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.
"Mm, nice shirt" I whispered into Val's ear and she giggled causing her breast to shake as my fingers worked on her shoulders.
" Yes he's a gregarious animal," said Val before adding darkly, "amongst other things."
Max arrived at our table.
"Ahh Don! I've just been satisfying Jocelyn's curiosity about you, she wants to meet you my boy!"
Max, putting an arm around me, indicated towards a bikini clad female, late twenties, sky-larking with others near the pool and then said confidentially,
"That's Jocelyn Norman-Acres: she's still unmarried Don; and very wealthy!
I'll do the introductions later." He chuckled villainously.
Then lifting his head and speaking openly; "But seriously Don, what do you say to a spot of lobster salad from the lunch bar?"
Max guided me towards the lunch-bar, set up at the other end of the pool.
As we snacked at our seafood salads, Max furthered our new buddy status by freely trading personal hopes and ideas. Then, with his tone turning more sober and conspiratorial, Max shared his ambition with me.
With his arms encompassing the surrounding downland he described his vision of a new kind of activity centre, one that catered for commercial hospitality attracting young modern business people from far and wide.
He believed the new technology companies would be spending money on a grand scale to keep their bright new talents from straying to new pastures.
Max believed these new young professionals, graduates of the swinging sixties, would find the old wining and dinning routine, a big bore.
Max had a far more attractive bill of fare in mind; a new sort of rural recreational centre, one that mixed in a bit of Las Vegas and St Tropez.
Max asked me what I thought.
I didn't need to humour him; I was already dazzled with a vision of Eldorado.
"It's a great idea Max. Yellow Page's salesmen would love an incentive like that to reach targets. Modern companies would be cueing up to book-in for that kind of deal." I exclaimed.
Max smiled at me for a while and then he really startled me.
He briefly outlined how he saw me, as being an important part of that vision.
Then putting an arm round my shoulder he said I shouldn't keep my admirer waiting any longer and led me over to where Jocelyn was now dangling her legs in the water at the poolside.
As the hot sun tracked through it's cloudless path, so the pool's attractions grew.
In no time I was sat on the edge of the pool myself, while my bare toes gently caressed the underside of Jocelyn's gorgeous breast. She was in the pool now facing me, her arms either side of my feet, holding the poolside. Like a few other women in and around the pool, she was now topless. Like me, the men were mostly watching.
Languidly ignoring my action apart from a glint in her hazel-green eyes, she threw me a challenge, which in her cut glass accent, I found rather sexy.
'I'll do a deal with you Don, you get all your kit off and get in the pool with me and I'll invite you over for dinner next week. How about it?'
I laughed at her taunt and stood up. I shucked off my unbuttoned shirt and it dropped to the ground. Looking into her eyes with mock distain, my hands went to my waistband as if to unfasten my shorts. My arms flipped out and I smacked onto the surface of the pool in a racing dive. I heard her squeal with delight.
Max, now in the sun-longer alongside Val, sipped his drink appreciatively as he watched my early progress with the unattached heiress.
From an open upstairs window, pop music wafted over the garden of Meon Manor. Jocelyn laid back her head onto the bath pillow, immersing herself into the frothy lyrics coming from the transistor beside her. She felt good.
She was a couple of hours away from Don arriving for dinner this evening.
She found Don so refreshingly manly; he had proper muscles from working hard.
He knew how to make her laugh too. She felt flattered, because unlike herself, he was one of today's new breed who were modernizing things. Don wouldn't be cowed by Matthew's social rank.
Since Papa's death Matthew had rode roughshod over her. He had traded her favours for his own gain, even indulged in them himself the vile beast.
Jocelyn promised herself; this time she would not allow Mat to call the tune on her affairs.
As Jocelyn sponged foam over her shapely body, there was nothing she wanted more than a summertime fling with that Don and she sang along to the song on the radio. "Hot now, summer in the city, ... things now, looking mighty pretty..."
As a guest, his presence at dinner that evening had simply raised Jocelyn's esteem of Don. His bright conversation had assured a good atmosphere between the three of them. She could see Matthew respected him as a man of the world. They hadn't spent too long on eating and had moved out onto the porch with their drinks to enjoy the warm evening.
When Don accepted her invitation to dinner, she hadn't thought he'd meant much by saying he had an idea to put to them.
As they relaxed on the veranda, Don put forward a vision that surprised both Matthew and her. His approach was subtle though.
You must both feel pretty content at having all this land around you?
Jocelyn countered, saying that it was attractive enough in itself but the down side was it could also be boring much of the time. If she weren't able to go up to town when she liked the place would drive her nuts, especially in winter.
Matthew's view was he liked the solitude but the cost of the upkeep was a never-ending pain.
Don, wanting their attention now, placed his drink down purposefully.
