Sunday was a quiet day. Anne and Johnny were both busy catching up on course materials they should have looked at during the week. I spent the day reading journals from my must-look-at pile. Most weeks I would get sent three or four journals, most of which got quickly scanned then filed away. Occasionally though some article or other would catch my eye and I would put the journal on the pile to be looked at when I got time. The problem was I rarely got time, especially since Johnny had come to live with me. Now, though, I found I did have time and set about working through my must-look-at stack.
Although we had a joint in the fridge which had been intended for Sunday dinner, both Anne and I agreed that we did not feel like cooking. Dinner that evening was at the Crooked Man, which turned out to be a mistake. Mary was wanting to talk about the cruck barn, and I had to admit I had not given any more thought to the matter. Anne assured Mary that she would take charge of sorting things out and would have some information for her by the next weekend.
I looked at Anne and asked, "Really?"
"Yes, really," she responded. "I will ask Matt for some input, then tell you what is happening."
"OK," I replied. Anne looked at me with a smirk on her face. She was trying not to laugh.
"What?" I asked.
"You're not really interested, are you?"
"I would not say that I'm not interested, it is just there are far more important things on the go at the moment."
"Alright, I'll let you off with that, and I will sort out the cruck barn issue. It would make sense for Mary to run it as an events venue."
I just nodded my agreement. Johnny commented to the effect that it was a good job I knew when I was beaten.
Monday, I spoke with Bernard about the trust for Jasmin and Tariq. He assured me that it was all straightforward and that Debora had already agreed to be a trustee. I mentioned I was in Town on Wednesday to do some filming, so Bernard suggested that I go to their place for dinner on Wednesday evening.
Arthur came and told me that everything was a go on the new property and that they were starting the upgrade of the services to the site this week. With a bit of luck, he hoped they could begin the installation of the new kit next week.
"Won't you be in Necker then?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied. "I'm not needed for the rack and power installation, and I will be back before they get around to putting in the new servers. All the infrastructure for them has to go in first. Neal will be keeping an eye on that."
"Won't that interfere with his studies?"
"No, he's got a reading week," Arthur informed me. "That's why it's a good time for me to be off; he can be around to cover. Plus, Maddie is free from the Thursday till the following Tuesday, so it is all covered."
On Tuesday, I managed to get myself into a bit of trouble with both Anne and Johnny. I forgot that Anne was dropping her car off at the garage and that I was supposed to pick her up. Because it was raining, Johnny had gone in with Anne and had got a lift back with her. Just after six, I got a call from them asking where I was. They were not too happy when it took me half an hour to get to them. By way of apology, I took them to the Chinese in Maldon for dinner.
Over dinner, I was able to tell Anne that I would be going into Town in the morning but would not be back till Thursday. She asked me if I would be taking Ben's offer to use their place. I informed her that I was staying at Bernard's. He had suggested it when I had phoned to confirm that I would be dining with him Wednesday evening.
The filming over the next two days was a lot of sitting around and waiting. Apparently, this is what a lot of filming is. They would film me in front of a green background, making some comments about some piece of machinery that I had never seen, then they would check that my shot merged with what they already had. In the end, though, we managed to get three episodes finished in the two days. Fortunately, a lot of it was just voice over, not green screen, so that was reasonably simple recording work.
On Wednesday night, I had dinner with Bernard. To say we had dinner is a bit of an exaggeration. Debora had gone down to the house in Kent to deal with some emergency that had cropped up. Joseph was at some school event, so Bernard decided that there was no point in him cooking, which was probably a good thing. He suggested going to a nearby restaurant. In the end, though, we agreed to get some fish and chips, a meal from our youth which we both decided we did not enjoy often enough these days.
The filming on Thursday finished fairly early, so I got back to Southminster well before Anne would have finished her classes for the day. As a result, I took a taxi home. I was somewhat surprised as I got out of the taxi to see the van being driven by Arthur coming down the drive at the side of the yard and turning into the yard. As I got to the yard, Arthur had pulled up the van by the doors to the Stable House and was just getting out of it. He was clearly out of the cast.
"Are you cleared for driving?" I enquired.
"Not yet, but I was just moving it from the back," he replied. "There is quite a bit of stuff that we need to move to the new place; the girls are going to load it up and take it down when they finish tonight."
