Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 36

Dad ran me to the station at Southminster so I could get the train into Town on Saturday morning. I will be glad when I have passed my driving test. Not sure what type of car I am going to get, though I am not getting a sports car. I know they are fun and that I could afford the insurance on one, but they are bloody impractical for moving stuff around, and in the next couple of years, I am going to have a lot of stuff to move around.

In some ways, a Land Rover like Steve's would be ideal for me. At least, it had four-wheel drive. However, no matter how you served it up, a Land Rover just was not cool. I needed to think about my options, which is why I had grabbed a couple of car magazines at the newsagents in the station. The journey into London would take an hour — plenty of time to browse through them.

For a Saturday morning, the train was pretty crowded. I did, though, get a window seat at a set of four seats near the middle of the coach. I had just taken my seat when a middle-aged man asked if the other seats were taken. I told him they were not. A couple of small boys clambered into the seats across the table from me. I think they were about seven or eight years of age. The man took the seat next to me. The boys were arguing over who should be in the window seat. I offered to swap with one of the boys so they could both have window seats.

"That was very kind of you," the man said once we had swapped seats.

"It's nothing; I've done this trip so many times I know the view along the line. Also, I wanted to read my magazines, not look out of the window," I replied as the train started to move out of the station.

"You're interested in cars, then?" he asked.

"Not particularly," I responded. "Just need to decide what to get once I passed my driver's test."

"Any idea of what you are after?" he said.

"Not really; it needs to be four-wheel drive. Was thinking of a Land Rover but need something that is a bit cooler."

"Are you looking at going off-road then?" the man asked.

"Not particularly; it's just I have to cross a causeway quite often and a four-wheel drive seemed sensible for when there's water across the road."

"Probably a good idea. Sorry, I've not introduced myself. I'm Rodney White; I write for the magazine I have been preventing you from reading. These two," he indicated the boys, who were now staring out of the window with rapt attention, "are my grandsons, Timothy and Richard. I'm taking them into Town to see the Lion King this afternoon as a birthday treat."

"Whose birthday?" I asked.

"Actually, it's for both. Their birthdays are only a few days apart, so I am treating them both. Timothy, that's my son's boy, will be eight tomorrow. Richard, who is my daughter's son, was seven last Thursday."

"I'm Johnny Carlton," I said. "If you write for this magazine, I presume you know something about cars."

"Hopefully, I do," Rodney White replied. "Though some of my readers might have a different opinion."


"Well, I once described a Ferrari as like driving a double-decker bus," he replied. "The Ferrari enthusiasts were somewhat upset."

"Did it…I mean, did it drive like a double-decker bus?"

"No," he admitted. "The modern London bus has much better steering than that model Ferrari. Even Ferrari admitted that, though not publicly; they just completely changed the steering system for the next version of that model."

"So, what car would you advise for a new driver who at times has to deal with difficult road conditions and needs to be able to carry some bulky items?"

"How bulky is bulky and what do they weigh?" Rodney asked.

"Probably a large box. The sort of thing which you can just about get your arms around to pick up. Weight-wise in total, probably a couple of hundred kilos, if not a bit more."

"Well, if you want something cheap, you really are stuck with something like the Land Rover Discovery, but you have said that is not an option."

"I'm not too worried about cost as long as I don't go wild; there are funds to cover even a new car," I told him. "I've got a fairly new Smart car which I inherited but which is not used. I was thinking of putting that in as a part-exchange."

"In that case, look at the new Volvo SUV, the XC90. Its transmission is based on the Range Rover, so is reliable. There is a review of it in our competitor's magazine, which I see you have also got. If you can afford it, I would suggest you keep the Smart car. They don't do well for part-exchange, but they are bloody useful if you need to drive in Town."

One of the boys, I do not know which, piped up asking if we were nearly there yet. Rodney informed them that we had a long way to go.

Timothy and Richard got bored with looking out of the window at the passing scenery and started to ask their grandfather questions. I tried to read the article Rodney had directed me to in the magazine but could not help listening to both the boys' questions and the answers that Rodney gave to them.

I do not know what led to the question, but one of the boys — I think it was Timothy — asked why the sides of a ship were called port and starboard. Rodney seemed flustered by the question and admitted he did not know, so I supplied the answer.

"Before boats had rudders, they used to be steered using big oars that went over the side. As most people are right-handed, these were placed over the right side of the boat, so somebody could stand on the deck at the right side of the boat and steer it with a large oar in their right hand, whilst looking forward to see where the boat was going. So, the right-hand side of the boat was called the steering side. In Old English, that is stoerbord, which became starboard in modern English.

