Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 41

I did not go into college on Monday or Tuesday. There were no classes now as it was full-on exams, and I did not have an exam till Wednesday. I had spoken to both Mr. Taunton and my two physics tutors about attending, but they had both told me not to bother and spend the time revising. I could do that just as well at home as I could in college. Actually, I could probably do it better. On Tuesday, Simone came over to revise with me. We spent the whole afternoon firing physics questions at each other. Turned out it had all been a bit of a waste of time. The exam on Wednesday was something of a doddle.

I mentioned this to Miss Leonard when we came out of the exam and stated we could have saved ourselves all that revision if we had known it would be so easy.

"Jonathan, the only reason you and Simone found it easy was because you did all that revision," she informed us.

She may have had a point there.

Simone gave me a lift back to the Priory after the exam. It was a Wednesday, and there was a dojo session planned. Simone informed me she intended to work off some of the exam tension by spending a couple of hours going through katas before having dinner with Lee.

"You uncle is coming over to take the session this evening," she informed me as we exited the college car park.

"Uncle Ben is coming tonight?"

"Yes, and your Uncle Phil. Lee sent me a text. Picked it up just before the exam started."

I was surprised. Dad had said nothing to me about the uncles coming over. I was even more surprised when I got home. Not only was Uncle Ben's Maserati sitting in the yard, so was Uncle Bernard's Jaguar and Matt's car. I wondered what was going on.

"You'd better go through to the study once you've got your coat off," Mum told me as I walked in. "The whole gang of them are in there plotting."


"Yes, plotting. I wouldn't trust your father and Bernard half a yard; your uncles just make it worse," she laughed. I joined the laughter, hung up my coat and went to join them.

"Good. You're back," Dad said as I entered the study. "We need to run a couple of things past you."

Dad indicated that I should take a seat, so I did.

"What?" I asked.

"Well, for a start, there is your idea about the prefabricated housing units," Matt stated. "Thanks for bringing those brochures over; they are most informative. I spent yesterday on the phone to the manufacturers. Got some good feedback on things.

"The thing is, Johnny, putting them where you suggested won't work."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Sewerage," Matt replied. "I know everybody says that the Priory is at the top of the hill, but it's not, it's at the end of a ridge. Moreover, its buildings are actually all on the Dunford side of the ridge. If you think about it, you will realise that the ground starts to slope down on the side of the property away from Dunford."

I thought about it and had to agree, so nodded.

Matt continued. "There is a main sewer pipe that comes from what used to be the old engine sheds, through the estate, under the drive, and then goes down the hill, and past the Crooked Man. It is all on the Dunford side of the ridge. If we were to put anything up where you indicated, we would be unable to use it."

"How did the old farmhouse manage?" I asked.

"Septic tank, I'd guess," Matt replied. "The thing is, we would have to put in either a new septic-tank arrangement or connect to the main sewer, which will cost a fortune. The problem is, for what you are looking at putting up there, you would need a very large septic tank, and that would have to be underground. On that side of the ridge, you go down twelve inches and you are hitting solid rock. Excavating a hole big enough to hold the size of tank required for four to six units would be expensive. It would also be noisy as I think we would have to blast. I sounded out the planning department, and they would insist on connection to the main sewer as the main sewer is within five hundred yards. That would mean boring through the ridge to keep it so the sewerage could flow down to the main sewer. No way could we trench it."

"How much?" I asked.

"Can't say, but it would be expensive."

"So, no vakantie houses at the Priory."

"At least, not there, Johnny," Dad stated. "However, Matt's suggested an alternative."


"Here," Matt said, pointing to an area on the map that was spread out on the table. The site was immediately behind the walled garden, in line with the cottage and boiler house. "If we turn the area at the side of the walled garden into a car park, we need to turn this track into a proper access road. That'll give a one-way traffic flow around the nursery and arts centre. It will also provide access to this area. There were structures there before, so it's classed as brownfield. Getting planning permission to put up some prefabricated housing units should not be a problem."

"What about sewerage?" I asked.

"Not a problem. It's on the Dunford side of the ridge line, and we have a natural slope to take the flow down to the main pipe," Matt replied.

"Fine, but what did you need me for?" I asked. "It looks as if you have sorted that out."

"We have, but your idea gave me an idea," Dad stated. "However, we need your trust to help fund it if it is going to work."

"What is it?" I asked.

"I was reading the stuff you got from the vakantie park. From what I could make out, the park leases a plot to somebody, who then buys and puts up the prefab house."

"That's how it works, Dad. The chap at the park told me all about it."

"I was thinking maybe we could do something similar with the sidings land." Dad then went on to explain what he had in mind. Basically, it was to put in the required infrastructure, divide the area up into plots, landscape it, then lease the plots out for people to put their own building up.

"Where do I come into this?" I asked, looking first at Dad and then at Uncle Bernard.

"The thing is, I do not have the spare funds to fund it at the moment," Dad stated. "I'm fairly heavily committed with MCP."

"So, you want the trust to fund it?" I stated. Then I looked at Uncle Bernard. "How much?"