"So, they took the cast off," I commented.
"Yes, this morning," Arthur replied.
"I thought you were seeing the consultant yesterday?"
"I did, but it had gone five by the time the X-rays and everything had been done and he could see me. The technicians who remove the casts finish at five, so I had to go back this morning. At least it's off now, so I can fly out on Monday."
"Where're you flying from and what time?" I enquired.
"Heathrow, nine twenty in the morning," he informed me.
"Need transport to the airport?"
"No, Mike, but thanks," Arthur responded. "I'm going into Town on Sunday and staying at Neil's, then getting the Piccadilly line to the airport."
"I would have thought the Heathrow express from Paddington would have been better," I observed.
"It's an option," he replied. "I'll have to look into the timing and costs."
We chatted a bit longer about how things were going with the business. I was just about to bring it to an end and get into the house. It had started to spit with rain when I asked if he needed a lift to the station on Sunday to get the train into London.
"No thanks, Bernard said he would give me a lift back to Town," he commented.
"Bernard?" I asked. "When did he say that?"
"Oh, he phoned me about an hour ago, wanted to know if I was still on to go out and see Trevor. When I said yes, he said he had an errand for me and would come up to see me Sunday morning. I told him I was going into Town on Sunday so could meet him in Town, but he said he had to come out anyway, so he would see me and could give me a lift back in."
I wondered what Bernard was up to, he had not said anything yesterday about coming up but had no time to enquire more as the few spots of rain suddenly turned into a downpour, and both of us rushed for shelter, Arthur into the Stable House and me into the Priory.
Once I had hung my coat up and dried off, I went through to my study. My answering machine was flashing. There was a message from Bernard saying he had some papers that needed Marcia’s and my signatures, and he was coming up on Sunday morning with them. He did state he had to see Steve to get some work done on his boat. I noted he said nothing about seeing Arthur.
I phoned him to check if it was just him or if the family were coming up.
"Well, Joseph will probably be with me," he stated. "Don't think I could stop him coming along unless Johnny wasn’t there. Debora won't be able to make it. She's stuck in Kent."
"Aunt Ruth has decided to visit," Bernard replied.
"Ir hot meyn simfatye," I responded. "I thought she was settled in that home in Brighton."
"She was, she is," he replied. "It's just that some work needs to be done to her rooms to bring them up to the latest standards. Instead of moving to another set of rooms, which was offered, she decided to come and stay with us for the two weeks it will take."
"Debora must be loving it," I commented.
"Don't worry, she is. She'll have enough complaints about the old girl to keep her going through a year of lunches with her friends."
"So, you are going down to Kent for Shabbat?" I asked.
"Do you think I have any choice?" he asked.
"No," I commented.
"Damned right," he laughed.
We finished the call as Bernard said he had to do some shopping before he left for Kent. I wondered what kosher delights he was getting for the old lady. He might complain about her no end, but I knew that he really loved Aunt Ruth. For that matter, so did I.
The one thing I did note was that Bernard had not said anything on the phone about meeting with Arthur. I wondered for a moment what was going on, then decided it was probably none of my business.
Having been away for two days, there was a pile of emails waiting for me. Although I can pick them up on my phone, I tend not to, preferring to deal with them on a computer. I find it a lot easier to read them on the larger screen. My eyesight is not what it used to be, even with glasses.
I thought my eyesight was a lot worse than it was when I opened one of the emails and found it was an invitation from my ex to her wedding, which was to be held in May at St. Margaret's Westminster. I wondered how she had managed that. No doubt she was claiming some form of exceptional circumstances to allow her to be remarried in a church. No doubt her intended had some connection with the church; as far as I knew, my ex certainly did not.
I sent Bernard an email informing him of the wedding and the invitation, which included Anne and Johnny. Got a quick reply saying he had not got one. My response was: did he expect one given his history with Beryl?
Anne called me just after four to ask if I needed to be picked up from the station; I told her I was already home. She informed me that in that case, I could sort out dinner for this evening. I took the hint and got to work.
Over dinner, I informed Anne and Johnny about the wedding invitation. Johnny told me that he would not be going. I asked why.
"Officially, because it is right in my exam period," he replied.
