Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 17

"Why?" I asked.

"Why what?" Joseph responded.

"Why did you run off before I could explain? Why did you not speak to me or answer my emails or letters? Why did you attack Tony? Though I can understand that; the idiot deserved it for causing all this."

"I don't know if it makes sense. It just I did not want to get hurt and I thought you were about to hurt me."

"Hurt you? How?"

"Dumping me. I had told you I wanted to slow things down so I could concentrate on my exams and stuff. Then I see you kissing Tony. I thought you had decided I was not worth the effort and decided to dump me for Tony."

"Why would I dump you for Tony?"

"He's better looking than me, he's fitter than me, he's the same age as you."

"Maybe, but he is not you," I stated. "Joseph, I'm in love with you. How you can say that Tony is better looking than you I don't know."

"He's got blond hair and blue eyes and his skin glows."

"Probably from all the tan from a bottle he's put on," I said.

"Really, he uses that?"

"I don't know, and I don't care. Tony is not you and it is you that I love. I love your hair the colour it is. It goes with your eyes." I leaned forward, placing my mouth over his, consuming him, taking his tongue into mine. My hand slipped under his shirt, caressing his back.

"We don't have time," Joseph murmured when we eventually broke apart. "Dad will be calling us down for dinner."

"I know, but I wanted you to know how I feel about you."

"This is how I feel about you," he said. Pulling me close to him and swinging me round, so that I ended up laying across his bed, with Joseph on top of me. his mouth covering mine, our tongues wrapped in delight with each other. As we lay there our hands explored the bodies we knew so well but had not touched in the last two weeks.

Our exploration was about to get a lot more serious when we heard Uncle Bernard calling that dinner was nearly ready and we needed to get downstairs. By time we tidied ourselves up and got downstairs to the dining room, dinner was being served. Uncle Bernard and Dad gave us both a knowing look. However, as Aunt Debora had started to serve dinner there was no questioning.

Over dinner both Joseph and I chatted with Tony. He was off in the morning, back to the minor public school at which we had both been boarders. I gave him my sympathy.

"Not needed. Having a great time now I'm in the sixth form. Own room, own study and all the lovely preps to ogle."

"What are preps?" Joseph asked.

"First years," I responded. "They've just come up from prep school."

"And you are ogling them?" Joseph asked.

"Most definitely," Tony replied. "Though that is all that is allowed. Marron would kill me if I even chatted with one. That boy is very jealous."

"Who's Marron?" I asked. I could not place the name with the boys who had been there when I shared a dorm with Tony."

"After your time Johnny. American, arrived in the September after you got the boot. We've been together since shortly after he arrived."

"If he's a Yank what's he doing over here?" I asked.

"His father decided that being gay, out and proud was far safer for him in an English public school than in an American school, though their public schools are our state schools. Marron was at an elite private school upstate New Hampshire, but he had an unpleasant time of it. So, his father sent him to school over here. Well, our public schools do have a certain reputation regarding things. Marron fitted right in, and not only in my bed. He's taken to cricket like a bloody Aus and even plays rugby."

"How come he's not with you?" Joseph asked.

"He flew back to the States for the vacation, will be arriving back at Heathrow in the morning. Is probably already on the plane over. Dad's picking him up when he drives me back to school."

"Your Dad has no problem with picking up your boyfriend then?" Joseph said.

"Not the least. Actually, I think he is rather pleased. No worry over the family line. My older brother will see to that, he's already got two bastards and is not finished at uni yet."

"Well, I am pleased to say we got Micah married off before he gave us that problem," Uncle Bernard, who had clearly been listening to our conversation, said.

Dinner over, Mrs Richards and Tony left. Once they had Uncle Bernard told Joseph that he wanted to speak to the two of us in his study. So, we followed him into it.

"Now Joseph," Uncle Bernard began. "What you did was very stupid. You could have ended up in serious trouble." Joseph just nodded. Uncle Bernard continued. "Well, you are still confined to your room for half-term, except for meals. Do you understand?"

"Yes Dad," Joseph said, looking somewhat remorseful.

"However, it seems that Johnny needs to be in Dunford this weekend, so I'll let you go and stay with Johnny till Monday. I'll pick you up on Monday. Remember you will be confined to your room when you get back. OK?"

