Wilf Thackeray leaves home

Wilf Thackeray looked out through the rain-spotted panes of his parlour over the back garden with its four apple trees marching smartly abreast behind the neat ranks of raspberry bushes, currant bushes and gooseberry bushes, with the solitary pear tree nearest the house, like a sergeant-major at the front of his troops.

This was the hard part of leaving his home, he thought.  Who would now look after the garden?  Not that it was as tidy as it used to be, when his wife, Maisie, had looked after it.  If you looked closer at the troops in the garden you could see the signs of neglect:  unclipped shoots, wrinkled fruit from last season.  Maisie would never have allowed that.

She used to take the fruit and make apple pies and must, currant jelly, raspberry and gooseberry jams, and she made something from the blackberries in the forest behind the fence.  The pears they simply ate as they came from the tree.

Busy for weeks, she was, in the autumn.  Much of what she made went to friends in the village, nicely packed, mostly in little glass jars with a bit of ribbon round.  Some of it went to the church harvest festival where it was auctioned for the benefit of local charities.  But there was always enough left to see them through the year until autumn came round again.

He missed Maisie.  Fifty good years they had had together.  Celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in the summer, and by Advent she was gone, just like that, no warning, no illness.  Just didn't get up one morning, and when he shook her she was already cold.  He had sat there looking at her.  Beautiful she was, as beautiful as the day he'd married her.  And lying there so peacefully.

After an hour he had gone down to the kitchen, still dry-eyed, and it was only when he went to call her that he realised he had made breakfast for two, but only one person was going to eat it.  So he called the health centre, pressed four when encouraged to do so, and left a message asking the doctor to call, which, he was told, would be at 11:35.  He ate his breakfast and waited.

When one of the doctors called, he'd explained his errand, and the doctor had promised to send an ambulance as soon as possible.  And that was that.

After that someone else had taken over everything, except for phoning his son and daughter.  His daughter, Angela, had married a Canadian and would come over as soon as possible, not to worry about fetching me, I'll make my own way home, and Dan will come later for the funeral.  His son, Robert, was living and working in London, would try and get home as soon as possible, but if Angie's coming, I'll stay here, she'll cope much better than I would, just let me know when to come for the funeral.

All that would soon be three years ago.  He had started his new single life with high-flown ambitions to maintain standards, but it was a hopeless task without Maisie's fifty years of domestic command.  She had a way with sauces that would have made cardboard taste good, but it was never cardboard she had in her sauces.  He could almost count the number of times she had complained about her own cooking when a bit of meat she had bought proved to be more sinewy than it had looked.  And all those times had been since the butcher's closed and the grocery chain store had taken over.

And today was the first of the month.  Wilf would be moving to the old folks' home today.  He had not done anything about the furniture.  He'd talked to the kids after funeral, to find out whether there was anything they might want from the furniture and stuff, but they hadn't shown much interest.  Angela had taken a few of Maisie's jewellery bits, more for their sentimental value than for any monetary value.  Easy to carry on the plane, no packaging necessary.  Robert had not wanted anything.  So the house was fully furnished.  Only the drawers had been emptied into a few cardboard boxes which he had taken over to his little apartment at the home.  He's sort through them later.  Maybe.

He'd spoken to Roger at the village estate agency, who had advised him to put it on the market on a 'for sale or to let' basis.  The market was slow for old properties, said Roger, but he might be able to get a letting.  So now the sign was up in the front garden, and all Wilf had to do was to close and lock the door, and walk away to his new home.  And yet those simple acts were so difficult to do:  to close the door on his life and walk away to a staging post on the way to the grave.

He heaved a sigh, put on his raincoat, locked the door behind him and left.


"So what do you enjoy doing?" asked Carol.

"Define 'enjoy'," countered Patricia Trevor, universally called Patty.  She was young, just turned seventeen, and slim and quite pretty enough to attract young men, although she was too energetic for most of them, and they came and went without apparently making more than a ripple in her life.

"Well take me for example," Carol went on.  "I like all forms of artistic work, but especially painting.  And that's what I do.  And now I make a living at it."