"Of course, if you had a whacking, great-big steering oar hanging over the right-hand side of the boat, you couldn't moor that side of the boat against the loading quay or jetty. So, you had to moor with the left-hand side of the boat against the quay or jetty, so that was called the loading side. Load in Old English is lar which gave us larboard, the loading side.

"The problem was at times people got confused between larboard and starboard; they sounded similar. So, they started to call the side of the boat you tie up against when in port, the port side. Eventually the British navy, after a couple of accidents caused by confusion between larboard and starboard, insisted that their sailors used port and starboard."

"Thanks for explaining that," Rodney said. "Timothy is mad about boats, aren't you, lad?"

The boy blushed at having attention drawn to him. It confirmed my suspicion that the boy asking the question was Timothy.

"Nothing wrong with that," I said. "I'm rather mad about boats myself. Mainly about yachts."

That imparting of information led to more questions from Timothy and the odd one or two from Richard. Fortunately, they were all about boats and all questions I could answer. We got into London just after nine, which was probably about the right time. I was starting to run out of answers to Timothy's questions.

As we were getting off the train, I asked Rodney what they were doing till the start of the Lion King matinee. He informed me that he was taking the boys to the science museum. I thought that would work out just about right for them, as inquisitive as they were.

Joseph was waiting for me when I got off the platform. We found a nearby coffee shop and sat around for a bit, enjoying coffee and cake while we decided what to do. It turned out that Joseph had planned a pretty full day for us. Although nothing had been said when we had spoken during the week, I had fully expected that we would spend part of the day at his place — in bed. That, though, did not appear to be on Joseph's schedule, apparently because Micah and Bethany were down for the weekend and would be at the house.

We spent the morning going to the Sir John Soane's Museum , one of the smaller museums scattered around London and one not generally on the tourist map. Sir John Soane was a 19th century architect and collector, and I must admit the collection was amazing. However, it was a museum about architecture and far more interesting to Joseph than it was to me. He had wanted to go to Leighton House Museum in the afternoon, which would have been another venue of architectural interest. I put my foot down and said no; we ended up going to the London Transport Museum.

I am not sure that either of us really enjoyed it. For a start, we had both been to it before more than once. Also, neither of us had a particular interest in transport. However, from my point of view, it was more interesting than another venue of architectural interest.

We got an early dinner at a place just off Covent Garden as Joseph was due to meet with Micah and Bethany at seven. Over our meal Joseph filled me in on how his search for Lex Klein was going.

"I think I may have found him, Johnny," he informed me.


"I think he's in a nursing home in St. John's Wood. Can't be sure it is the right person, but there is a Lex Klein on the electoral register for the address. He first appears on it the year after he was at the last-known address."

"So, what happens now?"

"I've asked Dad if he will write to the home and find out if this is the Lex Klein that we are looking for and find out what condition he is in. There is no use following this up if he is completely gaga."

On that point I had to agree, but I did think Joseph's choice of words was a bit inappropriate, a point I made to him. Reluctantly, he agreed with me.

We parted after our meal, and I started to make my way to Holborn Underground station, preferring to avoid Covent Garden station, knowing too well the congestion that is there. Just as I turned into Bow Street, I heard a voice I recognised say, "Granddad, my feet hurt." I turned and looked down the street. About ten yards behind me were Rodney and the two boys. When they got to where I was, I asked them where they were off to.

"Holborn tube station," Rodney informed me. "Got to get back to Liverpool Street for the train home."

The youngest boy, Richard, looked up at me. "Is it far, because my feet hurt?"

"No, it's not far," I answered. "How about if I give you a ride?"

He nodded vigorously, so I picked him up and sat him on my shoulders. Then started walking towards the station with Rodney.

"I hope we're not taking you out of your way?" he said.

"Not at all. I'm on my way to Liverpool Street as well. How was the show?"

"It was great," Rodney informed me. "I had seen it before with my wife when it first opened. It is a different experience watching it with two youngsters."

"That, I can imagine," I stated. I was going to say more, like asking why his wife was not with them this time. However, I did not get a chance because Richard started to tell me all about the show from his perch on my shoulders.

I must admit that he did bring an extra dimension to my understanding of the show. I am not sure I remembered all the things he told me about.

