There may be some historical bits in this section that some readers may take issue with. No insults were or are intended. I was only trying to illustrate that some people have very long memories and do not forgive the actions of others easily much like the feud between the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s.
The episode of the Christmas Cake had sent Angharad and her sister off in a huff. Since the W.I. committee had visited my greenhouse for themselves and I demonstrated how to make sugar crystals from the ‘Stevia’ herb, their severely bent out of shape noses hadn’t been seen since at any of the W.I. meetings since the competition.
I’d been invited to spend Christmas day with several of the members due to my new found but probably temporary ‘local hero’ status. In the end, I chose to spend it with Ruby who, out of all of them was nearest my age. I accepted her invitation only if I was allowed to contribute towards the cost. Ruby was a single mother who had a 3 year old son, and lived on the earnings from her job in the local sub Post Office.
Over a delightful Christmas Lunch and probably after one glass of my homebrew too many, Ruby let slip that they would probably be made homeless in the not too distant future. She revealed that they were renting their home and their landlord had told them a week earlier that he was selling the house and they may well have to move or more than likely find considerably more in rent each month.
It was clear that Ruby couldn’t afford much of an increase at all and with her son Owen growing up fast their finances were obviously somewhat stretched. The warm welcome they gave me reminded me of the Christmases we used to have when my parents were alive.
When I returned home later that evening, I started thinking how I might be able to help Ruby and others like her in the Village and surrounding hamlets. There was a lot of resentment about ‘incomers’ buying properties as second homes despite the difficulties in getting mortgages due to the problems with the banks. Once a property was bought for a second home, it was then lost to the local community for a very long time.
I knew this only too well because my purchase was viewed with more than a degree of suspicion until I let it be known that I was going to be living here all year round then I was made much more welcome. Well, welcome as much as anyone who was not born in the village or even this part of the principality could be. Over time and especially with the events of the Christmas cake competition and my pathetic attempts at learning a few phrases in Welsh had made me feel a lot more welcomed by almost everyone in the village.
When the Christmas and New Year holidays were over, I composed a long email to my lawyer, Charlie in London outlining a possible solution and a use for some of the money that is sitting in a bank earning a derisory level of interest.
With that done, I turned my attention to planning what I was going to grow in my Greenhouse and garden in the coming year.
Before I knew it, it was late February, the nights were becoming noticeably shorter and even a few birds were starting to gather materials for their nests. Charlie had emailed me with an update on my business proposal. His email contained the news I was waiting for. My new company, Pithead Investment and Property Services or PITS for short was up and running. It was just as well because a ‘For Sale’ board had gone up outside Ruby’s home. The property was going to be sold by at auction in just over a week’s time.
In the end, the auction was almost a non-event. Only two parties apart from myself were bidding. The first of those dropped out at £100,000. I’d entered a limit of £225,000 with the Auctioneer a few days before the event. If the bidding went to that I was standing by on my laptop to take over the bidding. I needn’t have worried as the other bidder dropped out at £215,000. The place was worth a lot more than that so I guessed they wanted to buy it cheap, then spend a little money doing it up and reselling it again at a not so small profit. Something that is called ‘Flipping’ in the trade. Well, that was not going to happen to this property.
Once the auction was over, I switched off my laptop feeling satisfied with the whole thing. Then, I phoned the firm of Solicitors in Swansea that I’d engaged to handle my property dealings and gave them the good news. When the call was finished, I transferred the purchase price into their client account. Then I sat back and wondered what to do next.
Over a mug if tea, I cautioned myself to keep my spending in check. Then I burst out laughing. I had enough money in my portfolio that I could easily buy the whole village. I did realise that I had to be careful otherwise my desire give a helping hand to people who deserved it would become public knowledge. However, having all this money was nice but somehow the thrill of buying something that I’d had when I bought my first car was missing. I guessed that it was the risk factor. I couldn’t really afford the car but I bought it anyway. Now and with my somewhat dramatic change in circumstances, paying more than two hundred grand for a property was well, a ‘meh’ moment. Rather sad really but a sign of times that I’d have to accept.
When I’d finished the tea, I phoned the property management company I’d hired to manage the property. Finding an ethical company who would follow my requirements hadn’t been easy. Thankfully Charlie had some contacts in the business and after a bit of work, we’d found a company in Bangor. The next month or so was going to be interesting for Ruby. She was in for a wonderful surprise.
But as they say, the best laid plans and all that…
One morning I was working in one of the two converted Lambing Sheds early in March. I was changing the oil in one of the vintage motorcycles I owned when I sensed that someone was watching me. I turned around and looked towards the entrance to the shed.
I gasped when I recognized the person standing there. It was Kylie.
“Hello Kylie. It is very nice to see you again.”
I walked over towards her wiping my hands on a fairly clean rag.
“Nice to see you too Monica. I said that I’d come back. Well, here I am.”
“I can see that. It would have nice to have had some notice you know.”
“Well, I said that I’d be back when I got myself sorted out and here I am.”
I stood in front of her. Then I hugged her tight. She responded with gusto.
“I’m glad you came back. It is really nice to see you. You are looking good.”
I let her go to arms length and looked at her.
“From the looks of you, you still have some way to go but you are looking a lot better than when we first met.”
“Aren’t you pleased to see me? If you aren’t then I’ll go.”
I looked at her and I could see that she was genuine.
“Yes I am pleased to see you but next time you decide to leave please let me know. There you were, here one moment and the next… you were gone.”
“I know and I’m sorry for that. I felt I had to go. I was starting to become comfortable here and I had to try one last time to get rid of the devils that were stopping me from getting on with my life. I promise that I won’t leave like that again.”
“Apology accepted. Now go and put the kettle on while I finish this little job.”
With a little smile, she left me alone. I needed a few minutes to think. Her return could be as upsetting as her departure was and that was the last thing I wanted to happen.
I finished the oil change and cleared away before making my way into the kitchen. Kylie was just pouring the tea into some clean mugs.
“Thanks,” she said as she sat down.
“For not giving me an earful. I deserve it.”
At that moment, I forgave her.
“That’s all in the past. Let’s enjoy the tea and you can tell me what you have been doing.”
“Only if you tell me how you came by this glass bowl? I see your name engraved on it.”
I was sure that I went very red in the face.
“It is a long story.”
“Well, I see some cake that is obviously ready to be eaten and we have the rest of the day don’t we?”
That was putting me in my place all right.
Sleep was rather hard to come by that night. Kylie had told me that despite her best efforts her father was unwilling to let her decide how she should live her life.
After travelling around a bit, she’d started a job in Swindon in the run up to Christmas but a week later he turned up demanding that she go home with him that instant. It was only the intervention of a security guard that has stopped him from dragging her away that instant.
She’d lost her job the next day due to being accused of taking drugs on the premises. The same thing had happened to her last week when she’d had a temporary job on a farm near Cirencester. She’d been in the middle of morning milking when her father appeared on the scene. The farmer had intervened and the father had gone. A week later the farmer received a surprise audit from the Tax people. It magically disappeared when Kylie left her job.
It seemed that I was a sucker for lost causes just like the plight of Ruby and her daughter. This time I was determined to help Kylie be able to live her life as she wanted to and not as her parents dictated.
