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Living with Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 22

I sat in the café chatting to Marge for over an hour. She asked what I was doing around that way. I explained I had brought my son over for an interview at the college. That led her to give me quite a bit of information on the place. Overall, I got the impression she probably knew more of what was going on there than most of the staff. However, it came down to the teaching being good, but the catering was crap.

I got worried at one point as it had gone three and she had said she closed at three during the vacs. When I glanced at the clock, she told me not to worry; she was happy to stay open whilst I was there. I ordered another pot of tea but stayed away from any more cake.

Johnny called me just gone twenty past, so I finished off my chat with Marge and then drove back up to the college to pick him up.

"You got here quick," he commented as he climbed into the car, not looking all that pleased.

"I was just down the road," I told him. "How did it go?"

"Good," he stated. The look he gave did not agree.


"The refectory sucks," he informed me. "Two pounds ten for a Coke. Not only that, but John Henderson was serving."

I told him to buckle up his seatbelt and started to head home.

"You should try Marge's. If you go there, walnut and coffee cake to die for, and I hear her bacon sandwiches go well in the morning," I informed him. "I'm sure her Coke is not that price."

"That must be the place Mr. Willis advised me to go to," Johnny replied. "Said most of the students and a lot of the staff use it."

"And who is Mr. Willis?" I enquired.

"He's head of vocational training," Johnny replied. "I saw him first, that is, after I met Mrs. Jarrom, the admissions tutor. Mr. Willis was talking to me about woodwork and carpentry. He would normally have met me in his office, but the woodworking block is being refurbished over the holidays, and at the moment, he does not have an office. He suggested I do a City and Guilds in carpentry and woodwork as a part-time course. It's six hours a week, but I can do four of those hours, which are practices, in the evening. He was sure I could work my A-level timetable around it."

"What about your A-levels?" I asked.

"Physics and maths are no problem," Johnny said. "French, though, is going to be a problem. I spoke with the head of languages, Dr. Laurent, and she said it would not be possible to do it in one year due to the need to take AS-level first, and that is only offered once a year. Anyway, the required classes clash with physics."

"So, no French, then?" I queried.

"No, I can still do a French qualification, just not an A-level. She is going to look into the options for me but suggested that I do an NVQ Level 3, which is regarded as an A-level equivalent. We spoke French for the whole of the interview, and at the end, she said I was well above the required level.

"The only problem is that they mainly teach that as an evening class, so I might find it clashing with woodwork or find myself doing four evenings a week."

"That might not be too bad during the summer, but I would not be too keen on you riding a moped home after dark in the winter," I commented.

I was somewhat surprised when Johnny agreed with me. It is the sort of issue on which one usually expects teenagers to rebel and say they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. We discussed options, though the most likely was that I would be making at least two trips a day to transport him to and from college. If it were necessary, I would do it. There was no way I was going to let something like transport get in the way of Johnny going to college. However, I did make a mental note to get him driving lessons and a car the moment he turned seventeen. In fact, there was no reason I could not start him driving before he was seventeen on the estate at Manston when we went up there.

As we turned onto the main road at Dunford, there was a flash of lightning and clap of thunder. The raindrops, which had been little more than a fine drizzle, suddenly turned heavy. It looked as if we were in for another downpour. Just as we pulled into the square, Johnny called for me to stop. I did, pulling into a free parking space and turned to Johnny to see what was up.

He was pointing across the square to where Joseph was unlocking his bike from the bike rack. The rain had now started to come down fairly heavily. Johnny opened his window and called across to Joseph, telling him to forget the bike and come and get in the car. The boy took the hint and sprinted across the square. Johnny turned round to open the rear passenger door for him when he got close to the car. Joseph leapt into the rear of the car, slamming the door behind him.

"I'll ask Arthur to come down later and pick up the bike," Johnny stated.

"No need," Joseph said. "Once this storm passes, I'll walk down and pick it up."

"You'll probably have to wait till Monday then," I stated. "The weather forecast is for four days of heavy rain."

"Shit!" Joseph exclaimed as we started back to the house.

As I pulled out of the parking space, I glanced back over my shoulder just to check the blind spot was clear. It was. I also noticed that Joseph had not only his backpack on the rear seat, but he also had two large and very full plastic bags.

"Joseph, just how were you going to cope on the bike with all that lot?" I asked once the car was back on the main road.

"Umm... Hadn't thought about that," Joseph admitted.

"So, what have you got in those bags?" Johnny asked.

"Art stuff."

"I thought you didn't like art," Johnny stated.

"Well… Sarah said she would teach me to do architectural sketches if I got myself a drawing pad and some pencils," Joseph stated.

"I think you've got a bit more than just a pad and pencils, Joseph," I said.

"Sorry, I got a bit carried away, but the lad in the shop gave me some advice and showed me how to do a couple of things. It was a lot easier than I thought, so I got more stuff. Mostly I bought guides to drawing and painting," Joseph informed us.

