Marcellus; Scottish dance; Chelsea bridge; war zone

Jamie’s Quest

Chapter Fifteen

Onwards, Ever Onwards

A plan was concocted. Grigor and Didier would have to be involved. First, all the Hartmans, mother and the two sons would be invited to an evening meal with the four of us. Mrs Briggs, Mary’s cook would be cajoled in providing a full-scale dinner, which was easy enough as Mary was up in Scotland visiting David and family. We had been told that Mrs Briggs would prepare food for us whenever. Pete would have a sketch of Didier and Grigor au naturel on an easel and would say if Emory and Ethan were interested they could come up to see him do more sketches. He would then mention he needed a model for Absalom caught by his neck by the fork in the tree branch and would watch for any response from the boys. Actually, as Emory was nineteen, and attending a university somewhere near Brighton, he was quite the suave young man rather than a naive boy! What Pete wanted were real live skinless sausages as I said to him in bed that night. I then skinned his and loved the taste of his spunk as Grigor had said about Didier.

That made us giggle as we had introduced the pair to Indian food at the Kensington restaurant quite early on. They loved it and we went at least every other week to savour the spices and flavours. It was a couple of days after the Lee incident that we all went to the restaurant and came home breathing fire, as it were. Grigor was not backward in announcing a day or so later that Indian food made Didier’s spunk taste dreadful, all those spices. Ugh! He had a slapping with the tea-towel Didier was holding as he was drying up extra plates. Didier was incensed: “I tasted him first and it was nasty but I did not complain. I said his did taste nasty too after he said mine tasted like a cat’s arsehole and then he farted and put my head under the duvet. I was going to bite his cock but I am too kind. I forgave him.” Memories of Freddy Arnold flooded back and though he never stuck anyone’s head under his bedclothes Kinloch food made his farts stink. But ‘cat’s arsehole’? Where do these youngsters hear such things?

A good plan will always work. The dinner was perfection, from the roulades de saumon fumée as a starter to the pots de crème brûlée to finish. Though supposedly straight the two lads had stood and looked at the drawing on the easel for rather a long time and also were comparing it with the one of Pete and me in the frame. Yes, they would like to see Pete at work. A polite euphemism for ‘can’t wait to see Didier and Grigor starkers’ again. A question had been asked about swimming and was the pool as good as the one they swam in when at home. Vigorous nods. Could they go again? More viewing.

Pete told me the pair were more or less open-mouthed as they sat and twitched trying to hide very obvious erections as Didier and Grigor posed in various clutches for him. Two days later Pete was happily drawing in detail not one circumcised penis but two. They managed to stay limp. He had about twenty detailed studies to show me after we had had our evening meal. “It’s much better seeing real ones in 3D then all those kids on the Internet,” was his comment. There had been an ardent request from the pair ‘Could we be in a painting, please?’ Not just their elegant prongs.

The three paintings of ‘David and Goliath’, ‘Saul and David’ and ‘Samson’, complete with Emory and Ethan’s beautifully proportioned US hot dogs, me as Saul with a more mature - I mean longer and slightly fatter Emory look-alike cock - and a muscled Martin with a dong worthy of probing Delilah’s nether regions and modelled on that older model, were delivered to the dealers. Just over a week later a banker’s order for thirty thousand pounds came in the post with an English stamp on the envelope. There was an unsigned note inside saying how delighted the writer was and would be pleased to receive the further three paintings in due course. With that anonymous-style cheque and no concluding signature we were none the wiser over the purchaser. On examination of the envelope and the little Post Office note of the area it came from we worked out it had probably been posted in Scunthorpe or thereabouts. Gordon, the dealer Pete dealt with mostly, just laughed and said his lips were sealed. Pete insisted that all the models should have five hundred pounds each though none wanted the money. Unfortunately we also wanted to take the four youngsters to Rome and Florence as an extra reward but this plan was stymied as Grigor couldn’t go with us, even to the another part of Europe, because of security. The others would not go without him.

We sent them off to an English Centre Parcs instead. Knowing the exhibitionists they were we had a word with Martin who knew about things as a bodybuilder. He delivered a package for us just before the lads left. We told them not to open any of the four sealed A4 brown envelopes until they arrived at their destination and unpacked ready to explore. We imagined the giggles as the envelopes were opened and the sight of the strutting peacocks showing off well-filled posing pouches. Grigor had one of the modern all-in-one phones and we received an e-mail with a picture of the four of them in the minute thongs with their erections barely contained. Lucky the lycra was stretchy and Martin had assured us no wardrobe malfunctions would occur or bodybuilders would be showing off other well-developed parts of their anatomy. When Pete said he had heard that because bodybuilders took all those funny pills to get more muscle their cocks shrank and their balls shrivelled so it was no wonder the posing pouches were so small. As Martin was currently being sketched as ‘Samson’ Pete was well aware, even if Martin admitted having taken pills at some time, nothing was less than substantial. Grigor came back with rope burns on his legs as he’d decided to emulate Tarzan. His improvised loincloth had fallen off and in trying to catch it he had let go of the rope he was swinging from and slid down it. “I thought I would lose my balls,” he said and was not amused when we laughed.

