I’m going to fast forward with Arthur. He’s just so bloody boring. Stuck in that shop there were times when Arthur wished he’d stayed in India. Had he really hitch-hiked all the way there with Simon? His passport bore some exotic stamps…Spin Boldak…Amritsar…Panjim. Why had he gone back to England? Because Alice got pregnant that’s why.
Alice got pregnant with Cynthia and a marriage was arranged. Arthur still can’t remember how or by whom. Arthur’s parents probably. They died soon after the wedding when their Standard 8 rolled off a cliff at Dover. They forgot to put the handbrake on.
Alice helped Arthur run the tobacconists, which they inherited. They were not unhappy. Life was measured in newspaper sales, bars of Cadbury’s chocolate, Woodbines, Senior Service, cups of tea. Much TV was watched in the 2-room flat (plus kitchen and bathroom) above the shop. There were occasional picnics to Woburn Abbey and Chessington Zoo. Cynthia grew up, left school at 16, worked in a bank for 6 months but she obviously wasn’t cut out for it. She dyed her hair purple. Pimply young men were knocking on the door at all hours. There were tantrums in the bathroom.
One evening they were watching telly when Cynthia said, ‘You might as well know. I’ve just had an abortion, It’s OK. Done. And I’m going to Australia.’
‘But why Cyn….?’
‘To get away.’
‘From Crorley?’ From us?
Arthur is tempted to tell Cynthia that there is no getting away. But he says nothing. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to sound patriarchal.
Anyway Cynthia packed up her Sex Pistols albums and off she went to Australia on the ten pound scheme.
Alice took it badly. She got bigger and bigger and one day she just died. It was tragic. She had been huge towards the end, bloated, unable to get out of bed. Arthur didn’t understand how it happened. He put a lot of the blame on Cadbury’s and the constant barrage of promotional material. Alice couldn’t resist trying all the new products. Too much sugar. She got hooked.
Alice’s health rapidly declined. She died. Some kind of stroke they thought. Not a total surprise. They had to grease her and remove the door-frame so that four strong men could get her downstairs and into an ambulance. Poor woman. Woody Allen might have made a joke out of it but for Arthur it was a turning point. He sat staring at cardboard boxes for a month then he sold the shop to a family from Bangladesh who turned it into a 24 hour proto-mini-market. The funeral was a small affair, just Arthur, an uncle or two, some neighbours.
That left Arthur at a loose end. Cynthia sent some flowers with an address in Melbourne. He had nothing particular to do he decided to go and visit her.
With a stop over in Bangkok.