Chopin Mazurka; Happy New Year; Rolls Royce; Steinway piano

Jamie’s Quest

Chapter Ten

New Year’s Day 1992

Somehow I must have turned because when I woke again I was facing him and he still had his arms around me. It was quite light and as I opened my eyes I could see he was awake as well and he squeezed me even tighter.

“Morning, Jamie,” he said and he did give me a kiss, on the cheek. “Happy New Year, then just over a week more and it’s back to school.” Yes, it was January the First! I said Happy New Year back to him and gave him a kiss as well. He hugged me tight again. “Have you enjoyed your holiday so far? I know I have.” He sort of quivered against me as he laughed. “Even though I had a bit too much to drink and suffered. Suffered twice that was, once being sick and once being told off by Mum. Still, I’ll try not to indulge too much next time.” He gave me another peck on the cheek. I was also aware his thing had not diminished in stiffness and was pressed against my leg.

I was very happy. I smiled at him. I knew I loved my big brother. I loved my sisters, too, and I supposed I loved Alistair as well. I didn’t want this time to end and I put my arms around his neck and our cheeks were touching. Oh, his cheek was rough! He would need that shaving stuff!

“I’ve had a great time and last night was lovely.” I gave him a hug but there was something I had to say. “I want to thank you for being so kind to me,” I said quietly. “I know I’m much younger than you and I know at school we’re told not to get in the way of the older boys but I don’t think I’ve got in your way, have I?”

“Jamie, you’re the best young brother anyone could have. You couldn’t get in anybody’s way.” I got another hug.

I hadn’t finished. “I want to learn and there’s lots I still don’t understand. I like being home but I also miss my friends, do you?”

He nodded against me and he certainly needed a shave! “Same for me. I’ve got a busy year learning as well. I’ve promised Grandfather that I’ll not neglect my studies as he put it. I must finish all the homework and reading we were set before going back. So, if I’m a bit of a bore and shut myself away don’t worry we’ll find time to do things. And I’ve got to get fitter!”

I said that Luke had promised to come with his brother to play Monopoly and I could go to their house to try out the train set.

“Lucky you. I must get Geoffrey to help me with my Maths. He’s promised to. Oh God! I do need help there. First New Year Resolution. Get help with Maths.” He gave me another hug. “Second New Year Resolution. See if Geoffrey will come for a run each day.” He paused. “Then, of course, Third Resolution. Do not neglect my young brother.”

It was my turn to hug him. “And my Resolution is I won’t get in your way.”

He laughed and we hugged each other. I then realised he had tears running down his cheeks. I must have looked concerned as he let got of me to wipe his face as he sniffed.

“It’s alright, Jamie, I’ve got big decisions to make. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to be a soldier like Dad but I don’t want to let him down. Mum says it’ll be my own decision. I feel alone at times. I think I had better talk to Grandpa Drummond.” He stroked my back. “Don’t worry about me, Jamie, I’ll work it out. Mum says it’s all part of growing-up, making decisions.”

I felt quite lost. Did I have to make decisions? When? Could I help my brother?

“Jonathan, if you ever feel lonely you can sleep in here with me.”

“That’s so kind. But it’s when I feel alone inside I have to sort things out myself. Don’t worry, if I’m cold and lonely I always know there’s a warm spot in here.”

He wriggled his shoulders a bit. “I think we’d better get up.” He rolled out of the bed and went to the window. “Doesn’t look too bad out there so I think I’ll go for a run. See you later, alligator!” At least his thing had flopped down as he went out of the bedroom. I grinned to myself. He wouldn’t run in the nude, he’d have to put his shorts and sweatpants and top on first. It would have been funny, though, seeing him run past old Mrs Cathcart’s house with no clothes on and his thing flopping up and down. It would anyway unless he put that pouch thing on first under his shorts.

After breakfast I was alone with Mum in the kitchen and I thought I could ask her something which was puzzling me. It was about Grandmother’s piano. I had overheard Mrs Grantly ask Mum sometime ago if she missed playing and I was sure she said she did. I thought I would be clever and so said the girls had told me Geoffrey played the piano well and I had never heard him play, only on the bagpipes. Could he play here on the piano in the drawing room so we could hear him? Mum didn’t smile but shook her head very slowly. “It was your Grandmother’s piano and when she died it was locked and I don’t even know where the key is.”

That sounded very strange. Who had the key? I suppose it was Grandfather. Why didn’t he want the piano played?

Mum answered all those things after she had sniffed and blown her nose. “I miss my mother very much but your Grandfather misses her even more.” She sniffed again. “Even when she was not well before she died she would play every day and still say she needed to practise. She had been taught to play when she was quite young, then she won a scholarship to the Royal College in London when she was fifteen. She was there for five years and said she enjoyed every minute though it was hard work. I know she played with some big orchestras after that but she didn’t want to concentrate on playing at concerts so became a teacher back here in Edinburgh. That’s when she met your Grandfather and they got married and had two pretty daughters.” She smiled then. She waved a finger under my nose as I grinned at her. “Anyway, she had many students over the years, including me and your Auntie Vanessa. We might not have been her best but I do miss playing. I might not be very good but it helped me relax and these days I would like that pleasure again. I think your Grandfather was so upset when my mother died he could not bear anyone else playing her piano. It was very special as she had won it as a prize in her final year at the College.”

