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Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 18

"You're supposed to be confined to your room for the week," Uncle Bernard replied.

"I know, but Matt has asked if I could help with some illustrations for a client," Joseph replied.

"When did he ask?" Uncle Bernard enquired.

"While you were in your meeting, he sent me a text. Look." Joseph held his phone up showing a text to Uncle Bernard.

"You know, if you stay you will have to come back on Friday, don't you? No way your mother will let you miss Shabbat." Joseph nodded. Uncle Bernard continued. "That will mean either me driving over to pick you up or somebody giving you a lift to Southmead to get the train."

"Actually, I can bring him into London on Friday," Dad said. He had been behind us and listening to the conversation.

"You're prepared to let him stay till Friday?" Uncle Bernard asked Dad.


"OK, son, you can stay till Friday, but understand this: when you get home on Friday, you are confined to your room until you start back at school."

Joseph nodded.

"How did you manage that?" I asked as we went up to my room.

"Manage what?" Joseph replied.

"Getting Matt to send you that text."

"He just did. I did not manage anything. When he dropped me off this afternoon, he was going to look at a job out towards Southmead. It's a historic-house renovation. Got the text about five minutes before you came out of your meeting. I'd better text Matt back and let him know I can do it."

That done, Joseph sorted out his gi. Luckily, he kept some clothes over here, including a spare gi. We both got dressed in our gis, then put on some clothing over them before going to join Lee and Simone in the dojo for what turned out to be a fascinating evening.

I had never seen Uncle Ben teaching, and it was truly mesmerizing seeing him working with Lee and Simone, taking them through their weapon techniques. What was even more impressive, however, was the way he worked with Joseph and me, especially how he worked with me. By the end of the two-hour session, I felt confident with each of the techniques he had taught me. Alright, I would need a lot of practice before I could use them, but at least I understood what they were and how they were supposed to work. That was a lot more than I knew before.

Both Mum and I had late classes Tuesday morning, so we were in the kitchen when Matt arrived to pick up Joseph just after nine. Mum asked Matt what he was up to that he needed Joseph.

"Doing a feasibility study for the renovation of Claymorton Hall," he replied.

"Wasn't that burnt down a couple of years ago?" Mum asked.

"There was a fire, but it wasn't burnt down," Matt informed Mum. "There was, though, a lot of damage, especially to the carved woodwork. Most of it will need to be replaced as the stuff that is not actually burnt is badly scorched and blackened. Photographing it is hard because of the blackening. You lose detail; you really need to draw it. Joseph's drawing is considerably better than mine.

"I'll use Joseph's drawings to get estimates for replacing the carved woodwork."

"I hope you're paying him," Mum stated.

"Most certainly, I am," Matt replied.

"You are what?" Joseph asked as he came into the kitchen. He had gone up to our room to get his things when Matt had pulled into the yard.

"Paying you," Matt stated.

"You are?" Joseph asked, with a hint of disbelief.

"Of course, I am, this is a commercial job, not some work experience for you."

With that, the two of them left.

Mum and I set off about half an hour later to college. I managed to arrange a lift back with Antonio in the afternoon as Mum had a late class and I was finished by three. On the way back to the Priory I asked Antonio how his first day had gone.

"It was good," he replied. "Had to translate a couple of emails into English for Tyler, then translate his replies back into Spanish. It was all fairly easy. I am going to start translating the website this afternoon. What was done was not good — that is, if there are no more emails to deal with. I need to get it done by Thursday as on Friday I am going to Paris to meet Papa."

I do not know how we got onto it, but I found myself explaining to Antonio how things were set up at the Priory, who was who and who did what.

"You mean that Trevor Spade lives there?" Antonio asked.

"Yes, him and Arthur have the flat in the Stable House. Arthur runs their business from there."

"What business is that?" Antonio inquired.

"The computer-services business. They supply all our networking and IT; they also provide internet access to a lot of the farms and remote businesses around the marsh. The boatyard I work at uses them."

Antonio seemed very interested in Arthur's business, but I told him I did not know that much about it. He really needed to ask Arthur or Trevor, but they were both away at the moment.

When we got to the Priory, Antonio went off to Tyler's offices. I went into the house, but there was nobody around. I guessed Dad was in his new office, so I went to look for him. He was not there, though Lee was, sitting at desk going over what looked like a script with a yellow marker pen.