"Unofficially?" I asked.
"I don't want anything to do with the Bitch," he answered.
"Good job your uncle's not here," I commented.
"I know," Johnny stated. "He would tell me off for insulting dogs. So, what is going to be your excuse for not going?"
"You presume I won't be going," I stated.
"Of course, you won’t. I doubt if Uncle Phil will make it; I'm sure he will be able to arrange some filming the other side of the world for that week. So, what will you arrange?"
"Probably a book signing in New York," I stated. "Bob has been on to me to do one for the metrology book, so that week sounds like a good choice."
"No, you don't," Anne stated.
"Go to New York the last week of May," she replied, pulling out her phone and opening her calendar app. "I've got exams that week, actually I have one on that day, so have the perfect excuse. If you are going to New York, I'm going with you. So, no book signing that week or the week after. My exams finish the Wednesday of the second week in June. You can arrange the New York book signing for the third week. I fancy a holiday in the States."
"OK," I answered. "I am sure I can find something to keep me busy that week."
"Talk to your agents," Johnny advised. "I am sure they will be able to sort out something for you to be doing."
I made a point of phoning both Bob and Irene on Friday morning. When I told her the date involved, Irene pointed out to me that it was in a week that was already pencilled in for me to be shooting some scenes for the industrial-archaeology series. Once she told me that I could sit down and send an email to Beryl stating that none of us was free on that date. My ex did not bother to reply. I suspected that she was probably breathing a deep sigh of relief. No doubt she felt that she was obliged to invite Johnny to the wedding as her son, and Anne and I came along with him, but I was reasonably sure she would have regarded us as something of an embarrassment.
I know I would have found it embarrassing to be there.
Once I had got that out of the way, I got down to doing some writing. One of the better-quality, popular-science magazines had commissioned an article about the impact of global warming on the seas. It was something I found really interesting and quickly got into a flow of writing.
It was, therefore, something of a surprise when, shortly after one, Johnny put his head around the study door to let me know he was back from college. Firstly, I had not realised that it had gone twelve when I should have taken a break. Secondly, he had gone in with Anne, so I was not sure how he managed to get back so early. Finally, I was under the impression that he had an exam this afternoon. I asked him what was going on.
"Exam was cancelled," he informed me.
"There's a problem with one piece of the equipment which we needed for the practical. So, they have moved the exam to next week, which is going to mess me up."
We spent a good quarter of an hour discussing problems with college timetabling and the fact that he would now have to miss an important class to do his practical next week. Apparently, it would be on Tuesday.
"How did you get home?" I enquired.
"There's a couple of lads from this way who were down for the exam, so I cadged a lift off them," he informed me. "It was quite funny; they were talking about this place in the car, not knowing that I live here."
"What were they saying?" I enquired.
"Trying to work out who owns it," he replied. "Apparently, the word in the town is that some film star has bought it. Some are saying it is Uncle Phil, others that it is Trevor who owns the place."
"I wonder if that could cause problems?" I observed.
"Don't know," Johnny replied. "I suppose we could get fans hanging about trying to get a glimpse of them. Though there are fairly high walls around most of the land."
"Except at the back," I pointed out. "Also, there is nothing to stop them from just walking up the drive."
"That's a point, Dad," Johnny agreed. "You might want to think about some gates that work."
Actually, I had been thinking about the gates for some time but had put it off as I did not see any urgency to it. Even with my recently increased income, I still tried to be fairly careful with money. Now, it looked as if I should start to do something about having working gates installed. The ones we had tended to jam, so we left them open all the time. I should also think about the back of the property where it backed onto the sidings. There was a fence there and a temporary gate, but neither were that strong. Maybe that needed to be properly fenced off. I made a note to call Matt about.
Johnny reminded me that he was going into Town in the morning as he was meeting up with Marc and Joseph. He then asked if I could give him a lift to the station. I responded by asking if he had checked with Joseph, as I had a feeling that he would have to be down in Kent.
"We arranged things last Saturday," Johnny informed me.
"I think you’d better check; something's come up," I stated.
"Who is Aunt Ruth?" Johnny asked.
"You met her at Manston, at Anne’s and my wedding," I informed him. "She's Bernard's great aunt."
