It's Gill With a 'G'
Copyright© 2010 by Texrep
I would be a pariah in advertising in London for quite some time. I thought long and hard. I had little choice, but return to Birmingham and try and pick up some free-lance work there. There was always an undercurrent of suspicion in Birmingham circles about London practices and ideas. Anyone who was infra-dig in London couldn't be all bad according to Birmingham. Londoners called it jealousy, Brummies called it common sense or shrewd. The silver lining that came with the dark cloud was that phenomenon called a housing boom. Property within easy reach of London was in demand. I put my house on the market, and was inundated with offers. I accepted the first good offer and couldn't believe how much the value had rocketed. Then the agent came back and said he had another offer, which was ten thousand over and above the first. I said no, I had already accepted the first offer. He could not believe it. His idea was to milk it for all it was worth, promising me that within a week I would be offered at least another ten on that. Me? I was brought up to believe that a man's word was his bond. I refused all later offers and stayed with the first. I had to sleep at nights. Another lesson, integrity costs you money!
Even after settling the mortgage, I had capital of about sixty thousand. I moved back to Birmingham in early spring, staying with my parents and started looking for work. I roughed out a C.V. and took it to a typing agency, who typed it and photo-copied it, with twenty copies. The woman who ran the agency called me just as I was leaving.
"Mr. Gresham, do you think I could have a word?" I nodded and walked over to her. She invited me into her office. She offered me coffee and got to her reason for asking me to chat.
"Mr. Gresham, I couldn't help noticing your C.V. I have rarely seen one so succinct and inviting a positive response. I assume that your Honours degree from Cambridge would explain that." I thanked her for the compliment and waited for her to go on. "A lot of the work we do is from small companies. Usually just run of the mill typing, but some of them are getting small adverts set up to run in the local papers. These are small businesses, self-employed people, who don't have the knowledge or expertise to set out an advert and make it interesting enough to catch people's attention." I knew exactly what she was saying. I had seen these little adverts in papers, and could see at a glance that few of them had any chance of success. I said this as I agreed with her, but as she hadn't introduced herself I had no name.
"Oh I am sorry. I am Mrs. Holden. Ruth Holden." She was embarrassed at her slip. "I wondered, Mr Gresham, if you would be prepared to run your eye over some of these adverts as we get them and, shall we say, put a polish on them."
"I could do that. But as you see I am looking for work in the Advertising industry, and I doubt that I would have time for that."
"Yes of course." She replied. "I do understand. But I would be willing to pay you. I could offer my clients a service at a little extra cost. I am sure that most of them would be happy, if their adverts had that professional shine to them."
"Let me think about it, Mrs. Holden. I'll get back to you shortly and let you know."
I spent the rest of the day, mailing out my C.V. to the agencies I knew of, those who had no connection with Wellman Goff. I gave Mrs. Holden's offer some thought and rejected the idea. What she wanted was a greater income from her typing jobs with no additional cost. I could probably do the work very quickly, but I was sure that Mrs. Holden wouldn't want to pay me professional rates. I had learned something, don't sell yourself short.
Dad asked me if I would like to walk down to the 'Horse and Jockey' that evening for a pint. I was happy with that, and after dinner, we took a leisurely stroll over the hill and down to the road junction where the pub was. I had a moment's quiet as we got to the junction, as the bus stop where I had first seen Gill was just fifty yards along the main road. Memories crowded back into my mind.
At first I thought dad had an ulterior motive for suggesting this, but no. All he wanted was a quiet convivial drink. That is what we had until suddenly a hand clapped on my shoulder.
"Andy? What the hell are you doing here? We all thought that you were off in London living the life." It was Barry Mason, one of the crowd that I knew when Gill and I socialised.
"Barry! Good to see you. What are you doing with yourself these days?" Dad interrupted to tell me he was going to go and chat with a friend, explaining.
"Roger took a fiver off me at Golf last week. I need to set up a return and get it back. I won't be long." I turned back to Barry and we did the catch up bit. Along the way he expressed surprise at the divorce.
"None of us could understand that, Andy. You and Gill were so right for each other."
"That's what I thought. But Gill found this bloke and went to be with him. End of story." Barry was shaking his head.
"From what I have heard, she isn't living with anyone."
"She must be."
"No, Andy. I am certain of that. From what Becky said she has never lived with anyone since you and she parted." This was astonishing. Her boss at the revenue offices had confirmed that she was there with Berryman. She had replied to all letters from my solicitor from his address. She didn't get her own solicitor, seemingly accepting her guilt and similarly accepting her fate. I still had copies of the correspondence. Becky was Barry's wife, and although she didn't work for the revenue, did work for an accountant, and had frequent contact with Gill and her co workers. I decided not to pursue this further, but I also determined that on Saturday afternoon I would go and find out for myself. Perhaps I could finally kill this ache inside me.
I drove over to Stechford on that Saturday afternoon about two-thirty. I found the address and was immediately dismayed. This was a Victorian house, converted into flats. The paint peeled from the woodwork, the front garden was full of overflowing dustbins, with only little tufts of grass braving the hazards of the rubbish. The glass in the windows was dirty and smeared. Gill was living here? The only saving grace was the buzzer system for the four flats. I pressed number three. There was no response, so I pressed again. Suddenly there was a click from the speaker box and a disembodied voice asked.
"Who do you want?"
"I was calling flat three, looking for Gill."
"Oh you want Gill Gresham. She's not in. I saw her go out about an hour ago. She is probably shopping. She shouldn't be long." Click! The woman cut off. I went back to the car, undecided whether to wait or not. "Give it half an hour." I told myself. Then it struck me. She was still using my name! Now there was no reason for a divorced woman to go back to her maiden name, but I had convinced myself that Gill would be Mrs. Perryman by this time. The thoughts tumbled through my mind. I waited half an hour then decided to wait another half an hour, there was a dilemma here and if I could, I wanted some explanation.
Ten minutes later I saw her. She was a long way down the road, too far away for recognition, but my senses knew it was her. She was holding the hand of a young child! As she got closer I saw her attitude, one of weariness, melancholy, sadness and defeat. My heart went out to her. I hadn't got out of the car yet, but she looked up and fixed on the car as if she knew there was something there for her attention. She drew close, keeping her gaze on the car. I got out. She looked shocked at first then gave me a wan smile.
"Hello Gill. How are you?"
"How do I look?" I shook my head from side to side. There was no need for an answer. She understood exactly how she looked.
"Why are you here? Have you come to gloat?"
"No Gill. You should know me better than that." Her bitterness had overcome her natural disposition.
"Yes. I do. I'm sorry for saying that. Understanding and compassion were instinctive to you." The child, it was a little girl, I assumed to be Perryman's daughter watched this exchange with a serious expression. Gill bent down to her.