Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 6

After Arthur had gone, I sent my ex an email enquiring about Johnny's laptop, bike and modelling equipment. When I opened my emails the following morning, Good Friday, I found a reply that made it totally clear she was not in a cooperative mood. Briefly, her email said the bike was too small for him and the modelling stuff was for children, so she had thrown them away. There was no mention of the laptop. If it was not so sad, it would be amusing.

Over breakfast, I asked Johnny to make a list of what modelling tools and equipment he needed and advised him that once we moved into the Priory, he could have one of the outbuildings as a workshop for his modelling. He started to say that he could get by with just a few tools, but I stopped him. "Johnny, if you are going to do something, do it well. For that you need the right tools."

"You mean that, Dad? They won't be cheap."

"Nothing is these days. Just make up a list of what you would need to have a properly equipped modelling workshop. Don't just go for the basics, but list everything that you need. We'll then see what we can do. However, we won't be able to fix you up with any space for it till we move."

"Thanks, Dad, I'll get started on it as soon as I get back from the yard."

"Is the yard open today?" I was under the impression that the boatyards would be closed, this being Good Friday.

"No, it's not, but Steve's going in to do a bit of tidying up, and I said I would go up to help," Johnny responded. Why did I get the feeling that there was something more going on?

There was something more going on as we found out just after two when the phone rang. Anne answered, then turned white, telling whoever was calling to hold a moment; she held the phone out to me. It was a police officer phoning from Heybridge Basin. There had been an accident, and Johnny was being taken to A&E at the Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. By the time I had put the phone down, Anne was holding my coat for me with one hand and had the car keys in the other.

It took us the better part of an hour to get to the hospital; then it seemed almost as long to find a parking space. Eventually, though, we got to the A&E department to see Steve sitting in the waiting area, his arm in a sling. "Where's Johnny? What happened?" I asked.

"He's gone down to Imaging for a scan; they don't think there's a fracture …"

"Fracture! Where? What happened?"

"Mike," Anne interjected, "give Steve a chance. Now, Uncle, what bloody happened?"

"We were tacking around the end of the island. I had the tiller and Johnny was on the sheets—"

"You were out sailing?" I interrupted rather firmly, which got some looks from those around.

"Of course, we were," Steve replied sharply. More looks. "Johnny has never sailed, and he needs to know how if he is to build yachts." Steve had a point there. "Anyway, we were just in the middle of the tack when this racing speedboat comes round the island from the other direction and wakes us. Johnny lost his balance and fell, and as he did, the boom came across and clobbered him. He was out cold for a couple of minutes. Once I got things back under control, I sailed into Heybridge and got help. There was a lot of blood, and, well, I was bloody scared; I thought… I don't know what I thought.

"Anyway, Matt Price was by the landing; he called an ambulance and took charge of the boat; he insisted I come in as well."

"What about you?" Anne asked.

"Bad sprain — wake hit the rudder and jumped the tiller back on me. I'll be OK in a couple of days. Was more concerned about Johnny. The doctors don't think there is a fracture, but they want to make sure, and he will be having a couple of stitches in his head, no doubt."

"But what were you doing out sailing? Johnny said you were going in to tidy the yard." I asked.

"Didn't Johnny tell you?" I shook my head. Steve continued. "Yes, we had to go in to tidy up some odds and ends which weren't sorted out yesterday, but that was not going to take more than a couple of hours. I told him that if we got it done before twelve, I would take him out and start to teach him how to sail."

Just then, a nurse came up to Steve and said the doctor wanted to speak to him; he introduced Anne and me, and we all went through to the consulting room. Essentially the news was good; the scans had shown no sign of a fracture, and the cut in the scalp was very shallow though there had been a lot of blood. The doctor explained that was normal for scalp injuries. So far as they could tell, Johnny was OK, but they would be keeping him in overnight for observation in case there were any problems arising from the concussion. We were told he was being moved to a ward and that we could go up and see him on the ward.

When we got to the ward, we found Johnny sitting up in bed, looking rather pale. There was a dressing on his forehead above his eye. I pulled out a chair and sat by the side of the bed; Anne went around the other side. As only two visitors were allowed, Steve had stayed outside the ward.

"How're you feeling?" I asked.

"A bit queasy, and I've got a thumping headache."

"Not surprised. Steve said the boom gave you a hell of a crack."

"How is he?"

"OK. A bit of a sprained wrist, but that's all."

