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Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 57

I did not see Marc on Saturday morning due to the fact that I had to be in the yard early to unlock. I had got a text from Steve as we were on our way home asking me to. It was Katherine's weekend off, and Bran was on a late start. Steve said he would be in for ten. In any event, it was half past ten and Steve looked a bit worse for wear.

"Good night?" I asked.

"I suppose it was. Peter's younger sister turned up with her boyfriend and announced they are getting married."

"I gather it was a surprise."

"Not particularly; they've been living together for eleven years. What was a surprise was that Clair is pregnant. They've been trying for all eleven years and gone through three rounds of IVF without success. Had given up. Fostered a pair of twin boys, six-year-olds, last year, and now Clair is pregnant without any intervention."

A sudden question hit me.

"What happens to the six-year-olds now?"

"Well, they are going to be adopted. It will be finalised in September. Then next February they will get a brother or sister."

"So, they are keeping the boys?"

"Of course, they are, Johnny. Clair swears it was having them around that made her broody, so she is not going to give up on them. Hopefully, they will work their miracle again."

Steve ensconced himself in the chandlery for the rest of the day. Luckily, it was not too busy. I spent the day working on scraping the hull of a crab boat. Normally, such work is done in the winter, but the owner had died in the autumn, and it had not been done. The new owner wanted a complete overhaul of the boat before his son took it out. Scraping the bottom was the first part of the process.

I finished work just after three and was on my way home just after half-three. As I came around the bend in Marsh Road before turning onto the hill, I was surprised to find Luuk and Marc walking up from the marsh. I stopped and gave them a lift back to the Priory.

"What have you two been up to?" I asked as they got in.

"Looking at the marsh," Luuk told me.

"Is it that interesting?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. All marshes are," Marc stated. "We were looking for…" there was a pause and Marc turned to speak to Luuk, who was in the back. "Qu'appelle-t-on plantes carnivores?"

"Carnivorous plants," Luuk answered, which made me realise that Luuk spoke French, though I was a bit pissed at the fact that Marc seemed to have forgotten that I spoke French, too. I decided to remind him. So, for the rest of the five-minute trip home, we spoke French. When we got to the house, Luuk excused himself as he had to phone Gert. I went up and got a quick shower and changed.

I got back down and found Marc talking to his grandfather and Dad in the lounge. Dad said he should get something from the pottery.

"Get what from the pottery?" I asked.

"He was going to get a souvenir to take back for his aunt," Dad informed me. "He meant to get something yesterday in London but forgot about it. Now, he is worried he will not have a chance to get anything."

I looked at the clock, it was only just gone half-past-four. So, I told Dad we would be back in time for dinner, then told Marc to come with me. We spent the next hour wandering around the Arts and Crafts Centre, looking at the various shops and studios. Of course, we called in at the pottery and spoke to Marius. I explained the Marc wanted a souvenir to give to his aunt.

"How long are you here for?" Marius asked.

"Till Tuesday. We fly home on Wednesday," Marc replied.

"Come back on Monday," Marius instructed. "I'll have something for you then. It will be twenty pounds. Will that be all right?"

Marc seemed a bit hesitant, but I told Marius that it would be fine, that I would cover it.

Once we had looked around the Arts and Crafts Centre, I took Marc down to the nursery and introduced him to Steven and Jim. Turned out that Marc was very knowledgeable about plants, and in the end, I left him there talking to Steven, with instructions to come up to the house when the nursery closed, which would be at six. I needed to check a couple of things out.

What I wanted to sort out was arrangements for Sunday. Mum had said we would make a picnic for the cricket match and had invited John and Marc to join us. Neither Marc nor John knew very much about the game. Apparently, it is a minor sport in Canada, unlike in the other Commonwealth countries. That just showed what a detrimental effect proximity to the United States had on a civilised people. Luuk asserted that the game was unknown in the Netherlands until Dad pointed out the reputation of the Amsterdam Cricket Club. He also pointed out that the Netherlands had beaten England by four wickets at Lords during the 20/20 Cricket World Cup and that the Netherlands were generally considered to be just below Afghanistan in terms of international cricket.

"That does not sound good," Luuk stated.

"You've got to remember the Afghanistan bowlers have an unfair advantage," I stated.

"What's that?" Dad asked.

"Well, they get all that bowling practice throwing hand grenades."

That joke did not go down well, though I did see Dad stifling a grin, trying not to laugh.

It was getting towards time for dinner and there was no sign of Marc, so I thought I'd better go and find him. He was by the turn in the drive, talking to Steven about the planting that Steven had put in place on the corner. What surprised me was Steven was explaining things to Marc in French.

"Didn't know you spoke French, Steven," I commented as I walked up to them.