If Jonathan had made more New Year Resolutions than me I could at least make another one. I would resolve to ask Grandfather because I knew it would make Mum happy if she could play again. If she could play I was sure Geoffrey would be allowed as well and I knew Grandfather liked Geoffrey. I would have to ask very carefully. I would think about it and write all this in my Journal and add it to all the other things which might be answered some day. I had already filled some pages and I had been careful and had written ‘smottob’ for one word to remind me of one question to be answered though I did put ‘bottle of water’ quite clearly underneath it. There were other words I might write backwards as well.

My opportunity to ask Grandfather came soon after lunch that same day. I think Jonathan must have phoned Geoffrey because he had come round during the morning and he and Jonathan had gone up to his bedroom to do some Maths revision. Jonathan did look much more pleased at lunchtime. Geoffrey had been invited to stay and even then I heard him asking Jonathan questions about things called craters or something like that. I did ask Jonathan later what these craters were like as they didn’t sound like holes. He didn’t laugh at me but said that wasn’t quite what the word was but it meant you had to make numbers balance just like a see-saw. He wrote the word down for me and I saw it was ‘equations’. That was another new word for me and that went into my Journal the proper way round. Grandfather had taken Geoffrey off after lunch and he looked very pleased when he came back into the breakfast room where Jonathan and I were sitting seeing how many sugar cubes we could place on top of each other before the pile collapsed.

“I didn’t expect it but I’m to get fifteen pounds for playing the pipes at that dinner,” he said and clasped his hands together. “I’ll give that to Mum to help pay for my entry for the Grade Eight piano exams. My teacher says I’m a bit better than that but it’s necessary to pass them if I want to go further.” He stood by Jonathan and jerked his thumb towards the door. “Another hour on angles this time and then I’ll go home but I’ll be here at eight in the morning for a run.” Jonathan groaned but got up and they went off laughing.

No time like the present as Mrs Grantly often said because soon after as I was reading more of my book in the drawing-room I heard Grandfather going to the big cupboard in the hall where he kept even more Law Reports and big fat books. I put my book down and went out and stood by him. “Caroline and Jacky say that Geoffrey plays the piano very well and I’ve never heard him, have you?”

Grandfather looked down at me and wrinkled his forehead. “Who’s been asking questions, eh?”

I tried hard not to be frightened. “No one, but Mum told me she can play as well and I’ve never heard her play either.”

“A conspiracy, eh?” he did smile then.

I shook my head. I knew a conspiracy was when people got together to make things happen because when we went to that end of term performance in Big School four of the big boys, all wrapped in what looked like bed sheets, had acted a bit of a play which ended in them apparently stabbing Simon Fleming dressed the same. I had seen in the programme they were in there as ‘Conspirators’ and when Cheng had asked Mr McWilliam about it the next day he had said it was a very famous play by William Shakespeare and it was Julius Caesar not Simon Fleming being killed and the others had got together because they thought he was evil. Wow! I had remembered all that. I hoped Grandfather didn’t think I was evil!

I knew he wasn’t angry because of the smile. “No, it’s because I have never heard anyone play the piano and I wondered...” I didn’t go on. He smiled again.

“I think it’s been long enough, now,” he said very quietly and bent down and held one of my hands. “I expect if your Grandma was still alive you would have had the opportunity to learn to play. Yes, the piano will be unlocked and when Geoffrey has finished causing havoc to your brother’s brains we’ll see if it’s still in tune.” He squeezed my hand. “I needed to be asked. Come with me.” I followed him along to his study. He opened a drawer and took out a small key. He held it up. “You can have the honour of re-opening the keyboard.”

I went with him to the drawing-room where the piano stood. He stroked the shiny top and then kissed his fingers. “I think all my sorrows will be over now,” he said very quietly and I think I knew what he meant. He lifted the padded lid of the piano seat. I didn’t even know there was a lid. Inside were lots of flat books. He took one out. I saw the cover had ‘Beethoven’ on it in large funny letters. I saw the one underneath had ‘Chopin’ on it. I don’t think I had heard of him and that seemed a very funny name. “These were all your Grandma’s most favourite pieces. There are many more stored away in another of the hall cupboards. We must see if Geoffrey can be the master of this keyboard because I, too, have heard good things of him.” He smiled at me again. “We’ll wait until they’ve finished crossing Euclid’s bridges and I think a cup of tea will pass the time.” I didn’t understand any of that last sentence other than that about the cup of tea!

There was no one in the kitchen so Grandfather put the kettle on the hob and while he got the teapot ready I found two cups and saucers and took them into the breakfast room. When all was ready he poured us each a cup saying that some clever man had shown that people couldn’t tell if the milk was put into the cup first or after the tea was poured. He said he didn’t really see it mattered but he had been told the milk had always been poured in first when cups were valuable and made of thin porcelain in case the hot tea made them shatter. He then put his finger to his lips and said that Mrs Cathcart had had an accident once when she had forgotten to put the radiator on in her basement lavatory and the water in the lavatory bowl had frozen in the cold weather. She had taken a kettle of boiling water and poured it in to thaw the ice but the boiling water had cracked the lavatory bowl and she had to have a new one fitted. So he knew not to pour hot tea into porcelain cups without having to experiment. He laughed and so did I because I thought it was a bit rude as well as funny. I wondered if Jonathan knew that story and I would put it in my Journal anyway.