Over breakfast the following morning, I said to Kylie,
“I was thinking about your story last night and it is pretty obvious that somehow your Father gets information on where you are working as soon as you try to go legit. You can either spend the rest of your life working off the books or we can try to resolve it once and for all. For that we are going to have to use the services of my Solicitor in London.”
Her face brightened up and almost straight away a sad expression replaced it.
“I can’t pay.”
“Have I said anything about payment? It will be my pleasure to pay for it besides I know exactly what is involved. I too had to take steps to disconnect myself from my past.”
She looked worried.
“It is nothing bad I can assure you but like you some other people wanted to stop me living my life as I wanted and on my terms.”
“But what would it mean to me?” she asked.
I grinned and said,
“You have two options. First, get a legal restraining order against your parents so that stop interfering in your life. Or, go the whole hog and get a new identity.”
“Are both options possible?”
“The first is easy. You just fill out a form and the legal people will do the rest. The second can be done in such a way as to be very difficult if not impossible for anyone to trace the new you back to the old you.”
“Isn’t that illegal?”
“Well… is it and it isn’t. But, if the new you is honest and you pay your taxes then after a period of time it really isn’t in the public interest to take you to court especially if you have a good reason for doing it in the first place. The problem is that as far as I know, the National Insurance system won’t give you another N.I. Number. That makes you traceable by anyone with access to the systems. From what I’ve been told, the new identity process bends the system a bit.”
She looked at me for a long second.
“From what you have said, you’ve done this new identity thing yourself haven’t you? That means that Monica isn’t your real name?”
“Monica is my real as in legal name but it isn’t my birth name so yes, I have done it myself.”
“Why? Why did you change it?”
This was the bit that I’d prepared for a very long time.
“I had my reasons. Suffice to say, like you I couldn’t live my life as I wanted to. People I’d known all my life turned against me because of things that had happened when I was a very young child. The result was that I ended up homeless but you already know that. After a lot of water under a good many bridges, I bought this place and… well you know the rest.”
Once again, I got ‘the look’.
“Was it all over money?”
Somewhat reluctantly, I replied.
“Yes. Yes, it was all over money”.
“The saying that ‘Money is the root of all evil’ does have a bit of truth in it.”
Kylie looked sad.
“It figures, so was mine.”
“My grandmother left me a load of money but my father, her son, my Father wants it for himself. It is in trust until I’m 21. My father lost a huge amount of money when the housing market crashed so he thinks that my inheritance should be his to keep up his lifestyle and appearances.”
At last she has let it out.
“It makes perfect sense that you want to keep it out of his hands? I’ll call my Lawyer in London and see what he says on the matter.”
Kylie looked a bit worried at what I’d said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure that Charlie will take you on as a client and then everything will be confidential between the two of you.”
“You call your lawyer by his first name?”
“You really don’t want to know what I call his brother.”
Charlie as I predicted, rolled over like a good doggie when I described Kylie’s plight especially when I told him to take a very large retainer from my client account on her behalf. Charlie had two weaknesses in life. The first was money. As long as you waved a big enough wad of cash in front of him he’d take you on as a client. Most of his clients were celebrities but he would often go the extra mile for a more ordinary person especially if that person was a good-looking woman without pretentious and Kylie would fit that bill with a little bit of attention.
After a decent lunch, I showed Kylie her room.
“You haven’t changed anything!” she remarked when she saw the pile of clothes neatly filed on the bed just as she’d left them.
“I didn’t feel happy moving them. I always felt that you would come back.”
Well, it was a blatant lie because I’d picked them up several times in a fit of rage but once I had them in my hands I calmed down and put them back. In the end, I persuaded myself that by leaving them there, she’d be sure to return. Something about burring bridges. Gloria would have more than a few words to say on the issue but that was for another day.
Despite Kylie’s promise not to leave without telling me, every morning, I was worried about her presence until she appeared in the kitchen for breakfast. While she was here, I put her to work in my garden. She didn’t object at all. She said that it was good therapy for her. In return for her efforts, she got some money in return. This would allow her to buy her own things when we went shopping. After a week or so, she relaxed and started to enjoy being somewhere safe.
Kylie had been back with me for almost three weeks when over dinner she said,
“I’ve decided that I need to go and confront my father one last time.”
“What about the court order or changing your name?”
She shook her head.
“I’ve had time to think thanks to you. I need to try to get him to stop one more time. Do you think that Charlie would go with me?”
“Charlie likes his office comforts and hates going outside of London. In fact, I seem to remember that he only leaves the city for Royal Ascot. That said, I’m sure he could arrange for one of his associates would go with you. Why don’t you give him a call?”
“I’ll do just that in the morning.”
She saw that I was looking a bit sad.
“I couldn’t have made this decision without you being here. You do know that, don’t you?”
“I know, you just get used to me and whoosh I’m gone again?”
“I’m like a bad penny that keeps on returning.”
We both laughed.
Charlie called about 10 days later with an update.
“Hold on Charlie, let me put you on speaker,”
I pressed the button on the phone.
“Ok, go ahead.”
“Hello Kylie, can you hear me ok?”
“Yes, we can Charlie,” said Kylie.
“As instructed, I investigated the terms of the will. Once probate is granted, wills become a matter of public record. Anyway, what Kylie is saying is correct. She has a considerable sum of money in trust until she is either married or reaches the age of 21. Kylie, your father is to put it bluntly flat broke. Only your mother’s income is keeping them afloat. He was in well over his head when in 2008/2009 the property market crashed. He managed to stave off his creditors for the past six years through various bits of sleight of hand but has since resorted to selling everything he owns often at a huge loss but he is still in hock to the tune of two million.”
Kylie sucked in a deep breath.
“Yes, that much. He has also spent a not inconsiderable sum on private eyes in his quest to find you. To be honest Kylie, going on the road was about the best thing you could have done in the circumstances. The latest report from his P.I. on you concludes,
‘Kylie is very adept at just vanishing. She obviously has help but so far we have been unable to find her but indications are that she may be in North West Wales.”
“He’s onto us then?”
“That may be the case. I have no idea how much bluster this is in order to keep the money coming in. This is not unheard of but I think that all precautions should be made in the event of a P.I coming snooping around.”
“What should we do?”
“At the moment, Kylie, you should stay put. The fewer people who know where you are the better but you need to think about how you might shall we say, leave in a hurry if you need it. At this end, I am applying for a restraining order under Section 5 of the 1997, Protection from Harassment Act and Section 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. We have a court date of next Tuesday at the High Court in London. I’d like the both of you there if possible?”
I looked at Kylie. She nodded her head.
“We’ll be there. Text me the details.”
“How will you travel?”
“I think that is best left to us to work out don’t you Charlie?”
“Perfect Monica. I knew that you would as the Americans say, ‘step up to the plate’. You are a very adaptable and resourceful woman.”
“Now Charlie, behave or I’ll have Gloria come and beat you up.”
Charlie burst out laughing.
“See you Tuesday.”
“What was that all about?” asked Kylie.
“Charlie is on the case. He’s in his element when he’s got something to get his teeth into. With you, he has.”
“Who’s this Gloria?”
“That I’ll leave for another time and place. Now we have to get you kitted up for going to London.”
“What do you mean ‘kitted up?”
