Meanwhile Helen was building up her Memory Bank for Nike. Despite her innate mistrust and disgust for the US™ technology and everything it stood for, she had to admit she was rather enjoying the process. As long as she didn’t think that anyone other than Nick would get access to it. It was like telling him the story of his family. Something personal. It shouldn’t matter to anyone else.
2005. The year they moved to Moray. Helen and Catriona were having what neither knew at the time would be their last walk together, on a wintery morning in the Galloway Forest Park. Catriona, now nineteen was studying at University in Edinburgh and had come home to help clear out her belongings before the big move north. Catriona hit Helen with the bombshell just as they’d stopped to marvel at the view looking down on Loch Trool. A beautiful view on a cold shimmery morning, destroyed by a bombshell which, in retrospect, Helen should have been expecting.
‘Mum. I’m not coming with you,’ she said.
While Helen knew Catriona spent most of her time in Edinburgh, she still imagined that her daughter’s real ‘home’ would be wherever the family was. Unable to process the information she replied, ‘What colour would you like your new room to be? It’s your choice. As long as it’s not that awful sunshine yellow you picked when you were eight.’ She was startled by Catriona’s response, although of course she should have expected it.
‘I don’t need a room. Of any colour. I’m staying in Edinburgh. For good.’
‘Yes, but you’ll want a room for the holidays. Somewhere to keep your stuff?’
‘Mum. Don’t you get it? I don’t want to live in the country. I’ve moved out. I’m an adult now. Lauren and I are getting a flat together and we’ll be there all the time.’
Helen didn’t know how to respond to that. It seemed a bit inappropriate to feel that Lauren was a ‘bad influence’ on Catriona. After all, at nineteen, Catriona surely knew her own mind. If she was honest though, Helen couldn’t help but feel uneasy about Lauren and it wasn’t just the multiple piercings and red streaked hair. Helen could look beyond that. And when she did, she found something about Lauren that worried her. Helen wondered if she was just feeling jealous. Lauren was Catriona’s best friend. Her choice. It’s just that she was an urban girl through and through and Helen couldn’t reconcile that with the daughter she thought she knew. ‘Anyway, you’ve got Torquil. He’s more use on a farm than I ever was.’ Catriona dismissed the whole thing with the casual cruelty only a self-obsessed teenager, convinced she was an adult, could deliver, ‘You’ll tell dad for me?’
That really was the final straw. Helen couldn’t bow to that.
‘If you’re old enough to move on, you’re old enough to tell him yourself,’ she retorted, somewhat shortly. And that was it. The last walk in the Galloway Forest Park was ruined for both of them. That mother/daughter bonding thing was history. Only sourness and recriminations remained as they trudged their way down the hill with the dogs, playfully unaware of the atmosphere, running circles round them.
Helen asked herself where it had all gone wrong? Catriona used to be her best wee pal, all the time she was growing up. Torquil was interested in tractors and machinery and noise and dirt but Catriona, like Helen, enjoyed the company of animals and the peace of the country lifestyle. Until Foot and Mouth. She reflected, not for the first time, on the trauma meted out by the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001. No one who lived through the experience came out the same. No one survived untouched by it. The senseless slaughter of thousands of healthy animals against a fear of spreading disease. The rank smell of burning flesh lived in the nostrils and hung in the air for what seemed like weeks. It was overpowering and intolerable. It was infinite sadness. It made grown men cry, and more than that, it made them give up. It split up families and ruined livelihoods and generally depressed the countryside in a way nothing had done before. Helen and Randall had found it hard, but they were adults. Catriona was fifteen when her world changed.
