This week I’m continuing my idea of providing mini-autobiographies of central characters in The Road to Environmental Armageddon, my saga about the hazards of ignoring the climate change threat. I’m thinking about using these biographies as glue that provides some continuity to a story that extends over a rather long time frame with several intersecting sub-stories. Tony’s story (final segment is last weeks post on this blog) would go in The Souring Seas, the first book in this trilogy, Elena’s story would go with the second book, now tentatively titled Building Houses of Cards.
My name is Elena Llewellyn. I learned about my uncle’s battle to address the climate change problem after my parents died. I was eleven years old.
They were wealthy adventurers, wastrels in some people’s eyes, visionaries in others. They died under suspicious circumstances whilst trying to save the Amazonian rain forest.
I can’t say their deaths devastated me. They were strangers who appeared from time to time at Hafen Ddiogel, my grandparents’ country estate near Winchfield, Hampshire.
Hafen Ddiogel was the only home I’d ever known. When I wasn’t away at school, I lived there with Sir Owen Llewellyn, a financier who built a small Welsh bank into a major financial institution, and his wife, Lady Maude Llewellyn.
My only other family was my father’s older brother, Gareth Llewellyn. He became my guardian after they died. He taught me about our family’s commitment to the fight to wrestle climate change into submission.
Uncle Gareth described my grandfather as a Renaissance man with a strong sense of moral duty. He convinced fellow industrialists and government leaders that everyone must buckle down and solve the climate change problem.
“He committed our family to this fight,” my uncle said. “It’s become my life’s prime focus. In time, it will become yours.”
In the years after my parents died, my grandparents treated me like a little girl who needed constant coddling. Uncle Gareth treated me like a little adult. He provided information on the grand adventure my grandfather embarked upon. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell me everything he should have told me. I struggled through the early years of this story, trying to understand the family’s real motives.
My bachelor uncle did one other thing that bears upon this story. The money I inherited from my parents was in a trust he would manage until I turned twenty-five. He taught me about money by putting several hundred pounds into an account every month. I could draw on it without restrictions. It accumulated because I had little to spend it on.
When my parents died, I was in the lower fourth at one of England’s premier boarding schools for girls. I’d moved up from the preparatory school and was unhappy because the senior school girls wouldn’t accept me. I was born and raised in England but considered inferior because of my Welsh name. They dismissed me because we were bankers rather than members of the landed aristocracy. Worst of all, they thought my father wasn’t a gentleman in the vanguard leading Great Britain to greatness. Their prejudices were confirmed when my parents died under dubious circumstances in Brazil.
My closest friend was Penelope Fitzwilliam, another Welsh girl whose family was in trade. She grew up in Wales and had a Welsh accent. She was proud of her Welshness and stood up for her heritage when anyone tried to demean it.
Pen was a rebel, spurred on, I’m sure, by the other girls’ attitudes. By the lower sixth form, she was one of the few girls with a serious boyfriend. She became pregnant, intentionally, I believe, and insisted she’d keep the baby. The money Uncle Gareth deposited in my account every month became invaluable. I bankrolled her effort to birth and raise her daughter, Claire, complete her A-levels, and gain acceptance to Oxford.
Apart from the support I provided for Pen’s rebellion, my progress through senior school was traditional. I finished my upper sixth year at the top of my class and spent a year at a Swiss finishing school. Cultural studies, they called it, but I thought of it as my punishment for helping Pen. Punishment wasn’t fair because Pen paid back every pound I gave her, but Uncle Gareth always considered it a black mark on my record. Would he have been less unhappy if I charged her interest?
After my year in Switzerland, I attended the London School of Economics. I graduated with a first in political philosophy and joined the bank. I spent my first year doing tasks Uncle Gareth assigned to teach me about commercial and investment banking. Then, in December 2026, he took me aside and spent days describing the Company of Gentlemen Entrepreneurs’ quest to save the world from climate degradation. In January 2027, I joined the crusade and marched forth to slay the climate change dragon.
That’s an unpolished start. More to come next week.