Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 33

Saturday morning, I got to the yard just after eight-thirty. It was, of course, already open and busy. It was a Saturday in season. It would not have surprised me if Steve had not been there at seven to catch the early trade. When I challenged him about it as I made some tea, he admitted he had got in a bit earlier than normal.

"How early?" I asked.

"Ten to eight," he admitted. "Any news on the Peters Yard?"

"Hopefully, it's a case of no news is good news. Completion is supposed to be on the twenty-ninth, and I've heard nothing to contradict that. Why?"

"Alan and Mark, the two lads I've hired from the Lees' yard are starting a week on Tuesday. The Lees' yard is moving next week. It seems the administrators are happy for them to terminate the lease early."

"They've probably got a buyer for the place," I commented. "Oh, shit!"

"What is it?" Steve asked, then he came over and looked out of the same window I was looking out of, the one at the back of the office area. It looked over High Marsh Lane and beyond to the marsh and the causeway. There must have been at least nine inches of water on the causeway, but Tipper was attempting it. His buggy ploughing through the water sending cascading plumes up on each side of the car, like the wings of a butterfly.

"A fiver he doesn't make it?" Steve said.

"You're on."

We stood watching the car plough its way onwards across the causeway. It was just at the end, its front wheels clear of the water, when it finally gave up. I pulled out my wallet and gave Steve a fiver. Steve then went and got his Land Rover, drove to the junction of High Marsh Lane and the causeway, parking facing the causeway. Ten minutes later, with the aid of the winch, the buggy was clear of the causeway. Steve then towed it into the yard.

I complained to Tipper that he had cost me a fiver.

"It's cost me twenty," he replied.

"How come?"

"Bran told me I wouldn't be able to cross the causeway, but I said it would not be a problem, so he bet me twenty that I wouldn't make it."

"Why did you think you could?" Steve asked.

"Because the jalopy is rear-engined," Tipper stated.

"Why should that make a difference," I asked.

"Well, the normal problem going through water is that the car's forward speed causes a build-up of water in front of it. That gets into the engine compartment and floods the electronics. With the jalopy, the engine is at the back. It is shielded by the car from the water building up at the front. I've gone through water a foot deep in the past."

"Yes, but not over nearly a mile and a half of causeway," Steve pointed out.

"You've got a point there."

The roar of a motorcycle announced Bran's arrival. He came in smiling.

"You owe me a score," he said to Tipper.

"I know. I'll give it to you when I get paid," Tipper replied.

"I've got a better idea. Steve, how about holding twenty back from Tipper's money and giving it me."

"I'm not getting involved," Steve stated. "You two can sort it out between you."

"What've we got on today?" Bran asked.

"Well, I want you and Tom to finish off the work on the Richards' boat, but Tom won't be in till gone half-nine; he's got to drop his wife off at work first. Johnny, Phil Dawley is bringing his yacht in at ten; he wants a new suit of sails. You know how to measure up and everything, so could you deal with him when he comes in?"

I confirmed I would, though was a bit surprised that Steve was trusting me with this job and somewhat pleased he had the confidence in me to allow me to do it.

"Tipper, you'll have to hang around here till Larry arrives."

"I passed him on the way in," Bran stated. "He's probably just at the chain ferry about now."

"He told me to be here for nine," Tipper commented.

"Yes, but Pockington Road is closed, and he has to come in from out that way," Bran replied. "Expect he would be here by now if it weren't closed."

Bran was probably right that he was at the chain ferry. About five minutes later, Larry's flatbed truck pulled into the parking space at the rear of the yard.

"Sorry, I'm late. There's a gas leak next to Pockington Road, and they closed the road. Had to go out to the bypass."

"That's fine," Steve told him. "What's with the truck?"

"Didn't know how much scaffolding you'd got, so thought I'd bring the truck in case we needed to get some more."

I did not get to hear how that discussion went because the bell went for the chandlery and I had to go downstairs to serve. For the next hour I was busy dealing with customers, then Mr. Dawley arrived, and I had to phone up to the office to get Steve to come down and take over so I could do the measuring up.

Mr. Dawley's yacht was a cutter, probably from the late sixties, which had an ancillary motor for manoeuvring in the harbour. He had brought it into the creek using the motor. Probably just as well when I looked at the sails. They looked as old as the boat and were worn out. I do not think either of them could have taken a good blow. In fact, they looked as if they had been mouldering in the sail locker for a good many years.

That was a fact Mr. Dawley confirmed. He had only just inherited the boat from his uncle. As far as Mr. Dawley knew, it had not been sailed for at least ten years, probably for a lot longer. His uncle, no longer being physically capable of manning the sails, had just chugged out under motor power to a point where he could sit and fish for the day. Mr. Dawley said he did not want the same thing to happen to him. He wanted to sail the yacht and to be able to keep sailing her.

