Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 56

After dinner, I cleaned up. Mum took Alexander through to the lounge, where she said she wanted to do some reading. Dad went to his study, saying he needed to catch up on his emails. When I finished the clean-up, I decided to go up to my room. As I was walking along the hall to the back stairs, Dad called me into the study.

He wanted to know what my plans were for the coming week. I told him, then asked why.

"John Duprei and his grandson Marc are in Paris. I have a meeting with John on Friday. I wonder if you could look after Marc for the day."

"Where's the meeting?"

"In Town. As you know, they were hoping to come over to stay for a bit, but Marc's grandmother is unwell, so they have spent the whole of their vacation in France. They are flying in on Thursday evening and flying out on Saturday morning. There is just time for John to attend a production meeting we've lined up and a meeting with Bob."

I knew Joseph would have to go back to London on Friday to be home for Shabbat, so it would probably work out for both of us to go up Friday morning with Dad. We could spend the day showing Marc around Town. When I said this, Dad said he would try to sort tickets out for one of the shows.

I went up to my room and called Joseph and told him about Friday. He was all for it and started to list all the places we could take Marc.

Monday morning, I overslept. Don't know why, but it had gone eight-thirty when I woke up. I was a bit annoyed as nobody had called me. However, there was nobody around when I got down to the kitchen. By the looks of it, nobody had got up yet. The coffee had not been made. I thought that was strange, then remembered that Luuk was not here, and I got the impression that Dad was going to work late last night.

The smell of coffee must have had some effect. Dad came into the kitchen about twenty minutes later. He confirmed he had worked late and not gone up to bed till about four, only to find that Alexander had been keeping Mum awake most of the night. She was having a lie-in. I commented that I was surprised he was not having one, either, if he did not get to bed till four.

"I probably would have, but Lee just called me. Needs to have a conference call with me. I told him to give me an hour to wake up."

By the looks of him, he needed more than an hour. I made some toast and a pot of tea for him, then left for the yard. Spent most of the day helping Katherine laminating some replacement ribs for a 1910 steam launch. Actually, calling them replacement ribs was a bit of a misnomer. They were really supporting ribs. Two of the original ribs in the launch showed some cracking. So, we traced their profile, then made some laminated ribs to fit alongside them. The laminated ribs were to be bolted to the original ribs, strengthening them, but still leaving the original woodwork in place.

It was interesting working with Katherine. She showed me how to take the outline of the rib which we had to strengthen, then how to make the former, cutting multiple layers of plywood on the jigsaw. Once we had made the former, we then layered thin strips of wood, to form the laminated rib. We had to leave it overnight for the glue to set before we could position it next to the cracked rib.

Joseph was at the Priory when I got back on Monday. He was in our room on his laptop when I went up to shower and change.

"Busy day?" he asked as I entered.

"Somewhat," I replied. "Need to change. I stink of glue."

"What've you been doing?"

I stripped off and went through to the shower room, telling him as I did so about the process of laminating up ribs. As I got in the shower, Joseph came and stood in the bathroom door so we could continue to chat. I finished my shower and stepped out of the shower cubicle. Joseph was holding a towel, ready to dry me. When he had finished helping me dry, he leaned into me and gave me a peck on the lips.

"What was that for?" I asked.

"Don't know. Just wanted to do it," he responded. "Missed you this last week."

"I missed you."

"Did you?" Joseph asked.

"Of course, I did. Why wouldn't I?"

He did not answer, just turned and went back into the bedroom. I followed him, got dressed, then we both went down to dinner.

Over dinner, Dad told me that the garage had phoned. There was a problem getting one of the replacement windows for my car. It would not be ready until tomorrow evening. Dad also wanted to know when I was working this week. I asked him why.

"I was hoping you could pick Lee and Luuk up from the airport. They are due to fly back Wednesday, but Alexander is due for his first check-up then. Don't want to leave your mother coping with the hospital on her own. If you could get the day off, you could pick them up from the airport."

I informed Dad that I had only booked Friday off as I was meeting Marc in Town as he had asked. Dad asked if there was any chance I could get Wednesday off, as well. I said I would speak to Steve, but I was not sure. In fact, I knew full well I could have Wednesday off if I wanted it. In the end, I suggested the best would be for them to get a late flight and I finish early. Then Joseph made a suggestion.

"Wouldn't it be easier just to get one of the security team to pick them up?"

I had not thought of that. It did, though, make sense. If I was going to the airport, I had no doubt that one of them would be going with me, and there would almost certainly be a car following me.

"Or you could just get a taxi for them," Mum pointed out. I had to admit that was a damned good idea.

