After the chaos of Tuesday, Wednesday was relatively calm, which was not what I had expected as they were filming. For one thing, there were only a few people around. Trevor explained that most of the crew who had been here yesterday were specialist, set-up guys for the rain system; today it was only the shooting crew, which was a lot smaller.
Anne, Marcia and Johnny had all decided to get away early just in case there were any problems with getting out of the yard. Probably a good job, as a large water tanker pulled in not long after they had left. Though it did not block the entrance to the yard, it did make manoeuvring around it a bit difficult.
Trevor had gone down to the caravan assigned to him on The Crooked Man's carpark well before anyone in the house was up. He had left a note on the kitchen table saying that Arthur had experienced a rough night and we should not wake him. I wondered how rough a night Trevor’s was if he knew that Arthur had a rough one.
Given that I had an evening recording to do in Town, I did not want to get started on any writing only to have to knock off halfway through a piece, so I spent most of the morning sorting out what I needed for the Paris conference. The conference was the last week of October, running from Tuesday to Thursday. My address was to be the keynote presentation and was scheduled for the Tuesday afternoon, the first presentation after lunch. The morning, according to the notes that the organiser had sent, was taken up with official welcomes and business briefings. I was a bit worried that I would be totally out of my depth but spent just over half an hour on the phone to the organiser who assured me they were not looking for any in-depth scientific presentation. What they wanted was an overview of the problem and the current state of scientific thinking. He pointed out that the press and media would stick around for the keynote presentation but would not stay for any of the in-depth scientific presentations. What they needed was somebody who could get the overall point about how bad the situation was and how important the issue was without boring the press or media too much. That was something I could do.
I spent most of the morning working on some ideas and by midday was reasonably happy with what I had got, so I packed up working on it. Just as I got up to go and make some lunch, the phone went. It was Irene Kaufman, the agent who was dealing with the television work. She was phoning to confirm that all the contractual details had been settled and she had sent a copy of the contracts to Bernard for review, though she did not expect any problems. More importantly, she had a draft shooting schedule for my bits and wanted to check with me that there were no significant problems. We spent a good half an hour going over the dates. There were a couple of conflicts, which we managed to sort out.
When I eventually got to the kitchen, I found Arthur sitting there with a mug of tea in front of him. He looked up as I entered. "I've just made a fresh pot," he informed me. "Should be enough for another mug."
I poured myself a mug and sat opposite him and asked how things were going.
"I'm feeling pretty useless," he stated.
"Well, there's not much I can do while I am hobbling around on these," he said, indicating the crutches resting at the end of the table. "The girls have the business running smoothly. They are doing a better job of it than I could. Don't know what there is for me to do."
"Plan," I informed him.
"Plan what?" he asked.
"Well, for a start, what are you going to do with the business, especially if you get the new premises?" I stated. "Then there is you and Trevor. What are your plans there?"
"I don't have any," Arthur stated.
"Well, you should," I replied.
"Is it worth planning?" Arthur asked. "Trevor has everything. Why would he want to stay with me?"
"I think that is something you and Trevor need to sort out between you," I stated. I thought Arthur was probably wrong in thinking that Trevor had everything. One thing I was reasonably sure Trevor lacked was a sense of belonging, and I think he got that from Arthur.
I made us both some ham sandwiches for lunch, then went back to my writing or, to be more precise, reading. Just after one-thirty, I set off to get the train into Town to do the recordings.
It was gone eleven-thirty when I got back from London. I made a mental note to tell Chris I did not want to do any more evening recordings, then thought about it and decided that I probably did not have that much of a choice. When there was a panel discussion taking place, they had to find a time when they could get all the panellists together. Given that a couple of them were highly placed academics, it was likely that an evening recording was the only option.
There was a note by the phone telling me to ring Irene in the morning. I put a reminder into my calendar so I would not forget, then went up to bed for an early night. Was not in the mood to write.
Thursday morning started very much like Wednesday’s, the only difference being that I did not have to go into Town in the afternoon, so I could get down to some writing. First, though, I had to call Irene.
When I tried calling her, I got an automated voicemail asking me to try later, so I did. It had gone ten-thirty before I got through on her direct line.
"I had a message to call you this morning," I stated.
"Yes, Mike. Need to meet up with you. There is a problem with the contract from Shelt Productions," she informed me.
"I thought you said it was a fairly standard contract?" I commented.
"It was, or at least it appeared to be," Irene stated. "Bernard picked up on a point, which, I must admit, I missed."
"Serious?" I asked.
"It could be," Irene stated. "Any chance of you coming into Town today or tomorrow?"
"Today's out, not sure about tomorrow," I informed her. "Can I get back to you on that?"
"OK, but if we can sort it before the weekend, it would be useful. I know Martin Shelt is in Town till the weekend, so he is around to sign off on any changes."
I could see the point in that, so agreed that I would let her know by one. Then I asked her what the problem was. It turned out it was to do with script approval.
Once I had finished my call to Irene, I did not feel like writing, so I phoned Bernard to see if he could give me any insight into what the problem was. Unfortunately, he was in meetings all morning, so I left a message for him to call me, then sat down and started to read some journals. It is rather tedious work but something that, as a technical writer, you just have to do if you want to keep on top of things.