Helen hadn’t realised quite how much it had impacted on her daughter until now. It seemed that Catriona had felt her whole emotional life was being ripped away from her and she went numb. She turned away from the comfort of family and the country which no more represented peace but instead carnage. She went in search of other pleasures. And vowed to get away from the country as soon as possible. She moved out at sixteen and took Highers in sciences at the Glasgow Nautical College, from where she got into Heriot Watt to study Chemistry. She met Lauren who was studying Engineering, mainly, Helen unkindly thought, because it was something girls ‘didn’t’ do. Helen had long since forgotten her own aspirations in that respect. She had been six after all. Life moved on. But Lauren seemed like the kind of girl who wanted to kick over the traces at every possible opportunity. A mothers interpretation is not always the most objective and Helen found Lauren a bad influence on a peaceful, naïve country girl like Catriona.
Catriona brought Lauren home to the Galloway farm a couple of times but Lauren didn’t like it. She scoffed at the second rate nature of the bathroom, lack of a power shower, the mud around the yard, the smell of the beasts. And Catriona was fooled by it. Worse still, Torquil fell under her spell. But that was later.
Helen took a break from recording. She drank a cup of ULTIMATE® tea and wondered if it was meant to be Earl Grey or Darjeeling. You couldn’t tell. Tea was just tea. Very few people drank it nowadays anyway. Perhaps precisely because it was more ULTIMATE® than tea. But it was hot and wet and filled a gap. It’s just that for Helen it didn’t fill enough of a gap. The gap that needed filling was her real past and it became more appealing the more she relived it for Nick. However hard she tried to stick to purpose, Helen was still worried by the notion of shared memories. She had come to realise that her own perspective might not be as objective as she’d always thought it was. Through this process of recall she was beginning to understand that memory is intensely personal and that sharing it is in some sense impossible. The memories which make up ones identity are the deeply buried ones which in some vindication of a strange quantum theory seem to become transformed when let out of one’s head and heart and into the domain of another being.
In 1984 she’d felt excited as she left her job interview, hoping to see a man she didn’t know. A man who would become her husband. But he wasn’t there. How did he remember that event? She’d never asked him. She’d never asked him why he wasn’t there. It had been enough for her that he found her again. But now she wondered what had happened that day. What was Randall’s memory of the event? How would it differ from hers? It was trivial, but all the more important because she couldn’t ask him. Her own memory was locked and there was no way of including Randall, the focus of the memory. He remained a projection of her memory. Was that all forty years of life together had achieved? She wanted to give Nick something he could hold onto for the future. Something more than memory. Some kind of truth. Otherwise ULTIMATE® had won. It occurred to her that ULTIMATE® had won anyway, but she refused to admit it. Even if she recorded her memories, even if ULTIMATE® owned the copyright, the meaning remained with her.
They moved to Moray in September 2005. Without Catriona. Torquil was sixteen and excited about the possibilities a new farm would bring. Randall was, if not excited, at least resigned to the difference that ‘downshifting’ would bring to their lives. They were all trying to stay positive. The major change was that instead of being tenant farmers of several hundred acres, they would now be owners of their land. A mere ten acres. All their savings had gone, but as Randall pointed out, this was their final move so it was worth it. The land in Moray was more of a smallholding than a farm and the aim was towards self-sufficiency. Randall had become disenchanted with the way agriculture was going, the way society as a whole was going and he wanted to be master of his own destiny as far as possible. He knew that things would only get worse, not better. And he was right.
The night before they left Galloway, with everything packed up and ready to go, they sat down round the fire one last time. Torquil was out with his pals playing pool at the local pub for the last time. Randall had no work to distract him and he picked up his guitar for the first time in years. There was still a dispute as to whether the guitar would make the trip north. Randall thought it a waste of space, Helen disagreed.
‘It’s part of who you are,’ she said.
‘It’s part of who I was,’ he replied, ‘a long time ago. Times change. We change. I don’t expect I can even play it any more.’
‘Give it a try,’ she entreated him, ‘some of the old songs.’
He point blank refused to play any of the songs he’d written as Randall and the Reivers. She hadn’t understood at the time, but now she realised that maybe he had personal memories he had not wanted to hold onto. After a few rusty chords, his fingers were soon back into their old rhythm and they sang a medley of country and folk classics together in front of the waning fire.
He paused for a break, obviously not enjoying the experience as much as Helen was.