“Ever been on the back of a Bike?”
Suddenly she cottoned on.
“We can travel easier if we do it by Bike. Tinted Visors will make our faces just about invisible.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, as much as I can be.”
“What needs to be done then?”
“For starters, why don’t we go into my workshop and see what I’ve got that will fit you.”
A few minutes later Kylie was trying on an old pair of my Leathers. It was clear that her legs were much longer than mine and to be honest, she looked silly in them. Her torso was also shorter than mine so wearing my leathers was totally out of the question.
Next, we tried my old waterproof suit. This is more forgiving in that it is meant to be practical not fashionable. This was a lot better.
“Here try this on,” I said handing her my spare crash helmet.
It was obvious from the word go that my head is bigger than hers.
We both giggled.
“Hold on, I have an idea.”
With that, I ran back into the house, took the stairs two at a time and went into my bedroom. I rummaged in a couple of drawers before finding what I was looking for. Then I ran back to the workshop holding it in my hand still wrapped in a plastic bag.
“Ok, try this on,” I said once I’d removed the helmet.
“What is it?”
“A blonde wig,” I proudly pronounced as I removed it from the bag.
“I’m not sure,” said Kylie hesitantly.
“Actually, the more I think about it, the more I like it. No one looking for you would expect long blonde hair. I expect that Investigator knows that you have fairly short brown hair. If you have the ends showing out the bottom of the helmet, no one seeing us would give us a second look. You can’t ride one of these can you?”
Kylie shook her head.
“Ok. I’ll try it,” she said reluctantly.
A few minutes later it was brushed out and on her head.
“How does that feel?”
“Different but I expect I’ll have to get used to it won’t I?”
“That’s more like it,” I said offering up the helmet.
This time it fitted a lot better.
“That looks good. Now if you flip down the visor and no one would recognise you.”
She flipped it down and her lovely face disappeared from view.
An hour later, Kylie climbed onto the back of my Triumph Trophy and we set off for a ride. At first, I took it really steady. Well, you have to in the part of the country where I lived. I headed south towards Carmarthen and the ‘A48’ main road. She wrapped her arms tightly around my waist as I opened the throttle and accelerated until I was going at the local speed limit. Kylie was a great passenger and I could tell that she was enjoying herself.
When we got home, I undid her helmet and she took it off along with the wig.
We both laughed at the sight of the hair hanging from the helmet.
“You are a great passenger you know.”
“Thanks. I enjoyed that.”
I extracted the wig from the helmet.
“A few hair grips will ensure that this stays in place.”
“Ok, so we got to London on this thing. What then?”
“Why don’t we go and get cleaned up then we can talk over dinner.”
“Good idea,” said Kylie as she took off at a run.
“Bags the shower first,” she said over her shoulder as she disappeared into the house.
Half an hour later, I’d just finished in the shower and was starting to get dressed when the door to my room opened and Kylie walked in. She stopped and then let out an almighty screech.
“You’re a fucking man!”
Before I could react, she fled the room leaving me standing there wearing only a bra.
With a heavy heart, I got dressed and went downstairs fully expecting to find Kylie long gone. To my eternal surprise, she was sitting in the Kitchen, arms folded and with a look that could kill at 500yds on her face.
I sat down opposite her and started to speak. Before I did, she put up her hand to stop me.
“It all makes sense now. I never dreamed that you were a fella but now it makes perfect sense. The bikes, the workshop and all that garden stuff. I’ve never met a woman who would know one end of a … well you know what I mean. Far too practical for any woman I ever met.”
For some reason, I thought to myself, ‘there speaks an old head on young shoulders’.
“W… why haven’t you legged it like last time?”
“I was on my way out of the door then I remembered that had I made a promise not to and you have done so much to help me without question. I figured that I should at least stay and try to understand why you’d want to become a woman.”
I didn’t know what to say. All the emotion of her going and coming back and now this was just too much for me and I burst out crying.
Kylie to her immense credit let me cry out. When I’d recovered, she made some us some tea. As I drank the warm sweet liquid, I began to feel better. After the second cup, I began to tell her my story.
[Some 5 years previous to the events depicted in the story so far]
“Good Morning Kuli,” I said as I walked into the corner Shop at the end of the street of terraced houses where I lived.
“Good morning Danny. You are later than normal? Got the day off?”
“Something like that Kuli. I’m going down to London.”
“A special occasion?”
“It might be but I really don’t know. There is a chance of something special happening but I really don’t know.”
“Who is she Dan?”
“It’s not like that Kuli. I wish it was.”
Kuli handed over my usual copy of ‘The Independent’. I was the only one of Kuli’s customers who read the paper. Most of the other customers of Kuli’s shop read the ‘Daily Mirror’ or ‘Socialist Worker’. I liked Kuli. He was a lapsed Sikh but had been born in Leeds and could hold more than a few beers on a Friday Night out.
“Thanks Kuli. See you Monday.”
I walked back along the street of terraced houses to my house, but I didn’t go inside. Instead I unlocked my well used but reliable 8yr old Ford Focus and drove away from home. I’d already put a small suitcase containing my only decent jacket and trousers into the boot so I was all set. I drove out of town past the remains of the once thriving coal mine and headed as usual towards the town of Doncaster.
I normally did this journey on my way to work but today I was going to take the train from Doncaster station and head south to London. That evening I was due to be one of the possible contestants in ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’.
I’d applied to be on the show as a bit of a joke with a few of the guys at work. That was months earlier and had totally forgotten about it until a week before I’d received a letter inviting me to go on the show. The guys at work refused to believe me until I showed them the letter and ‘press-ganged’ two of them into being my ‘Phone a Friend, friends’.
There was soon a book going amongst my work colleagues betting that I’d chicken out if I got selected. That was the faith they had in me, zilch but it brightened the day in the Garage.
The London train was late and bursting at the seams with passengers because the previous service had been cancelled.
Thankfully I had booked a seat ahead of time so after I’d turfed a squatter out of my seat I was able to sit down and try to gather my thoughts. There was always a chance that I would not be selected to be in the ‘Hot Seat’ but I had to be clear in my own mind what I wanted out of the evening.
“Good Evening,” said the host of the show Chris Tarrant as he started the show.
“At the end of the last show, Geraldine Goodman went home with a hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds so we are looking for a new contestant.”
At that moment, the studio lights dimmed and the spotlight went of over the heads of each of us for a moment in turn. Twice it went on over my head and went out. Each time I almost had a heart attack as it went on only for my heart to start again when it went off.
The third time it went on, and didn’t go off. It was me! I’d been selected. I froze solid for a second before the beaming smile of the host penetrated my stupor and …. I was on TV. There was no backing out now…
[35 minutes later]
“Danny, is that your final answer? You still have ‘phone a friend’ to use you know?”
“Yes, Chris it is. None of my friends would know their Norse Mythology from the runners at Doncaster on a wet Friday afternoon.
I’m sure final answer, I’ll take the money.”
“Danny Ackroyd, you are going home to Yorkshire with a cheque for two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.”
The audience prompters did their work and applause broke out and that was it. My 15, no make that, my 30 of minutes of fame was over. I knew right then that my life would change but I had no idea at that time how much it would change.
