Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 39

"Are you sure?" Lee asked. Mum confirmed that she was.

"I think we need to let somebody know about this," Lee stated.

"Who?" I asked.

"Well, for a start, Miss Jenkins. Then Bernard; he will probably know who to speak to."

"About what," I heard Dad's voice ask. Looking around, I saw he was coming into the room, with Gert behind him.

"About him," Lee said, pointing at the picture on the screen. "He's turned up a bit too often for it to be a coincidence."

Dad looked at the picture.

"You know, I'm sure I've seen him around Dunford a couple of times," he said.

"Is there a problem?" Gert asked from his position by the door.

"Probably not," Dad replied. "We are just playing safe. Last year we had some problems with a criminal element in Dunford who are coming up for trial soon. As a result, we tend to be a bit paranoid about certain things."

"Like the same person turning up too often in different localities where we are," I commented.

"There's not much we can do about it at the moment," Dad said. "Lee, you know whom to inform." Lee nodded. Dad continued. "Gert, come and take a seat, then you can fill everybody in on what you have arranged for our pilot film."

"Oh, right," Gert said, walking across to the chairs and taking one of the unoccupied ones.

"Had a text from the camera people that they will be confirming they will be delivering the equipment you bought at seven. They also confirmed about giving us some training on it," Gert informed us. "Thought it might be a bit cramped trying to train on it in here, so I have booked one of the small conference rooms on the first floor for this evening; we have it from seven till ten."

"Do we need it that long?" Lee asked.

"Probably not," Gert replied. "But they only let it out in three-hour slots."

Lee just nodded. I noticed he was transferring the video he had shot to his laptop.

Dad asked Gert to join us for dinner in the hotel restaurant, but Gert declined the invitation, informing Dad that he had to meet with De heer Wilhelm to finalise the shooting schedule for tomorrow.

"Is there much left to shoot?" Mum asked. I had the same question. From what we had been told the other day, I thought they were ahead of schedule.

"Not really," Gert informed her. "To be honest, we have probably got sufficient film to finish production, if it came to a push. However, I would like to get some banker shots in to cover for any problems." Gert then had to explain what banker shots were. It turned out they were pieces of general commentary filmed against a green screen that could then be overlaid against appropriate background shots. The example he gave was Dad saying, 'Melting glaciers will result in a rise in sea levels that can threaten landscapes like this.'

"In Holland, statements like that can be applied to about half the GV shots we have in the can," Gert informed us.

"What's a GV shot?" Lee asked. I was thinking the same.

"General view," Gert informed us. "It a shot that is taken to be used when you need to fill in something, like to make a transition from one thing to another."

Having imparted that information and sorted a couple of things out about timing, Gert arranged to meet with Dad, Lee and me in the foyer at quarter to seven. He then left. After a quick discussion, the four of us decided that we would eat in the hotel restaurant this evening and decided to go down for an early dinner. Mum needed to get changed first, and Lee wanted to send an email to Miss Jenkins; Dad wanted it copied to Uncle Bernard. It was, therefore, getting on for six before we got into the restaurant.

Fortunately, service in the hotel restaurant was pretty quick, and we were just finishing our meal when I spotted Aart getting out of a van in the hotel carpark. I mentioned this to Dad.

"You'd better finish off your ice cream and get out there to meet him," he stated. "Lee and I will join you in a bit."

I did as instructed and got to the hotel foyer just as Aart was wheeling in a trolley loaded with boxes. Gert arrived in the foyer about the same time. He checked with reception that the conference room was available and helped Aart move the stuff to the first-floor room.

Dad and Lee arrived about five minutes later. I introduced them to Aart. Lee said he'd better get the cameras from our room. Gert agreed, pointing out that he had two of the cameras in his room. The two of them went off to get the equipment. Aart was talking with Dad.

Gert and Lee got back about ten minutes later. Aart by then was explaining the portable lighting units to Dad and me. The main thing we had to remember was to have plenty of charged battery units. Apparently, each battery unit would only last about twenty minutes at full power. We only had one battery unit with each lighting unit.

"It looks like we will need to get some more," I commented.

"You almost certainly will. However, you can get them a lot cheaper if you go to one of the discount photographic places in Hilversum. They sell battery packs that can be used for Sony camcorders. Most of the discount photographic stores carry compatible batteries which are a lot cheaper than the branded products I sell."

"Aren't you doing yourself out of business?" Dad asked.

