Losing Tim

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 10

London 1966

I had arranged to meet James on the Friday after the funeral but on Thursday night I got a telegram from him saying he was taking his mother to Italy. A few days later I got a letter posted in France, which explained that his mother could not stand being in the Russell Square House with his grandfather and so was going back to her home in Italy. He also said he would be staying with her for a few weeks to make sure she was OK. Although I had met James's mother on a few occasions I had never realised she was Italian, she did not sound Italian. I later learnt from Alfie that though James' mother's mother was Italian her father was an English Duke and that whilst she had grown up in Italy, and spent most of her holidays in Italy she had gone to boarding school in England.

The following few weeks were very quiet though Alfie started to find photographic work for me and soon I found myself with quite a nice little income from it. I thought about leaving my job at the publishers but then decided against it as it would have meant having to find somewhere for a darkroom. I did though pull back from working the clubs, it was not so much that I wanted to give up the game, it was just the fact that I did not have the time for it. I had officially gone part-time at the publishers, which I think made them a bit happier as sales had not been so good for the last two quarters and I was able to do all the work I would have done had I been full time. Now I worked three mornings and two afternoons a week, however, most evenings would find me using the darkroom to process films and prints off any shoots I had done that day.

Although I was only part-time at photography my work was starting to get noticed and I started to pick up a couple of commissions off my own bat, without Alfie. It looked as if I had found my future profession.

Another change had been Timmy, or Tim as he now liked to be called had started to come down to London some weekends to be with me. Originally when I moved to London, I was only able to get up to Wednesbury about once a month and we found that a bit of a strain on the relationship. Eventually though, once I had worked out how the scene worked, I was able to arrange things, so I got up every three weeks. Since Tim had turned fifteen, he had started to travel down for the odd weekend, which meant that we were able to see a lot more of each other.

I had been thinking of moving out of the bed-sit to a proper flat. The income from my photography was fairly steady and I could afford it. Also, I was hoping to find one where I could set up a small studio. However, Tim had been talking about moving down when he left school in August and going to college to do his GCEs in London. His mother had met a bloke through work, and they were now talking about getting married in the summer, after Tim finished school. The potential step-father worked in Derby and he wanted them to move there. So, I had decided not to get a flat till I knew where Tim wanted to go to college. There was also the fact that I needed an adult guarantor to take the lease on a flat whilst bed-sits were let on a weekly basis and no lease was required.

Tim came down for half-term and assisted me on a shoot I was doing for an advertisement by a minor fashion house. Alfie had arranged it and was present. He seemed impressed with Tim, especially the way he could adjust the clothes, so they looked their best. I must admit I was never really all that good on fashion shoots, not have much dress sense myself.

One interesting event was when Alfie arranged for me to do some live publicity shots of a up and coming jazz singer who was appearing at a club down in the East End. The club itself had something of a reputation and I was a bit worried about going down there but Alfie assured me that everything would be OK. I was kneeling down at the front of the stage taking shots of the girl whilst she was singing when the normal background hum in the club went quiet. Suddenly I was pulled up by the scruff of the neck and a voice said in my ear

"No Photos" as my camera was grabbed.

"It's OK, leave him," a familiar voice said. I turned to see the twins. They asked what I was doing, and I explained, pointing out Alfie who was on the other side of the club looking very nervous. They told me to go ahead and get what photos I wanted, just not to take any of them. That was fine with me, I was there to photograph the singer, nothing else. When I was finished, I went back to where Alfie was and started to pack up.

"You know the twins?"



"I've known them for years, since I was thirteen, they used to come up to Birmingham." Alfie looked at me with a questioning look but did not ask any more. As we were about to leave one of the twins indicated we should go over to their table.

"Hi Alfie, you're helping our boy here, are you?" It was more of a statement than a question.

Alfie nodded.

"Just do a good job, he's been very useful to us and we don't want him to have any problems." With that Alfie went really pale.