"Mostly?" I asked.

"Well, I got some acrylic paints, some brushes, a pallet, pallet knives, a couple of canvases—"

"Joseph, just how much did you spend?" I enquired.

"Two hundred and twenty pounds," he responded. "You won't tell my dad will you, it's most of my savings."

"It's your money; you spend it as you want. Just make sure you didn't waste it."

By the time we got to the house, the storm was at full force. The rain was really pouring down, and there was lightning and thunder every few seconds. I drove around the back of the house and pulled up as close as I could to the back door. Fortunately, Anne must have either heard us, which I thought doubtful given the strength of the storm, or had seen us turning into the drive. Either way, she just got the back door open as we pulled up. Johnny and Joseph jumped out of the passenger-side doors and ran into the house. I took a bit longer to sidle over the front seats to the front passenger door, then dashed from there to the back door of the house. If I had got out the driver-side door, I would have been soaked to the skin by the time I had run around the car to get to the back door. Made a mental note to talk to Matt about a car porch at the rear so we could unload in the dry.

Once inside, I clicked on the key ring to lock the car. I do not think I had ever been so grateful for remote locking.

Anne informed me that Matt had phoned. He had intended to do a last — or at least, hopefully last — snagging check this afternoon but because of the weather had put it off till tomorrow. However, he said he had been assured that all the jobs had been done. Unless there was any problem, we could move into the apartments any time from Monday.

Johnny and Joseph went up to their rooms. I asked Anne about dinner, but she assured me she had put a sausage casserole into the AGA, and it was bubbling away nicely. She said it would be ready any time after six.

I hung up my coat and went into the study to check my emails. Nothing significant had come in. So, I settled down to try and do an hour's writing. It was a bit more than an hour before Anne called to say dinner was ready; she also called Johnny. I went through to the kitchen to find Joseph seated at the table with a drawing pad. He was sketching the architectural feature above the back door.

"I thought you said you couldn't draw?" I stated.

"That's what my art teacher says," Joseph replied. "Says it is all mechanical, that there is no feeling in it."

"That may be the case," I responded. "But from the point of view of draughtsmanship, that is really good. However, you'd better clear the table and help me set it for dinner. Joseph obliged. I decided that after dinner, I'd better have another chat with him.

Anne started to put dinner on the table. I went and called Johnny again; I was a bit annoyed as Anne had already called him. He came down the stairs quite fast.

"Sorry, Dad, I was online trying to work out a timetable for the courses I want to do."

"You don't know about your French yet," I commented.

"Got an email from Dr. Laurent; she can fix me up on the NVQ French. There is one session I can't do, but she says that given my spoken French, she does not see that as a problem. Anyway, if I want to, I could join the Advanced French evening class on a Wednesday."

"Have you been able to work it out?" I asked.

"Yes, I do Physics and—"

"Johnny, a simple yes is enough," I stated. "I would like to eat. We can go through it in detail some other time."

"Sorry, Dad."

Over dinner, I informed everybody that I was going down to London in the morning and would probably not be back till after seven. Anne suggested we have dinner at the Crooked Man when I got back. Johnny pointed out that Joseph and he were going to the youth club. I gave Johnny twenty so he could get something for them in town. My hope was they would go to one of the cafés down by the harbour. They tended to do a decent evening meal for the yachting crowd at not too high a price. My guess was they would go to the burger bar.

I think Johnny was feeling a bit guilty, as he offered to wash up and clean after dinner. I told him to bring his timetable down when he was finished, and we could look at it. Then I asked Anne if she had her timetable yet. She told me she had and came through to the study with me to get a copy for me.

"Why do you need it?" she asked.

"I want to work out a transport plan to get Johnny to college and back. Don't mind him on a moped this time of year, but in the depths of winter, I would prefer him on four wheels."

"Probably for the best," Anne agreed.

Just then, I saw Joseph walking past the door, so I called him to come in. He had his sketchbook with him, so I asked if I could have a look at it. For a moment he hesitated, then with some reluctance handed me the sketchbook.

I could see what his art teacher meant; his drawing lacked life and vitality. It did not have an edginess that you find in the drawings of the great artists. What it did have was tremendous accuracy. It may not have been good art, but it was good draughtsmanship. The problem, however, was to convince Joseph of this and make him understand the difference between artistic drawing and fine draughtsmanship.

"Joseph, I can see what your art teacher is on about."

"They're rubbish, aren't they?" Joseph replied.

"As art, yes; as drawing, no," I stated. "As a drawing, these are good, not perfect; you clearly need some lessons, but they are good."

"Then why does my art teacher keep on saying that I'm not putting enough feeling into my drawing?"

