In those days one was entitled to full student grant. The student grant paid your education fees and it gave you easily enough money to live on if like me you did not drink or smoke.
Much of what I was taught on the degree I already knew, so I found the course pretty easy.
I earned a First Class Honours Degree.
I had time for work on the side, gaining additional experiences.
The part of the course that I enjoyed most was discounted cash flows and the different ways of calculating the return on capital employed. Mathematical calculation fired me.
In the second year one of my tutors suggested that after qualifying as an accountant I should consider becoming an actuary. I did not know what an actuary was. I had to research it. It looked interesting.
So while I was serving my time to qualify as an accountant I started the exams to become an actuary. I also had to take some Accountancy exams but they gave me no trouble.
Once I was qualified as an accountant I continued my actuary studies. I had to fund these studies myself but I had savings.
I began teaching an accounts evening class for extra income. It was there that I met Sal Redfearn.
CHAPTER 2: Emma Brown
I have always been attractive. As a child I was particularly pretty.
As a teenager and as a young woman I was beautiful. I had an inner confidence that just shone out of me.
At twenty-seven I am very attractive. I can attract men.
I just cannot find a man whom I wish to attract.
In my last year at teacher training college I met and I fell for Craig Barker, who was a “hunk”. He was big and strong and attractive and reasonably intelligent.
We had a July wedding and then we moved into a little house that we had bought near my first teaching job. Both sets of parents helped with the deposit.
We bought in Tryton so I could walk to my new job at Tryton Junior and Infant School. I would not need a car.
Craig had a company vehicle for his work as a photocopier maintenance technician. Craig travelled widely for his work.
Craig also strayed.
It was only by luck that I discovered that Craig had been disloyal. We had agreed to wait for two years before starting a family. I was thinking that maybe I should come off contraception and start the family sooner. An acquaintance forwarded to me a copy of a photo that some tart from Leeds had posted on the Internet. The man in the photo was definitely Craig. The activity needed no explanation. When I showed Craig the photo his face was a confession in itself.
I chucked Craig out immediately, and later I divorced him. I reverted to my maiden name of Brown.
There was no equity in the house other than the money that our parents had put in for the deposit.
I negotiated with Craig’s parents that Craig would sign the house over and I that I would repay the money that Craig’s parents had put in, by monthly instalments.
I took in a succession of lodgers to help to pay the mortgage. I did not take foreign holidays in the summer because I wanted to clear off the debt to Craig’s parents as quickly as possible.
I am shaken in my judgement. Will I ever be able to trust a man again?
I am interested in forming a relationship with a good man, but where do you find a good man?
The scarcity of good men and my understandably untrusting approach means that there have been very few opportunities.
Over the six years since parting with Craig I have had a couple of fleeting encounters, which only go to confirm that most men are inadequate. One was with hindsight just pathetic. The other was an arrogant idiot with nothing to be arrogant about. There must be decent men out there, but by age twenty-seven they are usually already in a relationship.
It looks as though I will have to look for retreads, men whose first relationship had broken down. And that leads to another question. Why had the first relationship broken down?
It did not occur to me that I am a retread myself.
I threw myself into my work, going on courses and taking on extra responsibilities.
I am on the list for a Deputy Head training course when Meldon Council next run the course. Then hopefully I will become a Deputy Head.
After a couple of Deputy Headships I could become a Head Teacher.
My love life is nonexistent but at least I have a career. On cold quiet nights in my cold quiet bed I comfort myself that at least I have a career.
The current lodger, Annie Thompson, is between men. Annie is a shop assistant who falls in love very easily. I have met some of them.
Annie is not just selling herself too cheap; she is throwing herself away on wasters who are not even good looking. I would rather be Emma than Annie.
Annie is desperate to settle down and to start a family. Annie is quite likely to start a family and then to find that the father slopes off during the pregnancy.
I have some dignity.
Sometimes, not very often, I cry at night.
I have thought very seriously about lowering my standards.
I do not wish to form a relationship that I would regret. To find an unattached man around Meldon I would have to lower my standards a heck of a lot further than I am prepared to go.
I had a look at an internet dating site. “Sad” is the word that springs to mind. I do not know what else to do or where to start.
At work I am recognised as a rising star. The Head Teacher gives me every opportunity. I attended the Meldon Social Services Child Protection course. I am now the school’s designated teacher for child protection. I liaise with Dave Feldon the local Education Welfare Officer.
Dave gives me graphic accounts of how dysfunctional some families are.
Tryton is not a bad locality. Dave told me that the Tryton Infant and Junior School parents include families of habitual criminals, drug users, drug sellers, unconventional living arrangements, violent men, violent women, and child abusers.
About a third of the children in the top year of the junior school are not living with both natural parents. Dave says that by their final year of the High School nearly half the children will not be living with both natural parents.
