Don's car glints in the sunlight as it proceeds along the high ridge road, appearing to be the only moving object amongst the downland sheep grazing on the late spring grass. Spread below, the Meon valley; it's patchwork of green pasture and crops, punctuated by an occasional homestead or farmhouse.
Don's progression brings an ancient roadside tree into his view.
It's mostly dead, yet still surviving, standing knarred and alone, close to the burial mounds of Old Winchester Hill.
It impressed Don and he bought the Cortina to a gentle halt on the deserted road to gaze at the lonely tree.
Down in the valley, through powerful field glasses someone had noticed him stop and so, took stock of Don sat at the wheel in his open necked shirt.
Yes she thought idly, he looked the sales rep type expected at the Swan today; sort of able bodied and confidant yet not unattractive with it.
Don, who at just 29, was sometimes referred to as the Old Survivor by younger reps, was thus humbled by the tree's example of epic tenacity.
Don rode this jibe; he could wipe the squash floor with most of them anyway.
He took pride in his fitness. But for how much longer he glumly wondered? Squash was a young mans game; as was being a Yellow Pages rep.
Sometimes the job's pressures made him want to drop out and join the hippies on some far away shore; or rejoin the merchant navy and jump ship abroad.
He looked out across the valley and took in its stunning beauty.
"Far from the madding crowd" quoted Don to himself.
It was a crystal clear morning and everything in the valley was focused in fine detail. Poking a finger at the radio he cut the babble of Tony Blackburn, allowing the tranquillity of the valley to prevail.
Don set the car in motion, enjoying more of the panorama before the craggy trees clinging to the chalk-face hide it from his gaze.
The car descends the long narrow lane that takes him into the village of Warnford where Don pulls onto the forecourt of The Swan Inn.
The Swan Inn
As I open the Cortina's boot for my gear, I feel the cool tranquillity of this place and become aware of the tinkling of a stream feeding a watercress bed.
I breathe it in for a moment before walking into The Swan.
The old coaching inn was pleasing to look at yet commercially detached, The Swan may not have warranted a star rating with Michelin yet it was a gem of antiquity.
After being inside a short while, I discover that any move I make causes something to creak. Dark steps and passageways are everywhere.
There are early locals round the bar where some pasties are on offer.
I claim one with a glass of local bitter from the landlord and settle into a corner to begin looking through the call-sheets in my folder.
Meon Hospitality looked a promising prospect. The proprietor was a Max Largen of Flint Lodge. I could check that one out this afternoon.
The landlord called Rolly is a retired navy man who chats with me before getting busy with his lunchtime trade.
I get round to asking him the whereabouts of Flint Lodge. His amiability cooled slightly and he refers to the place as, " where those new people had the grounds of Flint Lodge dug up, to install a swimming pool."
Rolly added that Flint Lodge was once part of the Meon Manor estate, so the addition of a pool on the landscape had irritated some local people's sensibilities.
It was apparent the newcomers hadn't found favour with some village elders.
It was time I rang the office; then get started doing business calls.
The reception area was blessed with an enclosed wood-panelled telephone booth, complete with comfy upholstered stool. On a rotten rainy day I could set-up shop in here and make it my office. This one was beginning to feel like a good sales campaign already.
Max Largen was standing by his office window whilst on the phone as Don pulled into his drive, parking a flashy new Cortina next to his own sombre Mercedes.
As Max spoke down the line, he watched Don prepare himself for the call.
Max had heard Yellow Pages referred to as a new force in advertising and had almost become a license to print money. It would be interesting to see what one of these esteemed company salesmen was made of.
You could say that Max was a colourful fish in a small pond. Although middle-aged, Max was nonetheless part of the new swinging set of go-getters.
He paid little deference to the old business methods of the privileged few.
His was the brave new future of energetic pluralism; the classless society.
They may still shoulder the wheel but now they would reap the profit and perhaps a little power over their neighbour.
Yet in its way it wasn't that different from the old class it strove to overcome.