"Not really; battery packs are a minor part of our turnover, and to be honest, the amount of space they take up is not worth us carrying them, so we don't. Giving advice that saves you money means you will probably come back to me when you need the type of stuff I sell," Aart replied.

He then set about showing us how to set up the stabilisers for the cameras. It was a lot more complicated than I expected. Each camera and stabiliser had to be individually set up and balanced. Aart explained that even swapping two identical-model cameras over on a stabiliser would mean you would have to realign the setup and get it back in balance.

It took a good hour and a half to get the setup sorted out for all the cameras and get used to operating them on the stabilisers. The handhelds were not too bad, but the shoulder-mounted camera units were a massive job. Lee and Gert, who would be operating them, had to strap themselves into a harness which the stabiliser with camera was then mounted on. It looked awkward, and Lee admitted it would take some getting used to. Gert suggested that he and Lee should go out and practice with the units Friday afternoon.

"We finishing in the morning, then?" Dad asked.

"Yes," Gert replied. "Went over the shooting schedule with De heer Wilhelm, and we only need four additional banking pieces from you."

"You're working with De heer Wilhelm, but surely he has all this equipment?" Aart commented.

"He probably does," Dad replied. "I am working with him on a project, but this has nothing to do with it. I have my own production company, and we are looking at doing a series on architecture. Will be shooting some shots on Saturday in Amsterdam for a pilot to show."

After Aart left, we still had the use of the room till ten, so Lee and Gert practiced some more using the stabilisers. They also tried out the monopods. To be honest monopods were not much good with the shoulder cameras, but they worked fine with the handhelds. Dad expressed concern about the amount of kit that we needed to take with us on Saturday. Gert suggested taking it in by car.

"Isn't parking going to be a bit of a pain?" Dad asked.

"Normally yes, but this is a Saturday, and I have a cousin who has a garage near the centre. I know she is away at the weekend, so I am sure she will let us borrow the garage for the day."

Dad told Gert that if he could arrange it, then go for it. So, Gert phoned his cousin. Turned out there was no problem. Gert wrote down a number in his notebook.

Friday morning, Dad had me searching around Hilversum for some compatible battery packs for the lighting units. In the end, I managed to get eight more compatible generic packs at about half the price of the name-brand battery packs. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I started to charge them. A bit of a game as we only had three charging units, and the packs took about three hours each for a full charge. Fortunately, I had put the ones that came with the lighting units onto charge before I went out shopping, and they were all fully charged when we I got back.

Dad and Lee got back from the studio shortly after twelve. Gert was not with them, a fact that I mentioned, having thought that Lee and Gert were going out to practice with the stabilisers this afternoon.

"He's in a wrap-up meeting with De heer Wilhelm," Lee informed me. "He should be here within the hour. By the way, there is wrap party at a local pub this evening."

"I'm not sure I could face another," I commented, remembering the one last Sunday.

"Gert assured us this one will be a lot quieter," Lee stated. "It is just for the freelancers who have been on the shoot, so there will only be four or five people there plus De heer Wilhelm."

Gert arrived about an hour later, and he and Lee went off to practice with the stabilisers. I put on another lot of batteries to be charged then got stuck into one of my textbooks. My next exam was on the Tuesday after we got back, so I needed to do some revision.

I was still revising when Mum came back from wherever she had been. I guessed it was shopping as she was carrying a number of bags. She saw me sitting with my head in the textbook.

"That's what I should be doing," she commented.

"Then why aren't you?" I asked.

"Had enough. Anyway, guess this is the last shopping day I'm going to have over here. I'm going to miss shopping at Blokker; they have some good stuff."

Dad informed her that there was a wrap party tonight. She expressed the same doubt that I had, pointing out that Dad, Lee, Gert and I were due in Amsterdam at nine to meet Luuk in the morning. Dad assured her it was not going to be anything like Sunday's wrap party.

"By the way, I thought I might come into Amsterdam with you in the morning," Mum announced. "Betty suggested a couple of museums that I should see."

Dad just nodded.

Gert and Lee got back just before five, reporting that they had had a successful afternoon and were now confident in the use of the stabilisers. I got the cameras from them and put the battery packs on to charge. The last thing I wanted was the camera batteries to run out tomorrow. Whilst I was doing that, Dad and Gert were discussing where to eat tonight. We were due at the bar for the party at eight, so Gert suggested a place in town which he said did traditional Dutch cuisine. To be honest, the sound of that did not really appeal to me, nor did it to Lee. In the end, Mum and Dad decided to go with Gert and experience some traditional Dutch cuisine. Lee and I went to a café not far from the hotel which did meat balls in saté with chips. We all met up later at the bar.