"Oh, I see.  Well, I love cookery, baking and that sort of thing.  And I enjoy playing the guitar, though I'm not very good at that.  And reading.  And sometimes I do a bit of writing, too."

"That's a lot.  And which do you enjoy most?"

"Oh, cookery.  No question."

"I thought so, 'cause that's the one you mentioned first."

They were sitting in the garden of Carol's house, watching her eight month old son crawl about on the blanket they had put down for him.  He would pick up one of the toys which they had scattered here and there, shake it, bite it with his two teeth, slobber over it, then cast it aside and crawl to another to repeat the whole process.  On the table between Carol and Patty stood a large jug of home made elderberry squash, two glasses and a baby's bottle waiting for young Martin to tire of his exploration of the blanket.

"What's this all about?" asked Patty.  "All I asked when I came here was how I can get a job."

"We're finding out what you're going to do with your life," replied Carol.  "I once heard some very good advice.  When you're looking for a career, go for the thing you enjoy the most.  Forget the money side of things to begin with.  That way you'll always enjoy what you're doing, instead of slaving away at something else that you don't enjoy just for the sake of the money, and doing the thing you really enjoy only in your spare time."

"I see," said Patty thoughtfully.  "So you mean I should concentrate on cookery?"

"Exactly.  And if you keep going long enough," Carol went on,  "you'll end up finding a way to make some money out of it, maybe by doing some cooking and selling what you've made, or by holding courses.  You're only seventeen.  You can live at home a bit longer, so you're not destitute, and you can probably cadge a bit of spending money from your parents for a while longer."

"So how am I going to make a living out of cookery?"

"Well, you can start by, say, making some cakes to sell.  Perhaps you could persuade Evelyn to sell them in her shop or you could sell direct, although then delivery would take up a lot of your time.  What about bread.  Are you any good at bread?"

Patty nodded.  

"I love making sour-dough bread, but I can make all sorts."

"You'll make a fortune at that.  People love home-made bread, but nobody thinks they have the time to bake nowadays.  Maybe you can do catering for parties.  Perhaps Sid at the Stonemason's Arms would let you take over the dinner menu, say, one evening a month, or once a week if you think you'd feel up to it.  That would get you known locally.  How about writing a cookery blog?"

"Wait, wait!  Slow down!" shouted Patty.  "Have you got some paper?  I need to start taking notes."

By the time young Martin had tired of exploration and wanted his bottle, they had brainstormed their way to a long list of possible sources of income for Patty, involving her favourite occupation.  She looked at her list.

"When I finished school I assumed I'd go out and try and find work somewhere, like Mum and Dad did when they were my age," she said.  "But with so many young people unemployed, that's not easy.  It never occurred to me that I'd be going into business!  Thanks, Carol."

And that was the birth of Patty's Pans.  Carol heard later from her brother's girlfriend, Sandra, that Patty had shown up at their house with a couple of loaves of sour-dough bread, a peach cake and a bowl of whipped cream, and shamelessly picked Richard's brains on elementary bookkeeping and how to calculate prices and other business secrets, and had started work almost immediately afterwards.

She had struck a deal with Evelyn Norris, who ran the general store and post office.  She would come in early with a number of cakes neatly wrapped in aluminium trays with cellophane over and a collection of different kinds of loaves in polythene bags, taking Evelyn's advice on the size of the market for each product, so that by the end of the day there were not often any left.

One day Evelyn rang her during the afternoon.

"I had Mrs Maudsley in earlier on," she said.  "She buys one of your cakes from time to time.  Her son has a birthday party on Saturday and she wondered if you could do a really nice cake for that.  There'll be about twenty children, if everyone comes."

"Thanks, Evelyn, that'll be fun," replied Patty.  "Did she mention a theme?"

"No, sorry, and I didn't think to ask her."

"Never mind, I'll give her a call and talk about it.  Shall I bring it in on Friday or Saturday?"

They decided that Saturday would be best as the cake would be so much fresher, and on Saturday morning Evelyn was impressed to see a cake which bore a remarkable resemblance to Thomas the Tank Engine.