I mentioned the costs of keeping a boat like this.

"I'm lucky. I inherited my uncle's house along the coast a bit, plus the yacht. It's got its own mooring, so no mooring fees to pay."

That was lucky, mooring fees can be a major part of the costs of keeping a boat in the water.

We discussed his requirements for a bit, but I soon realised that he was looking for more than just a new suit of sails. He wanted to re-rig the boat, replacing the manually hauled sheets with winch-hauled, preferably electric winches. That was a bit beyond me, so I had to get Steve out to deal with it. Fortunately, the chandlery was quiet, so I could listen in on the discussion and learn.

An hour later, a very happy Mr. Dawley chugged away from the yard's moorings. Steve had assured him that we could update the rigging so that it was winch-hauled rather than manual hauled. However, he had pointed out that the change in the rigging would result in a different set of strains on the construction of the boat. It, therefore, needed a complete survey and probably some strengthening of the points where the winches would be attached. I had, though, been able to sell Mr. Dawley a new suit of sails, this time in Dacron, which would be about half the weight of his old sails.

"You know, Johnny, he would be better off selling that boat and getting something easier to sail," Steve commented as he watched the yacht make its way along the creek.

"He won't, though," I replied. "He was telling me about his uncle taking him out sailing in it when he was younger."

"That's the whole point: when he was younger. That's a young man's yacht. What is he? I would say at least sixty, if not seventy."

"His uncle was ninety-eight when he died," I told Steve.

Steve looked at his watch. "Why don't you get on that moped of yours and do a pie trip up to the Pig and Whistle? I'll call Larry and tell them to come down for lunch."

Larry, Tipper, Bran and Tom were with Steve in the tearoom when I got back with the pies and chips. I gave Steve the change and laid out the boxes of food on the table. All except Tom took a place at the table. Tom took a box and went off to the boatshed. He preferred to eat alone. Over lunch, Larry informed Steve that he had got the basic frame up over The Lady Ann but needed to finish getting some of the safety features in place.

"Like what?" Steve asked.

"Well, you're covering the structure, so it needs to be braced. With normal scaffolding, if there is a high wind, it just blows through the structure. If you cover it, then the wind can't blow through, so that puts more strain on the structure, which means it needs to be crossed-braced at the minimum."

"Have we got enough scaffolding?" Steve asked Larry.

"For The Lady Ann, yes, but you are going to need a lot more for The Princess of Alba."

"How much more?"

Larry pulled out a notebook from his pocket and tore out a sheet, which he handed to Steve. "That's what you need, minimum; you could probably do with a bit more."

"Can you get it?" Steve asked.

"Yes, but it will cost."

"How much?"

"That depends on when you want it and if you need a receipt," Larry stated.

"Today, and I will need a receipt."

"You're looking at the top end of three hundred."

"And if I don't need a receipt?"

"One fifty, cash," Larry replied.

Steve nodded. Then he handed Larry three fifties.

Larry counted the money. "I'll take Tipper with me to help load. Should be a couple of hours."

"We close at four," Steve pointed out.

I looked at the clock; it wasn't quite one.

Steve looked at Bran and asked how things were going on the Richards' boat.

"Nearly finished. Just need to put the engine cover back in place and wipe her down and she'll be all ready to put back in the water. We ran the engine, and it was purring like a cat."

"So, it will be in the water this afternoon?"

"Can be if you want it to be, but it needs a new set of fenders," Bran stated.

"How many?" I asked.

"Three each side."

"We've got those," I stated.

"I'll pick them up before I go back to the shed," Bran said.

"You're going to have to make some more," Steve observed.

I just nodded. Making rope fenders was not my favourite occupation, but it was something I often found myself doing. It was one of those jobs that had to be done. It was also a job you could do while waiting for customers in the chandlery. Steve could make a rope fender in about fifteen minutes; I had a job doing one in half an hour. Sometimes, one could take me an hour.

I was about halfway through the first fender when a voice said, "Wat yu doing?"

I looked up and saw Colin standing in the doorway.

"Making a rope fender. What are you doing here?"

"Got bored. There was no one around, so I came out for a ride; ended up here. Steve said you were in the chandlery."

He came in and took a seat across from me. As he seemed interested in what I was doing, I explained the process to him. I had to break off a couple of times to serve customers, but by time I had finished the one I was working on, he seemed to have an idea of what had to be done, so I let him have a go at making one alongside me. He picked the skill up easily and followed how I was doing things, even with his eyesight problems. By three, we had two more fenders made. By four, there were a total of six fenders made. Colin had made two more whilst I had made one. My excuse is that I did have to serve customers.