It turned out that Gert was wrong about the size of the party. There were far more people there than he had indicated. He was, though, right about it being nothing like the party last Sunday. It was a much more sedate affair. It also did not go on as long.

De heer Wilhelm came over to Dad during the night and thanked him for doing the film.

"Mr. Carlton, having you front the series will make a big difference," he assured Dad. "I hear you are making a couple of programmes of your own here in the Netherlands."

Dad admitted that he was and gave De heer Wilhelm an outline of the two projects.

"Well, I must say I would never have dared to make the one about the camp survivors. There are a lot of people around still who do not want to be reminded of such things. I doubt I could have raised the production funds over here. However, once you have made it, please offer it to my television channel; I would be interested in showing it."

"Won't that upset the same people?" Dad asked.

"Yes, but it will be too late then for them to block it. If I try to produce it over here, they can."

As I said, the party did not go on as late as the one last Sunday, and we were back in our hotel apartment by eleven. Gert said we needed to leave by eight in the morning to drive into Amsterdam, park, then meet Luuk. So, alarms were set for six-thirty.

Driving into Amsterdam on Saturday morning was a bit of an adventure. In the end, Mum had decided she would go in on the train, which was a good job. Although the car can technically seat five, it would have been a bit of a squeeze with all the equipment we had stacked in it as well as passengers. Dad was driving, with Gert in front with him giving directions. Lee and I were in the back seat with camera cases packed in between us. The back of the car was jampacked with equipment. I asked Dad how we were going to get it all back to England together with our luggage.

"We're not," Dad informed me. "I'm leaving most of it here. Only taking back what we brought over, so there should be room."

"You're forgetting about Mum's shopping," I pointed out.

"Oh, shit!"

Fortunately, before he could worry about that issue anymore, Gert started to direct him into the centre of Amsterdam. The garage space was on a street called Palmgracht, where there was a surprising amount of parking available. When we got there, Gert had to get out and enter a numeric code into the pad at the side of the garage door to open it. At least, to open what I thought was a garage door. It was not. It was an entrance to a passageway which went through the building to a covered yard at the rear where there were a number of separate garages, each with its own keypad. Gert had to enter another number to open the one belonging to his cousin. Once inside, we unloaded what Gert informed us we would need for this morning's filming, then set off to meet Luuk, who had said he would be at the top end of the Herengracht . Fortunately, it was not far.

We got to the agreed meeting place just before nine, but there was no sign of Luuk. Gert was checking the time on his phone when I spotted Luuk walking up the side of the canal accompanied by an elderly man who was walking with the aid of a stick.

"Mr. Carlton, may I introduce Professor Hendricks," Luuk said to Dad when he got to us. "I hope you don't mind, but I have invited the professor to join me today as he has never seen the interior of the Marius house, and he has a special interest in it."

"I just hope you will not be bored traipsing around with us all morning. We are not due to get to the Marius house till two," Dad told the professor.

"I doubt very much that I will be bored. It is not often I have a good excuse to wander the canals of Amsterdam. It will be interesting to hear what Luuk has to say about the buildings. I just hope I will not be in the way as we traipse around the city," the professor stated. He had a strong American accent. Judging from the drawl, I would guess he was from one of the southern states, a fact I commented on.

"You're not wrong, young man. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, though I am Dutch by birth." I must have looked surprised. The professor continued. "I was born in Leiden in early 1940. My father was an engineer and had taken a position at a university in Charleston. My family sailed to the States from Rotterdam a few weeks after my birth. Two weeks later, the Germans invaded my home country. It would be thirty years before I came back here."

"How come so long a time?" I asked.

"Life," the professor replied. "My father… Well, the thing is, he had been involved with the NBS, the Dutch fascist party before the war. He was related to Cornelis van Geelkerken, as am I, of course. Though my father served the Dutch government-in-exile during the conflict, his connections did not make him popular in some quarters after the war. He felt it best to stay in the States, where he had a good teaching position at the university.

"To me, Charleston was home; it is where I grew up. Yes, my family spoke Nederlands at home; I had an older brother and sister who spoke mainly Nederlands, but my main language was English. I came back to the Netherlands to do some historical research for my doctorate in architecture in 1971 and found I liked the place, like many young Americans did in those days. I, though, had an advantage, I spoke the language and was a Dutch national. So, I stayed."

