Garrison Fields

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Chapter 44 - The new generation

When you have stood at the edge of a precipice, and looked in, you may be consumed by it and never return, or be so fearful of the experience that you never wish to encounter it again. Or perhaps, you will fight to rise above it. This latter category Jane belonged to. Over the last several years she had visibly aged, there was grey where none had been present and the crow’s feet were starting to show ever so slightly around the corners of her eyes. Her eyes were as bright as ever and where youthful vigour was now leaving her; determination and strength of character had been born through her experiences.

There was only one feeling that she had constantly with her, a feeling that was never far from the surface and raised itself like a jackal. It gnawed into her and consumed her, this was guilt, the guilt of having been separated from her boys. No matter how hard she tried, this would never leave her, it was her failure. In her mind each time she looked back at those past years; she always had that spectre in her mind, “If only I had…” What if only, did not matter, what if, on that morning when Albert left, she had stopped him? If she wanted to, she could have stopped him.

She must have been a selfish stupid woman, only thinking of herself, she had brought tragedy on them all. She knew it was not true, but all the same she felt it. She would, after all, have needed to be clairvoyant to see into the future!

She loved Ted and hoped he would follow in his father’s footsteps. In the four years since Albert’s accident and subsequent death, Derek had bought a bigger and safer boat. It was not the sea that had killed Albert, just an unfortunate event. By the time Ted was of age to go out in all weathers, Derek would have him apprenticed to such a high level that, they both would be safe. Shuddering suddenly at the thought of an accident befalling them both. A resolution was made at that moment, that she would check and if necessary, question everything they did. She was not prepared to lose her another husband or a son.

What about Matt and Luke, what could she do for them? they had no intention of following in their father’s footsteps, they would have no trade, no apprenticeship, when they left the army. They would have no prospects indeed no future. Listening to the old soldiers in the General, had made her acutely aware, that there were no decent jobs for the unskilled. It seemed there were scarce few, even for skilled men. There was always talk of men being laid off, she knew only too well, from her own time standing in the throng waiting to be picked for casual work. There were always ten, more able and cheaper than the last to fill each position. What should she do?

The boys could only get a manual job down the shipyards, if they were lucky. Well, she knew from the men in her pub, skivvying down the yards only paid about twenty-three shillings a week. To think, twenty-three shillings a week and most of them with families. The children at the door waiting for their father’s, sent by their mothers on pay day, the poor children asking each man in turn at the door. “If mi da’ is in there, can you tell him mi mam wants him home.”

Yes, twenty-three shillings and she could take a couple of shillings for each pint poured. Most of them could drink the weeks money in one evening, that two shillings would have bought two dozen eggs for his family. No, this was not the life for her boys, she was not young anymore, she was her own woman. She always tried to help others, but she must look after her boys first, whatever that meant.

She had been building up to this for some time, her mind was now even more determined than ever. She had an opportunity now in front of her, the Dunbar’s were taking more and more time away from their pubs. Mrs Dunbar had said that by 1914 they wanted to have sold up and moved south to be near family in Devon for their retirement. She had let Jane know, as her friend, hoping that she would take the pubs, whilst believing that Jane’s plans would probably be to leave the General and look after her husband and boy, now she was married.

These thoughts shot through her brain, she placed her head in her hands, it was if her mind could take no more, she slowly raised her head. The mists that had obscured her thoughts had cleared; she knew what to do.

Four years to find the money to buy the pubs from the Dunbar’s. She would have them all, and more if she could. There would be no twenty-three shillings waiting for them, when they came home. They would know what they were coming home to, she would make it happen, Derek would support her. With her at the helm and Derek, she would have the General Wolf, the Royal Oak and God willing more. Her mind was set, when the boys had finished their service, she would be ready, after all 1914 was only four years away.

She steeled herself, it’ll be hard, but I can hardly wait. And by 1925, I’ll have Matt as Mayor, and Luke after him. They might say they were from the orphanage and his mother on Parish Relief. By God we’ll show them all, all those buggers on the orphanage committee. There’ll not be one of them in this town man enough to say it to their faces, not by the time I’m finished.

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