by Andrew Foote

Chapter 8

A quick visit to the office to check dad's schedule; Field fourteen down by the river where he and Jack were reinstating fences lost to the winter floods, and we were on our way.

This journey would take us about thirty minutes across country so it was good to see that Thilo was more than adept in handling a quadbike.

Tearing across fields that were devoid of stock, then keeping to the headlands of those that were in residence, we made good time, that was until we crossed a lane and came to a halt to open the gate opposite.

"I'm not going into that sodding field Stephen!"

"Why on earth not?"

"Call me old fashioned, but there's a fucking enormous bull in there. That's why not?"


He's a pussycat!"

"A fucking big pussycat. A very scary-looking pussycat that bares a strange resemblance to my worst nightmare!"

"Let me demonstrate."

I climbed over the gate then took a few paces forward and waited until Boris recognised me. He gave a couple of loud snorts, before breaking into a trot as he came towards me.

"I hope you know what you're doing Stephen?"

"It's cool. Honestly!"

Boris stopped inches away from me. I scratched his cheek as he took a couple of sniffs before turning his head from me. I stepped back just as he brought his head back round, making me laugh.

"I know you too well, you brute!"

"What's he trying to do?"

"Stop being such a pansy. Get in here and find out for yourself!"

"If I end up dead, I'll bloody slay you!

Okay. So I'm coming in!"

Thilo hopped over the gate before slowly walking over next to me, not once taking his eyes of his worst nightmare.

"So, now what?"

"Scratch his cheek. He loves it!

I'll get out of your way.

Go on? Boris doesn't have a malicious bone in his body!"

Thilo cautiously raised his hand and gave Boris' left cheek some attention, - Boris turned his head to the right, paused, then brought it back round nudging Thilo over and into the mud.

"You bastard!"

"Grab his halter. He'll lift you back up!"

Thilo raised his hand. Boris lowered his head to allow Thilo to take a hold of the halter, then once done, Boris hoisted him to his feet.

"He was just playing with you. He won't do it again!

God knows, it's happened to me more times than I care to remember."

"Yeah, but look at the state of my clothes!

What number field is this?"

"Twelve. Why do you ask?"

"Because the bill for laundering my gear's going to be sent to; Boris the Bastard, care of field number twelve, Malvern Park, Worcestershire!"

"Aww? You'll hurt his feelings if you carry on like that!"

"Yeah well, now I understand why you shot backwards so bloody quickly! I'll be ready for him next time."

"Not frightened of him then?"

"No. We're cool, aren't we mate!"

"Good. Now you stay with him so he doesn't get out while I bring the quads in."


Two fields on and we saw my father and Jack leaning against a tractor having a smoke. My dad smokes a pipe and Jack has his roll-ups.

Bad. You'll never find me doing that.

We pulled to a stop then made the introductions.

"Dad? Jack? I'd like you to meet Thilo Roker, my friend from school."

Jack dusted his hands off and nodded his head.

Jack doesn't say much, but dad shook Thilo's hand.

"Very nice to meet you young man. You're very welcome here."

"Thanks sir. It's good of you to allow me to visit."

"Don't call me sir, my name is Charlie.

I understand from Stephen that you farm somewhere in Africa?"

"Yes. In Namibia."

"You must tell me about it sometime, but I can see you've met Boris already!"

"Not my idea, but yes, I have, and I'm still working on ways to get my own back!"

"Ha! Boris is okay now, but don't even think about approaching him when he's doing what comes naturally. His work is over for this season. This is like rest and relaxation time."

Jack spoke???

"Shagged out, poor old bugger."

"Yes, that about sums it up!"

"Can you drive tractors Thilo?"

"Like this one? No problem."

"That's good, because Jack has a dental appointment in Malvern at four o'clock and I should be back in the office but we didn't notice the time, so if you lads could set the last three posts for us, we'll take the quads and you bring the tractor back to the house once you're done."

"Sure thing sir, - sorry, - Charlie!"

"You'll get there.

So, if there's nothing else, I'll see you both at supper.

Thanks for doing this. It means we can string out the wire tomorrow and get the job finished."

After they'd disappeared, Thilo turned to me.

"Why did he ask me if I could manage driving that tractor? You can drive it, so it doesn't matter if I can or not?"

