Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 30

"What?" Dad asked.

"I said I would fund it," I replied.


"I agreed with Uncle Bernard to keep two million of the insurance funds in near-liquid investments in case I needed the money for something. Well, this is something which I think is worthwhile doing, so I will use part of that two million."

"You know, of course, that I have to agree to it," Dad pointed out. "I am one of the trustees."

"Actually, Dad, you can't take part in the decision; it's up to Uncle Bernard," I told him.


"It is a decision from which you can benefit; therefore, under trust law, you have to remove yourself from the decision-making process. I'll email Uncle Bernard tonight, but you will have the funding. Now all you need to do is get Gert on the job."

Mum laughed.

"I'd better phone Lee," Dad said.

"Why?" I asked. "Besides, if he's been training, he will be in the pub."

"Good, I won't wake him up then," Dad stated.

"It's only half-ten over there," Joseph pointed out.

"Why are you phoning Lee?" I asked again as he pulled out his phone.

"To tell him to contact Tyler and get a decent, professional-quality, digital video camera and some sound-recording equipment to bring over on Sunday."

"He is coming on Sunday, then?" I asked.

"Yes, his licence expires at midnight tomorrow night, so he will be on the early flight Sunday morning. Though how he is going to get here I don't know; I'll be filming so won't be able to meet him."

"Get Luuk to meet him," Joseph suggested. "He could do with the money. He can bring him here by train."

"Do you think he would?" Dad asked.

"You only have to ask him."

"Do you have his number?"

"Yes," Joseph replied.

"Then why don't you ask him?"

Joseph pulled out his phone and sent a text. A few minutes later his phone pinged; he read the reply.

"He says he'll do it; how much are you paying?"

"He should have asked that before he said he would do it. Tell him two hundred plus a hundred for expenses. He'll have to get the train tickets and taxi. We'll be finished filming and back here by twelve."

Joseph sent anther text and got a reply. He read it and then told Dad its contents. "He says that's good. You can tell him what he needs to do tomorrow."

Gert was at the vakantie huis just before ten on Saturday morning. He had a short discussion about what was the best way to get to Amsterdam, considering that Mum, Joseph and I all had luggage. Gert suggested that we should drive to Schiphol and leave the people carrier parked at the hotel. We could also leave our luggage at the hotel. There was a good chance we might be able to put it in our rooms, then get the train into Amsterdam. Dad said that sounded like a good plan. That agreed, we set out loading up the people carrier with our luggage and Mum's shopping. One thing was clear; Mum was going to have to pay an excess-baggage charge.

We set off a few minutes before ten-thirty. It was quarter to twelve when we arrived at the hotel. We could not check into our rooms, but the hotel did put our luggage in a storeroom for us and assured us it would be moved to our rooms as soon as they were ready. Dad paid for the rooms on his credit card.

Shortly after quarter to one, we arrived outside the Rijksmuseum. Luuk was waiting for us. Gert introduced Luuk to Mum and Dad. Dad suggested that we should get some lunch before we started touring the museum. That was something I could agree with. Luuk informed Dad that there was a nice place to eat which was not too expensive about a ten-minute walk away. Dad told him to lead on and we would follow, which we did. We walked across the street and down a side road. We turned into a wide alley, then into a narrow alley. It was another eethuis, and the food was just as good as the one we had been in before.

While we were waiting for our food to be served, Luuk explained to Dad that most of the cafes and eating places around the Rijksplein were aimed for the tourist market. That meant that they were overpriced, the food was not that good, and the service was generally rushed. Off the main roads and tourist spots there were hundreds of small cafes and eethuis that served the local population. They were in places where the tourists would normally never encounter them. If these places did not serve good food at good prices, the locals would soon abandon them, so you were far better off eating in them than going to somewhere on the main tourist trail.

"He should know," Gert informed us. "For the past four years until this year, he has earned his living during vacations and at weekends showing tourists around."

"What are you doing this year?" Dad asked.

"I was interning at the architecture practice that the uncle of my boyfriend owns."

"What do you mean, 'was'?" Joseph asked.

"When I went in on Friday, I was told that as I took Thursday off, they had to get somebody in to replace me; I was no longer required."

"Can they do that?" Dad asked. "I always thought Holland had strong employment laws."

"It has, but I wasn't employed. I was only there as an intern, learning the ropes. Interns aren't paid; we are only given a contribution to our expenses, so we are not on the payroll and not protected by the employment legislation."