"Yes Dad," Joseph replied. He seemed a bit happier.

"I suggest then that you go and pack for a couple of days, Your Uncle Mike does not want to be too late getting back. Johnny, if you could stay here I need to speak with you."

I nodded in agreement. Joseph ran off in the direction of the stairs.

"Did you get things sorted?" Uncle Bernard asked.

"I think so, though I need to have a long talk with Joseph."

"I thought you would, that's why I suggested he should go back with you till Monday. I need to see you on Monday as Phil and Ben have put forward a property proposal to your trust and I need to discuss it with you. They're going to be at the Priory on Monday to present the idea."

"Then you and Dad will decide on it?" I asked.

"No, then you will decide on it. If you like it, we will then consider it, but in the first place you must have your say. If you say no, no matter how good it is, we will accept that. If you say yes, then we, as your trustees have to be convinced."

That was news to me. I had thought that my trustees would be in charge of the trust. Uncle Bernard explained that whilst that was the case it was a bad trustee who did not take into consideration the thoughts of the beneficiaries of the trust. Once I had absorbed that piece of information, I remembered something.

"Uncle Bernard, Dad said I should ask you to introduce me to Manny Goldberg."

"Now why should he suggest that?"

"It's something to do with the yacht I want to restore."

Uncle Bernard looked puzzled. "Can't see what Manny would have to do with a yacht, he hates the sea. Has done since he came to England in a small boat."

"It wasn't The Lady Ann was it?" I asked.

"No idea. All I know is that Manny was one of the Jews that John Mitchell rescued from Holland. Why?"

"In that case it was The Lady Ann, and I am planning on restoring it."

"Then you probably should speak to Manny. I'll call in Jewish Welfare Centre and see him tomorrow and ask him to speak to you. He is always there on a Sunday."

That said we made our way back to the drawing room, where Mum and Aunt Debora were deep in conversation, apparently planning a shopping trip. Dad was looking on in despair. We had just got into the room when Joseph joined us, carrying his backpack.

"So, you are coming back with us?" Dad asked.

"Yes, I hope it alright?"

"Of course it is. At least it will stop Johnny moping around."

I had not realised I had been moping around.

It was gone ten by time we got home to the Priory. I made some hot drinks for everybody. Tea for Dad, hot chocolate for everybody else. Then Joseph and I went up to my room, taking our hot chocolate up with us. As we ascended the stairs, I heard Mum commenting that she did not think we would get much sleep.

Once in bed, Joseph cuddled up beside me, placing his arm across my chest.

"It's nice here," he commented.

"So, why did you try to throw it away?" I asked.

"I was scared."

"Scared of what?"

"Scared you would tell me that you had someone new. I saw you and Tony kissing, and I did not want to know what was going on."

"So, you ran."

Joseph had pulled himself up, so he was looking into my face. I put my hand behind his neck and pulled him down into a kiss. One kiss led to another and that led to… Well Mum was wrong, we did get a good night's sleep, after what the kiss led to, we were too exhausted to do much else.

The following morning, we stayed in bed late. not doing anything, not making love, not even having sex. We had done enough of that before falling asleep. No, we just lay there enjoying holding each other in our arms. Eventually though the call of nature and of the stomach demanded we got up, so it was sometime around ten-thirty when we eventually arrived down in the kitchen.

Grandma was in the kitchen. She made us some fresh coffee and toast, whilst informing us that Mum and Dad had gone to the farm shop, and Granddad was down at the nursery. Once Joseph and I had finished consuming buttered toast and drinking coffee, we grabbed some warm coats and set off for a walk around the grounds, which of course brought us to the nursery.

Grandad, Jim and Steven were in the glasshouse, potting ivy cuttings. At least I think that is what they were doing. Steven was seated at the bench with masses of ivy in front of him. Granddad was standing next to him filling pots from a pile of compost in the potting tray. As the pile was used up, Jim was refilling it with more compost from the bags they had under the bench. When he was not doing that, he was moving the pots that Steven had planted over to another bench to water them.

"Back together then," Jim stated as we entered the glasshouse.

"Yes," Joseph replied.

"Good," Jim responded. "He's been moping around the place for the last two weeks. By the way Johnny, Lily says thanks for the tip about the job. She rang Tyler and has an interview tomorrow after work."

