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TWO

RAIN CAME DOWN hard and fast against the skylight in the tiny bedroom of Bill‟s flat. The harsh sound echoed round the cold, damp room, which had been carved out of a loft space. Maybe the council‟s planning people, or building regs people or whoever was responsible wouldn‟t allow this kind of conversion nowadays, without insulation. Maybe Trading Standards wouldn‟t allow the estate agent to call it a special feature. And maybe the disability access people would have something to say about the alpine stairs, another special feature.

Bill Smith didn‟t care, for once. He didn‟t feel himself. He put on clean underwear, one of his two ironed shirts, a sober tie, his dark blue suit, and black shoes: the same as every day. But dressed, he felt even less like himself. He laboured over his morning routine, feeling sore and morose. He signed the letter from his solicitor about the divorce, and stuffed it back in the return envelope, but then left it on the kitchen table, among his dirty dishes and the pizza wrapping.

JEREMY BURNET LEFT a hand-written note for his grandmother and an email for his great- grandfather. Both communications explained simply that he was leaving to find his own way in the world and that he was doing it this way because he didn‟t want them making a fuss and turning it into something else. He had a bit of birthday money saved up, he said, so he‟d be all right until he got a job, and he‟d keep in touch as and when he could, but in any case before too long.

On Facebook he wrote: Jeremy has left home. As soon as he‟d posted, he realised it sounded juvenile and rather pathetic. So on Jeremywiz, his blog, he said “Gone life shopping” – which he thought sounded bold.

ANNIE CLARKE HAD PREPARED for Maggie Burnet a one-page explanation of why she believed the opportunity was not ripe for marketing salad burnet to the world. Her preliminary research online, she wrote, suggested there was no demand. There was also as yet, of course, no supply and no information as to how much it would cost to create that supply. And while there were certainly a number of companies marketing native herbs and herbal products for cosmetic, medicinal and culinary purposes they had most likely not overlooked burnet, but positively ruled it out, on the grounds that it had virtually no taste, no fragrance, and no curative properties. Annie‟s summary suggested that a venture based on mixed herbs and salads might be more of a possibility. Those with desirable attributes and uses were already grown on a large scale, but a smaller-scale venture making good use of

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