"Did it at school. Dad insisted since we brought a lot of roses from the French. Wish I spoke it better."

"You speak it very well," Marc said. "Though you have the accent of Provence."

"Spent my summer holidays down there for a couple of years, working at the rose nursery that we used to buy from," Steven stated.

I noticed that he used the term 'used to'. I would have thought if they were any good, they would be buying from them now, a fact I mentioned.

"They're a great nursery," Steven said, "but won't sell to us. They have an exclusive agency agreement for the southern counties with my parents. They supply other nurseries in the south through my parents' nursery. It is probably more than two thirds of my parents' business. Of course, they can't supply us as well."

"Aren't there other similar nurseries in France?" I asked.


"Then go to one of them," I suggested.

"Can't afford it. They want massive initial orders. We're having to buy from smaller suppliers in Holland."

"Find out what we are talking about for an initial order, then tell Jim to have a word with me. Make sure you discuss it with me, not my Granddad. He's making enough out of you two already."

"How do you know that?" Steven asked.

"Because I've seen the kitchen he's put in the new apartment for Grandma. He's boasting he paid for it out of what he made on his cut of the plants he got you back at Easter," I stated.

"Thinking about it, he probably could have done so. We made over sixty thousand during the Easter-to-end-of-June period, a good third of which went to your grandfather."

"Well, if you want to expand, I would like a look on financing it," I told Steven.

"Can you afford to?" he asked.

"Probably. It seems that the investment I made in one of Dad's films is paying back earlier than expected."

Steven said he would discuss things with Jim and let me know about it. I told Marc that we needed to get back to the house for dinner. As we turned back up the drive, Antonio was coming down. I introduced him to Marc and mentioned that I did not think he would have been working today.

"I'm not. Was in yesterday. I left my notebook behind and need it, so just popped back to pick it up," Antonio informed me. Having said that, he walked off to where his car was parked.

"He took a long time to pick something up," Marc observed as we were walking across the yard.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he parked his car just after you left me with Steven. Steven was showing me the different planters they had, and I saw that man park his car. It's the same model and colour as my cousin's."

Now, that was puzzling; it had been about five when I had left Marc with Steven. Now, it was well past six. Surely it would not take an hour to pick up a notebook.

Over dinner, conversation somehow turned to the game of chess. It turned out that both Luuk and Marc played, so I suggested they have a game after eating. I wanted to have a chat with whoever was on duty at the monitoring centre. I hoped it would be Neal.

It was not Neal. When I got there, I found Allen in place, watching the screens.

"What can I do for you?" he asked.

"I want to find out what somebody was doing between about five and six-fifteen this evening," I told him.

"You'd better have a good reason for wanting to know; it is an invasion of privacy," Allen stated.

I explained about Antonio, him taking an hour to pick up a notebook.

"Interesting, let's have a look."

So, we did. It did not take long to find Antonio's arrival. It was just gone ten past five when his car pulled into the parking area.

"That's odd," Allen commented.


"He's come in from the Green Farm entrance and is parking in the Arts and Crafts Centre car park. Normally, he'll come in via the main gate and park in the yard. He's got a key fob for all the gates."

Now that Allen pointed it out, it was a bit odd. What was even odder was what happened next. Antonio got out of the car and walked along the length of the Arts and Crafts Centre before going through the security gate between the centre and the forge. That took him past the end of the Stable House building and down the back of the Coach House towards Tyler's place. However, before he got to Tyler's, he stepped off the path into the woodland, and we lost him. He was not visible on any of the cameras.

Allen fast forwarded the playback. Fifteen minutes later, according to the timestamp, Antonio stepped out of the woods in front of the Priory. He then walked down the front drive and crossed the main drive into the woods at the top of the hill above the mill race. He was in them for about twenty minutes before he came out. He walked down the drive, into the yard and into the offices of Dunford Film Services. Five minutes later, he came out with the notebook in his hand, left the yard and started to walk down the drive to where he met Marc and me.

"I wonder what he was up to?" I asked.

"Maybe he likes walking in the woods," Allen commented. "Your Joseph does. In fact, he often follows that path, though in the opposite direction."

"It's a pity you've not got cameras in the woods," I pointed out.

"A bit difficult to justify," Allen stated. "At least it was. We have to be able to show that there is a legitimate reason for any of the cameras we have, and it is hard to think of one for a camera in the woods, let alone a number of them."

"Monitoring wildlife," I suggested.

"The only bloody wildlife about here are you and Joseph making out," Allen commented. "Not sure we want that on camera."

I could see his point.

Allen continued. "I'll get one of the lads to have a good look around in the woods on Monday and I'll have a word with Neal about putting in some more cameras. We're a bit short-staffed this weekend."