"Because he is teaching art, not draughtsmanship," I told him. "Art is about expressing emotion and feelings through images, whatever medium they are in. Draughtsmanship is about imparting information by means of a drawn or painted image.

"Come on, and I'll show you something."

I stood, grabbed my camera and led the way back to the kitchen. Joseph followed me. Once in the kitchen, I photographed the keystone of the arch over the back door. Then we both went back to the study. It took only a couple of minutes for me to transfer the photo from the camera to the computer. Once there, I opened the file and showed him the results.

Yes, you could see the image of the carving on the keystone, but there was some detail you could not make out in the photo. When we compared it to the drawing that Joseph had made earlier, he saw that he had drawn in detail what was not noticeable on the photo. He had to go back to the kitchen to check if the feature was there.

Once he had established that it was, I had to explain why it was that he had the detail in his drawing, but it did not show in the photo.

"The photo is taken from one position under one specific lighting condition at one point in time. It can only capture the information that is visible under those conditions," I told him. "When you were drawing, you kept looking at the keystone. Each time you looked, no matter how much you tried to observe from the same position, there was some minor variance in your point of view. How long did it take you to do the drawing?"

"About ten minutes, maybe a bit more," Joseph answered.

"Right," I continued. "In that time, there would have been some changes, albeit very small, in the lighting conditions. Even a slight change in lighting can result in something becoming visible, which was otherwise invisible.

"Until the invention of photography, a lot of time and effort was put into developing the skill to represent something in an image accurately. This is what draughtsmanship is all about. It is a skill that is mostly neglected now. Too much emphasis is put on artistic impression and not enough on the ability to draught a good likeness.

"Joseph, your drawing may be lacking in artistic flair. In fact, I think I would agree with your art teacher; you show no artistic talent. What you do have is an ability to represent detail in a drawing. That is rare these days, and it is an ability that you need to foster. It is also one that will stand you in good stead if you go into architecture."

"So, I am not wasting my time drawing?"

"No, you are not, though I think you might need some teaching," I stated. "Do you mind if I speak to your parents about it?"

He thought for a moment, then told me it would be OK for me to speak to his father. As to his mother, he was a bit worried about how she would react given her objection to him having anything to do with building. That was something that I found disturbing; it did not sound at all like Debora.

I assured Joseph that I would just speak to his father about it. Also, I told him I would talk to a couple of people I knew who might be able to help. My thought was that Matt could have a word with him. Once Joseph left, I sent Matt an email asking if we could meet, if possible, on Saturday.

About half an hour later, Johnny came in to see me with his draft timetables. I looked over them and compared them with Anne's. So far as I could see, Anne would be able to take him in each morning, though that would mean on a couple of mornings, he would have to hang around for the odd hour or hour and a half. I was sure he could find things to do in the library or go down to Marge's Café.

That reminded me; I needed to let Bernard know about the Hendersons having the catering concession at the college.

The problem with Johnny's timetable was that at no time did his finishing times come anywhere near Anne's. On the days when he did not have an evening class, Johnny was usually finished by two, while Anne never finished before four. Strangely enough, the days Anne finished at four, rather than five, were the days when Johnny had evening classes and would not finish till nine.

It looked as if it would be a case of Anne taking him in and me having to pick him up when he finished. At least for this academic year. Next year, he would have his own car, hopefully.

I discussed it with Johnny. He, of course, was keen on getting a moped. Although I was not totally happy about the idea, I had to concede that it would give him some mobility. However, I was not happy with the idea of him riding it to or from college in the dark or when the weather was bad. In the end, we reached a compromise. He could use the moped when he would not be riding in the dark and the weather forecast was acceptable. I did not go into details of what was acceptable, thinking that getting soaked once by freezing rain would quickly result in Johnny deciding that any hint of rain was not acceptable.

Before I got back to doing some writing, I sent Bernard an email about the Hendersons having the catering contract. For some reason, it did not make sense to me that they were in catering. From what I had heard about that family, it just was not their style.

Anne was up before me on Friday. Given that I got up shortly after five-thirty, I found this a bit of a surprise.

"What's the matter, Love?" I asked as I walked into the kitchen. "Couldn't sleep?"

"Been awake most of the night," Anne replied.

"Something worrying you?"

"Yes," Anne stated. "Johnny talking about college last night got me thinking. I'm forty-three. I'm going to be miles older than any one of the other students; I'll stick out like a sore thumb."

"And does that matter." I put my arms around her. "It is what you want to do, so do it."


"But what?" I responded. "It does not matter what anyone else thinks or says; this is what you want to do, and you are going to do it.

"Now how about I make us some breakfast. Fancy a fry-up?"

Anne nodded and filled the kettle. I put a frying pan on the hotplate and got some bacon and sausages out of the fridge. It was not long before we were sitting at the table eating bacon, sausage, eggs, fried bread and mushrooms.

