Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 50

It was not quite five when we got back to Yowie Bay. I gave Tim a hand to fix the mooring lines, then tidy up the yacht before we left it. Mum was busy thanking Jim for a day out. He said that he should be thanking us for giving him the excuse to take the Flying Tiger out for the cruise.

We got back to the villa shortly after six, almost at the same time as Dad and Luuk arrived in a cab they took from the airfield.

Mum insisted on sorting out some dinner at the villa rather than going out somewhere. As she pointed out, we might as well use up the groceries that Sandra had stocked the place up with. I gave her a hand to prepare a pasta dish with some salad, followed by ice cream.

After dinner, Luuk gave me a hand with the videos I had taken during the day, copying them from the camera to Dad's laptop. He then linked the laptop up to the TV so we could all watch. I think Dad was a bit envious of the encounter we had had with the whales.

From what Dad and Luuk said, I think they had had a good couple of days in Bowen. It seems that they had got quite a bit of footage for the film. Dad was saying that they were going to send it to Gert and Lee to start work on, though it meant they would have a late night.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Time difference," Dad replied. "Going to have to wait till at least eleven before we can expect them to be up to answer our calls. Need to check they are able to download what we have put up and that they can open the files."

Dad might be planning on a late night, but I certainly needed an early night.

Friday, James took Jenny out for a day by themselves. It turned out later that they had spent the day going through his apartment, deciding what to send to the UK. They also had to decide what to do with the apartment itself. James had bought it, expecting to be in Australia for some time and that JayDee would be coming out to live with him once JayDee turned sixteen. Now, it was fairly clear that James was going to be in the UK till JayDee was eighteen. That being the case, James was unsure as to whether he should sell the apartment or let it. Jenny and he were still discussing the options when he brought her back to the villa Friday evening.

Dad had arranged a trip for the rest of us to the Southern Highlands. We visited a number of the small towns there and did the Berrima River Walk. Our guide on the trip told us we should keep a look out for platypuses, but we did not see any. Apparently, that was not unusual. They are rare. Then again, they may have been sensible; it rained during most of our trip.

Although I found the trip interesting, I was not blown away by it, unlike Joseph, who spent all of the drive back to Sydney telling me how fantastic it had been. He was pointing out how the Australians had taken ideas from the architecture of the Raj and adapted it to their own use here in the Southern Highlands. To be honest, I had no idea what he was on about, though Luuk seemed to understand, nodding every now and again in agreement with something that Joseph said.

Saturday was a bit of a mixed day. The weather brightened up, and the previous day's rain had ceased. I took the opportunity to do some souvenir shopping in the morning — not that I wanted to get much, just something for Grandma and Granddad. In the end, I found a piece of Aboriginal art which I thought would be nice for their new apartment, so I bought it. I think the gallery owner was a bit surprised when I told her that I wanted to buy the piece. It was marked at a bit under five-thousand dollars. She probably wondered how a kid in a tee shirt and jeans was going to pay for such an item. She was even more surprised when my Visa card cleared for the amount. I then had to pay for the painting to be packed safely for me to take back in my luggage. I ended up buying an art portfolio for it to go in, and the gallery packed the painting to go into the portfolio. They also provided me with extra documentation for the painting, informing me I would need it for customs.

Of course, having the picture packed like that did create problems. When I got back to the villa, both Joseph and Mum wanted to know what I had got, and they wanted to see it. I had to explain that it was all wrapped up in protective packing and there was no way I was going to unpack it until I had to. That would probably be at UK customs.

Saturday afternoon was spent getting packed up. Not that I had all that much to pack, but Dad and Luuk did. For a start, there were the video cameras and equipment, which they spread around our luggage. Dad confirmed that they had transferred the files with no problems. He said he had received an email from Gert, saying that they fitted in perfectly with the other material. He also informed me that Gert would be coming to the Priory on Thursday to work on the final edit of the documentary.

Saturday night we went out for dinner. Dad insisted that Sandra join us as a thank you for everything she had done for us during the week. Apparently, she had been organising a lot of things for Dad that I had not known about. Jim and Tim also joined us for dinner as a thank you for the trip along the coast.

I was seated next to Jim in the restaurant, and sometime during the evening, talk came around to classic racing yachts. Jim mentioned that there had been an article in one of the yachting magazines about The Flying Lady having been found.

"I know, but she's not called The Flying Lady," I stated.