"How come?"

"Well, Maddie and Neal have been summoned up to London by the old lady. One of the protection details is down in Kent looking after Joseph, and I have three of my people down with some lurgy or other."

I nodded and then left Allen monitoring the camera.

When I got back to the house, I found that Luuk had just lost his third game of chess with Marc. Luuk suggested I should have a go, but I declined. I am not a bad chess player, but I knew my limits. Anyway, I wanted to relieve Mum from Alexander duties. I needed my share of cuddling him. Mum was quite happy to hand him over to me as he had just soiled his nappy, so needed changing.

After I had dealt with Alexander's immediate needs, I was able to hold him for a bit until Mum wanted her son back. Apparently, it was time for his feed.

Sunday morning, I was talking to Dad in the study when Joseph phoned. It turned out that he would not be coming back till Thursday. His mother wanted to do some shopping for school, and it was Micah's birthday on Tuesday, so he was staying in Town until Thursday. I told him that I would be going into college to get my AS results, then Simone and I would be having lunch with Mr. Taunton. Joseph said he would get a later train to Southminster and then the bus to Southmead. We agreed to meet at Marge's about two. I did inform him that I would be giving Simone a lift back to the Priory.

I had not long finished the call with Joseph when I spotted Trevor's MX-5 turning into the drive, so I went out to the yard to greet him and find out what was going on. Turned out he had finished filming in Blackpool, and they were shooting at the hangars in Southmead in the coming week — something I should have remembered as Patrick and Cliff were coming for that.

"Well, at least you've got the day with Arthur," I commented.

"I wish," Trevor replied. "He's down in Brighton doing a server installation. Had to be done today as it's the only time the place is closed. Won't be back till late, and I have a cast call at six in the morning."

"What are you doing today?"

"I'm going to dump some stuff in the washer, then relax. It's been a hard week."

"We're off to see a cricket match this afternoon. Why don't you come along?"

"Don't want to be in the way," Trevor said.

"You won't be. We're making up quite a party. Mum's packing a picnic hamper. We're having lunch at the Crooked Man and then going down to the sports ground by St. Margaret's church."

"Don't know it," Trevor commented.

"Not a problem. We're taking two cars, so there will be room for you."

We chatted a bit more. Trevor said he would join us but wanted to get his washing done first. I went back into the house and let Mum know there was an extra one for the picnic.

Mum must have called Mary to let her know that there was a party of us coming down as there were reserved signs on a group of tables in the dining area. I took Luuk and Marc down in the Wagon-R, and when we arrived, Mary told us that the reserved tables were for us. I had expected Mum, Dad and John to arrive shortly after us, but they did not. Trevor came in about five minutes later; he had walked down. It was a good twenty minutes before Mum, Dad and John arrived. Seems that Alexander had decided he needed to be changed just as they were going out the door.

We had a leisurely lunch, most of us opting for ham, eggs and chips. It was a bit too warm for anything heavy, though John did go for the steak pie and chips, saying he wanted to try a traditional English dish. I think he slightly regretted it later — or maybe not — as he spent most of the afternoon snoozing.

It was about ten-to-two when we got to the cricket ground: an area at the far end of a large sports field that was surrounded by low banks. Tony's team were standing by the pavilion as we arrived, waiting for the home team to come out for the toss. I spotted Tony and went over to have a quick chat with him whilst Dad found a space for us on the banks. At two, the home team came out of the pavilion. The umpire took the toss; the home team won and opted to bat. The two opening batters padded up and made their way out to the wickets. The rest of the home team took up chairs on the pavilion's veranda, to watch the match whilst Tony's team took their places in the field.

I went to find Dad and the rest. They were about halfway down the side of the field on the top of the slight bank that surrounded the area. Dad had brought some folding chairs, which he, Mum and John occupied. That left a couple of spread-out picnic blankets for Trevor, Luuk, Marc and me to relax on in the warm afternoon sun.

The match started slowly as the bowler tried to get a feel of the batsmen, bowling different style of balls to find out how the batsmen reacted. Luuk asked me what was going on, and I could not resist quoting the rules of cricket that was once printed on tea towels:

You 'ave two teams, one team is out in the field, 'ther one is in. Now each guy in the team that is in gans out, 'nd when he's out 'e comes in and the next guy in the team gans out, 'til he's out. Then 'e comes in. When they are all out, the side that's bin out comes in and the side that's bin in gans out and they try to get they cumin in, out. At times, you get guys who are still in and nay out.

When a guy gans out to go in, the men who are out try to get 'im out, and when 'e is out 'e goes in and the next guy in goes out and goes in.

