by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
Benny, Paul and Lor were co-opted into opening the new gym and indoor sports arena, Lucas and I the swimming pools. A Basketball fixture between the England squad and the American's opened the sports arena……..not telling you the final score but safe to say it was a pre-arranged publicity stunt with England winning by the smallest of margins! A gymnastics display featuring a handpicked group of English gymnasts which, naturally enough included Benny, opened the gymnasium. Our display was based around our Olympic routine but also featured high table stuff which fortunately we managed to find time to practice.
The Council's idea to name these stadiums after us was something we dismissed. The Pope-Carmichael Swimming Complex was too much of a mouthful as was The Ifield-Radcliffe Indoor Sports Arena although The Sorensen Gymnasium might've worked but anyway, none of us were keen on the idea so it got shelved in favour of all these facilities bearing the name 'Hawthorn Hill' this or that. The same thing with the Rugby Club and eventually the track and field arena thus making Hawthorn Hill a name synonymous with all things sports.
We had managed to sell or lease all the smaller plots to include a cycle shop, an airgun range, a restaurant that dedicated itself to serving only fish dishes and bizarrely, a mobility centre.
Now at first glance this seemed crazy but then thinking about it, all these sports arenas had excellent disabled access, the Park and Ride together with the Metro were disabled friendly so why not? This shop would also hire out mobility scooters on match and event days to people who normally didn't need them but saving them from the discomfort of standing for hours. It worked!
We were left with one very large plot which I rather hoped would be taken by someone who would build tennis courts but that was until Paul pointed out that Swinton Sports Club had already built two and whilst these were primarily for the use of their members, they would, given sufficient notice, issue temporary membership to the general public.
This bloody plot annoyed me! We didn't need the money, far from it but it was like the final link in the chain yet to be forged and anyway, there was this sodding great big gap in between the pub and the Adidas track and field thing that needed filling.
Help came from a very unlikely source. Saddlers Wells. You know? Dance, Ballet and all things musical theatre? Well if you didn't before you damn well do now! Anyway for the first time in their history that is apart from going on tour they felt the need to stray out into the provinces darling. They told us that while they had the Peacock Theatre and the Lilian Baylis, they needed to spread their message outside of London. Manchester was already well served and Birmingham was awash with culture so what better than to locate in the South West! I sort of got the impression that they viewed us as a bunch of manglewurzzle's that required educating in the finer things of life. Maybe they're right but it helped us out no end so they have the right to think what they like.
How does this fit in with the sports theme? Dead simple! Have you ever been to a Ballet? Those people have to be master athletes in their own right. Strong, agile, superbly fit as well as being masters and mistresses of dance and coordination.
No, it fitted in very well and not only that, my Mum would be overjoyed.
Job very well done, Jo headed back to her office in London's financial district. She had gained so much experience that she was immediately promoted with the offer of possibly being offered a partnership in her company within five years.
Taking everything into account such as our continuing sponsorship, income from Hawthorn Hill, the deduction of expenses to various competitions and training venues and so on, if we divided the pot equally five ways, we were each worth a little over eleven and a half million pounds and given that we all thought we'd have one more pop at the Olympics in 2024, this was bound to increase.
In June 2021, Dad announced his intention to retire. His firm had long since floated on the stock exchange and he was sick to death of boardroom bickering so he was going to take the money and run.
They intended to sell Cressingham Road. Jo and Simon were happy in their own place, we had enough money to buy something for ourselves so the house was something of a white elephant.
We began the process of looking at property.
Lucas and I sat down and thought about criteria.
Somewhere out of the city, period property, largish gardens, (I love my gardening, Lucas loves slobbing around in them), parking for five vehicles off-road, and no more than four bedrooms but spacious enough to hold parties!
We viewed loads of places but most had their drawbacks then we were invited to look around a house in Eastleach in the heart of the Cotswolds.
The village took some finding let alone the house! Fifteen properties including a pub, no church and all surrounded by peace and quiet.
Obviously a one-time farmhouse, it was much bigger than we'd expected. It did only have four bedrooms but they were all en-suite plus a huge bathroom on the same landing.
Downstairs comprised of a massive entrance hall with a beautiful lounge off to the right which overlooked both the front and rear gardens, a separate dining room in which was a huge table and ten chairs. This room also overlooked the rear garden through some ornate French windows. A study, a box room which was currently in use as a wine cellar, a games room complete with billiard table and a bar, a downstairs toilet and shower room then a massive kitchen and off that, a scullery.
The gardens were fabulous! Sitting in approximately two and a half acres, they had everything including a formal garden, vegetable garden, spaces to lose yourself in garden and so much more!
I was instantly sold but was Lucas?
Mrs Thompson made us a pot of tea then as we sat, she explained a few things.
"When my husband passed away five years ago, my intention was to hang on to the house. There was so much of our lives tied up in the place that sentiment clouded my judgement but it wasn't realistic. Why do I need such a big house? It was really too big for the two of us and we should have thought about moving after our children left home but again? Sentimentality won over.