We were just finishing as Johnny and Joseph came into the kitchen.

"Don't suppose you made us any?" Johnny asked.

"No," I stated. "You are quite capable of making your own; there is even some black pudding in the fridge if you want some."

"No, thanks," Johnny responded, making a face that indicated what he felt about black pudding.

"Yes, please," Joseph almost shouted. "Black pudding, pork sausages and bacon. Pity Dad's not here; he would have loved it."

Johnny gave Joseph a very strange look.

"Jewish dietary laws," I stated as a way of explanation. "It's a Jewish thing. Get Joseph to explain."

"OK, explain," Johnny said.

"There are two types of Jew," Joseph said. "Those who proclaim their Jewishness by observing the dietary laws and those like my father who proclaim it by breaching the dietary laws." He opened the fridge and pulled out the bacon, sausages and black pudding. "I'm with my father." He started to heat the pan and placed rashers of bacon into it. "I presume no black pudding for you?"

"No way," Johnny replied. "If being Jewish means I can't have black pudding, I might consider changing religion."

"I did not know you had a religion," I observed.

"Don't really," Johnny responded. "If I am anything, I am probably Buddhist. How about you, Dad?"

"I'm a Pagan," I informed him.

"You know that puts you in a minority?" Johnny stated.

"You mean being a Pagan?" I asked.

"No, having a religion," Johnny responded. "Latest figures show that less than fifty percent of people in the UK claim to have a religious belief."

"Probably a good thing," Anne stated. We all looked at her. "Well more wars have been started over religious belief than anything else, so the fewer people that hold them, the better."

I was not sure I saw the logic in that but decided not to say anything. There are times when you know that no matter what you say, it is going to be wrong. I left Anne, Joseph and Johnny discussing religious belief — or disbelief, as the case may be. Joseph was explaining that being Jewish was not so much about believing in something as being part of something.

Going to my study, I checked my emails. There was one from Chris suggesting that we meet up after my voice test. I emailed him back, saying that would work and giving him my mobile number.

It had just gone nine-thirty when I arrived at Liverpool Street. There was a hint of rain, so I decided to grab a cab to get me to the magazine offices. I had emailed the day before to say I was coming in and wanted to look at the archive copies of the magazine from the 1950s. It would be interesting to see what the writers at the time thought the major scientific breakthroughs were. Would I find any mention of Alan Turing or Grace Hopper? I strongly suspected that I would not. In those days, electronic computers were something that were seen as highly specialised tools that had little or no interest for the public. The idea that we would all walk around with one in our pockets was unimaginable.

I was right. In one hundred and twenty editions of the magazine, there was not one mention of either Turing or Hopper. Not that I looked through all one hundred and twenty full issues. The magazine had an excellent index that was now digitised. All I had to do was set the search criteria.

What I did do was look at the contents page of each magazine and check the brief description of the articles in the content listing. This gave me a good idea of what was being discussed. What was interesting was that of the ten scientific breakthroughs of the decade that I had down on the list, only one, the structure of DNA, was subject to a significant article in the magazine.

What I did come across was an article on hydraulic flow over yacht hulls. I thought it might interest Johnny, so I got a copy made. Just after twelve, I left the offices and started to make my way to the Connaught. After the storms of yesterday and the drizzle of this morning, I was surprised to find clear skies and sun when I came out onto Fleet Street. Given the change in the weather and the fact I had nearly an hour to get there, I decided to walk to the Connaught.

It took me just under an hour to get there, and I arrived almost exactly at one. Bob and Susan were already there and seated at a table. I joined them. We chatted for a couple of minutes before the waiter came to take our orders. Once we had ordered, Susan asked me how Trevor was?

"OK, as far as I know," I stated. "You have seen him since I last saw him."

Susan looked at me with surprise.

"I thought he was at your place," she stated.

"No, he's staying somewhere near the studios," I informed him. "I have not seen him since he told us that Bob was in hospital."

"We're losing that boy," Bob commented. "He is cutting himself off from us, and it seems there is little we can do about it."

"Why?" Susan asked. "Haven't we given him what he wanted? Haven't we enabled him to be the film star he is?"

"Is that what he wanted? Wasn't it what you wanted?" I knew the moment I said it that I should not have, but it seemed important to say.

"What do you mean?" Susan accused.

"I mean how much did Trevor want to be in the films, and how much did you want him to be in them?" I replied. The moment I said it I saw I had hit the mark. Susan went white.

"There's not much we can do about it now," Bob stated. "What is done is done, and you can't go back and undo it. We thought we were doing the best for him, letting him do something that he wanted to do, which provided him with a good future.

"The one thing we never did, though, was talk to him about it. I never asked him if it is what he wanted to do. To be honest, I never spoke to him about what he was doing. I just presumed it was what he wanted.

"That was a mistake, and I can't do anything about it now."