"Goodness me," she said.  "How much will you be wanting for that?"

"I dunno," admitted Patty.  "Do you  think I could ask double the price of an ordinary cake?"

"I think you can ask four or five times the price of an ordinary cake," responded Evelyn.  "How about if I gauge her reaction and decide the price on the spot?"

"Sounds good," agreed Patty, and the deal was done.

Word spread, and there was soon hardly an event in Stoke Fercroft which didn't have its specially designed cake by Patty.

Another idea from the to-do list she had composed with Carol which she early put into practice was taking over the kitchen of the Stonemason's Arms once a month.  Wednesday was an important day in the Stonemason's calendar, as that was the day when Sid Colton served his boeuf bourguignon, and people came from all the nearby villages to dine at the pub.  Patty opted for the first Friday in the month.  As she reasoned, people had just been paid and were perhaps a little more inclined to have a fling.  She was not wrong, and after only a couple of months, Sid was pleased to see how the bookings began to come in, many people booking the next month's meal as they left the pub after the current one.

Birthdays, weddings, christenings, even the odd funeral, many of them came to Patty's kitchen.

But it was long before this that she was doing so much baking and general cooking that it became impossible to cope with it in the kitchen at home, and her father and brother converted the old stable behind their house.  They installed a large oven and equally large stove and built huge work-tops.  They ran water into the stable and installed a sink, and her mother breathed a sigh of relief, and retook possession of her kitchen.  From time to time, as Patty's business expanded, a new oven or stove was added, and from then on the half-doors of the stable were usually open at the top, allowing fresh air into the otherwise hot atmosphere of her kitchen.  As time passed, she began supplying shops in neighbouring villages, and her little business became full-time. and she began to think about hiring assistants, although for the time being she managed by taking on a former school friend to help out with rushes.


It happened one Sunday that Patty was out walking with her young man of the moment, Brian Colton, son of the landlord of the Stonemason's Arms, when they happened to pass a large, old building on a corner plot beside the little road to nearby Sheepy Parva.  A sign outside read 'For Sale or To Let', with the name of a local estate agent.

"This is the old Thackeray house," she said.

"That's right," he replied.  "Old Wilf Thackeray's place.  Never came out much since his wife died a few years ago.  You would see him standing in the window there, watching people go by."

"He has a white beard."

"More a case of stubble, I'd say."

"So what's happened to him?  Has he died?"

"Moved to the old folks' home so I heard."

Patty looked again at the building.  It was set on the street, had a sad, somewhat dilapidated air, with a lawn to one side, and at the back a huge, stone shed-like structure.  The front of the house had the appearance that it had once been a shop.  There was a large window, and a door led straight into the room behind. The owners had at some time partly covered the bottom of the window with wooden panelling to give themselves a modicum of privacy in what had presumably been converted into their front room.

Patty wandered round the house.  Brian stood nervously on the street, worried that someone would come along and ask what they were doing.  Eventually she returned and they walked on, but Patty fell quiet and Brian continued chatting, perhaps not realising that he was talking largely to himself.

She could not completely put the sight of the sad, old house out of her mind.  Over dinner that evening she brought up the subject at home.

"Dad," she said.  "Did you know old Wilf Thackeray has moved to the old folks' home?"

"You don't say!  The Thackerays were an important family in my Dad's day.  They've been here for generations.  They had an ironmonger's shop in that old house of their's on the main street and a smithy at the back.  This was in the days when horses and carts could still be seen but there wasn't much call for that when cars and vans started to take over.  In the end they closed the smithy and sold the ironmongery to Dan Brewer, who's still got it now farther down the street.  They do say that old Wilf is good for a fair few bob, but he certainly hasn't spent it on the property."

"It's to let," said Patty.

Her father looked at her suspiciously.

"Go on," he said.

"I walked past it today," she said.  "It needs a lick of paint, but apart from that it looks to be in good nick.  I was thinking maybe I could rent it and turn it into a café.  People could sit in that front room with the big window if it was cold or wet, and in summer they could sit out in the garden.  What do you think?"