"So the article said, but it did not say what she was called."

"The Lady Ann," I replied.

"How do you know that? There is nothing in the article about the name."

"I own her," I told Jim.

"You what?"

"I own her. Found her in a salvage yard up in Norfolk. Did not know she was The Flying Lady. Only found that out after I had bought her."

"What's going to happen to her?" Jim asked.

"I hope one day to restore her. At the moment, I am just trying to stabilise her so there is no more deterioration. I'm aiming to build a replica of her so I can practice my boatbuilding skills without any chance of damaging her. Then, once I am ready to take the job on, I intend to restore her."

"Good for you, lad. I'm in the UK in January at a medical conference. Any chance I could take a look at her?"

"You are welcome to. Let me have the dates when you will be there."

We exchanged contact information. I also got the name of the magazine that the article had been in. I had known nothing about it.

The following morning I was lucky in being able to find the magazine at the newsagents in the airport. I got a copy so I would have something to read on the plane, though I had my Kindle with me. We had to be at the airport at a ridiculously early hour. Joseph was pointing out that it was not even Sunday back in the UK.

"It'll be early on Monday by the time we get there," Dad pointed out. That puzzled me, I had thought we would be landing in the late hours of Sunday evening, but it turned out we had an extended stopover in Dubai.

We were not in first class this time; clearly our tickets had only been upgraded only for the flight out. Going back, we were in business class. At least, it was not economy. I had glanced into that cabin when we had boarded, and it really did not look comfortable.

This time, Joseph was seated next to me. Though to be honest, by the time we had been flying a couple of hours, I started to wish he had been with Luuk. He was constantly talking about all the great things he had seen in Australia. It was as if we had been in two totally different countries. Alright, I know we had gone off and done our own thing a lot of the time, but we had been together for some of the things. Even then, Joseph seemed to have a totally different view of events to what I had.

Fortunately, the early start this morning caught up with Joseph, and he started to doze in the seat next to me. I pulled out the yachting magazine I had bought and looked through it for the article. It was about halfway through the magazine, and — surprise, surprise — it was an interview with Bob Carluck. It was essentially about how he went about tracing historic boats and why he thought it was important to preserve them. I found the article to be both interesting and informative.

The Lady Ann was never named. Bob did give a bit of history about the search for The Flying Lady and how it had been assumed that the boat had been lost as no reference to The Flying Lady had ever been found outside of the reports of the round-the-island races. He then told how the boat had, in fact, never been called The Flying Lady; that had just been a nickname for it. If they had realised that, boat collectors like him would probably have found the boat ages ago and saved it from getting into the condition it was currently in.

There was a photo of The Flying Lady which I was fairly certain had been taken at Simmon's Reek. Though, unless you knew that the boat had been there, I doubt if you could have identified where it was. I supposed it was one of the photos that Bob had taken when he had been up there looking at The Princess of Alba. Most of the article was about how he had found The Princess of Alba and how it was being restored. There were a number of photographs of the boat, including some that I knew had been taken at the Salvage Yard. However, Bob had carefully selected photos that did not give away the location unless you already knew it.

Joseph awoke when we were coming in to land at Dubai, excitedly looking forward to doing some shopping. I had to point out to him the restrictions on cabin luggage, not that it reduced his enthusiasm any. Dad, however, put a curb on things by insisting that we first go and get some refreshments. After fourteen hours in the air, that felt like a good idea. I was starving. In-flight meals never seem to be filling.

Of course, there was a problem in that we did not have Jenny's wheelchair. It was in the cargo hold of our aircraft. However, the airport was very efficient and had a loan chair for her that we could use. One got the impression it was very important to them to make sure that nothing interfered with passengers' ability to go shopping.

Some four hours later, we returned to board our plane. I thought Joseph might have problems; he seemed to be loaded down with stuff, but the boarding clerk was very helpful and arranged for it to be added to our luggage, though there was an excess baggage charge. By now, I had been awake for the better part of twenty-three hours, so I was asleep almost as soon as we got on the plane. I was definitely asleep before we took off. It was something of a shock to wake up and find that we were on our landing approach for London Heathrow.