Didier did confess the four of them should have been in two rooms but had shared two double beds in one room and four happy lads had shared other things, too. As we had expected, Ethan and Emory were curious as all boys are, and they had other experiences in their history. Didier told us Ethan was rather conflicted, he was more than enamoured with foreskins not being a possessor of one. He suffered not so much from rope burns, as Grigor had done, but from friction burns if he did not use sufficient hand lotion or KY jelly and it was one thing boys with foreskins did not need. Pete and I wondered if his conflict was a bit deeper. We hoped he might be able to make a decision, perhaps, when he went to university in a year or so’s time. Didier did dangle Lee in front of him when they were rehearsing a particular dance duo, but Lee had someone else in his sights and Lee was really a bit too camp for the rather straight-laced seeming Ethan. However, those laces could be loosened as the Centre Parcs trip had shown. Straight-faced me had said as we’d paid for that extra room we needed money back. Didier said we were well repaid in all the tales they told us and all the delight we must have in their company. I used my brother Jonathan’s technique on the David of the painting. He was held down and tickled while his best friend, lover and companion looked on and laughed and called out ‘Me, too!”. Pete did his best though Grigor was bigger than him and the pairing looked quite incongruous, but Pete had years of experience of impromptu wrestling with Jack Pringle, soon to perish, and Freddy Arnold, soon to marry, on our dorm carpet. A squealing pair were let up and a pack of chocolate digestives was opened as Grigor said he was hungry after all that exercise.

I had taken a week off while the lads were away as I was due a bit of holiday. Pete needed a rest, too. We took up an invitation which had been given almost years ago to visit old schoolfellows from Kinloch - admittedly older than us - who were in charge of a lush health farm establishment in France. We were pampered, massaged and fed all sorts of delights and came home feeling most relaxed. Actually none of the old Kinloch pupils were there as they were all in the States celebrating the seventh or eighth marriage of the father of Clyde Dowson who had been Head of House at McCrae’s when we had the trouble with Angus Arsehole Reid.

At the end of the year, with a more than substantial Christmas bonus for me and Pete’s income from the paintings, we flew up to Scotland and spent Christmas and Hogmanay there with our two families. We visited Mr and Mrs Douglas first for Christmas. Pete’s sisters and husbands were also there, up from the North of England where they all lived. Pete’s nephews and nieces, two of each, were more than happy with the cheques presented as Christmas presents. Pete had photos of the three paintings, plus quite a few of his sketches of the lads and less titillating subjects. There was much giggling over the story of how the paintings were commissioned and the way the models had been procured, leaving out the bit about how Pete had despaired over getting suitable circumcised dongs, The nieces kept wanting to see the photos and the two nephews, late teenagers, were eyeing sketches of the two lads as ‘David and Jonathan’ obviously mentally comparing the dangling dongs and bountiful bollocks with their own, no doubt, Douglas-family-delights.

Another great welcome greeted us in Edinburgh. Hoots of laughter as we included Mum and Dad in the tales though Grandfather Sinclair went off to bed early before any earthy bits were recounted. Mum was quite forthright and said my brother wouldn’t have been any good as a model for the paintings though he was never backward in letting it all hang out. “Not yours?” was Dad’s question when the ‘Saul and David’ photo was produced. I was recognisable as Saul but it wasn’t my length displayed. “Doesn’t look ample enough anyway for a Drummond.” True, I bettered Emory’s four and quarter inches hang by a good inch which did include the skin covering my knob and my rather awesome rosebud at the end. According to the measures given in the charts I was well-blessed, as I hoped some poet or novelist would have written about me. But, what was Dad saying? With whom was he comparing? Must be himself as I don’t think he’d seen my dick since I was in nappies, or that time when I had to pee against a tree in the park when I was six and he said he was keeping lookout in case a lady came along. Jonathan again? I daren’t ask. Dad just grinned at me when I stared at him. Danny and David were almost in hysterics when Pete had to explain the provenance of the skinless wonders. “Pete should have come up here,” was David’s comment when calm prevailed, and set things off again by indicating Danny with his thumb. If my memory served me correct Danny’s circumcised whang would also have been a member of the well-blessed category. As I had told Pete at the time, Danny’s was the only circumcised member I’d ever seen.