"By gum, but you're a wild one!  It'll cost a pretty penny to start a café."

"I have a bit put by now from the cookery," she said.  "And perhaps I can get a grant for a new business."

She thought for a moment.

"He's got some nice apple trees in the back garden," she said.  "I could make quite a few apple pies from them and nothing to pay for the fruit."

Her father said nothing.

"And he's got a pear tree and masses of currant bushes and raspberry and some gooseberry, and I saw blackberry bushes in the woods behind."

"Got it all planned, haven't you?" he said with a smile.


The following day, when she had finished her deliveries, she set off for the old folk's home to find Wilf Thackeray, taking with her one of her cakes and a little jar of freshly whipped cream.  She was shown into a large sitting room furnished in the institutional style, with sad-coloured paint on the walls, IKEA style chairs and settees, and a couple of scuffed coffee tables.  Her guide then went off to find Wilf.

She came slowly back some five minutes later accompanied by an old man with a grim face, white with stubble, as Brian had said.  Patty thanked her and asked if she could fix two plates and spoons and indicated the cake she had brought.

"I'll do better than that," she said.  "I'll bring some coffee, too."

"Thank you."

Patty looked at Wilf Thackeray's grim expression, and her heart sank.  He did not look very amenable, but she thought I'm here now, might as well give it a try.

"Hello, Mr Thackeray," she began.  "I'm Patty Trevor."

He studied her for a few moments before speaking.

"Trevor," he said.  "Any relation to Gordon Trevor?"

"He was my grandad," she said.

"Grandad!  My God, I'm getting old."

The nurse came back with a tray containing two mugs of coffee, two spoons, two plates and a small jug of milk, and Patty thanked her.

"I brought you some cake, Mr Thackeray," she said.

"What sort is it?"

"Pear and damson."

"I prefer apple.  Apple pie."

"I'll bring you one next time I come, but right now it'll have to be pear and damson.  And some whipped cream.  Would you like some?"

His reply was a grunt, which she chose to translate as a yes, and she cut two pieces, spooned some cream over them, and placed one on the table in front of Wilf Thackeray, together with a spoon.  He left it there.

"Do you take milk in your coffee?" she asked.


She passed him one of the cups and poured a little milk into her own.  She took up her own plate and began to eat.

"Don't you want your cake?" she asked.

He looked at it, finally took it up and began to eat.

"I hope you like it," she said.

Another grunt was her only reply.

"So what brings you a-visiting me, Patty Trevor?" he asked when he had finished eating.

"I wanted to talk to you about your house."

"Want to buy it, do you?"

"No.  I can't afford it.  But I'd like to rent it if you're willing."

"You married?" he asked.

"No. Not yet."

"Getting married?"

"No-one in view yet," she said.

"Bit big for a single lass, that house."

"I don't want it as a house.  Well, not just as a house," she said.

"What do you want with it then?"

"I think it'd make a lovely café."

"You're going to start a café?"

"Well I've been thinking about it but hadn't got to the planning stage, at least not yet, but your old house is so lovely, and it looks so sad now no-one is living there.  I thought it would cheer it up if people came there to have a cup of tea or coffee, a bit of one of my cakes or a sandwich, or a piece of pie, chatting to each other, laughing together.  Don't you think so, too?"


"Of course it'll need a bit of fixing here and there, but Dad and my brother, Rob, can see to that."


Patty chatted away to the old man, talking about her ideas for the café she planned in his old home, and how she could imagine living there as well, since she had to get up so early in the morning to make the day's supply of bread and cakes.

"Of course I haven't been inside yet?" she said at one point.  "I just peeped through the windows.  I haven't spoken to the estate agent or anything yet.  I thought I'd speak to you first."


Before she knew it she had been there for an hour.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said.  "I didn't mean to take so much of your time.  I'd better be going."


"But I'll be back tomorrow with an apple pie.  Or shall I take two so you can share with the other people here?"


"Well, we'll see.  'Bye now, Mr Thackeray."