I was more surprised to find Lee and someone I vaguely recognised waiting for us when we got through customs. Lee informed Dad he had a television interview in two hours. Apparently, some leading scientist had dropped dead, and comments were required. Lee apologised for not letting Dad know in advance but said it had all been arranged while Dad was in the air. He also told Dad that Miss Jenkins had arranged a disabled-equipped minibus to take the rest of us back to the Priory and that Dan was the driver. I then realised where I knew him from. He had been one of the men outside at the Belmont when we met Miss Jenkins.

We got back to the Priory just before ten-thirty in the morning. We would have been back earlier, but we had to drop Jenny off first. As we pulled up in the yard, Dan informed us that Neal wanted to speak to Joseph and me. Dan said there was no rush, but it would be advisable for us to speak to them before either of us left the Priory. Joseph said that was good as he needed sleep. Apparently, he had not slept on the last leg of the flight.

Grandma was in the kitchen when we got into the house, just pouring boiling water into the tea pot.

"Guessed you'd want a cuppa," she announced as we entered. She had guessed right. We dumped our cases in the kitchen and sat down at the table. That is when I noticed that the ula I had found in the storage unit at the Salvage Yard was sitting on a wooden stand fixed to the wall a few feet above the end of the table.

"You noticed it, then," Grandma stated. I nodded. "Your Granddad made the stand. Said it needed a proper piece of woodwork to display it."

"Why in the kitchen?" Mum asked.

"Handy in case it's needed," Grandma observed. Nobody felt like arguing. To be honest, it felt like the right place to me.

Once we had drunk our tea, Joseph announced he was going up to crash out for a couple of hours. It was more like four hours; we did not see him till gone three.

Dad got home just after twelve. By that time, I had heard him a couple of times on the radio talking about a guy whom I was fairly certain Dad had never met and probably knew nothing about — a fact I commented on when Dad got in.

"You're quite right. I didn't know a thing about him," Dad confirmed.

"Then how were you able to talk about him?"

"That's why I have a personal assistant. Lee had researched the guy and prepared a mini biography on him. All I had to do was read Lee's notes in the car on the way to the studio."

"How come you're so late?" I asked. "It could not have taken more than half an hour to record that piece you gave."

"Called in on Irene Kaufman before I came back. Wanted to get her take on this deal that Thomas Monk has offered."

"What did she say?"

"That I should go for it. In her words: 'It would raise my international profile'."

Grandma and Granddad had gone over to what was to be their apartment; they had to finalise some details about the finishing. Mum had gone over to Jenny's to take her shopping. So, I made Dad some lunch. I also made myself some.

"Where's Luuk?" Dad asked.

"He said he had a meeting with Matt at one. Something about questions on the studio design. Matt had texted him, asking him to go in as soon as possible."

"I hope he is not too long; I want to go over the edits with him."

"What edits?" I asked.

"The edits of the interviews we filmed up at Bowen, the ones of the people who knew Henk and his partner. Gert did them over the weekend and sent them to Lee. If they are OK, we should be able to start to put the final film together."

After lunch, Dad said he was going over to the office, informing me that Lee was a slave driver, and he had a pile of paperwork to go through. I told him it was his own fault for getting a PA. He laughed at that comment.

I decided to have a look at the drawings I had for the structure of The Lady Ann. They were, I felt, fairly complete, but were they complete enough that I could start to build a replica of her? I really needed to discuss that with Steve and, possibly, Katherine. However, I wanted to check the drawings over first, just so I did not make a fool of myself if I had missed anything important.

Mum came back just before three with a pile of shopping which I gave her a hand to unload from the car and put away. I was just about to make her a coffee when Joseph came down from his sleep. He joined us for a coffee and some cake, Mum having picked up a carrot cake in Sainsbury's. Not one of my favourites, but Mum likes it, and I think Joseph must have, as well. He ate three slices.

I sent a text to Neal saying that both Joseph and I were available to meet him. He texted back that he would be over in half an hour. In the end, it was a bit longer before he got over, it being nearly four. By then, Luuk had returned and gone to see Dad in the office.

When Neal came over, the three of us retired to Dad's study. I had asked Dad earlier if it was alright for me to use it as I knew he was planning on being in the office most of the afternoon.

Once we were in the study and seated around the table, Neal sent us both a text, with a link to an app which he asked us to download and install on our phones. Whilst we were doing that, Neal got two boxes out of the messenger bag he had brought across with him. Neal pushed one of the boxes over to each of us. I noticed our names were on the boxes. Opening my box, I found a stainless-steel watch with a braided mesh strap. Looking at it, there was something odd about it. I looked at the watch that I was wearing, then noticed the difference. The strap on the watch in the box seemed to be moulded directly into the case, rather than being attached by spring-bars to the lugs of the watch.

