Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 7

It's now mid-April, and since that day when Thilo had made me aware of the information contained on that tablet, no mention of it had been made.

Life had settled down for both of us and Thilo was happy with only a couple of melt-downs for us to overcome.

Here at Keswick, we don't have half-term breaks, those extra days are added to major holidays such as Easter which was fast approaching.

We would be away from school for sixteen days, so I decided that now was the best time to tackle my folks and get their permission for Thilo to be with me.

Rather than email, I took to the phone one evening when he was elsewhere.

"Hello Dad. How's everything?"

"Not bad at all son.

How's school?"

"Great actually. It's been an exciting term. I now have my name on the High Achievers

Board for shooting, - clays, - can you believe it?"

"Well done!

What was your score?"

"Sporting layout, and I bloody straighted it!"

" Really?

My word. I can't wait to tell your mother!"

"I've also made a new friend, and it's here I need to ask you for a favour."

"Go on?"

"Dad? It's really complicated, but the thing is, I sort of offered to bring him back with me next Friday afternoon so he can be with us."

"Doesn't he want to go back home?"

"I told you, it's not that easy. I promise to fill you in once I'm back, but…… can he come? I promise you'll like him?"

"Well, on that recommendation alone, he's welcome here son…… just so long as he doesn't mind pitching in?

Mike sprained his ankle and isn't up to much until it's healed, which makes us short of good and reliable people."

"Poor sod.

Please say Hello from me?

Anyway. Thilo owns more acreage that we do. Believe me, he'll be up for it."

"Where's that? Australia?"

"Africa, or to be more precise, Namibia…… complicated, remember?"

"He owns it?"

"Dad??!"

"Sorry.

We'll see you both Friday evening."


"I'm taking you. I'm not having you on public transport unprotected. I'm having to go back to South Africa next Sunday, so I can drop you off and find somewhere to say until I get my flight from Heathrow"

Moses wasn't the type of man you argued with, and besides the road trip would make a change from listening to people talking loudly over their phone, even though I normally reserved seats in the Quiet Coach.

What remained of that term was taken up by appraisal exams, cricket net practice and packing our trunks ready for transportation home by courier.

Next term, Thilo would sit his O levels, then come the Autumn term, he'd be with us and studying for his A's, but question marks hung over whether he's still be with us.

"I'll have to go back to Windhoek and talk to our accountants come the summer holidays, then to Pretoria to see my uncle so I can better get a handle on what risks there might be should I wish to go home."

"What will you do if he thinks it's too dangerous?"

"I've not got that far yet. If it is he recommends I stay away, then I'll try and sell the land, and if no one buys? I'll give it away to the relatives of our people who were killed.

Early days to make judgements, but would you come with me?"

"As long as I'm not away too long. Dad will expect me to pull my weight getting the early harvest in."

"Two week's tops, then we could both come back and help."

"He'd appreciate that, but giving away your inheritance? That's a bit extreme?"

"Not really. My father had other business interests away from the farm. For openers, he had a forty-nine percent share-holding in Roker Mining. Sadly, that's part of my inheritance now, and also, that's where the bulk of our money came from, not the farm."

"If you do sell or make a gift of your lands, what happens once you leave school or University?"

"Again. Too early to say, but I'm loving England, - and you, so I might apply for citizenship and stay here!"

"Help me run Malvern Park once dad retires!"

"Hmm.

I would have to cast a critical eye over your operation before committing myself?"

"Bastard!"

"Then I would expect you to introduce buffalo and bison, maze and rice and all manner of other crops!"

"Double bastard!"

"Only joking!

We farm under very different conditions, and I want to understand yours."


"Why are you coming off at junction seven Moses? You should've carried on to Junction eight and taken the M50 then off at junction one. Much quicker."

"Because my GPS is telling me so. That's why."

"You'd better follow it then. Far be-it for me to know where we are rather better than some satellite!"

"Old habits Stephen. We'll get you home…… eventually!"

"By midnight."

"Do you want to drive?"

"I'm not old enough, but if you switch that damn thing off, I'll get us there before you run out of fuel."


"Take the next left. It's a bit narrow but it'll take you up into Malvern village. Then turn right and follow the signs for Malvern Wells and once you get to the other side of that village, you'll see signs for West Malvern. Slow right down, and two hundred yards on, you'll see a sign to Malvern Park on your right. Take that right turn and we're there."

Once we'd turned onto our land, the road narrowed into a single-width tarmacked lane about a mile long, bordered by Poplar trees with grasslands either side, occupied by the many sheep out grazing on them.

Moses skirted around a lake and rounded a bend in the lane at which point our house came into view.

Thilo whistled through his teeth.

"That's your place? It's huge!"

"Not mine. My parents, and it isn't as big as it appears."

"How old is it, when was it built?"

"1762. It was built by my…… can't remember how many Great Grandfathers back did it, but it's been in the family since new."

