The sunlight dappled through the phalanx of trees that formed the head of the garden. The beams of leaf-filtered photons then hit the exquisitely transparent french windows and proceeded to illuminate the room that was housed within. The owner of the aforementioned room obviously had done their research on interior design, the sunshine expanded the dimensions of the lightly painted walls and fill the cavernous room with a sense of cheer.
The high ceiling only furthered the feeling of being dwarved by the house. Set in an idyllic pocket of England, the nearest civilisation was the local farmer who provided the staple ingredients to the house owner’s culinary delights. A simple life but everything that was wanted or required by the sweet, quaint couple who resided here.
Inside was serene and offered sanctuary. A state of the art television stood ill-at-ease in the corner of the main room where the french windows were. The TV was rarely used and so the golden silence was only sporadically broken by kitchen appliances whirring or was accented by the symphony of the local wildlife. No extreme colours, no cold, harsh steel to disrupt what seemed to be the owners plan to offer a retreat from the hectic.
A wheelchair that seemed hewn from a solitary piece of smooth carbon fibre was sat in front of the view to the garden. Bathed in a glow from the sunshine, sat in the elegant transport was a wizened man. His skin seemed to have been used for origami and then flattened hastily, such were the plethora of creases and lines that peppered his visage. Wispy white hair crowned his head and was organised in a stately manner. Plush carpet slippers adorned his feet which sat atop the foot rest on the wheelchair and he was wearing a cashmere cardigan with a crisp white shirt cresting his neck. Black trousers which gave away a hint of what the man had dined on for breakfast were on his bottom half. The man, no matter if he slowly seemed to be robbed of any moisture whatsoever, still kept a semblance of style.
His eyes, which seemed to be closed unless you paid more scrutiny, peered out over the perfect pocket of countryside. Still retaining sparkle, they seemed to offer wisdom but were tinged with a vast longing which threatened to swallow the light that cast aside his age.
The silence – which was a welcome stranger after a lifetime bombarded by constant noise – was ripped apart by sudden lilted chatter and hurried steps. Bundling into the room where the old man was ruminating came an adolescent clad in what can only be described as a tie-dye shellsuit. Someone once said that fashion comes full-ciircle. If that person is responsible for this abomination of an outfit then a sternly worded letter would be the least they deserve. Lucky then, that part of the reason for the shining jewel in the man’s eyes was wearing the outfit that Lucifer himself would baulk at. It was his grandson.
The grandson, aged 13 and full of angst, faux-confidence and burning passions that would soon cool given five minutes, felt the same way about his Grandpa. They were pretty much inseparable – and given his mother’s all-cpnsuming job as a Financial Consultant – meant that they could live in each others pockets for the majority of the week and fuel each others vivid minds.
For a teenager to be so blissfully happy spending time with someone who wasn’t mobile without his wheelchair and was eighty-years his senior with far different tastes was testament to to how kindred their spirits were. Never quite belonging at school amongst his peers, his sole enjoyment was gleaning knowledge from books that filled the gargantuan library at his boarding school. Flying through his classes – with a focus on the medical side of biology – he sought out his Grandpa as the untapped well of information that he was. They whiled away the hours discussing the many experiences that ole’ Grampsy had encountered in his many years. Whilst Grandpa had a sparkle in his eyes, his grandson reciprocated the gleam when listening to the yarns that fell out of the pickled hole that once was a vessel for commands and vital soundbites.
He gave his Grandpa a brief hug and immediately sat down in the armchair that he had claimed as his own ever since his first years here. He had a glass of fruit juice in his hand and with the other he set aside his earphone and a snack bar. He was ready for his date with the past.
Grandpa opened his mouth to speak for the first time that day. Whilst with a hint of gravel, it hadn’t lost its gravitas. His grandson was enraptured as always.
” Where did we finish on Friday young man? ”
His grandson, with eyes that never left his grandpa’s gaze, immediately answered ” You had just won the battle against massive odds “.
Grandpa nodded sagely. Happy to be in his present company and just as happy to be ensconced in the past, he continued.
” Ah, yes. The enemy had more funds from government and had the ability to purchase far more equipment than us. That was their downfall though. They had more supplies and never had to slum it like us, but on the battlefield, we made our strengths count “.