"How much did you get for expenses?" Dad asked.

"Thirty euros a day," Luuk informed us.

"Fuck!" I exclaimed. "That's under three pounds an hour."

Our food arrived, and, as Luuk had promised, it was good. Not only was it good, there was plenty of it, not the microscopic portions I had seen being served in some places.

After we had finished our meal and made use of the facilities on the advice of Luuk, who informed us that there could be quite a queue for them in the museum, we made our way back to the Rijksmuseum. I was surprised to see that Gert stayed with us. I would have thought he would have found some excuse to get out of being dragged around the museum. However, he told me that he did not get to see the museum that much, especially now that he had to pay to get in. Also, he informed me that Luuk was a very good guide and he liked to listen to what his brother had to say.

I must agree with Gert; Luuk had a surprising knowledge of what was in the museum, and he had an ability to explain things in a manner that made sense. What was noticeable was that by the sixth or seventh picture that we stopped to view, our party had acquired a few additions, people who seemed to be latching onto Luuk's explanation of the works.

Some three hours later, we came to the end of what had been an exhausting but interesting tour. Luuk certainly knew his stuff. As we came to the museum shop by the exit, a large woman who had been with us from early on, came forward and congratulated Luuk.

"Young man, that was by far the best presentation of the works in this establishment that I have heard, and I have visited here many times over the years. Are you a student of the history of art?"

"No, I'm an architecture student."

"Pity. You are certainly a loss to the history of art, but I hope you will be a gain to architecture. If you are ever in the States, contact me." She opened her handbag and removed a card which she handed to Luuk along with a fifty-euro note. "And here is a thanks for a remarkable presentation."

Luuk took the card and the money. Then there was a surge of people stepping forward to give him a tip. As we left the building, Joseph asked him how much he had made. Luuk counted the notes he had in his hand.

"Two-hundred-and-twenty euros," he stated.

"Better than interning in Wim's uncle's practice," Joseph pointed out.

"And here's another hundred," Dad said, handing Luuk a note.

"I can't take—"

"Yes, you can. You made being dragged round a museum interesting. For once, I enjoyed it. For that, at least, you deserve a good tip."

"Take it, Luuk. After this, I might actually get this moron into a museum again," Mum stated.

There was a short debate about what to do with regard to dinner. Our tickets for the Gala Show said we had to be seated by seven for a seven-thirty start. It was now quarter to five. Luuk suggested a place that was on the way to the venue. Given he seemed to know good places to eat, we went along with it. This time it was not an eethuis but a small Italian place on a side road off one of the main streets. Again, the food was good, and the service was quick. We all had pizza. Over dinner, Dad asked Luuk what he was up to now he was not interning.

"Well, I need to find something, but there are only two weeks before university starts, and it will be hard to find something for just two weeks. I'll also need something that I can do around my class schedule once school starts up."

"How would you like to do some research work for me?" Dad asked.

"What type?" Luuk asked.

"I need somebody to go into the national archives, newspaper archives, and similar sources and find out anything they can about how gay men who had been in the camps were treated when they returned at the end of the war," Dad said. "Would you be interested? You would have to find the material, record it and provide me with a translation in English."

"How much would it be paying?" Luuk asked.

"Twenty euros per hour, plus expenses, though I will not pay for travelling time," Dad stated.

Luuk looked at Gert, who shrugged his shoulders as if to say it is up to you.

"I'll do it, but when do you want me to start?"

"You can start tomorrow afternoon once you have got Lee to Beekbergen. We can have a meeting then to discuss what has to be done."

"Now, Gert, Joseph tells me you are freelance with De heer Wilhelm. Is that correct?"

"Yes," Gert replied.

"So, what is your commitment to him on the current film?"

"It varies from day to day," Gert replied. "I am booked to work tomorrow morning, Monday and Tuesday morning, then I am free till Friday, when I am booked for the whole day. I'll probably hang around the crew just in case any work comes up on the days I am not booked for. I am hired in half-day blocks. The money is good, but I only get paid for those half-days when I am actually needed. Some days, I will be on the shoot but not needed, so I don't get paid."

"I've seen you helping with the cameras and the sound equipment, can you operate both?" Dad asked.

"Yes, though I am not expert."

"Don't need an expert, just someone who is competent. My assistant is bringing over some professional equipment tomorrow, a digital video camera and a sound-recording set up. I need somebody to help with an interview shoot I hope to get done either next week or the week after. I could also do with sourcing some equipment to use over here."