Once at Liverpool Street, we were able to directly board the Southminster train. Rodney invited me to sit with them. Timothy insisted I did. The two boys got the window seats; not that Richard was much interested in whatever was outside the window, he fell asleep almost the minute he was put in the seat.

"It's been a long day for him," Rodney commented. "And he got tired out walking around the Science Museum."

"I did, as well," Timothy commented.

On the journey back to Southminster, Timothy again talked to me about boats. I mentioned that I helped build them, which gave rise to a whole pile of new questions from the boy. During our conversation, I learnt that he lived only about a mile from Lynnhaven and that his grandfather lived nearby. So, I suggested that in the school holidays I give them a tour of the boatyard.

"Can you arrange that?" Rodney asked.

I assured him I could. Dad had got some business cards made for the new boatyard company and had some made with my name on them. I pulled out my wallet and extracted a card, which I gave to Rodney.

"I'm not around at half-term," I informed him. "Give me a call when the summer holidays start, and I will sort something out."

As I was saying that I saw Rodney was looking at the card, then up at me, then back at the card.

"GM?" he asked.

It took me a moment to realise what he was talking about. Dad had put my full name on the card, with my post-normative letters for my George Medal. I nodded.

"I thought I recognised you when we met this morning," Rodney said. "You were on the TV on Thursday receiving your medal."

"You've got a medal?" Timothy asked.

I confirmed that I had.

"So, you're a real hero," Timothy stated.

"No, I'm just somebody who was in the wrong place at the right time and did something about it," I stated.

"That, Johnny, is the definition of a hero," Rodney said. "Somebody who does something about it."

I had phoned Dad when I had got on the train to let him know what time it was due in at Southminster. As a result, I was somewhat surprised to find Mum waiting for me when I came out of the station. I thought she had been going over to Jenny's this afternoon. When I mentioned it, she confirmed she had been.

"I phoned your dad about ten minutes after you called. Jenny was not feeling too good, so was having an early night, and I called your father to let him know I would be home early. He suggested I should pick you up."

There was some sense in that. Mum's sister's place was a lot closer to Southminster than the Priory.

"What's wrong with Jenny?" I asked as Mum drove us home.

"I think she is just pushing herself too hard. She is trying to use the wheelchair as little as possible, which means she is using her crutches more and more. That, though, is very tiring for her."

"Why is she pushing herself so hard?"

"I think it is because James has invited her to Australia. He's suggested she go out with us when your father's on his book-signing tour?"

"That's still going on?" I asked as I had not heard mention of it for some time.

"Yes, last week of June or first week of July; he is still waiting for the dates to be finalized."

"Hope it's the first week of July," I stated.


"Well, the last week of June is Glastonbury," I pointed out.

"You'd better remind your dad," Mum stated. "Don't think he will have remembered."

As soon as we got home, I went and found Dad and reminded him about Glastonbury.

"Good job you reminded me," Dad said. "They have suggested we fly out on the twenty-ninth and return on the tenth of July. I'll email them and say we can't fly until the thirtieth."

"Better make that the thirty-first. Will probably need a day to get the mud off me."

"Good point," Dad commented. "By the way, have you checked that the tickets are in your and Joseph's name?"

I told Dad I had not; was it a problem?

"For Glastonbury, yes; the tickets are personalised. They even have your photo on them."

Given that information, I thought I'd better check. I did not want to get all the way down there and not be able to get in. Fortunately, it was a Saturday, so Tony was probably off school premises. I tried his mobile, got through and explained the issue.

"Fuck!" he responded. "Never thought of that. I doubt Steve did, either, and they're across the pond now." Steve was Tony's older brother.

"Can you check?" I asked.

"I'll phone Mum," Tony said. "Will get back to you later."

He did about two hours later, just as I was getting into bed. It was bad news; the tickets were personalised and, no, they could not be transferred. All that could be done was to return the unwanted tickets to the authorised ticket sellers, and they would then try to resell them for you. Apparently, they had told Tony's mother that there would be no problem reselling them. However, Steve would would only get the face value of the ticket less a handling fee.

I sent a text to Joseph letting him know that Glastonbury was off, that more information was in an email; then I sent an email with the full details of why we would not be going.

From the text I got the next morning, it seemed that Tony had also texted Joseph with an apology.

I told Dad about Glastonbury over breakfast.

"Well, that makes life a bit easier," Dad stated.


"Gert has suggested that while I am in Australia, I should interview Danny about Henk and Robert's life in Australia. Trying to fit that in with only a week out there and me signing most days would have been difficult. However, if we can go out earlier, it is doable."