However, it did not go down well with Dad. Both Mum and I thought it was a good solution, so we won. After dinner, Dad went and arranged late-Wednesday flights back for Lee and Luuk and booked a taxi to pick them up from the airport. I think he only went along with it when I pointed out it was a legitimate business expense.

With Lee away, I did not bother going to the dojo. I suppose I should have checked what arrangements had been made for the class, but to be honest, I was not really in the mood to be thrown around, and Joseph was of the same opinion.

Instead, Joseph and I took a walk around the grounds. As we walked down the drive past the walled garden, we came across Jim and Steven unloading some furniture from Jim's father's Luton van. We stayed for a bit to give them a hand, then went in to share a beer after we had got the stuff unloaded and placed in the cottage.

Our beers finished, we left Jim and Steven in the cottage and started off on the path through the wood. When we came to the steep section where it went down the hill to Pound Pond, Joseph sighed.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I was just thinking about Jim and Steven."

"What about them?"

"Just how nice it must be to have a relationship like theirs. They are so much in love."

"And we aren't?"

The was a moment of silence, then Joseph replied, "Yes, we're in love, but not like they are. They share so much; they've got so much in common. Have you noticed how they seem to know what the other is thinking? One will start to say something, and the other will finish it."

"You mean like twins?"

"Well, not exactly like twins but something similar. The thing is, they share so much. We don't. We each have our own, separate lives."

"You've come sailing with me," I pointed out. "And you've helped in the yard."

"Yes, but that was mostly because I was tagging along as I had nothing else to do," Joseph replied. "We just don't spend all that much time together these days because we both have separate interests."

"So, what are you saying, Joseph?"

"I don't know."

"Are you saying you don't love me?"

"Christ, no! I still love you, Johnny. I've loved you since I first saw you. The thing is, is that enough? I love you, yes, but am I in love with you? Do we have a relationship like Jim and Steven have? That's what I am not sure about."

That shook me somewhat, but, in some ways, it was not a surprise. We stood, looking out over Pound Pond, silent whilst the sun was setting, neither of us saying a word. I have no doubt, though, that Joseph was bursting to say something, just as I was. The problem was that I could not find the words I wanted to say — that is, if I could even work out what I wanted to stay.

In the end, the silence was broken not by words but by deeds. Joseph reached out and took my hand. We walked back up to the house, hand in hand, talking about everything and about nothing. The one thing we did not talk about was our relationship.

"Your father's called," Mum told Joseph as we entered the house. She was just putting Alexander back in his carrycot. "He tried to call your mobile but there was no answer."

"I've left it on charge," Joseph said.

"Well, you'd better call him."

Joseph went up to our room. I took the carrycot and carried it through to the lounge for Mum as she said she was going to watch some TV. Turned out it was University Challenge, which I was interested in, so I sat on the sofa watching it with her. Dad was busy in his study. Alexander indicated that he was not comfortable in the carrycot, so I picked him up and held him. It turned out he needed to be changed, so I went and changed him. Joseph came back down about fifteen minutes later.

"Problems?" I asked. He did not look happy.

"Not really, but I have to go home on Wednesday next week."


"There was a letter from the school asking for a meeting to discuss my A-level options. They want both Mum and Dad there, so Wednesday is the only day Dad could set up a meeting. I'll be back on the Thursday and got Dad to agree I do not have to go back for Shabbat that weekend."

"So, not all is lost," I commented.

"No, it's not," he laughed.

"What's the problem with your A-level options?" I asked.

"Well, I put down to do art, physics and maths. Apparently, art does not normally go with physics and maths."

"I can see why."

"Well, I found working with Matt just how important physics and maths are in architecture. It is no use designing the most amazing workspace if it won't stand up to the forces around it."

"That I can understand," I commented.

"But there is also an art element in architecture. Many universities ask to see a portfolio of your work, so I will have to make one. Making a portfolio of your work is part of the A-level art course, anyway, so I thought I could combine the two."

"Makes sense."

"I spoke to a couple of places about what they wanted for architecture, and they both said A-level art."

"So, maybe you will have to do something other than maths and physics to go with your art."

"The thing is, Johnny, I'm good at maths and physics. I'm fairly certain I will be able to get an A grade in both, possibly an A-star in maths."

"What do you expect to get in art?"

"To be honest, I will be lucky if I get a B but should get a good C."

We chatted about things a bit longer, then Joseph said he was going to get an early night. He had to get up early this morning so that he could get to Matt's office for nine.

"Why was it so important to be there for nine?" I asked. He usually got there any time before ten.