Just after twelve, I called Anne on her mobile. I hoped I had remembered her class schedule correctly and she would be on a free period. Fortunately, I was right, and she answered. After a quick explanation about what Irene wanted, it was agreed I would go up to Town in the morning.
That dealt with, I made my way to the kitchen. I was not surprised to find Arthur there. What was a surprise was Trevor in the kitchen standing by the kettle waiting for the water to boil. He had been strict about staying with the crew during the shooting day, even though he lived on the site of the set.
As I entered the kitchen, he asked me if I wanted tea. I replied in the affirmative and mentioned that I was surprised to see him.
"Shoot’s over," Trevor informed me. "Did the last shot this morning and Matthew called it a wrap. The crew’s busy packing. Today was going to be the last day of shooting anyway; we all have to be ready to fly out on Monday. We just managed to get finished early.
"I've just come up to get Arthur; going to treat him to lunch at the Belmont. Why don't you join us?"
"Thanks, but no," I replied. "Got a pile of work on and just found out that I need to be in Town tomorrow."
Trevor made the tea. We sat at the kitchen table chatting for a bit. I mentioned that I had not seen my brother for the last couple of days.
"That's not surprising," Trevor responded. "He's in Port of Spain."
"Where?" I asked.
"Port of Spain, Trinidad," Trevor answered. "There was some problem with permits, and he had to fly out late Tuesday to sort things. Didn't he tell you?"
"No," I replied. Then I remembered I had not been out of the house since Monday, so I had no reason to use my mobile. I got up and went into the office and took it off the charger. There were several texts for me. One was from Ben, telling me he had to fly out to Trinidad. There were also two from publishers asking me to contact them.
Returning to the kitchen, I informed Trevor that Ben had left me a text. I had just not picked it up.
"The point of a mobile is that you should keep it with you," Arthur observed.
"I only pick it up when I'm going out," I answered. I then went on and pointed out that I had a redirect on it, so any unanswered calls went to the house phone.
"You really ought to have that the other way round," Arthur commented.
"God, no!" I responded. "Then, people would be able to contact me."
"I think that is the basic purpose of phones," Arthur replied.
Trevor commented that they’d better get sorted out and off to the Belmont. Apparent Tyler was joining them, and they had a table booked for one thirty. I enquired how Tyler was?
"Oh, he's happy," Trevor informed me. "His girlfriend is joining him in Trinidad. He's going to propose. That's why he has been hanging around for the last week. He's ordered a ring for her, and it won't be ready until Friday."
O o O o O
Trevor and Arthur went off to change. I washed up the mugs, then made myself a sandwich for lunch. Back in my study, I worked on my address for the conference. For some reason, I decided to start my address in French, then realised my schoolboy French was well out of date, and I was never that good with it when I was at school.
I got the main body of my address well worked out by about four. Then I started on the introduction. I was still working on it when Johnny got back from college. He put his head in the study door to let me know he was back.
"You’d better come in. I could do with some help," I stated.
"What with?" he asked.
"French," I responded. He came over to the desk and looked at the text displayed on the screen.
"Dad," he announced, "that sounds like the work of a five-year-old."
"I thought that might be the case," I confirmed.
"What are you trying to say?" he asked.
I told him, then he told me what I had actually said. I had to disagree with him. It did not sound like the work of a five-year-old. It was not that sophisticated.
"Why are you writing an address in French, anyway?" Johnny asked.
"I'm due to give the opening address at a conference in Paris."
"End of the month; the twenty-fourth. "
"Can I come?" Johnny asked.
"Won't you be in college?"
"Nah, last week of October is our half-term," he informed me. "Both Anne and I have the week off."
"I would have thought you would have wanted to be with Joseph," I commented.
"Wish I could be," Johnny answered. "He's only got three days, and it starts the week before, so not much time to get together, we only have the Monday and Tuesday in common."
"So, you would like me to take you to Paris for three days?"
"I hope it could be a bit longer and that you would be taking Anne, as well."
"Any particular reason?"
"Well, for a start, I don't think it would go down that well if you went off to Paris and left Anne here when she was free to go with you," he commented. My son had a point there. "Also, I would like to see Marcel and sort a couple of things out."
"I thought he lived in Aix," I commented.
"He does — or did," Johnny responded. "He started at the Sorbonne this year so is living in Paris during term time."
"You don't need me with you to do that," I commented. "You can go over anytime and see him."
"Yes, Dad," he replied. "The thing is that I really want him to see that I have a family."
Friday was hectic, not helped by the fact that I had forgotten to set the alarm, so overslept. I had been relying on the fact that Anne usually wakes me when she gets up. Today she did not have any classes, so she had decided to sleep in. As a result, I was half an hour late arriving at Irene Kaufman's office, which was terrible given that this was my first meeting with her.
In the end, it turned out not to be a problem. When I got there, the receptionist apologised and informed me that Irene was delayed but was on her way in. Would I mind waiting? I indicated I had no problem and was shown into a waiting room. There were three other people already waiting in there.
"You for the Meredith Place casting?" a young woman asked as I took a seat.
"No," I replied. At that, the two men in the room both visibly relaxed.
I must have looked a bit puzzled. The young woman volunteered and explanation. "It's OK; there are only two male parts available, and with your looks, you would probably have got one," she stated. "You look a lot like an older version of Ben Carlton."