The show had been recorded on a Friday evening and wasn’t broadcast until the following day. To my shame, I couldn’t watch it simply because I didn’t own a TV. My parents had one but a year after mum died, it went on the blink so I got rid of it and never replaced it. I spent Saturday night at home with a few cans of beer trying to decide what I would do with that money. The cheque was still in the inside pocket of my jacket. I’d looked at it many times since Chris had stuffed it into my hands on the show. I couldn’t quite believe that I would be putting that amount of money into the bank on Monday morning.
Things started to go downhill on Sunday. Several neighbours knocked at my front door and blatantly asked me for money. Some said that they’d loaned my mother a tenner in 1984 and they thought that I should pay them back with interest right now. Others were a bit more direct and just came out and asked me for a hundred and even in one case to buy them a new car. So much for community spirit?
I’d said on the show that I intended to donate a sum of money to the local Miners Welfare. This was because of the help that they’d given my family when my father was dying from ‘miners lung’. I had every intention of doing just that once the money was paid into the bank and available for use. By lunchtime on Sunday I’d had three of the committee knocking at my door asking for the money. It was as if I was going to back out on my promise. I even showed them the cheque and explained that I had to pay it into the bank before I could pay them. Not all of them believed me. I couldn’t understand why all the urgency to get their hands on the money.
I remained in the dark until a good friend said,
“It is because your father was a SCAB.”
I asked what he meant.
“Your da left the NUM and joined the UDM. He was the first in the pit to do so. It was understandable because your mother had just given birth to you and your family needed the money. He was the first one to cross the picket line. He was and still is regarded as a SCAB in the village even though everyone went back to work eventually."
As I thought back, it all stated to make sense. All the whispering when I took my mother shopping and the people who crossed over to the other side of the street just to avoid us when I was a child.
What I couldn’t understand was that I’d been a NUM member when I was an apprentice mechanic at the pit in the next village. I’d paid my dues and left the Union amicably when that pit closed for good a few years earlier. There had never been any question about which Union I should join so I joined the NUM instead of the UDM.
I went to work on Monday and got a lot of applause from my colleagues. I said that I’d stand everyone a drink on the following Friday. That went down very well even if one of my friends boasted that he would have been able to answer the question about Odin correctly. That was until he was challenged and failed miserably to give the correct answer. Mind you, none of the questioners had a clue either so it made for a lot of good-hearted banter.
At lunchtime, I headed to the bank and deposited the cheque. I was something of a local celebrity in Doncaster even though I really didn’t want to be one. Still the good day hardly prepared me for what I found when I got home.
My home had been ransacked and the word SCAB painted in red on every wall and ceiling in the house. All the neighbours said that they’d heard or seen nothing which given the nature of the street was impossible but they weren’t saying.
Being more than a bit angry, I went down to the Welfare and demanded to see the committee. I was told that none of them were there despite their cars being in the car park. Then I phoned the local paper and they duly dispatched a reporter to my house. I gave them what I thought was a clear explanation but this was not what appeared in the following days edition. I was quoted as saying that I’d decided not to give the donation to the welfare and was going to keep all the money myself. Being naive and all that
I demanded an apology from the editor. I didn’t get it. Well, it might have been delivered but I didn’t get it because my car had its wheels stolen all its windows broken as it was parked outside my house. A fire had been started which was really bad news because I’d only filled it up with petrol on the way home. The Fire Brigade evacuated the whole street as a precaution. We didn’t get the all clear to go home until well after Midnight. This didn’t go down well with my neighbours. Things were clearly going from bad to worse. A lot of bad memories had been brought to the surface once again.
In the end, the local Police Inspector suggested that I should basically ‘get out of town’ for my own safety before I provoked more reaction from my former friends and neighbours. As far as I was concerned, I’d done nothing wrong but in the end, I packed a suitcase and took the offer of a lift over to Doncaster in a police car. That bloody money was causing me nothing but trouble.
I thought that things couldn’t get any worst but the following day I was called into the office at the Bus Garage where I worked and told that my Union membership had been rescinded and that I should look for another job. The manager muttered something about falsifying my qualifications on my job application. I knew that this was untrue and certainly illegal and was therefore a clear case of unfair dismissal. I protested my innocence once again. I knew that I’d done nothing wrong but it clearly didn’t matter. I was now not only homeless but jobless and penniless as well. I couldn’t draw any money from my winnings because the cheque hadn’t cleared. All I had with me was one suitcase of clothes and that was it. Sure, I could sue them for unfair dismissal but in my heart, I knew that it was just not worth the bother.
I took a train to York and booked into a fairly cheap hotel using my only credit card. I hoped to lie low for a few days in the hope that the anger against me back home would die down. Boy, was I mistaken. I went home to try to retrieve a few more things and while I was inside the ruin that was my home, the hire car that I’d used was stolen. It was found on the site of the old Pit totally burned out. A good few people seems to be blaming me for all the ills that had befallen on the Village since the Miners Strike a quarter of a century before.
Now I had nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Once again, I took the offer of a lift from the Police to ‘get out of town’. This time I went to Sheffield Railway Station where I used a good proportion of my remaining cash and bought a ticket to Blackpool. We’d been there many times while I was a child for the day and for holidays. I knew that there were a lot of cheap places to stay also, I hoped that it was far enough from home that I’d be able to get myself sorted out in peace.
My problems didn’t end when I got to Blackpool. The first three places I tried, I was shone the door not because I was a ‘SCAB’ but because the landlady recognized me from the TV show and they all thought that I should be staying at a five star hotel. However, my luck changed at the fourth establishment.
“I don’t care as long as you pay your bill,” came the reply from the landlady.
By the looks of her she’d come after me with all her might if I tried to leave her without paying.
“I won’t be able to pay until a cheque clears.”
“Pull the other one darling. I’ve heard that more times than you have had hot dinners.”
“I won a quarter of a million on Millionaire at the weekend. When the cheque clears, I can pay you in full.”
She looked at me over the top of her ‘pince-nez’ glasses.
“I thought you looked familiar. What the hell are you doing in a dump like this?”
“People wanted my money and… well it is a long story. Until that money clears I am effectively homeless and penniless until the bank releases the money.”
“Won’t the bank advance you some money?”
“It is a Yorkshire Bank. What do you think?”
“Aye, thems a load of tightwads all right.”
She looked at me again.
“Don’t you have any luggage?”
I shook my head. They set my car alight. It all goes back to the 1980’s.”
She looked at me again.
I nodded my head.
“Bloody Scargill. The man was a fool to call a strike like that. President for life as well. Bleeding little dictator if you ask me. Come on in and I’ll show you to your room.”
I breathed a sigh of relief at least someone had taken pity on me at last. Her comments about the strike rang all too true. It had divided the nation. You either loved or hated Scargill with no middle ground.
She led me upstairs and to the back of the house. My room was tiny. Well that was to be expected. I was also sharing a toilet and bathroom but it was only fifty quid a night including breakfast. Well, it was the height of the Illuminations after all. At least the place seemed reasonably clean and … well I didn’t have much choice. It appeared that it was this or a night under the pier with the other homeless people. I had money but I couldn’t touch it. That was the frustrating bit about all this.
Before I turned in, I washed my socks as best I could in the small hand-basin and hoped that they would be dry by the morning.
