowled into the room as if seeking the enemy.

Fuzzy chin’s mouth fell open at the sight of the woman. ‘What are you doing here?’ he squeaked.

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