And she was gone.  On the way home she called in at the estate agent and asked about the Thackeray house.  Had there been much interest?  He thought not, and didn't really expect any.  The house looked a bit run down and might cost a fortune to repair.  The survey would be telling and not many would be prepared to pay for a survey.  She mentioned that she was thinking of renting the place, and that she had been to see Mr Thackeray to see how he would react to that.

"And what did he say?" asked the estate agent.

"Well, he didn't say no," admitted Patty.

"But he didn't say yes, either?"

"He didn't say much at all, to be frank."

"Not one for wasting words is old Wilf.  Would you like to look over the place?  You might change your mind when you've seen the inside."

"I'd like to take my Dad.  He's in the trade."

"Is he a surveyor?"

"No, he's a carpenter, but he knows a thing or two about buildings.  He'll know whether it's worth calling in a surveyor."

"What's his name?"

"Keith Trevor."

"Are you Keith Trevor's lass?  We use him regularly to fix little bits and pieces.  I'll tell you what.  I'll lend you the keys so you and your Dad can take a look.  Let me know what you think.  Can you bring them back tomorrow?"

"I think so, if I can get hold of Dad today."

"If not, the day after will do.  Then that's a deal."

He gave her the keys.

"There's a fair bit of stuff still in the old place, but I've had a wander round, and the only value it might have is sentimental."

"We'll be careful."

As soon as she was outside, Patty called her father and in a matter of half an hour they were opening the door of the old Thackeray house.  The place was clean, but dusty.  The room which had been a shop was now some kind of living room.  Patty looked at it speculatively, wondering how it would look done up as a café.  There were three other smaller rooms on the ground floor and then they came to the kitchen.  It was huge, with a scullery and a pantry leading off, and best of all, a door leading directly into the old smithy.

"I could get a couple of my ovens in the kitchen," said Patty.  "And there's room for expansion into the smithy.  And what a fantastic range in the kitchen, too.  Let's have a look upstairs."

On the floor above they found four large bedrooms and a bathroom.  There was one more floor, containing a number of smaller rooms which looked as though they had most recently been used for storage.

Patty had seen it with the enthusiastic eyes of a cookery expert and potential café owner.  Her father, on the other hand, had been looking at the state of the building structure, testing doors for ease of closing, checking taps and plug holes and knocking on walls, and occasionally pushing a sharp-pointed tool into beams and door frames.

"So what do you think, Dad?" she asked as they stood in the shop room and looked out onto the street outside.

"The structure's basically in good shape, surprisingly enough," her father answered.  "A few bits which will need replacing, but nothing that can't be fixed.  The outside woodwork would need a new coat of paint, and the brickwork is pretty dull.  But it might be a question for the local council.  See whether it's a protected property.  If it is, they'll have all sorts of rules and regulations."

"So shall I ask a surveyor in?"

"Not yet.  Not till you've done the arithmetic and know you can cope with it, not to say that old Wilf is willing to let you rent the place and on what terms."

The next day Patty prepared three apple pies, packed them carefully into her basket and set off once again to the old folks' home.

"Hello, Mr Thackeray," she said when she had found him.  "Here's the apple pie I promised you.  I made three.  I don't know how many people are staying here, but I thought three pies should be enough for everybody to have some."

"Are you trying to buy my good will?"

"No, Mr Thackeray.  I usually take a pie or a cake when I go visiting, but I don't normally go visiting where there are twenty or thirty people in the house.  Have you thought any more about whether you're prepared to rent out your house?"

"Not really."

"Not really what?  You've not really thought any more or you're not really interested in renting it."

Wilf Thackeray sighed.

"You do go on, lass," he said finally.  "I'd prefer to sell it.  Be done with it once and for all."

"That's a pity.  It's a lovely house.  Just a bit sad is all.  My Dad says it would need a coat of paint on the outside woodwork, and he was suggesting that it would look good if the brickwork was covered with plaster painted white, and the beams in the outside wall creosoted to make them good and black.  Did you ever think about having a thatched roof?"

"It had plasterwork when I was a lad.  And a thatched roof.  My Dad ripped the roof off one time when it needed renewing, and replaced it with tiles.  Sad thing it was.  You've no idea how much wild-life there was in the thatch."