When we had finished drinking he said he felt much more relaxed now as he was sitting in Court on Friday and he had to make some serious decisions then. He said he thought he might go to see his old friend Dr McFee tomorrow afternoon but he mustn’t forget he was driving his sister to Waverley Station in the evening to catch the overnight train back to London and then on to Cambridge. I said that Dr McPhee’s grandson, Watson, had been at the Hogmanay dinner and he was in my room at Kinloch and was a good friend. Grandfather said he had known Dr McPhee since they were students together and Dr McPhee had been a lecturer in Law at the University until he retired. “So he didn’t have patients?” I said.

“No,” he said and shook his head “My sister told me about your discussion about doctors and I remember you had problems about Fellows, too, eh?” I nodded. “Words are difficult,” he said, “Some words can have many meanings and I have to be very careful when I write up my judgements because the other lawyers will look for anything not carefully written so they can appeal to try to get their clients off the hook.” I must have looked puzzled. “‘Off the hook’ do you know what that means?” It was my turn to shake my head though I think I must have heard it. “Oh, it could mean ‘set free’, like fish when they are too small are thrown back into the water ‘off the hook’.” He pointed to the telephone on the kitchen wall. “We can say it’s ‘off the hook’ if it’s not put back carefully though I haven’t heard that said recently...” I smiled because I knew what he had explained. That would be a useful saying. He nodded and went on “...Anyway, Dr McPhee was made a doctor for his thesis looking at points of Roman law which are within Scottish law and arguments for and against.” He shook his head. “I read it but it was way over me though I have to make judgements which must be based on a clear understanding of the law.” I must have looked even more puzzled. “All too much for one day but you can never stop learning. Let’s talk about other things.”

He said that there wouldn’t be any piping practice tomorrow evening though it was a Thursday and that’s why he was free, or ‘off the hook’, to take Great-Aunt Cassie to the station. There would be a practice the next Thursday and would I like to go again? I said I would as I would be seeing Luke and Logan there, who were now friends, and hear Jonathan, no doubt, playing his pipes. Grandfather laughed at that last bit. “Your brother could be good at many things but he needs to concentrate on essentials.” I was lost then as I didn’t know quite what he meant. I couldn’t ask because we could hear Jonathan and Geoffrey coming down the stairs and along the passageway. They weren’t talking about angles or ‘craters’ but Jonathan was saying he was hungry and he was sure there was some of the Christmas cake left and he liked marzipan.

Grandfather was laughing. “Boys and their bellies!” I knew what he meant and that was something else to be written down.

Jonathan stopped talking when he saw us sitting together with the teapot in front of us.

Grandfather pointed to the pantry. “The cake is in there and I think we would like a piece, too, eh Jamie?” He pointed to the chair next to me. “Geoffrey, come and sit and Jonathan can be the skivvy. We have something to discuss.” Grandfather winked at me. “Cups, saucers and plates.” I got up and found what was needed and as Jonathan came out of the pantry with the cake I managed to say I thought the tea in the pot would be cold by now.

Jonathan just grinned at me. “I’m the skivvy, eh?” He put the cake down on the table and then put the kettle back on the hob. It wasn’t long before the teapot had been refilled and Jonathan brought it to the table. Grandfather was still smiling as he poured milk first into the cups and then the tea which did look a bit weak. No matter, Jonathan cut us good-sized slices and I liked the marzipan as well.

We sat and our tea and cake were soon finished. Grandfather looked across the table at Geoffrey. “With a little prompting from Jamie here I have made a decision.” I saw Jonathan almost flinch back in surprise. He must wonder what it was. “Jamie is going to unlock the piano for me and I would like you, Geoffrey, to see if it is still in tune. It must be at least two years ago when I got Mr Davies to tune it while everyone was out.” I thought Jonathan might have said something but he kept quiet. He just looked at me and then he smiled.

I thought I had better lead the way and as I stood so Grandfather passed me the key. Geoffrey followed me and when we got to the piano he showed me the tiny keyhole and I put the key in and turned. “Let me help you as keyboard lids can be quite heavy.” We lifted it together and there painted on the inside was the name ‘Steinway’. “Wow, we have one like this at school but only our music-master plays it.” he said and was nodding his head.

Grandfather came up to us. “We had better have the lid open as well. It will sound much better.” He and Jonathan lifted up the lid and I could see all the strings inside. Geoffrey must have known how to keep the lid up as he reached inside and pulled up a rod on a hinge which he fitted under he lid. Grandfather pointed to the seat which Geoffrey and Jonathan moved out a bit and then Geoffrey sat and after getting a nod from Grandfather played a scale all the way up and down the keyboard. It sounded wonderful and even more so when he started to play very quietly at first but as he progressed it got louder and I could see how he concentrated when there were runs up and down. I thought it finished far too soon for me. I wanted to hear more. “The Moonlight Sonata’,” Grandfather said quietly as the piece finished.