"So, she did not have a problem speaking to a film star?" I said.

"She does not know who she was speaking to. I just told her to phone that number and ask for Mr. Lawrence. I don't think she knows that it is Tyler Lawrence."

"Well, she'll find out tomorrow," I pointed out.

"Guess she will," Jim replied. "What are you two up to today."

"Been walking around the grounds," Joseph told him. "But we've got a collection to do."

"What?" Jim asked.

"Grandma told us to pick up Granddad on our way back. She's aiming Sunday lunch for one," I informed Jim and Grandad.

"Oh shit!" Grandad exclaimed.

"Go on Jack, we've nearly finished here, and I can take over filling the pots," Jim stated. "We don't want your missis on the warpath, not after what you and 'er have done for us."

As we walked back to the Priory, I asked Granddad what they had done for the lads.

"Nowt much," Granddad replied. "Just giving them a hand and earning meself and Flora some cash."

"What have you done?"

"Well, you see me and Flora have a bit of spare cash and we ken that the lads are short of funds, so we did them a favour."

"What sort of favour and how much?"

"We've agreed to order a consignment of plants from the Dutch nurseries so that the lads will have some stock for Easter."

"How much stock?"

"Thirty thousand."

"Thirty thousand!" I exclaimed. I had been expecting four or five at the most.

"Well they'll need to get a good stock in to launch the nursery at Easter."

"What are you doing, buying into the nursery?"

"No, that's under discussion. For the time being I've done a profit-share deal with them. Me and Flora buy the plants, and they get half the profit on the sale of the plant when they sell them. We get the other half."

"What about the ones that die?" Joseph asked.

"Not talked about that but it's a running cost so I suppose they should carry that. Will mention it to them this afternoon."

As we entered the kitchen the aroma of a roast beef dinner hit us. Dad and Mum were seated at the table. Grandma was fussing at the stove.

"Dad, do you know what Granddad has done?"

"No," Dad replied. "I suggest that the three of you need to clean up then you can tell us over dinner."

We followed Dad's suggestion.

In the event, we did not speak about it over dinner, Mum was too busy telling us about arrangements for next week. From what I could make out she was in the final stages of her studies before exams, which started immediately after Easter, so Dad would have to sort most of the meals out.

After dinner and clear up Dad suggested we should assemble in the library. Grandma said she did not need to join us as she knew what was going on. With that she went off to the snug. Mum decided to join her. The four of us made our way to the library. I realised why Dad had suggested it, it was comfortably warm.

"Right Jack, what's this deal you've done?" Dad asked.

"Well, I've set up a profit-share deal with the nursery lads," Granddad replied.

"What sort of deal?"

"I buy the plants and they sell them, we split the profits."

"Why are you doing that?" Dad asked.

"So, they will have something to sell, Mike. There is no way the lads can grow enough to have saleable stock in time for Easter, this year. They're going to be pushed to have good stock ready for Easter next year, and that is the main selling season, Easter to start of June.

"Those lads are putting their heart into getting that nursery up and running. What they should do is buy in the stock they can't grow inhouse, but they don't have the capital for that. So, they are making do with what they can grow, like the ivy plants."

"Ivy plants?" Dad asked. I explained that Steven and Jim were taking cuttings from the ivy they were clearing around the grounds and potting them up, for sale at Easter.

"Seems sensible, but how does this involve you?" Dad asked Granddad.

"Well, seeing the lads can't afford to get any stock in, I'm getting some in for them. Doing a profit-share with them. I buy the stock, they look after it and sell it, we split the profit on the sales."

"What if it doesn't sell?" I asked.

"Then they haven't lost owt, have they?" Granddad replied.

"Yes, but you will have," Dad commented.

"Will probably more than cover any no sales on the profit I will get from the ones that do sell," Granddad commented. "There's quite a mark-up you know."

"How much of one?" I asked.

"Well, it depends but at least one hundred and fifty percent. On some stuff a lot more, crocosmia three bulbs in a pot give us a nice pot of perennials to sell some six weeks later for about seventy-five pence. They will sell at just under eight quid."

"That's nearly eight hundred percent mark-up," Dad commented.