There are two guys called umpires and them guys stay all out all of the time; its dem that decide when the guys who are in are out.

When both sides 'ave been in and all the guys have bin out, and both sides have been out two times after all the guys have be in, including those guys who are not out, that is the end of the game! Then we al gan down to the pub. (The Rule of Cricket as Explained to a Yank)*

"That does not make any sense," Luuk stated.

"Of course not," Dad commented. "It was a wind-up that somebody once concocted back in the 1950s, and it got printed on a tea towel to sell to gullible Yanks. The problem is, it has never died out. If you are into cricket, then somebody you know is bound to give you one of the tea towels sooner or later."

"Which," I pointed out, "one is duty-bound to incinerate immediately."

At that point, the bowler bowled a fast short ball, which bounced high. The batsman took a sweep at it, and it soared up into the air and in our direction. Fielders ran towards us, but the ball soared over them and landed about eight feet in front of us.

"They didn't run," Marc commented about the batsmen."

"No point," I informed him. "That was clearly a boundary, so they've scored six."

"A boundary?" Marc asked.

"Yes, see that rope on the ground, all around the playing area?"


"Well, that marks the boundary of play. If the ball reaches the boundary, there is an automatic score. If it goes over the boundary without touching the ground it is a six, otherwise it is a four."

Just after that, Tony took over the bowling. Whilst he was bowling, I explained, as best I could, the laws of cricket to Marc and Luuk, though I must admit I have never been that much of a player. Of course, I played at school when I had to, but my ineptitude at all aspects of the game, quickly made sure I was never picked for any team, so my playing experience was, to say the least, minimal.

Tony managed to get four wickets during his bowling stint. Two caught, one bowled and one runout. More importantly, the batting team only managed to get twenty-eight runs from the six overs that Tony bowled. From what I could make out, Tony was bowling a combination of fast balls and spin. The chap who took over from Tony was clearly a slow bowler. He got the one batsman, who had been in from the start of the game, bowled out with his first ball. After that, two more batsmen went quickly, one leg before wicket and the other caught. That led to a tail-end collapse with the last three wickets being taken for six runs. In the end, after an inning lasting just under two hours, the home team were bowled out for one-hundred-and-seven runs.

As it was now nearly four, tea was called and both teams went into the pavilion. Mum told Dad to get the picnic out. In theory, the tea break is supposed to last twenty minutes, but as is often the case in village cricket, it lasted longer — more like thirty. The batsmen came out and took up their positions, and play recommenced.

Tony came around the field and plonked himself down next to me. He was padded up and carrying his bat.

"You're batting?" I asked.

"Hopefully, not," Tony replied. "I'm not that good a batter. Tend to swipe at the ball too often, so they put me in at number six. Just thought I'd better get ready just in case. Don't want to have to dash back to the pavilion just to kit up if things go pear-shaped for Alan or Tom." I looked at him questioningly. "Our number three and four bats. They are both pretty good and can usually save the game for us."

I introduced Tony to Luuk and Trevor.

"I think I owe you an apology," Tony told Trevor.


"I was speaking to your boyfriend yesterday. He said if it hadn't been for me, he'd be home this weekend and that you were getting back early."

"You saw Arthur?" Trevor asked.

"Yes, he's installing a new system for my mother's chain of pawnbrokers. Took him out for dinner last night. At least Mum did; I went along with them."

"I thought your family were bankers," I told Tony.

"They are. Dad's in banking, as are my grandfather and my mother's brothers. I think mother got a bit bored when I went off to school, so she started a small pawnbroking business. Well, the Porters have always been into that; somebody had to get rid of the stolen goods."

Luuk and Trevor looked horrified at that comment. However, Tony ignored it and continued. "In the last ten years, she's expanded. Now has a chain of twenty pawnshops scattered along the south coast. I've been on at her for ages to upgrade the computer systems so that they are integrated. She finally got around to it. I'd met Arthur when I came up to your place a fortnight ago, so knew who he was when he arrived at the shop yesterday."

"Howzat?" was cried out on the field. We all looked around to see what was going on, but the umpire gave a not-out sign. After that, we kept an eye on the game but still chatted. I checked the scoreboard and saw that Tony's team were a respectable thirty-eight for three overs; that was just over two runs per ball.

The next ball was clearly bowled to intimidate, fast and short so it bounced up towards the batsman's head, who brought the bat straight up in front of his face and struck upwards at the ball, sending it soaring up and over the wicket keeper. It managed to clear the boundary, causing a round of applause.

"That was close," Tony stated.

"What do you mean?" Trevor asked.