"Any idea where Dad is?" I asked.

Lee glanced at the digital clock that hung on the wall. "He should be arriving at Southminster in about ten minutes. He was in Town this morning."

"He didn't say anything about going to Town yesterday," I pointed out.

"He didn't know yesterday. The Beeb phoned just before ten. They needed an expert for the for the one-o'clock news. As they wanted cover for both radio and TV, he had to go into the studio. Started back just after one."

"Why? What's going on?"

"Some reports has just been published which show the rate of temperature increase is faster than was predicted," Lee informed me.

"So, what are you up to?" I asked, looking at the script on the desk.

"Marking up all the facts stated in this piece; then I have to check them. Your father's doing a piece on Inside Science about El Niño and the Cromwell current and the impact on penguins. I have to make sure everything he has stated is, in fact, correct."

"Boring," I commented.

"Not at all," Lee replied. "It's absolutely fascinating. It is surprising what you find out when you are checking things. I'd always thought the Cromwell current was named after Oliver Cromwell, but it's not. It is named after the man who discovered it, Thomas Cromwell."

"I didn't know there was a Cromwell current," I said.

"Neither did I until last week, when I started doing background research for this talk," Lee admitted. "Anyway, I'd better get back to this; your father wants it done for tonight."

I left Lee to it and wandered down to the walled garden. As I guessed, Granddad was there, though there was no sign of Steven or Jim. I asked Granddad where they were.

"At college, lad, they need to get them qualifications."

That made sense but it got me wondering; if they were planning on opening the nursery at Easter, how would they manage with their college work?

"They're only opening at weekends and bank holidays, lad. Might open Friday and Wednesday afternoons and evenings; they are both free then. Not much point them opening much more than that. Doubt there will be much weekday trade out here. There's no passing trade."

That I could understand.

"Any idea where Grandma is?" I asked.

"She went down to the Crooked Man to chat with Mary. Should be back soon."

There was not much I could do, so I went back to the house and sequestered myself in Dad's study. My mother's diaries were still there. It had seemed like ages since I had started to look at them, but now felt like a good time to do so again. I found my notepad and got back to reading them. Most of the entries referred to cases she was involved in or meetings with various notables. Occasionally, though, there were entries which did not seem to fit with things. Just a single line saying something like 'Ralf called'. Stranger still was the odd entries comprising a row of letters and numbers:

113269111108 3FE-f&K19636*2jWz7#1

101213004261 2CC-49%8djEV78&^uQ97

They did not make sense to me, but I felt they were probably important. So, I made a separate list out for them at the back of my notebook.

What I did find surprising were the comments mother had made in her diary about how I was doing at school. It almost made me think that she actually cared about how I was doing. If she did, she had never given any sign of it.

I had just finished the second volume of the diaries when I heard Joseph come in through the back door. I went through to the kitchen to meet him.

"You're looking chuffed with yourself," I commented as I entered.

"Am a bit. Had a really good day. What do you think?" he said, pulling out his sketchbook and opening it up for me to see. There were a series of drawings on the page he had opened. So far as I could make out, they were different views of the same piece of carving. They were very detailed.

"They look good. What does Matt think?"

"He likes them. Says they are a lot better than any photos. Going to be a bit of a push to get them all finished by Thursday, though. There are a lot to do."

"So, what happens when you've done them?" I asked.

"Matt's going to get high-definition copies made. He'll let me have a set so I can show my art teacher. Then he will send the copies to various firms who specialise in reproducing carvings of this type and ask if they are interested in doing the work."

"Why shouldn't they be?"

"Well, it might not be their period. A lot of the restoration people specialize in a single period. There is a firm the other side of Chelmsford that Matt told me about. They only do wood carving in the Tudor style. There's sufficient work from the royal palaces for restoration of pieces from that period to keep them fully occupied.

"That's the other thing; most of these firms are fairly small, so there is a limited amount of work they can do. At the moment, the demand for such work is outstripping supply of craftsmen to do it. So, even if they have the skills to do the work, they probably are not in a position to take on extra work.

"Matt said he had a list of fifty-three workshops to which he can send the invitations to tender. He doubts if he will get more than three responses."

"Why so low?" I asked.