"You have to allow for the cost of the pot, compost and labour, so it works out more like six hundred all told," Granddad responded. "We can also sell them to the garden centre and florists, but we will get a lot less."

"So, you're buying the plants for them?" Dad asked.

"No, I've told them to buy the plants, the missis and me are just funding it."

Dad looked at Granddad, a questioningly. "How much are you funding them?"

"Thirty thousand all told."

"Thirty thousand!" Dad exclaimed.

"Well, it's all we had spare at the moment, everything else is tied up in property or long-term investments."

"But Jack, that's all your spare funds. You might need that, especially with the move."

"Don't you frit Mike, me and Flora be OK moneywise. We've both got our pensions, then the old age pension, the rental from the houses and the other odds and ends that come in, we baint short of a few bob."

"What odds and ends?" Dad asked.

"From the money we put into our Phil's films. When he started directing nobody would back him, so me and the missis helped him out. Took mortgages out on the three properties we had let out. Raised just over two hundred thousand, which got Phil started. Made a pile back but did not need it as the rents were more than covering the mortgages so told Phil to keep the money and put it into the next film, which he has done, but it seems there are royalty payments still coming in on the old films, so we get pay-outs from those. That's where the thirty grand came from. Me and Flora could not work out what to do with it, so this seemed a good use for it."

It suddenly became clear to me that Granddad and Grandma were a lot better off than most people, including me, thought.

Dad and Granddad discussed things some more, but it was quite clear that Granddad had thought things through. He meant to take an active part in the project, keeping an eye on the plants he was buying and how they were selling.

"Let's see if I've got this right, you're funding the lads to they can buy thirty grand's worth of stock?"

"Not all in one go, it'll be ten grand a shipment. Expect they'll need two or three. That's what we have agreed. but we're still talking terms on that. Hope to sort it out tomorrow with Steven's Uncle George."

"So, what will you do when you get your thirty thousand back?" Dad asked.

"Buy another load of plants for them," Granddad replied. "I should get it back when they have sold about half the stock, so by ploughing it back in on the same terms I can increase the stock base of the nursery. If things work out by the end of the year I should have got about one forty back and they will still have about forty thousand in stock. That should see them set up."

"For that you should have a share of the business," Dad commented.

"That's what Steven said when I showed him the figures, but I don't want the responsibility. At my age it would be too much hassle. I'll just pop in now and again and give them a hand."

Seeing how Granddad and Grandma were moving down here, I had a strong feeling that now and again would be just about every day, knowing Granddad.

Dad and Granddad then started to discuss the conversion of the workshop sheds on the shunting yard. Not a subject I had much interest in or wanted to get involved in, so I suggested to Joseph that we might go and look at the mill race. a suggestion that Joseph agreed with. However, when we looked outside we found it was raining and neither of us fancied the idea of getting wet, so we went up to my room, calling in the kitchen on the way to grab a bottle of cola.

Our intention had been to go up to my room and play on the PlayStation, but somehow that did not happen. I am not sure why it did not happen, but somehow, somewhere, between the kitchen and my room the conversation between us drifted to the events of the last couple of weeks. When we got to my room, Joseph slumped himself into the old armchair, next to my desk. I lay on my bed, expecting a response to the question I had put to Joseph at the top of the stairs.

The armchair was old and it was worn. It had come from Dad's bungalow and from what he had said it was something he had inherited from his parents. Actually, he had implied it had originally been in his parents' place. not their Hampstead house, but the apartment over the shop where Dad's father had set up his accountancy business when he started. Looking at the armchair it seemed old enough to go back that far, it was certainly worn enough. It was a big comfortable armchair and as I lay on my bed I could make out the details of the worn spots on it. Why was I studying it in such detail? Because there was nothing else to do. I had asked Joseph a question and he had not answered it. He just sat there, laid back in the armchair, clearly thinking but not answering.

"Well?" I finally asked after what had seemed an age.

"I don't know," Joseph replied. "I'm Jewish, so I did not want to get into a confrontation with you and whoever you were kissing."

"What's being Jewish got to do with it?"

"A lot. Johnny, you have to realise that being Jewish is much more than a religious thing, it is about being a people. We are a people who have been persecuted for over two thousand years."

"That's a long time," I commented. "Who started it."