"If he had been a fraction out with that bat, the ball would have hit his head," Tony replied. "If he had not given the ball that little bit of a lift, he would have been caught at long stop. I noticed the bowler moved long leg round to long stop. Will have to keep an eye open for that if I go in."

"You sound as if you don't want to," I commented.

"Of course, I don't. If I go in, it means our best batters are out and we are on a wing and a prayer."

The next few balls were all played safe, with one or two runs maximum off them.

"How was Arthur?" Trevor asked Tony. "Haven't seen him for a bit. Been filming."

"Yes, I heard. Arthur told us about it," Tony stated. "He really admires you."

"Does he?"

"Of course, he does, Trevor," Tony answered. "Surely you know how he loves you,"

"I can't understand why," Trevor said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I can't understand why Arthur sticks with me."

"Why shouldn't he?" I asked.

"Because…" He paused. There was a look of fear in his eyes. "He's so clever. He knows things. Why should he want to be stuck with me? I'm an idiot of an actor. I don't even have an A-level."

"Neither does Arthur," I pointed out.

"Yes, but he's doing OU and is talking about transferring to another university when he's got one-hundred-and-twenty credits," Trevor stated. "If he goes away, he'll not want me around."

"There's no reason you can't do OU," I told Trevor. "Anyway, why wouldn't he want you around? You're Trevor Spade. You're a film star."

"That's all I am," Trevor said.

"Then make yourself something more," Luuk told him. I had not realised that Luuk had been listening to the conversation.

There was another call of howzat . This time the umpire gave the out sign. The batsman walked.

"Damn!" Tony exclaimed.

"Bad?" I asked.

"Yes, he's our best batsman. This is only the third game he's been out in this year. Usually manages to stay in for the full innings. It looks as if I might have to play."

Tony was right. The same bowler took three more wickets in seven balls. Tony was in. I saw what he meant by swiping the ball. He had no finesse with the bat, just swung at the ball as hard as he could. How he managed not to get caught out or bowled out, I do not know. Somehow, though, he managed it. Hitting a six, four fours and another six off the first over bowled to him. I could only put it down to the paucity of the fielding.

"He's showing off for you," Luuk commented.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"That boy has a crush on you, Johnny, and he is showing off to impress you," Luuk explained.

"I know about the crush."

"What about Joseph?" Trevor asked.

"What about Joseph? He knows about Tony. Tony's from my past. I can't help that he has a crush on me. I love Joseph." Somehow, though, even as I said it, I found myself asking: does Joseph love me?

Tony managed a couple of fours off the next over. The bowler was bowling much more conservatively, not wanting to give Tony the chance of a massive strike. Though Tony still managed to get a couple in. At the start of the next over, he managed a six, but got caught out at fine leg on the next ball. However, his forty-two off fourteen balls put his team on ninety-nine just nine short of the target.

There was a round of applause as Tony walked out.

Trevor turned to Luuk and asked him what he meant by "make yourself something more."

"Just what I said. You've got a career and you've got money, so make yourself into what you want to be."

I remembered something which Trevor said to me when we first met, about being what his parents wanted him to be. He never wanted to be in that film series that launched his career, but his mother wanted him in it.

"But I'm a film actor," Trevor protested.

"So was Hedy Lamarr," Luuk pointed out. "She was also a remarkable engineer."

"I didn't know that," Trevor said.

"Who was Hedy Lamarr?" I asked. Trevor gave me a look which asked what sort of idiot I was. I expected him to start giving me a lecture about her. In that I was wrong. It was Luuk who gave me the lecture. She was an actress from the 1940s who apparently invented frequency-hopping, whatever that was. I did not give Luuk a chance to explain.

I got Mum to invite Trevor for dinner, but it turned out he was meeting Uncle Phil and Uncle Ben this evening to discuss the next week's shoot.

"When do you start filming at Southmead?" I asked.

"Tuesday. At least that is the first day I am required on set, but I think that is to show Cliff around."

"When does Cliff arrive?" I asked.

"Phil said he was coming up in the morning," Trevor informed me. "He's been at the CGI studio filming with the second unit last week."

The match had continued for another three overs, with the batsmen getting the occasional run, but the match was soon over. Tony's team won by four wickets. He came over to us to thank us for coming and supporting him. He had to get back to the pavilion to change and get on the coach for home.

As we walked back to the cars, I asked Trevor what time he was seeing the uncles.

"Not till eight."

It was not quite six and I knew Mum would not have dinner ready till late.

"Look, Trevor, when we get back, how about we go for a walk together?"

Trevor nodded. I am not sure he really wanted to go for a walk or just accepted because it was something to do.

Back at the Priory, I helped unload the picnic things and chairs from the Santa Fe. Mum said dinner would be late, as I had expected. I asked what time, and she told me about eight. I asked her to make it at eight, then went to over to the Stable House apartment to find Trevor.