When we had loaded and installed the app, Neal told us we needed to pair our watches with our phones. This, it turned out, was not a straightforward process. It took a couple of attempts before we got our watches paired.

"Right," Neal stated. "The watches work pretty much like normal sports chronographs. You can read the manual to find out about their functions. However, if you press any three of the four buttons at the same time, it will trigger an alarm. It will also activate an app on your phone which will switch on the camera and microphone. The input from the camera and microphone will be streamed to our server. At the same time, it will send us your GPS co-ordinates, which it will update every ten seconds."

"Doesn't the watch do that?" Joseph asked.

"No, the battery in the watch does not have enough power to support GPS. In fact, once it starts to send the distress signal, it only has about twenty minutes of power."

"So, how do you find it?" I asked.

"Well, we use RDF, but that's why we have the phone app."

"What if we are in a phone dead zone?"

"Now that, Johnny, is a problem, which is why we have the watch signal as well. Our receivers can get a pretty good fix on your position using the time difference between when they receive the signal. However, that is only accurate to about a hundred metres. If you can, I would suggest you avoid phone dead zones," Neal advised.

"Not so easy; there are quite a few of them around here," I pointed out, thinking of areas around the boatyards.

"We know, which is why we need to take some precautions," Neal stated.

"What?" Joseph asked.

"For a start, whenever you two go out together, there will be at least one person from the security team with you."

"Only when we are together?" I asked.

"Yes, you are only really at risk when you are together. It does not make sense for them to take one of you without the other. They need to put pressure on both your parents to get them to break the trust and hand over the Certificates of Allocation. Of course, there is the option of running two operations at the same time to take both of you at separate locations, but we are fairly certain that they don't have the resources to do that.

"When you are going out on your own, you need to let us know when and where you are going. We will be keeping an eye on you."

"You mean you are going to be following us?" Joseph asked.

"No, that would take more resources than we have available, even with the Manston crowd taking over security here. What it means is that we will be checking to see that you get where you are supposed to be at the times when you are expected to be there. Like when you go down to that architect's offices, Joseph, you follow a route that is well covered by CCTV. We will just tap into the camera to make sure you are where we expect you to be whilst you are going down there or coming back.

"Of course, it is a bit more difficult with you, Johnny. The route across the marsh is not covered with CCTV. However, we have means to keep an eye on you."

"How?" I asked.

"I would rather not go into details; just accept that we have. By the way, Allen is having a meeting with your father tonight to brief him on the security updates here."

"Why Allen?" I asked. "I thought you were in charge?"

"I am in charge of your security, at least till I go back to uni. We are sorting somebody to take over then, if necessary. However, your uncle Phil sent Allen down from Manston to beef up security here. Makes sense, as he has had to sort out security for Phil's and Ben's new apartment. Having him look after the Priory estate has left me with more manpower to look after you two.

"Anyway, back to what I was saying, you might like to tag along with your dad for the briefing."

I indicated that I would. Joseph informed me that he would be working with Luuk on editing the video he took during the trip on the Flying Tiger.

Dad came back from the office about twenty-past-five, looking very pleased with himself. It seems that Lee has been very efficient whilst we were in Oz. Not only has he got the contract for the next series of the industrial-archaeology programme sorted out, he had managed to get Dad an increased fee, though Dad did say that was probably Irene's work; but it was Lee who had prepared all the material which argued for the increased fee. More importantly, Lee had insisted that the contract name Dad as co-presenter and as scientific and engineering advisor.

At dinner, I realised that there was no sign of Colin. When I mentioned this, Grandma said he had called to say he was working late.

"Looked at the final rough of The Unheard," Dad informed us over dinner. "Gert's done a good job with the editing. I've sent a copy to Max Ableholm so that he can start to hawk it around."

"Even though it's unfinished?" Mum asked.

"Yes, we can't finish it until we know what the distribution deal is going to be. The distributors will have a say in the final product. They may want it to run a specific length of time to fit TV programme schedules. They will almost certainly want their name in the credits.

"There's a lot of things we can't sort out until we get a distributor, and getting one of those is Max's job."

