Thursday, December 9, 2010

57. Tom arrives and father departs

Tom arrived to a great family welcome, and soon began looking for work. His RAF pension could not be remitted to Rhodesia, sanctions again, although we were able to do a few ‘deals’ from time to time in order to survive. Because of Tom’s great experience in securing military installations, the Rhodesian Government were very interested in him and wanted to offer him a very senior position. Unfortunately, because of UDI and his recent connection to the British Government, he was considered a “Security Risk” and, reluctantly, they turned him down. It was a pity, because his allegiance to Her Majesty would not have caused a conflict of interest. Instead he accepted a job with Meikles Department Store as Chief of Security, but they really took advantage of him and made him responsible for the transport department and the African messengers, as well as making him buyer for the stationary and toy departments. He worked seven days a week, sometimes sixteen hours a day. The situation was untenable. He became very depressed and could not adjust to civilian life. He missed his work and his friends and also, as we discovered later, his health was failing. He would not discuss the possibility of returning to England where he might have worked for Air Ministry as an investigator in a civilian capacity. All in all, things were not going well for the two of us.

Tom was considering taking out an insurance policy with the good old Prudential, and when the agent called for the final signing of the papers and I told him that Tom was not happy at Meikles and might even return to England he said that Tom was exactly the man they were looking for to fill the vacant position of Office Manager. And so in September 1974 Tom left Meikles, with a beautiful, engraved silver water jug as a parting gift, and moved across the road to the Prudential. He seemed happier in an administrative position and, as usual, all the women loved him.

My father was admitted to hospital because he could not sleep at all and the doctor wanted to put him on medication to restore a sleeping pattern. I visited him one afternoon and he seemed his usual self. He thanked me for coming and squeezed my hand with his powerful fist. The following afternoon mother went to visit him with Maureen and they came to me immediately afterwards. Mother looked shocked and said “He’s gone!” I replied, “Gone where!” assuming that he had discharged himself from the hospital. “He’s dead!” she answered. I was speechless. His death was quite unexpected. The thing I had prayed for so passionately as a child had at last happened, but I felt no joy.

We were surprised at the number of people who attended his funeral at the crematorium. We knew very few of them, so they must have been his drinking buddies. My reaction during the service was one of surprise at the size of the coffin which seemed much too small to contain my father who had been a large man. After the funeral I went alone to the Hillside Dams and sobbed. Sobbed for the lonely, unloved, unbalanced man who dearly wanted to be loved by his family but was destined to destroy everything that came his way.

Father left nothing but debts and an old Woolsey motor car. During the NuCell years, money had just poured through the letter box. He had owned two Jaguars, taken cruises to Madiera and spent money on his drinking buddies, but not on his family. Now the Bank Manager wanted to call in the large overdraft. I went to see him and said “If you call in this loan in, my mother will lose her home and you will still not recover the amount that you are owed. Give me six months with the business. I will cut down on advertising, run the company the way I have always run my housekeeping accounts, and I promise you, you will get your money.” He agreed.

Within six months all father’s debts were paid, plus there was a bit of money for mother. But then the pharmaceutical company who made Nu Cell failed to renew the licence with the Drugs Control Board and I did not think our bottling procedure would meet their standards if examined too closely. The Advertising Counsel was cracking down on advertisements which made unsubstantiated claims for merchandise etc., and although there was nothing incorrect about the claims made for NuCell as a good vitamin pill, the suggested benefits for Dr.Schnapple pills were a bit questionable. Anyway, I was sick of hearing about men’s difficulties with their little Johnnies, and so once all the stock was finished, I closed the business down. I still had a full time job, the children, Jeni and now Tom to think about, there were five of us to cook for and look after and that was enough. Jeni was still working the night shift.

My wine making enterprise was expanding and I had pretty well taken over the garage with the glooping, five gallon casks, but one day I returned home unexpectedly and found the gardener selling the wine by the mug at the back door and then filling the casks up with water. That was the reason the wine had stopped fermenting and was clearing so quickly! Some of it could be reactivated, but a great deal had to be thrown away so I was very cross. Later I caught him red handed, stealing money from my purse, so I fired him. He packed his stuff in the 'kia' (servant's quarters) and then came into the house and asked Tom for a lift! Tom, being the old softie that he was, packed the boxes into the car and drove the man all the way to the township where he lived. Tom did not feel so magnanimous later when he found his gold cufflinks, 22ct gold no less, had been stolen along with a Rolex watch.

And all this time where was Tommy? Good question. We heard from him from time to time, he could be in England, or Holland or Germany, sometimes his dreams almost came true, but more often his hopes were dashed by unscrupulous agents and recording companies. He wrote beautiful songs and lyrics that the company never used, and which his contract forbade him to promote himself. He spent two years on a remote Greek island, composing, writing and playing his guitar; living the simple life in a little house without electricity or water, eating mainly fish and earning a little money by doing odd jobs for the local people. One thing he made quite clear, he would not visit us in an African country where the natives were ill treated etc. etc. and so he never saw our beautiful Rhodesia.

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