The property business is our bag. Not the high-end side either. But as Jack’s old boss used to say, ‘There’s money in sh**’. Not very sensitive, I know. But at the time, Jack was definitely in.
What started as a money making operation though has evolved into something bigger. Vulnerable people are being housed and housed properly. They are given the chance they need to live and work on a level playing field. In short Jack loves it. For the first five years, a care society managed our properties on a lease-basis. The theory was that with a lease, the property portfolio had more re-sale value. Then Austerity (oh yeah, you bitch) came to town and the care society ran out of money. In a hasty reshuffle their bookkeeper took over as a new property agent. And all was ok. Well, kinda.
The reality is that Jack is much more involved now in the daily running of his business. This has some up and down moments, particularly when we’re on Quest. There’s something undeniably comically tragic about him being on the phone for hours in the Caribbean with the electricity company. Or water. Or gas. Indeed, a fair chunk of his time seems to be wrestling with utilities.
This brings me to Lulu. What will Lulu become? What will she do? Though her future job seems written in the sky, it hides from us annoyingly behind a cloud. She’s one of those kids who could do anything. From what I can remember I was never going to be a mathematician. Or anything that had to do with maths. As an embryologist I winging it. How? Well, as long as it had a recipe-style formula (e.g. count the sperm, figure out concentrations) I could get by. But make something up? Forget it.
In a similar vein, Lulu isn’t a natural at maths either. We’ve backed up her InterHigh maths classes with a weekly tutor. For this I found Joe, a student at our local university, an astro-physics major. He’s helped Lu for almost a year now, including by a magical astronomical combination of Skype and OneNote when we were away. We’ve discovered that when one young person helps a younger person with maths, an interesting result can emerge. Lulu isn’t scared of maths anymore. Even if she doesn’t understand it, she doesn’t do what I do… and panic. This is pretty amazing to watch and also gets to fuel my lingering resentment that I never had extra maths tuition. So win win.
Her current ambition is also interesting. It reflects the relationship she has with her dad. I wanted to be a writer at her age (ha!). Meanwhile halfway across the world, Jack wanted to be a stock market trader.
‘Would you like to run a scuba diving company Lu?’ I asked, thinking about our time on Quest. ‘Or work in the movie industry? Or wait.. you could put the two together! Marine biology film maker? How awesome is that?’
Lu shook her head. Hold on. We’ll go from past tense to present. She shakes her head. Especially when I pretend I haven’t thought of it before.
‘How many times do I have to tell you?’ she says, ‘I want to make money.’
Cue my slightly disappointed but unsurprised shrug. The truth is that I don’t know if these guys make any money. The likelihood is that they probably see their job as a ‘lifestyle choice’. This means my child has just backed me into a completely logical corner. Again. That means Lulu: 5. Me: 0.
On that note, I’m sure she could be a city trader. She’d be awesome at it. I’m not sure if the lack of morality would bother her much either. What she doesn’t anticipate she’ll quickly work out. I imagine the moment her eyes blink with understanding. Perhaps having a disabled and undeniably at times annoying younger sister does that to you. Lulu’s known that life isn’t fair since she was old enough to know anything. Lulu has to look after her sister. When Jack and I go she’s got to pick up the slack. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I don’t take it lightly.
She surprised me today though. We’d just sat down to lunch. She turned to Jack and asked, ‘What do we do with the business Dad? When we have to take it over?
The soup dribbled out of my mouth. ‘You mean if your dad dies?’
She nodded in a physical translation of the word duh. Jack on the other hand didn’t bat an eyelid. ‘Don’t sell it Lu,’ he said. ‘It’s easy to run. I’ll give you an example of what I did today.’ He pulled out his phone and began to read a message from his agent.
Message: ‘Just got off the phone to Pete. He is saying he was followed home from the pub on Monday night, mugged and kept hostage in the flat until yesterday. He’s been to the police but they’ve basically dismissed him due to his mental health issues. His mental health worker is with him now and they’re going to go back to the police later. He’s asking if we can change the lock on his flat door as he’s worried they may have copied his keys and might be able to get in.’
Now we’re all dribbling soup. Except Jack who calmly put the phone down.
‘What did you do?’ I finally asked him. ‘Did you change the lock?’
He raised his eyebrows. Looked at Lulu. ‘What would you do?
She thought for a moment. ‘I think I’d change his lock.’
He nodded. ‘Me too.’