"The Seleucids. In the Second Century BC they put up altars to Zeus in the Temple and banned the Jewish festivals and practices, they even made possession of the Torah a capital offence. Since then, everybody has been taking pot shots at us. The first thing a Jew learns is that they are going to be persecuted by the community around them."

"It sounds paranoid," I commented.

"It is. You are always expecting to be let down, to be betrayed, because you are Jewish. One is always on one's guard, just in case the next thing to happen is the start of the latest pogrom. As a Jew, one is brought up to expect let-downs. We are the outsiders, no matter how well we are integrated into a community we are always the outsiders.

"It teaches us to expect to be hurt, to expect people to turn against us, to expect…"

"Stop!" I shouted. Joseph stopped and looked at me. "Now come here." He looked unsure about what he should do but after a moment or he climbed out of the chair and crossed the room to where I was lying on the bed. As he approached, I stretched out my arm and took hold of him, pulling him down onto the bed, where I embraced him.

We lay there talking for ages. I am not sure if we sorted anything out between us. There was too much to sort out. Then again none of it mattered. All that mattered is that I had Joseph back. I just had to ensure he understood that I loved him and that I would never intentionally hurt him. Though I had to accept that I had unintentionally hurt him.

One thing I did understand though was that Joseph was terrified that I was going to drop him. He was sure that some time somebody would come along who suited me better than he did, and I would leave him for whoever it was that had come along. The thing was there was no way I could assure him that it would never happen. I had to be honest and say that someday that could happen, but I pointed out that it could also happen the other way around. He might find somebody who was a better match for him than I was.

That evening over dinner both Joseph and I were a bit subdued. Dad pulled me aside after dinner and asked if things were alright. I told him that they were but that we had been sorting out some heavy stuff between us.

By some unspoken agreement neither Joseph nor I reopened our discussion as we lazed about after dinner. To be more exact, Joseph lazed about, playing a game on my PlayStation. I was busy checking that I had everything ready for going back to college in the morning. I did though ask Joseph what he was planning for Monday as I would be at college all day.

"Oh, I sent Matt a text and asked if I could go into the office. He said he would pick me up about nine."

Monday morning, I left Joseph asleep in bed. Mum had an early class, which was an inconvenience as her morning sickness was rough that morning, and I wanted to grab some time in the library. My woodwork theory exam was in a couple of days and I was not sure that the details given in the textbook about preparing a surface for shellac were correct. Something Steve had said when I first started work at the yard made me think that the textbook was wrong. I knew there was a book on wood finishing in the library, so I wanted to check that out.

It was a good job that I went in with Mum as halfway to Southmead, it started to snow. I would not have liked to be on my moped in that weather.

I found the book I was looking for in the library with no problem and found what I was looking for quickly. I was right, the textbook was wrong. Well not exactly wrong, it had failed to mention something which was important, at least if you were doing high quality work. Once you had prepared the surface by sanding and brushing off all the dust, you had to be careful not to touch the surface. The natural oils in your skin could be deposited on the surface which would affect the distribution of the shellac when it was brushed on. Maybe not too much of a problem for most work, but for high end finishes the marks caused by the oils could show.

I left the library with half an hour to spare before my first class. It really was not long enough to get over to Marge's and get a drink and then get back to class, so I decided to go to the students' common room and get something out of the vending machine. Antonio was there at one of the tables, bent over a book. I asked him if he wanted anything from the machine, but he declined saying he had just been over at Marge's and expressing surprise that I had not been there. I grabbed myself a hot chocolate then joined Antonio at his table and explained I had been checking something out in the library.

Antonio asked if I needed a lift back to the Priory.

"It depends what time, I finish at three today. Mum is not finished till four-thirty, so if you are going over before then a lift would be useful."

"My last class finishes at three also, Johnny, and I am due to start work for Tyler at four, so I will be going over to the Priory as soon as I have finished my class. If you like I can give you a lift over."

I accepted the offer. We sat and chatted a bit, then I glanced at the clock and I saw it was ten to nine, so finished my drink and left to go to my class. From what Antonio had said he did not have a class till ten thirty. I was a bit puzzled as to why he had come in so early. That was something which I mentioned to Simone when I got into class.