"Not surprising," I stated. "I am his older brother."
"Didn't know Ben had a brother in the business," the younger of the two men stated. "He's never said he had a brother who was an actor."
"I'm not," I informed him. "I'm a writer."
Just then, the door to the waiting room opened, and a small elderly woman entered. She could not be much more than five foot two and had her grey-streaked hair tied back in a bun. As she entered the room, she looked around for a moment, then walked over to where I was sitting.
"Mr. Carlton, Irene Kaufman," she stated, offering me a handshake as I stood. "Thank you for coming in at such short notice. If you would like to come through to my office, we can go over things." She led the way out, and I followed. "My apologies for being late, but my wife had a bad fall this morning, and I had to get her to A and E."
"Is she alright?" I asked.
"No idea," Irene replied. "I left her with our son and our granddaughter. The pair of them will fuss over her. I needed to get back here to work." She nodded her head in the direction of the waiting room. "That lot in there would be panicking if I was not around." With that, she opened a door and showed me into her office.
"Shouldn't you be dealing with them?" I asked.
"No," she replied. "They are just waiting to hear if they've got parts. Casting decisions are being made today. We probably will not hear till after one, so why they come in so early, I don't know, but they always do." With that statement, she walked around behind her desk, indicating that I should take a seat and then sat down herself.
"Now Mr. Carlton, we need to discuss this," she stated, pulling a folder from a drawer in her desk.
"I would prefer it if you would call me Mike," I stated.
"I would prefer not to," she replied. "Keeping a professional detachment from my clients helps me maintain an objectivity that allows me to give them the best possible representation."
"As you please, Ms. Kaufman."
"Good. We understand each other," she replied. "Usually, I meet prospective clients a number of times before I take them on. However, I've known Mr. Southern for years. We have several clients in common. He said that you would be a good client for me. Also pointed out there was some urgency given that you had two offers on the table."
"I suppose that makes a difference," I stated.
"Not that much," she replied. "It can often be a disincentive to take on a client. More often than not, when a talent comes along with an offer that is already on the table for them, you find it is something that will not do the best for their careers.
"Mr. Carlton, I am not interested in an easy killing from a one-off job. My job is to build a talent's career. If I do the job right, I help them create a profile in the industry which keeps them in work for many years, which keeps me with a steady income stream.
"The worse thing I can do as an agent is let one of my talents go into a role which does not help their career. The wrong role at the wrong time can kill a talent’s future in the business. You have two offers on the table. One, the climate-change job is perfect for you. It will promote your book, it will promote you as an expert, and it will enhance your reputation given the work you have been doing on the radio. Martin Shelt's offer though is another thing; there are major problems with it."
"So, I should not do it? Is that what you are saying, Ms. Kaufman?"
"Oh, I am not saying you should not do it," she advised. "I am saying you should not do it as presently structured."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because it won't be you," she stated.
"I am not sure I understand?"
"The thing is, they have already got a script written for this," she stated. "It has been written with a particular person in mind to present it. If you go ahead and do this, you will be nothing more than an actor speaking a part. As far as I know, you are not a trained actor, nor do I believe you have any real acting experience. You would just be a poor stand-in for who it was written for."
"Guy Martin," I stated.
"That makes sense," Ms. Kaufman stated. "Any idea why he is not doing it?"
"I believe he is shooting another of his 'Speed With ..' series at the time this is due to be filmed."
"Somebody should have checked availability before they wrote the script for him." She paused and looked at me. "I am not saying you should not do the series. What I am saying is you cannot do it with the contract and script that is on offer. Now, we need to sort out the terms on which you will do it."
"But the climate-change programme is alright?"
"Oh, yes," she answered. "The contract is standard. I will haggle over one or two clauses but will not be upset if they don't budge. I suspect that they are fully expecting my objections and will move on those clauses. As to the script, it is minimal; just a set of bullet points that they want covering for each section and some time limits. It is up to you to put your own words to it."
"So, what do we do now?" I asked.
"Now we go through the contract in detail, and you look at the script. We come up with a proposal, and I then phone Martin Shelt. He is in Town today, and he knows I am not happy with what is on offer, so he is expecting me to call and is prepared to meet. Start looking at these." She opened the folder and removed a number of sheaves of paper. "You’d better have a scan-read through these so you know what I am talking about." With that, she pushed the papers across the desk.
I picked them up and took a look. They were the scripts. Each consisted of ten or twelve pages, stapled together at the top left corner. As I started reading, it became clear what the problem was. They had been written for somebody with a strong northern accent. There was no way I would get away with speaking the words on the script.
After reading the first two, I put them back on the desk. It was clear that they were not for me.
"Well," Ms. Kaufman asked.
"I get your point," I replied. "Those just aren't me."
"They are not Mr. Martin, either," she commented.
"Whoever wrote these scripts had certainly not worked with Guy Martin; that I can assure you."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"You don't script somebody like Guy Martin," she replied. "You give them a general direction of what needs to be covered and let them use their own words; if you do anything else, it does not sound natural.
"What a good director will do is script a set of questions about the subject, then put them to the presenter who answers them on camera. That way, the answer is in their own words and comes over as natural. This would never work," she stated, pointing at the pile of scripts.
