He was a nasty person, if not evil.
He was new on the board of the charity which owned the bungalows where I live. How he got onto the board I don't know, I have been voted onto the charity board three times, he was just nasty.
At every board meeting he demanded new rules to exclude people with “weak morals” such as unmarried couples or remarried couples. He meant me, but he did not name me directly.
One evening he made the mistake of visiting me with the hope of persuading me to leave – I think that he wanted my bungalow. Johnnie was there – Johnnie exploded – Johnnie threw him out.
The next two board meetings were surprisingly quiet – no nastiness.
“Him!” said Johnnie one Saturday, “I know who he is now. Look at this photo! I got it from the internet.” A devil in red clothing with a tail and a whip and a little girl. “Don't you recognise him? Next time he starts his ‘weak morals stuff’ give him this picture, and watch him disappear.”
He wasn't the prodigal son.
It was true – standing in front of me was my son Reginald. “Where have you been? I haven't seen you in over 40 years...”
“There was a coup, a violent revolution, we got out with just the clothes we were wearing, we are lucky to be alive. After all those years helping the local people in Krakaville, no gratitude, Hiabirtha and me had to come back to the home country, we have no money.”
I hadn't had an Xmas card or anything from him for years and where was Krakaville – some ex-colony on the other side of the planet.
Click! It went click in my head; I knew what was coming next.
“We've rented an apartment in the New Rivers Development.”
“Oh, very nice, Reg. Some friends of mine live there.” I knew that he hated being called Reg.
“But it's so small, it's only got one bedroom, Hiabirtha and me have to share it. It's below our status, there's no room for servants.” No, I wouldn't like to share a room with Hiabirtha, I wouldn't like to share a ballroom with Reg's awful wife.
“I would like to ask you if...”
“No, all I've got is a small pension, it pays the rent for this apartment, something to eat and little else.”
“What about the family home, Mother?”
“Reg, the truth is that when your Father, Mr Thimblethwaite, died he was broke. OK, I got the house, but it had a 90% mortgage on it, which I could not pay back with my little pension.”
“So I gave the house, or rather a tenth of it, to my granddaughter Florence; she's a doctor, you know. She's put a lot into it, I don't think that she would want to give it to an uncle who she has never seen.”
“Why don't you ask your sister Olive?” I knew that Olive hated Reg, he had borrowed money from her in the past and never paid it back. To be quite honest, I don't know why I don't hate him too.
Olive phoned me later. Reg had visited her, fortunately without “that awful cow of a wife, Hiabirtha”. He had suffered – the sad story of the escape from Krakaville – and he asked for money.
Olive said that she would not lend him money even if she had any. And she would not persuade her daughter to give her home to him. “You can't pay back the mortgage anyway. Or did you think that Florence would continue to pay that too?”
Just then George, Olive's very quiet husband, returned home. He worked for the government, he knew a lot about Krakaville, he knew more than he needed to know about Reg, he wasn't going to be quiet. He explained:
“There wasn't a coup, no violence, just an ordinary election. The anti-corruption party won and did what they said they would do. All the overpaid and underworked and corrupt managers in the Krakaville civil service were fired; all their expensive and grand villas were confiscated to pay back their long outstanding debts; and they were dumped on the next plane to the home country.”
“I must say, that our government has been very kind to them. Each of them has received a small government pension, with the condition that they keep quiet about Krakaville.”
“If the pension is not enough, why don't you get a job. I'm your age and I have got one.”
The idea of working must have made Reg feel ill, he had to leave, we have not seen him since.
Remarried couples should abstain from sex, [the] Philadelphia Catholic church says. [They should] abstain from sex and live out their relationships like “brother and sister”.
Father James was new in town, he was very strict and wanted to make a name for himself. He announced that he would publish a list of sins – this sounded OK, a good chance to find out what we're missing out on.
But no, it was to be a list of people – names in the left column and sins in the right. And for some reason Johnnie and me were to be at the top of the list.
I explained to Father James that we were not remarried, not divorced and not married. And we were definitely not brother and sister, definitely no incest. We're not even in the Catholic church.
But no, Father James would not change his mind, he said that we should replant. He was going to hang the list on the railings around his church.
I told Johnnie, who laughed. “Repent, not replant! I don't care if the idiot hangs up a list with my name on it...” “But I do.”
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. OK, granny, I'll talk to Larry about it, he is a lawyer.”
“I'll think of something. It's got to be stopped, for granny and also for Father James, a list like that won't help him.”
We were down the pub, granny and me, Olive, George and Florence, when Larry said that he had written a letter to Father James. He praised Father James for the list and said that it would set a good example – just what the people in the town needed.
However a warning – without evidence Father James could be sued for libel. But help was at hand – he as a lawyer had often obtained evidence using a camera and he could teach Father James to obtain evidence using a camera – no charge – it was for a good cause.
“I posted it yesterday, but I had accidentally addressed it to the bishop. Father James got onto a train to the other end of this country this morning.”
“Great! That means no list, doesn't it?”
“Great, Larry!” I said. “Let's all go to the Pig and Ferkel for dinner; I'm paying.”