He barked a dry cough and hastily continued.
” My superiors were over the moon with our victory and the moment we celebrated that triumph, was never rivalled by any other. Soon after though, I realised that success attracts jealous eyes. My battallion that had performed so admirably in the gaze of such hostile force, well, it was picked apart. Some had just had enough of such fierce war. Some wanted an easier life, content to live off past glories rather than forge a new horizon. Others were lured by lucre. Either way, it was never the same “.
His grandson, now halfway through the snack bar, seemed concerned. ” Why couldn’t you just pay them the same? ”
A wry smile crept across the old man’s face. ” Oh, I wish I could have. You see, I was also tasked with underseeing a massive project that required a presence on another front. I was split between maintaining a force on the battlefield and making sure the project went ahead. The plan – if it went ahead – would make sure there would be a continued protection for the country we had fought for, therefore guaranteeing democracy and the future of my men’s families. It was vital. ”
This brought a deep sigh from the man who once led men. It came from the bottom of his stomach but was borne from regret. His grandson was transfixed.
” For years, I spread myself thinner and thinner. My men suffered as a result. My focus shifted from my men to the future of my men. Years passed and each year brought a little more suffering. Privately funded war machines rolled in and not only tempted some of my men away, but were also cleaning up battles that we were supposed to be dealing with. We had lost the ability to win a war. Was it due to my insistence on concentrating on the wrong thing? Was it because my eye had shifted from the main prize? Was it to the detriment of the men I fought alongside and for? ”
His grandson uttered a harsh outcry. ” No Grandpa! You can’t be blamed! You wanted the best for your squadron!”
“Haha! Thank you son. You never fail to make me smile. the problem is though, that experience gives you a skill that you don’t want when you’re younger. Viewing things from a different perspective. At the time, I didn’t want to even consider that I may be harming the lives of many due to my insistence that I could do both jobs. I was too proud. The evidence is clear though. I yielded better results when working alongside someone. Looking back now though? If I had just asked for a little help or maybe better utilised the huge amounts of money that were now running amok through No-Mans-Land – I may have halted the slide. Instead, I gravely battled on. My peers used to revere me as a sage mind in fraught times. Due to my weakening grip on matters, they had started to doubt me and whispers of discontent were now the norm. ”
The grandson, now finished with the snack bar and making rapid progress with his fingernails, whispered, ” What happened next? ”
Grandpa’s eyes had been magnetized to his young charge but were now seemingly peering into nothingness. He continued to recount his tale.
” I had managed to keep both plates spinning son. I oversaw the project and protected the future of my battallion. The damage had been done however. I could afford to pay my men the wages they deserved but the confidence in us had been lost. We gamely battled on but we were beaten to the punch time and again by private firms who had invested far heavier than us and knew nothing of true value. I still made sure we kept peace in the lands we secured, but it was becoming tougher each day. We were victorious in one titanic battle after so many years of keeping our heads above water. It was used as a herald of brighter times by my men. They knew the project was finished. They knew they had their leader back in the thick of it. It was time to prove to all the doubters that we were the people to go to if winning a war – and winning it the right way of course – was what was needed. ”
His grandson cried ” aaaaannnnd?? ”
Grandpa, now his voice nothing but a rustly whisper, began to speak once more. ” Well, at the start, nothing much changed, but slowly, we began to……”
He was completely immersed in his tale when his wife walked in abruptly, thus stopping dead the time machine that both fellows were currently aboard.
” What have I told you about football talk in this house Arsene? I had nearly fifty years of being second best to that blasted sport! I won’t have you poisoning our darling grandson with that bedevilment as well! ”
Arsene exchanged a small smirk with his beloved grandson.
” I’m sorry dear, but I was only boring our wonderful young man with war stories. There was no football talk here, isn’t that right Dennis? ”
They both smiled as Mrs Wenger told them both to come to the dinner table as the roast beef was ready. Arsene and Dennis each speedily winked at each other – like an indicator of some secret union – before hurrying to the table before incurring the faux wrath of Mrs Wenger. Dinner was served. Nostalgia was a tasty treat but it could wait a while. It would make the perfect after-dinner treat for both.