“I can play it all if you want,” Geoffrey said. Grandfather nodded. He took my hand and we sat together on the sofa nearest the piano with Jonathan standing by the side as Geoffrey started playing again. I sat and listened. I had heard the teacher at Miss Pruitt’s School play and also Mr Manners at Kinloch but that was for us to do dances or to sing songs, I hadn’t heard anyone play such beautiful music so close up. Grandfather took out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes. That second piece finished and Geoffrey went on play even more and that ended with a tremendous finish.

“My boy, that was wonderful. All three movements. Thank you” Grandfather was nodding. “Your mother told me you were progressing well but I never expected playing with such artistry.” He looked up at the doorway. My mother was standing there. I hadn’t noticed she had appeared. As Geoffrey stood she rushed in and hugged him.

“Oh, Geoffrey, that brought back so many memories, you must play more.”

“He will,” Grandfather said, “And you must thank Jamie for making me realise I was just an old grouch. It’s not being locked anymore. Alison you must play, too.”

Of course, Mum had been up in her room having a rest and had been startled to hear the music. She had thought at first it was the radio but realised it was the piano downstairs being played. She looked so pleased. She asked Geoffrey to play again. He played something called a Mazurka which he said was by Chopin. I learned two more things. First it was a very merry Polish dance and, second, that Chopin was not pronounced like a word for ‘cutting up’ but as if it had an ‘S’ at the front and it sounded like ‘Show-pan’.

Geoffrey did say he thought the piano did need a little tuning. Grandfather said that would be arranged right away and went off to his study. Mum then took Geoffrey’s place and she sounded good as well. “That was by Mozart,”she said when she finished. “And though I say it myself I don’t think it was too bad without practising for about five years.” Actually, she then said she always played something when she went to visit her friend Mary Hutchins who was a piano teacher and had been taught by my Grandmother. “I think we will be having some musical evenings here to liven the place up a bit.”

Jonathan had gone over to look inside the piano. “I suppose you could accompany Geoffrey playing the pipes. Is there music like that?” He was grinning when he looked up.

“Fool!” Mum said, “Don’t let your Grandfather hear you say such things or that piano lid might accidentally fall on your head!”

“Then Grandfather would have to try himself for damage to valuable property and I don’t mean the piano.”

I thought that was very funny and even Mum gave him a grin.

“Good,” she said, “I’ll be able to play tomorrow when Mrs Grantly comes back to work. It’ll keep my fingers supple and my brain active.” She looked round. “Geoffrey, you can always practice here if you wish. I would say you won’t have any difficulty getting Grade Eight and you must go on immediately for a diploma. You’re over seventeen now so go as far further as you can before you do any applying.”

“I must be careful, though, I have Highers to concentrate on but one of those is Music so playing will help with the Harmony. Maths and Music seem to go together, though,” he said, “I’ve got to make my mind up which way I want to go.”

“Enjoy both,” Mum said, “You still have time to make decisions.”

I saw Jonathan had stopped smiling. Was that because he had to make decisions like he’d said to me?

Grandfather came back from his study. “All’s arranged. Mr Davies can come tomorrow at two o’clock. I would suggest you lads keep out of his way as he has to concentrate very carefully.”

Geoffrey said Jonathan could go round to his house and they would do more studying. Jonathan grimaced about that. I asked Mum if she would ‘phone Mrs Henderson to see if I might be able to go to her house and see Luke and Logan.

Mum did that a bit later after we all listened to Geoffrey play a couple more pieces, again from memory. He explained that if he went on to take a diploma he would be expected to play from memory and that required a lot of practice. “Like doing Maths in an exam,” Jonathan said, “You can’t have text-books to look things up.” He shook his head. “No text-books for anything in exams.”

“Poor boy,” Mum said and gave a laugh, “I expect there’s plenty of room in there to be filled up.” As he was standing next to her she reached up and tapped his head.

Grandfather smiled at him. “A bit of concentration like Mr Davies and you’ll be quite alright.” He looked over at Geoffrey. “Thank you, Geoffrey. I’ll look forward to hearing you play again.” He turned and went off back to his study.

When the door shut Mum put her hand on Geoffrey’s shoulder. “I have to thank you as well. I think your playing has helped my father as he has a rather knotty case coming up.” She turned to me. “And a big thank-you, Jamie, for asking your Grandfather the right questions.”

Geoffrey turned round on the piano seat. “Thank you, too, Jamie. It’s a lovely piano to play.” I felt rather proud about my part in its re-opening.

Geoffrey said he had better go home now but would be back in the morning for a run and he and Jonathan could then go and study at his. If Julian was around they could do some History and Geography as well as these were the other subjects Jonathan had to do. It all sounded very complicated to me.