"Mrs. Murphy, the woman I did the pergola design for, came into the office. She wants a summer house, and Matt said he would let me design it. Need to be in on the meeting. Turns out Mrs. Murphy had specifically asked for me to do the design so that it fitted with the pergola. We're going over in the morning to do the site survey. Matt is picking me up at eight."

I made some hot drinks for Mum, Dad and me. I had asked Joseph if he wanted one before he went to bed, but he had said no. I took the tray of drinks through to the lounge and put Mum's and mine on the table, then took Dad's into the study for him.

"Thanks, Johnny," he said as I placed the mug of tea down on the desk for him. "Can you tell your mum that I am going to be up late tonight? Need to get this finished."

I told him I would. I did not mention the fact that he had started to refer to Anne as my mum. It felt good that he recognised the fact. When I got back to the lounge, I gave Mum the message.

"Not surprised. John Duprei called just after you went out and told your dad that he was emailing some script suggestions to him. No doubt he is working through them."

"But the meeting is not till Friday," I pointed out.

"I know that, but you know your dad. He hates leaving things unfinished. Once he starts on something, he likes to get it done, even if it means working all night."

I watched a TV programme with Mum. To be more exact, I sat on the sofa cuddling Alexander whilst Mum watched a TV programme. My brother was far more interesting. I am sure he smiled at me, though Mum assured me that, at just over a week in age, it was just a reflexive smile, whatever one of those was.

I went up to bed shortly after ten-thirty. Joseph was snoring gently from his side of the bed. When I climbed in, he automatically shuffled over to me in his sleep. I put my arms around him and held him.

Tuesday, I found out the problem of laminating ribs. Although you could get very strong structures by laminating layers of wood to the exact shape you required, the edges were not that smooth. No matter how careful you were to align things you would never get the edges exactly matching, so the edges of the piece were always rough. My job Tuesday was sanding the edges of the laminated rib smooth so it would fit snugly against the original rib we were reinforcing. It was not a case of getting it flat; that would have been easy. It was a case of getting it to fit next to the original rib, which over the years had warped somewhat from true, if it had ever been true in the first place. It took me most of the day sanding and fitting to get it to something that Katherine found acceptable.

Once that was done, I then had to clamp the laminated rib alongside the original rib so that holes could be drilled through both ribs. Sounds easy. It was a total pain. The depth of the laminated rib and the original rib was such that there was not room to get an electric drill in to drill a horizontal hole through the ribs. Had to use a hand drill. By the time I had drilled all six holes required, I had blisters on my palms.

Once the holes were drilled, Katherine told me to leave it for the day. We would finish tomorrow. I cannot say how glad I was to hear that.

That evening, Joseph was full of telling me about the job for Mrs. Murphy. From what I could make out, what she wanted was a glorified garden shed, but from the way Joseph was telling it, I thought he had been asked to design Blenheim Palace. I suppose, though, in many ways it was really his first commission and he was excited about it, although he did admit that Matt would be checking everything he did.

Wednesday, I got to fix the laminated rib in place. First, I had to glue up the edge, then bolt it to the existing rib that was being reinforced. That was not too difficult, though it was a bit fiddly. What was a pain was then having to use a junior hacksaw to cut off the ends of the bolts. Katherine pointed out that where the bolt ends protruded beyond the nut comprised an unnecessary catch hazard that had to be removed. I did suggest it would be quicker to use an angle grinder. That did not go down well. Katherine pointed out that the wood was soaked in oil spillage which had splashed from the oil points on the link rods. Wood of that age that had been exposed to oil for that long, was a fire hazard. Angle grinders produce sparks. Sparks and inflammable materials do not go well together. She had a point. I used a junior hacksaw for the next couple of hours. I also realised there was a hell of a lot more to restoring historic boats than just being able to do traditional woodwork.

There was a taxi blocking the driveway entrance when I got home on Wednesday night, causing a bit of a pain. So, I was stuck for a couple of minutes whilst Lee and Luuk got out and sorted things out with the driver. Once he had moved off, I followed them up the drive. Lee waved to me, indicating I should overtake them as he stepped to the side. I waited for them in the yard.

"Good flight back?" I asked.

"The flight was fine," Lee said. "Bloody taxi driver was a pain."

"How come?"

"He was moaning all the while about bloody foreigners coming over here and taking the jobs," Lee said.

"That's a bit cheeky," I commented, looking at Luuk.

"The thing was he was talking to me," Luuk said. "Did not dare tell him I was a foreigner."

For a moment this surprised me, then I realised that Luuk had hardly any accent. If he had an accent at all, I would have put it as northern English, possibly Manchester, a fact I commented on.

"Probably my mother's fault," Luuk said. "She loved to watch Coronation Street. That's where I learnt my English."