"Oh, that one," he replied. "The one everybody was terrified of."
"That's the one," I confirmed, remembering the hairbrush.
"What about her?"
"Well, she has turned up at Bernard's place down in Kent and is staying there for two weeks."
"I expect she is holding court?"
"Yes, she is," I stated. "Bernard has been summoned down for Shabbat, so I doubt Joseph is excused."
"Shit, that's going to mess things up, I better try calling Joseph as soon as school is out and find out what is going on."
"That might be an idea," I commented. "In the meantime, fancy making a pot of tea?"
Johnny laughed but said he would. Then he asked if I wanted it in my study, or was I going to take a break and have it in the kitchen? I told him to give me ten minutes and I would be through to the kitchen. The idea of a break sounded good. In fact, I needed to take one. Experience had shown me that it was all too easy to get drawn into ones writing and lose track of time. That usually meant that you missed a meal, something that was not good for you.
I finished off the paragraph I was on when Johnny came in, saved the file and marked my position in the source documents I was using with some marker tabs. That done I phoned Matt, luckily I got him. A quick explanation about the need to get the front gate working and security at the back produced a promise that he would sort something in the next couple of weeks. Then I went through to the kitchen. Johnny had made a pot of tea; he had also made some sandwiches, which I was grateful for.
I took my place at the table, grabbed a sandwich and started to munch on it.
"I guessed you had not stopped to eat," Johnny stated.
"You're right, and I'm bloody hungry."
"Is writing that hard then?" Johnny enquired.
"It can be, especially if you get carried away with a piece."
"Anne said a couple of time that if she had not checked on you, you would probably have starved."
"Actually, Johnny, I think she might be right there. I know a couple of years ago, I got so engrossed in writing a series of articles on misrepresentation of data that I missed quite a few meals. I am sure if Anne had not been calling round, I would have missed more."
"She's good for you, isn't she?" Johnny stated.
"I think she is good for both of us," I commented.
"You're right there," Johnny agreed. "I hope you don't regret me pushing you into marrying her."
"I don't think you pushed me," I stated. "It was something I had thought about quite a few times in the last five years. The thing was the time never seemed right for one reason or another. You coming into the picture just made the timing issue go away. It was not a question of whether it was the right time to ask the question; it was more a case it had to be asked."
Johnny laughed, then looked at me. "You know, I was always jealous of my friends at school who had good home lives. They were always eager to get home at the end of term. When they got back, they were talking about the things they had done. What could I say, my mother dumped me with some paedophile friends of hers in France?"
"You are assuming she knew," I stated.
"Oh, she knew," Johnny informed me. "I told her what was going on when I was eleven. She told me to shut up and not be silly about things. Next time she took me over, I overheard her tell them not to be too rough on me."
That shocked me. I knew about Marcel's uncle and Marcel — Johnny had already told me about that — but that my ex-wife knew about it, that was a different matter.
"Don't look so shocked, Dad. You must have suspected that my mother knew what was going on."
"Now that I look back at what you've told me, it's obvious that she must have known, but … I don't know; I just can't get my head around the fact that your mother sent you over there knowing what was going on."
"For her, it was simple economics. They got a sex toy to play with, and she got free childcare during the holidays. Did not cost her a penny and kept me out of the way, plus it kept some very influential friends happy.
"When it first started, I use to dread the holidays and having to go over to France. Christmas, Easter, summer vac — it was always the same. I would get home and the next day or so would be packed up over to France to spend my vacation with Oncle Jacques and his family."
"I wish I'd known," I stated.
"What could you have done about it?"
"Don't know, I'm sure Bernard could have thought of something once he knew the facts," I responded.
"Maybe he could, but you didn't know, and there was no way you could have known. The Bitch had me fairly isolated."
"Couldn't you have said something at school?" I asked.
"Not really," he replied. "There's a fairly strict understanding that you never say anything in house that might give a bad impression about your family. One picked up hints at times, but nothing was ever said. I am fairly certain that there were a couple of boys in my house who had a far worse time than me when they were home."
He was right; there was no way that I could have known. The thing was that it did not make it easier for me to deal with what he was saying. That I did not know was not an excuse; I should have known. I should have put up more of a fight to have contact with my son. The fact that I had not done so was a failing on my part. By that failing, I had let Johnny down. There was nothing I could do to fix the past.