"It's odd," she commented. "From what he's said he only has a couple of classes a day, He is around the college all the time."

"Maybe things are not that good for him where he is staying and this place is an escape," I suggested.

"Could be, but it is still a bit odd."

Just then Mr. Taunton came in and proceeded to make maths interesting. Both Simone and I were grateful we did not have to make do with the supply teacher we had at the start of term.

Today was a bit odd as classes had been moved around due to exams. As a result, I was not able to meet up with Mum or Marcia at lunch. So, I had not been able to tell her that Antonio was giving me a lift back to the Priory. I had to text her to let her know.

"Something important?" Simone asked as I started to enter my message into the phone.

"Letting Mum know that Antonio is giving me a lift home when I finish at three. He is starting working for Tyler this afternoon."

"Oh, I was going to offer you a lift over, but I have to go back to the Hall first. Need to pick up my gear."

"What gear?"

"My bo, boken and katana," Simone informed me. I knew what a bo was, the long wooden staff. Lee had been teaching Joseph a bo kata at Christmas. I had no idea what a boken or katana were, so I asked.

"A boken is a wooden practice sword," she informed me. "A katana is the correct name for a Samurai sword."

"Why do you need those?"

"Well Lee said that Ben Carlton was going to be over this evening, and he had agreed to do some weapons work with us."

"I think I will miss the training tonight then," I stated.

"You better not! You need to get as much practice as you can."

It was getting on for twenty to four when Antonio got us to the Priory. The snow had made driving a bit difficult, so he had kept the speed down. When we drove into the yard, I spotted Uncle Ben's Maserati parked by the back door. Antonio made a comment about it being a nice car.

"Yes, it's my uncle's," I informed him. Just then Uncle Ben came out of the back door, carrying a tray of mugs. I got out of the car and asked what he was up to.

"Your father may be a brilliant writer, but he is a crap organiser. Do you know there are no mugs in Mike Carlton Productions offices, no tea or coffee and worse still no kettle?"

"Does not surprise me, him and Lee do most of their work in the kitchen."

"Well, we are having a meeting in the offices and these are essential supplies," he informed me, indicating the mugs of steaming liquid on the tray. He then proceeded to make his way to Dad's offices.

I left Antonio to find Tyler, who no doubt was in his new offices on the ground floor of the Stable House. Entering the kitchen, I found Grandma standing at the stove.

"'Ello luv, how bin you today?" she asked as I entered.

"Bloody cold," I replied. There seemed to be a problem with the heater in Antonio's car. He had it on full pelt but no heat seemed to come out of it.

"Ey lad, it fair cold out there today. I'll mak' you a nice mug of something hot." She poured some milk into a pan and placed it on the stove.

"Any idea where Joseph is?"

"He's not back yet from that architect's place, 'e said 'e be back around four," Grandma informed me. "Your Dad's over in his office with our Phil and your uncle."

The landline rang just then, and I answered it. It was Uncle Bernard, letting us know that he had only just got out of court and had to go into the office, so would not be able to get over to see us till gone seven. I assured him that I would let Dad know. I put my coat back on and slipped down to Dad's office to give him the message. When I got back there was a mug of hot chocolate waiting for me on the table.

I had just finished my mug of chocolate when Joseph came in, rubbing his hands trying to warm them.

"Cold?" I asked.

"Fucking freezing. Matt took me on a site inspection," he answered. Grandma put another pan of milk on the stove to warm. I helped Joseph out of his coat.

"Your dad's not going to be here till gone seven," I informed him.

"So, I'm going to be late returning to prison," Joseph quipped.

"Is it prison?"

"Yes, though I suppose I deserve it. At least he allowed me to come here for a couple of days. Now it is back to the rest of the week confined to my room."

"When do you go back to school?"

"Next Monday. We need to speak about that, the next few weeks are going to be heavy at school."

"I know," I stated. Joseph looked at me. "Been there, done that."

"I suppose you have."

"Yes Joseph, I have. Now we discussed this before and nothing has changed. You need to concentrate on your studies so you can get good grades. We just need to sort out things so that we have time for each other while not messing up your studies, or mine for that matter. I may only have AS exams this year, but I am starting to find the pressure is building up and I do have final exams in my vocationals."