We all went into the house as Lee had a pile of papers for Dad and wanted him to look at them as soon as possible. The moment we entered, Mum told Lee he was staying for dinner. Lee put up a bit of a protest, but Mum informed him that there was plenty and that Simone had called and left a message that she had to work till eight.

"Why didn't she call me?" Lee asked.

"Probably because you were in a plane over the North Sea," Mum replied.

He had to admit that made sense.

Matt dropped Joseph off about half an hour after I had got back. Joseph had not been in the house ten minutes when he and Luuk started to talk about some aspect of architecture which made absolutely no sense to me. Lee said he wanted to get a shower and change before dinner, so went off to his apartment. I went up, showered and changed, then gave Mum a hand in the kitchen. At least, I did until Alexander announced that he needed attention. I think he just wanted to be held; he certainly did not need to be changed.

"How did things go at the hospital?" I asked Mum.

"Fine. Apparently, he is doing very well. The doctors are convinced that he was not premature. They said I must have got my dates wrong."

I was pleased to hear that.

Dinner was a fish pie served with green beans and carrots, followed by a banana pudding. After dinner, Joseph, Lee and I went off over to the dojo whilst Luuk gave Dad a briefing about how things had gone in the Netherlands. Lee gave me a briefing as we walked to the dojo. By the sounds of it, everything had gone well.

I am not sure if it was the fact that Simone was not there or if he was just tired after his flight home, but Lee did not seem to be as hard on us as he normally was during training. At least, not for the first hour. Things got a lot harder once Simone turned up. Later, down at the pub, we found out why she was delayed. The woman who was supposed to cover reception from four till midnight had called in ill, and the person they found to take over was not able to start till eight, so Simone had to extend her shift on reception till the relief arrived.

Thursday, I found myself in the chandlery, Steve and Bran having had to go out to recover a boat which had crashed off its trailer when being taken from the water Wednesday evening. Fortunately, things were not too busy, and I was able to do some planning work on the computer. Katherine was in charge of the yard and was a bit annoyed as she had planned on finishing the work on the 1910 steam launch. The engine fitters were due to come in on Monday to reinstall the steam engine, and she wanted to make sure that everything was finished and ready for them well before they arrived. As it was, she found herself having to supervise the work of Tom and the casuals, who she said should never be allowed near a piece of wood.

I thought that was a bit hard. Two of the casuals had been caulking a boat that had been damaged in a recent storm. Steve and Bran had repaired the damage, but all the seams in the boat needed to be caulked to make them watertight. That operation did not involve any skilled work, so what was the problem? At least, that is what I thought until I walked past the boat after lunch. Then, I suspected that Steve would insist that the whole job be done again when he did his inspection. Even I could caulk better than that, and Steve swore I was the worst caulker he had ever seen. Though Katherine, when I told her that, told me Steve had not seen her caulking. It was a job she hated and avoided like the plague. No doubt that is why the casuals ended up having to do it so often.

Steve and Bran got back about an hour after lunch with the damaged boat on a boat trailer. I knew immediately it was not a job for us. It was a composite hull that had been stoved in on the port side, quite badly. I was not sure the lads in the composite shop would be able to do much for it, a fact I mentioned to Steve.

"You are probably right," he replied. "I've no doubt they could repair it, but the cost of the repair would probably be more than the boat is worth. We're just storing it till the insurance people have decided what to do about it."

"Where are you going to store it?"

"Well, I suppose, really, it should go to the Salvage Yard."

"Where we've cleared that place up," I pointed out.

"That may have been a mistake, salvage yards are not supposed to be clean and tidy."

"Neither are they supposed to be TV sets," I replied.

"Good point, Johnny, good point."

In the end, they parked the boat and its trailer behind the sheds at the old Peters Yard. At least it was in the right yard if the decision was made to repair the hull. Personally, I thought it might be cheaper just to make a new hull and transfer all the fittings over to it, an opinion I expressed to Steve. Bran, who was standing nearby agreed with me.

With Steve and Bran back, Steve took over tending the chandlery. That was only because he looked at the caulking that the casuals had done, then instructed me to show them how to caulk.

"You said I was the worst caulker you had come across," I pointed out.

"Probably right, but you are nowhere near as bad as those two," Steve called back at me as he went over to the chandlery. Katherine, who was standing nearby, asked if I could show her, also.

With one thing and another, it was after six when I got home. I was a bit surprised to find Grandma cooking dinner. When I mentioned it, she said Mum was feeling a bit down.

"She had a bit of a bad night with the bab, luv," she informed me. "I told her I'd take care of things and she was to go up and have a lie down."