"So, what do we do?"
"We talk to Mr. Shelt and explain how it has to be done."
"I would have thought he would have known that," I responded. "He is the professional."
"Yes, but this is the first time he has ever tried to produce something like this. All his previous documentary work had been voiceover, not live presenter. There is a difference. I don't know if he has ever worked with a live presenter before."
With that comment, she picked up her phone and called Martin Shelt. After the call, Ms. Kaufman informed me that we were meeting him for lunch in Garfunkel's Leicester Square in half an hour. Not a place I would have selected to meet for business lunch. It turned out though it was not one; it was just lunch. Martin and Ms. Kaufman agreed that they would adjourn back to Ms. Kaufman's office as soon as lunch was over. She did, though, outline the problem we had with the contract and script over lunch, which surprised me a bit as I thought there was only a problem with the script.
It turned out that the problem with the contract derived from the problem with the script. Once back in her office, Ms. Kaufman quite firmly told Martin that the script he had submitted just did not work. She then handed him a copy of what I had written this morning. Martin admitted that it made more sense. By the time Martin and I left the office an hour and a half later, it had been agreed that I would (a) rewrite the scripts, (b) rather than formal scripts we would have a series of questions that would invoke the correct response on set and (c) I would get credited as scriptwriter and be paid extra accordingly.
As we stepped out into the street, Martin turned to me. "Did I just agree to what I think I agreed?"
"I've no idea," I responded. "What did you think you agreed to?"
"I think I have agreed to hand control of the research and scripting for the series over to you. Also, your fee seems to have doubled."
"I can understand why Irene Kaufman has the reputation she has," Martin stated.
"What is her reputation?"
"Someone to avoid if at all possible if you are a producer. I suppose that for talent like yourself, it means somebody to have on your side." With that comment, he smiled, then walked off up Wardour Street. I made my way to the Piccadilly Circus and its underground station.
I was lucky being able to get back to the mainline station before the rush hour started. As a result, I was back home by six. Anne was busy making dinner as I entered.
"Good day?" she asked.
"Not certain," I responded.
"Well, it seems that I am now not only appearing in the industrial-history series, I am also writing it."
"I thought they had scripts?" Anne asked.
"Apparently, according to Ms. Kaufman, I made the fundamental mistake of not asking to see the scripts before I said I would do the part. She showed me the scripts; they were awful."
"What were awful?" Johnny asked, entering the kitchen.
"The scripts for the industrial-history series I've been asked to do," I replied.
"Oh. So, you're going to write them?"
"Yes, Johnny, I am," I replied. "By the way, seeing you reminds me. Anne, do you fancy a few days in Paris at the end of the month?"
"I'm at college, remember," she replied.
"No, you're not," Johnny stated. "It's half-term."
"I'd forgot about that. In that case, yes, provided you can supply some spending money." She laughed.
"I think I can manage that," I responded. "By the way, where is everybody?"
"Well, Marcia has taken Tariq and Jasmin over to their grandparents," Anne stated. "Apparently she is introducing the family to their Jewish heritage. Trevor has taken Arthur out to dinner. He flies out in the early hours of the morning. Miss Jenkins arrived this afternoon with Neal, and they have taken the girls to the Belmont for dinner. So, I'm on call for any server outages."
"Hope can you cope with them," I commented.
"No problem," Anne responded. "I've got the girls’ mobile numbers, and I know the number for the Belmont.
"How come you are asking about Paris, anyway?"
"Well, I am giving the address to that conference in Paris," I stated. "I told you about it."
"Yes, but you did not say when."
"It's the end of the month. I was working on my address and asked Johnny if he would have a look at my French. When I told him when the conference was, he suggested we could make it a family trip to Paris."
Anne turned and looked at Johnny. "What are you up to, lad?"
"Moi?" he replied.
"Yes, you," she responded. "Sixteen-year-old boys do not normally want to go on trips with their family, whether or not it is to Paris. I suppose you want to take Joseph with you."
"Can't," Johnny replied. "His half-term is the week before, and he only gets three days."
"He also wants to meet his friend Marcel," I commented.
"Is he in Paris?" Anne asked.
"Yes," replied Johnny. "He's at the Sorbonne. I would like him to meet both of you."
"Why?" Anne enquired.
"So, he knows I have a family."
Anne looked at me and smiled.
Immediately after dinner, Johnny dashed off to the youth club. He had not gone there very often recently, but apparently something special was going on tonight and he wanted to be there. Anne informed me that she had some reading that she had to get done, so I went into my study to write. About nine, Anne brought me a mug of tea through.
"Once I've had my drink, I’m off for an early night," she informed me.
"Not going to be that long myself," I replied. "Just got to cut this down by about three hundred words and I will be finished."
"What is it?"
"An article for the Observer," I replied. "They wanted a piece on next month's launch."
"It's good about Johnny," she commented.
"That he regards us as family," I stated. "I had not missed the point."
"Good," Anne responded. "Just make sure he keeps thinking of us as family. I know you've got a lot going on, but make time for the boy."
"I will," I assured her.
I decided to check on my emails before I finished the article.
I had just finished with the emails when Arthur popped his head round the door and asked if I had a few minutes. When I said I probably had half an hour or so, he said he would be back in five and hobbled off back to his room. A couple of minutes later he returned with a pile of printouts.
