For the last two months I've been working on a process that presented more than the usual headaches. I'm an industrial chemist and specialise in concept applications. For an example, if a client wants an adhesive that will hold together at minus forty degrees C, we will develop it and then manufacture and supply it.
My latest project was a curly one to say the least. Our client wanted a fabric that wouldn't stain, that was no problem, the bug bear was the need to print a logo on the material. We eventually came up with a dye that would etch into the fabric without destroying the integrity of it; and then a fixative to set it.
With the client happy with the results, we were then into production mode. I decided to take a few days off to unwind. I threw a few bits and pieces into my car and headed off.
The hill country had always been a magnet to me, my late parents often took a jaunt that wended it's way through quiet villages; so that's where I set my course.
When my father passed away from the big C, mother felt she had no more to live for and just chucked the towel in. She was gone eighteen months later, leaving me to be brought up by my aunt.
My parents, both industrial chemists, had started the company I now part own. My aunt, also a chemist took over the reins and today still runs the business. Aunt was a big influence in my becoming an industrial chemist, insisting I work hard to achieve my doctorate. I did my thesis on dendritic polymers.
It was agreed to keep my role in the company as senior technician, I didn't want the employees to know I was the owner, Aunt Sybil was the apparent owner and that suited me fine; she made all the day to day decisions and I only got involved in the odd major ones.
My name by the way is Tony Martin, occasionally someone calls me Doc Martin which I tend to frown on, I don't make boots and I'm not an actor in that Pommy sitcom. I just prefer to be called Tony.
I decided to take a circuitous path, starting at the furthest point and then working my way back home. I planned to be away at least two nights, probably stopping in some pub for the night.
I could feel the stress leaving my body the further away from home I travelled. At this time of the year the fields were still green and lush; the hills attracted the rain and kept everything growing long after the valley started to dry off. My first night I stopped in a small town and enjoyed a home cooked meal in the local pub. The food was excellent so I enquired about a room for the night.
After breakfast the following morning I continued my jaunt, taking in the scenery. Around about lunch time I started to look for somewhere to buy a meal. I found a small village that boasted a café cum estate agent, so I pulled into the parking space and went inside. I decided on a cooked meal. As I was waiting I looked at the for sale posters; one caught my eye. The picture displayed a comfortable looking house with the paddocks rolling down to a sizable creek, there was considerable shedding and the advert indicated it had been a riding school. Intrigued I asked the agent about the property.
The riding school belonged to a Mr and Mrs Findlay, when Mr Findlay passed away the place was allowed to run down until eventually Mrs Findlay decided it was too much for her to handle and moved into a unit in town. The property was rented out to a lady who started the riding school up again, she was just making things work when Mrs Findlay died. When her son inherited the place he decided to put the rent up, this threw a spanner into the works for the lady trying to run the riding school. He then decided to put the property on the market.
"So is this lady still in residence? Does the sale include vacant procession?"
"Sally was hoping the new owner would consider renting the place to her, or at least the stables and paddocks. That would need to be talked about if the sale went through."
"I must admit I'm a bit intrigued, I would like to have a look at the place. Mind you this is more on a whim than anything."
"If you are a serious client I can take you out to view the property. You realise that the asking price isn't cheap, without being offensive, can you afford to pay for it?"
"Mmm? Oh, there's no problem there, can we go after I've eaten my lunch?"
"I'll give Sally a ring and let her know we are coming. Don't be too surprised if she seems a bit standoffish, she has a lot riding on the place."
"OK, I'll try to be as diplomatic as I can when we meet her."
I followed the agent the short drive to the property and as we approached it I liked what I saw. The photo of the house didn't do it justice. The place was well maintained as was the garden, this Sally had put a lot of effort in looking after the property.
We drove in the gate to the excited barking of dogs. An attractive lady approached the cars and the agent introduced us. I commented on how neat the place looked and that it was a credit to her. Although she was hesitant she gave a quick smile at my compliment.
"Before I show you around Mr Martin, how serious are you about buying the property?"
"As I told Mr Potter here, I'm acting on a whim, if I like what I see there is a strong possibility I will buy the place. I didn't set out to buy anything but this place caught my eye and I'm definitely interested."
"OK, if you do buy, would you consider renting it out to me?"
"I'm not putting you off, but I would like some time to consider what I'm doing here, as I said I acting on a whim."
"But you will give it some consideration?"
"Most definitely Sally, and please call me Tony."