Joseph nodded. Grandma put a mug of hot chocolate in front of him telling him that it would warm him up. I suggested Joseph should bring his mug of chocolate up to my room. I was sure I could warm him up some more.

Dinner that evening was in the dining room. Well, there were eight of us and the kitchen table can only seat six. Uncle Ben was a bit upset that Bernard would not be getting here till later. It seems he had promised Lee and Simone that he would work with them in the dojo.

Uncle Bernard actually made better time than he expected, arriving not long after we had finished dinner. In fact, Joseph and I were just clearing up the dinner things as he came in through the back door. He did not look that well.

"I suppose I am too late to eat?" he said as he took in the sight of us loading the dishwasher.

"Yes, Dad, you are," Joseph replied.

"Should you be driving?" I asked.

"Yes, was only barred from driving for six weeks after the operation, it's more than that now."

"That you, Bernard," Dad's voice called from somewhere outside of the kitchen. A moment later he stepped into the room. "Ben and Phil are in my study, you better come through, you too, Johnny. Sorry, Joseph, you're lumbered with the clean-up."

"Not much left," Joseph informed him. "I'll go and hit the games console when I'm done."

I thanked Joseph, then followed Dad and Uncle Bernard through to the study. Just before we left the kitchen, Uncle Bernard reminded Joseph to get his stuff together to go home. Once in the study there was the normal exchange of pleasantries, then they got down to business. Uncle Bernard informed us that the aim of the meeting was to keep me informed what the trust was planning and to see if things could be worked out the way everybody thought they could be.

"So, exactly what is the trust planning?" I asked, rather sharply.

"Well, basically we are looking at selling the Chiswick warehouses and putting up a digital studio on part of the shunting yard," Uncle Phil stated.

"Why?" I asked.

"We've been approached by a development company who have made us a very good offer for the Chiswick properties. Actually, they are offering almost twice what they are worth," Uncle Ben informed me.

"Why should they do that?" I asked.

"The two warehouses that we use for the CGI company front onto the river. The developers own the land behind the warehouses. If they can get the warehouses, they can develop it all as water-front properties. That will push the price of what they are building up by about fifty percent."

"But what about the CGI business?"

"Well, Johnny, it won't affect it much. You know that we are redeveloping the Rickyard site at Manston for the business," Uncle Ben stated. I nodded. I knew about that. "Well, when we told the staff about it and confirmed that it was on, about two thirds of them wanted to move to the Rickyard."

"Why should they want to do that?" I enquired.

"Housing," Uncle Phil stated. "Most of our staff are in their late twenties or early thirties and are in the process of starting a family or have a young family. For what they are paying for a one bedroom flat around Chiswick they can buy a four bedroom house around Manston. There are some, of course, who live outside of London and commute in, A couple of them reckon it would be easier to commute to Manston than coming into London every day. The only staff who will have a problem are those who live south of the river."

"What are you going to do about them?" Dad said.

"Not decided. We might accommodate them in the Wardour Street office, alternatively we could put them in the place the trust owns down in Croydon."

"We've got property in Croydon?" I asked.

"Yes, the trust owns an office block in South Croydon," Uncle Bernard stated. "Most of it is let out to the local authority and the NHS Trust. The last figures I saw on the place said we had a ninety-five percent occupancy."

I made a mental note to check the asset list for the trust I had got from Uncle Bernard.

"We probably only need to take up the extra five percent," Uncle Ben said.

"So, what are your plans here, if you don't need the space for your CGI people."

"Mike, we would like to use the funds from the warehouse sale to build a digital studio complex, mostly for greenscreen," Uncle Ben responded.

"Won't you have that at the Rickyard?" I asked.

"We will have some greenscreen facilities at the Rickyard. The plans are to put two greenscreen facilities in the old hay barn. They will be relatively small, though bigger than what we have now down in Chiswick," Uncle Phil stated. What we would like to do here is build some studio units for both greenscreen and motion capture work that are on a fairly large scale. The way things are going, more and more production is going digital and there is going to be increasing demand for such facilities."

"So, what were you thinking of?" Dad asked.

"If you look at the map of the site you will see that it is split into three sections," Uncle Ben said. "At the narrow end of the site you have the two engine work sheds, it then expands width wise as it goes towards the far end. About two thirds of the way along we have Sidings Lane coming into the site, then we have the area between Sidings Lane and the end of the site taking up the last third."