"Can you look at these with me?" he asked. "They are the latest financials. They look good, but I'm not up to reading trends and stuff and need some advice."
"What sort of advice?" I asked.
"Can we afford to borrow thirty grand for new hardware?" he asked.
"I thought you had allowed for new hardware in your projections for the new place," I stated.
"I had," Arthur replied. "But that was based on what I thought the projected number of customers would be over the next twelve months. We are already nearly half that again and have not got the new building sorted out yet."
"When will you be in it?" I enquired.
"Hopefully by Christmas. Miss Jenkins informed me that construction will begin next Wednesday, and final planning should be approved at the next planning meeting; there have been no objections. With a bit of luck, her people can get the work done in six to eight weeks."
I spent the next thirty minutes going over the figures with Arthur. Must admit the business was doing a lot better than I expected, though I had to question how much of that was due to Miss Jenkins’ interest. I found it a bit strange that a computer-services company in an Essex backwater would be getting business from Brighton and Torquay. Apparently, though, it was.
On the figures Arthur showed me, I was fairly certain that he could afford a thirty-thousand-pound loan. What I was not sure of was if any bank would advance it; the business did not have that much of a trading history, and the mortgage on the new property was fairly heavily leveraged. I suggested that he might want to talk to Neal about it and get his view on things.
"Why?" he asked.
"He might well know some sources of finance that would be more amenable to your request than the High Street banks," I replied. Arthur just nodded. "By the way how's everything else going?"
"Fine, I should be out of this in two weeks," he replied. Tapping the cast on his leg. "Then I can get down to getting some work done. I really need to get out and see some of these new clients."
"Going to be a bit of a drag in that van you've got," I pointed out. "Torquay is quite a drive."
"Trevor's leaving his MX, and he's put me on the insurance," Arthur responded. "Told me to drive it once I am out of the cast, as it needs to be driven."
"How are things going with Trevor?" I enquired.
"Good, at the moment," he replied.
"Only at the moment?"
"Look Mike, I'm not stupid. I know that this thing with Trevor can't last. He's going to need to move. There is no way he can stay living in a flat over the stables once this film comes out. It is going to make him a bigger star than he is now, and then what? Where do I fit in? I love Trevor, but I want my own life, to be my own person. I have had it with being what other people want me to be."
"So, you don't think your relationship with Trevor is going to last?"
"I can't see how it can," Arthur replied. "We are living in two totally different worlds. I want it to last, but I am realistic enough to realise it probably won't. There will be too much pressure on him to be the star that he is, which will not fit well with being the partner of a computer geek in an Essex backwater.
"Trevor was at a low point when we met. Let's be honest, so was I. I think we grabbed onto each other like two drowning men. I love Trevor and am pretty sure he loves me, but I am not sure that is enough to make a long-term relationship last. There are so many differences between us and our lives that those differences may be a lot stronger than the love we have for each other."
"I would not be so sure about that," I commented. "At least you are being realistic about things. Trevor is a film star and will probably be a bigger one after this film comes out. However, don't discount this rural backwater. A rural backwater may be just what he wants: an escape from the life he has had since he was eleven."
"We'll see," Arthur replied, gathering up the papers. "I suppose I’d better give Neal a call and see if I can arrange a meet with him. I'm going with Trevor to the airport in the morning, so could pop into Town on the way back and see him."
Saturday morning, Anne and I had a lie in. I heard Johnny go off on his moped sometime before eight. No doubt he was opening the yard up. It was a good one-and-a-half hours before Anne got up and went down to make some breakfast. I took my time to shower and got down just as Anne was placing breakfast on the table.
"Was about to call you and tell you it was getting cold," she commented as I took my seat.
"I just have an innate sense of timing when it comes to food," I quipped. "Got much on today?"
"No," she replied. "Did a big shop yesterday, so only need to pick up some fresh veg and meat; thought I would go to the Farm Shop today. Might grab some lunch there."
"That sounds like a good idea. Mind if I come with you?" I asked.
"No, I was rather counting on you coming, anyway."
"If I am going to Paris, I am going to need something to wear," she commented. "There's that independent boutique at the shopping complex."
"So, why do you need me?"
"I've got to have someone to inflict my clothes shopping on." She laughed. "Your son's gone to work, so that leaves you."
I groaned but agreed.
Once we had finished breakfast I washed up and made some fresh coffee for Anne and tea for myself. Anne and I were sitting around the kitchen table having a chat after the late breakfast when Marcia knocked on the back door. Anne called to her to come in.
"Would you like some coffee?" Anne asked as Marcia entered. "There's some in the pot. Unfortunately, the tea is probably stewed by now, though no doubt Mike would make you some more if you want some."
"No thanks, Anne, but thanks for the offer," Marcia replied. "I've just had a cuppa, actually two, so OK for a bit. I do, though, have to ask a favour."
"What?" Anne enquired.
"Any chance you could keep an eye on Tariq this afternoon and evening?"
"Don't see why not," Anne replied, then looked at me. "We don't have plans for this evening, do we?"
"No," I answered. "Is it just Tariq?"
"Yes. Jasmin is staying at my parents. Mother is taking her into Town in the morning to do some shopping. The way she's growing at the moment, half her clothes don't fit her, so mother is treating her."