My relationship with Tim was going well and physically we had progressed from heavy petting and mutual masturbation to oral sex. I kept him away from the club scene, for a start at fifteen he had problems passing for his age still looking more like a thirteen or fourteen-year-old so there was no way he could pass for eighteen the minimum age for entry to most of the clubs. The ones that did not bother about the age regulations, like the Apollo, I would not have wanted to take him to anyway.

He did meet some of my friends and did not seem at all impressed that I knew people from TV and Film. Neither did finding himself chatting with a member of the government phase him, though I think that particular minister was a bit put out when he was told by a fifteen-year-old that he had no idea what he was talking about.

James was back in London after a few months in Italy and back in medical research. His sister Agatha had taken over running the family estates and he freely admitted that she was a damned sight better at the job than he was. He also said she appeared to enjoy it, which he never would.

I had dinner with him a few times, a couple of them with Tim present. Tim liked him and I got the feeling that James also liked Tim. James's mother it turned out had decided to settle permanently in Italy, she found the atmosphere by Lake Como, combined with the endless supply of Grappa and attractive young men, very conducive to recovering from the loss of her husband. James had also brought back an attractive young bride from Italy. She was an American and fully appreciated that the arrangement was a marriage of convenience. It was convenient for her as marriage to an English Lord saved her from having to return to her family in Boston and the marriage, they had lined up for her to a somewhat older Boston banker. It was convenient for James as it gave him a mother for the heir he needed and someone to take care of the social scene that went with his position.

In future years I was to meet her on a number of occasions, and I think she and James were genuinely fond of each other though I doubt that they were ever in love.

London 1967

Tim had come down to stay with me for a few days. Officially school had not finished but he had done his final exam, and no one was that bothered about whether he turned up or not. My phone went just after seven with Alfie asking if he could come around, yes I had a phone installed in the bed sit, needed it because of the work I was getting. When Alfie got there, he told me that he needed a photographer tomorrow to work on a training/documentary film being made about water-skiing. He assured me that it was just photography they wanted done, the production company would take care of all the processing and post production work.

They had been let down at the last moment and only had the lake at the Wiremill for one day of filming. I pointed out I had Tim with me and couldn't very well leave him sitting in London all day. Alfie said that was fine he could swing an assistant anyway, then he named a fee for the day which was more than I had ever earned. With that sort of fee, I could not afford to turn the work down.

The next morning Alfie picked us up early and took us down to a lake just outside East Grinstead. Even though it was quite early the film crew were already setting up. A big chap dressed in Levi's and leather came over and was introduced as Steve. He turned out to be the director, who spent the next half hour telling us what he wanted. Basically, it was as many action shots as we could take.

There was a crew of five there with Steve, a sound man, two camera men and two youths, about my age but heavily muscled and into Levi's and leather like Steve, who were doing the hunking and carrying that is required on any shoot.

Tim helped me set up my camera with a medium length telephoto at the edge of the lake, I told him to take the wide angle and station himself where the skiers would be turning. The work turned out to be fairly easy, as the skiers came around for each run, I just started to take photos and kept shooting till they passed. Fortunately, I had a motor drive on my camera and a high capacity film magazine. Tim was not as fortunate but then he only had to take a couple of shots as they turned.

There were quite a few breaks in the filming, mostly to reload the cameras, they were running 16mm stock and only had about ten minutes shooting time on one load, but Steve also seemed to want things moved about quite a lot. Early on there was an argument between Steve and the skiers. Initially they had gone out in wet suits, but Steve said they had to dump the wet suits. They said the water was too cold, but Steve insisted. I was happy that he did as the four lads who were skiing had fantastic bodies and I enjoyed photographing them.

Shortly before twelve Alfie vanished to return about an hour later with a couple of hampers. The shoot broke for lunch. I noticed Steve talking to Tim who looked upset, then Tim shook his head and walked off. I went after him worried that something was wrong.