We did not go for a walk. Trevor invited me in when I got there and offered me a coffee, which I accepted. Then we started talking.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Arthur's got a place at Imperial," Trevor told me. He phoned me on Friday and told me. Neal arranged an interview for him with his professor. Arthur saw the prof on Friday morning. They've offered Arthur direct admission to the second year starting next October."

"So, what's the problem?"

"I can't see things working. We're hardly together as it is, with me off filming. If Arthur's at Imperial most of the time, he'll not be here when I am."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Trevor. If Arthur's not here when you're free, just go to where Arthur is. You've still got your apartment at your mother's, haven't you?"


"I'm sure Arthur will need somewhere to live whilst he's at Imperial, so you move there. For that matter, buy a house near the university. You've got the money."

Trevor did have plenty of money. I know a lot of it was tied up in trust funds for him, but the trusts gave him a steady income. Also, the fees for That Woman's Son and Fly Boys were not going to the trust; they were going direct to Trevor. Given the way That Woman's Son was going, I was sure he was making good money on it, a fact I mentioned to Trevor.

"Actually, I'm not. Don't have a share of the box on it. That was a one-off fee deal."

"What about Fly Boys?" I asked.

"There I am on a share of the box, and I get residuals." He went on to explain that residuals were fees that were paid when the film was shown on TV or sold on a DVD.

"But you've got enough to live on? Haven't you?"

"Got more than enough," Trevor replied. "I take a grand a week from the trust as an allowance, and it is rare that I spend it all."

"Right, so there is nothing stopping you from getting a place in Town and living there while Arthur's in university, is there?"

"No, but will he still want me."

"Why shouldn't he?"

"Because I'm stupid."

"Well, Trev, I can't say I disagree with you there, but I can't see what that has to do with Arthur not wanting you."

"But Arthur is so clever."

For a better part of an hour, I listened to Trevor telling me how he was not good enough for Arthur. Arthur was brilliant, decisive, good. You name it, if it was positive, it was Arthur. Trevor, however, seemed not to see one good feature in himself.

"For fuck's sake, Trevor, give it up. You're a damned sight better than you are assuming you are. If you weren't, Arthur would have never picked up on you to start with."

"I know, but—"

"No buts. Now think about things. You say you're not as clever as Arthur. Do you think Arthur could learn a script off by heart in a couple of readings?"

"No, but it's not his job," Trevor replied.

"And building computer systems is not in your job," I pointed out. "Alright, you can't do what Arthur does, but he can't do what you do."

It was now getting on for half-past-seven. I suggested that Trevor needed to get round to the uncles' apartment. I also said I would walk around with him, telling Trevor I needed to speak to Uncle Ben about the dojo. We got to the apartment about ten minutes later. I got Uncle Ben to one side and briefed him about what Trevor was saying regarding Arthur.

"Shit, that's all we need, Trevor getting depressed. I'll work on it," Uncle Ben told me.

That said, I set back for the house. I was a bit late getting in, which upset Mum, but I gave her a brief explanation as to why I was late.

"I worry about that boy," Mum stated.

"You're not the only one," I told her.

After dinner, I had a game of chess with Luuk in the library. I asked him how things were going with the internship with Matt.

"To be honest, there is not that much left for me to do," Luuk responded. "We've drafted outline plans, and they have gone into the planning committee. Matt was hoping to be able to start on full architectural drawings while we were waiting for permission, but your uncles have told him to hold off on any further expenses until they know they have permission."

"I can see where that would make sense. It's not like they are desperate to get the studios up," I commented.

"I'm not sure they are going to go up at all," Luuk said.

"What makes you think that?"

"Ben was in the office one day looking over the plans before we submitted them. He was saying how there could be a problem crewing the studios. Apparently, most of the studio complexes are to the west of London. He was saying that most of the qualified crew lived on that side of London, and getting them to come over here might be a problem."

"I hope my uncles haven't changed their minds," I commented. "It would really mess things up if they have."

"Talking about messing things up, what's going on with Tony?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he has a massive crush on you, and you certainly admire him. Where does that leave Joseph?"

"Of course, I admire Tony; he's good looking and a great sportsman," I stated. "That, though, is it. I'm not in love with him. I'm in love with Joseph."

"Are you sure?"

I did not answer that question. Fortunately, I could avoid answering it as Dad came through at that moment and asked if I could spare him five minutes. So, I apologised to Luuk for leaving him and went through to the study to talk to Dad.

