“Is this our usual marmalade Dorothy? It doesn’t seem as sharp.”
“I really don’t know. The car will be here in a few minutes. Simon wants me to move to Strategy & Planning; what do you think?”
“Mm, yes. I see there’s more trouble in the Middle East.”
“Ted? Are you listening? I said… Oh never mind, the car’s here. I’ll be in Bedford, home late. Bye”
“Mm, yes, bye Love.”
Ted looks out at his immaculate garden, the well-tended greenhouse which he keeps just for flowers and he smiles. It’s been two years since he retired and he hasn’t regretted it once. He picks up his phone, toys with it for a few seconds then decides to press one of his regular numbers.
“Barry? It’s Ted……Same to you mate. How do you fancy spending a couple of hours at the allotment? We could pop in for a pint and a sandwich at the Duck afterwards… Good. See you there in half an hour… Cheers.”
Barry and Ted share the allotment. It’s sensible to share or you have to spend half your life trying to find a home for a glut of radishes, lettuce, and bloody hundreds of courgettes. Anyway, they enjoy each other’s company.
Ted has a calendar at home showing ‘Jobs for the Month’. He’s already marked up the work for today and made some brief notes to remind himself:
Take some of the asparagus, radish, lettuce, spinach, peas.
Plant under glass: beans, beans, beans (by which he meant three different types), sweetcorn, cucumber, kale for Dorothy’s smoothies.
Erect poles for beans.
Put straw under strawberries.
Go to pub.
Barry is happy just to tag along. They work pretty quietly together: old friends who share an interest in gardening and don’t need to say a lot.
“Forgot to ask, Ted, how’s Dorothy these days?”
“Much the same. Still chasing her tail at work. I don’t know why she does it. God knows we don’t need the money and she’ll retire in a couple of years anyway. Still, might as well enjoy the peace while it lasts eh.”
“Lucky you. It’s good to get a bit of quiet out here.”
The last job done, they wash their hands under the cold tap and walk down to the pub.
“Seven down, five letters: the inside or outside alternative”
“Hmm I’ll have to think about that. So what is Dorothy doing these days?”
“HR Director. She’s just had to close the Bristol Office. A horrible job but she’s got used to it over the years. They call it rationalisation.”
“At least we’re spared the latest buzz-words nowadays. Other!”
“Oh, oh yes. Nice one Barry. Same again?”
“Mmm, great, thanks.”
Later they amble back to the allotment to collect their crops.
Ted busies himself at home cleaning his veg and begins preparing a salad for when Dorothy gets home. He’ll just have some cheese on toast later, he decides.
Outside in the garden he goes to his favourite warm, shady spot and enjoys the view for a few moments. It’s starting to get a bit chilly when he wakes up so he moves into the conservatory and concentrates on his book for a while, choosing a favourite album to play. He’ll eat and have a cup of tea soon.
He hears the car door slam: 8.00pm, well she said she’d be late.
Oh dear. The face.
“Hello Dear, I’ve done you some salad.”
“It’s awful. You know I was maybe moving to Strategy and Planning?”
“I told you this morning.”
“Oh, oh yes, I remember,” he lies.
“I thought it was just a level transfer. I found out that it would mean a step down, reporting to Henderson of all people. Apparently Simon wants to make way for some new blood at board level. And we all know who SHE is. I told him to forget it. I’ve resigned. I’m going in to clear my desk tomorrow.”
Ted stays quiet in the morning, leaving Dorothy alone with her thoughts. After a very chilly breakfast she says a peremptory ‘goodbye’. He tries to give her a brief hug but she turns away. Her car starts and drives off. He clears the breakfast things then thinks he’ll have a look how his fuchsia cuttings are getting on.
He stands by the greenhouse door and looks at the sign that Dorothy has always been too busy to notice.
THE GLASS CEILING
It doesn’t seem funny anymore.