I went up to my room, half expecting to find Joseph there as I was so late, but there was no sign of him. Once I had showered and changed, I went back down to the kitchen to see if there was anything I could do.

"Where's Alex?" I asked.

"I told your father he could look after him this afternoon. He took him over to the office. Said he had some calls to make."

I thought it might be a good idea to go and rescue my brother. Knowing Dad, he would be stuck in some call and completely ignore the tyke. When I got to the office, I found I was right. Dad was on the phone, I think talking to Gert. Alex was in his carrycot, mardying . I picked him up, and the moment I gave him some attention, he calmed down. Once he was calmer, I checked his nappy, but all was fine. Then I reminded Dad that dinner would ready soon. He pushed a few sheets of paper across the desk and indicated that I should read them whilst he was still talking on the phone.

I took a seat across the desk from him, made sure Alexander was comfortable and secure in my one arm, then started to read the papers. It was a contract for the US TV rights for The Unheard. Most of it looked like fairly standard legal gobbledygook. What I could make out was that somebody was buying the right to show The Unheard across the USA for a period of five years. There was an upfront payment for the US rights and a separate screening fee for each time it was shown. The screening fee was payable at the time of each screening, with a guarantee that there would be a minimum number of screenings over the five-year period. At the back of the contract was a schedule of payments. From what I could make out, MCP were going to be paid a minimum of half a million US dollars over the five years.

Dad finished his call.

"Is this what I think it is?" I asked.

"Yes, Max emailed it for me to go over, but provided Bernard gives it the OK, it will mean that The Unheard has broken even on US sales alone. Gert tells me that he has a couple of channels interested in it in the Benelux and a couple more in Germany. Of course, De heer Wilhelm, is taking it in the Netherlands, which causes a problem which Gert will have to sort out. You should be getting a return on your investment by the end of the year."

"You mean the trust will be," I commented.

"No, Johnny. As you are over seventeen, and any income was expected to accrue to you after your eighteenth birthday, the trust made the investment in your name, not the trust's. As a result, any return on the investment will come directly to you. It's just we are seeing a return long before anyone expected anything."

"Good. Now I suggest we better get over to the house. Grandma is cooking dinner."

"I know; your Mum was not feeling too good this afternoon."

I put Alexander back in his carrycot and picked it up to carry across to the house. Dad locked up the office. As we were walking back to the house, he informed me that we would have a houseful the week after next.

"How come?" I asked.

"Well, my brother has asked if we can put Patrick and Cliff up for a couple of weeks. They are moving the filming of Fly Boys to the hangars at Southmead airport. Cliff is in those scenes, and Ben thought that he might be more comfortable being here than stuck in a hotel. Patrick, of course, must be with him as his chaperone.

"I've also asked Gert to come back early so we can go over a few things. Looks like I need to purchase more kit for the Dutch operation. Need to get a good feel for what is required.

"Then, my cousins Donna and Richard are coming over."

"Donna and Richard?" I asked.

"Yes, they are both my cousins. You were supposed to meet then at Christmas, but they could not get over. They are coming over the week after next to visit the family they missed seeing at Christmas, and I said they could stay here for a few days. That was before I knew about Patrick and Cliff needing accommodation."

"Well, we should manage. It's not as if we are short of rooms," I pointed out. Dad laughed.

Joseph and Luuk were in the kitchen when we got back. Grandma told Dad that he should let Mum know that dinner was nearly ready. She told Luuk and Joseph to set the dining-room table.

I must have looked surprised by this as she informed me that both Granddad and she would be joining us for dinner. That made seven — too many for the kitchen table, at least for it to be comfortable. We have had eight around it, but it had been a bit squashed.

Dad did not have to go up to let Mum know that dinner was ready. Grandma had not long given that instruction when Mum arrived in the kitchen. She took Alexander from me and started to feed him. I decided to give Grandma a hand but was instructed to go and find that husband of hers.

"I think he's in your workshop," Grandma informed me. He was. I told him that he was needed in the house for dinner.

Over dinner, I asked Dad who Donna and Richard were. I had heard the names but never been told who they are.

"Donna is the daughter of my mother's sister, Aunt Carol. Richard is the son of my father's older sister, Aunt Joan. Aunt Joan married a Dutch diplomat, William de Groet in the 1960s; Richard is their son."

"Wasn't your Aunt Joan at your wedding?"

"No, Johnny, that was Aunt June," Dad responded. "Aunt Joan could not make it. Donna and Richard live in Beekbergen, where we had the vakantie huis."

"Then why did we not visit them whilst we were there?"

"Because Richard was stationed in New York at the time," Dad replied.

"Stationed in New York?"