"What sort of equipment?" Gert asked.

"Well, I need some lighting and could really do with a second camera."

"I've got both. Had to have them when I started media studies. The camera is old and records to tape rather than card, but it's still HD digital. I've got my own lighting rig to go with it. I've also got sound-recording and mixing facilities at our place in Rotterdam."

Dad got Gert to tell him what equipment he had. From the sound of it, he had a small editing suite in his living room. Gert explained that he had been working on a project for an associate of De heer Wilhelm that had gone belly up. As a result, they could not pay Gert the money they owed him for the work he had done. De heer Wilhelm had insisted they give him some of the studio equipment before the bailiffs seized it by way of compensation for what he was owed.

Dad asked Gert what De heer Wilhelm paid him. When Gert told us, it did not sound like that much. It certainly did not sound that much to Dad. He offered Gert nearly twice as much to do some freelance work for him. He also told Gert that if the project went ahead, that Gert could have his name on it as either assistant director or associate director.

Given that offer, Gert jumped at it. Dad told Gert it would take a couple of weeks to get the paperwork sorted, but that, as far as he was concerned, Gert was on the books from now and would be paid for any work he did on the project.

"Exactly what is the project?" Gert asked.

"I want to make a documentary about the gay men who were sent to the camps during the war and how they were treated when they came home. Next week, hopefully, or the week after, when we have a break in filming, I want to film an interview with Henk de Groot. Then a lot will depend on what your brother finds, but if we can find other gay men who were in the camps and prepared to talk, I will need you to interview and film them."

"There can't be that many left alive," Gert said.

"That's why it is important that we get this done now."

By quarter past six, we were on our way to the venue, which was a twenty-minute walk away. Luuk assured us we were quicker walking than trying to take a tram or the metro, pointing out that we would have to change lines.

We got to the venue at twenty to seven. Then it took nearly a quarter of an hour to get in; there was security everywhere. Our bags were searched; fortunately, only Mum and Luuk had one. Joseph and I had left our backpacks at the hotel. We also had to go through metal detectors, which I managed to set off. Well, I have a lot of metal in my belt. Also, our IDs were checked. What was more confusing was that our tickets were checked time and again, and somebody was phoned about them. However, whatever was said seemed to satisfy the man who made the call. The checks done, we were shown up a rather grand staircase, then along a corridor to a door which opened into a box with seating for eight, though two of the seats had been removed and what appeared to be a remote-controlled TV camera stood where they would have been.

Looking at the audience seated in the auditorium below and those in the circle above that I could make out, I realised we were decidedly underdressed.

"Gotdverdommen!" Gert exclaimed, softly. "I've been a stommerling."

"A what?" I asked."

"An idiot," he replied. "I should have checked the tickets, this is a Royal Gala, no doubt for some charity. No wonder De heer Wilhelm gave them to your father. He hates having to come to such events. Of course, he has to buy the tickets — his position in the entertainment industry demands it — but if he can get out of attending, he will. He does not get on that well with the royal family."

"Why not?" I asked.

"He started life working in what I think you call the gutter press. I don't think they have forgiven him for some of the stuff he wrote."

Mum took a seat at the front of the box next to the wall furthest from the camera. Dad took the seat next to her, which left one spare on the front row. Joseph and I wanted to sit together, so we took the seats behind Mum and Dad. Gert took the seat at the end of our row, leaving the last seat on the front row for Luuk.

The door to the box opened and a security man looked in, then looked at a tablet in his hand and apologised but said they were doing a final check and then left. He had just gone when the robot camera came to life with a low hum and a lot of lights flashing before they settled down.

"I think transmission is about to start," Gert commented.

"You mean this is being broadcast live?" Joseph asked.

"I'm fairly certain it is," Gert responded.

The door to the box opened again and a man entered, apparently apologising in Dutch. Gert said something to him, and the man apologised again, this time in English. He said there was a problem with the camera which he had to sort out. While he was doing it, Gert was speaking to him in Dutch. The man altered some settings on the camera, then spoke to somebody over a radio handset. Everything seemed to be OK, so he apologised again for the disturbance and left. Gert confirmed that this was going to be broadcast live and told us which channel it was on. Dad said he wished he had known; he would have organised for somebody to record it.

"It's OK, I have," Luuk informed him. "Just texted Florence; she's a student on the same course as me. I asked her to record it, and she has texted back that she was recording it anyway."

"Can you find out what this is in aid of?" Dad asked.