"Of the fifty-three workshops, only about ten percent will probably cover work of this period, so that makes five possible workshops who might be interested in bidding for the job. It likely that at least half of them will have more work now than they can cope with, so that gives you two or three responding."

"I just hope you got the details correct," I commented.

"Don't worry, I did. Matt also took photos of everything I drew."


"For one thing to show scale. The photos have a sizing rule on them, so those provide information that the drawing cannot."

I was still looking over Joseph's drawings when Dad came in. I expressed surprise as I thought he would have been back earlier.

"I was, Johnny; was in the office with Lee," he informed me. Then he asked where Mum and Grandma were.

I told him I thought Mum was probably on her way back from college, I had come back early with Antonio. As for Grandma, so far as I knew she was down at the Crooked Man. Dad made a comment about having to sort out dinner, but I pointed out to him that there appeared to be something in the oven. He looked. There was one of Grandma's casseroles.

Mum arrived back almost at the same time as Grandma came back from the Crooked Man. Grandma confirmed that there was a casserole in the oven but told us that it would do for tomorrow. Tonight, we were having dinner at the Crooked Man. So, about an hour later we all trooped down to the pub for dinner. Turned out that it was something of a working dinner as Mary wanted to discuss the Tithe Barn with Mum and Dad — well, mostly with Mum as she was dealing with everything concerning it.

Mary had some news. They had got the necessary outline permissions to build an enclosed walkway from the pub to the barn. They now had to sort out a design for it. Matt had suggested something quite futuristic, comprising stainless steel and glass. Mary was unsure about it, partially due to the cost, which would fall on Dad.

"To be honest, Mary," Dad informed her, "I have never really liked it when people try to conform new construction to an historic building. Somehow, it never really seems to work. With Matt's idea, you have something contemporary which will stand in contrast to the historic structure, highlighting it. I think you should tell Matt to go for it. Just hope English Heritage and the planning committee go for it. Any idea of timescale for getting in?"

"Well, Matt said that final approvals will probably take about three months, but once that's done, he will only need about six weeks to do the work inside the barn."

"That's fast," Dad commented.

"That's what I said," Mary replied. "It seems most of the stuff that needs to be put in the barn is going to be in the form of prefabricated units that will be built offsite and just assembled on location. Matt was saying that this approach means they do not have to touch the historic structure of the barn, which is keeping the listing people happy."

After dinner, Joseph and I walked back to the house, leaving the others talking. I had to deal with some homework that I should have done earlier. Joseph wanted to watch an episode of Grand Design, which was available on catch-up. Then Joseph and I retired to our room, where we watched TV for a bit before enjoying each other in bed.

The rest of the week was very much the same, except I had late classes on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday, Mum stayed in the library after her class and took me home when I finished. Thursday, though, she finished early, so Dad had to come out and pick me up. The weather had been too bad for me to use my moped.

Although Uncles Phil and Ben were still staying in Dunford, I did not see much of them during the week. They did not join us for dinner on either Wednesday or Thursday, though they were just leaving Dad's office when I got back on Wednesday evening. Dad said they had a meeting in Southmead that they had to get to.

Both Joseph and I joined Lee and Simone for training on Wednesday night. Lee was a bit disappointed that Uncle Ben had not been able to stay for the class. He told us after the class that Uncle Ben had promised to try to get back to lead the class if he could, even if only for the last hour. The fact that he had not probably meant that negotiations were more difficult than they had expected.

"What negotiations?" I asked.

"Don't know, though it has something to do with the old airfield at Southmead," Lee informed me.

I managed to wangle things so that Dad gave me a lift into college on Friday on his way to London. I did not have an early class so did not need to be at the college till ten. The great advantage of this was I got to have a lie-in on Friday morning with Joseph before he went back to London with Dad.

Dad had a meeting in Shepherd's Bush. I was surprised that he was taking the car in, but he explained that he was bringing some kit back for the studio.

"What studio?" I asked.

"The recording studio in the office," Dad replied.

"I did not know you had a recording studio in your office."

"Really! I thought I had told you. You should get Lee to show you around."