The talk around the table moved onto other things. I did mention to Dad about the meeting with Allen; he agreed I should go with him. Apparently, it was to take place in the van, which was parked behind the Stable House. Just after eight-thirty, when we had finished dinner, Dad and I made our way over there. Once inside the van, I understood why we were having the meeting there. The bank of monitors in the van's control room showed a variety of views of the Priory grounds.

"We've increased the CCTV coverage of the grounds to cover the whole of the Priory, the worksheds and the land along Sidings Lane that you own, plus the land allocated for the studios," Allen informed us once he had gone over the basic outline of what was going on. "At the moment, we have to monitor them from here, but that is a short-term solution, at best. It is one the things I need to discuss with you, Mike."

"What is it you want to discuss?" Dad asked.

"We need a permanent control room to set all the monitoring equipment up where we can have twenty-four-seven cover available."

"That's going to cost," Dad stated.

"Yes, but probably not as much as you expect," Allen replied.

"How do you make that out?"

"Well. Mike, you are already paying for security for the craft-and-arts centre. When it is open, there is somebody here full time from the security firm; that must be costing you a bomb."

"I wouldn't know, Allen," Dad replied. "Jan runs the centre, and she covers the costs."

"Right, I would bet she's paying around three to four grand a week for cover. Seems a bit stupid to pay that to an outside firm when your son owns a security firm."

"I do?" I asked.

"Yes, Manston Security; it's a division of Manston Estates."

"Sorry, Allen, I was not aware that Johnny had a security business. I thought you were employed directly by Phil and Ben," Dad stated.

"That's how it started out, but when Phil started to produce and direct, he started to use us to do location security. It made sense to make us into a separate business. Didn't make sense to have all the staff needed for the location security when Phil did not have a film being shot, so we started to hire out to other production outfits. We are now one of the bigger location-security operations in Europe."

"Why didn't I know about this?" I asked.

"You probably have not read the company reports," Allen stated. I was about to say that I made a point to read all the reports that Uncle Bernard sent me, then realised I had not seen one for Manston Estates. I made a note to ask Uncle Bernard about that.

"What I was going to suggest," Allen continued, "is that we turn the other end of the top floor of the Stable House into a security centre and put the monitors in there."

"It's not being used for anything else, so why not? I would have to discuss it with Arthur and Trevor though. It might impact on them," Dad said. "The thing is, how much is all this going to cost?"

"I've already spoken to Arthur about it," Allen stated. "He sees no problem. Now they have the new place, they have no reason to want to expand into that area.

"As to costs, not as much as you fear," Allen assured him. "It will be a couple of weeks until I can give you final figures, but you need to remember that Phil and Ben will be contributing to the running costs as we have to provide security to them."

"By the way, where is Arthur?" I asked. "I've not seen him around today, but his van is here."

"They've gone down to Dorset to visit some relation of Trevor's, then they are spending the weekend in London. Said they would be back on Tuesday."

Whilst Dad and Allen were talking, I was looking around the monitor displays. I noticed one which showed a map of the area, with a number of blue dots displayed where I surmised the Priory was located.

"What's that?" I asked of no one in particular.

Neal looked at where I was pointing. "That's the tracking display. We've installed trackers on all the cars and on your two electric bikes, Johnny. The blue dots show their current location. It would be a good idea if you refrained from using your push bike."

"You haven't bugged that, then?" I asked.

"No, there is not a power source on it sufficient to run the tracker for more than a few hours," Neal stated. "We've also put panic buttons in the cars, which we will show you later."

"All the cars?" I asked.

"Just your car and the Merc," Neal replied. "Just the ones you are likely to drive."

"What about the TVR?"

"Johnny, there is no way you're going to be driving that in the next eight years. You know they won't insure you," Dad said.

Allen and Neal between them then went on to explain some other things that had been set up, one of which annoyed me because I felt Neal should have told me about it before. I knew that the app he got us to download would transmit our location when the alarm was triggered, but apparently it automatically sent our GPS coordinates to the security server every fifteen minutes or whenever we had moved more than fifty metres from our last location. So, they were able to track where we were.

I was not particularly happy about that piece of information, but as Dad pointed out, it was there to protect me. However, I felt it was a bit of an intrusion into my privacy. When I expressed that opinion, Allen informed me that both Uncle Phil and Uncle Ben had something similar on their phones.

"Came in useful a couple of times," Allen stated.

"What? Somebody snatched them?" I asked.