"Yes, Johnny. Richard is a member of the Dutch diplomatic service and is currently attached to the United Nations. Donna and Richard have been in New York since the start of this year. I'm hoping to see them when Anne and I go over to New York."

"So, you are taking me?" Mum asked.

"Of course, I am," Dad replied.

"What about Alexander?" she asked.

"Hopefully, by then we will have the nanny in place. It will be a short trip. I was looking at flying out on the Thursday night and back on the Monday. I am sure a nanny can look after Alexander for a few days."

"We'll have to see about that," Mum said. She did not sound convinced.

While we were having this conversation, Luuk and Joseph were discussing the merits of brick cladding . I must admit I did not take very much note of it. That might have been a mistake. About ten minutes after we had finished dinner, I was loading up the dishwasher when I heard shouting from Joseph. Following the direction of the sound, I found Joseph and Luuk still in the dining room having a major argument. It sounded like a pair of lovers going at each other. I had to tell them to cool it. Then I told Joseph he needed to give me a hand cleaning up, and we had to sort out what we were doing tomorrow.

He did not seem too happy with that but came along with me. Luuk looked a bit sheepish.

I tried to talk to Joseph about what to do in London tomorrow, but he did not seem interested. All he was doing was moaning that Luuk did not listen to him.

Friday morning, we were supposed to be up early to catch the train into Town. For some reason Dad had made an appointment for him and John Duprei with Bob for ten-thirty, which meant we had to be at the hotel where John and Marc were staying by nine at the latest. We needed to catch the six-something train from Southminster. In the end, it was clear that would not work out, so Dad drove us to Newbury Park, and we got the tube in from there. Even so, we were pushing it and only just managed to get to the hotel for nine.

John and Marc were waiting for us by reception. Dad suggested we grab something at the coffee shop at the hotel. John and Marc had just had breakfast, but Joseph and I eaten breakfast over three hours ago, so we were happy to take up the suggestion and get a couple of Danish pastries with our coffee.

Over coffee — or in Dad's case, tea — John informed Dad that the translation of the climate-change book into French was completed. Then Marc surprised us, handing Dad a USB stick.

"I've completed the translation of the maths book," Marc said. "It's a translation of the manuscript you sent, not the old edition."

Dad thanked him and did suggest he might want to meet with Bob so he could act as his agent for the translation.

"No thanks. I'll let Pépé deal with that; he is my guardian."

John said he would sort it out.

Dad and John left for the production meeting just after nine-thirty. Joseph, Marc and I set off walking towards Leicester Square. I asked Marc if there was anything in particular that he wanted to see in London.

"I've been told I must see the Portobello Road market," he replied.

"Really you need to see that on a Saturday," Joseph told him. I confirmed.

"Unfortunately, tomorrow is all taken up, and we fly home in the afternoon."

"That's a pity," I said. "I thought you were supposed to be coming to stay for a bit."

"That's what Pépé — sorry, Grandfather — planned, but things did not work out. Then Mémé was taken ill. We have been there for some weeks. I had hoped to live with her from September, but it seems she will be in a …" —there was a pause as Marc seemed to be searching for something, then he found it — "…nursing home. Is that right?"

"That's right," Joseph assured him.

"So, I can't spend the next academic year in France."

"What about school?" Joseph asked.

"I've graduated," Marc replied. "I've got a place at the university, but I think I am a bit too young to be there. I would not fit in."

Looking at him, I had to agree; although he was tall, he still looked like a fifteen-year-old.

I hailed a taxi and told him we wanted to go to Portobello Road. Joseph gave me a look, but I thought that, in a taxi, Marc would, at least, see something of London.

Fridays on the Portobella Road, it's mostly antiques, and the market is not as busy — or as exciting — as the main market on Saturday. We did, though, spend a good couple of hours looking at things, and I ended up buying a book at a second-hand bookstall. They called themselves antiquarian book dealers, but really they were old, second-hand books. I got a copy of Yachts, Boats and Canoes by C. Stansfeld-Hicks, from 1888. Granddad had mentioned it, saying there was a chapter in it on building model yachts. Joseph and Marc were a bit puzzled by the fact that I was willing to pay sixty-odd quid for it.

It was getting on for twelve, and I was starting to get peckish. When I mentioned it to Joseph, he asked if I could remember the place where Neal had taken us. I thought I could and led the party in the direction I thought we had to go. After a couple of dead ends, I found the correct side street.

The place was fairly quiet, but it was not quite twelve yet, so we found a table easily. I went up and placed our orders. Three full-English, all-day breakfasts. Well, Marc had to try one at least once, and I knew from experience what Barry's were like. Then I stuck my head out of the door and told Dan he might as well come in and get something.