Dad came home ready for supper just after six o’clock. “It might be a holiday for everyone else but a soldier’s work is never done,” he said as he came into the television room where we were all sitting having watched the beginning of the Six o’clock News. Of course, it had been the first day of his new appointment and he was now on duty. He did have some good news, not like some of the things which had been on the telly. He was on permanent detachment now in Scotland and would be reporting down in London no more than once a month. As it was considered a good idea he could work quite a bit from home as the Princes Street set-up had to be kept under wraps without too many visitors. The Signals bods would be putting in a couple of secure lines to the house and he would have a communications clerk at his beck and call who would be accommodated, when needed, in a bedroom on our floor. One of the rooms and the other bathroom would be refurbished up to military standard, what ever that was. Dad and Grandfather were laughing as he said that. Dad then said whatever he had said here was to go in one ear and out the other. Jonathan made play of this and tilted his head and slapped one side as if emptying any thoughts. “All gone, Sir,” he said. Jacky said that wasn’t difficult and anyway her lips were sealed. “With all that gunge you put on them.” Jonathan got a slap on the other side of his head for that from Caroline. We all knew we had to keep things secret.

I spent most of the next day with Luke and Logan and I also stayed for lunch there and on Friday they came to our house. We also had a treat as it was the day when the garage man came to Mrs Cathcart’s to take the Rolls Royce out to ‘give it an airing’ so he said. We three felt very grand being driven round the Edinburgh streets as he had to take the car to his garage first to fill up with petrol. Luke made us laugh as he sat by the side window at the back of the car and waved to people. “Just like the Queen,” he said. The man drove us almost to Granton and back and explained ‘the old girl’, as he called the car, only did about nine miles to the gallon so we’d had a more expensive ride than going there by bus. He laughed when he said that but added he loved the car as it was as good as when it was bought around nineteen-fifty. Wow! That was old. Forty-two years!

The next few days went quickly as well. Mrs Grantly was back helping Mum prepare food and Molly came and cleaned especially getting a polish on the floor where Mum had dropped the turkey. My sisters were out a lot as they and Geoffrey’s sisters had Christmas money to spend. Jonathan laughed and said girls liked money as Alistair had said. Mum said they hadn’t wasted their money but they had to watch as fashions changed so fast these days. This was after they had paraded in new blouses which they said were all the rage. I would have to find out what ‘fashions’ were for boys. I tried to ask Jonathan but he said he didn’t know as all he had were two lots of school uniform and CCF kit plus a couple of tops and jeans, Oh, and the jumpers Grandma Drummond had knitted.

Anyway, I spent a lot of time with Luke and Logan and Jonathan seemed to be with Geoffrey and Julian most of the time. In fact on two nights Geoffrey stayed over as Mum asked some friends in on the Tuesday evening for ‘supper and music’ as she said. Geoffrey played pieces and Mum’s friend Mrs Hutchins also played the piano and accompanied her husband who played the clarinet. As there had been a practice the night before so Geoffrey had stayed that night and also the next. It was a bit odd as his parents and sisters were there for the ‘recital’, as it was called, as well. He said he wouldn’t have to run from his house in the morning to meet up with Jonathan but as they only lived round the corner in the next square it wasn’t very far. Jonathan said Geoffrey could share his bed on both nights so he would be sure he didn’t oversleep and be late for their run.

As I’d had an extra glass of orange squash after the recital I woke very early in the morning and had to go to pee. Jonathan’s door was slightly open as I went into the bathroom and Geoffrey must have been talking in his sleep as I heard him say ‘Do it slowly’ quite clearly. I was bursting so didn’t wait to see if he said anything else. When I came out I didn’t dare stand and listen as I was sure Jonathan was coughing and sounding as if he had a frog in his throat. I giggled when I thought that as it was something Mrs Grantly always said if we had a cough. That was another saying to put in my Journal. I hoped Jonathan wouldn’t wake Geoffrey up making that noise as they both needed their sleep if they were going running at eight o’clock.

Of course, on Thursday evening I was going with Grandfather and Jonathan to the piping practice. I had been very good and each day that week I had tried my chanter and I think I managed to get a good sound out of it and played the scale and that little tune Mr Henderson had taught us. Even Jonathan had shut himself away in his bedroom and he didn’t sound too bad with a march he had been told to practise. We had an early supper that night as Dad was going to drive us to the hall and he was going on to a meeting somewhere after he dropped us off. Grandfather said we would have a taxi back and Geoffrey could join us.

It was a noisy evening again in the big hall but it was much quieter in the smaller room where Mr Henderson was teaching us boys even if we did make some strange squeals on our chanters at times. Two more had joined us as they wanted to join their school pipe band and one was also in the Scouts and they had a pipe band as well. I didn’t feel too bad being in my Kinloch top and shorts as this boy was in his Scout uniform though he said if he was in the pipe band he would be wearing the kilt. I think Jonathan even enjoyed himself as I saw Geoffrey was showing him a particular way of fingering as they marched up and down. We had to wait a while after the practice finished as Grandfather was to be a judge, in a different way from his normal job, in a piping competition at the beginning of February in Stirling. Mr Henderson and another of the gentlemen would be there as well so arrangements for a suitable hotel to stay in had to be made.

Our taxi was waiting when we came out. I knew Grandfather always used the same firm and the driver was usually the owner. It was tonight as well as Mr Briggs got out and opened the door for us. “Very busy tonight,” he said, “There’s a big Masonic on and none of them’ll be driving so we’re all geared up ready.”

“With sick bags no doubt,” Jonathan whispered in my ear.