"Good, I was worried."

"You were worried? We were worried about you, Johnny. Why didn't you tell us you were going sailing?"

"I didn't want to risk you saying no."

"Why would I say no? It makes perfect sense if you want to build boats that you need to know how to sail them. If you had said you were going sailing, I might have joined you." I hoped my words would give him a bit of confidence.

"You sail?"

"No, I don't, but I would like to have the chance to learn."

"Sorry, I should have told you, but I got into the habit of not telling mother anything about what I was doing. Otherwise, she would always say no if she thought there was any risk. Scared she might lose her investment."

"What do you mean investment?" Anne asked.

"That's how she thought of me, something she put time and money into, so I was there to make her look good." That gave me something to think about. There was no way I was going to risk making Johnny feel the same.

"Johnny, let's get this sorted out. If you want to do something, I will not stop you; you are old enough to make your own mind up. I may object, and I may not like what you want to do. If I do, all I ask is that you listen to what I have to say and that you take it into consideration. Will you?" He looked at me with a question in his eyes.

"Do you mean that?" he asked.

"Yes, I do. It won't be easy, because sometimes I will want to say no, maybe even shout 'no way', but I know that won't work. What I need is for you to trust me enough to listen to what I say, but that means I have to trust you enough not to be totally stupid.

"Look, Johnny, you're nearly sixteen, and you want some adventure in your life; that means not always being safe. I'm your father, and I want a son in my life. If I tell you that you can't do things, you will end up going off and doing them anyway, probably after walking out on me. I missed the first fifteen years of having you around; I don't want to miss any more. If that means I have to have a few sleepless nights while you're off bungee jumping or white-water rafting, then so be it. At least I'll know where you are.

"Anyway, they only gave us twenty minutes, and it is almost up, so try and get some rest. We'll be in again tomorrow, hopefully, to take you home. Do you need anything?"

"Some clothes. What I was wearing is soaked in blood."

"I'll sort something out for you," Anne responded.

On the way back to Lynnhaven, Anne asked me if I meant what I had said to Johnny. I told her yes, and I told her why. It is all too easy to say no to a teenager; they don't have the experience or knowledge to know what might be risky; they need to take risks to understand what is dangerous. If you say no to them, they will go out and take the risk anyway, sometimes with disastrous results. By saying yes but with caveats, you have control; you know what is happening and can take steps to reduce the harm. Indeed, if you sit down with them and talk things through, get them to examine the risks and the issues, often they will come to the decision that you want them to come to anyway.

By the time I had finished my explanation, Anne had an earnest look on her face. "It sounds to me as if you are talking from personal experience." She gave me that look which implies: tell me more.

"Yes," I responded.

"Well, tell me more."

"Sorry, Anne, I can't. It involves others, some of them quite well-known now, and it would be a breach of the promise we all gave to each other never to talk about it."

"And you don't break your promises, do you?"

"Not if I can help it, Anne. I've let people down sometimes, but that has never been intentional."

We were back at the hospital late the next morning. After what seemed like a couple of hours' wait — in fact, it was just over forty-five minutes; it just seemed longer — we were told that Johnny could go home. He would need to see the doctor in ten days to have the sutures out. On the way home, Johnny was very quiet. I started to wonder what was wrong. Finally, I found out.



"There is something I haven't told you."

"What's that?" I replied, trying to keep my eyes on the road. This was the Easter weekend, and there were bound to be tourists around who did not know how to drive country roads.

"I've asked Arthur to come over this evening."

"So, he's your friend; will he need feeding?"

"He's coming straight from work."

"Then he probably will; we'll stop at the farm shop just before Danekin. The weather is still a bit chilly, so I think a nice beef casserole should do, and we can get something for tomorrow as well."

Maybe I have not had the practice of being a parent, but I was getting a bit worried. Why would Johnny be concerned about asking Arthur over this evening — or any evening for that matter? He knew Arthur was welcome at the bungalow; he had been there often enough. All I could presume was this had something to do with the way my ex had interacted with him. I realised that I really did not know very much about his first fifteen years, and I really ought to do something to find out. The question was what.

It was a bit after two when we got back to the bungalow. The light was flashing on the answerphone. There was a message from Bernard for me to ring him, so I did.

"Hi, Mike," he proclaimed, "how's the invalid?" I had sent him an email last night letting him know about Johnny's accident.