Luuk nodded, pulled a tablet out of his bag and started it up. A few minutes later he clearly had a connection and some information. He leaned across to show Dad something, but just then two spotlights lit up. From the direction of their beams, I guessed they must be pointed at the box a couple along from us. Then the orchestra started up with what sounded like a national anthem, I guessed it was as everybody in the auditorium stood. Gert whispered that we should stand, so we did. The music finished, the audience sat down, so we did as well. As we did, Luuk handed his tablet to Dad, who looked at it, then shook his head. Luuk leaned across and told him something, but I did not hear what, partly because, at that point, a compère stepped through the curtains, and there was applause from the audience.

For the next five minutes, he was addressing the audience and telling jokes, which none of us, except Luuk and Gert got as they were in Dutch. When Gert translated for us, they did not seem that funny. I guessed they were based on word play so only worked in Dutch.

Eventually the compére, who Gert told me was well known in the Netherlands, moved to the side of the stage, and the curtains opened. They opened onto a gymnastic dance act, which I could appreciate, having been a gymnast myself. We were then entertained with some opera, an extract from West Side Story, a singer who really should just stick to singing and not try to play the guitar at the same time. Gert informed me that she was the winner of some TV talent show, which might explain things. I could not make head or tail of the next act, which appeared to be some sort of slapstick routine, but the audience were laughing like mad. I suspected that this was something you could only appreciate if you were Dutch, a fact that Gert confirmed later when he told me they had been miming an old Dutch folktale, but really messing things up. I gather it would be something like putting on Little Red Riding Hood but having Grandma eat the wolf.

The final act of the first half was an illusionist. He was very good. Gert informed me that he was Christian Farla and the leading Dutch illusionist and one of the best in the world. I could understand why.

Almost as soon as the first half of the program ended, there was a knock on the door of the box, Gert answered it and spoke in Dutch to whoever was there, then invited the young lady into the box.

"Mr. Carlton," she said as she entered the box, "His Royal Highness the Crown Prince has asked me to extend an invitation to you and your party to join him in the reception room during the interval."

That is the sort of invitation you cannot refuse, so Dad accepted. The young lady explained that the royal party was currently moving to the reception room, but as soon as the corridor was clear we would be able to follow them. It was not long before we were walking along the passageway behind the boxes and past the top of the grand staircase. About three boxes further on, there was a set of double doors on the right-hand side of the passage, which were opened to allow us ingress. Once inside, we had to join a line of people, who were being introduced to their Royal Highnesses. I was shocked to see the red hair of a member of our own royal family in the reception party.

After the formal introductions had been made — Luuk and Gert both being described by Dad as members of his production team — we mingled with the guests who were in the room. Actually, we all found a quiet corner not far from the buffet bar, which Joseph, Luuk and I raided and where we could be out of the main social activity that was taking place. We were really not dressed for this type of event. I know both Gert and Luuk felt well out of it.

Unfortunately, though we wanted to stay out of the social activity, the social activity came to us. Once the formal introductions had all been finished the Crown Prince came over to speak with Dad.

"It seems, Mr. Carlton, that you are occupying De heer Wilhelm's box."

"Yes, he was kind enough to give my family and me tickets for tonight's event, though we did not know the nature of the gala."

"Probably a good job as I am sure you are a lot more comfortably dressed than most of those here tonight. It seems De heer Wilhelm feels obliged to donate to these events but somewhat fearful of being in a position where he might meet members of my family. I do not know if you are aware, but there has been some animosity between him and my family in the past."

"I have been so informed," Dad commented.

"Well, De heer Wilhelm need not fear any longer that we seek to have him beheaded," the prince stated with a note of laughter in his voice. "My princely colleague," with this he indicated the member of our own royal family, "has persuaded me that such treatment is not advisable for the members of the gutter press. It appears that roasting over a slow barbeque is much preferred."

Even Dad had to laugh at that. "So, Mr. Carlton, how come you are in the Netherlands and in De heer Wilhelm's box?"

Dad told him about the film he was making and talked to the prince about climate change. It appeared he had read Dad's book on the topic and was very interested in what he had said. Dad and the prince talked for about five minutes before the prince had to move on to talk to others.

He was followed by a TV reporter with a cameraman and lights who wanted an interview and an introduction to all the members of our party. Dad introduced Gert and Luuk as members of his production team. After that, she asked what Dad thought about Water Aid, the charity that the gala was in aid of.