With all the pavements clear of snow when we stopped to let Geoffrey out Grandfather said we would get out as well as we only had to walk round the corner. He paid Mr Briggs who drove off straightaway. As we walked carefully in case of any ice Grandfather asked us if we had enjoyed the playing. I said I had been very careful and Mr Henderson had said I hadn’t made any errors. Just as we got to the entrance to our drive and Jonathan was saying that Geoffrey was a very good player there was a hoarse shout from just inside. I looked and saw a rather shabby man who was waving something about as he shouted.

“I been waiting for you, you fuckin’ old bastard! Put my brother away, hae ye! He did that soddin’ fella in and I’ll di the same to ye, ye old bugger!”

It was then I saw that the thing he was waving about was a gun. Grandfather grabbed me and said ‘Down!’. There was a sharp crack and I saw Jonathan more or less leap into the drive and the man was down with a real Rugby tackle but he still had the gun in his hand which he began to raise so I scrambled up and ran in and stamped on his hand and the gun cracked again as he yelled out more swear words, like ‘fuck’ and ‘bugger’ but also other words I didn’t know, and I heard a bullet whistle away. The gun clattered onto the drive out of his reach. The two bangs must have alerted the neighbours as doors opened and Dad and Mum appeared at the top of our steps. Grandfather shouted out “Arthur, get the police!” Mum must have gone in to do that as Dad bounded down the steps and joined Jonathan who was now holding down a struggling figure who was still shouting and swearing. “Don’t touch anything!” was Grandfather’s next command. I could see the gun was well away from the man who was trying desperately to grab it.

It could have been only a couple of minutes or so before a police car, with its screaming siren, came hurtling into the square. Two constables got out and soon had the man, still lying flat, in handcuffs. Almost as soon as they had done that another police car came whizzing into the square and stopped behind the first one. This time a Sergeant and another constable got out. The Sergeant went straight up to Grandfather.

“I recognised the address, are you alright, my Lord?” It was the first time I had heard anyone call my Grandfather by his title.

“Ah, Sergeant Macleod, I’m alright. Thank you for being so prompt.” Grandfather pointed towards the man who had quietened down now as one of the policemen had his large booted foot planted right in the middle of his back. “I think you will find that is Connor Fawcett, brother of Patrick Fawcett who I remanded in custody last Friday.” The Sergeant had taken out a notebook and was writing whatever Grandfather had said. “I understand he is also wanted in connection with certain misdemeanours but had disappeared. Please note that he was abusive and threatening and fired a shot towards me which luckily missed. He also said his brother ‘did the fellow in’ which needs to be noted and I am sure my grandsons heard that, too.” I had but it was Jonathan who called out ‘I heard that!’ “My two brave grandsons then apprehended him during which time a second shot was fired albeit harmlessly.” He smiled at the Sergeant. “I am sorry if I am carried away but I consider I have my grandsons to thank for no damage being done to anybody.”

There was a muttering from the ground. “That little sod’s broken my fucking fingers.” I heard Dad tell him to shut up.

I looked over from where I was standing by the man and saw there were quite a few of our neighbours gathering. Mr Tebbitt, who was a Writer to the Signet, came over to Grandfather. “May I be of assistance, my Lord?” Well, that was the second time. I liked Mr Tebbitt. He had a golden labrador called Trixie and I had often stroked her when he was taking her for a walk. Mum said his daughter Julia was an opera singer but had changed her surname to make it sound more foreign and she was good.

“Thank you,” Grandfather said and bowed his head slightly, “If you would make certain all our statements are correctly recorded that would be a great help.” He turned to Sergeant Macleod. “With your permission?” The Sergeant smiled and nodded.

There was another sound of an engine. This time it was a van which Jonathan said was special for transporting prisoners and convicts. The shabby man was heaved to his feet by the two constables and still swearing, but much more quietly, he was taken off to the roadside. Dad, Jonathan and me had followed and we watched as he was placed in the van.

“I think forensics should examine that gun,” Grandfather was saying to the Sergeant as we returned and stood near him.

“I think so, too, my Lord,” said the Sergeant. “I would surmise it’s one that might prove useful in other cases.”

Grandfather held a finger up but was smiling. “Let forensics decide.”

Grandfather beckoned Jonathan. “Sergeant, please record that my grandson, Jonathan Drummond, was instrumental in the apprehension of that man and in so doing most probably prevented injury, or even tragedy.” He held up a finger again. “This is for our ears only but that man, before he was discharged from the British army some years ago, was a sharpshooter. He has since had rather a history of villainy and I’m glad I would not now be the one hearing the court proceedings. Jonathan, many thanks for your prompt action. And you, my Jamie, braver than brave! Thank you for getting the gun away from him. I doubt if he will bring charges against you for injured fingers.” What did he mean? Anyway, Mr Tebbitt was smiling at me. Grandfather looked over at Dad. “Arthur, I think we should all go inside in a moment where it is warmer.”

Dad ushered the policemen, except for one constable who went and stood by the gun, into the house saying he was sure there would be other warmers in there. Grandfather took my hand and with Mr Tebbitt and Jonathan went over to the group of neighbours. I heard Mr Tebbitt say he would speak. He said he was sure that was all the excitement for the night and was sorry if anyone had been alarmed. If anyone had seen or heard anything else they should tell the constable. Mrs Frobisher said she was sure she had seen the man earlier when she’d taken her dog out for a walk. He had been standing on the corner and taking swigs from a flask. “He was drunk,” Jonathan said, “Or he wouldn’t have missed.”