"In total, somewhere around a quarter to half a million, though not in one go," Uncle Bernard stated. "That will cover putting in the required infrastructure, roads, sewers and the like for the first stage. It will also cover putting up some initial units that can be sold. The sale of the plots should return over a million. Then there is the ground-rent income."

I looked at Uncles Phil and Ben. "Where do you come in on this?" I asked.

"We don't, but having residential properties close to the studio development is good for us. It means there is housing nearby for people we are bringing in," Uncle Phil stated.

"Then why are you here?" I asked.

"We came over to sign off on the studio-development plans," Uncle Ben stated. "And to instruct Matt about the Southmead site."

"So, you got the airfield at the auction?"

"Actually, we didn't," Ben stated. "We were outbid, but it seems the buyer hadn't done his homework and when he found out that the site could not be redeveloped for housing, he dropped out. As the underbidder, the property was offered to us for what we had bid. We confirmed on it this morning. Had to deliver the deposit cheque, so thought we might as well come over and see Matt. It was Matt who told us he would be here."

"What I don't understand, Uncle Bernard, is why, if the idea of putting prefab units on the sidings is so good an idea, do you want my signoff on it?"

"Johnny, this is a long-term investment. It will be a couple of years before anything can get started, probably longer. By then, you will be in control of, at least, some of your trusts. If this is going to go ahead, you need to be on board with it from the start. The last thing your father can afford is for you to pull out of it when you get control of the trust."

That made sense. I got Dad, Matt and Uncle Bernard to explain the details of the whole thing again. Once I was confident that I had understood it, I said I was all l for it.

"What about the units by the walled garden, are they part of this plan?" I asked.

"No, they can't be," Dad stated. "I'll have to fund those somehow myself, but I have no idea how at the moment."

We discussed things a bit more, but it was getting onto practical design details about where to put roads and things. Uncle Bernard stated that this was not really his field, so started to excuse himself from the meeting. I asked if I could have a word with him and suggested we move to the library. Once there, I asked him about using funds from the trust to pay Colin to work for me at the Salvage Yard.

"Well, Johnny, I can't fund Colin out of the trust. It would be against the rules for the trust," Uncle Bernard informed me.


"But there is nothing to stop me raising your allowance, then you can use that to fund Colin. How much are you going to need?"

"Probably a couple of hundred a week," I told him.

"You're going to be getting a car soon, no doubt."

"Well, I was thinking about the TRV we got from the Islington house."

"Forget it, there is no way you or the trust could afford the insurance."

I laughed. He was right about that.

"What about the Smart Car?" he asked.

"I've driven it around the estate, don't like it much, and it would be useless trying to cross the causeway, even if it was dry. Actually, Uncle Bernard, I was thinking about a Volvo XC90 ."

"Don't know much about them. What made you think of that?"

I told Uncle Bernard about what Rodney White had said on the train.

"Well, it makes sense," Uncle Bernard stated. "Try to find one that's a couple of years old. Hopefully that will not break the bank."

I told him I would but did point out that I needed to pass my driving test first.

"I think your uncles want to talk to you about that," he informed me.

That statement left me puzzled, but not for long. Dad came through to tell us that Matt was leaving and that the uncles wanted to talk to me. I told Dad I would see them shortly but needed to finish off what I was talking about with Uncle Bernard.

"What's that?" Dad asked.

"It's confidential," I replied. Dad just nodded and said he would tell the uncles, then left.

"Did you speak to Mary Jenkins?" I asked Uncle Bernard.

"Yes, I have put them in contact with Zach. They are putting a business plan together. If it looks good, I will support you putting an investment into Manston Events, but I want Zach's feedback on it first."

That I could understand. "How much?"

"I would not want you to put in more than I would risk of my own money, so I would limit it to a hundred grand. That's what I've told Zach I'm prepared to put up."

"So, you'd back it?"

"Johnny, if Mrs M and Mary think they can make a go of it, I would be a fool not to think about investing in it."

That said, I went to see what the uncles wanted. Turned out they wanted me to do some location scouting for them whilst I was up in Blackpool next week getting my driving licence. That is, if I got it.

"Don't you have professional location scouts for that?" I asked.

"We do, but it never hurts to have a second set of eyes looking at things. I'll email you a list of what we are looking for. If you see anything you think fits, just photograph it and let us know where it is."

I told Uncle Phil I could do that.

Uncle Ben asked me if I would be training this evening. I told him I would be. I also advised him that Simone was over, working on her katas.

"Good, I can go through them with her," Uncle Ben stated.

The uncles — at least Uncle Ben and Uncle Phil — were staying for dinner. It turned out they were actually staying the night as they had meetings in Southmead in the morning. Uncle Bernard declined an invitation to dinner, with regret; he loved pork chops cooked in cider. He had an event to attend in Chelmsford, which I gathered he was not looking forward to.

Mum informed us that dinner would be ready in just over an hour, so Uncle Ben said he wanted to check in with Lee about how things were going. I said I thought Lee would be in the dojo with Simone, it now being well past his knocking-off time, so we walked around to the dojo together. As expected, Lee and Simone were there training together. More surprising, at the other end of the mat, Marius and Irene were apparently trying to kill each other, from what I could make out. I had no idea what they were doing, but it looked vicious.

