Chapter Five...Nineteen Ninety-six

The timber had arrived and Bruce had been hard at work removing the old fence and digging post holes for a new set of posts. Tom always appreciative of a tradesman's lot called out and invited the worker for a cup of tea. As mentioned earlier Tom and Bruce were more casual acquaintances than good friends, so there was a sense of familiarity about their relationship. Tom was in what he was often to describe his cogitating mood. At the time Bruce was not as aware of his characteristics, so it came as something of a surprise when Tom in talking about his loneliness asked his neighbour if he would become an executor to his estate. Bruce was somewhat taken, stunned would be a better word.
'Tom why would you want me to do that?'
'It simple , I don't trust my lawyer'.
"Well why not change him. That shouldn't be hard'.
'Its not that easy ...'. Tom looked at Bruce, hands on knees.
Bruce had had little or no experience with what Tom was asking. His knowledge of lawyers, which this would involve if he agreed did not exist. Bruce Whiteside  a complex character was, quite willing to help people who have a genuine need, but his aptitude for 'wheeling and dealing, was not that of Tom, who was quite savvy.
'Tom, why don't you ask your son to become an executor?'
'I don't have a son'.
'Well your daughter then'.
Tom went very quiet as if he had been hurt.
'I lost my daughter in 1943 at the age of nine. She contracted German measles. You know I hardly knew her. She was only five years old when I was called up on active service in 1939. It still to hurts think about her. I loved that little girl'.
'From what you say Tom, she would have been as old as I am'.
Nothing more was said and Bruce hoped that the matter would not arise again.
Early in June Tom asked Bruce if he would consider becoming a joint trustee, if he was not willing to become the executor.
'Why Tom?'
'Bruce I don't trust my lawyer'. Tom replied for the second time
'You told me that before, but why'.
'I believe that he is manipulating my Will to suit himself'.
'What draws you to that conclusion?'
With that Tom went inside and came back with a page, not directly identifiable with anybody. He asked Bruce to look at it. On this list was a list of charities, including the blind, disadvantaged kids and organisations that he had never heard of. After looking at the list for a few moments he turned to Tom.
'I can't see anything wrong with that Tom. Plenty of people leave money to these sort of charities'.
'Bruce I don't want my money left to these charities', he said exasperatingly .
'Well I don't know Tom, but I have heard you speak about these sort of people before and I would have thought that you would be in favour of these suggestions.
'No!' he barked. If I want to leave money to anyone I'll do it without suggestions from others. I don't trust Smyth'.
Bruce didn't understand why Tom simply did not change his solicitor if he wasn't happy with him. He looked at the list again and then handed it back to the old man without comment.
Tom did not raise the issue again, but they carried on talking about the days ahead.

Many times Tom arranged for real estate agents to give him an idea of what the house was worth. He entertained ideas about buying something smaller, but this never came to anything.
While Bruce was erecting the fence he suggested to Tom that if they put a gate in, then he could drop over at anytime and have a yarn, a cup of tea or even the odd meal. They did this and it helped the loneliness from the loss of his companion of 35 years. The fence however was to give  rise to the idiosyncrasies of Tom Jowett. Tom had refused to renew the fence with his Croatian neighbour. When the time came to connect the fence to the this neighbours boundary Bruce could not place the post next to the existing one, because of the concrete footing. Tom suggested coming in along the boundary and putting the post nine inches inside his boundary. Bruce was not happy because it gave him property that could at some future date be embarrassing if not a legal dispute. Tom insisted and the fence was erected. Later this action will become evident why it is mentioned at all.
With the opening of the gate in the fence, Tom often frequented the home of Iris and Bruce. Unknown to both however the pressure for Tom to desist was coming from the Blue Nurse Carole Crozier. She gave Tom instructions that her professional ability to look after his welfare would be compromised unless he abided by her request. This of course was unknown to the Whiteside's. Tom did not mention this but he continued as if nothing had been said. A few days later Sheila's poodle had deteriorated to a point where to let her live on was cruel. He came over and asked if Bruce would take Sam and have him put down as he could not bring himself to do it, out of respect for Sheila. Iris informed Tom that Bruce was doing a painting job and was not able to do it, but she would do it for him. She took the poodle to a local vet and he put it to sleep. Sam was buried in the Whiteside property. Iris who realised Tom's love of dogs, then took him out to look for another. Tom picked a saluki, who was extremely difficult to handle for he was a young dog. However both dog and pensioner bonded extremely well All went along well until one day Bruce headed over to Tom's with a dish full of bones. The saluki made a dash for him and had his open jaw around Bruce's chin. Tom who watched it happen gave the dog a good belting. For some months after Bruce refused to go near the house and Iris supplied Tom with bones for 'Red'. Ironically enough when Bruce was around with ordinary work clothes on, the dog took no exception and only reacted when he was in overalls, which probably said something of the dogs history.
It was not long after Tom had picked the dog up from the Animal Welfare, that a change came over the relationship. Iris went to open the gate as she had done so many times before only to find it would not budge. She asked Bruce to investigate, but he found that a bolt had been inserted to prevent the lock from opening. His response was fairly predictable. 'The old bugger. If that's the way he treats us after helping him out, he can go to hell'. No subsequent attempt to open the gate was made and in time the friendship with the old war veteran became an infrequent memory.
Bruce briefly saw Tom up at the shops one day before Christmas and invited him to Christmas dinner. No mention of the gate was made, nor even thought of at the time. Tom was quite chuffed and said he would. Although his dinner was prepared, he failed to turn up. However six weeks later Tom drove by Bruce's house as he was cutting the Council's nature strip. Tom was quite bitter because he had seen nobody and lamented the fact that Sheila's girl friends had not remembered her birthday and that he has spent a lonely Christmas.
'Tom you only have yourself to blame, because if you remember I invited you around. Iris prepared dinner for you and when you did not turn up I called around to collect you. You were not at home'.
It was the first Christmas without Sheila and to have not spent it with friends had left a bitter taste. Although he was 82 at the time he was still sharp and seldom missed a trick. Tom and sympathy went hand in hand.
And that was the last time that Bruce was to see Tom Jowett for over 15 months.
 

Next Chapter
Return to Book Index