I gave Colin a tow over the marsh and then told him I would see him later, leaving him to pedal home whilst I powered home on my forty-nine-cc moped. When I got home, I found Mum putting her coat on to go out.

"Good. You're home. There's a fish pie in the fridge, just pop it in the oven and sort yourself some veg. I'm going down to help Mary; she's in a bit of a mess."

"Staff not turned up again?" I asked.

"No, mix-up over dates. Two coaches have come in, and she was not expecting them till tomorrow. Your dad called; he's got a late shoot tonight, so he will not be calling later but will be flying back tomorrow.

With that, she started to leave, then turned and called back. "Remember to make sure that Colin gets fed."

I assured her I would. Then I went up to my room, showered and changed before returning to the kitchen to pop the fish pie into the oven and set the timer. I called Colin and told him to come over in half an hour for dinner. Then I phoned Joseph, who was not in a good mood. He had wanted to meet up today, but Uncle Bernard had said they had to go down to the Kent house and see his mother. When they got there, she had announced that she was going out that afternoon to do a book-signing. Joseph said her book-signings were planned months ahead, so she must have known about it. On that, I had to agree; I knew Dad's signings were planned months ahead. Even then, he was trying to get out of them.

While I was speaking with Joseph, the back doorbell rang. I went and opened it. As expected, it was Colin, so I told him to grab a seat.

"Who was that?" Joseph asked.

"Colin. Arthur and Trevor are in Town this weekend, and they made me promise to make sure Colin got one meal a day. Apparently otherwise, he will just graze on crisps."

"What's wrong with that?" Joseph asked.

"You've seen Colin!"

"Yes, you've got a point."

It was not that Colin was overweight; he was just pudgy.

Joseph said he was coming over next weekend. I asked if that was wise with the run-up to his GSCEs.

"Dad's going over on Saturday to see your dad, so I can come back then. It'll give me Sunday for revision. Frankly, Johnny, I will need a break by then. Thought I'd come direct from school on Friday."

"Right. By the way, I think Gert might be here, from what Dad was saying."

"I know; that's why Dad's coming over. It's about setting up a legal structure for whatever your father and Gert are working on."

"It's the documentary about Henk and his friends," I told him. That said, I also pointed out that I was due to be working in the yard next weekend. Joseph said he would come down to the yard with me. If nothing else, he could help in the chandlery.

The timer pinged, meaning the pie would be ready in five minutes, so I finished the call, then started to sort out the vegetables to go with the meal.

"Your boyfriend?" Colin asked.

"Yes, he's a bit pissed off as we were supposed to meet up today, but it had to be cancelled; then he found out the reason for the cancellation was invalid."

"What's invalid mean?"

I spent the rest of the time whilst I did the vegetables explaining word meanings to Colin. The thing was, in explaining one word, I would use another word, which he also wanted explained.

He also wanted an explanation of what I was doing with the vegetables. It quickly became apparent he had no idea whatsoever about cooking. That probably explained his diet of crisps.

After dinner, Colin helped me clean up. I explained to Colin that I had to do some revision. He looked a bit down at that information, so I told him he was welcome to stay over in the house for a bit if he wanted to. He could watch television or find a book to read. He told me that he would like to read a book but did not think we would have any with big enough text for him. I remembered that Dad had a Fresnel lens that he used for small print in scientific papers. I went and found it, then took Colin through to the library. He asked me to find a book for him. I found one that I had enjoyed.

With Colin settled in the library, I got my textbooks and settled down to a bit of maths revision. I did not want to work my way through maths problems. What I needed to do was get the terminology correct in my head, especially where it came to matrix manipulations. I had been working my way through the textbook, noting down terms on my notepad, for about half an hour when Colin asked me if I could help him with a word. I went over to him and knelt by his chair so he could point out the word he was having problems with. It was 'incumbent'.

This happened a few more times. I quickly realised that although Colin could read, his reading vocabulary was fairly limited. I guessed it was that of a ten- or eleven-year-old. I was explaining the meaning of another word to Colin when I became aware of Mum standing in the doorway.

"Would you two like a hot drink?" she asked.

"Yes, I would," I replied. "What time is it?"

"It's just gone half-nine," Mum replied.

At this information, Colin started to panic, saying he had to be at work in the morning, a fact I knew. I pointed out to him that it was Sunday and the yard did not open till ten, so there was no point in getting there till half-nine at the earliest. I know I sometimes went in earlier, but I had a set of keys; Colin did not.

Once he had calmed down, he said he would like a hot drink. He went for a hot chocolate. I decided to have the same. I told Colin to put a bookmark in the book he was reading so he could continue with it when he was over next. Then I told him to go through to the kitchen, that I would be there shortly. I had to put Dad's lens away. While I was doing that, I used the study's computer to go on Amazon and order a Fresnel reading lens for Colin. It would be here the next day.