Whilst we had been speaking, Gert had been fitting Luuk with a wireless microphone. They then decided to test it. Gert started filming and just asked Luuk to say something about the Herengracht and its architecture. Luuk started to speak. Suddenly the professor started to say something about the fire of 1452. From what the professor stated it destroyed two thirds of Amsterdam and after it, the city ordinance was that building had to be stone or brick construction. What followed was an animated and interesting conversation between the professor and Luuk, which Gert quickly brought to an end.

The thing was, the interaction between Luuk and the professor about the origins of the architectural style on the Herengracht was a lot more interesting than just Luuk speaking about it, a point I made to Dad when I took him to one side to make a suggestion.

When we got back, the professor was apologising profusely to Gert for having interrupted Luuk's presentation.

"It's no problem," Gert stated. "It was only a test shot to check that everything was working as it is supposed to. So long as you do not do it again, there will be no problem."

"Or, you could become part of the presentation," Dad suggested as he joined the conversation. "How about joining with Luuk explaining about the architecture and its history?"

"You don't mind?"

"Not at all, though I would warn you that if this pilot works we might be asking you to take part in filming the series," Dad stated.

The professor agreed to take part. Gert got him wired up, and we then started to do the shoot properly. We worked our way down the Herengracht, with Luuk and the professor in conversation with each other about the buildings and their architecture. What was interesting was that the professor knew the architecture of the buildings far better than Luuk did, which is not surprising. What was a surprise was that Luuk knew more of the history of the buildings than the professor. The exchange was interesting and often amusing.

Each exchange was shot twice, once in English and then in Dutch, or the other way around. By half-past-twelve we were about a third of the way down one side of the Herengracht. The discussions between Luuk and the professor had been animated and interesting. It was a pity Joseph was not with us; he would really have enjoyed it.

We broke off the filming to get some lunch. We had arranged to meet with Mum at one at a restaurant that Gert had recommended that was on the Herengracht. Dad had managed to reserve a table when he phoned yesterday. He had also invited Judy to join us. So, we packed up the equipment and made our way to the restaurant, Dad by now having extended an invitation to the professor. Fortunately, the restaurant had no problem with accommodating another person at our table.

Mum arrived about three minutes after us, followed a couple of minutes later by Judy. I introduced Dad and Mum to Judy; Dad then proceeded to introduce the professor. His presence seemed to quite impress Judy.

Judy and Mum seemed to click the moment they met. Judy said something about it being boring following us around whilst we filmed.

"Christ, I bet it must have been, though I didn't," Mum informed her. "Spent the morning visiting some of the Canal House museums. A friend in Apeldoorn gave me a list of some I should see."

Mum and Judy then started to discuss the museums she had visited that morning. I tuned out a bit and set about studying the menu. All of a sudden, Mum laughed.

"No way," she told Judy. "This afternoon I am going shopping." Dad blanched.

"Anything in particular you are after?" Judy asked.

"I'm looking for the unusual, especially kitchenware that I can't get in England."

"I know a couple of good specialist shops," Judy informed her. "If you don't mind waiting till I've let these into the house where they are filming, I can show you around the shops this afternoon. I love shopping."

I looked across the table at Dad. For a moment, I thought he was going to faint. However, before he could, the waitress came over to take our orders.

The meal was good, the conversation stimulating, and to be honest, I was glad of the break, having been carrying equipment around all morning. I needed a break. I also needed the beer I had with the meal.

All too soon, though, it was back to work. Mum and Judy walked down with us to the Marius house. Judy unlocked it and gave us a quick tour. As she had promised, it was now fully furnished. Once the tour was over, she handed Dad the keys, said she would be back at five to collect them from him, then took Mum off to do some shopping. By the way the pair of them strode down the side of the canal, I guessed it was going to be some serious shopping.

I was involved in the filming a lot more in the afternoon than I was in the morning when I had effectively been a convenient beast of burden. This afternoon they had to make use of the portable lighting units, and I was put in charge of them. It took some playing about with positioning of the lights to get some of the architectural features to show up in the way that was required for filming. I began to understand more why Joseph's ability with architectural drawing was so important.

