‘James woke’ – notes
Fit and active 55 ish. Early forced retirement. Modest independent means. Banker, finance, PR, marketing, advertising, IT management, civil service senior management, …. Left behind by restructuring, technology, young turks with MBAs or paid for internments, mergers and downsizing, recessions and loss of contracts, … Does not necessarily relate his immediate experience and problems to larger social, economic, political and cultural changes.
With impending leaving, re-evaluates the job, its ethics, its usefulness, the contribution it makes. Also sees his friends who are all colleagues in a different light. Work and striving for success have dominated his life. He learns to despise his colleagues and his life so far and therefore, by association, himself. Leaving work means losing structure, meaning, status, identity, a crumbling world view and set of attitudes. But also his self image and identity – the sort of person he is and has been.
Possibly divorced in his 30s or early 40s. Estranged from ex wife and children. Marriage wrecked by total dominance of his work and financial commitments. Scope for some sort of reconciliation in the story.
Total release and stress free to begin with in new life. But gradually sees this as not viable for another possible 35 years or so. Needs a complete reinvention of self and life style, of satisfactions and meaningful existence. Danger of isolation, turning in on self, increasing bitterness and cynicism.
Cottage rented in a small hamlet of 3 or 4 dwellings. Manages to keep contact with other residents to a minimum and restricted to ‘nice days’ and ‘good mornings’. Gradually feels at home but realises that drifting and passing time without any particular goals or objectives, without any broader purpose or meaning to life is becoming a new source of oppression and stress. Tendency to focus on the past, its betrayals and disappointments, its inauthenticity and meanness. Lack of identity and purpose, increasing self obsession and isolation makes contact with others threatening and stressful. Story line: Some occurrence to force development of interactions and relations with others in the community needed. Via an accident or some occurrence that necessitates some discussion and cooperation perhaps. Need to develop our knowledge and picture of James through conversations with others, their observations, impressions, ‘theories’ etc. about him.
One other inhabitant is an elderly sprightly woman, retired widow of a Don. Late 70s perhaps or early 80s? A privileged and sheltered background of entertainment and ornamentation as well as running a home and doing appropriate voluntary work connected with the university and its community. On his death she realised her life had been dominated by the lifestyle and social circles of Academia which she now realised she was only included in via marriage. She also sees ‘high table’ university life more realistically and cynically than before from her new perspective as outsider. She also questions her previous identity and meaning of life. Retires permanently to what had been their second home in the Peak District.
Very different backgrounds and experiences. Very different lifestyles, world views and understandings. Both to some extent victims of broad social changes that have impacted on their lives differently. Shared feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction. Similar ‘existential’ problems. Does she have children or surviving family?
Background to their relationship. A near generational difference than spans the end of the old post war society of restructuring, recovery, expansion and confidence and the ‘post industrial’ brave new world of individuality, independence, entrepreneurship, ‘no society’, dismantling the welfare state and the ‘post war settlement’, changes in the ‘jobs for life’ economy and the increasing insecurity of life generally.
Plot and story development: do they share reminiscences? Do they support each other and become important parts of each other’s lives? Not in a romantic way. Do they gradually learn to see the other’s point of view, the validity of their own but different experience and their understanding of it? Is there any concluding redemption? Do they both learn to see their previous lives in a broader context that leaves them with some self respect and intimations of what their lives can still be and achieve?
Who else is in the hamlet? Perhaps a ‘child of Thatcher’ who has made good and runs a business from home or who has a second home in the hamlet? Or an old retired farm labourer? Or a retired high ranking police officer? Or just incidental but plausible characters who play minor roles in the story?