Mr Reynolds is sitting on a chair outside the beauty salon, dabbing at his nose with a wad of tissue. A woman from the salon, dressed in a severe black jacket with big black buttons is standing next to him, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding a mobile phone that she texts with as quickly as her fake nails will allow.
‘Thank you for coming so quickly’ says Mr Reynolds. ‘It can’t be good publicity for these good people.’
The woman laughs without looking up from her phone.
‘We just want to make sure you’re okay’ she says.
We help him off the chair and into the truck.
It was a mechanical fall. Mr Reynolds simply tripped on the kerb and went down. After a good clean-up, it looks as if he’s suffered nothing more serious than a nosebleed and a scuffed arm – certainly nothing that requires hospital. He only lives a few streets away.
‘Shall we run you home?’
He nods and waves the bloody tissue in the air.
‘That’s kind of you,’ he says. ‘My wife should be back soon. She’s doing a first aid class at the WI. This’ll give her something to practise on.’
Mr Reynolds lives in a bungalow at the far end of the close.
‘Come in and have a cup of tea,’ he says, pulling some keys out of his jacket pocket.
‘Great. We can finish our paperwork in comfort.’
‘You’re earned it,’ he says.
He shows us into a large and comfortably arranged conservatory on the side of the building. It’s set up in the expedient, everything-to-hand style of the hobbyist – jars of nuts and bolts hanging beneath shelves neatly stacked with boxes; bags of feed for the aviary and the fish pond; a workbench with a model spitfire half-assembled; a soldering iron, table magnifying glass and neatly ordered rows of history books and magazines.
‘Would you like to see the garden?’ he says.
He leads us out back onto a wide and well-kept lawn, immaculately tended borders, bird tables, a sun dial and a freshly painted shed. At the centre of the garden is a deep fish pond, where the lily pads are so vigorous they’ve pushed up the safety netting. Presiding over the pond’s stock of ponderously fat carp is a concrete heron.
‘That’s to scare away the real herons,’ says Mr Reynolds. ‘They see Herbert standing there and they think the pond’s been taken, so they go somewhere else. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference to the seagulls. So I had to think of something else. See that wire, running round the outside? Electrified. And if that doesn’t work I shoot ‘em.’
He takes us back inside. I offer to make the tea whilst Rae finishes off the examination and the paperwork.
‘Where are the cups?’
‘In the cupboard above the kettle.’
When I open the door, standing right at the front is a pink My Little Pony, its plastic hide looking a little tarnished.
‘I didn’t know you kept horses as well’ I say, waving the pony at him when he looks.
‘Oh, that?’ he says. ‘There’s a story behind that.’
‘Go on’ I say, putting the horse back, then dropping some teabags into the cups and switching the kettle on.
‘I was a welder by trade. Years ago I was helping restore the town bridge and I found that pony on a strut underneath. Some kid must’ve dropped it, and by some miracle it got stuck rather than falling straight down into the water. I didn’t like to just put it in my pocket, so I stood it up on the parapet. I thought the kid might come back that way and see it. But maybe they were just visiting, or they thought the horse had fallen in the river and that was that, because no-one took it. Every day I’d turn up for work and the horse would still be there, looking out at the river, all sad and lonely. Eventually I thought enough’s enough, this horse has suffered enough. And I brought it home with me. It must’ve been in that cupboard a good ten years.’
‘That’s quite a story’
‘I’m always having adventures like that. Ask the wife. Here she is now.’
‘What’s he been up to now?’ asks Mrs Reynolds, bustling in through the conservatory door, neatly dressed for action in khaki slacks and a bright red anorak. She goes over to her husband and brushes his silver hair back from his forehead like a mother with her son, then studies him severely, arm’s length.
‘I turn my back for five seconds,’ she says.
‘How was the first aid class?’
‘I don’t know. I’d only just sat down when I got the news. The rest of the class were so excited they all wanted to come back with me, but I said we didn’t have enough milk. Anyway, I said, you’d probably want a bit of peace and quiet.’
I walk into the conservatory with three cups of tea on a kitten-themed tray.
‘Kettle’s boiled’ I say to Mrs Reynolds. ‘Shall I make you one?’
‘Thanks love,’ she says, hanging her keys up on a homemade key rack and struggling out of her anorak. ‘Phew!’ she says. ‘I never walked so fast in all my life.’
‘You ought to take it a bit more steady,’ says Mr Reynolds, with a sniff. ‘You’ll have an accident.’