After breakfast, Dad went off to email his publishers Down Under, and I went to the yard. Did not have all that enjoyable a day. For a start, the weather had changed and, for early May, was quite chilly with a fine drizzle blowing in from the North Sea. Then there was the job I got landed with: cleaning the hull of a speedboat that had been left in the water over the winter. Apparently, the owner had purchased it at Easter last year, bombed around in it most weekends till the start of August, then gone off to foreign parts for six months. When he came back down this Easter, he was disappointed with the drop off in the boat's speed.

The boat had been brought to the yard yesterday and lifted out for inspection. It was now sitting in a boat cradle at the side of one of the slipways. It was not surprising that there had been a drop-off in speed. The underside of the boat looked like a nature-conservation zone. Any sort of stationary life that could live underwater appeared to have attached itself to the hull. The plant and marine life on the bottom of the boat was acting effectively as a sheet anchor.

Fortunately, I did not have to clean the hull totally on my own. Steve assigned Colin to give me a hand. Between the two of us, we worked out a good system. Colin would blast an area with the pressure washer, then I would go in with the brush to dislodge anything the pressure washer had left behind; then he would get another blast with the pressure washer and I another brush. The process continued till an area was clear. Sometimes, if there was a really resistant group of barnacles or such, I had to go in with the scraper to get them off.

We had started working on the hull at ten and got it clear just before four. Allowing for the half hour that we took for lunch and the half hour it took to move the boat in the cradle so we could get at the parts of the hull that the supports had covered, that was five hours of brushing, blasting and scraping. Both Colin and I were soaking wet and cold by the time we were finished despite the waterproofs we had been wearing. Fortunately, Steve gave us a lift back to the Priory. I am fairly certain we would have frozen if we had to make the ride on our bikes.

Monday and Tuesday were pretty much run-of-the-mill days at college, considering all active teaching had virtually come to a standstill. Only about half the students in the A-level maths class were turning up. I mentioned this to Mr. Taunton when I saw him in Marge's at lunch.

"A lot of them are retaking GCSEs to try to improve their grades," he informed me. The GCSE exams were starting this week, so that explained a lot. "Then there are those who just do not like doing revision."

"I don't like doing it, but I am still coming to class," I pointed out.

At that comment he laughed, then stated that he was glad I was. There was always a chance he might be able to teach me something that would be useful in the exam.

On the whole, I thought he was probably doing good in preparing us for the exams, which were due to start next week. In particular, he was getting us to write out our workings in full. As he kept on saying: "You will get more marks for a wrong answer with the correct working-out than you will for the right answer with the wrong working-out."

Wednesday though, something strange happened. I had been about to go over to Marge's for lunch when I remembered I had promised Simone my physics notes from yesterday; so, I popped into the library to photocopy them. Simone had missed the afternoon class as she had her oral-French test then.

As a result, I was a bit over ten minutes later than normal crossing the car park to get to Marge's. As I exited the car park, I saw Antonio getting out of a black Audi. He was leaning over and speaking to the driver through the passenger door as I approached. I could not hear what he was saying, but I would have sworn he was speaking in German. However, by the time I was near the car to distinctly hear what was being said, they had changed to heavily accented Spanish.

Antonio expressed surprise that I was not in Marge's. I told him I had to do some photocopying for Simone. Antonio came over to Marge's with me. He would normally arrive about five to ten minutes after Simone and I got there. Simone had already got a table, so we joined her. I gave her the physics notes and asked how her exam went yesterday.

"They need to find a French teacher who speaks French," Simone stated. "About half the words I used, she did not understand; I had to explain them to her."

"I'm surprised Dr. Laurent did not put you up for the Institute's exam," I stated.

"Who's Dr, Laurent?" Simone asked.

"She was my French tutor," I replied. "Isn't she yours?"

"No, I've got Miss Raylau, whose French leaves a lot to be desired."

"I think you need to speak to Dr. Laurent. Make an appointment to see her when we go back over. I know she's not in today, but she should be in tomorrow."

Dad had given me a lift into college that morning as he was going into Town, so I scrounged a lift back to the Priory from Simone. I knew she was going over there to train. On the way back to the Priory, I told her about Antonio and the fact that I was certain he and the car driver had been speaking German until they had seen me.

"Does he know that you speak German?" Simone asked.

"Oh, yes," I replied. "We were talking once and he asked me what languages I spoke, so I told him French and German."

