MR AND MRS LOVELAND
In the autumn of 1965, and after William successfully saw off the challenge from Mr Snatchington-Carp to be installed as manager of the bank, the resulting increase of salary allowed the Wincheaters to move into a three-bedroom semi in the rather more tranquil setting of Dulwich. Granny and Grandpa were offloaded as the council had found them a gleaming new bungalow.
The Windcheaters shared their new garden fence with Mr and Mrs Loveland and their two golden retrievers. The brother and sister dogs were the couple’s surrogate children, as Mrs Loveland’s hysterectomy soon after their wedding put paid to producing their own.
As London began to swing, Leonard Loveland’s position as editor of one of the burgeoning gossip magazines of the time saw him earn good money. Celebrity was in vogue, and he cashed in with his publication’s reportings of the goings on around Carnaby Street and Leicester Square.
Amelia Loveland – nee McNaleckie, was the daughter of a staunch and puritan Glaswegian Presbyterian. Needless to say, her father wasn’t thrilled when she brought home a long-haired herbert whose job it was to inform the public of the sleazy state of play amongst the beautiful people of the West End. To Morton McNaleckie, his beloved only child pairing up with a superficial proprietor of such filth could only lead to drug taking, wild orgy parties and irreversible lubrication; not to mention eternal damnation.
Amelia was thirty years of age, a decade younger than Catherine. They hit it off despite the age gap and became good friends overnight.
Whilst Catherine herself was still an attractive woman, she was taken by how striking Mrs Loveland was. It was pretty obvious what her husband saw in her, although Amelia did feel extremely vulnerable since the removal of her reproductive parts. Certainly, she and her husband loved Keith and Judith, but there was only so much fulfilment the dogs could give them.
William had reservations about the dubious career of his opposite number across the fence, which was far removed from the steadfastness of his own. Despite their differences, a decent supply of pleasantries was struck up when they inadvertently came face to face across the garden fence.
Grace was delighted with her new house and big garden. Wilberforce wasn’t delighted, and sorely missed his old school. Adding to the misgivings of the youngest was his best friend refusing to speak to him after having his nose fractured a fortnight before the move. Wilberforce would’ve done anything to have made it up with Maurice Major, and was pained by the thought of never seeing his first childhood pal ever again.
Catherine joined Amelia at the kitchen table and swapped stories about their lives over tea, Lincoln biscuits and cigarettes.
Mrs Windcheater was staggered by the scale of the Loveland’s affluence. The kitchen table was solid mahogany, and the cooker, washing machine, television, clock on the wall and portable transistor radio were all state of the art.
Amelia turned on the transistor, and was greeted with the closing bars of Help! courtesy of Radio Caroline.
“So, how did you and William meet?”
Mrs Loveland lit a cigarette as soon as the question was complete.
“We met on Waterloo Bridge on V.E. day.”
Amelia inhaled the smoke deep into her lungs before giving a relieved exhalation.
“Getaway! How romantic, I thought that sort of thing only happened in films.”
Amelia broke into a smile of wonderment before asking a more direct question.
“Are you happy with him?”
Catherine suddenly felt great loyalty and devotion toward her husband in response to her neighbour’s unexpected probing.
“Yes, he’s a good man. He worked his way up to bank manager from office boy, and he always puts the kids and me before himself.”
“You’re a lucky woman, Cathy. Good men are hard to find, most of them are trying to get their leg over anything that moves.”
Catherine was again shocked by Mrs Loveland’s explicitness.
“I wish my Leonard was as predictable as your William. Sometimes he doesn’t get in ‘til past midnight, and some weekends I don’t see him at all. I know he works long hours and earns good money, I just wish I knew what he was up to.”
Catherine felt sympathetic toward her neighbour, and was happy to double up as her psychiatrist.
“Look, just because you don’t see as much of him as you’d like doesn’t mean he’s up to no good.”
“I wish it was that simple Cathy. The thing is, it’s part of his job to go to parties to get the gossip. God knows what goes on there. When he is home, he’s smoking dope all the time, and I’m not happy living with a drug taker. My dad hasn’t spoken to me for the past year; he can’t stand the sight of Leonard.”
Catherine’s sympathy for Amelia shot up a few notches, and she rested a hand on her shoulder before the pair heard a key turn in the front door.
“Hi darling.” shouted Amelia.
Leonard Loveland took the few strides to the kitchen and saw Catherine sat next to his wife.
“Oh, you must be the new neighbour. Delighted to meet you, my name’s Leonard.”
Catherine smiled at Mr Loveland, and her immediate impression of him was favourable. She introduced herself and the pleasantries were cordial.
Leonard squeezed his wife from behind and planted an exaggerated kiss on her cheek.
“So how’s it all going with your move then, Cathy?”
“It’ll be fine once we’ve sorted out the packing. I never knew we had so much stuff. Still, at least we’ve got more space for it all now.”
Leonard continually smiled and nodded during Catherine’s reply, though Catherine felt slightly uneasy as his eyes seemed to be studying her intently.
Amelia’s husband was a handsome man, and possessed jet-black hair, olive skin and chiselled features. He was also about six foot tall and wore an expensive suit.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay longer Cathy, have to get back to the office. It’s been lovely meeting you, and I look forward to seeing more of you and your family.”
Mr Loveland’s eyes burrowed deep into Catherine’s. Eventually, he returned his attention to his wife to offer a brief apology.
“Sorry darling, deadlines are coming up and things are pretty hectic at the moment.”
Leonard hurried into the living room to fill his briefcase with the necessary paperwork before returning to the kitchen to say goodbye. Amelia looked deflated, and after Catherine again received an intense stare from Loveland, she sensed Amelia’s suspicions might not be entirely without foundation.
The cameo was over as Mr Loveland closed the front door.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking this Amelia, but have you seen any evidence that he’s up to no good?”
Amelia produced a pained smile for Catherine and shook her head.
“Well not exactly, but he’s always so much more charming with other women. I mean...the way he looked at you was as if he wanted to rip your knickers off.”