We sat around the table in the kitchen. Mum regaled us with a brief telling of events at the Crooked Man. Whoever had booked the coach parties had definitely given the date as the twenty-seventh. Mum said she had seen the printout; it clearly said Saturday the twenty-seventh. Mary had entered the date and the details in her booking program on the computer but failed to notice that the twenty-seventh was a Sunday.

Fortunately, she had got the supplies for the meal in from the wholesalers this morning, as they are not open on Sunday, otherwise there would have been a right mess. As it was, Mary was still in a mess as she did not have the kitchen staff in to cover a party of that size. That was why Mum had gone down, not to help in the kitchen but to cover the bar in Mary's place while she dealt with the kitchen.

That recited, Colin started to tell her about me teaching him how to make a rope fender. He seemed to think it was something very important. Why? I don't know. It was something that he would have learnt eventually if he kept on working in the yard.

Once we had finished our drinks, Colin thanked Mum for the meal, even though I had cooked it as he had seen. He then thanked me for helping with his reading. Then he left to go back to the apartment.

"You know, Johnny, you make a good teacher," Mum said.


"You make a good teacher. I was watching you for about five minutes before you noticed that I was there. The way you were explaining a word to Colin; you told him what it meant, but you got him to think of other words that could be used in its place. You got him interested. From the sound of it, you did the same when you taught him how to make the rope fender."

"That was easy," I informed her. "All he had to do was copy what I was doing."

"Yes, but you had to do it in a way that allowed him to copy it. I think you are probably the first person to take the time to explain things to Colin. That's why he worships you."


"As far as Colin is concerned, I don't think you can do anything wrong. He would do anything for you."

"But I—"

"I know, you've not done anything, other than be Johnny. That's why your dad and I love you."

By eleven on Sunday morning, I was about ready to give up on revision. Not that I had all that much to revise. Most people in my group at college were doing four subjects at AS, they would drop one going on to A-level. I was only doing two subjects at A-level and had no intention of dropping either.

Given how I was feeling, I was almost relieved when Steve phoned and asked me if I could go in. I think I broke the speed record getting to the yard.

"What's the problem?" I asked of Steve. He took me down into the yard to an upturned dinghy. There were a couple of women who were standing by the boat with two young boys, about nine and ten.

"Some idiot clipped their trailer when they were on their way down. Stoved in some planking. Any chance you could work on it this afternoon. The boys are due to race her this evening."

"What time?"

"Six," one of the women answered.

I looked at the area of damage. Fortunately, it was above the water line. The easiest repair would be to cut the damaged planking between the ribs and patch in some new planking.

"I'll need some help," I commented. "It won't be a permanent repair and won't look pretty, but I think I can fix it up to race."

"I'll call Colin down; he can help you," Steve stated.

Steve then informed the women that we would try to do a temporary patch so the boys could race the dinghy this evening, but it was strictly temporary. The dinghy would need to come back into the yard for us to do a proper repair. After a bit of discussion, Steve arranged to pick up the boat and trailer from them after the races this evening. He would keep it at his place overnight and bring it back to the yard in the morning.

After the women left, I asked Steve if Bran would not be better at doing the job.

"He would be if he was here, Johnny, but he's not. He's got today off. I'll probably put him on the full repair when he comes in tomorrow. I am sure you're capable of doing the quick fix. It's the type of thing you've done with me a few times before.

I nodded in agreement. I had done this before but not on a customer's boat. However, I did not really have any choice. With Steve's help I got the dinghy up onto a couple of saw-horses so I could work on it. We had just got it into position when Colin arrived. He had been working up in the Salvage Yard. From the mud on his overalls, I guessed he was power-washing the outside of The Princess of Alba.

I was rather surprised that the boys were racing a wooden dinghy. I though all junior racing classes these days were for fibreglass or composite hulls. I asked Steve about this.

"You're right. However, there is a regatta on this weekend for vintage boats. I think this is probably one from the 1940s. One of women said it was her grandfather's boat when he was a boy."

The temporary repair was not that hard to do. First of all, I cut out the damaged area, which left a four-inch-square hole in the side of the boat. Fortunately, in normal conditions this would be above the waterline. I then got a couple of pieces of wood plank and shaved them down and bent them till they fit in the hole. That done, I butt-jointed them in place with the original planking of the boat. At least that filled the hole. It had, of course, no strength and was not watertight. The next step, which is where I really needed Colin's help, was to take a piece of wood that was slightly wider and longer than the repaired area. First, I had to steam and bend it, to fit to the curve of the inside of the hull where the repair was. Then I coated it with a waterproof epoxy and placed it over the inside of the repair, screwing it into the ends of the planking on either side of the repair. Whilst the epoxy was curing, we stained, then varnished the wood of the repair to match as close as possible the colour of the wood of the dinghy. It took us nearly three hours to get the job done.