"You didn't mention Occitan or Spanish, did you?" Simone asked.


"Good. Don't!"

I took Simone's advice to heart and made sure I made no mention of Occitan or Spanish to Antonio.

That evening, Joseph phoned on the landline, wanting to speak to Dad. Dad and Joseph were speaking for the better part of half an hour. After they finished Dad told me that Joseph was going to call me later; he had been called to dinner. Dad did, though, give me the gist of the call.

"Joseph has confirmed that the Lex Klein in the Three Oaks Nursing Home is the Lex Klein that we are looking for. Apparently, he is fully compos mentis , so I need to see if I can speak to him and arrange an interview."

Joseph did call me that evening and gave me basically the same information. He did not stay on the phone long as he had an exam in the morning.

I was a bit surprised when a reminder appeared on my phone Thursday morning. All it said was, 'Colin Court'. I took me a couple of minutes to remember what was going on, then I remembered that I had promised Colin that I would go with him to the Crown Court for the hearing of his appeal.

To be totally honest, I had forgotten all about it. Fortunately, it appeared that Uncle Bernard had not. When I checked my email, which I had failed to do the night before, I found an email from him telling me that June Ravensbrook would be acting for Colin and would meet us at the court. As soon as I got down to the kitchen, I called across to the Stable House apartment and got Colin and told him to be over at the house by eight-thirty. We had to be at the court for nine-thirty, according to the instructions from Uncle Bernard.

Mum came in just as I was trying to book a taxi. She asked me what I needed a taxi for. When I told her, she told me to ask Lee to run us into Chelmsford.

"You won't get a taxi this time of day," she pointed out. "They are all doing school runs."

"I'd better check with Dad," I said, then went to find him. He was in his study doing his emails. When I explained the situation to him, he told me to get Lee to drive us in, so I called Lee. He said he would collect us at eight thirty. Then I had to call Simone to ask her to get any class notes for the day. That involved me in explaining to her why I would not be in class.

In the end, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. June Ravensbrook was waiting for us at the court. There was also a clerk there from Uncle Bernard's office. Apparently, we were the first case on the day's list for our court. Colin, of course, had to surrender his bail, but the custody officer just told him to go and take a seat in the court. No doubt they had been advised that this was an uncontested appeal. As we went in, the barrister for the CPS asked to speak to June. They went off to one corner of the court and had a discussion. They had only just returned to their places in the court when the clerk called, 'All rise'.

The judge and the clerk came in and read the details of the case to be heard. Then, the CPS barrister asked for permission to address the court. The judge gave her permission. The CPS barrister stated that the CPS supported this appeal as investigations had shown that there had been an error made and the appellant had been charged with the incorrect offence. He also informed the court that the appellant had agreed to accept a caution on the correct charge.

"And that will satisfy the CPS?" the judge asked.

"Yes, Milady."

"In that case, I see no purpose in hearing the submission of the appellant's counsel and will grant the appeal. I presume the counsel for the appellant will have no objection."

June stood up. "No, Milady."

Ten minutes after we entered the court we were out.

Arrangements had to be made for Colin to go into Maldon police station and be cautioned. However, the clerk from Uncle Bernard's office said that they would be arranging that for next week so that Martin would be with Colin when he went in. I did mention to the clerk that Friday afternoons would be best, as Colin was off work then. The clerk made a note.

It was only ten to eleven after everything was sorted out. It would take the better part of two hours to get home on the bus. If I could get home before twelve, I could get into college for my physics class and Colin could go into work for a half-day. So, I went to the ATM and got some cash, then got a taxi. I had to prove to the taxi driver that I had the funds to pay for the trip before he would take us the twenty-one miles to Dunford. Once I showed him I had the fifty pounds plus that he said the journey would cost, he took us, though he was clearly not happy about it. He probably thought he could make more money in fares doing local runs than a one long run.

It was quarter to twelve when we finally got into the Priory. Colin went off to get changed and cycle into the yard, saying if he got there before one, he might get some pie and chips. I sent Steve a text to tell him Colin was coming in and that he would need some feeding. Steve texted back a smiley.

Once I had grabbed some lunch, I went into college on the moped. I really should have asked Dad for a lift as the forecast was for rain, but he was busy in the MCP office and I did not want to disturb him. I got to college just before quarter past one, in time for my double physics class at two, only to find that the class had been cancelled because of exams. I had a quick chat with Simone, who was reading the cancellation notice when I arrived, and got the notes for this morning's class from her. That done, I got back on my moped and started for home. I was about halfway there when the heavens opened. As a result, I was in a rather bedraggled state when I got back to the Priory.