"I'm not so sure about that," I stated. "You can't do anything about what has happened, but you can make sure you are both there if he needs you in the future. Just make sure he knows that you will be there for him."

It had gone two when I left the Connaught. We had talked about Trevor over most of the lunch, and I was not at all sure that either Susan or Bob had understood what I was trying to say. What was clear was that the Trevor they talked about was a very different Trevor from the young man I had come to know.

I checked in at the BBC reception and was taken by a young production assistant to one of the sound studios for a voice test. It was reasonably straightforward. First, I had to read a set piece, then I was asked to speak for two minutes on anything I liked. I gave them two minutes on tide mills. It was surprising how much knowledge I had picked up about them in the last couple of weeks.

When I came out of the sound studio, I was introduced to Chris, who said he had been listening to the test in the production offices. He took me down to the infamous BBC canteen. After all the wisecracks and comments about it in various radio programmes and TV shows, I really did not know what to expect. In fact, it was not too bad. I have eaten far worse and paid a damned sight more, though I only had a tea and a toasted tea cake.

We chatted for a bit, and Chris assured me that the voice test was fine.

"The production team as a whole will listen to it on Monday, but there were no problems, so that is very much of a formality," he informed me.

"But one that has to be gone through."

"Unfortunately, yes," Chris confirmed. "Though the three important people have already OK'd it, so I can't see the problem.

"I was interested in what you were saying about tide mills. Never heard of them, can you tell me a bit more?"

I did. In the end, we spent nearly an hour with me answering questions about tide mills. Eventually. Chris asked me if I would be interested in doing a ten-minute piece on tide mills.

"Not really a scientific subject, and I am not an expert, but I don't mind talking about them," I told him.

"Oh," Chris stated. "It's not for the science programme. I also work on a couple of history programmes. Think I might be able to pitch it to one of them. It would be a bit speculative. Would have to record the piece first, then try to get them to take it, so no guarantee of any money until they do, but I suspect they will."

I had a meeting the following Thursday in Town to discuss a series of articles for the Sunday supplement of one of the leading broadsheets; it was scheduled for ten so should be over by one. Given the time needed to get across town from Docklands to Oxford Circus, I guessed I could be there by two. We agreed that I would come in at two-thirty and do a recording session. Chris said to allow an hour as they might want to do several takes, but that basically they only needed ten to fifteen minutes.

Unlike the journey into Town, the trip back to Southminster was packed. It was standing room only for the first half. I was glad to get home. Trevor's little red sports car was parked over by the stables. I asked Anne about it.

"He arrived just after four; popped in to let me know he was back," she informed me. "Not sure what his plans are as the boys are going to the youth club. Asked him to join us for dinner at the Crooked Man, but he said he was just going to crash out for a bit."

I had a quick shower and got changed; then we walked down to the Crooked Man. For a Friday night in the season, it was strangely quiet; there were only about a dozen people in the place. Placing our orders, I mentioned the fact to Mary.

"There's a big do on down at the Yacht Club, free food and drink, I hear. Officially, it's Robert Henderson's sixtieth birthday bash; really it is part of his bid to become Commodore," she informed me.

"I thought Sir Lionel was Commodore," I stated.

"He is," she confirmed. "He is giving the post up at the next AGM; that's in September. The Hendersons have got their eyes on it. They've already warned a couple of people off from standing. Won't be long before they are running the entire town; then, God help us."

"If that's the feeling in town, surely he will not have much chance of election." I said.

"The thing is, most of the Yacht Club members are not local. They don't know what is going on."

"Must admit I don't either; I'm an outsider, just having moved here."

"I know," she replied. "Come down some midweek lunchtime when it's quiet, and I'll fill you in on the gossip."

We had our meal, then a couple of drinks before walking back to the house. It was well past ten. As we got to the house, I noticed a figure walking up from the direction of Pound Pond. It took me a few moments to realise that it was Trevor.

"Been for a walk?" I asked.

"Just down to see what all the fuss was about," he stated. "Joseph was on about it this afternoon, and I thought I better take a look. Not much to see, is there?"

"Not really," I replied. "Want a nightcap?"

"Wouldn't mind one," Trevor replied. "Fancied a hot chocolate, but Art has not got any in." I noticed the use of the short form of Arthur's name. I did not think I had heard Johnny or Joseph refer to him by that.

On entering the house, Anne said she would make the chocolates but that she was going to take hers up to bed as she wanted an early night.


"I'm taking Jenny shopping in the morning; have to leave here at eight," she replied. Her tone made it quite clear that she had already told me that fact and that I had forgotten. In that, she was entirely right.

Drinks made, Anne departed. Trevor and I went through to the sitting room. We took seats on opposite sides of the coffee table.

"I saw your parents today," I stated.

"How are they?" Trevor asked with a complete tone of indifference.

"Scared. They think they are losing you.".