I caught up with Tim in some woods by the side of the lake, he was kicking an fallen tree trunk.

"What's up?"

"That bastard Steve."

"What's he done."

"He said he wanted to fuck me, offered me twenty pounds. I told him to get lost, so he said he would give me thirty, but I better take it as he was going to have me whether I wanted it or not."

"Cum on, we'll get Alfie to sort this out." I guided Tim back to the picnic area where lunch was set out and found Alfie. When I explained the situation, he was furious and went off to find Steve. He came back ten minutes later and told us not to worry. He said that he had told Steve that we were a couple and that he should not upset us, and we had friends who would not like it.

Once lunch was over, we did a few more takes but Steve called a wrap on the location shots early afternoon. We then moved to house Steve's house, which was a couple of miles away, the garage had already been set up as a workshop to film the preparation of the skis. Steve wanted a few stills take that he could cut in to show detail of the fittings; once that was out of the way it was fairly straight forward filming and I had nothing to do. By about seven he had got all the shots he wanted and called it a day.

All the film, the 16mm and my still stock was packed into a couple of transport cases, which Steve pushed over to Alfie and told him to take them to a processing lab at Borehamwood. Alfie looked surprised; I had heard him being asked if he could run the stock to the labs. Steve had told him the original photographer was supposed to have dropped the stuff in on his way home. When he had agreed to take it, I think he expected one of the local or London processing labs.

Alfie had a problem, there was no way he could get the boxes in his sports car and Tim and myself. It was going to take at least three hours for him to get to Borehamwood and back, probably longer. It appeared though that he had no choice. Steve said that while we were waiting for Alfie to get back, we might as well go and sit by the pool, he said they were having a post shoot party there.

The pool in a walled courtyard behind the house, it was a bit of a suntrap and even in the late evening was quite warm. Tim and I sat at a table by the door leading into the house, Steve and the cameraman who had done the inside filming sat at another table whilst the rest of the crew who had come back to the house and the skier who had done the inside shoot lounged about on loungers around the side of the pool. Steve called into the house and told his houseboy to make some Irish Coffee. The houseboy must have been expecting it for a few minutes later he announced that the coffee was ready. Steve shouted to stay where we were that he would bring it out and then went into the house, returning shortly pushing a trolley with glasses of Irish Coffee on it. We were the closest to the door, so he took the first two glasses off the trolley and handed them to Tim and me, then proceeded round the pool handing glasses as he went.

I started to drink my coffee, it was welcome after what had been a long and stressful day. To my surprise there was quite a lot of whiskey in it. The skier stood up and stripped off before jumping into pool, quickly followed by the two hunks that had been on the crew. It was quite clear that they weren't planning on swimming. I looked at Tim who appeared decidedly uncomfortable with the situation, I definitely was.

"Look, let's finish our drinks and get off. We can leave the gear for Alfie to pick up, get a taxi into Croydon and get the train into London. I'll say you're not feeling well, and I want to get you home."

"OK," Tim replied, "actually I don't feel well." We finished our coffees and I called across to Steve.

"Steve, I think it is best if we got a taxi to the station and got home, Tim's not feeling well. Alfie can pick up our gear when he gets back."

"Oh, you can't go yet," Steve responded, he stood up and walked over to us, "we're just about to have some fun and I want Tim's ass." His cameraman came over with him.

"What the fuck do you mean?" standing up to confront him. Steve might be a big man, but my father had done one thing for me and that was to drum into me, often against my will, a knowledge of Jui Jitsu. I was certain I could deal with a bully like Steve. That is if the floor would stay still.

"I mean little man that if I want a boy's ass, I get the boy's ass, I never take no for an answer." I had to grab the back of the chair to stop myself falling. Tim had slipped down into his chair. "Enjoyed your coffee? Just a little knock out drop you'll be around again in half an hour, all nicely tied up for me." I felt the cameraman grab me as I slipped down towards the ground.

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