I do not know if it was getting soaked on the moped Thursday afternoon or not, but on Friday morning I felt really bad. When I got down to the kitchen, Mum took one look at me and sent me back to bed with the comment that I would probably be there all weekend. That was the last thing I wanted. I had been planning to start to sort out what I had to do to The Lady Ann to make her seaworthy again. Steve had not included me on the staff rota for this weekend specifically so I could spend the time looking at the yacht. I had originally intended to do it over the half-term holiday, but now we were going to the Netherlands again, that was out. I really needed to get the survey started so I could plan the work on her over the summer.

Mum came up before she went off to college, took my temperature and announced I had a fever. She then placed two paracetamol on my bedside table along with a large bottle of water, instructing me to take the paracetamol and not get dehydrated. She also informed me that she had told Lee to make sure that Dad checked on me every couple of hours.

She had not been gone all that long when I found myself bent over the toilet bowl spewing up my guts. I was back in the same position again about an hour later when Dad came in to check on me. He cheered me up immensely when he informed me that I probably had a gastrointestinal virus, and it would probably clear in twenty-four hours.

I was back in bed recovering from the latest bout of vomiting when my phone beeped. Checking it, I found I had a message from Simone. She was asking me to take notes for her in class as she was unwell. I had to text back to say I was in the same condition. We spent the next hour or so, between periods at the toilet, commiserating with each other about our condition.

It was something of a surprise when just after one, Mum came up to my room with a hot drink for me.

"Shouldn't you be in college?" I asked.

"Well, it seems that half the college, staff included, are in the same condition you're in. Our tutor for this afternoon's class is off sick, so we got out early."

I spent the afternoon in bed, with no more dashes to give homage to the toilet bowl. Mum came in around five to check if I wanted anything to eat. By then, I was feeling a bit better and was decidedly peckish, so indicated I would appreciate some food. She came back up twenty minutes later with a tray. There was a bowl of soup and a pile of toast. I consumed it, then fell asleep. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, I woke up starving and feeling very grungy. It was a bit of a battle as to whether I sought out food first or went for a shower. The shower won, though it was a bloody quick one; I could not put food off that long.

There was some apple pie in the fridge, so I cut a slice of that, to which I added a lump of strong cheese. Once I had eaten that, I followed it with nearly half a pack of chocolate digestives. The only reason it was nearly half a pack was that the other half had already been consumed, no doubt by Mum, who seemed to be craving chocolate at the moment. Dad had assured me that for a pregnant woman, that was quite mild.

"When your mother was carrying you, she wanted Stilton and cranberry jelly on ginger biscuits for a period. Usually needed it about two o'clock in the morning"

That, I thought, might account for a lot.

Having sated my appetite, I returned to bed and fell asleep. The pinging of my phone woke me shortly after eight. There was a text from Steve sent to everybody at the yard. Due to illness, the yard was closed for the weekend. I sent a text back asking what was wrong. By the sound of what he said on the returned text, it sounded as if Bran, Katherine and he were all down with what I had.

I got showered and dressed, then went down to the kitchen. Dad was there looking tired.

"Your Mum's not well," he informed me. "Think she's got whatever you had."

"That's bad," I commented. "What about the baby?"

"I've called the out-of-hours service; they're sending somebody round. Said they would be here within three hours."

Not much I could say to that, so I just nodded. I told Dad about the yard being closed as Steve was ill, as were Katherine and Bran.

I made some toast and a pot of coffee for myself and a pot of tea for Dad. As I was placing the pot of tea of the table, I looked up and out through the window. Colin was just getting on his bike. Running to the back door, I got it opened before he had crossed the yard and called him.

"Where are you off to?" I asked.

"The yard. Can't talk. I'm late already."

"No, you're not. Didn't you read your texts this morning?"

He shook his head, saying he had overslept and just got up. He was rushing to get to the yard, so had just pushed his phone in his pocket. I told him the yard was closed due to Bran, Katherine and Steve being ill. Then it occurred to me he probably had not had any breakfast, so I told him to come in and get some. I poured him a mug of coffee and put some more bread in the toaster.

Colin sat at the table and checked his phone, then relaxed. I asked what he would like for breakfast, thinking he might want something more than toast. However, he assured me that toast and marmalade were enough.

"It's more than I get most mornings," he pointed out.

