The Cambridge Connection – Chapters 1 and 2

Picture Cambridge used by courtesy of copyright owner

Charles Makes a MoveChapter 1

Charles Stewart Nelson followed the real estate agent into the Stockwell London apartment complex. He’d seen it on the list supplied by the estate agent two days previous in Cambridge. The Chartered Accountants he worked for in Cambridge had transferred him to London to fill an important vacancy created by one of their employees who’d decided to take up another appointment in Europe and had given him a week to find a suitable apartment they’d subsidize and get ready to be oriented to clients he’d be servicing next week. Not much time to make the change Charles thought as he carefully appraised the building and tried to remember the locations of convenient rail stations nearby which would take him into inner London where his new office was located. He had to make a quick decision on where to locate, pay the deposit and rush back to Cambridge to collect personal items from his bachelor pad there and bring them to his new home. Fortunately, he didn’t have much to pack up being a bachelor. His clothing and personal effects would be a heavy load on the car, but it would be manageable.

Despite the fact he’d now been in the UK for ten years he still missed the warmth of South Africa where his parents lived. Originally English their ancestors had been army personnel assigned for military duty to South Africa in the eighteen hundred’s and decided on retirement to spend their time on pension there. Charles loved the cosmopolitan nature of Africa and missed his parents greatly. But his parents judging the political issues surfacing during his growing up years to be threatening had sent him to England to complete his bachelor’s degree in Cambridge where they still had relatives and Charles had decided on a career in finance joining the ICAUKW program to eventually receive his ACA Chartered Accountant professional designation. In the process he’d been picked up by one of the Cambridge Chartered Accountant practices as a potential for partnership in future. They’d not been disappointed with their choice and Charles soon established a dedicated clientele of his own and this salary package steadily increased to ensure he stayed with the practice.

Charles was concerned about his parents. In the ten years he’d been in the UK he’d only been able to take time off for a quick one-time visit. It had been a great joy when he arrived in Cape Town and felt the emotion of a reconnection with this culture, but he noted with alarm how his parents had aged. None of his siblings had remained in South Africa. His one and only sister had married before he left, and she’d migrated with her husband’s family to Australia. His brothers had been educated in Cambridge as he had but one had migrated to Canada and the other to the US. So, while his parents had adequate helpers in the home and friends of their age who’d remained behind in Africa there were no immediate family members to come to their aid in an emergency. His sister had pled with her parents to join her in Australia thinking the climate would be at least familiar, but the old people had resisted. As their health began to deteriorate, they’d almost come around to the idea and Charles and his siblings urged them to take that opportunity. They were planning on making that move soon. So, it would be unlikely he’d return to South Africa and his next trip to see his parents would be to Australia.

All those memories had been going through his mind at lightning speed as he carefully observed the apartment approach, picked out the likely spot his car would be parked on the street in this relatively quiet neighbourhood and evaluated the width of stairs leading to upper levels then noted with appreciation the relative spaciousness of the one-bedroom apartment and range of furnishings and décor. It was better than other apartments the agent had whisked him through today and he wondered if he should settle on this one so he could attend to the financials next day at the agency and rush back to Cambridge to collect his personal effects. It would take him a while to pack up so in that he only had one week to care for the move he made a snap decision as the agent looked at his list with a view to hurrying on to the next viewing. Then caution caught him. He needed to settle one last question as he knew by now that in a building with multiple apartments one had to be careful about potential neighbours. He turned to the agent.

“I would like to know something about the kind of neighbours I’d have in this building?”

The agent smiled. “A very prudent question sir! Fortunately, we are the sole agents for this whole complex and care for rentals and maintenance needs. So, I know each of the tenants personally.” He searched through his papers.

“The apartment immediately opposite to you is occupied by a nice couple from Jamaica. They are well educated, and the husband is employed by a bank as one of their financial consultants. His wife has almost finished her medical degree but has taken time off from studies as they’ve just moved here a year ago from Cambridge.”

The word Cambridge caught Charles attention. What a coincidence! The agent then methodically gave a summary of the other tenants. All tenants were a mixed bag of nationalities. Australian, European, another family from the Caribbean and one sole native English family. England was a melting pot of nations now.

Charles shrugged. Sounded like a safe place to locate. “You can sign me up for this apartment!”

The agent nodded. “Well, we can complete most of the paperwork here sir if that suits you, but we will have to return to the office to finalize the financials.”

“Why don’t you take me back to the office and we will handle it all now so I can collect my car and get back to Cambridge.”

The agent smiled. “As you wish sir. You’ve made a good choice sir.”

The agent carefully locked up and they were soon on their way to the office a twenty-minute drive away and by evening the contracts had been completed, money paid, the key to the Stockwell apartment in Charles pocket and he was fighting his way out of London for his destination Cambridge. Tomorrow he’d pack his car and deposit the key to his Cambridge apartment with the Chartered Accountant firm who leased it. Then it would be back to London to use his remaining days off to familiarize himself with his new home area and the transportation systems he’d use to commute to the office each day. He imagined rail would be the fastest and safest way to make the daily commute.

The GordonsChapter 2

Omario Gordon was sitting with his wife Taniyah in the sun when a stranger pulled over to the curb opposite them the car packed solid with personal effects but with enough visibility for the driver so that it was within road safety codes. They had moved down from their apartment to catch this rare warmth of a sunny London day. Taniyah had been sick and Omario called in sick himself to take the day off and keep an eye on her. He’d taken two folding chairs downstairs and they were sitting outside when the stranger arrived and got out stretching. Charles was bone tired from the hasty dissembling of his equipment and stacking everything neatly in the car for the move. For a moment he regretted not finding an apartment at ground level but nothing the agent had shown him had a ground unit available. He looked at the two seated outside the entrance on the lawn inquiringly. Omario stood and walked down to the road.

