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Brian had been ten years old the last time he saw the cottage what was then his grandparent?s spick and span cottage was now his derelict hovel.
Was that 35 years ago? What had happened to his life? What had gone wrong? Sure there had been good times but recently it had all gone down hill fast. The redundancy quickly followed by the divorce from his immensely successful wife. Her career was heading for the stratosphere while his life and career were in tatters. Gone was the Mercedes replaced by a second hand pick up truck bought from a builder friend.
Brian had money. After all Elaine had bought his half of the house and furniture for cash, the Merc had been his and raised more and then there had been the generous severance package, the veritable golden parachute. A mental tote up had reached damn near five hundred grand before he got fed up and confused and abandoned the unfinished calculation. And he had the cottage and bit of land his grandpa had left him.
What Brian didn?t have was a single, solitary clue about his future existence. Life, he thought, was a word far to optimistic. He sat in the rain in the pickup trying to equate the rain soaked ruin with the happy, idyllic cottage of his youth.
Brian had left school at sixteen and started work as a apprentice brickie with a large building company who specialised in building row after row, street after street of little houses that were destined to fulfil the dreams of some and be the prison of others.
In his spare time he had taken on small private jobs, PJs as they called them, usually on older property, a bit of bricklaying here, plastering there, re-hanging a door, replacing a window frame; anything and everything he could and would turn his hand to learning as he went.
It was when Brian was twenty-five that things had begun to change. He had met, fell for, bedded and married Elaine in that order. Elaine who he had thought to be unattainable, Elaine the so intelligent sophisticate, Elaine the Company's? chief accountant.
She had groomed him, taught him to speak ?nicely? and helped him to apply for and get a job as a Company Salesman. By his thirtieth birthday Brian had been the Company Sales Manager and was the Company Sales Director; all achieved by hard work and his own ability.
Elaine had left to follow her career as the Finance Director of a much larger company. Brian remembered wondering if life got any better, the expensive holidays, the good life, the high life even, executive fast cars, anything they wanted they could buy, they had it all.
And so the next fourteen years were just that, life in the fast lane, ever increasing salaries, ever increasing bonuses. - - - - - - And then the bombshell. Who would have thought he, Brian, a director of the Company would be made redundant, but there had been a take-over and that was just his fate.
Elaine had at first been totally supportive, confident his next ?executive? position was just around the corner, but as the months passed and economies mentioned the arguments had started. She was still working, she was still earning good money, extremely good money, why should she economise. After all Brian was the one out on his ear he should be the one to economise.
Truth to tell there had been no need to economise at that time, he had been given an extremely generous severance package plus six months salary in lieu of notice. But Brian had had this sense of foreboding, this need to conserve capital, this lack of confidence in himself, this lack of confidence in the future and this feeling he might never work again certainly not in the sort of position Elaine would deem acceptable.
After two months of this Elaine told him about her string of affairs, that he was a failure in bed as well as out of it. He had quietly packed his bags and left, numb from the shock of her revelations. Not caring where he went as long as it was away from there. So much for the shallow pleasures of the high life. Brian?s life had been a sham built on sand.
A cheap bedsit and more alcohol than was good for him saw him through the next six weeks. It was when the letter from Elaine?s solicitor arrived making, what seemed to him, to be a very generous offer to buy him out of her life. He replied suggesting another twenty-five thousand and when this was accepted half wished he?d asked for more.
It was then that Brian decided to take stock of his life. He decided the more he reached for the stars the more he was at risk. The higher he climbed the further there was to fall. His Grandpa had always been happy and contented with his life in spite of, or maybe it was because of, having little spare money and few of the things he and Elaine had come to regard as essential. His Grandpa used to laughingly say I enjoy the main pleasures in life living indoors in the warm and eating regularly. What else do your Gran and I need?
Brian had, he knew, the skills to do up the cottage, even make it larger if needs be. He could restore the large garden to provide himself with fruit and vegetables aplenty, maybe keep a few chickens for their eggs and for the pot. He had seen a large pile of bricks, lintels and the like where the old barn had been pulled down when it had become unsafe. Who knows what he could accomplish? He would work out how much he would need for the renovation, how much he could make on investing the remaining funds safely and how much he would need to make from building jobs, he smiled and thought back to the PJs. For the first time for months his future seemed better.
Which was how he came to be sitting here in the pickup, in the rain remembering the past imagining the future.
The rain drummed on the roof of the pickup truck but still he felt, for the first time for a long while, that there was a glimmer of light at the end of his personal tunnel. He looked out over the wet bedraggled jungle of bramble and nettles and tried to visualise his Grandpa?s garden as it was in his youth.
Of course it had all looked so much bigger then but gradually he pieced together the map in his head. The various trees, greengage, damson, bullace, plum and cherry. Over there next to the pile of rubble that had once been the old barn still stood the legendary apple tree that produced gigantic Bramley cookers. The fruit of such a size that one apple would make a fair sized pie. He must find if any of the other trees had survived and, if so, try to save them. He found he could place the several vegetable plots, the chicken run and the flower borders. He searched for and retrieved a large envelope and whilst he remembered drew a sketch. The light was fading fast and the rain still fell relentlessly. He would return with waterproofs and wellington boots and, he thought, a hard hat would not come amiss.
With the knowledge that a plan of campaign needed to be drawn up Brian started the engine. What were those charts called? He had been trying to remember all day. Yes that was it Gant Charts. He slipped the truck into gear and pulled out on to the road.
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