I have been asked, no told that I should go and live with my daughter and son in law. They live in Alberta Canada. They have built an annex next to their home where I can live and have my independence but near enough if I need anything with the added attraction of seeing my grandchildren regularly.
My only concern is your age should you choose to buy it. To think that all our hard work in restoring this place to its original design could be torn apart for something modern and out of character would be unthinkable. I said I was sentimental."
"We couldn't, wouldn't do that. If you were to see the list of requirements then you'd understand that period property is what we're looking for and there's no chance of us doing anything other than maintain the character of the building."
"So are you interested then?"
Lucas looked at me but I already knew he was sold on the idea.
"Yes. Would you accept the asking price? Nine hundred thousand wasn't it? We're cash buyers, no chain to worry about, so?"
"Yes. That suits me down to the ground but there's one other matter. I will clear the house of furniture but I'd like to leave the dining table and chairs together with the sideboard. It came to us with the house and it's far too big to take to Canada. It goes with the place if you will."
"Well that would be great actually. What we have we could shift in a seven and a half ton van so we'll be starting from scratch. Not to have dining room furniture to worry about would be really good."
Two months on found us standing on the driveway of Eastleach House, our new home.
The others helped us move out pathetic collection of bits and pieces into the house before we cracked open a number of bottles to celebrate our purchase.
As we sat around talking to Paul, Benny, Millie and Lor went for a nose around but after they hadn't returned after almost three quarters of an hour, Lucas went to find them. He wasn't gone very long before he reappeared.
"I think you should come and see what Millie has found Andy. She's seriously about to give birth over it."
"Oh fuck. What now. Is it good or bad?"
"Good……..I think, but you better come and take a look for yourself."
He took us through to the dining room where we found Millie flat on her back under the sideboard.
"What are you looking at sweetheart?"
"You may well ask Andy. Have you any idea what you have here?"
"Yeah. I dining suit. An old dining suit. What of it?"
"It's a bloody Chippendale fucking dining suit you moron? Do you have any idea just how much this would fetch at auction?"
"Not the first idea and anyhow, what's Chippendale?"
"Not what? Who!"
"Oh, alright. Sooo……..starting afresh, who is Chippendale?"
"These are. I mean he was. Oh for Christ's sake!! Thomas Chippendale was a Master cabinet maker circa 1750ish most noted for his chairs but not exclusively as he would undertake commissions for other things such as this table and sideboard. He wasn't overly keen on this but not only was he a Master craftsman, he was obviously pretty active in the bedroom cos he fathered four sons and five daughters or was that the other way round, who cares but anyway, he fathered nine kids in total and he had to feed and clothe them hence the commissions."
"And what! You asked me who he was and I've told you!!"
"Yes I know but what's the significance?"
"Oh Andy? For someone so sweet you can be as thick as pigshit sometimes! Original Thomas Chippendale furniture is so sought after that it isn't even advertised. Lots of very good cabinet makers tried to copy him but none of them came halfway close to matching the shear quality of his work. The Irish came sort of close……..ish but still his uniqueness shone through and now proven originals can fetch tens of thousands of pounds just for a single item."
"So what you're saying is…….."
"Precisely! What you see here is a full dining set comprising ten chairs, a beautiful table and a sideboard which were most likely all part of one single commission. Jesus Andy? These could be worth a pissing fortune!"
"Oh shit. How do we go about getting them authenticated Millie?"
"I'll ask my Dad if you like. He's not a dealer, he restores antique furniture, even holds the Royal Warrant and carries out work for Buckingham Palace so he should know somebody."
"There can be no doubt. These are indeed genuine Chippendale and to be in possession of a set of ten identical chairs makes this collection almost unique. As for the sideboard and table, these aren't the sort of pieces he's best known for but as Millicent correctly guessed, what we see here was made for one single commission. Individually, the table and sideboard have a value somewhere in the order of twenty-five maybe thirty-five thousand pounds each but given that we can be certain that this collection of furniture was made to a single order, the value at auction would be somewhere in the region of two hundred and fifty to three hundred thousand. Do you have them insured?"
"Err……..no we don't. We didn't even realise what we had until Millie pointed it out."
"Then you should. They're irreplaceable but for insurance purposes, a value of four hundred thousand."
"How can you be sure that they were all part of a single order?"
"Legs. All the chair legs are identical and if you look carefully at the table legs you'll notice that the design is the same as is the legs on the sideboard. Once Chippendale had completed that commission, he'd make slight alterations to his design thus ensuring that no two commissions were the same. Are you thinking of selling them?"
"No definitely not. They're a part of the house and here they stay."
"I understand. I'll send a formal letter if authentication in the next couple of days. This is a lovely collection so please look after it."
"I think we'll be too frightened to use it actually!"
"Please don't be. He made these to be used, he had no idea he was creating a masterpiece so use them, enjoy them."
It didn't take us long to come to the realisation that we should make Mrs Thompson aware of the dining suit's pedigree and this Lucas volunteered to do.