"It may be the last third along the length of the site, but it is about half the area of the site," I pointed out.

"You are right there Johnny," Uncle Ben continued. "That is what makes this possible." He took out a ballpoint and started to make some marks on the map. "If we put in an administrative block here, we can put up two large and one medium studio building down this side of the plot. Then across the other side we can put up a set of units for workshops and support facilities."

"What are support facilities?" I asked.

"Wardrobe, makeup, special effects, all those types of things."

"It sounds good, though I am not sure how planning will look at it," Dad stated.

"Should not be a problem. There is already planning permission on it for commercial, warehousing and light industrial use. I am fairly sure that studios will fall under that heading," Uncle Phil stated.

"You better make sure before you go too far," Dad commented.

"We've got an appointment to see Matt on Wednesday," Uncle Phil announced.

"Good," Dad said. "Well, it's your money so I don't see any problems."

"That's it, though," Uncle Ben said. "It's not our money. Its Johnny's trust's money. The Chiswick warehouses belong to the trust, we just rent them from the trust. We would be renting the studios from the trust when they are built. Also, Mike, you will have a half interest in the land, so that raises legal issues."

Uncle Bernard agreed with the last comment and made some observations which made it clear that things would not be as straight forward as everybody thought. The main problem being that Dad would own a half-interest in the land.

"Is that a problem?" I asked. "Why not just split the land between Dad, the uncles and the trust?"

"What?" Dad exclaimed.

"Well, Dad, I am not sure on the exact geometry but looking at the map I would estimate that the plot that my uncles want to build on is about half the total area."

"Actually it is a bit under half," Uncle Ben stated. "You have to allow for the engine work sheds. They are also part of the total plot."

"So, why not purchase the plot and divide the title into three separate pieces," I suggested. "Uncle Ben and Phil, I am sure you could put up enough funds to pay for the engine work shed area and have that in your own name, not in the trust. Then the half of the area that is this side of Sidings Lane can be Dad's and the trust can have the other piece where it can put up the studios. Does that work?"

"You know it actually would," Uncle Bernard said. "Bit complicated to sort out as part of the purchase contract but once that's over it would actually make things a lot easier."

"Right, let's do it that way," Uncle Ben said.

"One thing though," I said.

"What's that?" Dad asked.

"Uncle Bernard, make sure the trust has an easement over the ransom strip that Dad owns as part of this place. I would hate it to be held for ransom if we ever wanted to sell the studios."

Uncle Bernard laughed. "Good point, Johnny, Are you sure you don't want to be a lawyer."

The next twenty minutes or so were taken up with discussions about the finances. Uncle Bernard wanted me to be involved so I knew what was going on. Basically, the trust would use the money from the sale of the Chiswick properties to finance its share of the land purchase and the construction of the studios. Actually, on the estimates for the construction costs that Uncle Ben had got it looked like the total costs would come in at under what the trust was getting for the Chiswick properties.

Once built, the studios would be leased by the CGI company who would use them for either their own production or rent them out as production facilities to other companies. Actually, since the CGI company would be paying the same rent per square metre as they were now for the Chiswick properties, it looked like the trust's capital investment would be less, and it would end up getting a better return on things.

As we were clearing up Dad asked Uncle Phil how long they would be staying.

"Well, we've booked into the Belmont for three nights, but we may have to extend. Need to speak with Matt Wednesday as we would like him to handle the conversion of the engine work sheds, also want to speak to him about the studio plan. We have a Skype call with Trevor about Fly Boys tomorrow and we are meeting with Tyler on Thursday about Snowball. Hope we can get contractual commitments from both. Also need to speak to Tyler about equipment hire for Fly Boys.

"Fly Boys?" I asked.

"It's the working title for the film about the University Flying Club," Uncle Ben informed me. "You were right, it was a bit of a mouthful." He then asked me if I was going over to the dojo? I told him I would go over, but probably only to watch.

We followed Uncle Bernard as he made his way to the kitchen. Joseph was there, sitting at the table with his bag.

"Dad, can I stay till the end of half-term?" Joseph asked as Uncle Bernard entered the kitchen.

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