‘What will you miss most about Galloway?’ she asked him.
‘Uh… I don’t know… what about you?’
‘Nature. Things I just see. Being part of it.’
‘Things like what?’
‘ You know. When the down just bursts from them, after the purple head forms.’
‘When they set seed and make more work,’ he replied unromantically.
‘They’ll have white daffodils in Moray, I’m sure,’ he replied.
‘Cobwebs on the gate.’ She added, determined to get some sort of response from him.
‘Ah. Cobwebs. Of course.’ He was laughing at her now.
‘Oh stop it,’ she said, realising he was taking the rise, ‘you love it here too. Why are you acting like it’s nothing? It was your dream first,’ she added.
It hurt too much for Randall to say out loud how his dream had been brutally beaten by the reality they’d lived through in the last fifteen years. While Helen’s memories of Galloway were of cobwebs on the gates and the soft down of ‘exploding’ thistles and the yearly excitement at the arrival of the white daffodils, Randall was bowed, but not totally broken by Chernobyl, and BSE and Foot and Mouth and being sold down the river by an increasing industrial approach to agricultural policy. He viewed Galloway as an example of betrayal. Of building everything up only to see it all knocked down because YOU DON’T OWN ANY OF IT.
‘Ah, everywhere’s the same,’ he said.
‘That’s not true,’ she added, ‘if that was true we’d have moved to Canada, or New Zealand, you know that. There are places where it’s easier to make a living.’
‘Make a living yes,’ he replied, ‘but we don’t want to make a living do we. We want to live.’
‘And that’s my point,’ she said. ‘That’s the dream. We know we’re tied to this land. We both felt alien even in London. We have to stay in Scotland. And we’ll own our own place now.’
‘You sound like you’re trying to convince me to move,’ he said, ‘I’m the one who’s making you move from the place you love. Do you know how that makes me feel?’
‘Don’t be stupid. I told you then and I still mean it. I just want to be with you. It doesn’t matter where.’
‘As long as it’s not Canada, or New Zealand or London or….’ He was teasing her again. ‘Go north old man,’ he added in a mock-serious tone and picked up the guitar again.
Torquil entered the house to the strains of Dougie Maclean’s ‘Caledonia.’ He’d never heard the song and he’d never seen his father play the guitar. They sat all three together by the fire, allowing themselves a moment of nostalgia. Making a shared memory before moving to a new life.
And Moray was no bad place to live. Helen got to keep pigs and goats for the first time, Galloway being a fiercely beef and sheep land. The soil was more fertile in Moray and this made the possibility of self-sufficiency more real, even if it meant a change in farming mindset for them all. Urban people like Lauren just saw farming as farming, but the difference between a primarily livestock based farm and a primarily arable production method was immense.
Randall used to joke that he was retired. He was used to being up at 4.30 every morning of the year. All through the winter of 2006 Helen and Randall enjoyed their first season of late mornings. They could still call 7am a late start. All around them, the Moray farmers who didn’t have to answer the call of animals, only to plough and sow and harvest, showed Randall the possibility of taking life that little bit easier. They even had weekends.
The smallholding still provided plenty of work, however, and was still a harder life than the ‘lazy ways’ which was what Randall jokingly called largescale local arable farming. It would have been possible for Helen and Randall to become even more active and rooted in the community than they had been in Galloway. But they found that their time together became even more precious. They were working for themselves now and they resented any time spent away from this most precious of tasks. They shut themselves away, kept their heads down and lived for each other. And they loved it. They felt no need to be social beings, no need to take part in a life geared around social events and committees for the British Legion, civic pride and things which Randall scoffed at as part of the legacy of landed gentry than farming related activity. Things were fine as long as they lived in their own personal space. But inevitably, the wider world crept in. They found peace and learned acceptance in Moray but they also learned that the world is out there, and it won’t let you be in peace. Not indefinitely.