"They are a bit late for that. They lost me five years ago."

That statement troubled me. Of course, I knew about the sex abuse and what had been going on, but I felt there was more to it than that.

"Want to talk about it?"

Trevor was quiet for about a minute, looking down at his mug of chocolate. After a bit, he raised his head and looked across at me.

"Not really. There's not much point, now," he stated. "Thanks for asking, though."

"How's the film going?" I asked.

"Hasn't started yet. It's all been about fittings and things this week. They start filming on Monday, but I'm not required until Wednesday. Maybe not even then."

"How come?" I asked.

"They are shooting all the scenes inside Number Ten next week. They've got the interior sets built this week. I am only in one, the last scene in the film, so they are shooting that last rather than having me hanging around on the set all week."

We talked for a bit longer, then heard the van coming up the drive. Shortly after, Joseph and Johnny came in through the back door; Trevor went off over to the flat.

Matt came round early Saturday morning just after Johnny had gone off to the yard accompanied by Joseph. I was busy in my study dealing with emails and reviewing the new chapter I had written for the maths book and had not seen Matt arrive or go off to check the completion of the work on the snagging list. I was not aware that he was here till Anne came into the study with a tea for me.

"What's the occasion?" I asked. It was only eight-thirty, and usually, Anne would not make a mid-morning drink till about ten-thirty. Anyway, she was supposed to be taking Jenny shopping.

"Just made a coffee for Matt," she informed me. "Felt a bit guilty leaving you out, so decided to make you a tea."

"Matt's here?" I asked, rising from my chair.

"Sit down," Anne instructed. "Yes, Matt's here, and he has gone to the apartments to check that all the work on the snagging list has done and done correctly. He will be about an hour doing that; then he is coming back in for a talk with us. Says we need to sort out what order we want the work done in here."

"Aren't you taking Jenny shopping?"

"I've phoned her. It's only a supermarket run; we can do it later."

For the next half hour, Anne and I discussed our options on the order work should be done. One thing we both agreed on was that we needed the kitchen done first. That way we could start using the kitchen for meals even if the rest of the house was unusable.

Our disagreement was over whether we wanted the ground floor sorted first or the first- and second-floor bedrooms. There were arguments both ways. I favoured ground floor; Anne favoured bedrooms.

It was Matt who solved the problem. When he came back from doing his snagging-list check, he confirmed that everything was done and we could move into the apartments when ready.

"I suggest, though, you leave it till Monday," he said.

"Why?" Anne enquired.

"To give the new-paint smell a chance to dissipate," he suggested. "I would suggest you leave the windows open a shade over the weekend."

"How about leaving them wide open?" I asked.

"You don't want rain getting in," Matt pointed out.

Both Anne and I put our respective points of views about the order for the work in the main house. Matt agreed that doing the kitchen first was feasible but then said the next step had to be the bedrooms.

"Why?" I asked.

"The last thing you want is the downstairs all nice and finished then the builders traipsing rubbish though it as they clear stuff from upstairs," he pointed out. "The kitchen is fairly self-contained. We can isolate that off once it is done. We can't do that with the whole of the ground floor, and there is some major demolition to be done on the first floor. Other than rewiring we are not doing anything on the second floor, so that's not a problem."

He had a point, one I had not considered, so we agreed on upper floors then the ground floor. We also decided that the main wing would be done first, then the guest wing. As Matt pointed out, once the main wing was done, they could isolate off the guest wing and work on that whilst we moved back into the main part of the house.

Anne pointed out that she was already running behind schedule and had to leave to take Jenny shopping. With that information imparted, she left.

One thing I had not asked was when the work would start on the workshops and offices. So, I raised this with Matt.

"Actually, Mike, I am planning on getting work started next week. As soon as the lads finish the teardown in here, I will move them to do the teardown in the outbuildings. By the time the framers have finished in here, the outbuildings should be ready for them to move onto."

"That seems pretty quick," I stated.

"It is," Matt responded. "It's the later stages that slow you down. It takes a lot longer to do stuff when you have to worry about the finish. Then there is the Grade Two listing to worry about. At least, they are allowing me quite a bit of freedom there as old man Launston had ripped most of the original stuff out when he remodelled the place in the nineteen fifties before the place was listed."

We spoke for nearly an hour about the refurbishment of the house. It turned out that although the basic plans had been agreed, there were a whole lot of things Anne and I would have to decide on — like what sort of taps we wanted in the bathrooms and which tiles to use in the shower. The only room I was particularly concerned about was the study. It worked for me as it was, and I was not too keen on having any significant alterations done to it.

"That's fine, Mike. All that is planned for the study is the rewiring, which has got to be done, and redecorating," Matt informed me. That I could live with.

Since what would become the guest wing, the old servant's quarters, was already empty, it was agreed that the builders would start in there on Monday. We would get our stuff moved into the apartments over the start of next week. Then they would start on the main part of the house.