"How'd you know I was there?" Dan asked as he came through the door.

"Your reflection in the window across the road," I told him. "Also, I spotted you at the hotel, though you were not on the train."

"No. Your father gave us your travel plans but changed them, so we had to pick you up at the hotel."


"Well, you don't think I'm all we've got looking after you two, do you?"

"Working, Daniel?" Barry asked when he came back to the counter with the coffees I had ordered.

"Yes, mate."

"Then the usual?"

"Make it three."

"Right, three bacon sarnies to go."

"You could all come in here and eat them," I pointed out.

"We could, but it would not be professional, would it?"

I took the coffees and went back to our table.

"Somebody you know?" Marc asked. I was not sure how to answer but did not have to as Joseph answered for me.

"Yes, he's part of Johnny's security team."

I was not happy with that. Dan was part of our security team, mine and Joseph's. He was at as much risk as I was.

I think Marc found the full English breakfast at Barry's a bit daunting. He did, though, manage to eat most of it and said it was interesting. I am not sure if that was a compliment or not. Once we had finished, Joseph got three Cokes for us and some chocolate brownies for dessert. We sat at our table for a bit, discussing what we would do next. In the end, it was Marc who decided. He wanted to see the Victoria and Albert Museum and, in particular, the Cast Room. Apparently, he had done a paper about it for one of his high-school projects.

We got up and left the café. As we got outside, I glanced around but could see no sign of Dan, though I was sure he was close by.

"Taxi or tube to the V&A?" I asked projecting my voice as much as I could to let Dan know where we were going. Joseph gave me an odd look. Dan stepped out of a shop doorway a little bit up the road and gave me a thumbs up.

"Don't mind?" Marc said.

"Let's get the tube," Joseph stated.

"Right TUBE it is," I announced, getting another thumbs up.

The next three hours were spent in the Cast Room of the V&A. I should have remembered the last time I was here with Joseph. He spent a couple of hours sketching details from the cast of Trajan's Column. This time it was worse; Joseph was sketching, and Marc was photographing. I was amazed that people could spend so much time in the room. I could have seen it all in ten minutes, twenty max. I felt sorry for Dan and the crew; they must have been bored to death.

Eventually, I managed to point out that it had gone four and that some of us needed food. Joseph and Marc might be able to survive on the wonders of classical art, but I could not, and it was at least three hours before we, Marc and I, were due to meet Dad and John for dinner. Joseph had to get to the house in Kent for Shabbat. Also, it was not fair on the security crew; I was sure they could do with a drink.

We made our way to the museum café and partook of some overpriced coffee and cake. I was pleased to see that Dan managed to find a table, though I did not see the rest of his crew. That may have been a good thing; they were supposed to be unobtrusive.

After we had partaken of our refreshments, we made our way back to the tube station and then to Waterloo station so Joseph could get the train home for the weekend. He was seriously not looking forward to it.

Having seen Joseph onto his train, we had just over two hours before we had to meet Dad and John for dinner. I decided to give Marc a bit of a walking tour of London and led him down to the Thames south bank by the Southbank Centre. We then walked along the side of the Thames, passing Shakespeare's Globe, the re-creation of the Elizabethan theatre, and the site of the Clink, the Bishop's prison which gave its name to the language as slang for a police lockup. We crossed the Thames at London Bridge, which gave a clear view of Tower Bridge down the river. Marc, of course, had to take a pile of photos.

As we were standing on London Bridge, I told Marc about the day I had stood there about six years before. I had looked down the river at Tower Bridge, and there was a Concord flying up the Thames to Heathrow. From the position on London Bridge, it looked as if it was about to fly through Tower Bridge. Of course, it was not; it was a trick of the perspective, though I wish I had had a camera with me that day; it would have been a marvellous photo.

Once across the bridge, I glanced around to see if I could spot the security crew. Dan was about eight feet away from us. So, I told Marc, quite loudly, that we'd better get back to the hotel, and the best way was by taxi. I also said we could probably get one up by the Monument. I looked back at where I had seen Dan, and he was nodding slightly.

Marc, of course, wanted to take photos of the Monument. He also wanted to go up it. Fortunately for me, we had missed the last admissions. I did tell Marc something about its history — that is, as much as I could remember. It was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London and was designed by Wren in collaboration with Hooke.

"Why Hooke?" Marc asked. "Thought he was a scientist."

"He was, and the Monument was designed to act as a zenith telescope. Wren and Hooke hoped to use it to observe the stellar parallax."

"From the way you say 'hoped', I gather it did not work," Marc observed.

"No, it didn't. You need to ask Joseph about it. He gave me a lecture one weekend, all about how the structure expands and contracts, so the observations cannot be accurate enough to observe the parallax."