We knew the name of the shipping company that had moved her so it was easy to get an address and phone number for her.
"Hello. Am I talking to Mrs Thompson please?"
"This is she."
"Mrs Thompson, this is Lucas Carmichael. Andy and I bought Eastleach House from you."
"Oh yes of course! How are you settling in?"
"Very well thanks. We love the place!"
"I'm so pleased. How can I help you?"
"Actually it concerns the dining suite. We know nothing about furniture although one of our friends, her father is a Master furniture restorer and anyway, she noticed something about the suit so we had it inspected by a professional. It turns out that the entire suit is genuine Chippendale and made as one single commission."
"Yes I realise that."
"You do? But Mrs Thompson, it's worth a fortune, we couldn't possibly accept it!"
"Look Mr Carmichael. I know of its value however I also know that it has become a part of Eastleach House and that is where it belongs. I have no need of the money it might raise, I am a wealthy woman in my own right. Tell me something. Do you and your friend like the furniture?"
"We love it. It looks right somehow but…….."
"No buts Mr Carmichael. I appreciate your honesty and I know that you intended to do the right thing by telling me of its providence and value. I don't want the suite, I have no need of it so please enjoy it. If it helps salve your conscience, if you decide to sell it, donate half the proceedings to a charity of your choosing however should you keep it then at some point sell the house, pass it on the new owners as I did to you and as did the owner before my husband and I did to us."
"Thank you but we'd never sell it. You're right, it should remain with the house."
"Good! Now if there's nothing else, I have friends waiting to take me out for dinner."
"Oh sorry. No that's it. I hope you enjoy your meal. Good bye."
Fast forward like three and a bit years.
"What's with Lor Paul? She's in and out of the house like someone's set fire to her ass."
"Yeah well, she's having a bad day Lucas."
"How do you mean by bad day? She's not ill or anything is she?"
"No nothing like that. She's most likely just puking up……..again."
"Shouldn't you go see if she's alright or something?"
"You must be joking! The last time I tried that she told me that if ever she was to see my dick again, it would most likely be the last time I saw it!"
"I'm sorry but I don't follow you."
"Morning sickness, afternoon sickness, evening sickness, night sickness……..she's four months pregnant you dummy!"
"Really! I had no idea! The last time I saw her at training she looked kinda normal, I mean she wasn't like showing."
"Her muscles are holding everything in but trust me, she's pregnant!"
"Well congratulations. Don't suppose you know was gender it is?"
"I'll let her tell you once she's taken her venom out on me for getting her knocked up!"
"She doesn't take it out on you does she?"
"On days like today, yes but she'll probably be okay tomorrow and she'll spend all her time apologising to me. Strange though, this never happened when she was pregnant with Emily? Talking of which, where the bloody hell is she?"
"Two guesses but I reckon you'll get it on the first!"
"Following Andy round the garden like a puppy dog maybe?"
"In one! She's besotted with him!"
"A lot of girls are weird! Sorry mate. No offence intended."
"None taken, mainly cos you're right! Can I tell you something that definitely isn't for Andy's ears?"
"Sure. Go ahead."
"You have got to be either blind or a fucking head case not to notice how he is around her? Even at home its Emily this and Emily that? Ever since you asked him to be her God Father he bangs on about her constantly."
"So are you jealous?"
"Jealous? Hell no! I think it's really sweet but what does concern me is this. Paul, he'd love to be a Dad, but it can't ever happen for him."
"Why on earth not? You and he could adopt? Gay and lesbian couples do it all the time these days?"
"Yeah I know but I get the impression that isn't what he wants. He wants a kid he can honestly say is his."
"Maybe, but it would have to be someone he knew not some stranger?"
"Food for thought. Leave it with me alright? It looks as if Andy's coming back."
Blissfully unaware of that conversation, I was spending quality time with my God daughter for fucks sake, I got back to the terrace to find Lucas and Paul both eyeing me cautiously.
"What gives? You both look like I caught you with your hands in the sweet tin."
"That means sodding 'something'! I can read you like a book Carmichael, something you ought to remember!"
"No really. We were just talking about how you and Emily are bonding. Nothing untoward. Her childhood innocence allowing her to take a real shine to you."
"Hey. I was innocent once then some damn Yank stole it from me!!"
"Yeah and you didn't even look over your shoulder pal!"
"So you chose a soft target. Anyhow, talking of Emily? Where's Lor?"
Paul didn't so much as splutter on his wine but rather coughed it up!
"Damn you Pope? I've been your friend since we were four years old and still you make me laugh!"
"First time I've seen you vomit up a good Valpolicella though!"
"Don't talk about vomiting, Lor's on her way back. Be a mate and go to the wine cellar? There's a bottle of Bubbly in the cooler cabinet. Lor eats better, keeps it down better after a few glasses."
She passed me as I walked through.
"You look a tad better?"
"I feel it! I'll be okay, I just need to apologise to Simon right now. You going to find some Champagne?"
"That was the general idea."
"Thanks Andy. Are you okay with Emily following you around like a troll?"
"What do you think!"
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