Tomorrow, Bran would completely remove our work. He would take out the full length of the damaged planking and replace it with new planking. Of course, he would have to get the right wood for the job, and if that was not available in stock, it could take some days to source. He would also do a much better job of finishing and matching than we were able to do.

Steve looked at our repair and checked it over. He made a couple of comments about what I could have done better, but on the whole, he was pleased and said I had done a good job. He also complimented Colin on the work he had done. He then set about locking up the yard for the night, instructing Colin and me to get the dinghy back on its trailer and haul it up to the parking area. Once he had checked the yard and was sure it was all secure, I helped him hitch the trailer to the Land Rover. Steve was going to deliver it to the women in time for the race. I once more gave Colin a tow across the marsh.

When we got to the Priory, I noticed that the Merc was missing from the yard, then remembered that Mum was going to pick up Dad and Lee from the airport. When I got into the kitchen, there was a note from Mum telling me that dinner was prepared; all I needed to do was put the parts of it in the correct oven at the correct time. I set a series of alarms on my phone so I would not miss one of the times. She had also told me to check if Arthur and Trevor were back, and if not, to tell Colin to come over for dinner at seven. I phoned Arthur to check and was told that he was coming back early in the morning. Trevor still had a couple more days of voice-over work to do, so would be staying in Town.

There was also a package for me from Amazon. I opened it and found the Fresnel lens I had ordered for Colin.

I went up to my room to change and shower, then phoned Joseph. He had not much to report, having spent the day revising. That is what comes when you do more than the normal load of GCSEs; you end up spending most of your time revising in the run up to the exams. I know; I had done it myself. He did, though, say that he Skyped with Luuk this afternoon. Joseph said he tried calling me to get me in on the Skype, but my mobile went straight to voicemail. Not surprising as I was at the yard. On the creek side of High Marsh, there is no service.

At five-thirty, my phone pinged, advising me that it was time to put the first part of dinner in the oven, so I ended my call to Joseph and went down to the kitchen. I was putting the tray of potatoes and root vegetables in at six to roast, when Mum and Dad walked in through the door.

"Good, you're on schedule," mother said, seeing what I was doing. "I'll be down soon to take over; just need to get changed."

"Don't bother," I told her. "I think I can manage dinner from here."

Mum laughed but smiled. I am sure she could use some extra time with Dad alone.

Lee joined us for dinner, as did Colin. Over it, Dad and Lee informed us what had gone on during the last week. It seemed that Gert's rearrangement of the shooting schedule meant they had ended up getting more done than had seemed likely. Dad now only had three more location shots to do and probably two days of green-screen work. They were hoping to get it all finished when he went over at my half-term. The plan was for him to do two of the locations on the Sunday and the third on the Monday. They then had studio space booked for the Wednesday and Thursday. Dad was looking at using the Tuesday, Friday and Saturday for filming stuff for the new documentary.

"We have a working title for it," Lee informed us.

"What?" I asked.

"The Unheard," Dad said.

"Where did that come from?" Mum asked.

"It is from a piece of writing from a survivor of Auschwitz. He wrote, 'Forget not that there were others besides the Jews. There were Romani, Jehovah Witnesses, queers, Communists, socialists and others. The Holocaust is also their story; they were part of it. They are the unheard.'," Lee stated.

"Unfortunately, the writer died in 1997. I would have liked to have interviewed him," Dad said.

Colin asked what the documentary was about. Lee took some time to explain it, probably a lot better than I could.

After dinner, Colin asked me if he could read some more of the book. I took him to the library and gave him the Fresnel lens I had got for him. I told him he could keep this lens and take it with him. He got down to reading the book; I got back into my revision.

Shortly after nine, Mum came to say she was making drinks. Both Colin and I opted for hot chocolate, then went through to the kitchen. Dad joined us a few minutes later. Once Colin had finished his drink, he went to go. However, I told him to get the book he was reading and the lens from the library. I pointed out that Arthur would be back tomorrow, so things would be back to normal. He might as well take the book over with him so he would have something to read. Colin looked a bit disappointed.

After Colin had gone, Dad wanted to speak with Mum and me about the offer for the TV rights on his romantic writing. He was worried that the fact that he wrote as Dorothy Richards might impact on his work as a technical writer if it came out.

"Shouldn't worry about it," Mum said. "Get Bernard to deal with everything. There is no reason why they should know it is you if it is handled through an agent."

"But Bernard doesn't know that I'm Dorothy Richards," Dad stated.