In the autumn of 2008 Catriona made her first visit home. Randall was all for killing the fatted pig Helen had nurtured from a piglet. He had to make do with a lamb. He was excited about seeing his daughter again, having missed her during the three silent years while mother and daughter played out their mutual mistrust. Catriona had been too busy and Helen had been too proud. Randall had known better than to interfere but he had missed his daughter more than he had imagined.
‘It’s a new start,’ he told Helen, ‘we have to accept her as she is. Her life is her choice.’
Helen agreed to give it a go but when Lauren came too it felt like a challenge too far. Lauren despised the country. Catriona knew that. Why had she brought her?
‘Maybe she feels she needs some support,’ Randall observed.
‘Why? This is her home,’ Helen began.
‘No. It’s our home. Not hers,’ Randall pointed out.
The visit went much better than any of them expected. While Helen was worried by Catriona’s pale, thin appearance, she didn’t comment on it. She took it as a sign of urban living. She even made an effort with Lauren, resisting the urge to ask why she felt it necessary to festoon her face with ironmongery. Both girls showed interest in the pigs, Lauren even expressed an interest in the farm machinery and suggested some ways in which things could be made more efficient. Helen was forced to admit that Lauren’s engineering skills had some practical benefits. But the person who was most affected by the visit was Torquil.
Torquil was about to turn twenty. He’d adjusted well to their new life, indeed he revelled in it, though Helen had been worried he wasn’t ‘mixing’ enough. Between them, she Randall and Torquil had become if not self-sufficient, then perhaps too insular for their own good. It was okay for her and Randall, they had each other, but it didn’t seem right for a young lad. As soon as he met Lauren, Torquil was smitten. There was more than machinery being discussed round the back of the hayshed, as Catriona found out when looking for the friend that her brother had hijacked. A lot can happen in a weekend when you’re twenty.
At the end of the weekend, as they waved Lauren and Catriona off at the door, Torquil charged with driving them the ten miles to the nearest station, Randall reflected, ‘Well that went better than expected, didn’t it?’
Helen had to agree with him, though she still felt uneasy. ‘Did you see the way she was making eyes at him?’
‘Who?’ Randall had been lost in the joy of having his daughter back, he’d seen nothing.
Lauren, with Torquil,’ she replied.
‘Oh woman. You need a television.’
‘You’re turning it into a soap opera,’ he joked. ‘They’re just kids. Let them live their lives, eh?’
‘He’s a good looking boy,’ she pointed out, ‘ a good catch….’
Randall kissed her. ‘Don’t judge everyone by your own standards. He laughed. And that was the end of the matter.
Until a month later when Torquil announced he was going down to spend the weekend in Edinburgh with Catriona. Helen was reluctant.
‘Your dad needs you here,’ she said.
‘Dad?’ he asked.
‘Don’t be daft,’ Randall replied. ‘I’m sure you’re due a weekend off. We can manage fine without you.’
‘Why did you do that?’ Helen asked when Torquil was packed off on the train.
‘It’s good for them to spend time together. And it might make Catriona more keen to come back up here. We’re opening doors, or building bridges or whatever you want to call it,’ he said.
‘We can’t live their lives for them,’ Randall pointed out.
It was a statement he repeated the next spring when Torquil sat them both down to tell them his ‘news.’
‘And?’ Helen wasn’t trying to make it harder for him, she just didn’t want to hear what came next.
‘And I’m the father.’ There was a long pause. ‘So we’re getting married.’
‘Congratulations,’ Randall said, though Helen could tell he was as shocked as she was. ‘I’ll get us all a drink to wet the baby’s head.’
Which gave him the excuse to leave the room and left Helen alone with her son, barely out of his teens, to deal with ‘the situation.’
‘You don’t have to marry her,’ she said, weakly.
He gave her a very hard stare. ‘Mum. I want to marry her.’
‘Yes, of course,’ she backtracked, ‘I was just….’
‘Mum. You’d want me to do the right thing….’ he continued.
She kept her question, ‘the right thing for who?’ firmly in her head. And they all drank to the uncertain future.