Once we had finished discussing the work on the house, I asked Matt what he knew about the old prefab place.

"The old newsagents, you mean?"

"Yes, that one," I replied.

"Not much, really," he answered. "It was bought a couple of years ago by a property company from London. They put in plans to build houses in the land, but the planning office turned them down. Went to appeal. The word is that they have lost the appeal, though nothing official has been posted yet. Why?"

"Could be interested in it for the business," I informed him. "Arthur's business could do with a retail front, which we can't provide here."

Matt nodded, then informed me that he would ask around and see what he could find out. He had a second cup of coffee, then left saying he had to rush as he had a meeting at eleven.

Joseph returned just before eleven. I expressed surprise as I had thought he had gone to help Johnny in the chandlery.

"No," Joseph informed me. "Just had to pick some stuff up. Arthur was complaining at the youth club that he had run out of releasing oil, and Johnny said they had some in the chandlery, so I went over to get it."

"It's three hours since you left and it's, what, twenty minutes on your bikes to the yard," I observed.

"I know, but Steve got me to help winch a boat out of the water," Joseph replied. I looked at Joseph's slight frame and light build and wondered what help he could be. He must have sensed what I was thinking. "It's alright, Uncle Mike. All I had to do was push red and green buttons when Steve told me to.

"Oh," he continued. "Johnny told me to tell you Steve's asked him to work through today. This job they've had come in is an emergency, so Steve wants all the help he can get to get it finished today."

Having imparted that information to us and grabbing a can of some power drink out of the fridge, Joseph vanished off in the direction of the stable block. I retreated to my study to do some writing.

I had been working for something approaching an hour when I was disturbed by an off-key set of chimes going, bing bong, bing bong, bong, bong. In total, there were twelve loud bongs. I surmised that Arthur had got the chimes going on the clock. Given that, I thought it was probably best if I went over to see him. Arriving at the stable block, I found Arthur, Trevor and Joseph standing in the yard looking up at the clock. Arthur turned as I approached.

"What did you think, Mike?" he asked.

"I think it was better when the chimes did not work," I replied. He looked quite crestfallen.

"Why's that," Joseph asked.

"Well, they are rather loud, a lot louder than we expected," I pointed out. "Think about what they are going to be like at two in the morning. It's bad enough in the house; I dread to think what it would be like in the flat."

"Had not thought about that," Arthur admitted.

"Is it easy to disconnect them?" I asked.

"Yes," Arthur replied. "There is a lever that activates them or deactivates them. All I have to do is move it to the on or off position."

"I suggest, off might be preferable," I informed him. "Though it might be nice to have them on for special events, like New Year." On that statement, Arthur brightened up. It was then I realised just how much getting the clock fully working meant to Arthur. Why it was so important, I did not know. It was important, nonetheless.

Trevor told Arthur that they needed to get a move on if they were to get to the supermarket and back before the race started. What race they were talking about, I had no idea, but the two of them made their leave and went up to the flat. I began to walk towards the house; Joseph came with me. As we walked, I asked him about his plans for the afternoon. He told me that he intended to sketch the inside of the barn. That reminded me that I had not spoken to Matt about Joseph's drawing.

When I got back to the house, I was surprised to find Anne in the kitchen. She must have parked her car at the front. I mentioned she was back early.

"Jenny's not feeling well, so I just did a supermarket run for her. She's got one of her migraines, so just wants to lie down in the dark and be left alone," she responded. "There's a message from Bernard. They are driving up in the morning, taking Micah and Bethany to the boat, then they will come by for a chat. I invited them for dinner, but Bernard said they had booked a table at the Yacht Club."

When Anne said that, I heard a relieved sigh from just behind me. Joseph was there and certainly glad that his parents were not going to be here for dinner on Sunday.

Anne knocked up some bacon sandwiches for lunch, which made Joseph very happy. Then we all went off our separate ways. Anne went through to the lounge to do some reading, Joseph vanished in the direction of the barn with his sketch pad, and I went to my study. The first thing I did was call Matt on his mobile. It went directly to his voicemail. I told him there was something I had forgotten to talk to him about when he was here and asked him to contact me. After that, I got down to some writing.

Shortly later, Matt phoned. I explained, briefly, that I needed some advice about tutoring for one of the boys and thought he could help. He told me he would be coming past the end of the road up to us on his way home, so he would call in, probably about four. That sorted, I got back to the writing.

It was about ten to four when Matt arrived. We went through to the kitchen, where I made him a tea. He spent a good fifteen minutes grumbling to me about a client who, halfway through the build, wanted some significant alterations to the design and could not understand why the build costs were going up.

"Anyway, you did not ask me to come to hear me complain about clients," he stated. "So, what's the issue about tutoring?"

