That summer Mark decided the trip down to Spain would be too much for him, even by train. Joan and Richard took him down to the “writer’s cottage” in Cornwall again for the last two weeks of July, with the boys joining them for the first week of their stay and Tim, Krit, and Ian for the second. He was glad to get home, though. There was something comforting about his own chair by his own fire, even if the fire was not laid.
Krit had to attend a medical conference in France at the start of August, so he and Tim decided to make a holiday of the first two weeks and take Ian to EuroDisney. Mark, remembering the trip the men had taken with Thomas and Connor visiting roller coasters, was not certain who would get most out of the visit, Ian or the two men? As expected Thomas and Connor came up to work on the car.
“Isn’t that car finished yet?” Mark asked.
“Well it is nearly there, and we would like to get it finished soon,” Connor stated.
“Why?” Mark enquired. Connor looked at Thomas, who nodded to him.
“You see, Uncle Mark, we want to use it for our honeymoon,” Connor answered.
“That implies you have decided to get married,” Mark stated.
“Yes, we have,” Thomas confirmed.
“And when were you planning to tell me about this?”
“When we had set a date, Uncle Mark,” Thomas replied.
“You haven’t set a date yet?”
“No, Uncle Mark.” Connor stated. “You see we wanted to do a driving tour of France in the Midget. There is something romantic about driving a convertible. We were hoping to get it finished while we were here, so we could have the wedding in September and have our honeymoon before starting back at uni. That does not look likely though.”
“Why not use the E-type?” Mark asked.
“I thought you had got rid of that,” Thomas replied.
“No, it’s been mothballed and is in storage but it would not take more than a couple days to get it back on the road.”
“The insurance would be through the roof for us,” Connor stated.
“I’m not so sure,” Mark said. “You are both listed as drivers on the family multi-car policy, so it would just be a case of adding the Jag to the policy.
“Look, sort out your wedding. How about the second Saturday in September? The use of the Jag will be my wedding present to you.”
In the end the wedding was set for the third Saturday in September. Much to Joan’s annoyance the boys insisted they wanted a quite simple ceremony at a London Register Office. She did insist, though, that they use her and Richard’s place in Nice for part of their honeymoon. After the ceremony, the boys drove off in the Eagle E-type for a tour of France. Mark failed to mention to them that the cost of insuring them for it had come to over ten grand as they were both under twenty-five and driving a half a million-pound car.
When the boys returned from their honeymoon Mark decided to keep the Eagle garaged and road ready. Though he was no longer able to drive it, there was no reason why Krit or Tim could not, or the boys, seeing what he had paid to have them put on the policy.
The boys, with Jeff’s help, did eventually finish the Midget and got it tested and on the road a few days before Christmas. As Krit was on duty at the hospital over the Christmas period, the decision was made to have Christmas at Mark’s house. Terry and Mary came over to join the boys, but Shelly, who was now a striking young woman, had gone off to South Africa for Christmas to meet her boyfriend’s family.
One surprise addition for Christmas was Phillip who came over from the States with his eleven-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter. Although Phillip had flown back a couple of time over the previous years to join in family events, like Tim’s marriage, his wife had never come across with him due to her dislike of flying. Now, though, Phillip was divorced and had access to the children two days a week and at holidays, and so had taken the opportunity to bring them over to England.
Mark thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being able to spoil his two younger grandchildren, whom he had not met before. They both seemed to enjoy the experience of being spoiled. One day the eleven-year-old Peter asked Krit why Ian called Mark bpòo? Krit explained that it meant grandfather in Thai. Once Peter found this out both he and his sister Emma started to use the term for their grandfather.
“I’m thinking of moving back to the UK,” Phillip informed his father one evening when they were sitting alone in the lounge. Tim and Krit had taken the children out to the cinema and Terry and Mary had gone back over to Walsall with the boys.
“What about the children?” Mark asked.
“Well, they are the reason I am thinking of moving back. Paula is talking about re-vitalising her film career – you know she left me for a director she had worked for before we met. I think she had been carrying on with him for a bit before I found out.
“Anyway, it seems having an eleven-year-old son and a ten-year-old daughter is not exactly what fits the image she is trying to project. She has indicated that she would prefer me to be responsible for them. I’m not that averse as, to be honest, from a couple of things Peter has said, I’m not too keen on the crowd Paula is in with these days.
“My main reason, though, is education. I think they will get a better education here than in the States.”
“I thought,” Mark commented, “that the US education system was good.”
“It is,” Phillip responded, “at college and university level. At the secondary level it can be a bit hit and miss. A lot depends on the quality of the local school board and if they are a pile of religious zealots, as a lot are, you can have real problems.