Lee stopped his practice and came over to talk with Ben, who was watching Marius and Irene with interest. They had clearly not noticed that Ben and I had entered. When they did, they stopped what they were doing and looked a bit sheepish. I guessed they were not too happy about letting people see them training. Lee called them over and introduced them to Ben, explaining that they had asked to use the dojo to practice in, but he did not know what the discipline was that they were practicing.

"It's Krav Maga," Ben said. Marius looked surprised. He looked even more surprised when Ben spoke to them in what I took to be Hebrew. He looked somewhat worried when Irene answered Ben in the same language.

Uncle Ben held up his hands in surrender. "Sorry, my Hebrew is not like my brother's; I only know a bit."

"Your brother speaks Hebrew?" Irene asked.

"Yes, Mike's fluent in it. It's what makes him so good as a science writer; he's reading Hebrew scientific publications before they get translated."

Uncle Ben, Marius and Irene chatted a bit, then Uncle Ben talked to Lee about the move to the new premises.

"We're moving the mats at the weekend," Lee informed him. "Jim from the nursery is borrowing his father's Luton, and we can get everything loaded in that and take them round in one trip. There's a lot of things I've got to sort out over there, though."

"Like what?"

"Toilets, for a start. There does not seem to be any water. Think it must be turned off at the stopcock, but I can't find it."

"Give Matt a call, ask him to get somebody to check the place out and sort out any immediate problems. Anything else?"

"Yes, any chance my cousin Jarrom could hire the place? He used to run the Tae Kwon Do club that was there but could not get it to pay when he was renting the whole place full time."

"I don't suppose he could get it to pay, Lee. Any chance of getting him over to speak to me? I'll be around this evening and think we will be here most of tomorrow."

"I'll give him a call, Ben. Don't think he is working at the moment."

Lee and Uncle Ben spent a bit more time discussing what had to be done to sort out the new location for the dojo. Uncle Ben told Lee they would have to close down for six weeks whilst Matt did the planned alterations. However, he was hoping to schedule that around the end of the year when there was not normally that much demand for fight training.

That sorted, Uncle Ben commented that we'd better get back to the house for dinner. He assured Lee we would be over later for the training session. I notice he included me in the assurance without asking me. I might have wanted to do something else.

On the way back to the house, I asked Uncle Ben what Kava Maga was?

"It's Krav Maga, a combat form developed by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s. He was a wrestler and boxer in Bratislava. When the fascist groups in Czechoslovakia started to attack the Jewish population, Lichtenfeld organised Jewish wrestlers and boxers as a defence force. In the 1940s, he escaped on one of the last boats to leave Europe headed for Palestine. Once there, he joined the Haganah and started to teach his techniques to them. After independence, the Haganah became the Israeli Defence Force, and Lichtenfeld became their unarmed-combat instructor. His student, Eli somebody — I can't remember his name — had studied Aikido in France and started to introduce elements of Aikido into the form.

"There are some around who say that Krav Maga is the only true martial art around these days; all the others are sports."

"If it's part of the training of the Israeli Defence Force, how come those two are doing it?" I asked.

"Now that, Johnny, is a very good question. Lichtenfeld opened a school to teach it to civilians after he retired from the IDF. So, it is taught outside the Israeli armed forces. Also, national service is compulsory in Israel for both men and women, so they could have learnt it there. However, those two are experts at it. They are certainly very high grade, so one has to wonder what they are doing here."

After dinner and a bit of a rest to let the meal settle, Uncle Ben and I returned to the dojo. Marius and Irene were no longer there. Neither were Lee and Simone, but it was not quite seven-thirty, which is when the class was supposed to start. I guessed that they had probably gone to get something to eat. Delcie had arrived and was going through some warmup exercises; so had Jim and Steven, who were getting changed when we got there.

I had just finished getting changed when Lee and Simone came back. With them was a guy who, if anything, was bigger than Lee. Lee introduced him to Uncle Ben as his cousin Jarrom, who wanted to rent the new dojo to teach Tae Kwon Do. Uncle Ben and Jarrom chatted for a bit, then Jarrom left just as Lee came out from getting changed.

"Where's he going?" Lee asked.

"He's just gone to his car to get his kit," Uncle Ben told Lee. "He said he had done some Atemi Jutsu, so I invited him to come onto the mat."

"He has. He trained under the same instructor as me, Martin Brown. Actually, he introduced me to it. He mostly did Tae Kwon Do, though."

"I did not know Martin taught Tae Kwon Do," Uncle Ben said.

"He didn't; another instructor did. There was a Tae Kwon Do class in another dojo at the centre at the same time, and Jarrom mostly went to that."