"I need to know if it is worthwhile arranging," I told Matt as I stood pouring us some more tea.

"Well, that depends on whether the person has an innate ability," Matt commented.

Tea poured, I picked up the mugs to carry them over to the table. As I did, I looked out of the window and saw Joseph walking back to the house with his sketchbook.

"You can make your own mind up about that," I replied. "Joseph will be in here shortly; he's been out sketching."

Joseph came in. I asked him how he had got on.

"OK, I think," he replied.

"Well, let's have a look," I said, indicating that he should put the pad on the table.

Joseph put the sketch pad down and opened it. Matt looked at the drawing.

"By the look of that, you've been drawing at a cruck barn; that's clearly an upper cruck. Did not know there was one around here," Matt stated. "Where is it?"

"Over there," Joseph answered, pointing to the tin-roofed barn on the far side of the stables.

"But that's… you mean there is a cruck barn under that?"

"Yes," Joseph replied.

"I've never looked at it," Matt stated.

"But you surveyed this place," I commented.

"Yes, Mike," Matt replied. "I surveyed the house, and I checked the outbuildings for any major problems. I did not do the barn, as you said you were going to demolish it for parking."

"I was. Does not look likely now."

"No, that'll get a Grade One listing for certain," Matt said. "Can I have a look at it?"

"Can we discuss Joseph's drawings first?" I asked.

"Actually, Mike, I would like to have a look at what he has been drawing," Matt responded. "That will give me a better idea of how good his work is."

I could only agree with that statement, so I asked Joseph to show Matt the barn. In the meantime, I decided I'd better start on dinner. The thing was, I was not sure about was how late Johnny would be coming home, so I needed to do something that would not spoil if he was late. In the end, I opted for a chicken casserole with some baked potatoes and green beans.

It was over three-quarters of an hour before Matt and Joseph returned.

"Well?" I asked.

"Definitely a cruck barn," Matt replied. "I would say late Sixteenth or early Seventeenth Century. Probably more likely to be Seventeenth."

"I know it's a cruck barn," I replied. "Doctor Portage confirmed that, though I think he differs on the dating. I wanted to know about Joseph's drawing."

"They're good," Matt stated. "The boy has got an innate ability to see and draught. There are some errors, but they are down to lack of knowledge about false lines and false perspectives. What he needs is somebody to teach him drafting."

"Do you know anyone?" I asked.

"Well, there's Margaret Slater," Matt replied. "The problem is she's in London, lives in Saint John's Wood. I know she takes pupils, but she only sees them at home. A bit of a trek from here."

"But not from Hampstead," Joseph interjected.

"Hampstead?" Matt enquired.

"That's where we live during the week in term time," Joseph responded.

I spent the next twenty minutes getting details from Matt about Margaret Slater. It turned out she used to teach courses in Architectural Freehand Drawing at St Martin's until an illness left her in a wheelchair. Matt admitted she had been his teacher when he was studying architecture.

Just before he left, Matt turned to Joseph and handed him his card. "As you're going to be here this summer, why not come into the office and get some work experience. Give me a call, and we can arrange something."

Joseph said he would and walked out to Matt's car with him. When Joseph came back in, he looked happier than I had seen him for some time. He told me he was going up to his room to tidy up some sketches he had done. I got on with dinner.

Johnny arrived home just before six. I commented he had had a long day.

"Don't I know it?" he responded, collapsing onto one of the kitchen chairs. "I don't think I've stopped all day."

"What's been going on?" I asked.

"There was an attempted arson attack on one the yachts in the harbour last night," he stated. "No major damage was done, but the paintwork and finish were messed up. Steve and Martin have been busy cleaning it up. Had to scrape it down to the base layer and repaint. Fortunately, it was an easy match; otherwise, it would have been a hell of a game to get it done in time."

"Why? What was the rush?" I asked.

"Apparently, they are due back in Le Havre on Monday, so have to get underway in the morning. Wanted the work done before they left," Johnny stated.

Le Havre rang a bell with me, so I asked. "Which yacht was it, Johnny?"

"That big French one that been around quite a lot. Those girls at the youth club are off it," he said.

"The Tante Edith?"

"Yes, that's the one," Johnny stated. "What time is dinner?"

"I think about seven," I replied.

"Right, I'm going to get a shower and changed," he stated, getting up from the chair, grabbing a can of something from the fridge and departing upstairs.

I went through to the study and sent Bernard an email letting him know about the attack on the Tante Edith. A reply came back by text to my mobile a few minutes later. "Already know. Miss Jenkins is joining us Sunday afternoon."

With dinner in hand, I put some plates to warm and set the table. I started to go to make my way to the sitting room to have a quick read of the paper when Johnny shouted from upstairs.

"Dad, can you come up, please?"

"What is it?" I called back.

"It's Joseph, and he is in a bad way."

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