A cautious man all his life, Justin never took any risks.
Justin is not, of course, Claudio Cazalini’s real name but one he earned as a nickname because of his behaviour.
Qualifying originally as an accountant, Claudio’s career at Pegasus Insurance had been conventional. He joined the ranks of the Actuaries seven years into his career and he stayed in the department until his ultimate retirement 37 years later.
An irony never perceived by Claudio was that the business he was in is the greatest of all the risk businesses, they even use the phrase when a new policy starts up that it was now said to be “on risk”.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, Claudio always insisted that home ownership is too risky. He reasoned that prices had risen so steeply that any purchase at any time would inevitably lead to a financial loss.
Despite his pessimism house prices had risen 70 fold during his tenure at Pegasus whilst his income during the same period had grown 30 fold. And meanwhile he had paid rent monthly for the same 37 years. And the rent had gone up 100 fold.
But Claudio is a great believer in saving and has always kept back about 10% of his income just in case he should need the cash at some time in the future.
He never put the money into a Building Society, just in case they went under, so he always kept his cash in a box under his bed. When he was burgled in 1989, the thieves found his stash of cash so Claudio decided he would buy a safe.
Now retired at 60 years old Claudio was still a bachelor. This was not through lack of opportunity. Twenty six years before a young graduate joined the team at Pegasus in the role of Compliance. Harriet Watts was charming and Claudio and her had an excellent working relationship.
Harriet adored Claudio and wanted to take their relationship forward outside of work. One late afternoon in 1972 she approached Claudio and asked him out. He was flattered but scared. He decided, however, that it would be unwise to risk a relationship with someone he worked with. What if they started to go out and it all went wrong?
He declined her offer and despite her persistence over the next few weeks they never went out together. Harriet left Pegasus six months later after an absence due to depression.
Claudio never took promotions that he felt would expose him to the possibility of making an error or causing another person to take a risk. Despite this he was very confident in himself and his own abilities and had a tendency never to hand over work to other colleagues, always using the phrase “just in case”. It was, of course, this behaviour that had earned him his nickname in the first place.
Since his retirement things have changed.
On the sudden death of her husband, Claudio’s younger sister Miriam asked Claudio if he would support her and his twin nephews. She asked him to move in with them.
Without a second thought Claudio gave up his flat and moved in with his sister.
He used his savings to buy her a new car and he became a full time carer for the two 6 year olds.
It was like a switch had been thrown, Claudio forsook all of his Justine Caze persona. He was in love.
He was in love with Harriet Watts.
He looked after the boys well, taking them to school in the morning, collecting them in the evening, and around doing housework for his sister and preparing their meals, Claudio discovered the internet.
Claudio scanned the internet every day and finally found an email address for a Harriet Watts.
After a short exchange of emails Claudio and Harriet arranged to meet up. She had not married. After her illness she had become a bit of a recluse for a few months, but she had then got a job at the Prudential where she had been ever since.
There had been men in her life but there was never anybody that interested her like Claudio.
When Claudio contacted her she could not believe it and was actually cautious about taking the risk of arranging to meet him.
But seeing him again all the old feelings came rushing back.
But he was different somehow.
OK he was ten years older, but he also had a confidence about him.
They went out together over a period of some months, he introduced Harriet to Miriam and they got on well, the boys liked her too.
So Claudio plucked up the courage and proposed marriage to Harriet.
But she wouldn’t take the risk, just in case.
Copyright © Stuart Danton 2007