"Then you'd better tell him," Mum replied.

Dad said he would talk to Uncle Bernard on Monday.

Monday, I was back at college. Mr. Taunton had the results of our mock exam and an individual revision list for each of us. He then went over some general revision points with the whole class. On the whole, though, he stated he saw no reason why all of us should not get a decent grade at AS-level. One thing I did find out in class was what AS stood for. I knew A-level stood for Advanced level. That was from the days before GCSE when you had General Certificate of Education Ordinary level and Advanced level. Now Ordinary level had become part of the General Certificate of Secondary Education, GCSE, but A-levels remained on their own. The S apparently stood for Subsidiary, it was Advanced Subsidiary level. Although it was usually taken on the route to A-level, it also existed as a qualification in its own right, with its own UCAS points.

All somewhat technical but useful to know. At least, I thought it was.

After college on Monday, I had my first driving lesson. Mum had taken me into college, but I had arranged with the driving school that they would give me a lesson that would end with me being dropped at the Priory. That way I did not have to rely on a lift back.

The driving lesson went without accident. I cannot say without mishap as I managed to stall the car a number of times. Well, balancing the clutch against the brake is not easy, especially when you are on a hill, and my instructor seemed only to find hills for me to park on. The main problem I had, though, was how wide the car was. I am sure it was not that wide when I looked at it before I got in.

Tuesday, I had a class-free day from college due to the start of exams. I spent the morning revising but in the afternoon went over to the yard. I needed something to break up the day. Bran and Colin were working on the dinghy when I got there. Bran told me that they had been lucky; there had been a length of wood in the wood store at the Salvage Yard that had been right for the job. All he had needed to do was plane it down a bit.

I left Bran and Colin to it and went up to the office. Steve was there at the table, poring over some plans.

"What are you doing here?" he asked as I entered.

"Needed a break from revising," I replied.

"Glad I never had to do much of that," Steve commented. I looked at him puzzled. "Left school at sixteen and never did much by way of exams. Got the minimum GCEs and never really worked hard on those."

"How about since?" I asked, knowing that Steve had a number of qualifications.

"Mostly learnt on the job; did not have time to revise. Saw what Peter had to do for his degree; too much like hard work for me.

"I'm glad you're here. Bernard LeBrun has just phoned. He's at your place on Saturday and wants to see me. Any idea what it is all about?"

"No, first I heard of it. I know he's coming over on Saturday but thought that was to see Dad and Gert about the film they're making."

"Who's Gert?" Steve asked. That involved me explaining to him about events in the Netherlands.

"Anything I can do here?" I asked.

"You might go up to the Salvage Yard," Steve replied. "Katherine is up there doing some measuring up. I'm sure she could do with a hand."

So that is what I did. I found Katherine struggling with a tape measure and a pad, trying to measure the clearance between The Princess of Alba's hull and the scaffolding that Larry had put up around part of it. She welcomed another pair of hands. In the hour and a half it took to complete the job, she told me why we were doing each measurement. She not only told me what it was for by why it was needed. This often involved a detailed explanation of some aspect of the construction of the boat. I quickly realised that when it came to wooden hulls, Katherine was as knowledgeable, if not more expert on the subject, than Steve.

One thing I did notice was both the inside and the outside of the hull were clean. That was a fact I commented on.

"Yes, young Colin did a good job there. The boy may be a bit slow on the uptake at times, but once you show him how to do something, he does it well," Katherine commented. "Given a couple of years, he'll be a good yard hand."

For some reason, I found myself wishing he could be a bit more than a yard hand. Why could he not be a boatbuilder in his own right?

When we got back to the main yard later in the afternoon, Steve asked Katherine if she would feel happy to cover the yard on Saturday afternoon, which would include the lockup.

"If you can walk me through it a couple of times before, then no problem," she told him. Steve said he would. He also told her he would let her have a set of yard keys. That would mean she could both close and open up, if required. I offered to let her have my set. After all, I was only a part-time, work-experience casual at the yard while Katherine was full-time permanent staff.

"I think you'd better hang onto those," Steve said. "Your dad phoned, and by the look of things that he said, by this time Saturday, you'll be a major shareholder in the yard."

This caused Katherine to give both Steve and me a look. Steve had to explain to her that I owned the Salvage Yard through a trust I was the beneficiary of, that my Dad was purchasing the Peters Yard, and that the plan was, when the ownership of all three yards was confirmed, to combine the lot into one business.

Katherine acknowledged that Steve had told her something about this when he interviewed her. She also admitted that at the time she had not taken much note of it, being more concerned with finding a job that would take her away from the island.