My brother Jonathan did appear for Hogmanay. Three days of leave and nothing forthcoming about where he was stationed, or where he was off to when he left us. I was sure he’d had talks with Dad and David, but then, they were all military and in secretive positions. There was no Major Wilton. He had come to the end of his thirty years and, although he could have stayed on in a civilian position, he had been appointed to a Lectureship in Modern Languages in a University in the Midlands. Dad did say he was also contemplating retiring soon as the top brass were too long out of the field and he couldn’t get like that. I remembered that shout about the Ministry twats and Danny confirmed it was a constant battle to try to get the upper echelons to understand present on-the-ground situations.

The Hogmanay Dinner and Ceilidh was the usual gathering of the clans. We all appeared in our Highland finery and were now firmly ensconced on ‘grown-up’ tables. Even Geoffrey was there, with a very attached Julian, no longer piping but full of tales of the infighting and backstabbing of the middle and higher management at the Beeb, as he called the BBC. He had taken over supervision of some of the orchestral input to Radio 3. This did involve some long-range planning especially when it came to the Prom Concerts. He wondered how long he would last as there were always talks of cuts but higher management salaries seemed to rise and rise. No, he wasn’t at that level yet, but he was doing well and got rid of his frustrations by playing rugger on Saturdays with Julian in the same team. Yes, the club members all knew he and Julian were gay and the team deliberately dropped their bars of soap in the showers and he had his suspicions about some of the others... Julian was teaching maths in a good independent school near where they shared a flat in the Belsize Park area. Julian was also busy completing a doctorate on Riemann surfaces and integrated spaces or some such sounding twaddle, I mean, topic. All too complicated for me even to understand the title. He and David ended up by scribbling strange combinations of logic symbols all over the menu until Caroline told them to drink their coffee as she wanted to dance with Geoffrey as David almost always ended up facing the wrong way in the eightsome reel. He tried to point out that position A could always be equated with position B and the observer could always make a wrong decision. All in all a most pleasant evening.

Grandfather Sinclair left with his great friend Dr Mcphee as soon as the Dinner finished. They would share a dram at the house before Dr McPhee’s son would fetch him and take him to the son’s house as he was living there now. ‘Age shall not wither them’ I thought but the evidence of old age was there. Years passing seemed to be accelerating and I still hadn’t cleared that fourth bedroom.

I had a couple of days before I needed to return to Josef’s offices when we returned from Edinburgh so set to clearing the junk from bedroom four the morning after flying down. I sorted out boxes of discarded oddments which we had accumulated plus an assortment of boards and canvasses that Pete had tried out various techniques on. They would have to be stored elsewhere. There were dry spaces above the garages in the mews which would do with Mary’s permission. Pete was also busy when we got back. Mr Barnes, the Bloomsbury publisher, had asked for illustrations for two frontispieces for books in a new series, so Douglas Petre was drawing like mad.

It was while I was sorting through the cupboard under the shelves where the old books had been that I noticed a metal rod. I pulled on it to see if it was attached to anything. It was. The far wall of the bedroom was panelled and I had planned to clean off all the accumulated dust and dirt from the carved decorations and perhaps polish the rather splendid wood. A bed could then be placed head on to the wall as I assumed that was the original intention for the panelling.

My pull on the rod had an interesting result. Four small long doors swung open. The rod had kept them closed as a locking mechanism. Inside each were cupboards which were only about eight inches deep by ten inches wide. Any clot, like me, would never notice the room had lost that much in length as there were no particular reference points. The main window was at right angles to the panelled wall which was about five feet in from the window. This was a normal sort of about three feet wide and there was another five feet or so to the opposite wall. What I found next was a revelation.

The rod could not have been noticed since that artist owner died way back in 1910. Each of the cupboards had a good number of rolls of paper stacked upright. I had to get Pete down from his studio to show him. After explaining how the cupboards came to be opened we carefully took four of the paper rolls into the kitchen and gingerly unrolled the first which was about twelve inches by fifteen inches. We weighted it down with cutlery to keep it from rolling-up again. It turned out to be a pencil drawing of a bridge, presumably across the Thames. as it must have appeared in the late 1800s with a carriage passing over it. Pete was ecstatic “I’m sure that’s the bridge that Whistler painted.” He rushed over to our own bookshelf and brought back a tome which he rapidly flicked through. “There it is. ‘Nocturne in Blue and Gold’!” He stared at the caption below. “It says here he painted it in 1875 and it’s the old Battersea Bridge before it was rebuilt. When we studied it in the Tate we were told that Whistler had distorted the bridge but it’s still recognisable.” He pointed at the bottom of the pencil drawing. “It’s not by Whistler, there’s just a scribbled B here.” No, it wasn’t by Whistler, but by the artist who had lived here and had the studio upstairs built. Pete had sounded a bit disappointed. He might well have been as a Whistler drawing would be worth a lot. It wasn’t that which made him sound that way but as he pointed out he could have studied Whistler’s drawing technique.