Everything else would have to do. I thought I’d go shopping the following day and max out my credit card and get some new clothes. Those were my last thoughts before I dropped off to sleep.
Breakfast the following morning turned out to be something unexpected. I knew that I had to be sitting down at 08:00 sharp or I wouldn’t get served but I wasn’t expecting the person I’d be sharing a table with.
I was already seated when ‘she’ came waltzing into the Dining room. She saw me and smiled back at me.
“Well hello sweetie, I’m Gloria. You must be the new arrival,” she announced in a deep voice.
Gloria was one of those extrovert Drag Queens.
“Yes Sweetie, I’m a Drag Queen. I come here every year for the Illuminations. The rest of the time I’m just a normal guy but for these few weeks, I can be myself and no one gives a toss.”
This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I felt as it my innermost secret was about to be exposed to the world. In my current state this was not something I wanted to happen.
Gloria saw my embarrassment
“Don’t worry sweetie, you aren’t my type,” she said laughing as she sat down opposite me.
I managed to get through breakfast with our putting my foot in it too much. Then I escaped the boarding house as soon as possible and headed down to the prom. In the daylight of a September morning and with a few discarded chip wrappers blowing about there was district lack of glitz to the place.
I found an ATM and checked the balance. My winnings hadn’t been credited to my account. I had a little over eighty pounds in my account so I decided to withdraw it. I was shocked to find that my account had been blocked. The saying, ‘if it can go wrong, it will’ came to mind. My appearance of that goddam TV show was close to ruining my life totally and utterly and it appeared that there was not a lot I could do about it.
Feeling even more down in the dumps, I wandered around the town in vain trying to buy some clothes. I did manage to buy some toiletries but there was very little of anything that took my fancy. This all added to my air of depression.
I was just walking past a Cafe when a banging on the window caught my attention. I looked at it and groaned to myself because the person knocking on the window was none other than Gloria. She was frantically waving at me and waving a coffee cup. I dithered for a moment trying to decide if I should go in. A sudden gust of cold wind made my mind up for me.
“Hello Gloria,” I said trying to be cheery.
“Do you want another drink?” I offered.
“No thanks,” came her reply.
I went up to the counter and after checking how much money I had, I ordered a mug of tea. No cups here. This was definitely a ‘mug’ sort of place.
I took my drink over to her table and sat down. Gloria waited patiently for me to take a sip of the hot drink.
“Now, why is someone who won a heap of money at the weekend in this neck of the woods and being very careful with their money to boot?”
My heart sank.
“I saw the show before I went to the Tower Ballroom on Saturday. I didn’t recognize you at first but that thing where you rub the back of your right wrist gave you away.
I was doing that very thing as she said it. I stopped out of embarrassment.
“It is a long story and one that you really don’t want to hear, I am sure.”
“Why ever not? What makes you think that Gloria, the tarty drag queen would not be interested?”
I couldn’t answer that. No, actually, I was scared.
Gloria smiled back at me. Then she rummaged in her copious handbag and produced a wallet. She extracted a business card and gave it to me.
Palmer, Quayle and Hemmings Partnership
Solicitors and Commissioners of Oaths
An address in Chelsea was printed below.
I read the card again and then looked back at the person sitting opposite me.
“If you don’t mind me saying so, what the fuck are you doing here if that is really who you are? How do I know that this is you? You could have gotten this anywhere? Why should a hotshot lawyer dress as, in your own words, a tarty tranny be here and what’s more, interested in me? Just answer me that?”
Gloria smiled back at me.
“That’s more like it. Show some fight. Don’t let the buggers win. You are right. I’m not the man on the card. That is my older and decidedly more brilliant brother. Whatever and whoever is stopping you from getting hold of that money can be fixed. Let me call my brother and see if he can sort it out?”
I shook my head.
“I can’t afford your brothers rates. I’m homeless and penniless, well until I get my hands on my winnings.”
Gloria grinned back at me.
“Don’t worry. My devious brother owes me more than a few favours. Let’s go somewhere a bit more private and I’ll call him. Then you can give him your details and he can make a few phone calls.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Is that a problem?” asked Gloria.
“Well, it could be. How do I know that the pair of you won’t run off with my money?”
“You have been through the wringer haven’t you? I’m sure he can work something out.”
We left the Cafe and headed for the beach. In a sheltered spot near the pier Gloria made a phone call. She put the phone on speaker so that I could hear everything that was said.
“Hello brother dear.”
“Yes, this is Gloria in all her glory.”
“What do I want? Well,” replied her brother slightly impatiently.
Gloria smiled at me.
“I have someone in need of your assistance.”
“And before you ask, yes it will be ‘pro-bono’. You owe me more than a few favours don’t you.”?
“Ok. I’ll put him on and he can explain.”
Gloria handed me the phone.
I swallowed hard and took it from her.
“Hello Mr Hemmings. My name is Daniel Ackroyd, Danny for short. I won quite a bit of money on Millionaire last Saturday and I can’t get at it. My bank is blocking it on suspicions of money laundering. Can you help me get at it?”
“Yes I need it. I am currently homeless and just about out of money. Gloria can vouch for that I’m sure.”
“Yes. It is the Leeds Bank. Do you want the account number?”
“Ok, I’ll text them to you.”
Half an hour later we were on a bus to Preston. Gloria knew of an out of town centre that was on the bus route where I could get a change of clothes. Despite the obvious stares the Gloria received, I was glad of her company. When I mentioned that I was just about broke, she laughed.
“Forget it love. Gloria will sub you. I don’t do Blackpool for the money but for fun. Helping someone out is a lot better than sitting in a Café all day.”
I stopped in mid stride. Gloria wasn’t a she, it was clearly male but for some reason I was accepting that Gloria was female despite being clearly a man in drag. Well, who wouldn’t think of a man, well over 6ft tall wearing an outrageous blonde wig, a shiny lurex mini skirt and shoes with a 4in platform and heels that were at least twice that, and a full beard, nothing more than a man in drag.
At that moment, I said to myself, ‘what the hell. Go with the flow’.
Armed with a change of clothes, we returned to Blackpool. We hadn’t heard anything from Charlie and it was getting late. Then Gloria dropped a bombshell.
“Well Sweetie, I’ll have to say Ta-ta until tomorrow.”
“Why? Where are you going?”
“I have a minor part in the Show on the pier. I need to go and get ready along with my fellow Queens.”
I was dumbstruck. Gloria clearly saw that.
“It is a review. There are 10 other girls like me. All I have to do is wave a fan in time with the music and swan about a bit. It is fun and certainly beats my day job.”
Gloria was her usual effervescent self the following morning. As was my style, I put a dampener on it.
“Any news from Charlie?”
She looked at me sternly.
“Can’t a girl have her first cup of tea before getting the ‘Spanish Inquisition’?”
I hadn’t a clue what she meant. Gloria saw it. She smiled and sat down.
“No I haven’t heard a thing. I’ll call him later. Now can I get some breakfast?”
That shut me up for the time being.
My hopes for relief were dashed when I tried to withdraw some money from an ATM when it swallowed my credit card. What more could go wrong with my life? Who said that ‘Money is the root of all evil’? Well Money was certainly at the root of all my problems.