Lee had just imparted that information when Jarrom returned, carrying a gym bag. Lee told him where he could get changed. I joined Jim and Steven on the mat. Uncle Ben demonstrated a move with Lee and then had us practicing it. He got Jarrom working with Delcie, which was amusing. Jarrom being well over six foot, and I do not think Delcie managed much more than five four. However, she was able to throw Jarrom around with ease, though he appeared to have more problems throwing Delcie. After about half an hour, Uncle Ben demonstrated another technique, with the exercise following.

Then Uncle Ben did some demonstration routines with Lee. At one point, Steven asked if one move that Uncle Ben had done could be used against a kick. Uncle Ben asked Jarrom to assist and to attack him with a roundhouse kick. He then demonstrated the routine against the kick.

"As you can see, it can be used against a kick," Uncle Ben stated as Jarrom started to get up from where he had landed. "Though in general, I would not recommend it. What you need to remember is that if your attacker is kicking, they are inherently unstable. You should take advantage of that instability."

That stated, Uncle Ben again demonstrated with Jarrom. This time he seemed to move into the kick, turning at the same time, with his arm coming over the top of the kicking leg, pulling it into his body. As he did, Uncle Ben continued with his turning, spinning Jarrom around him.

The demonstrations done, we then spent a half hour practicing bo katas. Finally, the class was over, and we made our way down to the Crooked Man for our regular post-class beer or, in my case, shandy. Uncle Ben insisted that Jarrom join us.

"How many classes do you think you would want to run?" Uncle Ben asked Jarrom.

Jarrom sat for a moment and thought about it. "When I ran the club there, I tried to run classes most days, but the attendance was low. I'd probably run something two nights a week and a class over the weekend. Think I could get enough students to make it worthwhile."

"Why is getting students a problem?" Uncle Ben asked.

"It's so difficult to get to. From Dunford you have to go all the way around to the Marsh Road and then up Marsh Hill to the sheds. It is a bit of a trek for anyone. Same from Southmead. There's no local population."

Uncle Ben nodded at Jarrom's response. "It'll be better when Sidings Lane is extended through to meet the top of Marsh Hill."

"That would cut nearly a mile and a half off the trip," Jarrom stated. "Is it likely to happen?"

"It's on the plans that we are putting into the council this week," Uncle Ben stated. "What are you doing for a living these days?"

"I teach a couple of classes in Southminster and one in Maylandsea. Other than that, I try to pick up casual labour when I can and cover at the petrol station."

"And you want to rent space to teach classes over here."

"If I can, yes. I would like to do a couple of evening classes during the week and a junior class on a Saturday morning with a senior class on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning."

"Don't think the evening classes should be a problem so long as you can do Tuesday and Thursday. Lee uses the dojo Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. The Saturday morning class is not likely to be a problem, at least, in the short term. Saturday afternoon and Sunday mornings are out, at the moment. Once the alterations are sorted out over Christmas, we will have more than one training area, so it should not be a problem then, but for the next few months we only have the one training area. Could you work with Tuesday and Thursday plus Saturday mornings?"

"Yes, my Southmead classes are Wednesday and Friday. The Maylandsea class is Sunday morning, and I can keep that over there for the time being. The question is, what rent do you want?"

"That's a good question. It depends on how you want to run things. I could rent out the dojo space to you and you pay rent. Alternatively, I could employ you as an instructor, and you then get a cut of the class."

"Employ me?" Jarrom asked, looking a bit puzzled.

"Yes. The thing is, Jarrom, most of the usage of the dojo is going to be fight training for film and TV work. I do a lot of fight direction. I am just about to start organising the fight sequence for the next series of The Dodge, and the actors involved will be over here training from the first week of July. I need somebody around to look after the place and take them through the basics."

Jarrom looked puzzled. Uncle Ben noticed it.

"Jarrom, there are three stages to organising a fight for a film or television production. The first is to make sure the actors are up to what you need them to do, that they are fit enough. Nine times out of ten, you need to spend the first few weeks getting them fit. Then you have to teach them the moves that they are going to need, and only then can you start to choreograph the fight so that it looks real. Choreographing the fight is my job as fight director. I need somebody who can take care of the first two steps. You showed on the mat tonight that your Atemi Jutsu is up to a good brown-belt standard, possibly black belt. You certainly know Tae Kwon Do.

"What I am offering is this. I will make you general manager of the dojo. It will be your job to keep the place running, making sure it's clean and ready to use at all times, and take bookings for use of the space. That should not take more than ten hours a week. I am prepared to pay you a hundred and ten a week to do that. In addition, you can run your own classes here, taking half the class fee as part of your wages. How much do you charge for a class?"

"Four quid for the juniors, seven for the seniors," Jarrom answered.

"Right. You will also get half the fees for the private classes involved in the fight-training programmes. At the moment, we are charging fifty an hour for those. When you are working as my assistant on fight direction, you will get twenty-five an hour. How does that sound?"

"It sounds good, but shouldn't you be offering it to Lee?" Jarrom asked.

"I already did," Uncle Ben replied. "However, he is more interested in working for my brother. He will, though, be doing some of the fight-training work for me, especially when I require fight sequences based on Aikido."

Jarrom just nodded, then looked at Lee, who nodded his confirmation.