We finished lunch. Johnny asked if I could give him a hand with some maths that he was having problems with if I had time. No matter what I might have to do, I would make the time. Over the next ninety minutes, I tried, with some success, to explain the analytical method of vector addition and subtraction to Johnny. Once I had explained the basics of the problem, with a couple of drawings, he caught on pretty quickly. What I found a bit worrying was that his maths teacher had not explained the practical concepts of drift that were behind what he was being asked to do. A simple graphic of the impact of a current on the course taken by a boat to reach a destination, something he was aware of from his sailing, made sense to him. Once Johnny had grasped the essence of the problem, the maths made sense, and he was able to do them.
His maths teacher could have drawn a simple vector diagram to explain the problem they were trying to solve. Talking it over with Johnny, it became clear that there was some failure in the standard of maths teaching at the college. Johnny was concerned about it as well, as maths played a significant part in A-level physics.
We discussed the problem for a bit and agreed that I would spend a couple of hours a week working with Johnny on his maths. That seemed like a good plan of action.
We were just finishing our discussion about the standard of maths teaching when Johnny's phone beeped at him. He informed me that he needed to phone Joseph and went off to his room.
A few minutes later, he came down to the study. "There's no problem for Joseph, he's stuck in London tonight, as there is an event on at school he has to attend, so he's not going down to Kent. We're meeting in the morning at the Starbucks in St. Pancras."
Saturday morning, I was up early. After I drove Johnny to the station, I went on to Office World to pick up some stationery. When I got back to the Priory, Anne was up and busy in the kitchen baking something.
"There is some bacon in the warming drawer," she informed me as I came through the door. "Noticed you had not had breakfast and thought you might like a bacon sandwich when you got back."
"Yes, please," I answered. "I'll just drop this lot in the study and unload the rest, and then I will make myself one."
"Don't bother," she replied. "You unload, I'll make the sandwich for you, and I'll make you some tea. Could do with taking a break."
"Thanks," I replied, taking the first load through to the study. By the time I had finished unloading all five boxes of paper, two bags of assorted ring binders, hanging files and folders, and a bag full of printer cartridge packs, she had a mug of tea poured for me and a bacon sandwich sitting on a plate next to it. I was grateful to sink my teeth into it, having nearly overslept and rushing out without breakfast this morning so that Johnny could get his train to London.
"So, what's the problem?" Anne asked, seating herself across the table from me, a mug of coffee in hand.
"What do you mean?" I responded.
"Mike, you were tossing and turning all night. Something is worrying you. Now, what is it? I guess it is something to do with Johnny."
"We were talking yesterday afternoon; he told some things about the abuse in France," I informed her.
"You knew about it; it's not like he has kept it a secret, is it?"
"Yes, I knew, Anne. He told me about it early on. The thing was, I had not realised that Beryl knew about it and still sent him over to stay with that family. She knew he was being sexually abused."
Anne sat quietly for a moment, her hands clasped tightly around her mug. Then she looked up. "She knew? Beryl knew?"
"Yes," I responded.
"No wonder Johnny calls her the Bitch. I have to agree with Phil; he is insulting female dogs." She took a long drink of her coffee, then put the mug down and looked at me. "What are you going to do about it?"
"That's the problem," I stated. "I am not sure what I can do about it. There is not much I can do about Oncle Jacques. Johnny would have to make a complaint to the French police. In any event, from what I know of the French legal system, there may be a problem with getting anything more than a minor charge to stick. Sex with a minor is an 'atteinte sexuelle', which is a non-criminal infraction of French law. It would not become a criminal offence unless it were rape, and for that, it would have to be shown that force or constraint was used. There is also the question of whether or not Johnny would make the complaint."
"You've clearly looked into it," Anne observed.
"Yes, I have. Spoke to a friend who used to practice law in France. Told her I was doing an article on different legislation in the EU, and could she give me some information?"
"But what about Beryl?" Anne asked.
"I am not sure," I stated. "I think it is an offence to take a minor abroad for the purpose of sex, but I suspect that it is only when the person taking them abroad is having sex with them. There were some cases in the nineties where men were taking boys to Spain to have sex with them there, as the age of consent was lower. They changed the law to close the loophole, but I am not sure if it would apply in this case."