I thought that might be a good idea, though I had to admit that he might well have told me about the recording studio; I probably had not taken note of it. I was surprised to see Antonio in Madge's when I got to college, as I thought he was going to Paris today. He explained his train was not till this afternoon, so he was attending his morning class and would get a taxi to Southminster. Antonio did assure me that he would be back for classes on Monday. He was getting the first train Monday morning, so would make his afternoon class.

Mum was finishing early, so I cadged a lift home off Simone, as I knew she was training with Lee this evening. That allowed Mum to leave as soon as her classes finished, which she appreciated as it meant she could go into Tesco's for a big shop.

"Exactly what is Antonio doing for Tyler?" Simone asked me as we pulled away from Southmead Hall. We had stopped there so she could pick up her kit for tonight's training session.

"I don't really know. I know it requires Spanish. Why?"

"He seems to be wandering around a lot when he's there."

"Well, he's only just started, probably trying to get his bearings," I commented.

"Maybe, maybe."

"Well, he won't be wandering around today, he's flying to Paris for the weekend," I told her.


"Yes, he told me the other day. His father's in Paris for a conference, so Antonio is going to spend the weekend with him. He was getting the Eurostar this morning."

"Is that so." There was something about the way that Simone said that which made me think she had some reservations.

One downside of getting a lift from Simone when she was going over to train was that I also got committed to joining the training session. Actually, I did not really mind all that much. I enjoyed learning from Lee and Simone and was fascinated by what they were teaching. It was just that sometimes there were other things that I might like to do. Like lying on my bed and chatting to Joseph on my phone. Unfortunately, that was not possible. First, it was Shabbat and Aunt Debora would expect Joseph to be present at the meal. Secondly, Joseph's confinement to his room also meant no mobile phone, as I found out when I did phone him. Uncle Bernard answered and told me Joseph was not allowed his phone till Monday, when he went back to school.

So, I was not lying on my bed chatting with my boyfriend. I was being thrown around by a pair of black belts. Actually, they did not throw me around that much, and I threw them around quite a bit. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction when, as a result of my throw, they flew into the air, landing in a roll about seven feet from me. However, I had to remember, most of the power that sent them that far into the air was their own. The moment I put the lock or move on effectively, they would do ukemi, throwing themselves deliberately to escape from the lock or move. Nevertheless, it looked spectacular.

Saturday morning, I was woken by the sound of motorcycles pulling into the yard. There were only two people who I knew rode motorcycles and visited the Priory. Given that neither of them was expected this weekend and definitely not this early in the morning — a glance at my clock told me it was ten past seven — I got up. A quick shower and quicker dressing got me over to the Stable House some fifteen minutes later. Neal and Maddie were there, as I had surmised.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"I might ask the same," Maddie responded. "Shouldn't you be at the boatyard?"

"Not till ten; it's winter hours at the moment. Steve said he would pick me up at nine-thirty. It's only just gone seven-thirty, so how come you're here and why this early?"

"We have a problem," Neal stated.

"What sort of problem?"

"Somebody has hacked the system," Neal answered. "Is your dad up yet?"

"Not so far as I know, but he should be soon."

"Could you go over and ask him to join us here?" Neal asked.

I did as requested. Fortunately, Dad was up and in the kitchen when I got back to the house.

"Where've you been this time of the morning?" he asked as I entered.

"Over at the Stable House."


"Neal and Maddie arrived on their bikes about half an hour ago. They want to see you over in the Stable House."

"Shit! What's up?"

"I don't know, Dad, but Neal said that somebody had hacked the system."

"I'd better get over then. Better leave a note for Anne."

He did, and we both went back to the Stable House.

"I've been informed that there is a problem," Dad stated as he entered the server room.

"Yes, we've been hacked," Maddie replied.

"How bad is it?"

"At the moment, we can't tell, but I suspect it is not as bad as it could have been," Neal informed Dad. "The hack took place sometime yesterday, and it is only on the one system, so any data that has been compromised has been very limited."

"How do you know it was done yesterday?"

"Neal is better at explaining it than I am," Maddie told Dad. "I'll let him tell you."

"Neal?" Dad asked.

"There are a whole pile of files, mostly executables, whose size should never change. We have the normal security and anti-virus software running on these systems, but all that does is scan files for known patterns associated with viruses and malware," Neal told Dad. "In addition, we have some specialist security software, which is not on the systems. It runs on a remote server that is not on any of the networks. That software can, though, log into any of these servers and run scans of the disks.