Another round of drinks and some chatting and it was settled. Jarrom would take over managing the new dojo as from next Monday. It seemed he had no labouring work on at the moment.

Uncle Ben explained to Jarrom that there were some people who got the use of the dojo free. "Lee and Simone do and those who are training with them. There are also Marius and Irene Colberg. If they are training, they are to have privacy. Then there is Maddie; that's Maddie Atkins."

"The Maddie Atkins?" Jarrom asked.

"I think there is only one. Why do you ask?"

"She's bloody good. Trained with her a couple of times. Can't understand why she is not in the British Olympic squad."

"She's not in it because she does not want to be. Maddie's got no interest in the sport. All she wants to do is kick arse hard when required," Uncle Ben stated.

"And she's good at doing it," Simone commented. I found that comment interesting.

Thursday morning, I was up early, with a couple of aches from the dojo session of the previous night. Although I was not booked to go to the yard, I thought it best to go in and talk to Steve about Colin. I wanted to get to the yard early before it got busy, preferably before most of the staff were in. So, I got to the yard just after eight. Steve was there already, which was no surprise. What was surprising was that Katherine was also there, going over some plans with Steve when I arrived.

I asked Steve if I could have a word with him, then went with him into the private office. Once there, I explained to Steve what I wanted to do with regard Colin. By the time Colin arrived at work about half past eight, it was all settled. Steve would keep Colin on the payroll when things started to slow down. Colin would work up at the Salvage Yard doing work for me and I would reimburse Steve at cost for Colin's hours.

Steve was agreeable to the solution and said, provided I could make sure Colin had at least ten hours a week doing work chargeable to me, he would be able to cover Colin with enough work to make up his minimum hours. That settled, I went off up to the Salvage Yard to look at The Lady Ann, I intended to start to make a comprehensive set of notes, not only on her condition but on her construction.

I had been there for about an hour and had climbed up the boat cradle onto the deck to do some measurements, when Katherine came into the yard.

"Surveying her?" she asked as she walked down from the gate.

"Measuring her up," I replied. "Need to get a map of her structure sorted out before I start to do anything with her."

"I'm about to do the same with the Princess," Katherine replied with a light laugh, then she started off towards the sheds. She had only gone a few paces when she stopped. "By the way, Johnny, make sure you make a careful note of the types of joints. Often the joint type can be very informative when it comes to working out how a piece was put together."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"On boats like The Lady Ann and the Princess, you will find that the parts of the hull were built in a specific sequence; the joints can often tell you what that sequence was. For instance, if two pieces of wood are lapped, the lower lapped piece must have been put in place before the lapping piece."

I had to think about it a second, but when I did, it made sense. Thanking Katherine for the tip, I made sure I made note of the joint types from there on out. Actually, I went back and checked the details of what I had already written down. I had just about finished measuring up the deck and making a note of the details when my phone range. Fortunately, the Salvage Yard did get some mobile coverage, unlike most of the yards on the High Marsh. It was Steve asking if I could do the run up to the Pig to get some lunch. Apparently, he had sent Colin and Bran into Maldon to pick up some supplies and they were not back yet; otherwise, Colin would have been sent.

I told Steve I would, then checked with Katherine what she wanted from the Pig before getting on my moped and going down High Marsh to the main yard. Steve then gave me the orders from the other lads.

"What about Bran and Colin? Am I to get them anything?"

"No, I phoned them. They're stuck in Maldon. The delivery they were supposed to pick up has not arrived, so I told them to stay until it gets there. Also told them to get something for lunch over there. No point in them coming all the way back just to go back over there to pick the parts up."

I told Steve what Katherine wanted for lunch and suggested he phone the order through to the Pig for me to pick up. He agreed he would. That meant I would not have that long to wait for the order once I got there.

It was something of a surprise when I entered the Pig and Whistle to see Uncle Ben and Jarrom sitting at the bar. Then I realised that by car, this was probably the closest pub to the sheds. I recalled that Uncle Ben had arranged to meet with Jarrom at the work sheds at noon so they can discuss the layout for the new dojo. It was not yet one, so it looked like they had moved the discussion to the pub.

Jake, the barman, told me that Steve had phoned the order through, and it would be about ten minutes. Having received that information, I joined Uncle Ben while I waited. Uncle Ben was explaining to Jarrom about the development of the sidings and how they intended to connect Sidings Lane with Marsh Hill Lane.

"You realise that will create a rat run?" Jarrom stated.


"He's right, Uncle Ben. Marsh Hill Lane is about half a mile long, Sidings Lane is about the same down to the Lynnhaven Road junction. It must be the better part of three miles to go from the Marsh Hill Lane/Marsh Road junction to the Sidings Lane/Lynnhaven Road junction via Marsh Road and Lynnhaven Road. Cutting over Marsh Hill Lane and down Sidings Lane will save a good five minutes off your journey. It will also avoid the single-lane parts of Marsh Road."

"Fuck, it would become a rat run," Uncle Ben agreed. "We need to extend Sidings Lane to the top of Marsh Hill, but the last thing we want is a rat run."

"Isn't there a car park in front of the sheds?" I asked.