The other three drawings were just as interesting. One was of the Pagoda in Kew Gardens, the others of buildings which we assumed were in London as it was in about 1880 or so because he had added people in the dress of that time. In all there were close on a hundred of the rolls. Some were small, about six inches by eight inches, others even bigger than the first one we looked at. We showed Mary Prothero the haul and all she said was she didn’t want all that old tat. It was said with a smile, she knew it wasn’t ‘old tat’. The instruction was to keep it, catalogue it, and then see if it might be worth donating some of the drawings as we knew three of B’s paintings were in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and others were scattered about in various art galleries and other museums. I did get the room tidy, repainted and the panelling cleaned, but not before I had to get back to the daily grind. No, it wasn’t a grind. The identifying and cataloguing is still going on!

Having delivered the frontispieces to Mr Barnes ten days after we got back Pete got even more busy and finished the other three paintings well before Easter 2011. Grigor became a very stately young ‘Adam in the Garden of Eden’, complete with Emory’s dangler. There was a tree and the serpent had almost a penile head with the forked tongue firing straight out of the slit of a mouth. One or two non-PC comments were made on what it might represent. The ‘David and Jonathan’ seemed to take an age to complete. Pete kept making tiny alterations and adjustments as if he was loath to part with it. The stones on the ground remained just looking dusty. ‘Absalom’ turned out to be a stunner. Emory was the model for the stretched out figure of Absalom caught by the tree branch. One crucial alteration had to be made. We couldn’t find any reference to the colour of his hair. There was a reference to it being ‘polled’ and also that Absalom was beautiful ‘without blemish’. The decision was that Emory’s reddish locks would be black. We thought of David Prothero: here ‘red would be black’! Emory was too pleased to be the model so didn’t demur. What Pete also had to ignore was that Absalom was certainly not youthful when his mule ran away and left him stranded. He did not want Absalom’s body to be sullied by the ‘three darts’ either. He painted him just as the mule had rushed onwards with just a hint of its tail at the side of the picture. It took a while to get Absalom’s body at a good angle to give a full view of Emory’s own splendid penis.

The purchaser also got a bonus as a youthful servant, holding the mule’s abandoned reins, was added. It was, of course, a full view of Ethan, also with flowing locks of black hair and quite the most lovingly painted circumcised dong. Of course, Mrs Hartman, Jennifer as we were told to call her, had to see the completed masterpiece. She wanted to buy it. I think she would have mortgaged the old rectory to get it. Pete was kindness itself as the lads wouldn’t take a modelling fee. He painted another and presented it to their mother. I wonder how much that pair of pictures would be worth in fifty year’s time if displayed together? Whoever the purchaser was of these three pictures he must have been overwhelmed by Pete’s artistry as a banker’s draft for fifty thousand pounds came soon after they were delivered. The dealer was heartbroken, he wanted to display the trio but the purchaser had refused. Where were the six now? We had no idea. The envelope seemed to come from Blackpool this time. It didn’t concern Pete who was more than busy painting portraits for the newly-rich.

Some of these commissions had come about as we had been invited to a gathering at the French Embassy where a small art exhibition was also being held. This had happened because Maman had been curious over where Didier was living and was he taking his medications? We found this latter to be an obsession with the French. We had noted the plethora of pharmacies in Paris. It seemed that every street had a prominent illuminated green sign with a caduceus drawing and showing the time and temperature, with a shop under full of promises of health. Didier had laughed when we asked him about it. Maman apparently took about twenty pills a day, vitamins, others for the stomach, a few to keep the blood clean, essentials to prevent ageing, to keep one’s water flowing, etc. etc.. Didier had been supplied with a number of containers which he resolutely refused to open. Grigor said Didier should ask Maman if there was a pill for making more spunk. “All that comes each time is one small drop, then perhaps another,” this said with expressive flicks of his fingers. “With those tiny balls he has, it is no wonder. Perhaps there is another pill to make his balls and that tiny dick grow bigger as well?” Having seen Didier’s pendulous plums and the respectable-sized rod on numerous occasions, while Pete was sketching or painting, there was no doubt he fired more than two micromillilitres of life-renewing fluid at least twice a day from that wonderful well-wanked weapon of his.