There was something about the way Marcia said that which made me think that she was not too happy about it. Before I could comment, Anne beat me to it."
"That's what grandmothers do," she said. "They have a prerogative to spoil their grandkids and usually use it at a time which embarrasses the parents."
"Anyway, what are you up to that you need Tariq babysat?" Anne asked.
"Martin's been given a couple of tickets to Phantom," she replied. "He asked me if I would like to go with him."
"Good for you," Anne responded. "Have a good time. Don't worry about Tariq. We'll keep an eye on him. Tell him we'll even feed him. I've just put a stew in the slow cooker."
"Thanks, I'll tell him."
With that Marcia left. Anne looked at me with a somewhat knowing smile.
"Third time this week," she commented.
"What's the third time this week?" I asked.
"That Martin has taken her on a date."
"How do you know?"
"Well, Mike, I was with her at the college when Martin picked her up for lunch on Tuesday. Then yesterday as I was leaving, I saw Martin drop Marcia off. They must have been out for a late lunch." I nodded, remembering that on alternative Fridays Anne finished early, and Marcia had a late-afternoon class.
"So, you think—?" I asked.
Anne interrupted. "It seems he is the one subject of her conversation at the moment."
"Good," I commented. "He's a nice chap, and she could do with a break at the moment."
"Right. I'm off for a good soak, then we can go shopping," Anne informed me.
With that she went off upstairs. I washed up the mugs and cleaned the coffee pot, then went to my study to catch up on my emails. There was nothing urgent. In fact, there was nothing important. Mostly spam and badly written spam at that.
I had just finished replying to those which needed a reply when Anne came back down, ready to go shopping.
It had gone three when we got back. The shopping trip had not been as much of an ordeal as I had feared. Anne knew exactly what she wanted clothing-wise after having checked out the boutique's web page before the visit. What had taken time was the long lunch we had in the Farm Shop café. As a result, both of us agreed that we really did not need a big dinner that evening.
Martin's car pulled into the yard just gone three thirty, and about twenty minutes later Marcia came to the back door to tell us she was off. She said Tariq was doing some homework, but she had told him to come down to us at five-thirty. I told her that we were ordering pizzas for the boys as I did not think they would fancy stew.
After Marcia left with Martin, Anne and I sat in the kitchen chatting. Somehow, we got around to talking about Anne's plans once she had finished her access course. I asked her if she had decided where she wanted to study.
"I thought I would try Essex, but it is not that simple," she replied.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Travelling," Anne answered. "To be honest, I hadn't really thought about it before, but now, looking at it, this course does not look like that good an idea."
"I can't see it taking me anywhere," Anne replied. "I hadn't thought things through. OK, I will have the qualification for university entrance, but which university? If I want to do computer science, I would have to go to Colchester campus if I went to Essex. From here that's a good two hours a day driving."
"What about London?" I asked.
"What about London?" she replied. "That's even more travelling. I would be looking at up to four hours a day."
"Not if you stayed in Town," I answered. Anne looked at me puzzled. So, I decided I’d better explain.
"Look Anne, you want to get your degree, don't you?"
"Yes," she replied.
"And one of the London universities would probably be better for you, right?"
"Then try for London. You've got… I don't know, three, four universities you could go for. Imperial, UCL, Brunel; then there are the colleges of London University."
"Well, Brunel isn't really London," she replied. "It's out in Uxbridge. Anyway, where would I live in London."
"Golders Green," I replied.
"Have you any idea of the cost of…" She stopped what she was saying and looked at me. Something in my face must have given me away. "Right, Mike, what haven't you told me?"
"Well, you know my dad started his business on Golders Green Road?" I asked.
"Yes, and Bernard's dad's tailor shop was next door; you've told me that a thousand times."
"Well Dad never sold the property," I stated.
"I got it when they died. Dad always said selling property when you did not have to was always a mistake. So, when we moved to Hampstead and he got the new offices, he just let it. When he died, it came to me. Ben got the Hampstead offices."
"What about the Hampstead house?"
"We own that jointly, it's on a long lease to the Saudi Embassy."
"Just what are you trying to tell me?" Anne asked.
"Well, the Golders Green Road property has a shop on the ground floor, but the top two floors are a nice apartment. The current tenants lease expires in June, so we could use it as a Town base for us. With all this new work I am getting, I don't really need the rent, and I am going to have to be in Town a lot for recordings and stuff."
"What about Johnny?" Anne asked, just as the back door opened.
"What about me?" Johnny asked from the doorway.
"We are talking about living in Town during the week — or at least part of the week," Anne replied. "I was just asking how it would affect you.
"Anyway, I thought you were at the yard today?"
"I was, just to open up. Steve was meeting a potential client, so I said I would open for him and stay until he got back. Finished at twelve," Johnny answered. He noticed me looking at the clock. "Went over to Southmead and met a couple of the lads on my course. We had agreed to do some revision together, but they decided to go into Chelmsford for the day, so I came home. When are we moving?"
"We're not moving," I stated. "The Priory would still be our main base. We are just looking at possibilities for Anne if she was to get into a London university. With me having to go into town more often for recordings and filming, it might make sense to have a London base."
"Could you afford to get one?" Johnny asked. I then explained to him about the Golders Green property.