"Yes, Marsh Hill Lane ends thirty feet before the sheds. The area in front of the sheds was part of the goods yard. Now, it's car parking."

"Then keep it as car parking. Put some barriers up so vehicles have to snake their way through the car park. You could even put a gate in to divide the car park into two parts. One accessible from Sidings Lane, the other from Marsh Hill."

"That would work," Jarrom commented.

The service bell rang, and Jake went to the service hatch. Shortly after, he brought the lunch order over to where I was sitting with Uncle Ben and handed it me.

"Sorry, I need to get this back to the lads in the yard," I said, then set off.

As I passed the Salvage Yard, I beeped my horn to let Katherine know that I had got the lunch. She clearly heard me as she arrived at the main yard just as I was laying the stuff out on the table.

After lunch, I spoke with Steve about the measurements I had taken during the morning. I had been drawing the information out on an A4-size graph pad. Steve suggested that it was a bit small for the amount of detail that would be required. He said I would probably be better off with marine-design software and putting the information into a computer. That way, I could scale things as and when I wanted.

"Is that what you do?" I asked, given that Steve had brought printed plans in for work a number of times.

"Actually, yes. I've got AutoCad with a marine-design-package extension. It's on the computer at home."

We discussed it a bit more. What Steve was saying made sense. The thing was, I was not that adept at computers. It is not that I cannot use them; I use them all the time. It is just that I am not like Arthur, Neal or even Joseph. They seem to have an instinctive feel for how computers work and are able to get them to do what they want. For me, it always seems to be a bit of a battle.

Bran and Colin arrived back, so I gave them a hand to unload the van. Steve was not happy. It turned out that only about half the order had arrived. Bran told him that he had spoken to the merchant and had been assured that the rest of the order would be there in the morning. Steve went off muttering a series of foul expressions about what he would like to do to the merchant. Bran, Colin and I finished unloading the van. When I went into the office to tell Steve that we had finished, he was on the phone to the merchant, and he was not being very polite.

When he finished, I gave Steve the message that the van was unloaded and told him that I was getting off for home. It was not as if I was officially working today. I did assure Steve that I would be in on Saturday.

"Any chance you can do Sunday, as well?" Steve asked.

"Sorry, can't. I'm off to Blackpool for my intensive driving course," I told him.

"Shit. I was hoping to get the day off. Bran can cover the yard, but he needs someone in the chandlery."

I apologised to Steve but could not help out. Dad was driving me up to Blackpool on Sunday. From what had been said, we were going to have an early start. It was a good four-and-a-half-hour drive. Given that we would be stopping at least once on the way, we were probably looking at over five hours for the trip.

Actually, there was something that had been puzzling me. Why was Dad driving me up to Blackpool? It had already been arranged that I was coming back on the train. Why not go up on the train? I was not to find an answer to that until Sunday.

I got home shortly after three to find Mum and Marcia in the kitchen, having a cup of tea together.

"You two look happy," I commented as I hung my jacket up.

"We are," Marcia replied. "Just had our last exam."

"So, you've finished."

"Yes," Mum said. "University next for me."

"How about you," I asked Marcia.

"To be honest, I'm not sure. I did the course to get my skills back up to date so I could go back into my old line of work. However, I'm getting plenty of writing work from Mr Southern, and I'm enjoying it. So, I'm thinking of going full time as a technical writer."

"Will that pay enough?" I asked.

"Well, your dad did well enough out of it," Marcia replied. I did think of mentioning he also had rent income from the London properties but decided not to. "Anyway, it's not like I have to live on it. Bob's got the business back up and running. In fact, it's doing a lot better than when Chawish was running things. I'm getting a nice little income from that."

"So, you're going to be sitting up in the apartment writing all day?" Mum asked.

"Actually, I needed to speak with you about that," Marcia stated. "Martin's suggested that he should buy a bigger place and I should move in with him. We looked at a house out on the Southmead Road on Sunday. Martin's put in an offer. If it is accepted, I'm going to be moving out."

"Not immediately, though," Mum pointed out.

"No, not till August at the earliest," Marcia confirmed.

That was interesting. If Marcia was to move out of the apartment, it might provide an answer to the accommodation question for Lee. Then Lee's studio would become available for Colin. At least I thought that might be on the cards. Decided I should have a chat with Dad about it.

However, I was not to see Dad till the weekend. He had left for Birmingham this morning to do some filming on the industrial-archaeology series and was not expected back till late Friday. It was very late Friday when he got back, and I was already in bed, having agreed to open the yard up on Saturday morning. So, it was Saturday evening before I saw him, and he was not in a good mood.

I finished at the yard just after four, having opened it at seven-thirty. Got home a few minutes before five. Mum was in the kitchen starting dinner. I went up to shower and get changed. As I came down Dad called to me as I was going past his study.

"Are you packed to go up to Blackpool in the morning?" he asked.

"Nearly," I told him. "Just have a few last-minute items to put in the case. Not taking much as I will have to manhandle it on the train coming back."

"Probably wise. I wish I did not have to drive up there on Sunday," Dad stated.