Despite Torquil’s assertions, Helen was actually a bit surprised that a wedding followed. She hadn’t seen Lauren as the marrying kind, too young, too flighty, a girl with too much living to do. But to Lauren a wedding was a great event. A party. The opportunity to gorge on consumer activity. Torquil went along with it because he wanted Lauren to be happy. He wanted to be a good husband and a good father and the learning curve was steep. Lauren was high maintenance. A pregnant Lauren was even more high maintenance. Torquil’s world was changing rapidly in directions he’d never imagined possible. Randall joked that the marriage was less about losing a son and more about testing the limits of their self-sufficiency.
It seemed that Torquil and Lauren never had the conversation about what they would do, where they would live when married with a baby – a son as it turned out to be. Torquil just assumed that because he was a farmer they would live in Moray and Lauren just assumed that because LIFE was lived in the city, Torquil would adapt to her plans. It was not a marriage made in heaven by any stretch of the imagination. It was a car crash of massive proportions just waiting to happen. And happen it did.
Torquil Ellis Christie married Lauren Margaret Blair in July 2009. Their wedding seemed to be the last big party anyone ever had, before the country was plunged into recession. Nicholas Blair Christie was born in February 2010 in the middle of the coldest winter recorded in history. Fifty years to the day Helen was born. Better than a birthday cake. He was a snow baby as she had been. It gave them the strongest of bonds and Helen made a secret promise always to watch out for him, as long as he lived. A promise she had tried to keep.
Baby Nicholas was born in Moray because Torquil and Lauren were living with his doting grandparents, who were there at the event. It was not a happy situation. Lauren had stuck it out in Edinburgh until the December. Torquil had abandoned the farm to try and find work in the city, but had no qualifications and no skills and people were being laid off right left and centre. Even Woolworths went bust. At the time of course no one knew this was the start of the ULTIMATE® take-over of the world. Much was said about how the world had changed when Woolworths ceased to exist, but with hindsight, it was more cataclysmic than anyone at the time could ever have imagined. People’s lives as individuals and also as a group, were changed for ever. Pryce was getting into ULTIMATE®. ULTIMATE® was getting into everything. And Torquil and Lauren retreated back to Moray. They came with the first fall of snow on December 18th. Randall and Helen’s self-sufficiency would just have to learn to expand to feed another two mouths. It did so.
But Brand conscious Lauren would clearly never settle in rural Moray. Snow lingered until May that year and when it had finally gone, Lauren high-tailed it back to the city leaving Helen literally holding the baby. Lauren pointed out that someone had to earn money for her family and she was the only one capable of doing it. She left Torquil and Nick behind.
Helen found looking after a baby again a strange pleasure. She strapped him to her front while she worked on the vegetable patch, for every bit like a South American peasant woman. He grew up a real child of nature. But mothers have rights and Lauren, for whom everything was commodified, saw Torquil and especially Nick as her ‘possessions’ so Nick also became familiar with the train between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Things went on like that for several years.
Helen wondered when it was that Lauren started with drugs. Had she been on them when she met Torquil? Or was it a response to a difficult situation. A way to escape a reality that was no longer what it had promised to be on the tin. Either way, drugs entered Helen and Randall’s family like they did so many other families at the turn of the centuries. Insidiously, furiously and catastrophically. Helen didn’t even know what drugs Lauren took. Lauren probably didn’t know herself. But Helen was sure that it was Lauren who got Catriona hooked. Not the other way round. Helen rushed the memory into the Memory Bank because there was no easy way to relive it.
A spring morning 2016. A phone call. Torquil answered it. He was in for a cup of tea. A quick mid morning break from feeding the animals.
Helen rushed out of the kitchen as she heard her son give the kind of noise she hadn’t heard since he was three and trapped his fingers in the tractor door. She found him pale faced and incomprehensible. She picked up the phone. The voice on the other end was calm, clinical, and Helen only picked up the vital words.
‘Your daughter….. overdose… post mortem….. arrangements for the body.’
