Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Domino effect

In How It All Began, one act has repercussions across the lives of many characters.  Charlotte Rainsford, elderly but still active, is mugged one day, she loses more than her bag.  Injuries mean that she needs time to recuperate before she can move back to her own home, where the lives alone.  She moves in with her daughter Rose and son-in-law Gerry.  She really hates the loss of independence, but decides to make the best of it.

Rose works for Lord Henry Peters as a sort of secretary/personal assistant.  Henry is a retired academic who potters around his house and always seems to have some sort of project on the go.  He thinks about writing his memoirs, but has papers, books, files and notes scattered everywhere, so he never actually gets started.

When Rose's mother has a doctor's appointment on the day Henry is scheduled to deliver a lecture, his niece Marion is roped in to go with him instead.  This upset to his routine causes a great deal of bother, with notes left behind and an embarrassing lack of polish when delivering the lecture.  Marion has her own problems.  She's a self-employed interior designer who has seen much of her work dry up with the downturn in the economy.  She's been having an affair with a married man, Jeremy, who works in the slightly related field of reclamation -- going to properties that are being sold or torn down and rescuing anything that he might be able to sell on.  Because she has to accompany Uncle Henry to his lecture, she sends a text to Jeremy telling him she won't be able to keep their date that evening. Unfortunately, Jeremy's wife, the slightly unstable and hysterical Stella, sees the text and promptly throws Jeremy out of the family home.  Luckily, Jeremy has a small flat that he uses when he's "working" (or entertaining his latest mistress), so he's not totally homeless.  Still, he's panic-stricken at the thought of a divorce and the subsequent upheaval to his life and finances.  While at the dinner which follows Uncle Henry's disastrous lecture, Marion thinks her professional prayers have been answered when she meets a banker who wants her to work with him on his property-flipping project.  She gets started immediately, buying materials and hiring workers, but when she needs money to pay for everything, she discovers that the banker is suddenly MIA . . .

Since Charlotte is basically house-bound at Rose's house, she's had to give up going to the local literacy center where she teaches English to new immigrants.  As a retired teacher, this is work she both enjoys and excels at.  When she calls to say she won't be able to come in for a while, it's suggested that she might tutor a student one-on-one in Rose's house.  She agrees, and soon Anton, an accountant from Poland currently working in the construction trade, shows up for regular lessons.  He's very motivated to improve his English so he can apply for an office job.  Although Rose is out most of the time when he arrives for his lessons, soon their paths cross and she agrees to go with him to pick out some gifts of clothing for his mother back in Poland.  They discover many mutual interests, and soon Rose begins to wonder if her comfortable, but unexciting, life with Gerry might be exchanged for something else.

So the original mugging of Charlotte leads to upheavals in the lives of many people.  Whether these events will have long lasting consequences or not is the question.  It's quite plausible to see how one event can have ripple effects across the lives of so many characters.

Final Verdict for How It All Began:  Four Gherkins, for being a lively look at the interconnectedness of seemingly random events


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