"I could always go up on the train."

"It's not taking you up that's the problem. I have to be up there Sunday as we are filming at the Bancroft Mill Engine Museum on Monday morning — early Monday morning. Have to be there the night before to be at the museum for six. It's just that things have gone belly up down here, and I could do with having the time to sort them out."

"What's wrong?"

"Having problems getting travel insurance for your mum. She'll be twenty-eight weeks when we go out to Oz and most of the insurance companies don't want to cover past twenty-four weeks. Also, I wanted to take Lee out with us but can't."

"Why not?" I asked.

"His conviction," Dad stated.

"I thought that was compulsory for entering Australia," I quipped. It did not go down well.

"Jonathan, this is serious." I knew things were bad. Dad had used my full name. I don't think he had used that ever before.

We then spent a good half hour talking about things. I had not realised just how much Dad had committed to making The Unheard. Dad informed me that he had arranged to film interviews with the family of Henk's lover whilst we were in Australia, and he would have liked to take Lee out with us so he could help.

"Can't I help?" I asked.

"Johnny, much as I would like you to, I really need someone with some experience. Lee's got it; he's picked up a lot in the last six months working with me. Will probably have to hire a crew out in Oz to do the job; was hoping just to have to get a cameraman."

"Couldn't you use Gert?"

"No, he's in New York at the same time as we're in Oz. He's got some work to do for De heer Wilhelm."

The discussion about the Oz trip continued over dinner. Mum suggested that Dad should go out without her, something he completely rejected. He did, though, agree with my suggestion to contact a specialist insurance broker on Monday morning to see what could be arranged.

After dinner, I went up to my room, partly because I wanted an early night; we had an early start in the morning. More importantly, I wanted to chat with Joseph. We spent the better part of an hour talking on the phone. He still had a week and a half of exams left. He was taking four this coming week, two of them on Thursday, then he had a final exam the following Tuesday. However, he was fairly confident about that one, so was not planning on doing much revision over next weekend. We, therefore, agreed that I would stay with him in London that weekend. At the moment, I was not certain if I would be travelling down from Blackpool on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Dad had booked my hotel room till Saturday to give me the freedom to travel either day.

We set off just after seven on Sunday morning for Blackpool. Lee was with us, which made sense as Dad was going up to film and Lee was his production assistant. It also meant he was able to share the driving with Dad. We stopped at the Hilton Park services just past Birmingham on the M6 to have a break and get some breakfast. I do not think any of us had eaten much before we set out that morning.

Lee took over the driving after that stop and drove until we got nearly to Blackpool, where Dad took over driving. Apparently, he knew Blackpool and where we were going, which turned out not to be Blackpool but Lytham St Anne's, the town next to Blackpool. It turned out that Dad had booked me into the Clifton Arms Hotel, which, as far as I could make out, was about as far away from any of the attractions of Blackpool as it was possible to be and still be in reasonable travelling distance of Blackpool if you were having to rely on public transport.

I was not sure if this was deliberate or not, though thought it probably was not after Dad apologised for dumping me so far out of Blackpool; he said this was the only decent place he could find that had accommodation for the whole week. At least, the only one from the list of places that the driving school recommended

Dad parked the car at the hotel, but it was too early to check in, being only just gone one, and check-in started at two. Having confirmed it was OK to leave the car even though I was not checked in, we went in search of somewhere for lunch. We found a fish-and-chips place not far away and got fish and chips for lunch. That over, we walked back to the hotel. Dad made sure I was checked in and comfortable with my room, which I must admit was quite nice. He told me to enjoy my time in Blackpool but to be careful as well. That said, he left. He was due to book in with the film crew at four, and by the sound of things he had a good hour's drive to get to where he was going.

Once I had unpacked and sorted my stuff out, I phoned Joseph to let him know I had arrived in Blackpool. We had a short chat, but he made it clear that he was busy with his revision for Tuesday. So, we kept the call short. I then decided to go for a walk and see what was around. I had spotted a windmill further down the road and decided to walk down and have a look at it. Crossing over the road to the grassed area, I walked down towards the windmill. There were a number of groups of youngsters playing games on the grass.

As I approached the windmill, a Frisbee came flying towards me. I caught it and looked around to see where it had come from. There was a group of boys off to my right. One of the older ones indicated I should throw it back to them, so I did. There was something about the boy that looked vaguely familiar. I then continued down to the windmill. It turned out that it and the old lifeboat station nearby were a museum. According to the information board, they should have been open, but there was a sign up saying that they were closed, so I turned around and started to walk back towards the hotel. This time, though, I walked along the waterfront path.

That path brought me much closer to the group of boys I had thrown the Frisbee back to. They appeared to be taking a break as I approached them. One of the older boys — I thought he looked about fifteen — was at the edge of the path pulling out some cans of soda from a backpack. He was the one I had thrown the Frisbee back to. As I walked towards him, he looked up, saw me and smiled.

"Thanks for throwing the Frisbee back," he said.

"What else was I supposed to do with it?" I asked, coming to a stop by him.

