Colin's Cornucopia

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Chapter 10


Colin sat on the 707 and cried silently as the plane flew over the dark landscape of springtime Labrador. He did no know why he cried. He thought briefly of Mary and some of the other girls he had known but their memory evoked neither pain nor pleasure. He cried for himself. He had left England and his old life to start a new life in Canada and had found freedom and pleasure. He had grown up in many ways. He had experience of many of the ways of the world but he felt slightly cheated. He was going back to live in England of his own choice but he felt he ought to have done more. More of what he could not quite understand.

The swinging sixties had come and gone and nothing had changed except serious cracks were beginning to appear in the World. Colin had long been aware of the damage done by the technology he loved and used so well and now the environment was beginning to become an international concern greater than the threat of the atom bomb. Western populations that had expanded for centuries were stabilizing or declining. They had all watched enthralled when men had gone to the moon; and then found that the earth continued its orbit much the same. Los Angeles had disappeared under a blanket of smog and many other cities were following rapidly. There would be dire consequences for population if they did not find more oil and dire consequences for the environment if they did. Science and Technology had lost none of its intrinsic magic but it no longer seemed that the future might be brightened by it. He had no regrets but wept silently until they were well out into the Atlantic and his beloved Canada had long since disappeared.

Colin had made the decision to return home when his brother had left the Royal Navy to take over the family business. Father wanted to retire and Peter had written to ask if Colin was interested in joining him. It had taken Colin only a few days to decide that he would. He paid a last visit to his friend Andre who had given him only one piece of advice. “Make sure that your partnership is split exactly 50:50.

His wife had not showed any great emotion at his decision but he had long been aware of her homesickness and dislike of her lot in this strange country. He knew she would have no regrets.

He was familiar with the grey of the May morning in London but was amazed at the acceleration of the electric locomotive which sped him home. The countryside was so green. It filled his senses and surprised him. His mother met him at the station and took him to his parent’s house. She had had lodgers from the local polytechnic for several years. When Colin had said he was coming home they all left within a few days. It was Cup Final day and Leeds United were about to win the Cup. He was not a soccer fan but was pleased to see his children with their cousin playing football in the garden and running round the house like banshees shouting for Leeds United. He knew why he had come home.

They had considerable savings. They had inherited a reasonable amount from her father and had increased it with their ownership of their first house. He had saved much in Canada and they had several thousand pounds cash in the bank - but not quite enough to buy a house. As he had not got a job he could not get a mortgage so he started looking for a job. It took him took him five months and in that time the cost of houses in the UK had virtually doubled. They had missed the boat by six months.

He enjoyed his summer. He did up his father’s old car and they used it for many outings. Eventually he received three job offers in the same week and all for identical salaries. He took one in a local plant of a major American car manufacturer and stayed there for two years while he established himself.

While looking for work he had been struck on several occasions by the amazing amount of class distinction in British factories. This was especially prevalent in the eating arrangements. In one case he had been entertained on the top floor of a tower block in a plush suite where the menu was A La Carte and there were two waitresses to each customer. On the floor below there was a good quality restaurant for managers. Out in the yard was a large canteen with a section for monthly staff and a much larger and filthy section for the overall-clad workers.

In Canada he had become used to eating and talking to all sections of the workforce. In every factory or office there was one cafeteria and everyone ate there. There was only one rule - no overalls were allowed. One day you might be sitting next to the floor sweeper and the next day enjoying a chat with the President. The only concession to this was when important visitors might have a table reserved for them in a corner of the room.

The gross and blatant discrimination exhibited by almost every company he went to shocked Colin. He found it objectionable. At one interview on a blazing hot day his host had to ask the head of a dining table if they might remove their jackets before sitting down. Colin very nearly walked out on the spot. Such artificial impositions of “position”, used as substitutes for merit, have ever since got right up Colin’s nose. The implied notions of caste are fundamentally objectionable. He was well aware that this system was imposed as much by the lower classes as the higher; but that did not lessen its noxiousness.

Colin’s father had developed emphysema as a result of smoking 30 Woodbines a day for most of his life. The winters had become unbearable for him. He spent most of January and February in bed. For several years they had taken several weeks holiday in Tenerife to escape the worst weather but even that was no longer a sufficient respite. Colin’s sister had lived in Cape Town for six years and was now well established. Mother and father had visited and been very impressed. Father took stock of his assets at retirement and they decided to emigrate.

The brothers hired a van and the whole extended family took them to London in December of that year. Father could not even carry his own suitcase to the check-in but recovered well in the benign climate and worked for several years and lived for ten years. Had he stayed in Britain he would probably not have survived the coming winter.


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