"He wants the job done and this is his way of asking you to do the cushy bit while I have to grovel around in the filth and set the posts.

We could swap if you'd rather?"

"No, no, it's fine! I'm sure I'll cope, but I better take a look at the controls for the post auger."

It didn't take us long. The positions had already been marked with pegs, so all we had to do was position the tractor, bore the holes, insert the posts and tip some dry concrete mix around them making sure they were reasonably upright.

Thilo drove us back leaving me sitting on the mudguards so I could get the gates.

This time, Boris completely ignored us, so half an hour later saw us in the mud room and stripping out of our soiled clothes.

"What do we do with these? They're so caked up it's probably not a good idea to shove them into a washer."

"Just hang them up and let them dry out. Tomorrow morning we can brush off the excess and leave them out for washing.

You didn't mind helping this afternoon did you?"

"No. It was good to be back out and working again.

Like you, it's all I've ever wanted to do. Growing up on farms; well, it becomes a part of who you are. Given the choice of working in an office, a lab or a hospital as a doctor, or getting plastered in cow shit out in the fresh air? There's no competition."

"But you said you might sell your holdings in Namibia. What then?"

"I hadn't given it any consideration. I always thought that Africa and our farms there would be my life, but…… can we please change the subject?"

"I'm sorry.

That was stupid of me."

"No, it wasn't. I have to face up to the future at some point. Just not right now.

I have ideas, and I'll talk to you about them another time.

Talking of time? Supper is in about an hour and I really must take a shower.

Is it like, formal?"

"Just smart. I normally wear a collar and tie as we're eating in the dining room. If we eat in the kitchen, then anything goes.

Tonight's like a Welcome Home for me, and a Welcome to Malvern Park for you. I imagine most other suppers we'll take in the kitchen unless we have guests."

"Hello boys! I apologise for rushing off this afternoon, but needs must as they say.

Stephen? So good to have you home, and Thilo? A double apology for not welcoming you properly. You're very welcome here, and I hope you enjoy yourself.

Did you mind giving us a hand?"

"No, not in the slightest. Like I said to Stephen, I love being busy, and farming is what I'm used to doing."


So, would you be up for more of the same tomorrow? I don't mean you to spend the entire break helping out, but that fencing really does need to get done you know?"


"Thank you!

That gives us space to get on with other matters.

By the way. Stephen tells me that you're partial to a good Muscadet, Am I, right?"

"Yes Charlie. I love it."

"Then you'll be pleased to hear that I've had a couple of cases brought in especially for you.

I've no idea what it's like. We, as in Stephen and I, prefer red wines, so you must tell me if you like it or not.

The wife has a taste for a dry rosé, which reminds me. Where on earth is she?"

Just at that moment, my mum came in to the room.

"I heard that Charlie. I couldn't decide what earrings went with this outfit."

"Gave up on wearing the bloody things years ago, not my problem!"

She was about to make some other comment when she saw Thilo and I.


So nice to have you home again!"

Then turning to Thilo,

"And you have to be Thilo! Stephen's told us so much about you, and such a good looking young man too!

I'm Patricia, but you just call me Pat, okay?"

"Thanks Pat, and thank you for allowing me to come here to you beautiful home."


Stephen doesn't bring many of his friends here, maybe he's ashamed of us!

James has visited us on a few occasions. Do you know him?"

"James Cooper-Clarke? The King of the chessboard?

Oh yes!

Nice guy!"

"We thought so too. You should invite him here more often Stephen."

"I had thought about the summer, maybe invite some of the others for a few weeks, but if we'll be buggering off to Sicily……?"

"We've had a talk about that, and as you'll be sixteen by then, we think you're old enough to make up your own mind as to how you spend your time. Come with us if you wish, or stay here and have some friends join you, but don't put too much strain on Helen. This will be her break as well remember?"

"If I decide to stay, I can cater for myself, and likewise if Thilo and some others come. I can do mean scrambled eggs!"

Supper over and dad suggested that mum took Thilo for a tour of the gardens as he had things he needed to discuss with me.

"Now, I don't wish to pry into personal matters, but it's obvious that you like Thilo a lot, and he you."

I think I turned a healthy shade of pink, but tried to answer him.

"Yes. I do, but it's not just because he's cute dad? He has history, bad things have happened to him, and I was there to be of some support to him. I've come to know him very well, and I like everything about him."