The family which stuck together through everything came unstuck that day. Each of them had a different grief.
Helen blamed Lauren. She’d known the girl was bad luck. Torquil blamed himself, he’d known Catriona was on drugs. He’d dabbled himself with the lifestyle his wife and his sister shared. Randall didn’t have time for blame, but he shut his emotions away. Even when he was holding Helen’s hand tight at the funeral, he was miles away emotionally. It was the first time she’d felt so far apart from him. Grief locks people away. Isolates them from each other. Grief, like memory, is intensely personal.
Catriona’s death was the end for Torquil. The end of drugs. The end of Lauren. He saw his parents pain and he felt the responsibility for his own son more keenly. He and Nick retreated to the farm and locked themselves away. Randall buried himself even deeper in RIP, blaming society, not Lauren, for his daughter’s death. Helen was just numb. For months. Until something worse happened. Which was always due because things were always going to get worse as ULTIMATE® tightened their invisible grip.
Helen closed her eyes for a moment to shut out the memories which were downloading in real time onto the US™ screen. It was too painful. She opened them with the feeling that she was not alone. She turned round, breathing deeply.
‘Hello Nan.’ Nike stood at the door.
That was unexpected.
‘How much did you see?’
‘Well, it’s your history. You wanted to know.’
There was a long silence. Helen finally broke it.
‘Will you help me?’
‘Find out whether the RIP still exists.’
‘Okay Nan. And do you want me to find out who sent you the cake?’
‘I think so. I’ve met… someone, who I think might be able to give me the answers.’
Helen was surprised, pleased and worried at the same time.
‘Be careful, Nick’
He shrugged it off.
‘Course I will, nan. There’s nothing to be afraid of.’
If only he knew.
After Nick left, Helen returned to the Memory Bank because there was nothing else she could do. She was relieved that he had come in before she got to the crucial point. Although she knew he had to know it one day, she couldn’t bear to be the one to tell him that his mother sold him to The PROJECT⌂ for Habit∞. She wanted to try and make sense of RIP past, and possibly present.
Randall had first become involved in 2011, but it wasn’t till 2017 that he took a really active part. After the death of Catriona he shut down emotionally and physically. But when Lauren returned and left with Nick, he pulled himself out of his isolation. He couldn’t live without feeling he had a choice in the matter. He had to do something to fight against a system which could do this to people. He told Helen it was about injustice but she thought it was more about trying to make amends. It was locking the stable door after the horse had bolted.
She had tried to talk him out of it, ‘can’t we just stay us?… I don’t care what’s happening in the wider world,’ she said as he prepared to go out for an RIP council meeting. She had lost all confidence in the outside world and wanted to keep what was important to her within sight at all times.
‘It doesn’t matter if you care or not. The changes will affect us either way,’ he replied.
‘Not if we don’t let them. Not if we keep our heads down,’ she begged.
‘I have to get involved.’
That was it. He made his choice. The choice that changed all their lives. Or maybe that was unfair. Maybe ULTIMATE® was making the choices even then.
A sense of justice was something Helen thought she and Randall had shared. But looking back on it, perhaps they came at it from different angles. It might be true, as her father had never tired in saying ‘You can’t fight city hall’, but you could go down fighting. Randall’s view had been that you couldn’t just give in because you couldn’t win. You did the right thing because it was the right thing to do after all, not because it was comfortable or because you would be praised for it.
In 2017 Torquil was devastated at the loss of his son. Randall was still reeling from the loss of his daughter and losing his his grandson seemed to change something fundamental in him. They were men and they wanted to do something about it. The doctrine of acceptance seemed like weakness under conditions when men wanted to fight. So they fought. They didn’t win. But they went down fighting. Their lives had had a value and a purpose. Looking at the magnolia walls, Helen felt not only that she’d let Randall down, but that she had let and was repeatedly letting both herself and Nick down. She remembered the words of a song….. ‘pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living….’ and then remembered who had originally uttered the phrase, one Mother (Mary) Jones who was an activist at the beginning of the 20th century. She had died in 1930, exactly 100 years ago this year. Helen felt ashamed. Mother Jones had never given up fighting, for the mines, for children. She didn’t let anything put her off. She was credited as saying ‘I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.’ And here was Helen, living like a dead woman in an ULTIMATE® Home. She had to resume the fight. If not for herself then for Nick. He was her only living relative, after all. She had to become an agitator.