"Water is going to become a major issue in the years to come as a result of climate change," Dad stated. "It is not just in the Third World that it is going to be a problem; it is going to be everywhere. Even here in the Netherlands you are going to have problems with water. Unless these issues are tackled now, it will be too late."

"What do you mean it will be a problem here in the Netherlands?" the interviewer asked.

"The Netherlands is in the estuary plain for one of the great rivers of the world. It delivers water from a wide catchment area to the Netherlands, and you make good use of it, not only for industry and agriculture but also for transportation. However, that is dependent on a fairly stable weather pattern over the European catchment area that the rivers drain.

"At the moment, a high proportion of the precipitation over the catchment area takes place in the form of winter snow, which is captured and held in the mountains. In spring and early summer it melts and flows down through the catchment system arriving in the Netherlands for use by your industry and your farmers. However, we are looking at warmer, wetter winters. That will mean the precipitation will not fall as snow but as rain which will quickly run off. Higher rainfall combined with faster runoff will increase the risk of flash flooding throughout the catchment area. The result is an increased risk of flooding in the Netherlands. Flooding, though, is one thing that I believe the Dutch are capable of dealing with."

This brought a chuckle from the interviewer and those standing around listening.

Dad continued. "It is not the flooding that will be the big problem for you but the fact that there is less snow. This will mean that there will be a much-reduced spring and early-summer melt. As a result, the runoff into the river system will be reduced, and you will have lower water levels in late spring and through the summer. Given the increased risk of hot dry summers, you could find yourselves with water levels that are so low that operations like irrigation, which is essential to much of your agriculture, are no longer viable."

The interviewer looked shocked at that statement, as did some of those standing around. However, she made no comment about it, just thanked Dad and terminated the interview. As she left, Gert commented to me that Dad had made a telling political point. It was a bit of an issue with some groups who claimed that drought was not a threat to the Netherlands given the great rivers flowing through it; they would always supply it with water.

A bell was rung, which apparently indicated that we should return to our boxes. The young lady who had guided us from our box to the reception took responsibility for getting us back. It seems that there were a number of important people in the various boxes, and security was very tight. People were being escorted back one box at a time. The last to be moved, of course, being the party from the Royal Box.

The second half of the show was very similar to the first half except that I knew more of the acts as there was a more international cast. However, I was somewhat glad when it was over. Unfortunately, we were not able to leave until the royal party had moved from their box to the reception room, where they would be meeting members of the cast. Once we were out of the venue and past the reporters who were outside, Dad suggested we get a taxi back to the hotel. So, we had to say goodbye to Luuk, who it turned out was living not too far away. Before Luuk left, he told us that he had received a text from Florence saying that she had recorded the show and was burning it onto DVDs for him. He would collect them on the way home and drop them off with us in the morning. Apparently, the interview with Dad had been shown during the intermission.

Once we got to the hotel, we were able to complete our check-in and were assured that our bags were in our rooms. Dad and Gert said their goodbyes and left. They did, after all, have to get back to Beekbergen for an early film call in the morning.

Just after eight the following morning, the phone rang in our room. I answered and was told that there was a Luuk van Lottum in reception for me. I asked them to send him up. They only agreed to do so when I assured them he was a member of my father's staff. When he came up to the room, I saw why they had been hesitant. Luuk was a mess. He had a black eye, cuts on his face, and it looked as if he had been sleeping in the street all night, which it turned out to be true.

"What the fuck happened?" Joseph asked, pulling Luuk into the room and telling him to sit down.

"Wim was upset," Luuk muttered.

"Why?" I asked.

"He saw me being presented to the Crown Prince. He wanted to know how come I was at the gala and why did I not take him. I told him I was working, and then he got angry. He accused me of working as a whore." At that point, Luuk started to cry. "Then he said if I was working as a whore, he would use me as a whore, which he did; it hurt."

"Why did he think you had been working as a whore?" I asked.

"Because I tried to pay him the rent I owed. He took it, then he fucked me hard and threw me out. Said I was to stay out till I could pay all the rent to the end of the semester."

"You should have gone to a hotel," I told him.

"But he had taken all my money. He even took the expenses your father gave me to get Lee to Beekbergen. I don't know what to do."

I was starting to feel somewhat murderous at that point. It was fortunate for Wim that we had to check out within the next hour. If was fortunate for Luuk that Joseph took charge.

"Johnny, you've got some clean stuff in your bag," he said. I nodded at the correctness of the statement. "Well, get it out and let Luuk have it. He's about the same size as you, and he can't meet Lee looking like this."