"He's fine; back home. Has to go to the doctors in ten days to have the sutures removed. I don't think you wanted me to phone to tell you that. What's up."

"LV made an informal approach last night; one of their senior people just happened to be in London and just happened to be at the same event Rachel was at. He asked her if we had considered selling up."

"It could just be a coincidence, Bernie. I presume it was a fashion event."

"Yes, Mike, it was, but it was by second-year fashion students. LV don't send people along until graduation shows and exhibitions. Anyway, the organiser is an old friend of Rachel's; they were at the same uni. She confirmed that no invites were sent to LV and that they phoned up on Thursday morning to see if they could get a ticket."

"So, what did Rachel say?"

"She told him that it was an option that we had given serious consideration to, but that currently there were no offers or interested parties."

"Where does that leave things?" I asked Bernard.

"It's the Easter Weekend. I suspect that nothing will happen till Tuesday. I would, though, suggest you do not buy any further options. That might be considered insider dealing."

"Not sure I could. I don't expect my broker to be in his office till Tuesday. Anyway, I have no spare cash left."

"OK, by the way, Ben called and asked if we would like to join you up at Manston next weekend. Actually, he asked us to join you for the week, but I'm off to Paris with Debora tomorrow and won't be back till Wednesday, so had to suggest coming up on Friday, which Ben said was good enough. Provisionally, I said yes, though I have to clear it with the boss. He says he and Phil have something special in mind for Anne and you. Thought I'd better warn you."

"Thanks, I suspect they are busy planning an engagement party."

"You're probably right. Oh, almost forgot, which would have been fatal. The boss told me to tell you to tell Anne that she has fixed everything. Don't ask me what that is about, but make sure you pass on the message. I'm sure it's of vital importance to me staying alive." I could imagine the laughter on Bernard's face as he said that.

I had just put the phone down on Bernie when Johnny came through to my study and informed me that he was just going to bike up to the yard to see how Steve was. Not thinking this was a good idea, I told him so.

"Dad, you said you would not stop me doing things."

"And I won't. Now sit down for a moment." Johnny sat with a look of defiance on his face. "Right, let's look at the situation; you want to go and see how Steve is, correct?"


"Right, you've had a bang on the head and have spent the night in hospital. I suspect you are probably still feeling a bit queasy." Johnny nodded. "It is probably not a good idea for you to ride your bike, at least for the weekend." His face dropped a mile. "So give me ten minutes to sort some things out, and I'll run you up; we'll take the Morgan." His face immediately broke into a smile when I mentioned the Morgan. He had been asking me to take him in a run in it since he found it in the garage on the day the boxes came for him.

"Really, you'll take me in the Morgan?" he asked.

"Yes, Johnny, but I need to sort a few things out first, so why don't you go and change into something that will be warm in the Morgan. Don't try for fashion or looking good; be practical." With that, Johnny departed to his caravan. I went through and informed Anne what was going on and asked her if she was OK doing dinner. Her response was to shoo me out of the kitchen with a message that dinner would be ready at six.

There were, a couple of emails that I needed to deal with but nothing that could not wait till I got back, so I went to change. Morgans are beautiful cars, but they should only really be driven with the top down; with it up, they can be quite claustrophobic, not to mention being cramped. It might be a nice day, but it was still early April, and there was a definite nip in the air, a nip which would be a lot stronger at forty miles per hour. So I opted to change into tweeds, a style of dress I am not really into but one which has excellent benefits when driving an open sports car in the British climate any time that is not high summer.

Johnny was waiting by the door when I came through to the hall, dressed in a manner which I did not think would be particularly warm. I refrained from making a comment. Long experience has taught me that the only way to get people to dress appropriately for a ride in a Morgan is to let them freeze during a ride. After that, they will come prepared for an arctic trek, even in the middle of summer.

The trip to and from the yard was uneventful except for the fact that Johnny had turned a shade of blue by the time we got back. Steve was OK and relieved to see that Johnny was back on his feet, though he was glad that Johnny would be away for the following week; it meant he did not have to ban him from the yard. While Johnny was helping to haul a boat out with the winch, Steve confided in me that he would not want Johnny working in the yard for at least a week after a bang on the head like he had, a position I agreed with.

It was just after five when we got back to the bungalow, only a few minutes ahead of Arthur arriving. I commented that he had got from Dunford quickly but was informed he had scheduled a delivery for late afternoon a bit further down the coast, and that meant he finished the delivery just after five, when he was due to finish work.