He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. "It's surprising how many don't; we lose quite a few during the season. On holiday?"

"No, I'm up here to take a driving course. Are you on holiday?"

"Nah, we all live round here," he replied. "Still got a month of school before we get out."

"Cliff, hurry up with those drinks," an older lad who was sitting on the grass with some of the younger boys called out.

"Sorry, Chris, will have them over to you in a second," the lad who I presumed was Cliff called back. He turned to me. "Hang on a second; I'll be back." He grabbed a handful of cans and took them over to the group of boys sitting on the grass. Once he had delivered them, he returned to where I was standing. There were a couple of younger boys sitting near the backpack. Cliff pulled a couple of cans out and handed them to the boys, then he pulled out two more cans.

"Like one?" he said, offering me a can. I took it. Cliff indicated we should take a seat on the grass.

"Taking a break?" I asked

"Don't have much choice. Tommy and Keith have had to go home for tea, and it's their Frisbee. They'll be back in half an hour."

I was surprised that anyone would be going for tea at this time, but when I expressed my surprise, Cliff informed me that it was four-thirty, a piece of information which surprised me. It must have been later than I thought when I had started to walk down to the windmill.

"The twins stay with their grandma at the weekend. She's old-fashioned. Always serves tea at four-thirty on Sunday," Cliff informed me. "We'll be out here till about six, then most of us go home for dinner."

"Most?" I asked.

"The two lads with Chris, they're in a foster home. They had their Sunday dinner at one, so they'll stay out till they have to go home. They'll probably hang around with Chris."

There was something unsaid there, though I had no idea what it was.

"You should hang on a bit; you can join in the game when the twins get back. It will even up the teams."


"Well… Sorry I don't know your name."

"I'm Johnny, Johnny Carlton," I told him, refraining from using the double-barrelled name my mother had lumbered me with.

"Well, Johnny, there is Chris with Peter and James, those two boys on one team. The twins always play on Chris's team. Then there is mine. At the moment, that is me and these two: another Peter, but we call him Pete so we know who we are referring to, and then there is Paul, his brother."

"Seems a bit unfair, five against three," I stated.

"Not normally this bad," Cliff said. "Normally my brother John and his mate are here as well, but John broke his arm a couple of weeks ago, so can't play, and Tom, his mate, won't come along without him. Ma's taken them to Lancaster today to do some shopping and go to the flicks."

"How did he break his arm?" I asked. "Not playing Frisbee, I hope."

"No, playing footie."

We chatted a bit more. Pete and Paul joined in. I learnt that Pete was fifteen, though he looked more like a thirteen-year-old. Paul was thirteen, and he looked thirteen. I would have taken them for non-identical twins if I had not been told they weren't.

The twins, who I was informed were both fifteen and called Rob and Rod, came back near five, and the game resumed, this time with me on Cliff's team. Not sure I helped that much, but I had some fun. I don't think anyone was actually keeping score.

The game finished when an alarm went off on Cliff's phone.

"Sorry, it's half-six; I need to get home for dinner," he announced.

With that announcement one of the twins picked up the Frisbee, and the pair of them started to move off. Cliff turned to the two boys on his team and told them he would see them tomorrow if the weather held. He then started to pack the empty cans in his backpack. Chris came over to him whilst he was packing up, Peter and James following.

"I'll see you later," Chris instructed. "Don't be late."

"I don't know if I can get out," Cliff replied.

"Be there," Chris answered, then he walked off, with his acolytes.

"Problems?" I asked.

"No, it's…it's just Chris. He can be a bit demanding at times; always wants you to fit in with his plans. Sometimes, it's not possible. I'd better get home. Where're you staying?"

"The Clifton Arms Hotel," I told him. "Better get back to get some dinner."

I started to walk along the path. Cliff joined me.

"I live not far from the Clifton Arms," he informed me.

We talked as we walked back to the hotel. Once there, Cliff told me that they were usually playing something down where I had met them most evenings between four and six. If I was free, I was welcome to join them.

"I need all the support I can get for my team while my brother is out of action."

I told him I would see how things went. I was booked in for two, two-hour driving lessons a day. The first was at nine-thirty, the second at one-thirty, so I should be back at the hotel about three-thirty. I told Cliff this, and he said he would call in and collect me.

After I had showered and changed, I went down and had dinner in the hotel dining room, the food was good but I thought a bit overpriced for what it was. Then again, I got the feeling that the people who stayed here probably did not worry too much about price.

Monday morning, I was just about to go down to reception when the phone rang. It was reception to tell me my instructor was here for my first lesson. When I got down to the reception, I was greeted by the sight of one of the most handsome men I have ever seen, and, believe me, I have seen some handsome men. He was just over six-foot tall, slim, with long blond hair that was tied back into a ponytail. He was wearing a black tee-shirt and black jeans, with a black-leather bomber jacket. From the tightness of the tee-shirt, I was fairly certain that there was an impressive physique underneath it.

"Jonathan Carlton-Smith?" he asked as I approached him.

"Yes," I replied.

"Good, I'm Patrick Felton, your driving instructor for the week."

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