The rest of the week was a bit uneventful. I had another driving lesson on Thursday. It was surprising how much the car had shrunk in width since Monday. On Friday, Joseph was waiting for me when I got out of class. This time I was expecting him. I kissed him there in the car park, which resulted in a couple of guys making comments about bloody poofters. However, they did not give any trouble. I think the look that Joseph gave them scared them off.

I had arranged with Simone to give us a lift back to the Priory. She was coming over anyway to train with Lee. Both Joseph and I would be joining them in the dojo. Of course, Simone had to call in at the Hall to grab her kit before she took us home.

I was a bit annoyed when I got home to find a note from Dad saying I needed to be at a meeting with Bernard at one tomorrow. I was blustering about having to be at the yard tomorrow when Mum informed me that Dad had spoken to Steve, and it had all been agreed. I wish they had included me in the conversation. I am seventeen, after all, not some kid who has no idea what he is doing.

I was surprised how many people there were in the dojo that evening. There were the usual ones, of course: Lee, Simone, Delcie plus the beginners Jim, Steven and some friend of theirs who had joined recently. Then there were the couple of brown belts. It seems they could only get over on a Friday; they had not been here on Monday or Wednesday, though I had only made Wednesday this week. In addition to those, there was Lee's cousin, the one who did Tae Kwon Do, and a couple more lads whom I did not know. Then there was Colin.

As a result of all these people taking part, the mat was becoming somewhat crowded, a fact I mentioned to Lee as we walked down to the pub after the session.

"Hopefully, it will not be for too much longer," he replied.

"How come?"

"Well, the planning committee was meeting this evening. If they give their consent to the change-of-use and outline plans, the purchase of the sidings can go ahead. All the other work has been done, so it should be possible to complete before the end of the week."

Interesting, I wish somebody had kept me informed. After all, it was money from my trusts which was funding the purchase. I made a comment to this effect to Lee.

"Well, all you have to do is ask," he replied.

I resolved to do a bit more asking.

When we got back to the house, Gert and Luuk were there. They looked pretty whacked. I found out they were. At least, Gert was; he had been down working in Maastricht and had not finished till four, then had to get across the Netherlands to Schiphol to get the last flight that day to the UK. Luuk just blamed it on not sleeping well on Florence's couch.

"How's that going?" Joseph asked.

"Fine. It's better than being with Wim. It's only seven weeks till the end of term, so I can manage till then," Luuk informed him. "I need to find something else for next year, though."

"Florence throwing you out?" I asked.

"No, she's spending a year studying in Turin, so giving up her flat in Amsterdam."

"What's she going to do when she comes back?" I asked. I had got the impression that Florence and Luuk were in the same year, so she would still have another year to go.

"I don't think she will come back," Luuk stated. "She is far more into interior design than architecture. It's only her architect dad who has pushed her into studying architecture. Her parents are divorced, and her mother has just re-married — to an Italian businessman."

The way he said businessman made it sound like the mafia, a point Joseph picked up on and commented about.

"It could well be," Luuk stated. "Seems he's very rich. He bought her mother a house on the Singel for when they are in Amsterdam. No doubt, Florence will stay there if she returns to finish her degree in Amsterdam."

"Not with her father then?" I asked.

"Oh, no; he lives in Venlo."

Saturday morning, Joseph and I went into the yard. However, there was not much we could do — or more correctly, I could do. Katherine was covering the yard; Steve had got her a set of keys. Both Bran and Tom were in, plus one of the other summer casuals that Steve used. Steve explained he had got them all in so that the yard was not left short-handed when we went to the meeting with Uncle Bernard.

I could, of course, have gone into the chandlery and made more rope fenders, but somehow that did not fill me with enthusiasm. Steve, however, suggested that we should sort out the padlock on the Nase blockhouse and check it out. So, some fifteen minutes later, after I had got the cord-free angle grinder and a spare padlock for which we had the key, we set off in the runabout to the Nase. Joseph had to remind me to grab a pair of long-handled pincers. Once again, we moored up at the stone quay. Steve asked if I thought Larry could clean up and repair it. I told him to speak to Larry. He said he would. That settled we set off over the Nase to the block house.

It was fortunate that Joseph had reminded me to bring the long-handled pincers. He had to use them to hold the lock whilst I cut through the hasp with the angle grinder. I think the lock probably got quite hot. After a bit I got through the hasp and the lock came off. Steve pulled the door open. I was surprised it opened outward until Joseph pointed out that it was intended to resist a blast outside.

Inside the door, it was fairly dark. Luckily, Steve had brought a couple of torches with him. There was a rectangular space about eight-feet deep and twelve-feet wide. On one side, high up, was a small slit window, which admitted little light. Then there was another door, similar to the outside door we had just opened but set off to the right. When I thought about it a bit, it made sense. If a blast blew the outside door in, it would not be in line with the next weak point. The room was filled with a jumble of objects. In one corner, there was a stack of gas cylinders.