“My name is Omario Gordon, were you looking for something and can we be of help?”

Charles smiled in appreciation. “My name is Charles Nelson, and I signed a contract to move into the vacant apartment upstairs yesterday. I’ll be going up to open the door so I can move my things in. Could you keep an eye on my things as I’m unfamiliar with this area?”

Omario laughed. “Better than that I’ll help you move your things up and my wife will keep an eye on your car, but you have nothing to worry about as this is a very safe area.”

Charles protested. “That’s too kind of you Mr Omario but I can’t expect you to interrupt your time with your wife.”

Omario extended his hand and Charles noted with appreciation the rippling muscles on this tall man. Maybe he should accept or that could be interpreted as a lack of trust?

“That is very kind of you Mr Omario.” Charles opened the car doors to reveal the cram packed personal effects and Omario whistled.

“That car has received quite a workout today Charles.” He and Taniyah laughed pleasantly, and Charles relaxed and smiled.

“Thanks, Omario.”

The tall black man loaded up as Charles grabbed an armload of things and headed for the stairs. They made several trips until the car was empty and Charles paused panting while Omario surveyed the pile in the middle of the room.

“We are your neighbours across the corridor Charles so if there’s anything you need just let us know.” He turned to re-join his wife.

Charles closed the door to begin the arduous job of finding bedding to set up for the evening and placed his clothes in the spacious built-in closet and drawers provided there. The agent had already activated refrigerator and hot water systems for which Charles was grateful and he deposited the limited food supplies from cooler and cardboard boxes in frig and pantry. By the time he was finished he was worn out and looking forward to a hot shower and early bed. He turned on the TV and sat on the lounge to rest a while before preparing supper. To his surprise he found the TV was cable activated. Then he remembered that was factored into the rental. He had made a good choice in selecting this apartment.

The doorbell chimed and he rose wearily to peep through the eye glass in the door and see who was there before opening. Must be the agent seeing how he was settling in he thought. But it was a woman at the door, and he recognized she was the one sitting with Omario when he arrived. He’d forgotten her name.

Hello, I’m Taniyah Gordon your neighbour across the corridor. Omario told me to check and see if you were up to having dinner with us at the local Pub tonight, but I told him you needed a good meal so I’m cooking for you. I suppose you want to have an early night so I have dinner on if you can be ready in half an hour.”

Charles was about to protest not wanting to put his new neighbours to that kind of trouble but realized they might imagine he didn’t want to associate with them because of their colour. So, he nodded thankfully wondering what would be on the menu. What kind of food did they eat in Jamaica? Africa cuisine he knew but the Caribbean he was not familiar with.

“That is so kind of you Taniyah, I really appreciate you doing that and look forward to getting to know you better as neighbours.”

Charles enjoyed his meal and learning more about this generous couple. In Jamaica, the name Omario had the connotation of eloquent and articulate and Charles felt he was well named. He learned about Omario’s educational journey culminating in his master’s program at Cambridge Judge Business School. He learned that those pressed into slavery in early island history commonly took the surname of the plantation owner and as Irish planter Gordon owned the workers on his plantation that name Gordon had been passed along through Omario’s ancestors. His ancestors had risen above those years and his family were plantation owners now and rich enough to have given their children the best of education in England.

Taniyah Ewbank whose Christian name had the connotation of joyful beautiful woman had an ancestry from Jamaica days going back to the seventeen hundred, and the surname Ewbank was similarly borrowed from plantation owners of that time. Her history was slightly different. Her ancestors were Indian, and they’d not been bought out as slaves but promised employment cutting cane on plantations with board and keep and a modest salary. Many over time graduated to small business on leaving the plantations and slowly built wealth. Her parents were well connected in business and politics now and well able to give their children the best of education. She’d completed most of the School of Clinical Medicine Cambridge requirements and had a one-year Foundation Program Post to do.

She and her husband had met in Cambridge at the Pub most students frequented and after some time of courtship had married in Cambridge. But Omario’s new employment in London had given pause to her residency before being finally proclaimed as a doctor due to her joining her husband in London. She had just confided in Omario this evening before preparing the meal that she was now certain her sickness of the day was not a passing thing. She was pregnant! Charles did not come to know that however until much later.

Charles in turn talked about his growing up years in South Africa and how much he missed that country. Omario laughingly asked if he’d had any black girlfriends and Charles had blushed and confessed, he really hadn’t had any special girlfriends black or white as he grew up. But he counted many blacks he grew up with and went to school with as good friends still and kept in touch. This seemed to please his new friends and the evening ended in goodwill. Charles slept well that night.

Next day Omario pressed the doorbell before going to work and informed Charles that Taniyah was willing to spend the day with him showing him around the area and orienting him to where everything one might need could be found. Was he interested? Charles indicated he would be happy to have that help.

One hour later Taniyah was at the door all dressed for the day’s outing and Charles having seen she was dressed for comfort discarded his professional clothes and put on sports clothes while she waited patiently. As they walked down the stairs together, he observed her with his peripheral vision. Her parents had named her well. She really was a beautiful joyful woman and capable too as he watched her during the day. They took time to dine together at an upscale restaurant before returning home in the afternoon.

Someday he would find a woman like that to share his life with and he was glad to have this generous couple as his neighbours.

Copyright Notice

To be continued.

© Copyright 2021 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved.

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