"Shit!" he exclaimed. "I don't think Mam knew about that. Could I use it at weekends?"
"So, I can meet up with Joseph when he can't get here."
"The thing is, who is going to look after you if we are both in Town?" Anne asked.
"Me," Johnny replied. Anne looked at him. "Look, I'm sixteen. If I wanted to, I could live on my own now; by the time you're in university I'll be seventeen. If I can't look after myself now, I’d better learn fast. Two years from now I'm going to be at the International Boat Building School, then off to Southampton."
"Don't remind me," I commented. "I am sure you can look after yourself. From what you've said, your mother never really did, so I am sure you are competent to do so; otherwise you would not be here. However, Anne does have a point. It's the cleaning and stuff this place takes that needs to be thought through. Once this TV work starts, it looks as if I will have to be in Town quite a bit."
"Well, you've already got a cleaner coming in twice a week. Get them in a bit more," Johnny suggested.
"No," I stated. "I think we should think about getting a housekeeper." Anne looked at me.
Deciding to get a housekeeper was one thing. Going about getting one was something else. There were all sorts of issues we had to sort out. Did we want a live-in housekeeper or somebody who came in? If we were going to have somebody coming in, was it a full-time or part-time position? It took about two hours of discussion amongst the three of us before we sorted out what we wanted.
The final consensus was that we needed somebody who could be at the house weekdays nine till five. It was agreed we could really do with them starting now. With regards to whether they lived in or not, we would see who applied. Johnny pointed out that the conversion on the next lot of outbuildings was due to start the following week.
"I didn't think they were starting those until the guest wing is finished," I stated.
"It is finished," Johnny told me. "Matt's coming in Monday to do a final inspection."
"He could have told me," I said.
"He did," Johnny replied. "There's a message for you on the board." I walked over to the message board by the phone, there was a message for me from Matt. "What's the use of us having a message board if you never check it, Dad?"
I had to agree that he had a point there, though most people who want to leave messages for me text me. Though I do not have my phone with me unless I am going out.
"We can manage as we are till the new year," Anne stated.
"Can we?" I asked.
"Yes," she responded. "We've got Mrs. Dent coming in twice a week. She does all the cleaning and ironing for me. I really only have to worry about meals, and half the time you're doing those."
"So, why did we decide we needed a housekeeper?" I asked.
"Because, as from January, I'm going to be loaded up at college," she replied. "No doubt Johnny will be the same."
"Not quite as badly," he stated. "I've only got A.S., this year; it's next year I get really loaded."
"Right," Anne said. "As I was saying. As from January, I'm going to be loaded up at college, you're going to be away quite a bit with recording and filming, and Johnny is going to be busy. I'm not sure how we are going to find time to do the basic shopping and stuff."
"So," I surmised. "We do need a housekeeper but not until the new year?"
"Correct," Anne stated. Johnny just nodded.
"I wonder if Mrs. Dent would be interested in the job?" I mused.
"Doubtful," Anne replied. "She looks after her daughters two, three mornings a week; that's why she only takes on cleaning jobs in the afternoon. I'll ask her but doubt if she will be interested."
"If we take on a housekeeper, she'll be out of work," I pointed out.
"I'm not so sure," Anne commented.
"Why?" I enquired.
"Well, by March all the accommodation will be up and running," Anne informed me. "If we are doing holiday lets, we will need cleaning staff for those."
"All the more reason for having a housekeeper," I replied. "We will need somebody just to keep on top of that job.
"Alright, I'll start making enquiries on Monday, see if anybody knows anyone who might be interested. Will also look at putting some ads up."
"Now that's sorted, are we going to eat this evening?" Johnny asked.
I looked at the clock and saw it had gone seven. We had been discussing things for over three hours. Anne looked at me, clearly indicating we should do something about food.
"Let's go down the Crooked Man," I suggested. "I'll give Tariq a call to come down and join us."
"What about Arthur?" Johnny asked.
"To be honest," Anne replied, "I've not seen him all day."
"He went with Trevor to Heathrow this morning to see him off," I informed them. "Then he was meeting Neal in London. Though, I would have expected him back by now."
I observed that Johnny was busy texting. His phone beeped.
"It's OK," he stated. "He's having dinner with Miss Jenkins and Neal, then Neal is going to drop him off on his way to Cambridge."
"That's going to take Neal quite a bit out of his way," Anne commented.
That said we all got washed and changed. We had just got ready when Tariq came in apologising for not coming down earlier. "I was busy practising on the piano," he stated.
"I know," I informed him. "We could hear you."
Now that Tariq was with us, we made our way down to the Crooked Man for a meal. An hour and a half later as we walked up, a large van passed us and turned into the Priory. We hurried on up the hill to find out who it was. When we got there, we found Neal helping Arthur out of the van. Arthur may be able to get around a lot better now, but getting out of high van cabin with your lower leg still in plaster is not easy.
"What's with the van?" Johnny asked.
"Dropping some furniture off for the girls," Neal replied. "They've found a flat in town, but it is unfurnished, so Aunty sent some stuff up. Then I'm off to Cambridge; got some stuff for Maddie as well."
"Bit late for furniture removing," I commented.