It turned out that Dad just wanted to check on my dates for college next term. He was wondering if I would be able to go over to New York with him and Mum. After a brief discussion we agreed it probably would not be a good idea as it would mean taking almost a week out of college, something to be avoided in your A-level year if you can. I was just about to leave when Dad asked me if I could keep tomorrow evening free.

"Yes. Why?" I responded.

"I'm meeting my accountant tomorrow afternoon; I need to get your and your Mum's feedback on what they propose."

"What are they proposing?"

"At the moment, I don't know, just that it is about how to pay back the loan from Zach for this place."

"What are John and Marc going to be doing if you're not here?"

"John's taking the Merc. He and Marc are going up to Cambridge. John's visiting one of his students who is now doing his Ph.D. there."

"I hope Marc does not get too bored," I commented.

"I shouldn't think so. I expressed the same concern, but John's arranged for him to be given a personal tour of the botanical gardens. Apparently, Marc's quite knowledgeable about plants."

"So, Steven tells me," I replied.

That night, I had problems getting to sleep. I was thinking — thinking too much, actually — about Trevor and Arthur. I was thinking about Tony, Joseph and me. I was thinking about the uncles and the studios. I was also thinking about how Dad was going to pay off what he owed Zach for this place. With one thing and another, I just could not stop the thoughts going around and around in my mind. The problem was that none of them seemed to make sense. In the end, I gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep sometime after three-thirty, only to be woken by my alarm three hours later. I felt like shit.

I got downstairs just before seven and made some coffee. By the time I was on my third mug, I had come to a conclusion: there was no way I could face going into the yard today. I gave Steve a call.

"Heavy night last night?" he asked when I told him I did not feel like coming in today.

"No, just very late night this morning," I replied. "Just could not get to sleep till well past three."

"Then it's probably best to stay home," Steve assured me. "Not a good idea to be working with power tools — or any tools, for that matter — if you're tired."

I had just finished speaking with Steve when Dad came into the kitchen. He took one look at me.

"You look awful. Bad night?" he asked.

I nodded, then informed him that I was going back to bed. It did not take long for me to fall asleep, and it was nearly eleven before I woke. Mum was feeding Alexander in the kitchen when I got downstairs.

"Good sleep?" she asked.

"Yes, after a bad night."

"Just be glad you are getting it. This one wakes up at least twice in the night."

"I'm surprised Dad's not complaining," I said.

"Your father seems able to sleep through it," Mum stated.

I made some coffee for both of us. Once I had drunk mine, I told Mum I was going over to see Allen. I wanted to find out if he had found anything out about Antonio. When I got over to the security monitoring room, I was disappointed to find that Allen was not there. The woman on duty told me that he was in Southmead, arranging the security for the set at the airport. She also made it quite clear that she had no intention of discussing anything else with me.

I called into Tyler's office to see if he was around, but Lily, Tyler's office manager, told me he was away till next week on shoots.

"Must make running this place a bit difficult," I commented.

"He's got things pretty well set up that it almost runs itself," Lily informed me. "Nearly everything is done online. All I have to do is keep track of the inventory and make sure stuff is returned when it is supposed to be. Even the translators all work from home."

"Do they? I thought I'd seen Antonio come in," I commented.

"He does. Don't know why. It's all set up so that the translators can work remotely. They need to. The one doing our French translations is based in New York."

I left the office and saw Arthur's van pull into the yard, so I went over to speak to him.

"Trevor tells me that you've got an offer of a place at Imperial," I said.

"Well, it's not a firm offer," Arthur informed me. "The professor said that if I apply, he will support my application, which will give me a damned good chance of getting in. I'll have a hundred and twenty credits at level one when I finish the module I'm starting in October, and that equates to the first year, so I can go into the second year."

"Are you going to apply?"

"Not sure. I need to talk it over with Trevor, but he seems to want to avoid discussing it."

"Because he thinks you'll dump him if you go to university."

"Shit! He's an idiot. If it comes to a choice of Trevor or uni, it's Trevor every time. I can get my degree with the OU."

"Though going to uni would be better."


"Talk to him, Arthur, even if you have to lock him in the apartment to get him to listen."

Arthur nodded. I went back to the house and prepared some lunch for Mum and me.

Dad got back from the accountants a little after three. I put the kettle on to make him some tea and coffee for me and Mum.

"Seeing everyone else is out, how about we chat about things now?" Dad asked as he seated himself at the table.

"How about we wait till Johnny's got the drinks made," Mum suggested. Dad agreed to that. Wise man. One did not argue with Mum.

I made the tea and coffee and got some biscuits out of cupboard and put them on a plate so we would have something to dunk in our drinks.

"Rich tea biscuits?" questioned Dad, looking at the plate.