By then, we had walked up to the end of the road. There was a bloke there holding a taxi, I saw another, with its light on, so hailed it. As we got into the taxi, I saw Dan getting into the taxi that the bloke had been holding. Must have been another one of the security crew. I gave the driver the destination where we were meeting Dad.

Of course, it was now the tail end of the London rush hour, so it might have been quicker to walk. As it was, it took a good twenty minutes to get to where we were going. Normally, it would take a maximum of ten, usually a bit over five.

While we were in the taxi, Marc asked me what the problem was with Joseph?

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"There's something different between you," Marc said.

"Is there?"

"Yes. When I was over here before, the two of you were clearly a couple," Marc said. "Now, you're still together, but not so much. Does that make sense?"

"I'm not sure," I said, though it did make sense. It reflected something I had been feeling. "The thing is, we've been under a bit of strain recently."

"What happened?" Marc asked.

"There was an attempt to kidnap us," I told him. "That's why I have a security detail."

"Must cost a lot?"

"I've no idea, Marc; that's Dad's concern." Though now he mentioned it, I wondered exactly who was paying and why. I was fairly certain Dad was not.

We got back to the hotel where John and Marc were staying. Dad had said we would meet in the coffee shop at the hotel where we had coffee this morning, so we got a table there. There was no sign of John or Dad. There was still no sign after we had finished a large latte and chocolate brownie each. It was now well past our agreed meeting time, so I tried to ring Dad. The call went direct to voicemail, which got me worried — worried enough to get another chocolate brownie for both of us. John and Dad arrived about fifteen minutes later.

"There was a breakdown on the Northern Line," Dad stated by way of explanation. "We were stuck between Mornington Crescent and Euston."

"And I always thought Mornington Crescent was a myth," John Duprei stated.

"Why would you think that?" I asked.

"Well, I listened to the game being played on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue," John said.

"Never heard of it," I commented.

"You, lad," Dad stated, "are sadly lacking in education. I'll find some tapes of it; best some of the early ones, with Humph in the chair."

"Anyway, before we go for dinner, Marc, you and I need to go up to our room and pack," John stated.


"Because we are staying a few days longer," John informed his son. "Mike has kindly offered for us to stay at his place till we fly back next Wednesday."

With that, John led Marc off into the hotel. Dad got a coffee, and I got myself a cola.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Well, you know I'd set up the deal to make a TV series based on John's book about technology and climate change?"

"Yes, if I remember right, Dad, I think I have an investment in that," I stated.

"Do you? I'll have to look into that. Anyway, Bob's office has been busy with things. When we got there, Bob had lined up a pile of meetings for us. Unfortunately, Bob was not aware that John was only in Town for the day. There's a lot of legal stuff to get sorted, and it will be a lot easier if John is here in person rather than trying to pass stuff to and fro across the Atlantic. We've set up a second meeting for Tuesday at the house. Bob, Janet Long and Bernard are all coming down. Irene will probably be coming as well."

"But they were flying back tomorrow afternoon."

"I know, but Bob's arranged a change of ticket for them and upgraded them to first."

"That means there must be some big money involved," I commented, knowing what Trevor had told me about his father.

"There is. If everything pans out, it looks like John will be very well off. By the way, Marc's not going to be doing badly, either. Bob's got an initial interest in the French translation of my maths book with a proposed advance of fifty thousand. As translator, Marc gets half.

"That's one reason why they're stopping over. John needs to get things set up so the money goes into a trust for Marc over here."

"Why over here?" I asked.

"Best way of avoiding taxes," Dad replied. "The publisher is a French technical publishing house, who were looking at acquiring the translation rights in the first instance. Now we are providing the translation. Bob sent them the file this afternoon, and they will be looking at it over the weekend. If they accept the translation, they will sign on Monday or Tuesday next week. That's one reason why John is staying over."

"That implies there is another," I commented.

"There is, but please do not let Marc know. Marc's grandmother took a turn for the worse overnight. She's in hospital. The next twenty-four hours are critical. If things don't improve, they will go back to France on Sunday."

"I don't feel happy having to keep this from Marc," I commented. "John should tell l him."

"He's going to; I'm just not sure when."

I nodded in understanding, then checked to see if Dad had let Mum know we were having guests for the weekend. He told me that he had.

I decided I'd better let Joseph know that John and Marc would be staying at the Priory for the weekend. Somehow, I felt he would not be happy if he found out about it after the event. So, I sent him a text.

I guess, something had been said while John and Marc were up in their room as Marc was quite subdued when they came back down. To be honest, the atmosphere over dinner was a bit depressing.

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