"Bloody right," Neal replied. "Couldn't get the van till eight. It was out on a job which overran. Aunty is not amused. Neither is Maddie. It's going to be getting on midnight when I get to Cambridge."
"Want me to come down and give you a hand unloading?" Johnny asked.
"Nah, thanks anyway," Neal replied. "They've both got their boyfriends up for the weekend; they can get them to do the bloody lumping." With that he laughed, told us he would see us in a couple of weeks, then got back in the van, turned it around in the yard then drove off.
As we made our way into the house, Arthur asked if he could have a word with me. I told him to give me ten minutes and I would see him in the study. I checked with Anne and Johnny that neither of them had any plans for Sunday. Anne said she was planning on a day of rest; Johnny informed me he had an assignment he had to get finished for Monday so would be working on it most of the day. That settled, I went through to my study. It was closer to fifteen minutes before Arthur joined me, which gave me a chance to check my emails.
As Arthur came in, I noticed he looked a bit drawn.
"Not really," he replied. "Just an awfully long one. Trevor's flight was at eight-thirty, so we had to be there at six-thirty, which meant leaving here at four-thirty."
"How did you get there? His car's still here, and I know the girls are using the van."
"Phil arranged a mini-bus for the crew that were at the Belmont; picked us up on the way there just after four," Arthur told me.
"No problem with you going along?" I enquired. I did not think that Phil would have a problem but thought I’d better check.
"None," Arthur responded. "Trevor had already cleared it with Phil. It was an eighteen-seater but there were only nine in it. A lot went down last night so they did not have to leave so early this morning. Phil said I could go down with the bus but had to make my own way back. Think he was trying to dissuade me from going."
"But you went, anyway," I commented.
"Yes, it was a couple more hours with Trevor."
"So, how was the rest of your day?"
"Good, though a bit of a drag with this," he tapped his cast with the end of his crutch. "Bit of a problem on the underground."
"I can imagine," I responded.
"Yes, had a bit of a problem at Gloucester Road; it is not a step-free station."
"Why were you going to Gloucester Road?" I enquired.
"Had to meet Neal," Arthur answered. "Arranged to meet him at nine to discuss the server expansion. He's got a place near the uni, so we agreed to meet at Garfunkel's on Cromwell Road. It is right by the tube station. They do a bloody good breakfast."
"I know it," I commented. "Where abouts is Neal's place?"
"Courtfield Road; he's got a nice pad, three bedrooms. He was saying that Trevor and I can use one when we want to stay in Town."
"Christ!" I exclaimed. "That must be costing him a fortune. A three-bedroom apartment around there is anywhere from three to five kay a month."
"Oh, he's not renting it," Arthur explained. "It's his. His dad gave it him as a present for getting into university. He's the first one in his family to do so. Apparently, his dad had owned it for years. Some guy couldn't pay his debts back in the nineteen seventies, so his grandfather got it and passed it to his dad."
"Lucky Neal," I said as I realised who Neal's grandfather was.
"Yes, I suppose he is," Arthur stated. "You know for somebody who has a pile of money, he is very down to earth."
"You get on with him, don't you?" I observed.
"Yes, I do. Though there is something about the way he talks about his family that seems odd."
"I'm not surprised," I commented. "But how did your meeting go?"
"Well," Arthur answered. "We went over the figures for current and projected loadings. Neal agreed with me about needing more servers. Where he disagreed was on the number."
"He thinks we should put more in. In fact, twice as many," Arthur informed me.
"So, that's going to be twice as expensive?"
"Not quite that," Arthur replied. "The racking and wiring will be the same for ten, twenty or thirty units. In fact, we do not have to expand that until we get to fifty units. So, we would avoid any additional cost there. We will probably get more discount per unit if we go for a higher number."
"Sounds as if you have decided to go for it," I observed.
"Yes, we have," Arthur confirmed. "Ten more units will cover us for the next twelve months at the current rate of growth. However, Neal pointed out, we are currently picking up more and more clients. Our client base is expanding and as we get more, it will expand further, as most of it is coming from word-of-mouth recommendations. That being the case, our rate of growth is also going to be increasing. It is far easier to put twenty or even thirty units in now than suddenly finding you need ten extra at short notice."
"So, how are you going to fund this?" I enquired.
"That's why we ended up having dinner with Miss Jenkins," Arthur replied. "She had arranged a meeting with Helen Mayhew, the CEO of a finance house. They will provide up to a hundred kay of funding for equipment purchases through a rolling-lease arrangement. At least I think that is what she called it. We pay 5% a month on the purchase price for thirty-six months, then a single, one-off purchase at the end of one pound."
I did a rough calculation in my head. "You know you are paying about twenty-six percent interest, don't you?"
"I know," Arthur replied. "Helen actually showed me the exact figures. It's high, but it is doable, and it is cheaper than buying it on a high-interest credit card. Anyway, Miss Jenkins insisted that we have an early buyout clause in the contract, so if we ever have the funds available, we can pay it off early and avoid the interest."
We talked for about another fifteen minutes over Arthur's plans, then he went off to Skype Trevor. Anne brought me a mug of tea through.
"Problems?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "Why?"
"You just looked very deep in thought."
"Oh, I've just realised who Neal's father is."
"Who?""Stanley Porter, we were at school together. His dad was one of my father's first clients."