Anne made it quite clear that she did not require any assistance in the kitchen except, so she informed me, to wash up afterwards, so the three of us went through to the lounge. I asked Arthur if he had come up with anything on the internet-connection front for the Priory, only to be informed that it was possible to get a high-speed, fibre-optic connection, but it would be expensive. "Why?" I asked.

"There are no regular consumer services out that way. However, there is a main optical spur running down the coast road, which runs down the edge of the property," Arthur informed me. I had not thought about the grounds — only about the house — but I knew that the property consisted of some twelve acres of land. Arthur continued, "It should be possible to get a local spur off from the main spur. That though, is going to cost, and you would be paying for a commercial service. You would, though, get a very high bandwidth and outstanding service." It sounded like an expense I would have to put up with if I wanted a decent internet connection.

Arthur was concerned about Johnny's injury and was quite insistent that Johnny should not ride his bike — so much so that he told Johnny that he would drive down and pick him up to go to the youth club on Tuesday. Johnny had to point out that he would not be here as we were spending the week at Manston. That got into a discussion about Manston and how come we were getting an invitation there. Johnny informed Arthur, "My uncles, Ben and Phil, own the place."

"Oh, I always thought it was owned by Matthew Lewis and his partner Ben—" Arthur's mouth dropped open as he realised that Ben's surname and Johnny's were the same. He turned and looked at me. "You're Ben Carlton's brother." I acknowledged the fact. "But Johnny said his Uncle Ben's partner was called Phil?"

"He is, Arthur, but Philip Matthew Smith found when he went to get an Equity card that there was already a Philip Smith on the books, so he took his middle name and his mother's maiden name for his stage name, thus Matthew Lewis.

"I would appreciate it, Arthur, if you kept it quiet around here. I don't want piles of screaming fans arriving every time I get a visit from my family."

"That I can appreciate, though I have one request," Arthur stated. "Could you get me a signed photograph?"

"OK; one signed photograph of Matthew Lewis will be obtained."

"No, not of Matthew — of Ben. I saw him playing Shylock in the Merchant a couple of years ago. He was great; he really made you feel sorry for Shylock even though he is supposed to be the villain." That remark resulted in a discussion about the theatre, and it turned out that both boys had a good knowledge of not only classic drama but also contemporary plays. What was more interesting, at least from my perspective, was that they were able to disagree with each other and to argue their positions.

I told them about seeing Diana Rigg play Medea in London in 1993, one of the most powerful and moving performances I have ever seen. I continued with the story of the two elderly ladies sitting in the row in front of me. They had avidly watched the play all the way through; then, as they were leaving, one turned to the other and commented: "If I had been her, I would have killed the bloody husband as well."

"Dad, that's not fair," Johnny commented. "How can we discuss that? 1993 was before I was born." Before I could reply and inform him that he was probably conceived the night that we had been to see Medea, Anne called from the kitchen that dinner was ready.

After dinner, the boys went off to the caravan while Anne and I sat in the lounge watching TV. Not that there was anything all that interesting to watch, but it just felt right having time by ourselves together.

Arthur left shortly after nine, and Johnny came through to join us for a bit. He asked if I would drive him up to the yard in the morning, it being Easter Sunday and one of the busiest days in the year for the yard; hordes of weekend sailors would be coming down and wanting to get their boats in the water. I promised I would, provided he promised not to overdo anything, to which he said there was no way Steve would let him do anything other than answer the phone, but even that helped Steve out.

Easter Sunday, as usual, was a complete mess. Anne came with me when I took Johnny up to drop him at the yard. Our plan was to go to one of the major garden centres and look at possible plantings for the garden at the Priory. What we forgot was that it was Easter Sunday and the garden centres were closed. Retail organisations with a footprint over 250 square metres cannot open for trade on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. That meant the supermarket was also closed, so we had to do some thinking about what to do for dinner.

Fortunately, Anne remembered that, while the Sunday Trading Laws applied to supermarkets and garden centres, they exempted farm shops selling the produce of the farm, so we made our way back towards Dunford and the farm shop we had used before. Once Sunday dinner was sorted, we made our way back to Lynnhaven and popped into the Anchor for a drink. I was somewhat surprised by the number of people who were there; Sunday lunchtimes at the Anchor, even Easter Sundays, were usually quiet events. Anne and I sat at the end of the bar until Anne decided to go behind it and give Jack a hand, which he clearly needed.