I'm not surprised at what you say; it's similar to the views of other landowners. You've made me more convinced about what I'm thinking.
I want to put a scheme to you involving a small part of your land that I feel you'll find attractive.
Don set about enthusiastically re-sketching the business hospitality facility to Jocelyn and her brother. He spoke of the culture and economy it would bring to them and the village. Then he looked to them for their response.
Matthew half-heartedly acknowledged Dons ideas but voiced grave reservations on the effect of it all on their surroundings. Then he'd detached himself from further discussion by excusing himself to make a phone call.
But for Jocelyn, Don had described an exciting business project for the Meon Estate to invest in. Just thinking about it was making her feel sexy she had said to Don. As the sun set the wine was starting to have its effect.
Free of Matthew their conversation became at first relaxed and then intimate.
Then suddenly they heard the sound of Matthew's car aggressively leaving the drive. Jocelyn broke their shared look of surprise with a little giggle. Don suddenly took hold of Jocelyn and they began kissing energetically before reclining together onto the large sofa.
Jocelyn & Val
Val was rolled up in a book on the sofa and the phone had startled her.
It was Jocelyn. Val casually asked how the evening had gone with Don.
Jocelyn's response was typically uninhibited,
"Oh he's beautifully hung darling; can stay the course too!"
It wasn't quite what Val had been enquiring about but then Jocelyn stayed on the line just long enough to say she had to go up town and would ring when she returned.
As Val put down the phone, the call struck her as odd.
Though Jocelyn was younger they were fairly close these days; it was unlike Jocelyn to be so brief with her.
Val had come to realise that she found Jocelyn sexually stimulating. It had something to do with her outrageous air of superiority; it had sensuous overtones.
Jocelyn had once teased Val over her fashion sense while they had been in the office. "Really Valerie, your far to sexy to be wearing such a frumpy dress!"
Val had looked her in the eye, whispering with a twinkle,
"Would madam prefer me naked in bed?"
Jocelyn's eye's widened in surprise and then whispered in return,
" What a wicked thought! "
"Wicked thoughts deserve a spanking my girl." countered strait laced Val.
Jocelyn's cheeks had flushed with confusion and she'd changed the subject.
Valerie was aware of Jocelyn's appetite for sex and how she played the poor little rich girl to excuse her excesses.
They had been at a party together where some of the men, including her brother Mathew were acting like animals.
They had been watching them with distain when Jocelyn had casually confided that Matthew had often forced sex on her and later bragged to his friends about it. Yet in Jocelyn's tone of voice was a sense of bragging rather than humiliation. The upper class was renown for its sexual perversity.
Val had been anticipating the phone call from Max since after the pool party.
She knew the pattern.
But the fly in the ointment this time was unexpected; Mathew Norman-Acres.
He was now firmly blocking the new project that Don had sold so well to Jocelyn. He had also put the fear of God into his sister and caused her to flee the Manor.
Mathew would have to be worked on smartly and Max new just how they could nail him. As Max told her what he wanted done, Val felt the loneliness closing in on her.
After Max's call she slowly placed down the phone and picking up her glass of scotch, went onto the veranda to watch the close of the day. She pondered on her career with Max; from being his strait-laced secretary to his partner in Meon Hospitality within just a couple years.
Max liked to coerce his business victim via their sexual weakness.
Yet Max himself indulged neither with men, women nor children.
His particular thrill came in the power he got from organizing such illicit liaisons.
Valerie had shown Max early promise by not shrinking back at his methods.
Val could see how she had been groomed, just as she now groomed some clients. She was in a business that was powered by other people's vices.
Gradually he'd raised her expectations; made her work empowering and profitable. Gradually she had drawn a veil on her morals and enjoyed it all.
As a skilled businesswoman she could now uncover and cater for a client's vice with complete detachment. Some were easily satisfied. Others required more specialised contacts to deliver.
But her appetite for these shenanigans had somewhat jaded of late.
She had watched the sun go down and the veranda was in darkness. She felt very alone.
Val so wanted just to be herself with people; like Don who was so self-assured in what he felt and said. She had also sensed Don's admiration for her.
Now she realised her own admiration of him!
On an impulse she found Don's telephone number.
On hearing his voice her business-like manner evaporated.
Val began sheepishly, saying she didn't really know why she'd rung.
Don said he'd found himself doing that at times so he new just how it felt.
Then relaxed by his attitude Val said that, as Max was in Belgium for a week and the weather was so fine, he might fancy an afternoon at the pool with her?
Don & Val
I'd been curiously excited at Valerie's invitation.
Had she twigged I fancied her madly or was it something platonic?
She wasn't to know I had a fetish over older woman like herself.
Some normal people do simply socialise I thought as I pulled into the drive.
It was already a warm and sunny day.
Val upstaged the glinting pool by greeting me with a kiss in her swim costume. My libido received a blast.