“There is just the simple fact that the UK has consistently performed above the US in the international comparison tables.”
“Yes, Phillip,” Mark stated, “but in the last few years it has been dropping down those tables. If you want the kids to have a good education you should look at moving to Singapore.”
“The UK may have been dropping but so has the US, and it seems to be dropping down the table quicker,” Phillip replied. “Anyway, I have had a job offer over here. It’s a bloody good offer and a chance of a board level position I would never get in the States.”
“So what are you going to do?” Mark asked.
“Haven’t made up my mind yet. Had to see how the kids like England first.”
Phillip had still not made his mind up when they flew back to New York the following weekend. He phoned a couple of weeks later and told his father that they would be moving to England at Easter.
When Easter came, Thomas took Mark down to Heathrow to pick up his son and the grandchildren and then drove them down to Winchester, where the firm Phillip was going to be working for was based. Although Mark enjoyed seeing his son and the grandchildren again, he found it very tiring, and a total of nine hours in the car that day was just too much for him. By time Thomas got him home to Sheffield that evening he was totally bushed; it took him two days to recover from the trip.
In July Tim and Krit took Mark down to London for Connor’s graduation. Thomas would have two more years before he graduated, though he would graduate with a Doctor of Medicine degree whilst Connor would have a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. However, Connor was going on to do his Masters – though on a part-time basis as he had obtained a position in a leading architectural firm in London.
Philip and the grandchildren joined the party at the “writer’s cottage” in Cornwall that year. However, neither Thomas nor Connor could come. Connor was busy in his new job, and that was leaving very little free time and Thomas did not want to leave Connor for a holiday in Cornwall. Mark enjoyed the holiday but found it tiring at times, especially when Peter, Emma and little Ian all wanted their grandfather to join in the games.
Just before the end of August, Tim, Krit, and the boys gathered for one of their regular board meetings for E. Mallory Properties. The development of the site was going along nicely, and they had sold about a quarter of the houses they were building off plan before a single brick had been laid. The accountants reckoned that they would be looking at making between fifteen and twenty million on the total development. Although in some ways that pleased them, it also made all four feel somewhat guilty, as it had effectively come to them as a gift from Mark.
Tim raised the issue with Mark who pointed out to Tim that he could have made the money himself and left it to them in his will. If he had done that there would have been substantial death duties to pay. This way he had only given them a company with debts, so it was not worth anything and they had made the money, so no death duties.
Tim explained this to Krit and the boys. They could see the sense of it. Doing things the way, Mark had avoided quite a lot of taxes. However, it did not remove the feeling of guilt they felt from the fact that effectively Mark had given them each about five million pounds.
There was one thing that Mark had not told Tim about the deal. The thing that made it really worthwhile for Mark was the fact that Tim, his partner, and their gay friends had made a financial killing on the property that Tim’s dad had taken a massive loss on. In Mark’s opinion that served Johnny right.
In September Ian started at school. The primary school he attended was only a few hundred yards down the road from Mark’s house, and Mark got into the habit of walking the boy down to school. It was usually Mrs Wright or Tara who collected him while Mark was having an afternoon nap.
Walking down the hill to the school was not too much effort for Mark, but he did find the walk back up the hill a bit more tiring and tended to take his time, often taking a break at the seat by the bus stop. He was seated there one morning when Jack the postman walked up to him.
“Mr Wainwright, I’ve just tried to deliver this,” he pulled a large packet out of his bag, “but it was too big for the letterbox. I’ve left a card but if you would like to take it you can avoids a trip to the sorting office.” Mark took the packet and checked the label, finding it was addressed to Tim. He confirmed that he would take it and thanked Jack for being so helpful, then resumed his walk up the hill to the house.
Once back in the house he placed the package on the kitchen table with the rest of the post that he had picked up when he came in, and then hung his coat up before making himself a coffee. Over the coffee he sorted through the post and dealt with the letters, mostly bills, that were addressed to him. He kept finding his eyes going to the package lying on the corner of the table.
The thing that puzzled him was that it clearly bore the logo of the Open University. What was Tim doing with the Open University, he wondered?
He did not have to wait all that long to find out. Mark was in the living room reading when Tim came home just after twelve.
“Back early,” Mark commented.
“Today’s one of my uni days and I can get more done here than in the department,” Tim responded. “Do you want any lunch?”
“No thanks, Tim, I’ll have a coffee if you are making any. Oh, there’s a package for you on the table.”