Dave explained that there are many good families, hundreds of decent relationships, and some absolutely wonderful people in Tryton. It is in the nature of Dave’s work that Dave rarely spends much time with the good people.
A case in point is young Max Meglin in my Nursery class.
Max’s mother Kate Meglin is a single parent who manages fairly well. She has backup babysitting from a friend.
Dave said that Kate is an occasional drug user. Nothing heavy, and never when Max is around. There is no call for Dave’s involvement.
When I first met Kate’s friend Mr Hewson, I was rather aggressive.
Don Hewson handled it well, maintaining a cheerful smile.
Rosie Oakes the community police officer told me that Don has no convictions recorded. Don was not even on the Police National Computer. Don is on the police computer now of course, as a “person known” rather than as a criminal.
Don has a shotgun licence, but otherwise Don is unknown to the police.
Max seems happy with Don Hewson, but Max is becoming anxious now about his mother.
Max told me that he and Don have been to the police station to report Kate as missing. Don is sure that Kate will turn up soon, very sorry for leaving Max for so long. I can tell that that is what Don Hewson is saying to Max.
Mary Pickles the social worker told me that Mr Hewson is a widower. Don is a retired actuary, very intelligent, and financially well off. Don helped to raise two step children, and he is a nice guy. The house is a six bedroom mansion, bought when Don and Don’s late wife Sal had intended to fill it with children. Over the years they have given temporary respite to troubled teenagers, battered wives, refugees, and various odd bods.
Don’s house is a genuinely happy house, where you can feel laughter and happiness. It is a house that cries out for children, with over an acre of grounds.
The relationship between Don and Max is fine.
Mary is hoping that Don will apply to become a foster carer because Meldon Council is desperate for foster carers – particularly those who are able to take large families. Don said that he will wait for Kate to return, reunite with Max, and then Don will think about fostering.
CHAPTER 3: Don Hewson
Sal Redfearn humanised me. I was an arrogant young man and the hard little oik in me was not far from the surface. It took Sal probably ten years to turn me into a lovable human being.
I worked long hours to build my career. Sal was in local government where the stresses were not so great. Sal did very well, rising to Assistant Treasurer at Meldon Council and in line for the top job when her boss retired.
Sal was the only love in my life.
Sal and the dog were killed in a stupid accident. An inexperienced teenage driver killed them by running up onto the verge where they were walking. It was a dark wet night, and the grassy bend had no verge or pavement or lighting.
The young man had not been drinking or on drugs.
The youngster was broken up. He has a lot to live with.
I have run up that verge myself once. I accept that Sal’s death was just a dreadful accident.
I was shattered by Sal’s unexpected death. We had been together almost all my adult life since leaving university. We were together for a few years before marriage and for twenty years after.
Sal had two children when we met. We both wanted to add to the family.
Several doctors said there was no reason why we could not have children together. It just did not happen.
Our sex life was very enjoyable but more children did not come.
That is the way life is.
A year and a half after Sal’s death I grieve as one who can be comforted.
I am not in a tremendous rush to be comforted. I am interested in finding a new relationship. Sal set a very high standard. I doubt that I will find anyone as good as Sal to live with.
I would find it frustrating to live with a person who is not pretty intelligent, but so many intelligent single women seem to have “issues”. I would say that a lot of single intelligent women have a screw loose, but you can’t say that these days. Look at your un-partnered intelligent female friends and form your own view.
I suspect that many single women would say that male thrombosis is the major problem. Too many men are clots!
I quite like most children, much as I quite approve of vegetarianism as a concept. Children and vegetarianism are fine for other people. I did not intend to take part.
Years ago, I had helped to bring up two step-children. That had mostly been enjoyable but I had no thoughts to do it again.
The difficult thing about small children is that their needs are so immediate and their needs are so non-negotiable.
The grandchildren are too far away for me to be called upon for help, which is just fine. I sometimes visit my grandchildren in Wiltshire and I enjoy and I come away again. The grandchildren in Australia I see only over Skype. I was thinking that I would visit them, probably over the English winter this year or next year.
After Sal’s death I am living in a six bedroom house that had been much too big for the two of us. It is ridiculously large for the one of me.
I intend in general terms to sell the house but just now I cannot get it together to tidy the house and garden for sale. I keep the house clean and the lawns and gardens presentable, but I plant no new bushes or flowers.
In the house I do not decorate. The house is “pending”.
The real problem is that if I sell the house where will I go?
Sal and I had intended retiring to the sun, probably Spain or Portugal or Italy. Wine and olives and dining al fresco with Sal had been a great concept. Becoming the lonely old drunk expatriate I could easily develop into is not an attractive prospect.
There is nowhere I wish to move to without Sal.