"No, but because we knew where they were, we were able to warn them of hazards that they needed to avoid."

Once all the security upgrades had been explained to Dad and me, Allen said he would get with Dad sometime in the next few days to sort out about using the accommodation in the far end of the Stable House for a security monitoring room.

"There's only one way in and out of there, you know," Dad stated.

"Which is why it is so good for a monitoring room," Allen replied.

That settled, Neal then showed me what they had done to the cars and the bikes. In the cars, a push button had been discreetly placed out of the way, below the dashboard. A single push on it would trigger the alarm; it would also disable the car. The bikes were a bit more complex; a button had been installed in the right handlebar under the handgrip. You had to press the end of the handgrip three times in quick succession to trigger it.

"Why three times?" I asked.

"To avoid it triggering if you lean the bike on a wall or it falls over," Neal replied.

Once Neal had shown me the security buttons, he said he had to go and pick up Maddie. I went back to the house. I was surprised to see Colin sitting at the kitchen table eating pie and chips. He mumbled something with a mouthful of food as I came into the kitchen. I took it to be hello.

"How come you've got pie and chips, and why are you eating now?" I asked.

"Grabbed some before I came home," Colin stated. "Had to work late. An emergency recover came in just before knock-off time. Went with Steve and Bran to do it."

"I hope they are insured this time," I said, remembering the last recovery we had done.

"Yes, they are. Steve checked that. Also, it was a lot easier than last time. Just a tow; they'd had a fire. Think you're going to be on the job tomorrow."

Well, it was good to know that there was some work for me.

"What's made you think that?" I asked.

"Something Steve said." That said, Colin returned to consuming his pie and chips. I was rather envious of him. Would not have minded some pie and chips myself.

I let him finish his meal, then asked. "What did Steve say?"

"That you could show me how to varnish," Colin said.

I had a feeling I was going to do a lot of work tomorrow.

Tuesday morning, after a fried breakfast that Grandma insisted we both had, I gave Colin a lift into work. He was right; Steve wanted me working on the boat they had recovered yesterday. There had been a fire as a result of a fuel spill when they had been refuelling the outboard motor. Fortunately, they had a couple of effective fire extinguishers on board, so doused the fire with minimal damage to the boat. It was mostly cosmetic. Unfortunately, the chap who had tried to refill a hot outboard engine in a rolling sea, was not so well off. He was in hospital with burns to his hands and face.

It was a 1950s wooden runabout, a nice little boat. I spent most of the morning, assisted by Colin, scraping the varnish off from damaged areas until it was back to the bare wood. Then, it was a case of sanding it down, dusting it off, and layer-by-layer applying the new varnish. Fortunately, Steve had done a restoration on this boat only a couple of years before, so we knew what the original varnish was. That meant we could do an exact match and blend in with the undamaged areas. We did not have to cut back and revarnish the whole boat.

It took us two days to get the job done, mostly due to the time it took each layer of varnish to dry. We would apply a layer, wait for it to dry, sand it back, then apply the next layer. By the time we had finished, it was difficult to see where the old varnish had ended and the new varnish started. Steve had told us to use a varnish of the same type as the original but a couple of shades lighter. That allowed for the sun bleaching of the original varnish. What we got was a fairly close match. It was not an exact match, and you could make out the difference if you looked for it, but it was exact enough to be acceptable. It was certainly acceptable to the owner.

I had not been due to go into the yard on Thursday but decided to anyway as I wanted to start work on The Lady Ann replica. Although it was Colin's day off, he said he would come in with me to give me a hand, as he said he had nothing else to do. When we pulled into the yard, Steve called us into the office. After he had checked why we were there on what was supposed to be our days off, he handed each of us an envelope. There was twenty pounds in each from the owner of the boat. A tip for doing a good job. Steve said the chap was very happy with the work we had done; he was not so happy with his idiot of a son-in-law who had been responsible for starting the fire.

Whilst I had been out in Oz, Larry and his mates had extended the scaffolding framework that was over The Lady Ann to provide me a work area next to her where I could build the replica. Colin and I spent the day forming the supports that would hold the replica in place whilst she was being built. I also, on Steve's advice, spent some time talking to Katherine about how to steam-bend large pieces of wood.

