Soon after the start of my new job the police rang me. Just looking forward to my first cup of tea (well, I am a civil servant now!)when my phone rang. It was the police, phoning from Guildford.
The policeman asked me to confirm my full name and address. Satisfied with my reply he said: "I'm sorry to have to say this but your brother, John, is in custody. He has given your name as next of kin."
At first I didn't understand what I'd just heard. John has been arrested? Must be some mistake. John, about six years younger than I, was a colour sergeant in the Queens Own Regiment. Married with five young children, John joined the army as a boy entrant at age 16. He'd steadily worked his way up the ranks to his present position. No, definitely a big mistake by the police.
"What's this all about officer?" I asked.
"Well sir, your brother shot and killed his wife last night. He walked into the police station and gave himself up. He wants you to come to the station please."
After a few seconds I recovered my senses enough to say that I'd get there as soon as I could. I had no car; I get to work by train from Norfolk to London so I had to get to Guildford by train. My department boss said I could go immediately. What a terrible start to my first few days in the new job!
I'll keep this tragic tale as concise as I can.
John was an armoury instructor. His regiment was based in Guildford, where he lived in married quarters. He was posted to Northern Ireland during "the troubles" and did a six-month tour.
On return to Guildford he heard that his wife, Doreen, had been having an affair. He went to the armoury, took out an automatic rifle and six rounds of ammunition. Went back to his house and fired the six bullets, killing Doreen instantly.
I visited him in the cells at Guildford. He seemed strangely calm. He simply told me what he'd done. His children had been taken into care. He was alone in this cell and it all seemed unreal, a dream ... a nightmare.
There was little I could do. He was remanded in custody, in Brixton prison, until his trial at the Old Bailey in London.
Social Services asked me if I could look after the two young sons of John until other arrangements could be made. My wife and I agreed. One lad, Geoffrey, was 7 and his younger brother, Stephen, was 5. We had seen them infrequently in the past as we had moved about a lot. They came to live with us in Norfolk.
I visited John on remand in Brixton a few times. On my final visit he said he wanted me to adopt his two boys. I said no. Out of the question. I had children of my own and more were planned. John angrily condemned me for refusing. He told me he didn't want to see me again. I felt hurt, but had to make allowances for his state of mind. However, he was adamant and refused to see me when I applied to visit him again.
His trial opened. I did not attend. A member of the Queen's Own Regiment told me that the judge accepted a lesser plea than murder. The judge said that the army had taught John how to kill; that was true. John served under two years in prison. He was automatically dismissed from the army. What had been a successful career, with good pension prospects, was quashed.
Geoffrey and Stephen were taken back into care; they were fostered but we lost track of them. John's three daughters were similarly fostered. One of the girls is now married and living in America. That's all I know about this tragic affair.
This was a difficult phase in life for me and my family. It was not a good start to a new career but needs must when the devil drives. We are all driven to make a living - well, almost all of us. And that means work.
Whom was the wit who said "If work was so bloody marvellous then the gentry would have snapped it all up years ago!"