‘Enough is as good as a feast.’ It was one of her mother’s more prevalent and more annoying sayings. The first time Helen heard it was when they were planting an apple tree in 1965. It was a birthday present for her fifth birthday. She was overjoyed with the task of digging and ran inside to get water, covered in mud from head to foot.
‘What are you doing?’ her mother asked.
‘Digging my tree,’ Helen replied, overjoyed.
‘However big is the hole?’ her mother asked.
‘As big as ever can be,’ Helen replied.
‘Well, just remember, enough is as good as a feast,’ her mother said as she wiped the mud from Helen’s face.
Helen hadn’t understood the phrase then, and every time it was repeated throughout her childhood she’d failed to understand it. In her teenage years she used to laugh behind her mother’s back at the ridiculousness of the construction. Once she even challenged it.
‘It’s such a stupid saying, mum. Enough is OBVIOUSLY not as good as a feast. A feast is much, much better.’
As she scattered her parents ashes round the apple tree they’d planted for her fifth birthday, by 2004 a large productive tree in a house with a sale board outside, Helen wished she’d had the chance to tell her mother that Randall had finally taught her to understand and appreciate that most favoured of sayings. It was not that the two things were the same, it lay in the concept of good. A feast, by definition (ULTIMATE® or otherwise) required too much of something. Enough, was, well, enough. Sufficient. By definition, you needed no more. The sale of the house she had grown up in, and scattered her parents ashes in, helped pay for the move to Moray. She’d cried over not being able to move the tree.
‘We can’t move it.’ Randall was practical. ‘It’s far too big. It would never survive….. and… it belongs here. With them.’
‘How can I sell the house… with them here?’ she asked, hoping Randall could make some sense out of a senseless situation.
‘This is where they always wanted to be,’ he replied, simply. ‘And they’re giving us the gift we need to be where we always wanted to be. That’s enough. Surely?’ He turned the key in the lock and didn’t let her look back as they drove away for the last time.
Randall helped Helen realise that her parents had given her something more than money. Their house represented something more important than the careful, middle-class values which Helen had mostly despised. It represented acceptance.
Her parents had tried to teach her, but it was Randall who finally made Helen understand, that enough was all you needed. You didn’t need a feast, you didn’t need to strive for perfection. The path to her own personal spiritual enlightenment lay in understanding that acceptance was the goal, not success. Success was a created capitalist concept which could never be achieved. Accepting life on its own terms, being happy with enough was deeply counter to the capitalist model, and therefore a revolutionary activity, albeit a peaceful and un-noticed one. Acceptance became the doctrine Randall and Helen lived by in Moray and was the value they had tried to instil in their children. Until ULTIMATE® changed the rules of the world. Then it was time to fight.
Helen had assumed it was a fight they had lost. She’d somehow assumed for the last ten years that RIP had been destroyed by all powerful ULTIMATE® machine like everything else she held dear. But the birthday cake suggested otherwise. She felt a glimmer of hope. What would life be like if RIP did still exist? Could she dare to hope that Randall was still alive? No. That was a step too far. Her mind spun. If she or Nick could find out something…. Suddenly it occurred to her that rotting in an ULTIMATE® VCC home was a choice she shouldn’t have made. Because Randall believed that even when you had no choice, you still had some choice. If nothing else you had a choice of how you faced your lack of choice. Attitude, not image, was everything to Randall. Helen was pulled up short with the horrible fear that she’d betrayed Randall and in doing so betrayed herself. Maybe after all it wasn’t ULTIMATE® who had stolen her life, it was she who had laid it down, given up in the grief of losing the man who made her life complete.