Self-seeking and sometimes dark and ruthless but dressed up with an idealistic smile.
Max had a reputation of cutting through red tape and getting results. Able to get hold of people, he could get your party going with a swing. Max would do you a special favour when it mattered.
From Flint Lodge Max planned towards a bigger slice of what could be had.
The phone conversation came to a close. Sitting at his solid oak desk, Max looked at what he had prepared for his Yellow Page's advert.
Meon Hospitality Agency.
Business Hospitality — Indoor & Outdoor Activities — Superb Locations
Promotional Parties — Professional Escort Personnel
Max had attempted a vague graphic of a marquee in a field underneath his letterhead and drawn a box round the whole thing. There was a knock and the Yellow Page's man was ushered in. He was a fit looking young chap with slightly rebellious brown hair. Although not wearing a suit, he still managed to look business-like. Don was an example of a new independently mobile class of working man.
Don impressed Max with his youthful professionalism. He'd listened intelligently and understood what Max wanted to achieve before offering some sound ideas to improve on the message and its scope. Although it would cost more, Max accepted what he had recommended. Don drew up the layout and dealt with the paperwork.
A primly dressed woman, with light brown hair, came in carrying a tray of coffee and biscuits.
"I've brought in an extra cup for our visitor Max." she said smiling at Don.
Max then introduced her as Miss Grey his business partner. As they shook hands Don felt the magnetism of this attractively mature woman.
Max briefly outlined to her what he and Don had worked out for the advertising while Valerie Grey sat casually on the desk's edge, quizzically observing.
Max found Don's non-deferential style very engaging. He envied this young man whose trade gave him such access to an extraordinary cross-section of business-people. Max's instinct told him, this was a young man who could be of value to him. With their business done, they made their way slowly out to the driveway chatting spontaneously. Then before they parted, Max invited Don to join their small pool party that coming Friday about noon at Flint Lodge.
With no room for my Cortina on the gravel drive, I parked on the trimmed grass. Then to the tinkling of Dave Brubeck's piano I approached the scattered guest around the poolside.
I was relieved everyone was very casually dressed.
"Hello! Don isn't it?" called a glamorous nearby woman, "Glad you made it! "
Surprised at who was greeting me, I grinned, "Why, Miss Grey, hello there!"
With warmth in her brown eyes she invited me to join her. "Please! call me Val; pull up a pew and join the jet set!" she smiled dryly.
Valerie, holding a decanter of red wine, was sat in a low fancy sun chair, her vivid sundress and hat adding towards a Californian poolside atmosphere.
Gratefully, I eased myself down into the sun-chair and found myself slipping playfully into a kind of pseudo west-coast response.
Gee ma'am, it's sure nice to be invited to a pool party on such a swell day; though perhaps I should be in my swim trunks!
Valerie twigged onto my zany approach and glancing suggestively at my crutch replied with a grin, Gee-wiz, I would support you their fella!
Our laughter rippled through the relaxed gathering and there was a yell as someone jumped into the pool; Dave Brubeck tinkled on in the background.
Val poured me a glass of wine and we began chatting like old friends. She was recharging my glass a bit later when I ventured, "Were you born in this neck of the woods then Val?" My question paused her a while, before she answered.
As I sipped the wine and listened to her, a feeling of de'ja' vu, enveloped me.
She'd been raised in war torn London where life had been hard.
Leaving home when she was barely fifteen her life had been one of misplacement from her kith and kin.
Making her own way in the world had given her a rather broad view of people.
But now, here in the valley Valerie Grey had carved out a niche for herself.
I rejoined the conversation to pay her a compliment, " May I say its a niche graced by your presence. I grinned suddenly.
"Why Don, you do have a way with words!" she said shyly as she fished out her sun cream; " now, would you be a real pal and put some of this on my back please?" she said glancing at me invitingly.
Max had appeared amongst his guests wearing an air of celebrity, his short goatee beard set off by a bright yellow Fred Perry shirt.
" Ha! Mine Host." I said spotting Max.
.... There is more of this story ...