"What sort of wild-life?"

"Birds.  Blue tits and great tits, wrens, robins, and the like, even a blackbird or two in the winter.  And mice.  You don't see half of 'em nowadays.  You can go a week or even two without seeing a wren or a robin these days.  Haven't see a bullfinch since last winter."

"Did you feed them?"

"I used to put out bits of stale bread and warm water on the coldest days."

"I'll bet if you put out a suet ball or a bit of bird seed in a bowl you'd see them, summer or winter."

She changed the subject.

"Dad says there are some places that need treatment quickly to prevent decay," she said.  "The front door and its frame, a couple of windows, and some beams in the old smithy."

"You have given it a good going over," said Wilf.  "I tell you what I'll do.  I'll talk to the estate agent and see what he thinks, and then we can talk a bit more tomorrow."

"Oh, thank you, Mr Thackeray," said Patty, and jumped up to give him a hug.

"Never mind your cupboard love," he said.  "I haven't said yes yet, and I'd much rather say no.  And you don't need to bring another apple pie.  There'll be enough left from these."

"Alright.  When can I come?"

"About the same time.  I take it this is a good time for you."

"Yes.  Until tomorrow then."  And she was gone.

The following day she was back, not with apple pies but with two large cupcakes, one each.  She cadged a pot of coffee and two cups from the nurse, and marched in with her tray and set it down before him.

"I said you didn't need to bring anything," he said when he saw the spread.

"You said I didn't need to bring another apple pie, so I didn't," she corrected him.  "Anyway, what did the estate agent say?"

"He said the house could be difficult to sell, so I suppose I might as well make a bob or two from it whilst I can.  It's a big house, mind, far bigger than you need or want.  He thought six hundred a month would be about right.  What do you say to that?"

"I don't know yet," she replied.  "Now I've got a figure, I can start doing my sums, and see what I can afford to pay, or alternatively, how much I'd have to sell to make it work at that price."

"You mean you don't know whether you want it or not?"

"Oh, I want it," she replied.  "But I don't know whether I can afford it."

He was angry now.

"Well, I'm blowed," he said.  "I thought I was doing you a favour."

"You are - or you may be.  But I wouldn't be doing you, or me, a favour if I took it and discovered later I couldn't afford it."

"Well go away and do your calculations, and we'll have to see if it's still available when you come back," he said, still angry, and Patty decided it was wiser to leave now before she made it worse than it already was.

"Bye, then, Mr Thackeray," she said, and received no reply.

When she showed up at the old folks' home the following day, she was met by the nurse.

"Hello, Patty," she said.  "Are you planning on moving in here?"

"Not for a few years yet," smiled Patty.  She handed the nurse an apple pie. 

"This is for you and the other nurses," she said.  "For all the coffee you've made for us while I've been visiting Mr Thackeray."

"Oh, you didn't need to," said the nurse.  "He's been a different person since you started coming."

She saw that Patty had another pastry in her basket.

"I'll bring you some coffee and a couple of plates," she said.  "Now off you go.  He's waiting for you."

Patty went into the sitting room and saw Wilf Thackeray at their usual table.  He was watching the door as she came in, and she saw his face turn grumpy.  She wondered what the nurse had meant when she said that he'd become a different person.  Was he grumpier than normal?  She went over to greet him.

"How are you, today, Mr Thackeray?" she asked.

He ignored her question.

"What's your decision, then?" he countered.  "Are you going to take it or not?"

"I'd like to, but I took some advice, and there are a couple of points I'd like to take up with you."

"And what are they?"

"First the rent.  Mr Mason thinks £600 a month is a bit high.  He said that if I'm living and working there, I'll keep it in good nick, but if nobody's living there, it'll go downhill very quickly.  So he thought £500 sounded more reasonable."

"And the other?"

"That was Mr Pelham's idea.  He thought I ought to get a contract for, say, ten years.  He said if I moved in and didn't have a guaranteed time, you could kick me out when you got an offer to buy, and I could lose a lot of money if I'd just moved all my ovens and stoves and so on and suddenly had to move them again."