That afternoon, I was walking along the promenade wondering how I'd get to my Bank in Doncaster to try to sort out my money when I heard someone shouting ‘Sweetie’. I groaned as I saw Gloria waving at me from the top of an open top Tram. Thankfully, she was soon out of sight as the tram headed towards Fleetwood.
My respite didn’t last long because less than twenty minutes later, Gloria had returned and found me again.
“Sweetie! Just the person I’m looking for.”
My spirits just dropped another few notches.
“What do you want Gloria?” I replied with a slightly irritable tone.
“Do you want to earn some money? Cash in hand?”
“What do I have to do? Run naked after a Tram?
“No. Nothing like that.”
Then she got a serious look.
“One of the girls has sprained her ankle and we need a replacement. I thought of you.”
“Did I say, Cash in hand?”
“Come on, take a risk. What have you got to lose?”
I couldn’t argue with that.
“Ok. I’ll do it,” I said reluctantly.
“That’s the spirit. Come on, we have a fitting to go to.”
Gloria literally dragged me into the Pier Theatre. Once we were in the dressing room she introduced me to the cast. To my surprise, they all made me very welcome.
My good vibe didn’t last very long. Gloria showed me the costume I’d be wearing.
“But… I don’t have any boobs and where am I going to put… you know what?”
To say that the costume was revealing would be an understatement. It was little more than a women’s one-piece swimsuit covered in glitter. Not much was left to the imagination.
“You have a couple of fans to wave as well….” Pleaded Gloria.
That didn’t give me a lot of confidence. However, all the other cast members pitched in and by the time of curtain up, I was dressed, made-up and … well petrified of having what is called, a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ in mid performance.
In the end, I needn’t have worried. Things went perfectly. Well, as perfectly as could be with a bumbling idiot in the midst of their ranks, no one complained when we returned to the dressing room, everyone thanked me for my performance.
To be honest, I was taken aback with all the praise.
“We can’t call you Danny. What is your female name?” asked one of the performers?
“Eh? I don’t have one?”
“What do you mean, you don’t have one? You are a natural,” said another.
“A natural clod hopper,” I replied.
“No. You are a natural woman. Look at you now,” said a third.
“W… What do you mean?”
"Sweetie, you are standing there in front of us just like a real woman would do. From where I stand, there is hardly a trace of a man in you at all. Are you sure that you have never done this before?”
I shook my head.
Gloria took my hand.
“Sweetie, you need some professional help. Come on let’s get changed and get out of here.
I just nodded my head and let her take charge. I really had no idea what had just happened but this seemed to be the norm for me at the moment.
Half an hour later, we went into a pub just off the seafront. We had thirty minutes before closing time. Gloria sat me down and went to the bar to get us both a drink.
When she returned with our drinks she sat down beside me.
“Now Sweetie, you are giving me a problem.”
“Wh.. What do you mean?”
“Didn’t the comments from the cast mean anything to you?”
“What about being a natural woman?”
She nodded her head.
“Once you put that outfit on, you moved like a woman. You stood naturally with your legs in the right position. No one had to teach you. It all came so naturally.”
“That presents me with a problem.”
“A problem? What do you mean?”
“Well, answer me one question truthfully. “
“Have you ever worn women’s clothes before?”
I racked my brains for a few seconds before answering.
“Once. When I was five or six. Why does it matter? It was in the school Nativity Play. The girl playing Mary got stage fright at the last moment. Does that count?”
She shook her head. Her smile vanished as she rummaged in her handbag.
She produced a business card and handed it to me.
“What’s this? Another Brother?” I asked remembering how she introduced Charlie.
Gloria shook her head.
“No, that’s really me.”
I looked at it again.
“You are a psychologist and a psychiatrist?”
“Yes. That is my day job. I come here to let my hair down once a year. For the rest of the year I’m a shrink in Manchester.”
“So, what has that to do with me?”
“I think you need some proper counselling.”
“Why? I just need access to my money and I can get on with my life.”
Once again, she shook her head.
“I saw a totally different side to you tonight. You were a natural woman. After that first number, something clicked in you and you were no longer a man in drag but a woman. Believe me, we all noticed, even the real women in the cast.”
“Are you saying that I should be a tranny?”
“Let’s not try crossing that bridge before we come to it eh? But from what us T-Girls saw tonight is that you are more female than some of the real women in the cast.”
I was stunned by what I’d just heard.
“So… what do you propose?”
“Firstly, we have to see out the week in the review. Then I propose that you become a patient of a colleague and… well see how things go from there.”
“You think I’m crazy?”
“No Danny. Far from it but it is clear to me that you need someone to help you work out what you want to do in your life. Everything you were comfortable with in your life has gone up in smoke. I saw things in you tonight that may be a way for you to go in the future.”
“Why can’t you help me?”
She shook her head.
“I’m too close to you. Whoever helps you needs to be objective. Look at me? I can’t very well be objective now that you know about my other side, now can I?”
I couldn’t argue with that point of view.
In the end, I didn’t get access to my winnings until the following Monday. I was then able to settle up with the Landlady and pay back Gloria for the money she’d loaned me. I travelled to Manchester with Gloria and met with my ‘shrink’, a man named Robert Paris. He was Gloria’s partner and would be my shrink/therapist for the immediate future.
We had a two-hour session right there and then. I wasn’t prepared for it but Robert wanted to get to know me without any pre-conceived ideas or thoughts getting in the way. At the end of it he said,
“Danny, I have a number of other transsexuals on my books as well as you. From what I’ve seen, you have a definite feminine side. No, it is far more than that. Just looking at how you are sitting is a clear give away especially the way you fold your legs up. Most men could not get even close to how you have folded them.”
He paused probably for effect.
“What I’d like to do is give you a chance to see what life would be like if you crossed over and lived life as a woman full time. How does that sound?”
“Doc, I’ve never thought of myself as a transsexual. I fancy women not men.”
“Danny, who you fancy is in my opinion totally unrelated to what sex you were born as. I see you as someone who has lost their way in life. How many real male friends did you have before this all blew up? Then compare that to how many real female friends you had? What does that tell you?”
I thought for a few seconds.
“That I’m more comfortable when in female company but not in a ‘I want to get you into bed’ sort of way?”
“Yes. Rather crudely put but close to the mark. Try to imagine what would change if you were dressed like those women?”
“Not a lot really but I guess that is the point of trying it out. I don’t have anything to lose really now do I?”
“That’s the spirit. I’ll need a day or so to get things setup so we’ll book you into a quiet B&B well away from the city for a few days. How does Chester sound?”
“Chester? Never been there.”
“Well now’s your chance.”
Chester was a nice place. Mrs Jones’s B&B was also nice if you like wall to wall Chintz that it. Still, she meant well and made me very welcome.
I used the time in the city to do some shopping. At first wandering around the women’s clothing section of the stores was difficult. I thought that people would be saying, ‘he’s buying that for himself’. But they didn’t, at least, I couldn’t hear them and besides after a few hours, I didn’t care anymore.
After a couple of days, Robert came and picked me up and took me to the smallish town of Bridgnorth where he introduced me to Jemma, a tall thin lithe woman in her fifties.
“Jemma will spend the next few weeks teaching you some of the basics of to become a woman. Movement, posture, hair, makeup and all that.”
That worried me.