"Sorry, luv," Mum replied. "Not been to the supermarket yet. We ran out of chocolate digestives at the weekend."

"And bourbons are no use for dunking," I pointed out.

Dad sighed, took a rich tea biscuit and dunked it in his tea before consuming it.

"So, what do you want to talk about?" I asked as I sat down at the table.

"Well, basically what to do about the loan for this place. It comes up for renewal in just over six months. The accountants say I need to be planning what to do now so I am not caught short when the time comes."

"What are the options?" Mum asked.

"There are quite a few," Dad responded. "With what I got for the bungalow, combined with the royalties on the climate-change book and the TV rights for the Dorothy Richards series, plus some other stuff, it looks as if I could pay it off in one go."

"I sense a 'but' there," I commented.

"Well, there is. The thing is that the royalties and the TV rights fees are both classed as income and are subject to tax. There would be some six-hundred-thousand in income I would be using."

"Bloody hell. Is the book selling that well?" I asked.

"Yes, Johnny, it is. The English-language version has sold just over four-hundred-thousand copies worldwide. Two thirds of those are in paperback. Then there are the translations, though I won't get anything on those till next year."

"So, what's the problem?" Mum asked.

"On six-hundred thousand I will have to pay about two-hundred-and-forty thousand in tax. If I pay Zach the million, I won't have the money to pay the tax. Fortunately, the tax is not due till the year after, so I have time to cover the required sum from income the following year."

"But that is presuming you are making enough to have two-hundred and forty-thousand spare after you have allowed for the tax on that income," I pointed out.

"That's it, Johnny."

"What are the other options?" Mum asked.

"First, is to pay off Zach the million and take another two-year loan off him for half a million. That would leave enough spare funds to pay the tax when it comes due. Zach is contractually committed to providing an ongoing facility for us, though we cannot be sure what the rate will be. Sheila Lane has spoken to Zach, and he has indicated it will be close to what we are already paying.

"That option gives me two more years to raise the half-million to pay the place off. The other option is to pay Zach off with the million and then take a mortgage out with the bank on this place. Matt says it would be appraised at over a million, so we should get half a million fairly easily."

"What about the problem of you not having a fixed income?" Mum asked.

"What we are getting in income from the Green Farm complex would probably more than cover the repayments," Dad said. "Even the lads in the nursery have started to pay something."

"Have they? I thought you gave them two years rent-free?" I said.

"I did, but when we revised the lease to include the cottage, Bernard said that they needed to pay some rent, if it was only nominal. At the moment, they're paying a hundred a month, which they seem to be able to manage. It's due to double every six months until it reaches the economic rent for the property."

"Which is?" I asked.

"We are still waiting independent valuations to come in, but I expect it to be about six grand a month."

"Can they afford that?" Mum asked.

"Well, they did make sixty grand in profits in the second quarter of the year," I told her.

"They can afford it," she commented.

"They'll be around the economic-rent figure in three-and-a-half years," Dad stated. "I know I will get less rent for part of the time, but over the whole three-and-a-half years, they will have paid about the same as if I had given them two years rent-free and then gone on to a full commercial rent."

"I thought you were going to sell them a long-term lease on the walled garden and cottage," I said.

"That's the plan, and I'm still prepared to do it. The thing is that it can't be done until all the legal stuff about the restrictions has been sorted out, and that's going to take time. Bernard insisted that I gave them a tenancy so that they were protected if things fell through. It does commit me to selling them the long-term lease when we finally get the judicial declaration."

We spent the next half hour discussing the pros and cons of the different options. I think, though, we had all come to basically the same decision in the first five minutes. We preferred paying Zach the million and getting the property clear of all liens, hoping Dad could make enough to clear the tax liability. At the end of the half hour, I made a proposal.

"Dad, I'll be eighteen before you have to pay the tax," I pointed out.

"Yes, you will be. What about it?"

"I can get at some of my trust funds. Dad, pay off the loan and get the property clear and free of all liens. If you are short for the tax due at the end of the next tax year, I'll help out."

"You don't need to do that," Dad told me.

"I know I don't, Dad, but this is my home. It's the home you and Mum made for me; I don't want to risk losing it."

* Note : "The Rules of Cricket as Explained to a Yank." Also known as "The Rules of Cricket as Explained to a Foreigner." There are a number of different versions of this around, and a lot of internet sources state that it originated in the 1970s as a joke printed on tea towels. However, I first heard it well before then. The first time I heard it was in the Wednesbury Civil Defence Club around 1955 or 1956 when it was recited in a broad Black Country accent. I later recited a version of it in 1958 as part of an end-of-term show in my primary school. The version given here is the best I can do of that recited version from memory. Well, it is over sixty years since I did it originally.

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