Didier was having none of this. An outright aspersion on a French boy’s prized possessions and the output thereof! They had been standing side by side. With a sudden movement from Didier Grigor was on his back on the floor with a victorious David perching his foot on Goliath’s chest. We were all laughing, even Grigor, as he had been a willing guinea-pig for Didier’s excursions into self-defence techniques.

Self-defence? When starting at the college Didier and his fellow male Dance and Drama students were advised, because of frequent muggings and beating-up of vulnerable men in the capital by thugs, to take courses in jujitsu and tai kwan do which would give any of them an advantage if set upon. There were seven lads in his first year of the course plus about fourteen young ladies. All seven males, as well as four of the females, were enrolled and within a few weeks were getting very proficient in the various counter-moves. We think Grigor was a bit jealous to begin with as Didier, in his white suit and beginner’s white belt, looked quite the part as he demonstrated, in slow motion, the intricacies of tai chi which also came in the package. To obviate any problems Pete found an evening karate class held in a school close by and Grigor took lessons there. Not our children but...!

The lessons paid off because when Didier and his mates were in their second year and were now red belts, three of them, he, Lee and Kenny, were accosted as they came onto the street from the college one afternoon. Four thugs were waiting, expecting to have a bit of fun beating-up young students smaller than them and stealing their mobile phones and bags. It started with the name-calling, ‘nancy-boys’ and ‘wankers’ being probably the least offensive. ‘Arse-bandits’, ‘fuckwits’ ‘cocksuckers’ and ‘motherfuckers’ ratched it up a little more, but the trio ignored the insults and continued walking on and chatting together. This was too much for the quartet. Fists were raised and snarls were heard as they lumbered forwards. Three large figures ended up arse over tit on the pavement with the fourth, seeing the virtual annihilation of his confederates, taking off and running away. Didier and his pals had used their skills for the first time in real self-defence.

At that moment a laughing figure got out of a car parked on the other side of the road and came across. Before he said anything he showed the lads a warrant-card. He was a plain-clothes policeman obviously keeping watch for such incidents - usually on this stretch of road with shops it would be old ladies having their bags snatched as he told them later. Within a moment or two the three on the ground had their wrists held together by plastic ties. Not handcuffs! “I’ve been watching that lot and waiting for something to happen,” the copper said, “Don’t worry. A squad car will be here in a minute or two and they’ll be off. I know them. They’re already on the map for other things.” Just then a blue light was seen and a siren screeched. The squad car squealed to a halt and three still rather stunned wouldbe gay-bashers, as Kenny and Lee were now together, were standing waiting for a van to arrive as the three were too many for a car. The lads were not called to give evidence. A camera in the bobby’s car had captured all which was needed. The trio had other convictions and disappeared from sight for quite a while as did their pal who, stupidly, thought it was a good idea that evening to get free cigarettes from a corner shop which had excellent CCTV. The incident had a good knock-on effect. There were no vacancies on any of the self-defence classes after that.

The Embassy invite came about because one afternoon Maman had made a secretive recce of the premises, but hadn’t bargained for Pete being around and just coming back with two bagfuls of fodder having been to the local supermarket. Pete had seen a photo of Maman which Didier had shown us and with his artist’s eye had recognised her. “May I help you, Madame?” Pete had asked, “Didier is not at home, he is at college.” She held her hands up in surrender and laughed. Maman had a sense of humour. Pete invited her up to the flat. She had a cup of English tea and she was full of questions. Didier had obviously told her about us and that Pete was ‘un peintre fameux’. Perhaps not quite famous yet. She stared at the pictures hung on our walls. All his own work, except for two one of his teachers had given him. She gasped when he showed her some of the sketches he’d made of Didier and Grigor. Didier showing his all and with that winning smile. Grigor in a proud stance with his right hand raised a la Marcellus in the Louvre. Pete showed her the painting he had prepared of the pair, head and shoulders only, which he was going to give them as soon as the pair finished their college courses. They hadn’t seen it. Maman wanted to buy it but Pete shook his head. Would he do another one? Of her son and another of the pair? She would pay whatever he wanted. He gave her two of his sketches of the pair and said he would have to ask Didier if he would sit for a portrait for his mother.

Didier loved his mother. He wanted her to have something of him to remember. Yes, he would sit. Grigor said he would, too. Would Pete do paintings like those for his parents?