"As I said, there are a whole pile of files whose size should never change. One piece of our software checks the size of all those files. When the systems were first set up, a scan was done of all the fixed-size files. The results of the scan are held on the security server. Last night, it connected to one of the servers here and ran a normal scan. Everything was fine. Then this morning, it did another check. One of the sizes had changed. We were hacked sometime between eight last night and four this morning. That caused an alarm to be set off, and Maddie and I got emails and text messages alerting us to the fact. Arthur will have got some, as well."

"If he has, he will be on the first bloody plane back to England," I commented.

"No, he won't," Neal stated. "I sent him an email and a text telling him that we were dealing with it." With that, he looked at the clock. It was getting on for half past eight. "No doubt, though, he will be calling us soon."

"Look, there is nothing you can do to help at the moment. Neal and I need to sort a lot of things out and get some things set up," Maddie advised Dad. "Why don't you leave us to it for a bit. Though, I suggest we have a meeting late this afternoon. We should have finished by then. In the meantime, if you could sort us some breakfast, it would be appreciated. We left Cambridge at six and did not stop on the way."

It was about an hour-and-a-half to an hour-forty-five trip from Cambridge to here. I knew because Dad and Mum had been talking about going up to visit someone, and Mum had said they should allow at least two hours because of road works. If Maddie and Neal had left Cambridge at six, they must have seriously disregarded the speed limits to be here at ten past seven. Then again, do bikers consider speed limits?

"Bacon sandwiches?" Dad asked.

"That would be fine," Maddie replied.

Dad returned to the house; I hung on a bit longer to make Maddie and Neal some tea. There were facilities for tea-making in the small kitchen attached to the flat, and there was some milk in the fridge. I suppose the girls must make use of it when they come up to check things. These days, they are mostly down at the Craven building, as they were now calling the old prefab building that the business had taken over.

I made tea for the pair of them, then went back to the house. Entering the kitchen, I was met by the smell of bacon frying.

"Just in time. You can take these over to Maddie and Neal," Dad stated as he started to assemble some bacon sandwiches.

"What about me?" I asked.

"I'll have a fry-up for you ready by the time you get back over."

Dad wrapped the bacon sandwiches in foil to keep them warm, and I took them over to Maddie and Neal. As promised, there was a fry-up waiting for me when I got back. Bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, fried bread and eggs, plus a mug of tea all waiting for me.

Steve arrived to pick me up just before half-nine. We had to go around the marsh and over the chain ferry to get to the yard. The causeway was flooded. As a result, it was nearly ten thirty when we got to the yard and started to open up. At least, we unlocked the office. Steve saw no point in actually opening the yard itself up or the chandlery. The chances of passing business this time of year was virtually nil, and nothing was booked in for today. That was probably good as we had a lot to do.

Steve spent the day showing me how to make up a range of special varnishes and finishes he uses on the top-end work. He emphasised that it was important to make the varnishes and finishes up exactly as per the recipe. More importantly, he showed me how a small change could make a massive difference.

One thing he explained was the importance of the quality of the ingredients. He made a high-end wax polish for work on the best-quality woodwork, the ingredients of which were white beeswax and turpentine. Once he had shown me how to make this by dissolving the beeswax in the turpentine over a low heat in a bain-marie, Steve got me to make some polish up using ordinary beeswax and white spirits. To me, the two mixes looked the same when they were set. However, when Steve took a piece of scrap white oak and polished a bit with a sample of each, I could see the difference. The area polished with the white beeswax polish was a fraction lighter than that done with the normal beeswax polish. Also, the surface looked more polished.

I asked Steve why there was a difference.

"There are two things going on, Johnny. First, the natural beeswax has a yellow colouration to it. When you use it in a polish, you are applying a slightly yellow polish to the wood, so it discolours it. Apply a number of layers over time and the wood can get quite dark.

"The second is the difference between white spirits and turpentine. The white spirits evaporate off when you are polishing quicker than the turpentine. Once the solvent has evaporated off, no matter how much you polish it, you will not get a better finish. So, because turpentine does not evaporate as fast, you get a finer polish with it."

That made sense. It also made me think about something I had noticed earlier.