The backbone keel of The Lady Ann was a bit unusual, being not one long piece of wood, but two pieces that ran along the length of the boat side by side. At the bow, they rose up from the level and were joined together. As they ran towards the stern, they separated, till they were about thirty centimetres apart near the middle of the boat, where the fin keel would attach. Here sat a massive block of wood between the two pieces into which the fin keel was bolted. The thing was, the two pieces of wood that formed the backbone keel bent in two different directions.

When I discussed this with Katherine, she was of the opinion that the wood for the keel of The Lady Ann had probably been taken from a tree trunk which had a natural bend in it. So, it would have required only bending in one direction. I, though, was faced with the task of bending two large pieces of wood in two directions. Katherine told me that I would have to do two bends. First, bend the wood in one direction, then once that was established do a separate steam and bend in the other.

"But how do we bend two forty-foot pieces of wood?" I asked. "We don't have a steamer that big."

"You tube-steam it," she replied. I looked at her blankly. "You put it in a tube of material that will contain the steam and then steam it. Don't know what they used in the old days, but these days we use heavy-duty PVC tubes. Makes life a lot easier. You will also need a couple of industrial steam generators."

"Can't we use the generators from the steamers we have?"

"You could, Johnny, but it would be a lot of work as they are not portable. You would need to disassemble them, then re-assemble them where you are working, then reverse the process and return them when you have finished. Using commercial, portable steam generators will be a lot easier. Also, it will mean we can still use the steamers for other work whilst you are steaming your wood. Pieces the size you are talking about are going to take some hours to steam.

"You know, I am surprised Steve hasn't got a portable steam generator for a yard this size."

"I'm not sure he hasn't got one," I stated. "There is a lot of stuff in storage at the Hampden Yard which I have not seen."

I had just finished saying this when Bran roared into the Salvage Yard on his motorbike. He informed us that he was on his way up to the Pig and Whistle to collect lunch. What did we want? We gave him our orders, then I asked if he knew if there was a portable steam generator at the Hampden Yard.

"There is one, but I haven't seen it for ages. You'll need to ask Steve about it."

I told him we would. I would ask Steve when we went down for lunch. Bran rode off. Katherine and Colin finished what they were doing, and I gave them a lift down to the main yard so we could have lunch in the tearoom. Far better than the nonexistent facilities we had at the Salvage Yard. When we got down there, we found Bob Carluck talking with Steve. Bob told Katherine that he was popping up to the Salvage Yard to look at progress on The Princess of Alba.

"Did the tanks I order arrive?" he asked.

"Yes, came last week, but we are still awaiting the chemicals for the wood treatment," Katherine told him.

"How much of the original wood do you think you will be able to use when it is treated?" Bon asked.

"Don't know. It depends on how successful the treatment is. I've never done it, and the reports I have read vary on the success rate anything from fifty percent to eighty percent."

"Let's hope it is eighty, then," Bob commented.

I thanked him for the article about The Lady Ann and the fact that he had not named her or stated where she was.

"No way was I going to give that detail out. I'm still hoping I can persuade you to sell her to me," Bob laughed.

I asked Steve about the portable steamer. He told me they had one, but it had not been used for ages. As Bran was not back with the dinners, Steve took me and Colin to the storage shed, where he pointed it out to me.

"It will need to be safety-checked before it can be used," Steve said.

"By the looks of it, it needs a good cleaning as well," I commented.

"You want to use it, you clean it," Steve replied.

"I'll do it," Colin said. "You know there is a thing like that up in the storage units at the Salvage Yard."

"Well, after lunch you can drag this one out of here and take up it to the Salvage Yard, then find the one there and get them both cleaned up. Once that is done, I'll get a safety inspection done on them."

That sorted, we went back to the tearoom. Bran had got back and was handing out the wrapped packages of pie and chips or such other items as had been ordered. I told Katherine that it looked as if we had two portable steam generators.

"What do you need those for?" Bob asked. I explained about the construction of the backbone keel and how I needed to bend the wooden pieces in two directions. Katherine explained about tube-steaming the wood.

"You know I would like to get a film of you doing that," Bob stated. "It's one of those skills that is dying out these days. Would you mind if I got some video people along to film you doing it?"

"Why don't you talk to my dad?" I asked. "He could probably arrange to film it for you."

"I'd want it done professionally," Bob stated.

"He is professional; he owns Mike Carlton Productions."

"Mike Carlton, as in the chap on the industrial-archaeology series on Channel 4?"


"Give me his number and I'll contact him."