The door from this room again opened outwards, confirming that it was intended as a blast door, a fact evidenced by its construction and the fact it was a couple of inches thick.

Beyond it was a corridor, probably some thirty feet in length. There were some doors off to the left side, then another door at the end. Steve opened the first door on the left. It looked like it was a primitive first-aid room. Steve confirmed that is what it was. In the outer wall of the room, there was a very narrow slit window a good ten feet off the floor, which let in a minimum of light. Below the window was a desk and chair. There was a blood-pressure gauge sitting on the desk next to a stethoscope, the rubber tubes of which were beyond repair. In the corner there was a sink with a pail below it but no taps. I mentioned this to Steve.

"There would be no running water in here. They would have to bring what they needed in casks or bottles," he informed me.

Along one side of the room was an examination couch, on the other side an array of cupboards. Joseph opened a couple. As far as I could see, they were filled with medicines and first-aid supplies. The next room was a bit larger. There were rows of shelving down each side and across the end, and a free-standing shelf unit stood down the centre of the room. It was packed with bottles, jars, tins, packets and all manner of containers. Steve warned us not to touch any.

"Christ, it's going to cost a bomb to clear this lot," he stated. "Some of this stuff's been illegal since the 1980s, if not before."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Those for a start." I looked where he was pointing. There was a row of blue- plastic barrels, each marked with a chemical. There seemed to be three of one and two of another.

"What are they?"

"Ammonium nitrate and sodium chlorate," Joseph stated.

"For the time being, I suggest you just forget that it's here," I suggested.

"I'm inclined to agree," Steve replied.

The next room was a storeroom again; this time, the shelves were filled with sheets of veneer.

"Bloody hell!" Steve explained.

"What?" Joseph asked. I was having the same response as Steve. There must have been thousands of sheets in here. The cheapest quality veneers cost around nine pounds a sheet, and some that I could see were not cheap. There were a couple which I knew were unobtainable on the market these days. It didn't take much to appreciate what they were worth.

Steve explained to Joseph how valuable the veneers were.

"You know, Johnny, George must have been using this place until a couple of years ago," Steve stated.

"What makes you think that?" I asked.

"Well, whenever we needed a special veneer, he always seemed able to turn one up. This must be where he was getting them from."

The shelves at the back of the room were not filled with veneer but blocks of wood. Steve speculated they had probably been intended for carving. I was not so sure; for a start, there were blocks of balsa wood there, which I doubt would be used for carving. The other shelving in the room was full of boxes. I checked a couple. They had assorted boat accessories in them. Joseph opened one and gasped. It was full of flares. I checked the date on them; they were not that old.

"I knew George was a bit of a hoarder," Steve stated, 'but never knew he had this lot stashed away."

The other rooms were filled with stuff which we just did not bother to look at, though I did notice some cans of paraffin and some hurricane lights.

Back in the corridor we came to the end door. Again, it was a blast door which opened outwards into the corridor. Steve swung the door open. Beyond it was a room that was the whole width of the building and about twelve feet deep. Steve suggested that this was probably the old operations room. Now, it was filled with shelves, themselves filled with various pieces of boating equipment.

Another door led to a room which appeared to be some sort of break room. There was a table with a couple of dining chairs set against it, then three armchairs. A row of cupboards ran across one end. On top of them was what looked like an old camping stove. At one end, there was a large cupboard rising the full height of the room. Steve suggested that it was a cubbyhole which was probably used to hold a commode when the place had been in use.

The wall across from us held two doors, both fitted with wooden bars. I notice they each had what appeared to be a small shutter in the middle of the top half of the door. I mentioned this.

"Probably intended to be used as cells. No doubt, there are spy holes under the shutters," Steve stated.

"Why would they have cells here?" Joseph asked.

"From what I heard, this was a coastal-patrol station during the war. They would use them to hold anybody they found where they weren't supposed to be until whoever was the proper authority came and collected them"

"Did they find many?" Joseph asked.

"From what I heard, they found quite a few Dutch who had made the crossing and washed up on the shore. Only about one in ten made it across. The thing was, in those days, most of them could not speak English, and Dutch sounds a lot like German. So, they were treated like Germans until somebody knew better."

"A bit different today," Joseph stated.

We checked the cells. Again, they were filled with shelves and more boating equipment.

I checked the time and pointed out to Steve that it was getting on a bit. He agreed that it was. We would have to get a move on if we were to be at the Priory for one. So, we re-barred and shut all the doors as we made our way out. Twenty minutes later we were back at the yard. Steve told us to put our bikes in the back of the Land Rover. As I had ridden in with Joseph, I had not used the moped today. Then we set off for home.

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