A bit later, when it had started to quieten down a bit, I had a chance to ask Jack what was going on. "Seems that the word is out that Matthew Lewis is looking at property down this way," he commented. "Tell that brother-in-law of yours to make more visits; it's good for business — all these fans trying to get a glimpse of him."

I told him, in that case, that he owed Phil a pint.

"I don't know about only a pint if he can generate Sunday business like this. I'll stand him a pint and a chaser."

After that, we got into a general discussion about the Priory. I confirmed that I had put in an offer and it had been accepted. Jack asked about my place, and I told him I was looking at selling and probably splitting the garden to create two more plots. Telling Jack was cheaper than putting an advert in the paper, and the news would probably reach more people.

On the last point, I was not wrong. Anne and I had only just got back to the bungalow when the phone rang. It was Margaret Fenton, who lived up past the Anchor; she asked if it was right that I was selling off building plots from my garden. When I confirmed the fact, she asked who the agent was, informing me that her son-in-law was a builder and was looking for a plot to build a house for her daughter and the expected family. I told her it was not officially listed but gave her the name of the agent I was going with. I asked her how she had heard, as it had not been advertised yet. "Oh, my husband was in the Anchor, and somebody mentioned it to him." Good old Jack.

I got busy preparing Sunday dinner while Anne went to pick up Johnny. It had just gone into the oven when the phone rang. I was somewhat surprised when it turned out to be the estate agent, forgetting that they now opened on Sundays, and Easter Sunday was one of the busiest days of the year for viewings. They wanted to know if they could do a viewing of the building plots on Monday. I told them yes so long as it was before twelve, then realised that if it was just the plots, there was no need for us to be here. The young woman on the phone confirmed it was only for the plots but did say she did not think that morning would be a problem.

Over dinner, Johnny insisted on telling us about events at the yard and how stupid some of the customers were. Although I found his stories amusing and, to be honest, on a couple of occasions hilarious, I was also concerned. After dinner, I asked Johnny to join me in my study and asked him if he thought it was right to talk about the yard's customers in that way.

"Don't see why not; they were being complete idiots and taking it out on us."

"Right, Johnny, think about it. If you did something stupid, would you want people to talk about it?" He looked at me with a questioning expression on his face, as if trying to see if I was joking. He was, however, thinking about it.

"No, I wouldn't."

"It's the same with them. They probably don't know how stupid they are being, but there is no need for you to make it worse. What would happen if I was to tell one of your tales to Bernie, then he tells one of his friends in the city and in no time it gets back to the rich customer who will know the story could only have come from the yard? What will they do?"

"Phone up Steve and complain?"

"Yes, that is one thing, which would make Steve unhappy, but what else might they do?"

"Go elsewhere."

"Yes. Johnny. You want to build yachts, and I don't think we are talking dinghies here, are we?" Johnny shook his head. "Your market, if you get as far as having your own yard, is going to be people with money. Many of them will do foolish things at times, and you will know about them. The thing is, you must always preserve customers' secrets, even when the customer does not know you know them. That way customers will stay with you; in fact, they will probably recommend you because of your discretion."

Johnny saw the point. He did mention that his mother was always talking to friends on just how stupid some of her clients had been. I pointed out to Johnny that his mother should have been a QC by now, but she wasn't, and her indiscretions over client privacy might have something to do with it.

Monday morning brought the estate agent and Margaret Fletcher's son-in-law to view the plots. He seemed very interested in them, even after being told that we had only just started the process of applying for planning permission. What really surprised me was when he asked me if we would consider selling the whole site for redevelopment. I was surprised because he had not looked at the bungalow. When I mentioned it, I was informed that the bungalow was of no interest; it was the ground it stood on that interested him. I told him that I would consider an offer for the whole site, but it would be without us completing the planning-permission process, and we were only putting an application in for the development of the two plots.

After he left, I spoke with the woman from the agency. She said he seemed very interested, and she thought there might be an offer. I indicated I would look at anything over four-thirty for the whole site without redevelopment permission.

The agent had just left when Anne called me in to say that Bernie was on the phone. This surprised me as he had only spoken to me the day before, and I could not imagine what was so urgent that he would phone me today. I went through to my study and picked up the phone. "Hi, Bernie. Don't tell me; LV have made a bid."

"No, but I've got myself into a bit of a mess."

"What have you done?" I asked.

