Mark again joined the O'Mallys for Christmas, though this year without Tim and Krit, who were flying out to Thailand to spend time with Krit's family. Krit's younger brother was due to get married over New Year.
For once Terry was not on duty any time over Christmas and New Year. He had just been promoted to Detective Superintendent and was due to take charge of a new team that was being set up in the New Year. As a result, he had handed over the cases he had been responsible for and had no work on till the new team was set up. Once Boxing Day was over, Mark handed Terry an envelope with tickets for a show in London, train tickets, and a hotel booking for Terry and Mary, telling him to take Mary down to London for a couple of days and that he would keep an eye on the kids.
It was whilst Terry and Mary were away in London that Mark raised the question of a gap year with Thomas and Connor. He wanted to get this sorted out so that if the boys wanted one he could present it as a fait accompli to Mary and Terry when they got back. As it turned out, both boys informed him that they really did not want a gap year as they both had quite long degree and post-grad courses to get through.
The one surprise of the holiday came when Joan and Richard turned up on New Year's Day to inform Mark that they were getting married at Easter and that the wedding would be in Nice.
Mark returned to Sheffield on the Monday after New Year, calling in at the works on his way home. He had experienced some problems with the prototype dashcam he had been testing over the Christmas period. Steve, one of the electrical designers, checked out the device with him and found a loose connection that had caused the problem.
"It would have been nice to have seen this go into production, might have saved the department," Steve commented, as he crimped the connector firmly into place.
"What do you mean, saved the department?" Mark asked.
"You don't know?"
"Dale Waters came in this morning and told us that Electrical Systems is being closed down, and we have all been given three months' notice."
"But why? You're doing good work here."
"Clearly not good enough."
Following Steve's revelation Mark decided to pop up to the management offices and have a chat with Dale to find out what was going on, not that he found out much. Dale reminded him of the chat they had just before Christmas. This was one thing they had been able to identify easily. He also told Mark that due to confidentiality undertakings he could not really discuss things, even when Mark pointed out that he was still the majority share holder and Chairman. What Dale did tell him was that they had agreed to sell the Electrical Systems business to third party. They were not interested in the ongoing business, just the intellectual property rights and brand names. As a result, the Electrical Systems operation at the works was being closed down.
To Mark this did not make much sense, but Dale assured him that it would free up funds for the future development of the core business and that the forward projections for Electrical Systems were showing that ongoing development projects would place a heavy cash flow burden on the business that it could not support. Mark was not happy with the situation but he had to agree that when he had resigned as CEO he had handed management of the business over the Dale and the board. It was their decision to make. Dale also pointed out that they were giving the staff three months' redundancy notice, which was more than required, and that they would get a full redundancy pay-out.
Mark left the works feeling a bit depressed. He had started the Electrical Systems division and built it up to be what it had become. Finding it no longer had a part in the company made it seem as if all the effort he had put into it had been wasted. The closure had also made it very clear to Mark that it was no longer his company, even if he still was the majority shareholder.
He did make a point of phoning his nephew, Paul, to ask if there were any vacancies going at Mattashion's Precision Engineering for what he still considered to be his people. Mark knew that Mattashion's had started a small electronics department since Paul had joined them and suspected that Paul would not be averse to expanding it. In the end five of the Bettridge's staff being made redundant were found places at Mattashion's. Paul told Mark he would have liked to take the lot of them but he just could not expand his electronics department that much so fast. As it was he would be doubling it in size virtually overnight.
After the Christmas and New Year period, the boys were busy studying for their A levels, so much so that Thomas informed Mark that there was no chance of them being able to spare any time either at half-term or over the Easter period. The fact that both Thomas and Connor were busy over the Easter holidays made life easier for Mark as he had to go to Nice for Joan and Richard's wedding. He got back from his trip to the south of France to find a letter waiting for him from Thomas.
Letters from Thomas were not that unusual. The boy had always written a letter of thanks to him for birthday and Christmas presents and from time to time had sent him letters detailing how things had gone at school with a copy of his latest report. However, Thomas had already written to Mark with a copy of his latest school report so Mark was intrigued by the fact that here was another letter from Thomas.
Opening it, he read the letter with interest:
Dear Uncle Mark,
As you know, I had interviews with both UCL and Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, and last week I had an interview with Leicester. I told you how the UCL and Birmingham interviews went when we spoke last before you left for Nice. However, I had not had the Leicester interview, which went very well. Turned out the tutor who was interviewing me knew Dr Jennings with whom I had the work experience.
Anyway, the good news is that yesterday I received a conditional offer from Birmingham, and then in today's post there were conditionals from both UCL and Leicester. They are all asking for an A star and two As, so provided I get my grades I should have a choice where to go.
