As one always does, we thought of ourselves as immortal, so Sam's coronary at the age of fifty-two came like a bolt from the blue. With doctors warning of another one being imminent if hedidn't change a lifestyle which involved too much traveling, too much entertaining of clients and too little exercise, we returned to England in the summer of '99 with no employment and a couple ofboys in their late teens who had never seen their homeland.
For no particular reason except that we'd spent our honeymoon in Dorset in '76, we decided to rent an old farmhouse near Dorchester whichI found among the property ads in the Sunday Times before we left Cape Town. The idea was to have an extended summer holiday while we looked around for somewhere more permanent to settle. Neither ofus had connections with any particular part of England. My husband's parents were dead and my own parents had retired to the neighbouring county of Devon and the balmy climate of Torquay. We enrolledthe boys at college for the autumn and set out to rediscover our roots. We'd done well during our time abroad and there was no immediate hurry for either of us to find a job. Or so we imagined.
"Doyou get the feeling we've been left behind?" Sam asked glumly at the end of our first week as we sat like a couple of pensioners on the patio of our rented farmhouse, watching some horses graze in anearby paddock.
"By the boys."
"That we'd made a killing on the Hong Kong stock market before it reverted to China and could afford to take early retirement. I also said we were buying aneight-bedroom house and a hundred acres in Dorset."
"Mm." I used my foot to stir some clumps of grass growing between the cracks in the patio which were symptomatic of the air of tired neglect thatpervaded the whole property. "A brick box on a modern development more likely. I had a look in an estate-agent's window yesterday and anything of any size is well outside our price range. Something like...