Within weeks Maman had organised a gathering at the Embassy. Not only would Pete’s paintings and a few sketches be on show but several by other artists which had accumulated over time in the Embassy collection. First though, we had to be more or less interviewed by Didier’s father. He turned out to be the nicest man imaginable. Didier, being the apple of his eye had been kept in line rather strictly, but only for his own good, father explained. “Just because I threw those stones at that stupid man’s gate,” was all the explanation we got from Didier. Mother did tell us that the stupid man was far from that. He was a high functionary in some French governmental department and had complained about boys from the lycée not walking quietly past his front gate. This being some twenty metres from his house, and he was rarely there, so the boys had uprooted a good number of cobblestones along the pavement which were lobbed over or through the ironwork of the gate. What they hadn’t realised was the recent installation of a camera which recorded some of their actions. A priest from the school had been called in to view the recording but all that had happened was a quiet admonition not to do it any more. The priest having been at school with Didier’s father’s younger brother, the monk, told Papa the next time they met and Didier was warned to behave.

From the exhibition, seen by numerous well-connected and well-heeled people, Pete’s list of commissions lengthened. From babes to octogenarians he sketched and painted. Mainly portraits, but his own pride and joy was a family group of father, mother and their teenage children, a lad and a lassie. The family gave him permission to have that hung for a month in the gallery and it caused quite a stir. One critic who saw it derided it in one Sunday newspaper as being old-fashioned, another praised it as being in a tradition which was now, sadly, being superseded by tawdry and garish attempts to make headlines. The second review brought in a number of requests, mainly for portraits. He enjoyed that sort of work and we thought that might be his niche in the marketplace. He also received a letter from a very, very famous artist who said to take no notice of critics like the first as he had never taken any notice of any of them and was still splashing paint around as he wished.

We had told Adil and Prasad that they would be welcome visitors at any time. They both liked English hotpots so that was usually on the menu when we arranged for them to come for a meal and a chat. They were both doing well on the big tunnelling job for the new rail link across London. It was pretty deep but was going through layers of London’s history. This aspect had a direct influence on both Emory and Ethan. Emory was finishing his degree and it was in History. Gruesome tales of the plague pits which had been uncovered and the stories of unexpected caches of old coins and artefacts certainly whetted Emory’s wish to do something to use his interest in history. His third year special study had been on the time of Pepys in the 1660s when first an outbreak of plague in 1665 had occurred followed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. He applied for a job with the archaeological unit who were sorting out and cataloguing a great collection of skeletons, artefacts, tools and valuable things like coins and pieces of jewellery, all unearthed by the digging and tunnelling. He was accepted and spent much time scraping away at layers of earth and detritus around some of the pits. We wondered if there were still traces of the plague dormant in all those pits. He assured us there weren’t, the spores would be dead though evidence had been found of their past existence.

Ethan was equally inspired by the pair. He had concentrated on Science and Maths for his A Levels. He thought he would try Civil Engineering as a career and was accepted by Imperial College, the alma mater of Adil and Prasad, for a degree course. Emory and Ethan would need somewhere to live and with the grandparents so often away it was decided they could move into the second floor flat beneath us.

However, as we moved through 2011 so things started to hit hard. First of all Lanky had another stroke. He was now bedridden and had to have a live-in nurse. Luckily Martin had a pal who had been in the Medical Corps and was quite ready to take over the care as he lived in Surrey with a rather cantankerous mother. Lanky went rapidly downhill and died at the beginning of August. The newspapers were full of his life history. Mostly made-up according to the sisters who came up to London for the funeral. David and family came down from Scotland though only David III went with his Mum and Dad to the funeral. Ross Drummond and young FAP were entertained by Grigor and Didier and taken for a boat trip on the Thames though FAP complained he didn’t see any whales! We never fathomed that out. Mary decided she liked Chelsea too much to contemplate moving anywhere else. Our tenancy and that of the others was secure.

All the various ‘young’ tenants around worried Mary Prothero. Not that they would be hosting raves, rock concerts, wankathons, or starting nude bike rides along the Kings Road from the mews courtyard, but, were they keeping themselves and their abodes clean and tidy? She arranged for cleaners to come in once a week to scour, scrub and dust each of the flats, plus dealing with clothes washing and drying. A mini-laundry was set up in a spare bit of the mews - probably an old tack room for the horses. The dancers had to make sure their dance-belts and tights weren’t put through hot washes, they had to be more or less just rinsed through in cool water. Something to do with shrinkage and Didier declared they had to be washed that way as he didn’t want his precious nuts crushed. Grigor did get in a comment about seeing the ‘Nutcracker’ ballet at Covent Garden and some of the ballet boys had large nuts to crack, perhaps a little bigger than... His partner gave him a sneer and the evil eye and no doubt Grigor’s bounteous bollocks would be overworked that night!