"OK Tony, let's take the tour, ask any questions you want."
First port of call was the house, it was quite modern inside without being 'yuppie' style. The rooms were spacious with plenty of windows, it had a comfortable homey feeling about it.
Sally asked if we would excuse her while she went down to pick up the 'twins'. Getting into a beat up old ute she tried to start it, it coughed but wouldn't catch.
"Damn, could you give me a lift into town Mr Potter?"
I told her to wait a moment while I talked to Potter. "I'll run Sally into town Mr Potter, I'd like to come back and explore a bit more afterwards. I will come in and let you know what my plans are, that OK with you?"
"Yes that would be fine Mr Martin, I'll be off then, see you later Sally."
I told Sally to drive as she knew where to go, it also gave me a chance to check her out without gawking at her. She appeared to be about the same age as myself, her complexion was clear and she had that healthy country girl look about her. She had a trim figure, no doubt due to riding horses, a cute turned up nose with a few freckles across her cheeks and a generous mouth.
When we picked up the 'twins', they turned out to be a boy and a girl about ten or eleven years old. When Sally told them who I was they looked at me as if I was the lowest form of life on the planet. Sally soon brought them into line. "You will show our guest better manner than this, now apologist to the gentleman."
They muttered apologies but obviously didn't mean them. When we got back to the house they took off like greased lightening.
"Please excuse them Tony, all they can see is someone buying the place and they having to move out."
"It's OK Sally, I can well understand how they feel, I would probably feel the same myself if the positions were reversed."
Sally gave me the tour of the property and I was greatly impressed, the stables were spotless, the fences were all in good condition. I made my mind up there and then.
"Sally, what would you say the place was worth?"
"What Findlay is asking is well under the real value Tony, I don't know why I'm telling you this but that's my opinion. I think he just want's to get rid of the place, let's face it, not too many people want to buy a riding school do they?"
"I suppose you're right Sally. OK let's talk about us. I'm pretty sure I will take the place. What's best for you?"
"How do you mean, how much time do I need to get out?"
"Good Lord no! I want a place I can come to when I need some time off, like I said this is on a whim and I'm still trying to work out how I'm going to do it. Would you be prepared to act as caretaker while I'm not here?"
"You mean you want me to stay here? What happens when you come to stay?"
"Look, all I need is somewhere to sleep when I come up here, you keep going the way you have been going and I'll try to be as little a nuisance as possible. Does that suit you?"
"What about rent, if you charge me what Findlay was charging then no thankyou."
"Rent! I'm asking you to be my caretaker, I should be paying you."
"Mister, if you buy the place you have a deal ... one thing though, don't expect me to jump into bed with you, that's not on, OK?"
"Sally, I don't expect you to sleep with me, but on the same token if you do hop into my bed I sure won't kick you out."
We were walking back up to the house when the school bus pulled up outside and a teenager got off, when she saw me she looked daggers at me and strode towards us.
"Jan down at the café said someone was interested in buying the place, I suppose you'll be kicking us out now. That bastard Findlay just about made us broke and now this." She burst into tears.
"Erin, this is Tony Martin, he will be the new owner, he's asked me to remain as the caretaker."
"He has! Oh Jesus! I'm sorry Mr Martin ... I just thought ... oh wow."
"Please call me Tony Erin, and yes I've asked Sally to act as caretaker while I'm not here, things should run as they normally do."
We went back to the house and Sally put the jug on for a cup of coffee, while we were waiting for it to boil the twins came rushing in. The girl gave me a belligerent look and went to go into another room.
"Hold up there Cassie, we'll have none of that bad behaviour thankyou, now come and sit down." She slouched in her chair with a pout on her face.
"Mr Martin has decided to buy the property..."
Cassie burst into tears.
"He has also asked me to remain here as the caretaker."
The transformation was dramatic. "You mean he's not kicking us out Mum?"
"That's right love, now don't you think a proper apology is due?"
"Yes, I'm very sorry I acted like a spoilt brat Mr Martin, I'm really sorry, will you forgive me please?"
"Cassie, I understand how worried you were, as I told your mum, I probably would have felt the same. No apology is necessary but thank you anyhow."
We talked a little longer and Alan the other 'twin' said he was sorry he acted like he did.
A little later I departed and headed back to see Potter at the estate agent's office. We arranged for all the paperwork to be sent to the company solicitor's office. I didn't make him aware of my connection with the company, just that I was an employee,