This surprised me as I knew Trevor kept the larder in the apartment fairly well stocked. When I mentioned that, Colin agreed, but pointed out that he had to be out in the morning before Trevor and Arthur were up. He avoided making breakfast in case he disturbed them.

"I really need to find a place of my own," Colin stated. "There just does not appear to be anywhere I can afford within cycling distance of the yard."

"You haven't considered passing your test and getting a car, then?" Dad asked.

"Even with glasses, my eyesight is not up to it," Colin informed Dad. "The optician said that until the things in my eyes are sorted, I will not be safe to drive."

Dad gave me a puzzled look, so I explained to him about Colin having cataracts in both eyes.

"You could have quite a wait for cataract surgery," Dad stated. Colin agreed.

Dad asked me what I was planning on doing today. I told him I had no idea as I had been planning to be in the yard to look at The Lady Ann. The thing was I really needed Steve to show me how to start to do the survey.

"Why don't you go and find out what are in those storage sheds you acquired with the Salvage Yard?" Dad suggested. "You need to find out if you own anything of value."

"Isn't that all part of the combined boatyards now?" I asked.

"No, the contents of the sheds are specifically excluded from the deal as no one knew what was in them. The new company only got the contents of the timber store, the boatsheds, tool sheds and office. The storage sheds were not included."

I dimly recalled something about that from the meeting. It did teach me that I should have read the agreement that set up the company, a fact I mentioned to Dad. He laughed.

"I suppose with Bernard looking after things for us, we've got a bit lazy on that account," he said.

"I'll go in and look," I stated. "Better let Steve know I'm going in."

"Can I come with you?" Colin asked.

"You can if you like, but it will not class as work, so you're not going to get paid for it," I pointed out.

"Don't mind. At least, I'll be out of the way of Arthur and Trevor. They need some time on their own."

I phoned Steve and let him know I was going into the Salvage Yard to look at the storage containers.

"You really shouldn't do that on your own," Steve stated.

"I'm not going to be on my own," I told him. "Colin is going in with me as he has nothing to do and needs to stay out of where he is living."

Steve was relieved to hear that. He told me to make a list of what I found in which unit and that we would have to come to an agreement for anything that might be of use to the business. I told him that I would.

We got to the Salvage Yard about an hour later. It would have been earlier, but I was about ten minutes on the way there when I remembered I had not picked up the Salvage Yard keys, so I had to go back and get them. Colin just waited at the side of the road.

The yard itself is at the top end of High Marsh. If you think of High Marsh as an inverted hockey stick, the type that has the end that curls back on itself, the Salvage yard stood on the curly end. This meant that there was a large distance between the back fence of the yard and rear of the boatsheds. There were about twelve shipping containers and six sheds down the one side of the area from the back fence down to the boatshed. There were two containers, then a shed, two more containers then another shed. The same pattern continued right down to the boatshed. I had already looked in the first couple of containers and knew they contained wood, so I passed those by and went to the first of the sheds.

I checked the number of the padlock, then found the key for it. Opening it, I got a surprise. I thought it would be as deep as the shipping containers, but this shed was almost twice as deep, a fact that got me thinking: was there something behind the shipping containers?

The shed was about twenty feet across and must have been a good forty feet from the door to the back. It was packed to its roof, which was like a tube of corrugated iron sliced in half and coming down to the ground on each side. Along each side, there were some small grimy windows that allowed in the minimum of light.

"This is a bloody big shed!" I exclaimed.

"It's not a shed," Colin informed me.

"Then what is it?"

"It's a Nissen hut."

"A what?"

"A Nissen hut; they were used in the second and first world wars. There was probably a barracks here or something. Probably for Coastal Command."

That made sense. The Long Creek would make a perfect harbour for the small, high-speed boats that Coastal Command used for rescuing aircrew who came down in the North Sea. It would also make sense of the blockhouse on the Nase. If there were Coastal Command vessels moored up in the creek, they would need to have some protection. I suspected if we searched around at the Nase, we would find the remains of gun emplacements.

"How did you know that?" I asked Colin.

"There was a programme on the TV about wartime buildings."


"I don't know; it was while Mum was alive."

Christ, that had to be six or more years ago, and he had remembered it. I started to think that Colin might not be as dense as people thought.

There was a light switch at the side of the door, so I switched it on. Two rows of fluorescent tubes burst into life. At least, most of them did. There were a few that just flickered a bit then gave up. On each side of the hut, there was shelving running the entire length of the building. There was also another set of shelving running down the middle, leaving two passageways along the length of the building.