Because the heating systems in the flats were ancient and most of us relied on space heaters, or putting on another layer of clothing in the winter to keep us from turning blue with cold, Mary arranged for the old ‘Gardener’s Outhouse’ to have a general purpose boiler and heating system installed in it. No gardener, nor indoor servant, had entered that privy for at least seventy or so years, so it wasn’t missed. Each flat thereupon had a type of meter to record how much thermal output we consumed and those paying rent, not us, were billed. Spending more of Lanky’s hard-earned cash Mary also had the antediluvian lift sorted out. We missed the creaks and groans, but at least we were transported up and down smoothly, and much more quickly than before. Mrs Cartwright was especially pleased as she had spent three hours stuck behind bars, as it were, when the old contraption broke down between floors at one time and no-one was around to hear her cries for help.

Both Grigor and Didier finished their three-year courses in July. Both had done well. Were jobs available to keep them active and doing what they had trained for? Grigor had done a placement in a Design firm in a street off Covent Garden. He must have impressed them as they offered him an internship. No salary, but a proportion of the money made from any of his input. It didn’t bother him as father kept him in more than pocket-money. It seemed he spent most of his time at the place designing figures to be included in animated advertising films. He was very pleased when an idea he had for a logo was accepted and that still appears on the adverts for a fashion firm. Didier had a little rougher time to get steady work. He had a few jobs as a replacement in chorus lines in three different West End musicals. He had to have an agent, who seemed to take more in commission than Didier earned. A break-through came as a big sequence in a spectacular Christmas panto had to be replaced and four more male dancers were needed. He got one of the places and only had to do two matinées and two evening shows per week. The routines were rather demanding and the director didn’t want his dancers overworked. Joe and Chas also employed him. He had to get checked by the police but he helped with beginner’s ballet, tap and modern dance. Mostly young girls of eight plus but there had been an increase in the number of young boys also wanting to be dancers because of the influence of the Billy Elliot film.

After Lanky’s demise it seemed nothing worse could happen but a much greater upset for our very close-knit family struck in October of that year. Dad had had messages to say that Jonathan had suffered a serious injury on a mission. More information would be forthcoming. What emerged was a story which, with all the troubles in those Middle Eastern hotspots, was all too common. Jonathan with three of his Company, two sharp shooters and a signals bod, had been checking to see if a village was actually uninhabited after a nest of insurgents had been routed. There had been quite a gun battle in the week previous and one of Jonathan’s Company had been badly injured and as far as was known all the militants had been liquidated. Jonathan’s squad had gone carefully but there had been a hidden sniper on a roof, or in an upper room of a house, at the end of the village. The signals chap had been shot in the hip and collapsed and couldn’t walk. He did manage to send a message to base and was told a helicopter would be on its way immediately. Jonathan had hoisted the chap up and was carrying him over his shoulder when one of the sharp-shooters spotted the sniper peeping out and got him with one shot. Unfortunately just before that happened the sniper must have set off an IED by remote control. Luckily it was well behind the group but Jonathan received a load of shrapnel in his left leg and all the other three had bits of metal embedded somewhere. They were within yards of a clear space with the second sharp-shooter now trying to carry the signals lad as he’d passed out and the first one remaining with Jonathan keeping watch for any other nasties. Plenty of blood around we heard. A chopper landed within minutes with medics and more squaddies aboard. A quick search and no more baddies were found.

The four were loaded on and taken to the base hospital. Bits of metal were extracted from them all but Jonathan and the signals lad needed much more treatment. Part of the lad’s pelvis was shattered and Jonathan’s left leg was in a mess. There was a possibility of amputation, however the surgeon in charge immediately pinned and screwed bones together but advised further procedures. It was only after all this had happened that Dad got the first message. Four weeks later I and Dad were waiting at the hospital in Birmingham when Jonathan arrived to be assessed and operated on at least twice more. The surgeons managed to save the leg but it would take a while to heal and would be weakened. After more than a month in hospital there he was flown to Scotland to recuperate for another couple of months in a rather up-market clinic. In the meantime it was announced all four would get gallantry awards.

Pete and I did our usual Christmas and New Year trip up to Scotland. On the visit to the medical centre I wept openly as I hugged my beloved brother. Jonathan, being Jonathan, made light of his injuries. “At least I didn’t get the DSO,” he said as he comforted me rather than I him with Pete holding my arm in support. DSO, the abbreviation for Distinguished Service Order, a very high award for bravery, or, as all boys know, it can also stand for Dick Shot Off! Jonathan just in dressing-gown and pyjamas at the time had to show us he was complete in that department. Yep, he was well-blessed too, as I well-remembered from all those earlier sightings of that weapon of ‘miss-destruction’ as he’d said that was what boys’ pricks should be called. They destroyed more misses’ hymens than anything Saddam Hussein ever had in his trousers.