A few minutes later Tim brought a mug of coffee through to Mark and placed it on the side table next to Mark’s chair. “Back in a mo,” he stated, and then returned to the kitchen. When he came back he was carrying a plate of sandwiches in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. Tucked under his arm was the package. He put the plate and mug down on the side table by the empty chair and then, laying the package in his lap, seated himself across from Mark.
“Anything interesting?” Mark asked as Tim started to open the package.
“Maths course from the OU.”
“Since when have you been into maths?”
“Not sure I am but I need to find out about it,” Tim replied, putting the now opened package down and starting on his sandwich.
“So, what’s got you into maths.”
“It’s everywhere at the works, the lads on the shop floor are doing maths all the time, maths that leave me standing. I know I didn’t do maths past GCSE but I got a grade A at that. The maths that chaps like Barry are doing as part of their work has me scratching my head and gaping at them.
“Did you know that when they are making the wax pattern they have to make it larger than the finished product because the metal contracts in the mould as it solidifies?” Tim asked.
“I did, actually,” Mark responded.
“Sorry, Granddad, I suppose you did, but it was news to me. I was in the pattern shop a few weeks ago and Barry was explaining the calculations to me and I realised that what he was doing in his head couldn’t even follow. Thought if I was going to manage these people I better get to know something about what they were doing, and in fact be able to do it myself, even if I have to use a calculator
“Spoke to Paul about it and he suggested doing a B Eng with the Open University. Apparently, he did one and said it was useful.”
“Paul did a B Eng?” Mark queried.
“Yes, he graduated a couple of years back. Said it was a bloody good course, so I thought I might have a go at it. Give me some feeling for what the chaps are doing on the shop floor. This is the first step.” Tim indicated the contents of the package.
“Well, as long as you think you can manage, I’ll say go for it, but you are taking a lot on—working with Paul, your Masters, and now an OU course.”
“Actually, Granddad, my Master's will be finished in the next couple of weeks. Finished the research for my dissertation over the summer vac and I’ve completed all the other elements. Just need to finish writing it up and checking all the references and it’ll be ready to go in.
“I spoke to my supervisor last week and we agreed if I can get it in before the end of October I could graduate at Christmas. After that I’ll just register as an external PhD student.”
“So, you’re not dropping your PhD?” Mark asked.
“No, Granddad, I still intend to do it, just not as fast as I thought.”
Although Mark was worried that Tim might be taking too much on, he was pleased to see that he was getting into what was going on at the works. He was delighted that Tim supported his own view that too many managers just looked at figures and had no idea what the man on the shop floor was doing.
Tim did get his Master's just before Christmas. He even managed to get it with a distinction, which, given that he had been part-time for the last few months, was surprising. Krit and Tim had planned to go to Thailand again over the Christmas period but in the end they were not able to find a set of flights that fitted in with Krit’s duties at the hospital. They spent days trying to work out different flight combinations and routes, but any way they looked at it, unless they were prepared to fork out a fortune, they ended up with times and routes that just did not suit them. It did not help that they had left it till virtually the last minute before trying to book. That, though, had been due to the hospital having to redraw the schedules and not getting the Christmas duty assignments sorted till late in November. In the end Mark suggested that they fly Krit’s parents to England for the holiday.
In addition to Krit’s parents, Mark also hosted Phillip and his family, Joan and Richard, the whole O’Mally family (including Shelly’s boyfriend), Tim, Krit, and Ian, and the boys for Christmas. It was a good job that over the last year or so the boys had slowly been clearing years’ worth of stored memories from various junk rooms around the house. At least two of those rooms had to quickly be made up as bedrooms, so Philip’s children could each have rooms of their own.
Early on Christmas Eve, Thomas and Connor took Peter, his sister Emma, and little Ian out in the Hyundai to find a Christmas Tree. They returned about four hours later with a fourteen-foot tree strapped to the top of the car. Mark was in the living room chatting with Phillip when they pulled into the drive.
“Good God!” he exclaimed, “They’ll never get that in here.” He was right. Although Craigh House was a large house with high ceilings, they were not high enough to house the tree.
“What possessed you,” Mark asked of Thomas, “to buy a tree that tall?”
“Ian wanted it,” Thomas replied.
“And you get everything that Ian wants?” queried Mark.
“Don’t you,” responded Thomas.
“He’s got you there, Granddad,” Tim commented.
Once they had confirmed that there was no way the tree could be put up in any of the reception rooms, they eventually decided to put it in the conservatory where the ridged roof gave a good three feet more space. Even then they had to cut the bottom foot off the tree to get it to fit in.