"Like I said, I'm not bothered if you're in some kind of relationship, but what might happen when he's finished with school and goes home to Africa?"

"Before I get into that, I think it's a good idea if I tell you what happened, okay?"

"Yes. I remember our phone conversation, so why don't I top our glasses up and you can fill me in?"

I ran him through everything, from the night I heard noises from the room next to mine, right up to my conversations with Mr Amos and Mr King, Hans-Peter and stuff. Then I went on to outline other things that Thilo had told me.

Dad, elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands, groaned.

"My God.

I don't know what to say?

I can't believe he can get through the day without having a minor breakdown!"

"He's tougher than he appears. Hans-Peter told me that Africa is a harsh pace requiring harsh people. That's how he was brought up dad."

"Perhaps so son.

You do realise that I'll have to tell your mother?"

"Yeah, and it's cool, but there's no need to say anything to Thilo? Leave me to do that please."

"Of course. Just make him aware that we're here to help him if he needs it.

Does his uncle know he's with us?"

"I'm not sure. I didn't tell him."

"Then I think it might be wise if I had a chat. He should be made aware of his nephew's whereabouts."

"Hang on?

He must know! Moses brought us here from school!"

"I'm still going to talk with him Stephen so let me have his number."

"You were right. He does know Thilo's here. I also have had dealings with Roker Mining, or rather their UK Company. They asked if I was willing to sell some land down by the river so they could quarry it for gravel.

I refused of course. There are few enough natural flood plains left as it is."

"Were they antagonistic?

I've never met the man, but he gives the impression that he likes to get his own way."

"No. Once I detailed why I wasn't willing, they were very understanding. Mind you, I wasn't dealing with the man himself, just his UK Director."

"There's one other thing I've not told you dad.

Thilo's father held a forty-nine percent shareholding in Roker Mining. Now that his dad is dead, and once probate has been settled, that'll go to him.

There's more.

Hans-Peter's wife died in childbirth along with their baby. He never remarried, and with Thilo being the only surviving member of the family? He stands to inherit the lot."

"How do you know this?"

"Hans-Peter told me. I think that he was so cut-up about what happened, together with almost losing Thilo to septicaemia, he probably said more than he intended.

Again, how much Thilo's aware of this, I've no idea, but just keep it to yourself for now."

"I've no intention of even mentioning it. But…… if what you say comes to pass, that would make your friend one of the wealthiest people in South Africa, perhaps the entire continent."

"And therein lies the problem.

He's like you and I. You saw for yourself just how much he wants to pitch in and get his hands dirty? He's a bloody farmer through-and-through!

Like his father before him, their life was working the land, not being the CEO of some huge global conglomerate?

That job is much better done by the likes of his uncle who's used to dealing with those sorts of things."

"He's still young. Situations change, and once, all assuming everything you say actually happens, he might have a change of heart."

"He might, but I doubt it. I've got to know him very well, and those experiences back in Namibia have impacted on him like you'd not believe."

"Oh, I believe alright. Just let him bide his time, but cutting to the chase? You're very fond of him, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am."

"Take things one step at a time son. There's always the possibility he's found someone in you to help ease the pain he feels inside and nothing more.

I don't want to see you getting hurt."

It was just then that mum and Thilo reappeared, so it was Conversation Over.

"Those formal gardens Stephen. Absolutely stunning!"

"I think that's one of the reasons I was packed off to Keswick. When you grow up surrounded by things like that, you fail to appreciate them, but now, when I come back, I can see their magic.

What did you like the most?"

"The Orangery. I can see myself sitting there reading a book on warm summer evenings, - the scent of the flowers, - the tranquillity of the surroundings swamping me. Either that or the waterfall."

"Pure, natural Malvern Spring water, delicately enhanced with cow pee and sheep droppings.

Best you don't drink it!"

"The romance of rural English life, torn to shreds in one comment!"

"Better that than ending up in Worcester Royal Infirmary having your stomach pumped out."

"I guess.

I'm feeling rather tired. Would it be rude if I took myself off to bed?"

"Only if you didn't go through and say good night.

I'm going to have a nightcap then I'll be following you."

"I'll see you in the morning unless…..?"

"You know where I'll be. Just walk in, hop into bed and cuddle me."

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