Connor already has a conditional offer from De Montfort for architecture, so if he goes there I will take up the offer from Leicester. Next week he has an interview at UCL, I hope he gets an offer there as it is a better school for both architecture and medicine so would be the best option for both of us.
Thanks for all your help and support.
p.s. Connor says to send his thanks as well.
Both Connor and Thomas would have their eighteenth birthdays in the coming weeks. Mark gave both boys vouchers for an intensive course of driving lessons. He also gave them both Tag Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5 Automatic watches, telling them that a gift of a good watch was the traditional gift on coming of age.
A couple of days after Thomas's birthday Mark suddenly felt giddy whilst preparing his breakfast. Fortunately, Krit was still in the house and found Mark slumped over the sink in the kitchen. A quick check showed that Mark had a very irregular heartbeat and Krit summoned an ambulance, and Mark was whisked off to hospital with Krit riding in the ambulance. Mark apologised for the trouble he was causing.
"Don't bother, Granddad, this is the quickest I've got into work for ages," Krit quipped as the ambulance blue-lighted its way through the rush hour traffic.
Krit texted Tim and Joan to let them know what had happened. Joan texted back to say she would be on the next plane back from LA where she was on a book signing tour. Tim arrived at the hospital shortly after Mark and Krit got there in the ambulance, having pulled out of a tutorial with his professor who had been very understanding when the circumstances had been explained. The professor had actually driven Tim to the Northern General Hospital.
Krit had also texted his boss on the way in to explain that he would be late and why. He was a bit surprised to see his boss and one of the consultant cardiologists waiting at A&E when they arrived. When he mentioned it to his boss, he was told they were having breakfast together in the coffee shop when the text arrived so they had come straight to A&E.
Mark's condition was quickly stabilised and he was moved to a bed in the cardiac ward. Once there he was visited by Tim and Krit, the latter now in his clinical garb with his hospital ID around his neck, so nobody challenged them for being there outside visiting times.
"So how bad is it?" Mark asked.
"It's bad, but not that bad," Krit responded. "They'll get you stabilised and we can look at how you go with medication. If that does not help then it will probably be a pacemaker. You are going to be in here for a few days, maybe a week or two.
"Joan is on her way back from LA and we will let my aunt and uncles know as soon as we get home, and we'll let the O'Mallys know," Tim stated.
"No you won't. I don't want the boys worried. They are in the middle of their exams, and it would only distract them. Use my email account and send them an email saying I will be away for a few days and out of contact. You can say I am going down to Joan and Richard's place in Nice. If you need to, you can phone Terry and tell him the truth but on no account must the boys know."
"OK, Granddad," Tim replied, "but what about the family?"
"They don't need to know yet, either. They would only be up here fussing when there is nothing they can do, and the last thing I want is your father here gloating and thinking about my will. That would be enough to finish me off."
In the end, Mark was in a bit longer than had initially been expected. He did not respond to medication as well has had been hoped and had an adverse reaction to one drug. Fortunately, a combination of medications was found that worked for him. There was, however, one side effect that caused the doctors to advise him that he should no longer drive whilst on the medication, and he was going to be on it for life.
When Joan came in to visit him he explained the situation.
"So," she asked, "what are we going to do with the cars?"
"Tim and Krit can have the Range Rover. They are already on the policy as drivers, so it should not be too much trouble to arrange insurance for them. They really need a second car as that mini they've got is not suitable for long trips.
"If you want it you can have the old Merc. Convertibles like that are not really practical here; they are much better suited to the south of France."
"No thanks, Dad," Joan responded. "I don't fancy parading along the Prom des Anglais for the paparazzi. That's more for the starlets."
"Then you'd better sell it. Contact Silverstone Auctions, they should be able to arrange a sale," Mark told her.
"The E-type as well?" Joan asked.
Mark thought about that for a minute or two then responded "No, contact Eagle and get them to arrange to have it mothballed, and then put it in storage."
"Dad," Joan commented, "that's going to cost a fortune."
"Joan, the amount that that car will appreciate each year is going to be far more than the storage cost. It's already worth nearly half as much again as I paid for it."
"What about the Hyundai?"
"Keep that, but make sure you, Tim, and Krit are all on the insurance. You will need to talk to the brokers about that, as I can't be down as a driver now though I am still the owner. I'll need something you can take me out in and the Santa Fe is a comfortable car and more economic than the Range Rover. It's also better for towing."
"Like we're going to be towing anything."
"Probably me in a Bath chair," Mark quipped.
On the Thursday of that week Tim drove the Range Rover over to the O'Mallys. It was just after five when Connor and Thomas came in, having been celebrating the end of their exams with their schoolmates, and Thomas called for Uncle Mark as he came through the door.
"He's not here, Thomas," Tim informed him.
"But his car?"
"I drove it over. I came to tell you that Granddad is in hospital."
"Why? What's happened?"
