by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book III: At Home With Robert
Chapter 6: A Life of Ease
part 2 of 2
Peter only visited me twice during the few months he was back in England. Our lives were now so utterly different ...
And he went to see Dad just three times. They had little to talk about either, and Peter didn’t seem to feel any concern that Dad was now living all alone. Of course, that’s his own natural state!
‘And yours, Robert.’
‘True. Very true ...’
But I learnt much later that he set up a secret fund that autumn, to provide for any future nursing care that Dad might need.
‘Oh my goodness!!’
‘Yes. He wasn’t all bad, was he?’
At the end of the year, Sally and Barbara insisted that Walter should spend Christmas with them. And then they proposed he should move in permanently. So in early 2005 he came back to live with them in the house where he’d been born, and we sold the old place in Orlesbury, which allowed him to pay them a good weekly “rent” and invest the rest of the proceeds for his future healthcare.
And I was now able to visit him there a couple of times every week, and still always at Christmas, of course.
But soon after Dad had moved to Wood Green, Peter decided he’d had enough of dull old England. And he also hinted to me that he didn’t like the look of what was “around the corner”, as he put it. So by the spring of 2005 he’d said all his goodbyes and jumped on a plane to the Bahamas. From his later Christmas cards it seems he enjoyed it a lot there, and made some good money too!
Two years later I stopped my footpath conservation activities. My hands were slowly weakening, and I needed to conserve them for my own daily work. But I was able to keep up the light gardening at home, thank goodness.
In 2008 Peter moved on to Antigua. He told me in his next communication that he was now seriously checking out places for his own retirement, and already had his eye on a spot in the Bahamas if he didn’t find anything even nicer.
The following year, Auntie Barbara died, and Sally cried a lot. Peter didn’t make it back for the funeral, and Sally cried a lot more. Then she put her apron back on and continued to look after our Dad. What an angel she always was!
* * *
In 2011, at the age of 63, I finally hung up my walking boots. I’d decided I now preferred to spend my short summer breaks relaxing in the garden!
And that was the year Peter moved to Moscow. He said he planned on its being his final killing. I wrote back and said I hoped that wouldn’t turn out to be a very bad joke. I had to wait for his Christmas card for the reassurance that he was still very much in the land of the living, and once again doing very nicely thank you.
Then, of course, came the Attacks, and my own little joke rebounded badly. I was lucky, of course, and so were most of my friends and family. And Peter was still safe and well in Russia.
In 2014, he announced that he had hung up his abacus for good, and retired to a swish new house in Antigua, on which he’d taken an option five years earlier. And by “retired” I soon established that he meant he was still gambling every day, but was at last now playing what he called “losers’ games” for simple, break-even fun. What a life!
Later that year Walter, who was ninety-five now but had always been as strong as an ox, fell ill with what was probably an influenza bug, but possibly something worse, and went into hospital for several weeks. Sally and I visited him there every day, of course. He eventually made a fair recovery from his acute symptoms, and then the doctors said he must be discharged back to Sally’s house, to free up the bed for more needy patients. But the sickness had put a big strain on his system, and he could barely move around unassisted. His own doctor told us he would probably soon need continuous nursing care for the rest of his life. Not, however, in a state hospital, thank you very much. When I told Peter that news (he hadn’t bothered to come back to see Dad, even over Christmas) he finally revealed the existence of the fund he’d set up ten years before. So, with the luxury of that tidy sum and Dad’s long-term investment after the house sale, we all agreed he should be able to move to a good Nursing Home and stay there for as long as necessary.
‘And that’s turned out to be five years already hasn’t it, Robert?’
‘Exactly. Thank goodness for Peter and his lifetime of experience in fund management!’
Dad moved to the best Nursing Home in Wood Green a few months later, and I took to visiting him about three times a week. Sally went even more often. She was feeling very alone now in the deserted old Kerr family residence, and she still really treasured him and his company.
At the end of that year, I made my own bold decision to close down my business and retire. My hands were now too weak to let me guarantee a perfect job every time, so that was that. But before I sold off all my gear and our little workshop, and locked its door for the very last time, I made sure my young “mate” John, who was now forty-four and highly skilled, was given a good position with the very reputable local firm of electricians who had paid me well for the benefit of taking over most of my long-standing customers.