"Steve, when we were making the French polishes, I noticed you used methylated spirits for some but isopropyl alcohol for others. Why? How do you know which to use?"

"It's a question of colour. French polish is made by dissolving shellac flakes in alcohol, like I showed you." I nodded, I understood that.

"The thing is, Johnny, shellac flakes come in a range of colours from almost white, to very dark brown. Each colour of shellac flake gives you a different colour French polish — from a very light polish to a very dark polish. This morning we made three French polishes. The first two we made were a dark- and a medium-brown. Those were made with methylated spirits. However, the third lot of French polish was made using platina flakes; they are very light in colour.

"Now, Johnny, what colour is methylated spirits?"

"Blue," I answered. Then it hit me. "Shit, if you had used methylated spirits to dissolve the light-coloured shellac the blue of the spirits would have discoloured it."

"Right. To be honest Johnny, most people making French polish do not bother to use anything else but methylated spirits. They probably are not even aware that the dye in the spirits affects the final colour. For most purposes, it does not even matter. However, the best French polishers use industrial alcohol to make their polish rather than methylated spirits because of that colouration. I compromise. For the darker polishes I use methylated spirits, but for the light-coloured polish, I use isopropyl alcohol because that does not have any dye in it. I don't make enough to go through the hassle of getting industrial alcohol, so I use isopropyl."

It was a lot of information to deal with, so I decided to make us some tea. It was good timing. I had just put the kettle on when the phone went. Steve answered it. For the next ten minutes, he was in deep conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone line. I guessed it was Bob because they were talking about moving the barge from Simmons Reek.

I put the mug of tea down in front of Steve and went over to my corner of the workshop and got down to sharpening some tools between taking swigs of tea.

"That was Bob," Steve informed me, coming out of the office into the workshop.

"Anything important?"

"Yes, he's sorted the salvage barge to transport his barge and The Lady Ann down from Simmons Reek."


"They'll pick them up on the 16th and bring them down overnight; will be here on the 17th of April."

"Shit! I'm not here," I informed Steve. "That's the week we're in Holland."

Steve laughed. "Don't worry about it. Bob's picking up the bill, and I guess he's paying top whack, knowing him. The boat will be sitting in the yard waiting for you when you get back from gallivanting around Amsterdam."

"Don't think we're going to Amsterdam," I told Steve. "So far as I know, we are being put up in Beekbergen and travelling around Holland, but there has been no mention of Amsterdam."

"Kid, there is no way you can spend a week in Holland and not visit Amsterdam, especially at your age."

I laughed at that, then thought about touring Amsterdam with Joseph.

"One thing, Johnny, any news on the Salvage Yard?"

"No, but I can phone Dad and find out what the position is. So, far as I know everything is proceeding."

I did, then gave Steve the news.

"Everything is on track according to Dad; contracts have been exchanged, and it is just a question of completion."

"Any idea when that will be?" Steve asked.

"Dad said it should be before the end of the month. There are a couple of surveys that have to be undertaken to make sure that everything that is stated in the contract is actually there. One is scheduled for this coming week; they are still waiting for a date on the other but expect it to be within the next two weeks."

"That's good to know, as we will need somewhere to put the boats when they arrive."

"I thought you were having the barge here?"

"I was, but if space is available at the Salvage Yard, then it makes sense to use it. It is going to take ages to restore, and having it here would mean that one of our slipways will be out of use for at least the whole of this year. Probably next year and the year after as well. Pulling it up onto one of the Salvage Yard slips would avoid that problem."

"I thought you were going to move it to a cradle behind the shed?" I stated.

"That's what I thought until I looked into what would be involved. We would have to cradle it on the slipway and move the cradle with the barge in it to the back of the shed. As it is, there is only a two-foot clearance on the barge itself, there is no way we could get it through with a cradle around it.

"If we were to put it behind the shed, we would have to get a crane in to lift it over the shed. Have you any idea what that would cost, never mind the problem of getting one here."

"I'm sure Bob would pay for it," I quipped.

"He probably would, but I would be worried about the possibility of damage to the shed or the workshop as it was being hauled over them."