"Totally forgot that Joseph was only going up to Town today to stay with a friend for two days. They are doing a museum-thon, whatever that is. Anyway, he'll be up in Town till Tuesday, and I was supposed to collect him, but I have arranged to take Debora to Paris. Somehow, I had got it into my head he was there till Friday.

"Actually, I think that was the original arrangement, but the parents of the friend he is staying with are off to Orlando for a short break. We're not back till late Wednesday, and I don't fancy him being in the London house alone. I've given the housekeeper the week off as I was not expecting to be around. Is there any chance that you could have him with you at Manston? I can get him put on the train to Kettering on Tuesday if you could pick him up from Kettering."

"Don't see why not. I can't see Ben or Phil objecting."

"No, they are not; I've already spoken to them. Actually, they seem to like the idea; they said the more the merrier."

"I can understand that; it'll give them three boys to spoil rather than two."

"What do you mean three? Who's the third?"

"Johnny's schoolmate Matterson. I don't know his first name, though he sounds OK. Phil suggested Johnny should bring a friend. He said Manston could be a bit boring at times."

"That must be when Phil and Ben aren't in residence. Can't see anywhere being boring when that pair is about," Bernard commented, a comment which I agreed with.

Once we had finished the call, I checked my emails. It appeared that I had yet another long-lost uncle who had left me a fortune in a bank in Belize. It also appeared that my brother had been arrested in Mali and needed me to bail him out, a situation I found somewhat surprising as I could hear my brother's voice coming out of the radio where he was being interviewed about some actress who had just died. Knowing the spending cuts at the BBC, I was reasonably sure they had not flown a reporter out to Mali for the interview.

I had planned to leave for Manston just after twelve-thirty, but like all plans, things did not work out as expected, and it was more like one-thirty before we set off. Fortunately, we made good time to the M1 and by time we were driving up it, most of the holiday traffic was coming down it, returning to the Home Counties. Rather than driving up to the turn off for Weedon Beck, as I did normally, we left the motorway at the turnoff for Collingtree, then made our way across country to a farm just outside of Blisworth to pick up Matterson, who I found out is actually Colin Matterson.

When we got there, Colin came running out of the house to greet Johnny, who had jumped out of the back of the car before it had come to a full stop. A tall woman with vivid red hair, the type of red that only comes from nature and not out of a bottle, followed Colin out of the front door. She introduced herself as Colin's mother, then insisted that we go in for some tea and cakes. She thanked us for taking Colin off her hands for the rest of the week, commenting that he had been running her off her feet with wanting to go to one place or another during the holidays. She just hoped that he would not be too much of a handful at Manston. I assured her that I doubt that would be the case as there was always plenty to do in the grounds, and there would be three of them there after tomorrow.

"Oh, from what Johnny said when he phoned, I thought there was only Colin and Johnny."

"That was the case, but some friends had their plans disrupted, so their son is coming to join us tomorrow in advance of them coming up on Friday." I then raised a question which had been playing on my mind for a few days. Johnny had said that Matterson was a day boy and that he could stay with Matterson when he went back to do his exams, but we were nearly a hundred miles from the school. I mentioned this point to Colin's mother.

"Oh, no," she laughed, "this is my parents' place, we just come here during the vacs and some weekends. We live in Bradwell, which is only four miles from the school. My husband is a surgeon in Sheffield, and I tutor for the Open University in the North West, so a place in the middle of nowhere is the perfect location for us."

Rather than return to the motorway, I decided to proceed across country to Manston. Although it was a shorter distance, it would take longer due to the nature of the road. Still, it did have the advantage that the boys would see Manston from the direction that it was intended to be approached at, which gave a magnificent view of the property as you crested one hill and looked across the valley to see Manston on the hill opposite — a view you did not get coming in from the motorway, which brought you round the back of the property.

On the way from Blisworth, Colin was asking Johnny what Manston was like. He had heard about it but had never been there. Johnny had to admit he had not been there, either. One thing I did notice was that when Colin mentioned that it was owned by a pair of film stars, my brother would be happy to hear that. Johnny did not say anything about them being his uncles. He had obviously inherited something from me, a liking for springing surprises, which I also shared with my brother.

"I wonder what it's like," Colin commented just as we were coming over the crest of the hill before Manston.

"Well," I stated, "there she is, what do you think?"

"Wow," exclaimed Johnny, "is that it, really it?"

"Yes, that's where you will be staying for the next six days."

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