I dug in my bag and found the clean stuff, which I pulled out. Joseph was emptying his backpack and pushing stuff into his case. He also passed me stuff to put into my backpack, mainly his camera and drawing pad. At the same time, he instructed Luuk to get into the bathroom and have a shower, he pointed out that there were plenty of clean clothes.

Luuk did as instructed and fifteen minutes later he was back in the room dressed in my jeans and sweatshirt. In the meantime, Joseph had brushed down his jacket and removed the mud that had been on it. Fortunately, it had dried during the night. Joseph passed Luuk his backpack and told him to shove his clothes in it.

"How many euros have you got?" Joseph asked me. I counted them and found I had just over two hundred.

"Give us a hundred and fifty." I handed them to Joseph, who added two one-hundred euros notes to what I handed him. "Luuk, there are three-hundred-and-fifty euros there. That will get you and Lee to Beekbergen; it will also give you something to live on for a few days. Just don't let Wim have any of it."

Luuk nodded. It looked to me as if he was about to cry, so I went and put my arm around him. Joseph took position on the other side of him and gave him a hug. We then had to sort out a notice for him to hold for when Lee arrived. That done, we went down to meet mother in the café for breakfast. She was shocked with Luuk's appearance. I explained what was happening.

"Luuk," she said, "you must not let it happen again. What you went through is domestic abuse. Get out of there."

"I can't," Luuk said. "I need somewhere to live in the city, and I can't afford to be in halls."

Mum sighed, then insisted that Luuk join us for breakfast.

One thing had been puzzling me; if Wim had taken Luuk's money how had he managed to get here this morning. I asked him.

"I had my OV-chipkaart," he said, pulling a card from his pocket to show us. "I have free student travel during the week, and Gert keeps it loaded so I can travel at weekends."

We finished breakfast, grabbed our bags and made our way to departures. Luuk came with us as far as the security point. Just before we got there, Luuk remembered something and pulled out some DVDs from his pocket.

"I picked these up from Florence this morning; they are the recordings of the TV broadcast of the gala."

Having said that, he handed one to each of us. He put the rest back in his jacket pocket, then said goodbye. Joseph made him promise to keep in touch by email and Skype. Then Luuk walked away. As he did, he looked a small figure with a pile of problems on his shoulders in addition to Joseph's backpack.

"That boy needs to get out of that situation," Mum commented. "However, we have a plane to catch, so move it."

Once in the departure lounge, I thought I'd better let Dad know what had happened. I knew he was filming and his phone would be off, so I sent him a text. I also sent one to Gert. Then I sent one to Lee, so he would not be surprised by the state Luuk was in when he met him.

Me sending the texts reminded Mum to switch her phone on. She had switched it off last night for the gala. Shortly after she had connected to the network, the phone pinged with a text from Lee giving details of where the car was parked. It suddenly occurred to me that we did not have a key for it, a point I put to Mum.

"I told him to drive the Wagon-R using the spare key. I have my main key on my key ring," she informed me, giving me a look which said: Did I think she was an idiot?

We were queuing up to board when I got a text from Lee. It just said that Luuk had met him and they were on the train to Apeldoorn. Then came another, saying he would like to run into Wim.

It was just gone eleven when we landed at London City. Uncle Bernard was waiting for us as we came through into the arrivals area. Apparently, Aunt Sarah had summoned him and Joseph for Sunday dinner. A fate that did not seem to displease Joseph.

"You should try her apple pie," he informed me.

I told Uncle Bernard that I needed to speak to him about the insurance money. He asked me to phone him in the evening or tomorrow.

We got home to the Priory a bit after one. I got changed into some work clothes, jumped on my moped and set off for the yard. The Lady Ann should have arrived whilst I was away.

Of course, I first had to call into see Steve before I went up to the Salvage Yard, just to check how things had gone. Also, he had my keys for the Salvage Yard.

"Hi, Johnny, how was Amsterdam?" he asked as I walked into the yard. By the looks of things, he was just checking the hull of a boat that was drawn up on the slipway.

"Survivable," I stated.

"Not that good, then," he laughed.

He finished whatever it was he was doing and started to walk towards the office.


"Of course." I responded. "Who's covering the shop?"

"Brad's in the chandlery, though it's been pretty quiet today. Suspect that everybody is packing up after the holidays and getting ready to go home. Colin is up at the Salvage Yard, hosing off the barge."

"Problems?" I asked as we climbed the steps up to the office.