I was happy enough, home alone for the next eighteen months, pottering around in the garden and sometimes popping down to the local for a beer with the other old-timers. But in the summer of 2017 I decided I could do with a bit more company and a lot more help with cooking my meals and so on. I thought briefly about moving in with Sally, who was now almost sixty-one and still all on her own too — and I was sure she’d have welcomed me with open arms — but I definitely did not want to impose on her any more than my family already had. And anyway, I fancied a larger new family of mixed company. She argued with me as soon as I told her my plans, of course, and worked very hard to try and persuade me to come and live with her. But I held my ground, and two years ago I moved to a small Residential Home not far from the bus station and still quite convenient for a good walk or a short bus trip to visit Dad.
Peter’s Christmas card from Antigua that year wished me well and hoped that it wasn’t too cold back in dear old Blighty. Of course, it was actually the worst winter we’d had since the Big Freeze of 2009-10!
‘Why do you think Peter stayed abroad for so long, Robert? And came back so infrequently?’
‘Well, I think I’ve hinted at some of the reasons, Donna. He certainly preferred the atmosphere and climate of his exotic foreign haunts to those of the British Isles! And he could find far more opportunities for legitimate gambling out there than he could back here, especially in the early days. In his view, he had nothing tying him to the UK, and everything to play for abroad. And I suspect that, once he was firmly established, there may have been tax advantages in his staying away. But I wouldn’t really know about that. He certainly wouldn’t have had much of an old age pension to look forward to here — not that he’d have needed such a paltry extra weekly income. Maybe there was an element of tax evasion in his early years in London, as well as simple tax avoidance. Or maybe he even had some shady deals going, throughout his life, and they originated here back in those days. Maybe he still has enemies here. Again, who knows? I never asked him personal questions of that sort. Ignorance is usually bliss ...’
‘Hmmm. That sounds like man-talk to me, Robert!’
‘Oh, I don’t think I agree!’
‘All right, let’s drop that. But seriously, do you really think he was ever involved in criminal activities?’
‘I don’t see how one can play hard and fast in that sort of world, Donna, and not bump up against its grubby underbelly from time to time. But he seems to have survived without any crises that I know about, and he is sixty-eight and taking it very easy now, so unless he has made some big enemies who are inexplicably biding their time, he’s probably going to be OK!’
‘Yes, I’m sure you’re right. He obviously doesn’t need me to be worrying about him ...’
‘That’s probably very true. And maybe he was not a James Bond character solely in his public life. Maybe he was recruited by M while he was still at Cambridge, and has saved the world from the spectre of disaster at least five times already, and is now living in the lap of luxury on a huge British Secret Service pension ...’
‘So, I think we can leave it there for today, Donna ...’
‘Hang on, Robert. I have one more big question, please.’
‘Why did Peter make absolutely no effort to contact his child and its mother for nearly forty years?’
‘Because he never knew anything about them, of course! Catherine told me he’d given Jane his Singapore hotel number before he left, so he was clearly interested in talking to her again, rather than just running off after their summer nights in that Wood Green hotel. But she also told me that Jane never did call him there, for any reason, and certainly not to tell him about the baby. Another crucial point is that Jane had refused, for her own good reasons I’m sure, to give him her address or phone number during those little trysts. So he simply had no way of contacting her directly when he arrived in the Far East, and I’m sure she just slowly faded into a happy private memory for him. But the third point seals it, Donna. I kept my own firm promise to Catherine — to honour Jane’s condition that he should not be told — and I never said a single word to him about any of it.’
‘OK. So ...’
‘So everyone involved has always been certain of one thing. Peter is completely guiltless, and simply cannot be blamed for ignoring something he never knew anything about.’
‘Well, surely not completely guiltless ...’
‘Yes, completely. Nobody has ever suggested that Jane wasn’t just as happy and in control of their little love affair as he was. No, you can’t catch him out there either, Donna!’
‘Good. I’m very relieved ... really!’
‘So you can sleep easy about that tonight, after all. Until the next time, then ...’
‘Yes indeed, Robert.’
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd