by Andrew Foote
It took a while, nine months to be precise, but finally West Country Brewers lost patience with the bartering process and called me.
"Mr Woolacott. I need to see you please. Are you going to be around tomorrow morning?"
"Hello Mr Priestman. I'll either be here or on my boat but I'm not going out fishing, so if I'm not at the pub, ask whoever's behind the bar to shout me."
"I'll try to be there."
"You play dirty Mr Woolacott, very dirty."
"And so, you wouldn't do much the same if you were in my position?"
"No, I suppose not.
You've boxed us into a corner, so here is our final offer. Take it or leave it."
He passed me an envelope. Inside was a bankers draft for nine hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
He continued. "You'll be aware no doubt, what you have in your hand is every bit as good as cash. Accept it and I'll want you off the premises by this time next week. Refuse it and it'll be the last time you'll hear from me.
I need to have your answer Mr Woolacott."
I proffered my hand. "Deal done. I accept and we'll be gone by Wednesday afternoon if you want to have one of your people collect the keys."
"But that only gives you two days to move out?"
"All we need are our clothes and a few personal odds and sods, and might I suggest that rather going to all the faff of a stock-take, we'll take what we want like bottles of spirits, mixers and a few cases of bottled beers with us, but leaving you with enough to stay open if that's what you intend doing."
Where do you intend living?"
"To begin with? On my boat, but we're emigrating to Brazil as my partner, well, he's very homesick."
"Then I wish you well.
Good bye…… Mr Woolacott."
Not the happiest of Company Directors! The manner in which he's paused between saying good bye and my name made me feel like I was James Bond being dismissed by some megalomaniac, hell bent on world domination, as if being led away to an almost certain and agonising death. Instead I had in my hand, a bankers draft for a ridiculous sum of money – over twice what Mum had been told what the pub was worth just twelve months ago.
"I've sold the pub Mum. I really pushed it to the limit, in fact what we've managed to screw West Country for is frightening."
"How frightening is frightening?"
"Just a shade under a million quid frightening."
"Well done you! What do you intend doing with it?"
"It's your money so I need the details of your account so I can bank it."
"It isn't my money Simeon? I gave you the pub so it belongs to you."
"That's hardly fair? You built up the business and okay, I'll accept a small proportion of the proceeds, but not all of it?"
"How old are you son?"
"Eighteen the last time I looked. Why do you ask?"
"Let's just say you live to the ripe old age of eighty-eight shall we? If you were in employment and one with a decent salary, if your income only increased in line with inflation, by the time you retired you might've earned somewhere in excess of two point five million. One million wouldn't take you very long to use up, so you keep it, invest it wisely and remember, you'll have to supplement it with paid employment."
"We plan on going to Brazil."
"We as in you and Sam?"
"We as in Cathy, Rob, Sam and me. I'm working on ways that'll make it possible to take the boats with us, maybe even the Landrover but it's early days yet."
"Have you mentioned this to Anita and Arthur?"
"I haven't, but whether Cath has, I'm not sure but probably not."
"Taking the boats might not be such a simple matter. You can hardly sail them over the Atlantic can you?"
"I'd thought more of taking them there as deck cargo. I've still got lots to figure out, but can I ask you something? You don't seem very surprised? Actually I thought you'd slap me down, tell me to grow up."
"I wish you were here so I could take your hands and look you in the eye when I tell you, but you're not so try and visualise that if you can.
I'm not in the slightest bit surprised. You're still too young to appreciate it, but when you're older, you'll look back on your life and realise that everything that happened, every event, no matter how trivial or seemingly unimportant, impacted directly on decisions you made, the avenues you pursued, the people you met, the person or persons you fell in love with and ultimately, your destiny.
Imagine if you will, your father hadn't died. He would still be young enough to be in the Service, most likely a Captain or perhaps even holding a more senior rank. We would probably have followed him abroad so that losing touch with the likes of Cathy and Rob would be inevitable. You would never have met and fallen in love with Sam, Conqueror would've been sold and we would never have bought the Nelson. Where would you be and what might you be doing now? There's no way of knowing, we aren't able to visit parallel universes yet so we're stuck with what we have, and it's up to all of us to make the most of every opportunity that's on offer.
Simeon? Nihil inter vos et somniorum. Let nothing come between you and your dreams.
Concede nihil impedire progressum. Allow nothing to stand in the way of progress."
The months that followed began with Rob, Aruno and I clearing our belongings from the Nelson. Cathy had volunteered to drive into Cambourne to try and lay her hands on vacuum packs to store the clothes – the type of thing you hitch up to a vacuum cleaner to suck out all the air to keep what they contained from deteriorating.
We obviously hadn't been very good at stock-taking because we uncovered, not just bottles of spirits, but cases of them, all of which we carried to the boats leaving just enough to keep the pub open until West Country sorted out their own stock.
We did much the same with bottled beers and mixers, fruit juices and wines to the point where Rob had to get the Landrover to help us shift everything.
Aruno and I drove into Cambourne and had the bankers draft paid in to my current account. It wasn't there very long as the Teller told the bank manager and following a lengthy meeting, it was transferred into a high interest deposit account.
That was a laugh in itself…… a high Disinterest account more like. One percent over base rate isn't what I would call High.
I wasn't having much luck with the knotty problem of shipping the boats.
It's not like you can call UPS or the man with the Big Green Parcel Machine to come and collect them is it? Seriously, I didn't have a clue, but help came by way of Mr Penfold.
"I think you'll be better off going directly to a shipping agent, those people who offer cargo for transportation abroad. You could go through shipping Companiss but they'd charge you a bloody fortune.
Are you in any hurry to get over there?"
"Not really. I can't imagine we'll get a direct passage so we'd planned on expecting delays transferring from one ship to t'other."
"Well, if you're prepared to wait it out, you might well hit lucky. Ships Captains, and more importantly, their operators, don't much like sailing with spare capacity on board. Best get in touch with one of the big boys who have a handle on what's going on worldwide, be prepared to hang around for a bit then take what you can, when you can.
I wish I could come with you – it sounds exciting!"
Between us we'd put together a list of engineering consumables such as fuel and oil filters, air filters, head gaskets and fuel injectors. Mr Penfold made suggestions which included bearings, a lightweight welding kit, paints and a more comprehensive selection of tools, fuses, breakers, spare batteries and on the Marion, an automatic washing machine and drier as she had more space than Conqueror.
Software updates for the satellite systems were downloaded and tested together with standby Wi-Fi modules and spare laptops.
One heavy investment were satellite phones. Once we were any distance from shore, our standard mobiles would be next to useless even if we had international roaming, and anyway, how on earth could we pay the bills?
My passport had long since expired, so that I replaced and once I received it, we applied to the Brazilian Embassy for visas.
This was pretty straight forward but then we were asked to attend for interview. It would've been good to take Aruno to London but unfortunately, the date we'd been given clashed with his Master's exam which he had to sit in Plymouth, so we decided to drive to my Mum's the night before, drop him off, take an early train to London the following day then pick him up on our way back.
I had to grin and bear London but it was a means to an end.
We took a taxi from Kings Cross to Cockspur Street SW1 which was obviously Embassy-Land, got frisked by some heavies before being shown through to a waiting room – an empty waiting room – so why the interminable wait?
Eventually we were ushered into an office where we were met by a bloke wearing some sort of military uniform, introducing himself as a Major Paulo Raendez.
He was an Okay bloke I thought. He explained about his concerns regarding our ages then asked – very politely – about why we wished to apply, not for a tourist visor, but a long stay permit.
Cathy took up the mantle of spokesperson.
"My mother and younger brother came to your Country over thirteen years ago. Mother was a doctor working for the UNHCR in a small village on the archipelago of – I don't remember its name but the main island is called Fernando de Noronha."
"I know of it. Please continue?"
"Mother's tenure was up so they both returned to England but my brother hasn't managed to settle particularly well. He has dual nationality and could return whenever he chose, but he's in a relationship with Simeon and refuses to leave him behind.
All of us, including my brother are experienced fishermen, my brother sits his examination today, and if he passes, then all four of us will be fully qualified boat Masters and our plan is to bring our boats with us so we can pay our way and contribute to society.
We also will bring with us, our own money which we will bank in Brazil as a gesture of good intent."
"I see. And what is your reason for coming with them?"
"He's my only brother and I love him. I've only recently had the opportunity to get to know him again and…… I don't want to let him go, and as for Robert? He and I plan to marry one day. We love each other so he wants to be with us."
This may take a little time but if you can wait, I'll see what we can do to expedite things."
We waited over two hours but at least they provided us with coffee, very good coffee, biscuits and cakes which made the time hanging around rather less of an aggravation, but then we were called through to Major Raendez' office.
"Many apologies for keeping you, but I'm happy to tell you that your applications have been sanctioned. These will be five year permits which will commence the day you pass through immigration in Brazil. Should you wish to either apply for an extension to these permits or indeed, apply for dual nationality, providing you have no criminal convictions passed down during the first five years, then your applications will be looked upon favourably.
You will be expected to register with the immigration department upon entry where biometric registration cards will be issued to you. Please ensure these are in your possession at all times, the police have the authority to inspect them whenever they see fit.
Mr Woolacott? Should you wish to apply for dua l status, then you will be expected to marry your partner although no such regulations apply to Mr Adams or Miss Penfold unless, that is, they wish to do so.
The reasoning behind this, is because it has only been since 2013 that same sex bonding has been legal. We are a Catholic Nation and the Church has a powerful influence. They're worried that Brazil will be seen as a playground for this sort of relationship – an outdated attitude I agree and even someone like myself had to marry my partner or face the consequences.
Now if I may have your passports, I will arrange for your visas to be added to them. I hope you enjoy living in our Country and may God speed you."
The journey back to Plymouth was filled with a mixture of relief and excitement.
Our applications had been accepted, mine and Aruno's relationship was legal in the eyes of the law, even the prospect of marrying him had me fairly bouncing of the walls! Oh God – I wanted to ask him now, but common sense had to be the order of the day what with so much still to organise.
Aruno was puffing out his chest and acting like a complete and utter prick. He'd passed his exam with flying colours – not that I believed the result would've been much different.
"Avast, dogs. You will obey my every command for I am now your Master, and you my slaves!"
Cathy's response was short and to the point. "Shut the fuck up Sam or I'll keel-haul your arse!"
"Language my sister. It is not becoming a lady."
"Bollocks. Get yourself down below and get your Mimi-cu and his entourage something to get seriously pissed on!"
He did…… then we did!
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