Is it time for another story? This one from my song title series was released by Dusty Springfield in 1966
When I was sixteen, we moved from the little village where I was born. My childhood was full of happy memories until my father died in a car crash when I was fourteen. I remember him taking me fishing in the local streams and sharing my delight when I caught a tiddler, even though he had won trophies as an angler for his fishing prowess.
In many ways he was forward thinking for the times. Despite me being a girl, he taught me to play football, the basics of carpentry, plumbing, electrics and how to fix things using whatever was available. My efforts never matched his, but I learnt to use my brain, look at alternative ways of solving a problem, and to be inventive rather than let a minor set-back defeat me.
‘Read the books to teach you how to do things properly, sweetheart, but never let words restrict your imagination,’ he told me. ‘Think what you would do if you were on a desert island, and had to rely on yourself to come up with the answers.’
Mum was very different, and I often wondered how such contrasting personalities made a life together. As an only child of elderly parents, she had been pampered and brought up with servants catering to her every whim. Her family were rich, and she never had to lift a well-manicured finger to do anything practical. Dad had been employed as a general handyman on the family estate, they had fallen in love, and she had been thrown out when she refused to accept a more appropriate suitor. She had always been frail, and it must have been a culture shock in the early years of their marriage to discover how the other half lived.
After Dad died, I took over the responsibility of caring for Mum despite my young age. It meant I missed a lot of schooling, and although I could fix most things, the three Rs were difficult. With no income and only the small savings my father had accumulated, the pay- out from his life insurance policy didn’t last long. We had to sell the beautiful little house Dad had built in the country, and move to a tiny cramped flat in town. I cried as I touched for the last time the solid oak furniture he had built himself, but there was no room for such things in our new home.
Mother found it difficult to cope and took to her bed, so it was left to me to get a job. I was taken on as an apprentice with a small, family firm and although the wages were minimal, it put food on the table. The couple I worked for treated me like the daughter they never had, and encouraged me to go to night school to improve my reading and writing. It was hard work juggling working all day with studying and caring for my parent, but I found happiness in my achievements, and knew Dad would have been proud of me.
Even though she was only in her forties, my parents were reunited by the time I became an adult. The doctor said it was a cardiac problem, but I believe she died of a broken heart, unable to live without my father’s strength. Amongst her belongings I found some headed notepaper which I assumed was from her family home, although she had never spoken to me about her own childhood. I sent a letter giving the date and time for her funeral but they never showed up. Apart from myself, the only mourners were Mary and Jack, my employers, who supported me during those dark days.
Their small business continued to thrive, and with my encouragement we expanded into buying up old properties, renovating them and selling them on. Soon we were employing a team of thirty sub-contractors, and after setting up a limited company to put things on a proper footing, they appointed me as managing director. By the time they were ready to retire, I was a rich and prosperous businesswoman, but I still enjoyed getting stuck in to problem-solving on a practical basis. Through one of our contacts, I heard about a dilapidated mansion up for sale and drove over to investigate.
‘It’s really odd,’ I said to Jack as we pulled into the long, winding drive. ‘I’ve never been here before, yet somehow it feels familiar. It’s looks like a big project. Do you think we can manage it?’
‘Once you’ve made up your mind, you can manage anything,’ Jack laughed. ‘Let’s go inside and see how it looks. The estate representative said he’d meet us here, so he should be around somewhere.’
‘You do understand this is very much a preliminary enquiry,’ the rather staid official told us as he showed us around. ‘The legal aspect is rather complicated. Since Lord and Lady Braithwaite died two years ago, we have been trying to trace the granddaughter who is the main beneficiary. We have ascertained that their daughter, Lady Susan married a John Hendyman, although both are now deceased, so their only child is due to inherit. Despite the unusual surname, we have had no luck so far in tracing her, and until contact is made and probate finalised, we cannot authorise any works apart from general safety issues.’
‘No wonder it felt familiar, Talia,’ Jack said. ‘You must have visited here when you were a baby. It looks like you’ll be giving yourself orders for the renovations, and I’d better start addressing you as your Ladyship.’
Seeing the puzzled look on the agent’s face, I thought I’d better explain.
‘It’s quite a coincidence, Mr Finch,’ I told him. ‘My name is Talia Hendyman. My father was John and my mother Susan, but I never knew my grandparents. I came here today to look at buying the property, but it seems I might be the person you’ve been looking for. We moved around quite a bit after Dad died, but I have all the relevant birth, marriage and death certificates so perhaps your search is over. I’ll leave you my details and perhaps you would get the solicitors to contact me.’
I was quiet on the way home, thinking about life, fishing, playing hide and seek with Dad, and recounting my early years. Did I regret having to fight my way through life, rather than being brought up in a mansion? Not for one minute. The legal aspects were sorted out and I became the owner of the estate. I was proud to oversee the renovations but I didn’t move in. It’s let out as a children’s home, and I know Dad would be proud it’s being put to good use. The small house we had lived in came up for sale, and I bought it, fully furnished with all the fixtures Dad had so lovingly crafted all those years ago.
I think I’m going back to wonderful memories, and a contented old age.
© Voinks September 2019
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