"It's magnificent Stephen!"

"Well, we're proud of it!"

I turned to Moses.

"Turn left in front of the house and follow the road to the back of the house, otherwise we'll have Winterton wetting himself."

"Winterton?"

"Our butler. He's getting old and doesn't like unexpected visitors."

We rounded the bend into the yard where three very angry long-haired German Shepard dogs surrounded the vehicle.

I stepped from the car, then recognising me, they went crazy, almost knocking me to the floor.

"Lovely to see you too guys!

Come to heel. There's people you need to meet, not eat!"

I motioned for Moses and Thilo to get out. Thilo did, but Moses stayed put.

"They're okay Moses, honestly."

"Are you sure? I've had bad experiences with dogs in the past."

"Just watch while I introduce them to Thilo."

I took Thilo's hand.

"Just crouch down and offer them your closed fist.

Go on. Do it!"

Thilo knelt down and did as instructed. All three dogs gave his hand a sniff, then satisfied he didn't pose a problem, stood back next to my side.

"Moses?"

"Please Stephen? If it's all the same to you, I'll be on my way."

"Whatever you like. Let me grab our bags and you can get away."

"Thanks.

No disrespect, but I don't get on with dogs, and they don't like me."

We watched as the Rangerover motored down the drive and out of sight.

"What happened?"

"To Moses?

His younger brother was snatched by a wild dog. Moses managed to save him, but the injuries he received in the process almost killed him.

Nothing much fazes Moses, but dogs are his idea of a nightmare."

"No wonder he wasn't keen to meet them.

Let's go and see if anyone's at home."

I lead Thilo in through the back door and down a passage.

"Mud room on your right. Make sure you remove dirty shoes and outer clothing that might be soiled. There's a laundry room opposite if they're too caked up, so it's a good idea to leave something clean down here to change into. Beyond that is the toilet block and showers, then through the next door down is the kitchen and I could use a mug of tea. Helen has a pot on the go constantly, so no need to ask, just help yourself, but if you want coffee, then you have to make it."

"Very English!"

"Tea and cake. It's about the right time of day as well!"


"Hello Helen!

How's everything?"

"Stephen! So good to have you home!

And who's this may I ask?"

"Sorry. This is Thilo, a friend of mine from school. He'll be staying with us over the Easter break."

"Well then Thilo? I'm Helen. Chief cook and bottle-washer."

"I'm supposing you'd both like a mug of tea after your journey?"

"Yes please, and cake if there is any?"

"Since when has there never been any cake?

I was baking this morning so there's a rather sticky chocolate cake; the icing didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, then there's a fruit loaf. Don't be piggy, supper will be on the table at eight o'clock sharp."

"Yes Miss!"

"You don't improve, do you Stephen.

Drink your tea and eat your cake, then I think you should give your friend a guided tour so he doesn't get lost.

Now away with you!"


"I like her!"

"Yeah. Helen's cool.

She's exactly the same around mum and dad. No airs or graces; just tells it as she sees it!"

"Don't they mind?"

"You've sampled her baking? Did you like it?"

"God yes! You know all about my sweet tooth, and that chocolate sponge was a killer!"

"Everything she does is to the highest standard. Supper tonight will be as good as her baking, if not better. So, what I'm trying to say is, she's as much a part of this house as are the stones used to build it. She'll be here until she pops her clogs.

Mum and dad like how she is. No bluster. No bullshit."

"How many staff do you employ?"

"Off-farm?

Let's see.

There's Winterton, Helen and Jane who all live here. They have apartments on the top floor, but then there's Simon, Mum and Dad's driver, Sophie our housekeeper together with her girls Amy and Christine, who, by the way, fancies me!

On-farm?

Mike, our injured stockman, Alan and Geoff, our shepherds, then you have Pete, Aaron and Tony who muck in doing most everything, but Pete is a first-rate ploughman as much as anything else. We have a farm manager, but he's an admin man and runs the office together with a couple of girls and doesn't have a say when it comes to how the farm is run."

"No maintenance team?"

"Not full-time employed.

Jane's bloke is our man but he's self-employed. Modern kit doesn't require someone fulltime, but he's there should we need him."

"Nice setup."

"It works, for the most part.

Come on. Guided tour time!"

I showed Thilo down a short corridor then pointed to a door.

"That leads down to the cellar. There's not much of interest down there, we keep wines there plus it's our gun room, or more like a walk-in safe so all the regulations for keeping shotguns and firearms are met. Ammunition and shotgun cartridges are stored separately in like a safe within a safe."

Next, we walked through into the entrance hall where Thilo gazed around before speaking.

"Awesome! You could hold a ball just in here alone! And that staircase!"

"Until I went away to school, it was something I just took for granted, but almost six years at Keswick made me appreciate everything we have here.