We, with Mr Tebbitt, went back to the house as the neighbours dispersed. Dad gave a laugh, “Although it could have been nasty it’ll give them all something to talk about. The last time they all gathered like that was when old Mother Pratchett threw all her husband’s belongings out of their bedroom window because he’d gone off with some hussy.”

Grandfather was much more relaxed now. He laughed. “Yes, and he was well over sixty and the girl was twenty-two and she wasn’t the first!” He paused. “My grandsons will think I have a prurient mind.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Jonathan said quietly and received a noble cuff to the side of his head which set Dad and Mr Tebbitt off laughing as we went up the steps. Dad said afterwards that had lightened the whole situation as he had been worried about how the attack might have affected Jonathan and me.

Inside, in the kitchen, Sergeant Macleod and the two constables were holding mugs of tea. Mum was slicing the remains of the Christmas cake and my sisters were ready with plates. Mum put down her knife and Jonathan and I were hugged and kissed, much, I think, to his embarrassment, as my sisters began to laugh.

Dad went off and came back with an unopened bottle of Dalmore. “Sergeant, once you have completed your notes you must try this as I assume you will be off-duty then.” The Sergeant nodded and smiled. “Pops, some for you and I think Jonno needs a reviver as well.” He looked down at me. “I’m afraid you and the constables will have to do with tea.” He held the bottle up. “Mr Tebbitt?” He was nodding and smiling, too.

Jonathan had taken off his overcoat which was quite muddy. “Oh Hell!” he said quite loudly, “Look at my best trews!” They were muddy, too, and one leg was torn. “It must have happened when I slid tackling him.”

“Don’t worry about them we can get you new ones before you go off next week,” Mum said.

Caroline went up to Jonathan and hugged him and took his overcoat from him. “You’re my brave brothers,” she said and turned and tried to hug me as well but the overcoat was in the way. I took my overcoat off and there was a bit of mud on it, too. Caroline took that from me and said they would both clean up OK. Jacky gave me a hug instead.

There was a ring at the doorbell and Mum and one of the constables went to see who it was. It was the Forensics men who didn’t come in but had come to take the gun away. More excitements for the neighbours. Even more when the doorbell rang again just as Dad had poured out more than a dram of whisky each into glasses for Grandfather, Jonathan and Mr Tebbitt, plus himself. Again, Mum and one of the constables went to the door. This time someone did come in and when he entered the kitchen all the policemen stood smartly to attention.

“Ah, Superintendent,” Grandfather said immediately although the man didn’t seem to be in uniform as he had an ordinary tweed overcoat on so he must have known him. “We have had rather an exciting time but your officers have been most diligent.”

The man, who was very tall and big, looked quite concerned. “My Lord, there are no injuries? I heard that it was one of the Fawcetts. I assume it’s the one we’ve been looking for for some time?”

“Yes, that is so, you’ll be pleased to hear. Sergeant Macleod has taken my statement but I would like witness statements also to be taken from both my grandsons who can affirm certain things which Fawcett said. I will say no more.” Grandfather pointed to the bottle. “I think you would like to celebrate?”

“My Lord, all I can say is that I’m glad he didn’t do what he intended. Sergeant McGilvray gave me the details over the radio as I drove here.”

“I think tonight will help to clear up some rather nasty outstanding troubles. I am rather glad I will have to withdraw from dealing with the business in hand at present as I am now involved in quite a different way. As a most unwilling witness as you have gathered.”

Dad was busy pouring another glass of whisky which the Superintendent accepted with a great smile. “Just this and I can assure my constables I won’t be over the limit.”

Mr Tebbitt had finished his dram so said if Jonathan was ready he would sit in while the Sergeant took his statement. Grandfather said they should go into his study and he would like my father to be present as well. After they had gone Grandfather said that Dad should also be in with me and Mr Tebbitt when the Sergeant asked me questions. I said I was sure what I would say but should I use the words that man said? Grandfather said I should say everything I heard. “But don’t tell your Mother,” he said very quietly

“I heard that, Pops,” Mum said. She had come up to us just as Grandfather said that to me. “I’m sure Jamie will be quite accurate in what he says and I won’t ask but I expect it’ll be in the Court report in all good time.”

This was getting even more complicated for me. Mum asked me did I want something to drink. I said I didn’t but I needed a pee. I didn’t say all of that but Mum knew from the way I was standing that I was bursting. She just pointed and I went off to the lav.

When I came back the others had gone into the drawing-room but Mum was still standing there chatting to one of the policemen. He was smiling. Mum touched him on the arm and said to me, “No doubt it’ll embarrass him but I’ve known George since he was your age. Your Grandma taught him to play the piano, too.”

“Yes, Mrs Drummond, and I still do. In fact they persuaded me to play the organ at church as well so I’ve had to have lessons on that.” He looked at me and was still smiling. “Can you play?”

