Mid-February to March 2009
Life really can turn on a sixpence. For good or ill.
More often for ill, alas: a child runs into the road; a horse stumbles jumping a gate. Much more likely than the unexpected promotion; the selling of film-rights or silly advance. And they say a Lottery jackpot seldom brings happiness…
How often, over those weeks, I thought of that tenner I threw away on the Lotto, so low I was... and smiled at my folly.
How God must have laughed the more: I was always minded to give you a windfall... but not with a raffle ticket, you nit-wit! (Does God talk like that? Not to Abram maybe – though he could be a pretty spectacular NW, couldn’t he? – but quite possibly to me.)
It’s not how God does miracles. A brilliant lawyer; a conscientious doctor; a lot of work and dedication. After all, haven’t we seen a miracle this last year, with Bink?
And how dramatically our lives had been turned, in those two evenings we’d spent at the Manor House!
As we thought back to that bizarre Monday night, wondering why the church gave us the money anyway – surely they knew enough, now, to guess Shaun might have a new post – we decided his so endearing anti-bartering, arguing himself out of n figures before I could jump in and stop him, had worked in his favour. A higher amount would have been harder to justify.
And of course Pinky and Perky had spent the intervening week lobbying to vote us out: perhaps not so easy to turn round thirty-five independent-minded professionals.
And they didn’t absolutely know Shaun had a new job. Suppose they voted against… and found themselves stuck with us?
Someone who’d been there told us his argument. “For goodness’ sake, let the Atkinses have it! it’s not a huge amount, is it?" (Not to him, maybe…)
“It’s only money.”
As I thought of Mark’s genius in changing our lives so dramatically (by the way, never tangle with your lawyer: apparently an earlier post accused him of split infinities, so he is now offering different paradises as part of his services); and remembered his words, “You aren’t doing anything wrong”; and was tempted yet again to feel guilty at taking money from a church, I considered what money could do.
It was the kind of church always into swanky building projects: some churches are. That money wouldn’t have educated three dozen children in the developing world.
It would have provided an extra loo in the new church hall.
That, or my parents’ last years with us.
I couldn’t really feel guilty, could I?
We put an offer on the only house we’d looked at, the one I’d found on the internet. It reminded me of my childhood home: I needed no more. And had come down in price by a third, on the market for several years.
We had no idea about mortgages. For all we knew, it was twice what we could afford. Or half.
Then the most enjoyable job of all. I wrote to my parents, inviting them to live with us. I showed it to Shaun and he added a PS: how much pleasure it would give us.
So thoughtful. It hadn’t occurred to me.
My parents have always been careful. Independent. Conscientious. Would mull for months. Perhaps give a tentative answer by Christmas.
The next day, Saturday, a blissful lie-in: no more to strive for. Only our move and new life to look forward to.
Tea and books in bed.
Shortly after nine, the post not long arrived, my parents on the telephone: both of them, different extensions.
“Yes,” they both said. “Please.”
They must have been desperate. For so long…
Rather late in the day, I asked everyone. Are you ok with Granny and Grandfather living with us?
Alex was home for Easter. (Having left Cambridge University for lack of disability support, he’d moved to Bristol and was loving it.)
He had no idea what we’d been through. Accusations, threats, terror, midnight reversal.
“All this?” he said. “And I knew nothing?”
“You said you didn’t want to,” I reminded him. “Worry. If you couldn’t help.”
“That’s right,” he said. “I didn’t.”
We had discussed how long it would take Alex to notice, if he came home and we’d all moved out, left for Bedford, not troubled to tell him.
“A few weeks?” Ben hazarded. “He’d bump into Joanna or Mensun in the street eventually, and ask if they’d seen us anywhere.”
“Why do you ask?” Alex said. “Whether they should move in with us? Why does it need asking?”
“Well… we try to act by consensus, don’t we? Old people can become pretty demanding, to look after. It’s your home.”
(When they were much younger, I’d invited Shaun’s father to live with us, in our London vicarage, when he’d been homeless. Very sadly, two years later we’d had to ask him to leave. Alex, aged five, had climbed into his bed at dawn, and when asked why, said, “I wanted a cuddle, Granddad. Before you’re too drunk in the day.”
So we’d learnt that children’s needs must always be put before parents’.)
Now Alexander applied his flawless Aspergic logic.
“Either they won’t need much. In which case they’ll be no trouble. Or they will, in which case they need us.
“So yes. Either way.