"Yes, it seems she was more deeply embedded in the mud that we had assumed. As a result, they had to cut her free. Brought most of the mud down with her," Steve informed me as we entered the office. "Unfortunately, most of it is inside her. There was a whacking great hole in her side, hidden by the mud."

"What did Bob say?" I asked as I filled the kettle.

"Fix it!" Steve laughed. "That man will just throw money at it."

"How about The Lady Ann?"

"All in place. She is behind the second boatshed."

"Behind the boatshed? How come?"

"Well, the lads finished the clearing of the yard on Monday, but the salvage barge was not going to be here till Wednesday at the earliest, so I had them move the timber store. In the end, the salvage barge did not get here till Thursday. Bob had arranged for a mobile crane to be here from Wednesday in case we had to lift the barge, which, by the way, we did. The thing is, the way the salvage barge came in, The Lady Ann was to the front; she had to be moved before we could get the barge off. So, I just got the crane operator to lift her off and swing her over the boatshed. Then they found the crane did not have the reach to get to the barge, so the salvage barge had to go out and come in again. They could not do that till the tide turned, so while we were waiting, I got the lads to manhandle The Lady Ann's cradle into position."

I made the tea and stopped to chat with Steve for twenty minutes before I made my way up to the Salvage Yard to view my boat. She was just as I remembered her. In fact, she was better; she was mine.

I went into Shed One. The barge more than filled it; in fact, there was a good five foot of barge sticking out of the end. From inside, I could hear the noise of a high-pressure cleaner, and there was water running down the slipway. I called out, but whoever was operating the pressure washer could not hear me over the noise of it.

There was a ladder leaning against the side of the hull, so I climbed up onto its deck, then looked down into the hull. I saw what Steve meant; it was stoved in about a fathom short of the bow. There were clear mud lines up to about four feet from the decking in the bow and clods of mud stuck to the inside of the hull. Colin was busy attacking them with a pressure washer. Water was running away down the hull and out through an area where the planking was warped.

I managed to catch Colin's attention, and he switched off the washer.

"Back from Amsterdam?" he asked as he climbed up onto the deck.

"Was not staying there; was out east in Apeldoorn. How come you're working today?"

"Bob's bringing some people to look at her on Wednesday and said there would be a bonus for me if I could get it cleared before then. Been working on it since Friday. Finally got the bulk of the mud out this morning."

"How did you get it out?"

"Put a wheelbarrow under the hole and shovelled it out through the opening. Reckon I moved about hundred barrowloads of the stuff. It bloody stank."

It would; anaerobic decomposition, no doubt.

"Where'd you put it?"

"Steve told me to dump it by Slipway Two, where the water was starting to undercut."

I knew where he meant. Dumping it there would postpone a problem that I knew would have to be dealt with. That sorted, I climbed down off the boat and went to the back of the boatshed. There was a set of long-handled boat brushes there, so I grabbed one, then climbed back on to the barge and down into the hold. For the next couple of hours, I brushed the inside of the hull as Colin applied the pressure washer to it. By four, we had most of the inside clean. There was probably a couple of hours work left for Colin to do in the morning. Then he would have to start on the outside.

As we were locking up the yard, I could not resist going up to The Lady Ann and patting her on the bow.

"Your boat?" asked Colin. I nodded. "She's nice."

On the way back to the Hamden Yard, I chatted with Colin to find out how he was getting on. It seemed he was doing well. He had had two more sessions with the psychologist in Chelmsford and said it was helping. At least, it was putting things in perspective. The thing was, he lost half a day's work every time he had to go over.

What was surprising was that while I had been away, Colin had seemed to have developed an interest in boats. Not in sailing them — he admitted he had still not been out on the water — but in the way they were built. I told him he should register for college when the next term began so he could get some qualifications. He seemed interested.

Steve was just starting to lock up the Hamden Yard when we got there.

"How did it go today?" Steve asked Colin.

"With Johnny's help, I've got most of the inside of the hull clear of mud. There's about twelve feet of one side of the hull inside to do. Then it is the exterior."

"The exterior can wait, just as long as we've got the inside clear. Katherine will be here tomorrow, and she is going to want to have a good look at the inside. I'll get Bran to give you a hand in the morning. With a bit of luck, you should be finished by the time I've got her through all the signing-on paperwork and the health and safety protocols."

That reminded me. Katherine was supposed to be storing her stuff in one of our garages, but we had been away. I asked Steve how she had managed.