While I was busy sorting out the placement of lights for one shot or another, Lee took one of the handheld cameras and was making general view shots of each of the rooms. Fortunately, it was a bright day and there was plenty of natural light coming into all the rooms. As we had done during the morning, each scene was shot twice, once in English and once in Dutch. Gert did comment that if this were a live production, we would probably have reshot some of the scenes, but as this was just a tester, we would work with what we had got.

After the better part of two-and-a-half hours, we were finished. At least, we had to finish as it was getting on for five, and Judy would be returning to collect the keys. Lee and I, with some help from Gert, packed all the kit up. Dad thanked the professor for his input.

"Not at all, Mr. Carlton. I should probably be thanking you for giving me the chance to have a look at the interior of the Marius house. It is really quite a remarkable property."

Once we had finished packing everything back up, Lee surveyed the pile. There were two large, wheeled equipment cases, two large camera cases for the shoulder-mounted cameras and five smaller camera bags, which contained among them the handheld cameras, monopods, battery packs, reflectors, light sets and I do not know what else.

"You know, I didn't think there was this much when we unloaded the car," Lee commented. "Don't fancy hauling it all back."

That was a sentiment that I had to agree with.

"It would be easier to bring the car here," Gert stated.

"Can we?" Lee asked.

"We can't park around here — you need a local parking permit to do so — but we can bring the car here to load," Gert informed him.

After a brief discussion, it was decided Lee and Gert should go and collect the car. I decided to tag along with them.

It was a surprise when Gert started to lead us, not via the Herengracht, the way we had come, but across a bridge then down the Leidsegracht, a canal that joined up with the Herengracht. At the end of the Leidsegracht, there was a tram stop, where we caught the tram. We got off not far from where we had stored the car. Walking up the road to where the car was located, I spotted a British-number-plated car parked. I pointed it out to Lee. It was on the far side to the road to where we were, but I was sure it was one I had seen in the hotel car park.

Lee just nodded, then took out his phone. He appeared to be speaking on his phone, but I suspected he was filming as we walked past the car.

By the time we got back to the Marius house, Mum and Judy had arrived, both of them with a quantity of shopping. Mum also made it clear she expected it to go back with us in the car. I wondered how we were going to get it in until Dad said he would go back to Hilversum on the train with Mum.

It was getting on for six-thirty by the time we got back to Hilversum and got the car unloaded. Dad insisted that before we did anything, copies were made of all the video that had been shot today. So, for the better part of an hour, Lee was busy on the laptop copying files from SD cards onto the laptop, then copying them onto USB sticks. In the end, Dad had all the original SD cards, Lee had copies of the files on the laptop, which he was sending to the MCP server in Dunford, and Gert had a set of copies on USB sticks.

"I've learnt the hard way, you can never have too many copies," Dad stated as we started to make our way out of the apartment to go and get some dinner. He had asked Gert to join us.

"How did you learn the lesson?" Gert asked. For the next ten minutes, Dad regaled Gert with details about an episode of the industrial-archaeology series. They had spent a day at an old mill up in Derbyshire filming. Martin Shelt, the producer, had phoned him that evening to say how happy he was with what they had got. However, that night, the SD card got corrupted. Nobody was sure how, but everything had been lost.

"Painful," Gert said.

"It was," Dad confirmed. "We had to cut the entire episode as we could not get back on that location."

"You know, we really should take a laptop with us and swap SD cards between shots," Lee stated. "That way we could be making a backup of one card while another is being used."

"That's something we should think about," Dad admitted.

Over dinner, Dad told Gert he wanted to talk to him about the setup in the Netherlands. He told me I needed to be in the conversation as well. So, when we got back to the hotel, Mum went up to the suite, whilst Lee, Dad, Gert and I gathered around a table in the bar.

"Look, I don't know what the rest of you think, but I think there might be something with Luuk and the professor talking about architecture," Dad stated.

"Well, they certainly made it interesting," Lee observed. "Especially, what they said about the slave trade."

"What do you think, Gert?" Dad asked.

"I'm biased, of course, but I think Luuk did well."

"To be honest, I have to agree with you," Dad said. "Of course, I could only say that about the English part."

"The Nederlands was a bit different," Gert stated. "If anything, it was a bit more amusing at times as there was some word play involved. Don't think Luuk is up to stuff like that in English."

"Good, how long will it take you to get something we can show around?" Dad asked.

"It depends on what you want to do about The Unheard," Gert replied.

"There's no rush on that, I don't think we need to start to look at final editing till we have done the remaining interviews."

"In that case, Mike, I could probably get the edits done in the next couple of weeks," Gert stated.