"He had a cardiac arrhythmia a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty close but luckily Krit was at home when it happened. They've only just managed to get him fully stabilised with medication."
"How come you didn't tell us?" Thomas accused him.
"Granddad's instructions—he did not want you boys to know till your exams had finished. Now, do you want to visit him?"
"Then you better grab some things. If we push it, we should be able to get to the hospital before the end of visits. You can stay overnight anyway and visit again tomorrow."
Two hours later they were seated at Mark's bedside.
"So how did your exams go?" Mark asked.
"Good," Connor responded.
"OK, I think," added Thomas.
"I hope a lot better than OK," Mark commented, "you need those grades, boy."
"I know I've done well in Biology, one of the questions was based on the case study Krit went over with me when we came over after Christmas. So I know I've got that, and the other questions were fairly straightforward, provided you had read the texts. Chemistry wasn't too bad either, at least nothing unexpected turned up.
"It's Maths that I am really worried about. I think I may have messed up on one of the questions. I was fairly certain the approach was to put it into a quadratic equation and solve it from there, but everybody else in the sixth form who did it approached it using simultaneous equations, so I may have messed up on it."
"There's nothing you can do about it now, so no point in worrying," Mark commented.
The boys' visit cheered Mark up no end, and he was discharged the following Monday with strict instructions to take life easy for a bit. That turned out to be easier said than done. Not being able to drive frustrated him no end as he could not get out and about when he wanted to. The days of jumping into the Eagle E-type and driving over to Walsall to see the boys or going off and driving the moorland roads were now in the past. He hated having to rely on Tim or Krit if he wanted to go anywhere and he also disliked disturbing their life by having them drive him around.
The other thing that annoyed him was not being able to do the work that was needed in the garden. For the first couple of weeks after he got out of hospital, Thomas and Connor stayed in Sheffield to help him. But they were already booked in for their intensive driving courses at the end of June and were then supposed to be going on a tour of European Roller Coaster rides with Tim and Krit. Mark had no intention of letting his illness upset those plans.
Eventually it was Krit who came up with a solution when he made a comment about the problem for part-time students finding work they could fit with their studies. Mark asked what he meant.
"Oh, Janet," Krit replied, "the lab secretary at work. Her daughter's on a part-time access course at the college. It's one of those morning-only courses. The idea is they can study in the morning and have a part-time job in the afternoon or evening with which to fund themselves. Unfortunately, the firm her daughter was working for has closed down and she can't find another job that will fit the hours."
"How old is she?"
"I think she is twenty-two or three. She dropped out of school at sixteen when she got pregnant, and now that the kid has started school she wants to get back into education."
"Well, if Janet's daughter can drive and she does not mind getting her hands dirty, tell get her to contact me."
So it was that a few days later Tara started to work for Mark as part-time gardener, driver, and general help. Mark and she agreed she would work from one to five Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, those being the days that her mother only worked mornings and so could pick Tara's son up from school.
Of course nothing worked out quite as planned, and it was not long before Mike, Tara's five-year-old, appeared at Mark's house and was quickly appropriated by Tim and Krit as somebody to spoil. Watching the two of them with the boy made Mark think that they would make ideal parents.
It was a couple of weeks after Tara had started working for Mark when Thomas phoned with the news that both Connor and he had passed their driving test first time. Mark immediately checked with Tara that she would be OK to work a bit later the next day and then told Thomas that he would be taking him and Connor out tomorrow afternoon.
By four o'clock the next day the two boys were the owners of an almost brand new Hyundai Tucson. Mark felt confident that he had not broken his word to Terry and Mary when he had finally told them he intended to buy the boys a car when they passed their test. He had assured them he would not splash out on anything new. The Hyundai was not new; it was ex-demo with just over three thousand on the clock.
Mark had also managed, through his broker, to get the car added onto his family multi-car insurance. Exactly how the broker had managed it was probably a bit questionable, but he had assured the insurance company that Thomas was a relative and as Thomas was using the same surname it made things easier. As a result, the insurance cost for the boys was a lot less than it would have been if the insurance had been in their own names.
Joan and Richard came to stay with Mark the first two weeks of August, whilst Tim, Krit, and the boys were exploring the delights of European roller coasters. Nothing had actually been said, but Mark had the feeling that the family was arranging things so he was never on his own. He found it a bit annoying but did appreciate the sentiment behind it.
Tim, Krit, and the boys returned on the Saturday afternoon and the whole of the Sunday was spent with the boys telling Mark all about it and showing him videos they had taken of the rides. Mark found just watching the videos stomach churning enough, and there was no way he wanted to experience the real thing, no matter how exciting it was. There was only so much excitement one could endure in a life. On Monday morning the boys returned to Walsall by way of Birmingham Airport where they dropped Jean and Richard off for their flight to Nice.
Copyright © 2016 Nigel Gordon – All rights reserved.