"No problem. Your father had given me the key to the garage last Saturday. Katherine drove up Wednesday with a hire van. I showed her the back way in, so she did not need the gate codes, and gave her the key. Also, gave her a hand unloading. She drove back to the island on Thursday and came back with the rest of her stuff in her car on Friday. Now, nicely settled in our annex, she spent most of yesterday and no doubt today property hunting."

"Going to be a bit of a job around here," I commented.

"She knows that," Steve replied. "Fortunately, there is no rush. Katherine can stay in the annex as long as she needs. We don't need it these days."

Colin went off to the washroom to clean up and change. I chatted with Steve about what I needed to get done with The Lady Ann. Bran joined us, and I thanked him for sorting out the move of the wood store.

"It's the lads you need to thank; they did all the work," he informed me.

"When are you seeing them next?" I asked.

"Well, except for Lenny, they'll all be working at the wholesale market, so not much chance to see them till the weekend."

"Right, I'll sort some cash out during the week, and you can give them a bonus from me."

"That would be nice of you," Bran stated.

"Is Lenny looking for work?" Steve asked.

"Maybe he is and maybe he isn't," Bran replied. "With Lenny, you never know; he tends to pick up plenty of freelance work as he's a good workman. Why?"

"Well, we will need to put up a scaffolding for a work shelter over The Lady Ann," Steve said.

"Now, that would be good for him; he's got his scaffolding certificates."

"Tell him…when are you in next, Johnny?" Steve asked.

"Tell him to call in and see us about four on Wednesday if he is interested

," I told Bran.

"That I'll do," Bran replied.

Colin came out of the washroom. I am not sure if he was that much cleaner. I do not think he had showered, just washed his hands and the mud splatter off his face; there was still some in his hair. He had, though, changed out of the mud-covered overalls he had been wearing. Once he had confirmed with Steve that he was not needed for anything else and he was wanted for the morning, he grabbed his bike. I got my helmet from the office and got on my moped.

"Fancy a tow across the marsh?" I asked Colin.

"Sure do," he replied and grabbed hold of my top box. I started my engine and pulled way onto High Marsh Lane, then off onto one of the footpaths through the marsh. Colin held onto my top box, being pulled along on his bike.

Once across the marsh I had to stop towing Colin. It would be illegal on the public roads. He would have to do the slog up the hill to the Priory under his own steam.

Mum was on the phone when I entered the kitchen. I went to put the kettle on. It was clear from what Mum was saying on the phone she was speaking to Dad. For a start, I heard here say I had just come in. I had just poured a couple of mugs of coffee and was taking one over to Mum when she held the phone out to me.

"Your father wants a word."

I took the phone. "Hello, Dad."

"Hello, son, how was your boat?"

I spent a few minutes telling him how things were at the yards and about cleaning the mud from inside of the barge. Then I asked him how Luuk was?

"We are waiting to find out," Dad informed me. "Seems that boyfriend of his was a bit rougher than Luuk let on. Gert's taken him to the hospital to get him checked out."

"He really shouldn't go back to Wim's," I stated.

"No he can't, Gert's insistent on that. I've told Luuk he can stay here till we move to the next location, which is going to be the end of the week at the earliest. We are well behind schedule. Don't know if we will be able to catch up. Gert was going through the shoot schedule this morning with De heer Wilhelm trying to work out if there was anything in it that could be green-screened.

"Just thought I better let you know that we are going to be filming an interview with Henk on Wednesday evening. Gert's not on the shoot Wednesday — something about Dutch employment regulations — so he's going over to Rotterdam to pick up his kit, and we will film the interview that evening.

"The thing is, like I told Anne, it looks like I will be out here a bit longer than expected. I've sent Irene an email so she can sort out the contractual stuff; there should be no problem. However, I thought if I am out here, I might as well make a start interviewing anyone else that Luuk can find while we're here. That does mean I probably need to get some finances in place. Were you serious about what you said?"

"Of course, I was," I replied. "Look, I'll phone Uncle Bernard when I get off and see what I can sort out."

We chatted a bit more, then I handed the phone back to Mum. That done, I went up to my room and phoned Uncle Bernard. When I explained what I wanted to do, Uncle Bernard asked me if I was sure. I told him I was. That settled, he said he would phone Dad and sort something out.

About half an hour later he phoned me back.

"I'm sorry, Johnny, I have spoken to your father and I can't let you put in three-to five-hundred thousand. The risks are just too great."

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