"You probably need to talk to Bernard about it," Anne advised.
"Not sure I can," I responded. "How would Johnny feel if I start talking to Bernard about the fact that he had been abused. Can't do that unless Johnny gives me the go-ahead."
"Well, ask him when he comes back tonight."
"I will," I replied. "By the way, did you remember that Marc and Joseph will be coming back with Johnny this evening?"
"Yes, I did," Anne responded. "I've made up the guest room for Marc. Did not bother doing one for Joseph as he will be sleeping with Johnny."
With that comment, Anne got up and started working on her baking again. Given the way she was rolling the pastry that she had just taken out of the fridge, I could tell she was not in a good mood. To be honest, I was not in a good mood, either, so I retreated to my study.
Anne called me just before one to tell me that lunch was ready. We ate it in silence. I was just about to return to my writing when Anne spoke. "Mike, you need to get Johnny to speak to someone about what happened. I know he thinks he is coping with it and everything is OK, but it's not. He needs some professional support, and we can't give it to him."
"I know," I admitted. "The problem is I do not think that Johnny would admit that there is a problem or that he needs help. He's made himself fairly self-sufficient over the years and believes he can cope with anything life sends at him."
"Maybe you should talk to Ben about it," she commented. "After all it's his field, and if we needed to find somebody for Johnny to talk to, we would go to him for advice."
"Yes, but can I speak with Ben about specifics without breaching Johnny's trust? I've already given him an outline of things."
"You need to sort that out with Johnny," Anne stated. On that she was right.
I went back to my writing, mostly so I did not have to think about the Johnny situation. Just after four, Arthur came through to the study. Although he had lost the cast, he was having to use a stick to walk as his leg was still weak.
"Mike, would it be OK for me to move back into the flat?" he asked.
"It's your flat," I pointed out, "so nothing to do with me if you want to move back in there. I suspect you would like the privacy."
"I know, but you have been so good allowing me to live in the house while I could not manage the stairs, it just felt wrong to move out without saying anything."
"That's fine," I replied. "Ready to go out to Necker?"
"Not quite," Arthur replied. "I need to do a bit more packing. Trevor's sent me a list of things he wants me to take out to him."
"Not too much, I hope," I responded. "There are excess-baggage charges."
"It's not that heavy; he just needs more memory cards for his camera and some USB sticks. I picked them up for him this morning. He also wants some Trebor Extra Strong mints. He can't get them out there."
I laughed, then thought of something. "Arthur, you told me that Peter Henderson abused you. How are you coping with that?"
Arthur was silent for a moment, looking very thoughtful. Then he sat down into the old leather armchair I keep in my study for when I am reading.
"Mike, to be honest, I do not really know. There are times when it feels as if it was somebody totally different that it was done to. My life has changed so much in the last few months; there seems to be no connection with the boy that Brother Peter fucked. Trevor says that it is disassociation. There are times, though, when it seems I am back there and he is using me. I've talked about it with Trevor, and I've agreed to go for counselling about it, maybe even go into therapy. That is one of the reasons that Trevor got me to fly out; he thinks I should talk to Ben about things."
"It might help, it was his field before he got into acting," I commented.
"I know. Trevor told me. But why were you asking?"
"I'm worried about Johnny?" I stated, knowing full well that Johnny had told Arthur something about what had gone on in France.
"Has he said something?"
"Yes and no." Arthur looked at me, puzzled. I continued. "He has spoken in general terms about what happened, but nothing specific. However, from a couple of things he has said, I do not think he is coping with things as well as he thinks."
"None of us do," Arthur commented. "We think we can cope with things, that we can be our own person, put what happened behind us, but it is not that easy. Now and then, something brings it all back, and you find yourself back where you were."
"How do you cope?" I asked.
"Best you can," Arthur replied. "Sometimes though, you can't. The question is, do you give up or do you try to cope? There is no easy answer. Sometimes I think that the straight boys who were abused have it easy, they can push the abuse away as something that happened to them, that was forced on them. For us gay boys, it is not that easy; there are too many questions.