I almost gave Bob Dad's mobile number but thought better of it and gave him the number of the office. He could speak with Lee."

After lunch, Katherine gave Colin and me a hand to get the portable steamer out of the storage shed and onto the small trailer that the yard had. Fortunately, I had a trailer hitch on the Volvo so there was no problem taking it up in the trailer. There was no way it was going in the back of the Volvo. For a start, it was too big, and it was also far too dirty.

We had just unloaded it at the Salvage Yard when Bob pulled in. I noticed he was driving his classic Land Rover. When I mentioned it, he pointed out it was far more practical for coming to the yard than the Rolls and easier to get on and off the chain ferry. He certainly had a point there.

I left Bob talking to Katherine and went with Colin to look for the other steam generator he said he had seen in one of the storage units. Unfortunately, he could not remember which one he had seen it in. Fortunately, he did remember it was at the back of one of the Nissen huts. We were lucky; it was in the second hut we checked. Getting it out of the hut was a bit of a job; it weighed a ton, and we did not have a palette truck to move it on. Eventually, we got it out of the place. I then went and got the Volvo with the trailer so we could load it on the trailer to move it down to where we wanted it.

When we got it there, Katherine and Bob gave us a hand to get it off the trailer. I did mention it weighed a ton. Katherine corrected me and said she did not think it was more than a few hundred kilos.

Bob thanked me for putting him in touch with Mike Carlton Productions and said he was calling in to see Lee Sanderson before he headed back to Town. Colin set about cleaning up the steam generators. I got back to construction of the supports for the hull.

We took a break for tea shortly after three. Bob left then, saying he had told Lee Sanderson he would be at the office before four, so he'd better set off. He did, though, thank Katherine for the update she had given him on The Princess of Alba.

"Katherine, don't worry about expense. If something needs doing, do it. You only need to get Steve to clear it with me if it is more than five grand. Understood?"

Katherine confirmed that she understood. Bob got into his Land Rover and drove off.

"Damn, it's nice to not have to worry about the pennies on a job," she sighed as she picked up a chocolate digestive from the biscuit tin.

It was getting on for six when Colin and I got home. We had still been working when Katherine had called to us to say it had gone five and she was off home. By the time we had cleaned up our work areas, it was nearly twenty-past.

I was a bit surprised as I pulled into the yard to see Bob's Land Rover there. I knew he was meeting with Lee but did not expect the meeting to have lasted this long. I was even more surprised as I got out of the car when Dad came out of the office and called me over.

"What's up, Dad?"

"You'd better come in; we've had an offer of work, but it affects you."


"I'll tell you in the office."

Once in the office, Dad explained he had only just got back from London. Apparently, Lee had put most of this together before Dad had got back. The gist of the whole thing was that Bob was prepared to fund a film being made of the building of a replica of The Flying Lady.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I can, lad," Bob replied. "Also, I made my money in advertising. I own interests in quite a few TV companies around the world. I know there is a market for such a film. With your father fronting it, I think it will more than pay what I will be putting into it."

"The thing is, Johnny," Dad pointed out, "with the money that's on the table, you would be able to hire some of the yard's staff to help you with the build. You said it would take two to three years for you to build the replica on your own. This way, you might get it done in months."

It occurred to me then that I would probably be able to keep some of the staff busy during the quiet season. No need for Steve to lay them off in the winter. It sounded like a good idea.

"Could I get outside experts in?" I asked.

"Don't see why not," Bob stated. "Actually, that could make some good TV: having somebody who is really expert on some obscure part of boat construction coming in and explaining it."

We spent another half hour or so discussing the idea, but by the end of it, the consensus was that it was going ahead. Lee was tasked with drawing up a project proposal and sorting out a contract with Bob, which would have to be put past Bernard.

"Bernard LeBrun?" Bob asked.

"Yes, you know him?" Dad asked.

"Yes, lost twice to him in court. Probably one of the best solicitors in London."

I told them I would need to speak to Steve and Colin about it. Not sure why I said I would have to speak to Colin about it; it just seemed to make sense that I should.

When I spoke to Steve on the phone about the idea after dinner, he was all for it. He did point out that it would be advertising for the yard. He was also happy with the idea of not having to lay staff off during the winter.

For some reason, Colin did not seem too happy with the idea. I resolved to take him into Chelmsford for his appointment tomorrow and have a chat with him then.

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