"That's good. Now, what I wanted to talk about was how we set this up. I can't offer you the same funding as I am doing with The Unheard, Gert; the funds are just not there and won't be unless we can get an upfront sale of the series, which I doubt. There is some funding but not enough to pay you in the same way I am doing on The Unheard. Also, I need Johnny to be beneficially involved in this as he is putting up most of what funding there is."

Gert looked at me puzzled, so I thought I better enlighten him.

"I'm using some of the money from my trust to fund it. After all, it was my idea."

Gert just nodded at the information.

"What I suggest, Gert," Dad said, "is that we set up a subsidiary of Mike Carlton Productions over here with you in charge. I'll put the equipment we have currently got into it. Also, any future work I do for De heer Wilhelm can be done through it; he's already on about a second series. What I am offering is thirty percent of the business to you, I'll take thirty percent through Mike Carlton Production and Johnny will get thirty percent."

"What about the other ten percent?" Gert asked.

"I was going to split that — five percent each for Luuk and Lee," Dad stated. Lee looked surprised. Dad continued. "Look, Lee, if this goes ahead, you're going to be doing quite a bit of work on it before there is any money coming in, and I can't afford to pay you extra. So, that is a way of compensating you."

"Thanks," Lee replied.

"What do you think, Gert?" Dad asked.

"We'll need some offices to do this properly," Gert stated. "That's going to be expensive, they will need to be somewhere that has prestige. We can't be stuck down some back street. The TV people won't go there. That's why I freelance; could never afford premises to get started."

I smiled to myself. This fitted nicely in with what I had already thought about.

"How about the Herengracht?" I asked. "Does that have enough prestige?"

"Yes, but it will cost a fortune," Gert replied.

"Not when you already own the offices," I responded.

Dad and Gert both looked at me.

"The place my property trust owns on the Herengracht has an office/studio on the ground floor. The lease is not going to be renewed because of the refurbishment work that is going to be carried out. So, when the work is finished, move in there. It's not as if I need the rent from there. Though no doubt you have some sort of property tax over here, so that would have to be covered."

"Whereabouts on the Herengracht is it?" Gert asked.

"Do you know the flat that Luuk used to live in?" I asked.

"Wim's? Yes. I went there a few times. It's below his uncle's studio."

"Well, it is the uncle's studio that I am offering," I told him.

"Shite! You own that building?"

"Yes, Gert, I do, and we can have the office there if it will do for you."

"It will more than do, Johnny; that must be one of the best locations in town."

"How will it work out with you living in Rotterdam?" Dad asked.

"If things work out, I will probably be out of the office most of the time filming," Gert stated. "So, it will not be that much of a problem. When I do need to be in the office, it's just over hour and a half by car from where I live. I am sure I can sort something out about parking."

Dad laughed. Then he bought a round of drinks to celebrate. Dad told Gert that he would get Bernard to sort out the legal side of things. He was sure they had lawyers they worked with in the Netherlands.

"What makes you so sure?" I asked.

"There were, and possibly still are, some tax advantages to having royalties paid in the Netherlands. A number of artists, especially pop groups, over the years have done so. I know some of the clients that Bernard represents have had their royalties paid in the Netherlands, so I suspect Bernard has probably been involved in setting things up."

It was getting on for eleven when we got up to the apartment. Dad had asked Gert to come up with us to sort out what kit he wanted to keep over here. In the end, he decided to keep most of it. We were only taking one shoulder-mounted and one handheld camera back with us, plus some standard lighting and recording stuff. That decided, Lee and I helped move the rest of the stuff down to Gert's room on the floor below. He had a small studio apartment. We did promise to help him load his car up in the morning before we set off.

Sunday, we were in a bit of a rush. For a start, nobody had thought to set their alarms and we all slept in. Nobody got up till nearly nine. Then it was a rush to get up, get packed, get down for some breakfast, help Gert pack his car, pack our car and get on the road. Our crossing from Calais was booked for just after one. We did not make it. It was closer to two by time we got there. We were, though, within the two-hour time slot, so got on the next train through the tunnel.

It was getting on for five-thirty by the time we got back to the Priory. Dad had insisted that we stop on the way to eat. It made sense as none of us had eaten since breakfast. Originally, Dad had planned for us to stop and have lunch on the way to the tunnel, but the time we spent stuck in the traffic jam at Antwerp's Kennedy Tunnel put an end to that. He had taken the opportunity to stop at an out-of-town shopping centre, where there was a supermarket with its own café. Mum also had a chance to stock up on stuff for breakfast tomorrow and meals for the next couple of days. Besides getting food and supplies, I also think he wanted a break from driving since he swapped over with Lee after we had eaten, and Lee drove the last sixty-odd miles home.