There were boxes full of stuff — cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, old tea-chests and modern plastic storage boxes — stacked up on the shelving. They filled the place. Something about the place reminded me of a film I had seen years ago, but I could not remember what it was., a fact I mentioned to Colin.

"Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark," Colin supplied. The moment he said it, I remembered it.

"It'll take ages to sort this out," I commented. Then I turned to one of the tea-chests that were on the bottom of the middle shelf and lifted the lid. There were a lot of what looked like wooden statues and objects in it. I pulled one of them out. It was a piece of wood a couple of inches across and about two feet long that had a big round lump of wood at the end that was carved like some lobed fruit. The whole handle was intricately carved with a pattern of lines and dots.

"I wonder what this is?" I asked speculatively.

"It's an ula," Colin supplied. "A Fijian throwing club. If it is original, it probably is worth a couple of grand."

"How the fuck do you know that?"

"There was one on Antiques Roadshow just before Easter."

The moment he told me it was a throwing club, its design made sense. I could imagine it flying through the air and hitting somebody, preferably on the back of the head. Made me think of Grandma Flora and her pin-whanging. She would have a whale of a time with this. Dad had said everything in the sheds and containers was mine, so I shoved it in my backpack.

For the next couple of hours or so, we worked our way through the boxes, making a list of what we found, at least the type of stuff that was in the boxes. There was a box full of brass compass housings and another brass navigation-light housing. Further on, we found a container full of long brass bolts; next to it was a container of stainless-steel bolts, which looked identically shaped as the brass bolts in the first container.

We could probably have spent all day in that shed alone. However, I needed to look in the other containers and sheds. So, after we had looked at about fifty boxes, we locked the shed up and moved on to the next container. That contained wood — by the looks of it, Cuban mahogany; Steve would be able to tell if it was. If it was, it was worth a fortune as it is difficult to get these days. The next container was full of ropes.

It was now getting on for one and I, at least, was getting hungry, so I suggested to Colin that we go up to the Pig and Whistle and get some lunch. I locked up, and the two of us cycled to the Pig. As we entered, Dean, the regular Saturday barman, looked up from the nearly empty bar.

"Two of you?" he said. "Must be a pretty big order."

"Sorry, Dean, not the case," I informed him. "The yard's closed today due to illness."

"Then, what are you doing here?"

"Just been doing some sorting out at the Salvage Yard. Going through the storage containers."

"You need to be careful there, lad," an old codger at the end of the bar said.

"Why?" I asked.

"Well, Old Dicky put some pretty odd stuff in those old Nissan huts."

"Old Dicky?"

"Yes, the old man, Dicky Boy's father. He started the yard sometime after the war, the second one. Ran it till he dropped dead one day hauling a yawl from the creek. Dicky Boy took over and ran it till a couple of years ago; got too much for him. He dan't have the stamina of his old man."

I gave Dean our order to two lots — chips and pies — to eat in, not take out. I asked Colin what he wanted to drink. Before he could say anything, Dean interrupted: "You know I can't serve you alcohol. You may be eating so could drink it with your meal, but somebody over eighteen has to buy it and I know you're both under."

I knew and nodded. Colin asked for a large cola.

"I'll tell you what," the old man said. "Slip me a tenner and I'll buy you your drinks and join you in one."

"Now, Alf," Dean said. "You know that's not allowed."

"Whose 'ere to say it ain't?" the old man stated. I now knew his name. "There's only me and ye in this bar plus the two lads; they'll say nowt about it, and I'll say nowt about it, so who's going to say owt?"

Dean looked about the bar. Alf was right; it was empty. Then he just smiled and nodded. I handed Alf a tenner.

"Now, lads, what'll it be?" he asked. Both Collin and I opted for a pint.

We took a table not far from the bar. Alf joined us. Dean brought our drinks across and placed cutlery on the table to show that we were eating there, just in case anyone queried the fact that we were drinking pints.

Alf introduced himself as Alf Manning. I introduced Colin and myself to him.

"Ah, you be the lad that bought the yard," Alf stated. "'eard 'bout you. You be working with that Steve chap at the old Hamden yard." I acknowledged that I was. "Bloody good chap, he is; knows his boats."

I was glad to hear that.

"So, what's in those sheds to be careful about?" I asked.

"Well, there be bombs, guns and such like. Old Dicky kept turning stuff up after he got the yard back in 1950."

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