Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to endless night
William Blake, ‘Auguries of Innocence’
They took him in. Since their son had got himself signed up at sea for eighteen months on an oil rig, the boy’s cubbyhole of a room was vacant; and the rent money was a help. There had rubbed off on the commissionaire’s braid on the father’s uniform, through the contact of club members’ coats and briefcases he relieved them of, loyal consciousness of the danger of bombs affixed under the cars of members of Parliament and financiers. The father said, ‘I’ve no quarrel with that,’ when the owners of the house whose basement flat the family occupied stipulated ‘No Irish’. But to discriminate against any other foreigners from the old Empire was against the principles of the house owners, who were also the mother’s employers – cleaning three times a week and babysitting through the childhood of three boys she thought of as her own. So it was a way of pleasing Upstairs to let the room to this young man, a foreigner who likely had been turned away from other vacancies posted on a board at the supermarket. He was clean and tidy enough; and he didn’t hang around the kitchen, hoping to be asked to eat with the family, the way one of their own kind would. He didn’t eye Vera.
Vera was seventeen, and a filing clerk with prospects of advancement; her father had got her started in an important firm through the kindness of one of his gentlemen at the club. A word in the right place; and now it was up to her to become a secretary, maybe one day even a private secretary to someone like the members of the club, and travel to the Continent, America – anywhere.