It was assumed Jonathan would be discharged from the army but the powers-that-be, with, no doubt, a prod from Dad, decreed he would be stationed in Scotland and be assistant to Major Daniel Jacobson because Dad was retiring in April 2012. Dad also got a medal in Her Majesty’s New Year Honours. I went with Mum to Buckingham Palace to see him receive his CBE from the Queen a bit later in the year. Her Majesty spoke with us all after the ceremony and smiled as I stood next to Mum in my Drummond kilt and silver-buttoned jacket. I wondered if we might get an invite for Hogmanay at Balmoral? Sheer wishful thinking!

Then in late May of 2012 Great-Aunt Cassie died. Mum made a second very rare journey for her, down from Edinburgh to England, with Dad for the funeral in Cambridge. Grandfather Sinclair was too frail to attempt the journey to see his beloved, so erudite, sister committed to God’s grace. The funeral service was held in the College chapel. Geoffrey played the organ and the choir sang an anthem used only for the final departure of Fellows and other College worthies. The Master spoke so tellingly of a life of great scholarship. Two ex-students, now in University posts, spoke of her devotion to her students and the humour she brought into seemingly dull studies. A life commemorated with due ceremony. The College Chaplain accompanied Mum, Dad, Geoffrey, Pete and I to Cambridge Crematorium for the final act which, with a committal prayer, took just a few minutes. We returned to the College for the ‘funeral baked meats’, as the gathering is known as, and met so many who had been in the congregation, University dignitaries, College Staff, old students, even the so-called College servants, gardeners and bed-makers, all with a story to tell and a feeling of great loss.

We wondered if anything else could strike us. What could we do to ward off evil? Pete and I decided to be joined by a civil partnership in the June of 2012. We did it quietly up in Edinburgh with just a small gathering and announced it more widely after the event. Jonathan stood, rather carefully, as my ‘best man’ and Pete had David Prothero as his. Jonathan was warned that no unseemly remarks at the ceremony should be made or I would take his walking-stick away. Of course, he had previously maintained that as I was his little brother he had to see I was not throwing myself away on some cheap floozy in a skirt, and he would personally attend the deflowering ceremony as well for that was the custom in the past. As both Pete and I were in our kilts neither of us took kindly to either sentiment in that statement. We could do nothing about it because the three of us then hugged each other hooting with laughter and Pete averred if he wasn’t careful Jonathan might enjoy being deflowered himself.

That brought up another topic for discussion later. Why are boys so interested in the kilt? All four of the lads in London had wanted to try on our kilts. Of course, kilts have to be fitted to the owner with waist and length carefully measured. Didier was swamped in mine. Even though I was only a couple of inches taller the hem hung well below the centre of his knee level. Grigor being six foot was not so bad in Pete’s as he put it on with the waist lower. The sporran wasn’t right then. Emory and Ethan were the same. Also six-footers they complained of being in mini-skirts and said they would be afraid of their dicks dangling on view if they had to wear nothing underneath. “In your dreams,” was Pete’s response to that.

‘Wearing nothing underneath’ is another obsession with non-Scots. After we had assured Grigor that both of us had undies on that time at the opera we had related Jonathan’s experience at the Hogmanay Ceilidh. We said that wearing something underneath was essential unless you were instructed by the Queen not to. That had to be explained as well. This set off the hunt by Grigor and Didier, who were together by then, for any examples of Scots showing off. Pete was first in line as he received a large birthday card from them depicting the back view of a hairy-arsed and hairy-legged Scot with his kilt swirling upwards, ‘The Wind’s in the North Today!’. They collected pictures of tug-of-war teams with at least one dick showing under a kilt, or of kilted runners showing more than a bare leg. A favourite was of two small boys looking up the legs of a kilted piper. They printed this off with the caption ‘Could we play a tune on that as well?’. The one which produced most guffaws was of the Queen surrounded by her Scots officers, with a smirking Colonel, legs apart, and his meaty dong on view. There were ‘gif’s found on the net of rude Scots flashing their winkies or getting and losing erections. There were other knick-knacks as well, two fridge magnets in the form of bagpipes if when pressed a squeaky tune was heard. Models of kilted Scottish soldiers were collected and displayed and Pete told of our schoolfriend Stu Barclay who had an old teddy bear with a kilt on. Within a few days a replica appeared on our doorstep.