"Hm.  I'll speak to Joe Mercer at the estate agent's," said Wilf Thackeray.  "Sounds to me like you've got some powerful helpers on your side."

"Mr Mason helped me to set up my bookkeeping back when I started a couple of years ago.  I asked him to help me make a decision, and he brought in Mr Pelham.  It all seems fair enough to me."

"Like I said, I'll speak to Joe about it."

"Good.  Thank you, Mr Thackeray.  Now, would you like a bit of my toffee cake?"

Patty had seen the nurse coming towards them with a trayful of cups, saucers and plates, and she drew up her basket and began to unpack it.

"You don't give up, do you?"

It was a few days later that Patty received a fat envelope in the post.  It contained a contract in duplicate for the rental of the Thackeray house, and Patty took it round to Algernon Pelham who read it and smiled.

"Well done," he said.  "You've got a good deal here.  He only wants to give you a five year guarantee, but he agrees to the £500 rent.  That's six thousand quid less to pay over the five years."

"And what happens after the five years are up?"

"Good question!  Now you're thinking like a businesswoman.  After the five years he has to give you one contract year's notice."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that the contract period is from a specified date, presumably the date you sign the contract until the same date the following year.  The notice must be for a contract year, so that if you sign in say February, he must give you notice for a period from February to February.  If he decides in March to give you notice, the one year starts from the next February."

"I haven't cheated him, have I?  Offering too little, I mean."

"Not at all.  Richard was quite right - you're doing Wilf a favour.  He's going to have a job to sell that house.  It could be empty for years, and it would quickly go down in value.  He wouldn't have agreed if he didn't think you were right."

"So did he try to cheat me when he asked £600?"

"Not really.  That's called negotiating.  He knew you wouldn't pay £600.  But I didn't expect him to agree to £500 directly.  I expected there would be some haggling."

"Well, thanks for all your help, Mr Pelham.  How can I repay you?"

"This one's on the house.  What we call pro bono.  Next time we'll see."

"And Richard - Mr Mason, what should I pay him."

"I think you'll find you've got a similar deal from him.  But I suggest you put by some of that money he's saved you.  You'll be needing a limited liability company very soon at the rate you're expanding, and he's a good man to look after that for you."

"So I can sign this contract?"

"If you're really going to go through with it, yes."

"Right.  I'll go and tell Dad.  Thanks again for everything, Mr Pelham.  You'll never have to pay for coffee or cake in my café!"


Some two months later Patty could open her café.  In the meantime her father and brother had turned the front room back into a shop and she had gone round all the sales in the area, buying tables and chairs, crockery and silver.  They had built a counter at the back of the room, and begun to move her ovens and stoves into the old smithy, at the same time refurbishing the old place.  

Patty had asked the cookery teacher at her old school for the names of ex-pupils who had been especially good at cookery, and canvassed them to see if any of them were interested in working for her.  Two were now on the payroll as part-timers, one helping her with the breakfast rush, when a number of people came in each morning for her sandwiches, eggs and bacon, and tea, all at reasonable prices, and continuing through lunch; and one coming in just before lunch and for the rest of the day through till closing time at five.  And this was in addition to the small group of part-timers who helped her to keep her other services running smoothly, the bread and cakes to Evelyn's general store and to one or two other small outlets in the area, her party organising, and her monthly dinner night at the Stonemason's Arms.

She had been a regular visitor to Wilf Thackeray at the old folks' home during the conversion, usually taking with her some treat from her ovens, and on the day of the grand opening she went over to fetch him as guest of honour.  He sat at the table nearest to the serving counter and the customers went over to greet him and chat a little.  A good many of the villagers came to Patty's little café that day, and those who couldn't, for one reason or another, came during the next few days.

Old Wilf became a regular visitor, and it was a curmudgeon who suggested that it was only because Patty never charged him for his coffee and bit of cake.  He usually brought with him one or another of the residents of the old folks' home, and when the staff organised an outing for the residents, they usually finished the day in the café.

© James Wilde 2015