It's Gill With a 'G'
Copyright© 2010 by Texrep
Life was now empty. Six months ago it was full of absolutes, the love I bore for Gill, the love she had for me, the wonderful vista of our life together, stretching far into the future, the planning of a family. All these were gone except one, the love I had for Gill. Despite what had happened, despite my divorcing her, I still had love for her. Why? Why could I not take a knife and cut it out of me, like a surgeon would cut out a growth. Perhaps it was because we had grown together, from the age of seventeen until now. Eleven years we had, thinking together, planning together and talking together, always talking. I knew Gill as I knew myself, and she knew me. That was why when I asked her if she had sex with Berryman, she told the truth. I would have known if she lied. I knew Gill. Lying would have been the ultimate disrespect, and she would not have done that. Perhaps that said something, that she still had some regard for me. I don't know, and that is the essence of my problem. I don't know what I did wrong, I don't know why she was intimate with this man, I don't know why she couldn't tell me what was wrong in our relationship. I don't know why she went straight to him. There was so much I didn't understand, about her actions, and equally about mine. But I still loved her, I cried.
I had recovered from the trauma of these events sufficiently to be able to work well. The evidence of that was an invitation to lunch with one of the partners. Alex Wellman had been in the States for some time, and understood their attitude towards advertising. He had brought this knowledge back to the UK and set up this agency, Wellman Goff and Co. Who the Goff was, no one knew. I arrived at the Penns Hall Hotel, where he was staying and where our lunch appointment was. I told reception I was there, and they paged him.
"Andy." He approached me with a smile and a hand outstretched to shake mine. "It's great to see you. Come on in, we'll have a drink before lunch."
"Thank you Mr. Wellman."
"Hey, none of that Mr. Wellman my name is Alex." We had drinks at the bar, and then went in for a superb lunch. Our talk was casual until we got to coffee.
"Andy, I know about your personal problem, but I hope that is behind you now." I acknowledged that it was. "Good. We like your work. Some of the copy you have come up with is sensational. It hits hard, but in a very subtle way. Fantastic! Now we want you to take the next step, and join us in London, working on national schemes. There's going to be a change coming in TV advertising, we are looking at making a series that plugs the product, but draws the viewers in because there is a story being told. In effect we will be making a drama that will entertain as well as sell. So we will need the best dialogue, written by the best writer we have, and Andy, that's you. What do you think?" My mind was tumbling over the possibilities, an opportunity and another chance. Not because of the work, my thoughts were about getting away from Birmingham and the memories, starting afresh somewhere else. The job was secondary.
"I like the idea, Alex. Is this a firm offer?"
"Yes, Andy. We want you there. You get a great rise, London weighting allowance, and we will pay all your legal costs for the move. What do you say?"
"It all sounds very good to me. What salary am I looking at?" He got out a piece of paper, and wrote down a figure, then showed it to me. I was shocked for a moment it was a lot!
"Did you put the comma in the wrong place?" I asked cheekily. Alex laughed.
"That, Andy is exactly why we want you. That throwaway remark that asks a question, yet contains humour, and says in one second what others would need a minute for. Yes, the comma is in the right place. Do a good job for us, and I will move the comma the right way for you." He held out his hand. "Do we have a deal?" I took his hand and shook.
"Yes, Alex. You've got yourself a dramatist."
I put the house on the market, packed up everything I wanted to take and within a month I had moved down to London. The office was close to Fleet Street, Apt I thought, as contact with the press was important to the advertising industry. Some would say the two biggest fantasists in one place. Alex had arranged a hotel room for me, just off the Bayswater Road. The arrangement was that the company would pay for three months, after that I had to foot the bill. The house in Erdington sold quite quickly. I offered my dad the deposit he had made for us, but he indignantly refused. So I wrote a cheque for half the profit and sent it to Gill through my solicitor. There was nothing in the settlement covering this, but it made me feel better, and it was a subtle way of reminding Gill, that I still had her in mind.
The next weekend I went looking for a home. Giving consideration to the housing market, which appeared to be gathering strength at that time, I wanted to buy in an area that was cool, but could possibly become hot in a few years. That meant East London. Not the environs of the City, or the inner city, but out in Essex, beyond the belt of social housing developed in the thirties. I found the place in Upminster. A three bedroom semi-detached property, looking a little bit the worse for wear and priced accordingly. Upminster was perfect for me as the District line Underground ran from there to Temple station, just a few minutes' walk from the office. The journey took about forty minutes. My salary got me the mortgage easily, and I was also given a bank loan to make the renovations to the house. I put in central heating, and had an extension over the garage in effect turning it into a four bed roomed home.
London was a surprising place after Birmingham. The most obvious difference was that in Birmingham life stopped at ten-thirty at night. The buses stopped, except for the night service which ran mostly every hour. The cinemas turned out at ten-fifteen, presumably so their patrons could catch the last regular service bus home. The pubs called last orders at ten-thirty. There were no night clubs. The Chairman of the licensing committee was a Methodist and refused to grant a licence for late night drinking.
'The Smoke' as London was usually called affectionately, sometimes disparagingly was completely different. Life didn't start until ten-thirty. Walk the streets at that time and they were almost as full as rush hour, but with people, and not all young people, enjoying themselves. It took me some time to get used to, but as I was working many odd hours I got to see the place at all hours of the clock. Once I was settled I started to go out a bit. Now for me the theatre, the Opera, and the Ballet were the attraction. I did invite some rather beautiful young ladies to accompany me, finding sadly that there was little enjoyment being with someone who did not share your interests. They were usually budding actresses who found commercial work while waiting for their big break. Sitting in the Stalls at the Ballet, with a lady who was not a good enough actress to disguise her yawns of boredom highlighted the tie I had had with Gill. We had often gone to Stratford on Avon to the Memorial Theatre. Gill and I would watch enthralled, and at the interval would be so full of what we had seen, that the bell warning of the second half would come before we had time to drink our coffee. After my evenings in London I would get home with sadness and regret for what I had lost. I no longer had my natural half to talk to.
My work went well. I was enjoying myself as I was creating something with these commercials instead of just thinking up snappy phrases to go with a five second slot. Three and then four years went by so quickly that I hardly realised that I was settling into the fabric of the agency, becoming one of the pillars that held the thing together. I was reminded of that when out of the blue I got a letter from a recruitment agency. They were actually head-hunters, and I had been targeted as the right person for a rival advertising agency. I went along to see what they had to say, and they laid the package out for me in writing. I asked Alex's secretary if I could see him the day after I had the offer. I had no intention of blackmailing him. My motives were honourable although later I realised that he didn't quite see it that way. I laid the correspondence out for him to read, so that he could see I had not instigated this. He read them carefully.
"OK, Andy. Are you giving me your notice?"