Monday morning was a bit of a rush. To be honest I should have sorted things out the night before, but I'm a seventeen-year-old. I just could not be bothered. So, at eight o'clock on Monday morning, I was dashing around trying to find everything I needed for college. Fortunately, it was not much. It was doubtful if there would be much teaching today with our exam being tomorrow afternoon. On that, I was right; both classes were taken up with exam techniques.

Simone wanted to know how things had gone on the trip, so I gave her as good an account of things as I was able, including mentioning the man we had spotted on the terrace at the hotel.

"Yes, I got a message about that from Neal. He also sent me some photographs," Simone informed me. "I think I have seen that chap around. I am definitely going to be on the lookout for him from now on."

"Are you coming over to train this evening?" I asked.

"I really should do some studying for tomorrow's exam," Simone stated. "However, throwing Lee around for an hour or so would help me relax."

I laughed, then said I would probably see her there. Like Simone, I should probably spend my time studying, but I thought a couple of hours training would probably do me more good.

It was good; I had a fun evening. Not sure how much I actually learnt about Aiki Ju Jitsu, but it was fun. Steven and Jim were both there, as were Delcie, Simone and, of course, Lee. Lee got us practising doing one of the throws using a jo. That is a stick which is shorter than a bo. I asked Lee to explain the difference.

"A jo is a stick that, when stood on the grounds, come up above your waist but does not reach above your shoulder. A bo is a staff that, when stood on the ground, reaches at least to head height and can be longer," Lee told me.

"Why the difference?" I asked.

Big mistake. For the next hour — at least, it felt like an hour — Lee demonstrated the difference between a jo and a bo: how the same move, performed with the different staffs, had different effects. All very interesting and informative, except for the fact he was demonstrating on me.

Fortunately, being only seventeen, I had a good excuse not to buy him a drink when we got down to the pub afterwards. It would have been illegal, and Mary knows my age, so there was no way she would serve me. Unfortunately, that meant I was stuck drinking shandy.

That, though, was probably a good job, as I had an exam the next day.

Tuesday was, to put it mildly, shit. Why is it every question that you are certain will be on the exam paper is nowhere in sight when you open the paper? As I trudged out of the exam room after ninety minutes, I found Simone outside, who did not look happy.

"I know I've missed some classes," she stated, "but I did not think I had missed that many."

"I think we've been studying the wrong syllabus," I stated.

"Why do you think that?" a voice I recognised as Mr. Taunton's said from behind me.

I explained that a lot of the questions on the paper just did not seem to fit with what we had been doing.

"They probably fit; you just have to look at them the right way," Mr. Taunton stated. He then suggested we go to the library and look over the exam paper. Both Simone and I had brought our exam papers out with us. It did not take long. Mr. Taunton was able to show us that each of the questions in the exam did fit with the syllabus; you just had to identify what the problem was that the question was referring to. A couple of times that really meant turning the question on its head.

When we had finished going through the paper with Mr. Taunton, I felt a lot more confident about how I had done. I also felt that the assassination of exam-setters should become a national pastime, a thought I expressed to Simone, who fully agreed with me.

I was just about to ride home on my moped when my phone pinged. It was a message from Steve asking if I could call in the yard when I had time. I decided to take a diversion and call in on the way home, so got to the yard just after four-thirty.

"That was quick," Steve stated as I walked into the office.

"Was just about to leave college when your text arrived," I told him. "What's up?"

"I've got a problem with Colin," Steve said.

"Why? What's he done?"

"Nothing wrong, which is part of the problem. If he had done something wrong or was not working hard, life would be easier. You never met Tony Summers, did you?"

"No," I replied. "He had left before I started working at the yard. Why?"

"Tony had worked at the yard since he left school at sixteen. Actually, he had helped at the yard at weekends and during the holidays before then. He got married the year before last, and his wife persuaded him to go out to Oz. She's a teacher and Tony had his City and Guilds, so was classed as a qualified tradesman; they had no difficulty getting visas. Tony's wife already had an offer of a job out there before they were married.