We own this pile, but the way we see it is that we're only the caretakers, holding it for future generations.

It isn't a stately home in the accepted sense, more a country house, but the care and attention put into its design and furnishing, most of it still original, makes it a rare example of houses of this type and era.

Let's go through to the drawing room."

"Shit Stephen? I thought the hallway was impressive!

Is all the furniture eighteenth century?"

"Aside from the TV and Hi-fi? Yes, I think so."

Next came the lounge, then the dining room, already laid for tonight's supper. Dad's study, the music room, two smaller sitting rooms and the indoor swimming pool.

"That sprung a leak so we drained it. It's next on the list of things to be upgraded with a new liner, then reusing the original tiles to finish the pool. The chlorination system will have to be replaced together with the pumps, so maybe by the summer we'll have it back for use.

Next we can go upstairs and see which room they've put you in."


"Someone's been uncharacteristically thoughtful? They've put you in the mauve suite directly opposite me!"

"Christ! This is like having your own apartment!"

"Minus a kitchen!

Do you like it?"

"Like it? I love it!

Won't you just look at the views from here!"

"Right the way across the Severn Valley. Spectacular, aren't they."

"That's the River Severn over there?"

"Yep.

Benign this time of year, but it can get very swollen during the winter, and if Wales cops for loads of rain, the land closest to the river goes under about three feet of water.

Listen.

I don't think mum and dad are that liberal to allow us to share a room, but mine is right opposite, so……"

"If I get upset, I'm to come and find you?"

"Yeah!"

"What if I'm okay?"

"Then you come and find me to tell me that to set my mind at rest!"

"All bases covered!"

After showing Thilo my room, we changed into something that wouldn't matter if it got dirty; clothes to change into once we got back, we took to the stairs so I could show him the farm, but Thilo paused to look at the portraits hung on the stairwell walls."

"Not that interesting, are they."

"Not to you perhaps, but…… this one. Lord Broadhurst of Breedon dated 1838. Then you have that one. Lord Broadhurst of Breedon dated 1890.

Does that mean that you father is……?"

"Yeah.

Lord Charles Broadhurst. Current keeper of the keys."

"But that makes you……"

"Viscount Stephen Broadhurst. Homosexual, and heir apparent!"

"Don't joke!

I mean like, shouldn't I address you more respectfully?"

"Get a life?

You have my warrant to undress me, very disrespectfully, at any time, and at any place of your choosing!"

"But your mum and dad?"

"No. I wouldn't go undressing them if I were you.

Panic not.

Just say sir on the first introduction, but most like he'll tell you to call him Charlie like everyone else, and as for mum? Mrs Broadhurst, like you pretend not to know, but she'll go with Pat I would think.

Stop worrying!

We're just a normal family who have been lumbered with titles that go back centuries."

"I'm not worried, just slightly concerned I'll let myself down."

"You won't.

Trust me.

My Great Grandfather thought he could bask in the glory of being a member of the Landed Gentry and let the estate go to fuck. He spent all the money on race horses and drinking. Cheltenham racecourse is only a spit from here, and that probably accounts for why it's so good.

Great Granddaddy's money kept it going!

My Grandfather was the one to get it back to some semblance of order, then with Dad following his lead, made it what you see today. Hard graft together with an astute mind for business got us sort of back to where we should be."

"Only sort of?"

"Things happen. Just when you reach the point where you think that you've cracked it, something comes along to kick you in the teeth.

We took a massive hit with BSE. All our cattle had to be culled and it took years before it was deemed safe to reintroduce a herd onto the land.

We were very fortunate in as much as we were insured which cushioned the blow, but a lot of businesses failed, and even now when we have the herd tested, Dad doesn't sleep for worrying."

"I remember hearing about that. Even clean farms had difficulty exporting, right?"

"Still do. Consumer confidence was trashed and British beef is still seen as a risk, but they don't have a problem importing beef from America, beef that's banged full of hormones and shit. Chicken that's treated with chlorine whereas out cattle are reared without any drugs to stimulate growth, or fowl not washed in a toxic chemical? I mean, you should never wash poultry carcasses, not ever, not even in your own kitchen at home!"

"Why?"

"Contrary to popular belief, all poultry carry Salmonella, but if handled right, there's no risk to the consumer as the cooking process, if done properly and the meat is cooked through, all traces of Salmonella are eradicated, but if you wash the carcass prior to shoving it in the oven, there's a distinct possibility that you'll contaminate your kitchen, then when you go to calve it up, Salmonella could be reintroduced to an otherwise uncontaminated bird."

"Another reason why you're not rearing poultry commercially."

"Exactly.

Those guys who do that professionally have got it down to a fine art. That's what they do, and they're expert at it.

They don't raise pigs, or sheep or cattle, they concentrate all their resources and expertise into rearing healthy flocks of birds.

Come on. Let's get out of here.

Can you drive a quad?"

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