That I could understand. It would be quite a lift. The boatshed was a good eighteen metres, if not more, in height. It had to be; we often had yachts with their masts on in there. I could also understand Steve's reluctance to have one of the slipways permanently occupied all through the season. It was rare that we had three boats in at once, but it had happened. Thinking about it, it had happened more often than I realised. Slipway fees were a large part of Steve's income. Having one slipway out of action would reduce that income.

"One question, Johnny. What are you going to do with The Flying Lady?"

"Restore her, of course," I told Steve.

"Johnny, I know you mean to restore her, but how? Do you intend to do the work, or are you going to get experts in to do it for you?"

I looked at Steve. Then it occurred to me I had never thought about that. I had just presumed that I would do it. Steve's question, though, had got me thinking. For the time being, however, I had to give Steve an answer.

"I thought I would be doing it myself."

"That's what I thought you would say. Have you looked at the surveyor's report?"

I shook my head. Although I was buying the boat as seen, Steve had insisted on me getting a boat survey done, if only to know what work had to be carried out. It had come a couple of weeks ago, when, to be honest, I had other things on my mind.

"Well, I have looked at it, Johnny, and, to be honest, there is a lot of work required. A lot of it will require more skill that you have. To be honest some of it will require more skill than I have. Some of the techniques used to build that yacht have not been used for fifty-plus years. I never learnt them when I came into the trade, and you have not even started formal studies of the trade."

He was right there. Oh, I could sand decks and finish woodwork. Steve had taught me how to bend wood and make all types of joints. He had also taught me how to lay down composites. In the back of the workshop, there was even a small dinghy that I had been building from scratch under Steve's direction. Well, it was something to do during the winter days when we were open and waiting for customers. I knew, though, that I did not have one tenth of the skill or knowledge that Steve had, and here he was saying he did not have the skills to restore The Lady Jane.

I suddenly realised that I had a problem and admitted it to Steve.

"So, what should I do?" I asked.

"First, protect her. Make sure she cannot deteriorate any further. She's in a boat cradle, so move it under cover; you've got the buildings at the Salvage Yard. Alternatively, build a cover over her."

"Can I do that? What about planning permission?"

"Providing the structure is temporary, you do not need planning permission. You buy a load of scaffolding. You need to buy it, not rent it, as you don't know how long you will need it for; it will be at least a couple of years. Then move the cradle somewhere you have space, and preferably it will have some shelter — say, that area between the two sheds at the back of the Salvage Yard. Once there, erect a scaffolding structure around it and cover the structure. I would suggest a corrugated Perspex roof and tarp walls."

"You sound as if you've done it," I commented.

"I have, Johnny. Not here, but at an old yard I worked at. We had a Victorian steam launch come in for restoration. Rather than tie up a slipway, we cradled it and moved it to the back of the yard, then built a shelter around it. Did it the hard way. Built it using wooden beams, not scaffolding poles. Did not see that done till I was at the Cambridge boatsheds."

"So, what do I do when I have got her under cover?"

"Then, Johnny, you study her. You learn how she was built and why she was built that way. You identify each technique used to build her, and as you identify each one, you learn how to do it. You will probably build half a dozen small boats to master the skills needed."

"How about one large one?" I asked. Steve looked at me. "How about if I built another Lady Ann right there next to her. I could practice the skills required if I built a replica of her from the keel up."

"Well, Johnny, you would certainly learn the required skills, but it would cost a fortune."

"That, Steve, is probably the one thing I do not have to worry about."

"You are starting to sound like Bob: money no object."

"Well, I am not quite in Bob's league, but I do have some resources," I told Steve.

"Do you have the time?"

"How much would I need?"

"Working on it fulltime, it would probably take about eighteen months. Part-time, who can tell? My guess would be somewhere around six years."


"Yes, seriously. Now, it's nearly four, so we'd better start thinking about closing the yard up."

We were just finishing locking up when Mr. Peters came to the fence between the yards and called to Steve, asking if he could have a word.

"Get in the Land Rover, Johnny," Steve instructed. "I'll go over to the old boy and see what he wants."

I took Steve's advice and climbed in the car. It might be the beginning of March, but it was still bloody cold out, and I did not fancy standing around in the open for however long it took the two of them to talk about whatever the old man wanted to discuss.

It was nearly half an hour before Steve came back to the car. He climbed into the driver's seat with a very worried look on his face.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I'm not sure Johnny, but I think I need to speak to your father and to Martin."

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