"Anyway, they went out the start of last year. Tony was not that keen on going, but his wife was really pushing for it. I told Tony that if things did not work out that there would be a job here for him. As it is, things have not worked out. Got a letter from Tony this morning. Seems his wife has left him for somebody else. To complicate matters, he found that there was no boatbuilding going on around where his wife had her job, so he ended up doing general labouring. He's decided to come back to the UK as soon as his current contract finishes at the end of June. Tony wants to know if there is any chance of a job here for him.

"The thing is, Johnny, I promised Tony that I would employ him if he came back, and I would want to. He's a bloody good worker and skilled as well. It's no problem at the moment; we have enough work on the books that adding an extra member of staff is not going to be a problem. We've had to turn some work down even though we have the slip capacity to take in on."

"We have?" I asked.

"Yes, we have. Not much, but there have been a couple of labour-intensive jobs that I had to turn down in the last month. Just did not have the skilled staff to supervise the job if we took it on."

That I could understand. It was fairly easy to get additional casual labour to come in and help out, but you needed somebody with the requisite skills to run any job in the yard, just from the health-and-safety aspect, at the very least.

"What's this got to do with Colin, Steve?"

"The thing is, at the moment we've got enough work to take Tony back and keep Colin employed. That, though, is not going to last. Once the current rush is over, I am not sure there is going to be enough work to keep Colin employed through the whole season."

That I could understand. At the start of the season people were putting their boats back in the water for the first time in the season or, if they were kept afloat all year, were just starting to use them again. When they did, they found all the things that were wrong and wanted them repaired as soon as possible. Once the initial rush was over, probably about the end of June, things slowed down. There would not be so much work coming into the yard.

"So, you are going to get rid of Colin?" I asked.

"Not immediately, Johnny. I hope I can keep him on most of the season but doubt I can keep him employed during the off season, and it is going to be a bit tight during the latter part of August and first few weeks of September."

Again, I could understand. By August most people who had boats had got them pretty well sorted out, at least as far as major repairs were concerned. Anything that was a problem then could probably wait till the end of season, when having the boat in the yard for a few days would not interfere with one's sailing. There was a slack period for the yard in August and the first part of September until people started to bring their boats in to be fixed before being put up for the winter.

"How about all the work up at the Salvage Yard, sorting all the storage out and stuff?" I asked.

"That, Johnny, is not the yard's work," Steve pointed out. He was right there. I was responsible for that. Realising that gave me an idea.

"What's Colin on and what hours?" I asked.

"I've got him on four pounds an hour and thirty hours a week, though he is doing more at the moment."

It was not much but I knew it was more than the minimum. I needed to talk to Dad and Uncle Bernard about this.

"Look, Steve, don't say anything to Colin yet. Can you give me a couple of weeks? I might be able to come up with something."

Steve said he could. That settled, I got onto my moped and made my way home.

My next exam was not till Thursday, when I had two on the same day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. On Friday, I should have had metalwork practical in the afternoon but had dropped the course. Instead, I spent the day in the library revising. By Friday evening I was dead, especially after spending nearly two hours in the dojo. Fortunately, I had arranged to meet with Joseph Saturday afternoon, not Saturday morning. So, it was after eight on Saturday morning when I got up.

The only reason I got up then was because I had booked a driving lesson for nine and needed to get something to eat first. The driving lesson was a bit of a disaster. It was not my usual instructor, and for some reason, I did not get on with the stand-in the driving school had sent. I found his attitude unpleasant and not at all helpful.

Getting back from my driving lesson, I was surprised to see the uncles' Range Rover in the yard, with Leni polishing it. Nothing had been said about them coming over this weekend. Indeed, yesterday down at the pub after the dojo, Lee had asked if I had any idea when they were due over again as he needed to speak with Uncle Ben about the dojo. Our use of the small barn ended at the end of June.

Going into the kitchen I found Dad, Uncle Ben and Uncle Phil seated around the table, with Mum making drinks.

"I suppose you would like a coffee," she said to me as I entered.

"Nah, thanks, I'll grab a cola," I said. I then told Uncle Ben that Lee wanted to see him.

"What about?" Uncle Ben asked.

"The dojo; we only have the use of the barn till the end of the month," I informed him.

"Think we have that solved," he replied holding up a set of keys. "The sale of the sidings went through yesterday; picked up the keys last night. That's why we're here," Uncle Ben replied.

"Anyone told Lee?" I asked.

"No, we've only just got here," Uncle Ben informed me.

"OK, I'll give him a ring."

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