Ian, Peter, and Emma started to decorate the tree under Mark’s instructions. Every now and then Mark would have to lift Ian up to enable him to place a bauble somewhere specific. Once the lower branches had been decorated Thomas and Connor were called in to decorate the top of the tree. There was no way Mark was going to let the children clamber about on step ladders. Anyway, the boys seemed to be as excited to be involved in the process as the children.
Once the tree was decorated everybody gathered around and admired it. The sight brought back memories to Mark, but not only to Mark. As they stood there Phillip stated, “Dammit, Dad, it looks just like the tree that you got one year that was too big and spoiled mam’s plans to have Christmas dinner in the new conservatory because we had to put the tree here.” Mark just nodded but shortly after sought out Thomas to ask a favour.
“Thomas, could you spare about an hour to drive me out for a run?”
“No problem, Uncle Mark. I’ll just go and get the Tucson,” Thomas replied.
“Actually, I think I would like it in the Eagle if you don’t mind.”
“OK, but you better wrap up warm. It is cold out, and I suspect you’ll want the hood down.” Mark laughed, acknowledging that he probably would. Twenty minutes later they had left Sheffield and were driving up into the Peaks. Shortly after, Mark instructed Thomas to turn right off the main road onto what seemed little more than a paved track. Thomas found that even with the improved steering the Eagle was difficult to manoeuvre round the bends and he was glad when the track-way opened out into a tarmac area in front of a small hillside chapel.
Mark got out and made his way in the failing light into the graveyard surrounding the chapel. Thomas followed him, though sensing this was a private moment he kept a couple of paces back from Mark. Eventually Mark stopped by the foot of a grave.
“Well, Mary,” he said, speaking softly, “it’s been a long time. We’ve got another Christmas tree up in the conservatory. Hasn’t been one there since you went. But there is one back there now, and I think it will become tradition again.” He then bowed his head and was silent, Thomas stood back watching. After a few minutes Mark straightened up and turned to him.
“Well, Thomas, this is where the Wainwrights are buried. Our family comes from hereabouts and we helped build this chapel.”
“Our family?” Thomas asked.
“Yes, Thomas, our family. You’re just as much a Wainwright as I am; we share a great-grandfather. If you want to know the details, ask Joan. She’s got the family tree all printed out. If I had the key we could go inside,” Mark stated, indicating the chapel building, “and you would see the list of men who subscribed to build the place with quite a few Wainwrights on it.”
“I’m surprised,” Thomas said, “that there is enough community out here to keep the place going.”
“There’s not. The last congregation here was in the seventies, so I bought the place in the eighties just to maintain the graveyard for the family. I have set up a trust to keep it going.” Mark pointed to the grave next to the one they were stood by, “That’s my mum and dad.” He then pointed to one in the far corner of the graveyard. “That’s our great-grandfather’s. Soon I’ll be here joining them.”
“Yes, I will, Thomas. My heart is slowly failing; the doctors have told me that. I’ve had a good life and done well, but it will soon be time for me to move on. That’s what I want to speak to you about and this seemed to be a good place to ask you.”
“Ask me what, Uncle Mark?”
“There is one thing I have left undone, something I could never bring myself to sort out. You, Connor, and Joan are the only ones who know the story about Ian. You are the only one who knows the full story. This is about Ian. Once I am dead I want something done, something I have left undone. The instructions will be with my solicitor; will you do this for me?”
Thomas realised that Mark had not said what it was that he wanted done, but that did not matter. This man had done so much for him, had showed him that someone cared when he thought no one did. Had shown him that what he was did not matter; all that mattered was who he was. There was no doubt in Thomas’s mind. “Of course, Uncle Mark, I’ll do it.”
“Good, now I’m getting cold. Let’s get back.”
They returned to the car and Mark directed Thomas to a different track from the one they had come up. Soon they were on a main road heading back to Sheffield. Not long after they had joined the road Thomas guided the car round a corner in the road at the top of a hill, at the bottom of which he could see a set of traffic lights. As he drove down the hill he realised where they were.
“The lights are new,” he commented. As he did, the lights turned to amber, and he slowed down and stopped at the lights as they turned to red.
“Yes, they put them in a couple of years ago.”
“I’ve not been back here since that day,” Thomas commented. “I’m sorry I was so stupid. I could have killed both of us.”
“But you didn’t, and I got to meet a really fine young man. You’re a hard-working boy with a great heart, Thomas, and you’ll make a good doctor. I only hope I am around to see you qualify.”
“You’ve got to hang on another couple of years for that,” Thomas commented. The lights changed to green and Thomas revved up the Eagle and drove back to the house.
Copyright © 2016 Nigel Gordon – All rights reserved.