“Robert, can I speak to you outside for a moment?”
Once outside, I asked him,
“How much will this cost me? You know for Jemma’s time and effort?”
“Good point Danny… You should ask Jemma directly. She does not bite you know.”
Reluctantly, I replied.
“Ok. I will.”
Back inside, Robert came to my rescue.
“Danny here is a bit embarrassed about asking you about the costs and all that?”
“How much were you paying at the last place you stayed?”
“Forty five pounds a night, why?”
“Let’s call it fifty and it’s a deal. Ok?”
“Ok,” I replied very relieved.
It didn’t take long for me to find out that Gemma’s husband had been transgendered and had lived with her as a woman for close to twenty years. He’d died a couple of years before from cancer. I could tell right away that she was going to enjoy the company I’d give her in return for me letting her teach me all sorts of things about being a woman.
When I left Gemma’s almost two months later almost all trace of Danny had been eradicated. Even my wimpy beard had been removed. My hair was growing and was now coloured Auburn rather than the limp dull brown it was before. I'd even decided on a new name for myself, Monica.
I felt happier in myself than I’d been for years. The one thing that I’d realized was that for once I had a goal in my life. I’d been going through the motions for and awful long time. I was also under no illusion that the road ahead was going to be easy. It wasn’t and a of few ‘encounters’ that I’d had already made that very clear to me.
I spent a lot of time thinking about me and things in general. Could I go back to live as the old me, Daniel and the associated baggage that went with him or a new start totally. The strange thing was that the more time I spent living as a woman, the more comfortable I was. It just seemed natural, as if I should have been born a woman in the first place. That got me thinking about growing up. All my friends had lots of girlfriends but they really sucked when it came to actually treating them properly. That just wasn't me so as a result I only had one real girlfriend. She left me for someone 'more exciting' and two months later she was up the 'duff'. In the end, my decision was easy. Let my life as a woman continue. I was not going to go back to my old life no matter what.
Now I had a project. That was the new me. Sure, I had some money but that wouldn’t last forever. I needed to find something I could do to earn a crust. I had no idea what that was but I knew that I was going to have fun finding out.
Before I left, I had a long session with Robert. By long, I mean a whole day. He came down from Manchester and we went out for the day together.
He asked me all sorts of probing questions. A good few of them had been asked before. This time I was far more confident in answering honestly and truthfully.
Robert agreed with my thoughts and arranged for me to have a temporary job, one where I could put my new found ‘female’ skills to work in a relatively safe environment.
That job was working for a woman named Julie Summers. Julie ran mobile hairdressers in rural Devon. I became her assistant as we toured the villages around Dartmoor giving OAP’s their fortnightly cut and perm. Julie was a lot of fun especially when it came to any of her friend’s birthdays. It was nice to be doing something productive again even if some of our clients were a tad crotchety at times.
What pleased me the most was that I was treated as just another woman. Sure, a good few of the clients were half blind but no one screamed out ‘you’re a man’!
Julie played a really big part in that. She taught me how to do my hair, the finer points of makeup and a lot about clothes. On our day off, we had great fun going shopping together. Things just sort of fell into place. I felt really at home for the first time in a very long time.
After two months with Julie, I went up to Manchester for another face-to-face session with Robert. I travelled up by train on my own. It was my first long trip as my new self. At first I was slightly nervous about being on my own but when a couple of Exeter City football fans tried to chat me up I relaxed and started to enjoy the trip.
As soon as I walked into his consulting room, Robert’s face lit up.
“Well Monica, you have made a lot of progress, haven’t you?”
Needless to say, ‘Gloria’ was equally happy with my progress.
I’d been with Julie for almost four months when six of her friends got together with the two of us for a girl’s night out to celebrate one of their birthdays. To my eternal relief, none of them were into clubbing or binge drinking which suited me fine. We were going to a Karaoke night at a pub that was going to be followed by a meal at an Indian Restaurant. On the way to the pub we stopped at a Newsagents shop, where we all bought £20 worth of Euro Millions lottery tickets. We each gave half of them to the Birthday Girl in addition to the raft of presents we’d bought her.
The evening was a hoot. Thankfully, no one remarked at my lower than normal voice when I got up to sing ‘My Way’ badly. It was well past midnight by the time Julie and I returned to her home. We both judged the evening a great success. Little did I know how successful it was going to be?
Saturday morning came far too soon for my liking. I had a bit of hangover but we had customers that needed their hair doing. Julie was even slower off the mark than I was so I made us some strong coffee to take with us on the road.
We were nearly finished for the day when one of our regular cut/perm customers Mrs Clarke, said as she sat under the dryer,
“Did you hear the news about the Lottery?”
I was sweeping up some hair at the time so only half-heartedly took interest in what she was saying.
“Someone from Devon has won close to a Hundred and Fifty Million.”
I asked, “How many people are there in Devon then Mrs Clarke?”
“Approximately 1,076,600 at the last Census Monica,” she replied without hesitation.
“So, you have a one in a million chance of winning then Mrs Clarke?”
“I don’t hold with them lottery things or any form of Gambling young lady!”
That put me in my place until a little later Julia told me that she was a regular at the weekly ‘Bingo’ session at the village hall.
We were driving back towards Oakhampton when the local radio news came on. Once the reports of accidents on the A30 and results of the Crediton Show had been announced, the newsreader said,
“And finally, there is still no indication that the lucky winner of last nights Lotto has come forward to claim their winnings. Come on Devonians check those tickets and if you are the lucky winner give us a call! We'd love to tell the world that one of our listeners is the winner.”
“Well Nicole, have you checked your numbers yet?” asked Julia.
“Have you checked yours yet?”
“Well shut up and concentrate on your driving before you have us in the ditch.”
She just glared at me.
Later that evening I came into the sitting room after doing the washing up I found Julia checking her numbers on her phone.
“Are you that mysterious winner? Are you planning going to live in the Bahamas then?” I joked.
“Nope. It ain’t me,” she replied sadly.
Then she threw her phone at me.
Reluctantly, I fished my ticket out of my purse and scanned the numbers on the phone.
My heart stopped as I read them for the second time.
“Not again, please!”
“What’s wrong? You’ve gone as white as a sheet!”
“It’s me! I won!”
She leapt out of her chair and peered over my shoulder and spoke each number out in turn.
“Nine, Three, Twenty-Seven, Thirty-Three and Forty-Two. Star balls, three and five! Fuck me Monica, you won!”
By now, I was crying.
“It’s happened again!”
“What do you mean? Have you won the Lottery before?”
I shook my head.
“I won a lot on Millionaire.”
“What on earth are you doing with me in a dump like this?”
“Julia, this is not a dump. It is your home. Yes, I won some money and it ruined my life. I was… well made homeless by people who had long memories about something that was nothing to do with me.”
She looked confused.
“It is a long story and one you really don’t want to know.”
She took the hint and went and poured us both a drink.
“I have to call someone,” I said reaching for my phone.
“The lottery people?”
I shook my head.
“No, my lawyer,” I replied sadly as I called up his number.
“Charlie, its Monica. I need your help.”
“No Charlie. It is not someone from my past but something from my past.”
“I think I have won an awful lot of money, again.”
“Yes, there is something wrong with that when it is close to a Hundred and Fifty million.”