I shook my head and said I didn’t but I would like to learn but I was learning to play the chanter and I’d been to practice this evening. I had put it on the table by the piano so picked it up and showed him.

“Do you know I’ve never tried to play the bagpipes,” he said and he and Mum laughed. I was not sure why that was funny.

I had to wait a few more minutes before Jonathan and Dad came back out of Grandfather’s study. When they did Dad asked me if I was ready. I said I was and we went along to the room together. I sat and the Sergeant asked me to repeat what I had heard and I said exactly what the man had called out, including what he said about me and his ‘fucking fingers’. The Sergeant thanked me when I’d finished and Mr Tebbitt then asked if I had been frightened or upset by the man. I said everything had happened so fast I didn’t have time to get upset but I could see now that we were in danger at the time.

As we came out Dad said he was very proud of me. “There was no difference between what Jonno said he heard and what you said. The bugger’s nailed!” He hugged me round the neck. “Nuff said, eh?”

We went and sat in the drawing-room and the Superintendent and Grandfather were discussing what should be said to the Press. I realised they meant something would get into the newspapers. The Superintendent said that with Grandfather’s permission he would get in touch with a couple of the editors and make sure only a short statement would be issued and all the porters, I thought he said, would be kept away. Two constables would be in the Square at least until Monday to warn any of them off. Jonathan told me later the writers in the newspapers were called ‘reporters’ and according to Dad made most up of what went into the papers.

After all that the policemen left and only the Superintendent remained though Sergeant Macleod did get his dram before the constable drove him away, with a rather full notebook as he said. Mr Tebbitt also went but had confirmed he was satisfied all was done legally by counter-signing the statements which Dad explained to me when I did mine. I certainly had lots to remember to put in my Journal!

Mum shooed all us up to our beds and as I was getting undressed Jonathan came into my room and asked if he could share with me tonight. I was glad he’d asked because I realised I was a bit shaken-up and said that. Jonathan said he felt exactly the same and stripped off all his clothes before getting into bed with me with my pyjamas on. We cuddled each other and he said again how brave I’d been stamping on that man’s hand. I told him he was the bravest making that Rugby tackle. “We make a good team, don’t we?” he said as he held me tight.

We must have fallen asleep with him with his arms around me and me with my back against his chest because when I woke up in the morning he was still holding me just like that. Funny, I had wet patches all over the back and legs of my pyjamas. Jonathan woke soon after and was most apologetic. “It’s boy’s stuff and I couldn’t help it. It just happens,” he said. “It’s our little secret, eh?” That was all he said and we must have dropped off to sleep again.

When I woke up properly that gave me something to think about and... ...What had Watson McPhee said about his brother and that word? I had to think. Boy’s stuff. I remembered. Spunk. What a strange word. That stuff is on my pyjamas! Jonathan’s boy-stuff. ‘Oh, my goodness!’, as Mrs Grantly would say if she was surprised about anything. Jonathan’s spunk! It was almost dried now but it made me think of two more times when I had noticed sticky sort of stuff. Wow! Those two washcloths. They weren’t just wet with water! Jonathan and Alistair must have been making boy-stuff. Of course, Alistair was older than Jonathan so must be able to do it! That would also have to be a secret, or could I write something in my Journal?

I had other things to think about instead of that for the next few days because we had to think about Jonathan and me getting ready to go back to Kinloch and my sisters to go to their school down in England. We didn’t get bothered by reporters though there were little bits in three of the newspapers Dad collected the next day and Saturday, as well as the Scotsman, which came through the door anyway. All they said was that there had been a disturbance, in ‘a quiet leafy square’ as I read in one, and an arrest had been made. Grandfather said the dam would burst for news quite soon once the initial hearings were held. Of course, Geoffrey had to be told more as he had heard rumours from neighbours. Jonathan said Geoffrey was a bit miffed he hadn’t stayed that night but he did come and play the piano on Sunday evening when old Mrs Cathcart came in for supper and did stay the night and slept in Jonathan’s room with him.

Jonathan had came in with me on Friday night but I didn’t notice any ‘boy-stuff’ in the morning. He did get new trews on Saturday and looked very smart when he came home and tried them on again. Mum said she thought my clothes would still fit until after the summer holiday but I did have a new green Kinloch top from Mr Grantly’s shop.

Monday was the last day I could see Luke and Logan before catching the train back to Tulloch station and Kinloch on Tuesday and they had heard rumours as well. In fact on Monday a Forensics Officer came and after talking to Jonathan dug out a bullet from a tree trunk between our drive and the road. He said it was good evidence and we all watched as he took several photographs from where the man had been on the ground and I’d stamped on his hand. The word he used was ‘trajectory’ which Grandfather showed me in the dictionary and I remembered it to put in my Journal.

Mum was a bit concerned in case Jonathan or I would get worried about what had happened but we both said it had been like an adventure from a book and we would be away in school and have to think about other things. Jonathan did say that if he didn’t go into the Army like Dad he would think about a career in the Police. Dad said it was up to him to decide. Dad said to me you’ve still got plenty of time to make any decisions but time goes past very fast especially when there were excitements and if we kept busy! I thought about that. I had been busy at school and I’d had excitements. It must be true. Time was passing quickly because in less than a month I would be nine!