There was silence at the other end of the phone.
"Charlie? Are you still there?"
"Yes. Last night's Euro Millions."
“Yes. I’m still in Devon.”
“Yes. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Oh and Charlie, sorry to ruin your weekend.”
I hung up the phone and turned to Julia,
“Fancy a little trip to London?”
Charlie was not best pleased when I told him that Daniel would be making a return just so that I could pick up the winners cheque. Thankfully, Robert Paris supported me in my desire to keep the new me as far away from publicity as possible. Gloria spoke to her brother and persuaded him to go along with it. The problem was that I had no male clothes and my eyebrows were hardly shaped for a man.
Julia was a real star and worked her magic on me. She paid special attention to my eyebrows so that when we joined Charlie for the trip to the Lottery Company, even he was impressed with her skills. She couldn’t stay for the ceremony because of her customers.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said as she gathered up her things.
She gave me a look that said ‘really?”
“I will be back, I promise. You know how you hate doing Mrs Edwards fuzz and she’s due on Thursday.”
“And just who did it before you came along?”
“Err…. You. But I said that I’d be there for her appointment ok?
The award ceremony was ok. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to get away. Charlie was an absolute star. He made sure that the money was deposited in my private account and that all offers of financial advice were politely but firmly rejected. This caused a bit of consternation with the Lottery people but Charlie persuaded them by saying that this was not the first ‘windfall’ that I’d received and that he and his team were perfectly capable of looking after my interests and me.
Once we were back at Charlie’s offices, all traces of Danny were quickly removed. I was happy to see Monica appear once more. It is funny how things can change in such a short time. Once back to normal, I went to see Charlie.
“Charlie thanks for today. You were brilliant.”
“That’s what you pay me for,” was his reply.
“About that….” He added.
“What about it?”
“This amount of money is well beyond our capabilities to manage. I’d like to get you signed up with a proper Wealth Management Company. They’ll manage the money for you.”
I shook my head.
“And charge a small fortune for their trouble eh?”
“And the value of my investments can go down as well as up?”
Charlie held his hand up in defeat.
“I should have expected that. You are from Yorkshire aren’t you…?
What are you going to do with the money?”
“Let me think things over for a week or so. Can you put the money into an account that pays interest? Even 1% after tax would be good.”
“I’ll try to get something sorted. How much do you want for your immediate needs?”
I thought for a moment before answering.
“Let me think on that and I’ll let you know before the end of the week.”
Then I smiled at him.
“Then we can talk about making Monica Shaw all nice and legal like. Then there is the little matter of your retainer. I think you and I need to review our relationship don’t you?”
“I’ve done whatever you’ve asked haven’t I?”
“Yes. I was thinking about an increase in your retainer but I need to be clearer in my own mind what I want to do with the money first before we can talk.”
He sat back grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“You are an amazing person Monica. You were in a bit of a state when my dear brother twisted my arm to help you but you have really developed as a person. Compared to some of the prima-donnas I have to deal with, you are a delight.”
I travelled back to Devon by train that evening. Julia was waiting for me at Exeter St David’s station.
“You came then?”
“I said I would. Besides, I need time to think a few things over and what better place to do it eh? The backdrop of Dartmoor and the National Park is an ideal place to do that don’t you think?”
She didn’t argue but just shook her head in disbelief.
The next few days were hectic. We managed to fit in all the clients that had to be put off for the trip to London but by the Saturday evening, we were both knackered. We treated ourselves to dinner at the ‘Duke of York’ pub that was in the next village.
When we’d finished eating, I said to Julia,
“I want to say how much I’ve loved being here with you and for all your help.”
“Oh dear. That sounds like you are leaving then?”
“Not yet I’m not. But I want to do something for you as thanks for everything.”
“I’m not a charity case you know!”
“I’m not saying you are. But I’d like to help you out. You have a successful business here but I know that you want more out of life. That’s where I’d like to help and on a proper business footing.”
“What are you suggesting then?”
“You know how you go on about that shop in Crediton, and how it would make a perfect Salon?”
“Yes. What of it?”
“I saw a ‘For Sale’ notice on the wall last week. How about I buy the property and you lease it from me? That’s not charity is it?
Then there is the Van. A newer model would be good wouldn’t it?”
“No… Yes… But…”
“Look Julia, you took me in when you didn’t know me from Adam or should that be Eve? Anyway, you have given me time to think and now this money has given me an idea about how I can help people like you.”
“People like me? What do you mean?”
“People who are willing to help themselves and could so with a little helping hand. I think it is called Philanthropy.”
She sat there motionless for almost a minute. Then a tear formed in the corner of her eye.
“Thank you. No one has ever helped me like this. How can I ever repay you?”
“By being happy, growing your business and … just being you.”
I remained in Devon for the next nine months. With Roberts’s agreement, I started the next stage of my transition. I had several bits of plastic surgery done to my face to soften the features. By the time I left, Julia had moved into her new shop and business was thriving. A number of her customers were sorry to see me go but it was time for me to move on.
I didn’t go far at first. I checked into a private clinic in South London where I had my breasts done plus some work on my Adams Apple and voice. The whole thing took nearly a month many due to almost having to learn to speak again.
When I left the clinic, I bought myself a motorcycle and set out on a tour of the country. The Hebridean Islands of Scotland were stunningly beautiful in June. The tour had two objectives, the first was to see the country. I’d seen most of Yorkshire but much of the rest of the country was a total mystery to me. The second objective of my tour was to be on the lookout for a place to live.
Anywhere within 50 miles of my old home was immediately off the list but I did ride through the Village on my way to York. To be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave. Both it and the people hadn’t changed for the good. Even the one small supermarket had closed down. The words ‘Scab’ were still visible on the front of my old home.
When I’d finished my travelling, I rented a small house near Dorchester in Dorset. The ‘Yorkshire’ in me still made me careful with money even though I had enough in earned interest alone to have bought the place outright.
Dorset was one of a few locations that had taken my fancy on the tour.
After more than three months I still hadn’t found anywhere that said ‘Yes Buy Me!’ so I moved on to Northumbria where I nearly bought a house near Alnwick but I didn’t put my offer in in time. That left me with West Wales, specifically near the coast between Cardigan and Aberystwyth. Here I struck gold and bought my present home.
Once I’d moved in, I spent another nine months getting it done up to my requirements. I converted one of the former Lambing Sheds into my Workshop. The other one was partially converted into a really big greenhouse. That was a little over a year before you first came to visit.
So here I am and that is how I got here. Well, that’s the short version but I hope there is enough there for you to understand me and how I got here.
Then I laughed.
“What’s so funny?” asked Kylie.
“I just remembered what happened when I first wore those shoes over there,” I said pointing at a pair of black court shoes with 4in heels.
“What happened? Did you fall off them?”
“No, I got terrible cramp. Gloria almost fell off her heels with laughter when I told her.”
We both laughed.
[To be continued]
NUM - National Union of Mineworkers
UDM - Union of Democratic Miners, often called the ’Scab Union’ by the left wing press.
Arthur Scargill – Former president of the NUM. He was leader of the Union during the Miners strike in the 1980’s.
I do hope that I have not offended anyone with this chapter. It is not my intention and never was to do so.
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