"Did our abuser know we were gay? Is that why they abused us? Did we want to be abused? Was it what we secretly wanted because we were gay? Was it the abuse that made us gay?"
"Well," I responded. "One thing I can definitely say is that being abused did not make you gay. Your sexual orientation is set before birth; there is nothing you can do about it one way or another. No amount of sexual abuse will make you gay — or straight, for that matter."
Arthur laughed. "That was Brother Peter's line. By exposing us to gay sex and making us see how bad it was, he was making sure we chose to be straight."
"I have never seen the logic in that argument," I commented.
"There isn't any. It is an excuse used by perverts to justify their actions," Arthur replied. "Anyway, we have got a bit off track. You are concerned about Johnny?"
"Yes, I am. I am not convinced that he is coping with things as well as he thinks he is. I need to get him some help. Take him to see somebody."
"No, you don't," Arthur responded. "You need to give him all the support you can. You need to be non-judgemental about anything he tells you. You need to make it clear that if he wants help, professional help, you will make sure it is there for him. The one thing you cannot do is force help onto him.
"From what Johnny has told me, it is clear there have always been people controlling him, making decisions for him. This is the first time he has been able to decide things for himself. Yes, he needs help, but he must decide that he needs it, and then you can get it for him."
I sat back in my chair, taking in what Arthur had told me. He was right; I knew that. The thing was, I did not like it. I wanted to help my son. If anything, I needed to help my son. For too many years, I had not been part of his life. For the time being, though, there was nothing I could do. I just needed to be there ready to give help when it was asked for.
Arthur looked at me. "Too often, Mike, we do things, not because they are best for the person we are trying to help but because it makes us feel good by giving the help. Give only the help that is required, not the help you think is needed."
With that comment, he stood and left, leaving me feeling somewhat helpless. The thing was, Anne was right when she said Johnny needed to speak with somebody. At the same time, Arthur was right in saying that I had to wait for Johnny to ask for help; I could not push him into speaking with someone. The two were in conflict with one another, and it was not a conflict that I could see an answer to.
Anne had made a quiche during her baking spree, so we ended up having quiche, chips and salad for dinner. We invited Arthur to join us as he passed through the kitchen, moving stuff back over to the flat. He declined the invitation, informing us that had made arrangements to join the girls at the Crooked Man for dinner. They needed to discuss what was going to be done while he was away.
We had only just finished dinner when my phone went. It was Johnny, informing me that they were on the train from London, and could I pick them up at Southminster? Anne told me that she would pick them up; I could do the washing up. I passed the message on to Johnny, then set about the washing up. Once that was done, I settled down in my study to read the scripts that had been sent through to me for the next lot of green-screen work I was due to do. I was not due to do it till a week on Tuesday but thought it might be an idea to get a feel for the material well in advance. I managed to get a few pages into the script when the banging of the back door and the shouting of boys announced that Johnny and his mates had arrived. Before I could get up and go through to the kitchen to greet them, Johnny brought them through to the study.
"Dad, Marc's grandfather has sent something for you," he stated. Marc stood there looking slightly uncomfortable. I suspected he probably would not have dashed in on his parents like this.
Turning to Marc, I asked, "Has he?"
"Oui, sorry, yes," he replied. He dug into the messenger bag he had slung across his shoulder and pulled out a packet that he handed me.
"Thank you," I stated, taking the package off him.
"Right, now that's done, we can go and play some games," Johnny announced, turning and starting to move out of my study.
"Wait a minute," I said. "Don't you think it would be a good idea to check if your guest wanted anything first, like a drink or a snack. They might also like to freshen up in their rooms after their trip."
Johnny looked at me for a moment, somewhat puzzled in expression, then he thought about what I had said and nodded. "Come on, I'll sort some snacks and drinks for us, and I'll show you to your room, Marc."
"By the way, how are you getting to the boat in the morning?" I asked Johnny's back as he left the room.
He turned. "Steve's picking us up at seven-thirty. He's going out with us."
That was one bit of comforting news. I knew that Johnny had done quite a bit of sailing with Steve and was reasonably competent in his own right. From what I had heard, Joseph was not too bad, either, but the idea of three boys, none fully experienced, out there sailing on their own was something I did not want to consider.
I opened the package that Marc's grandfather had sent. In it was a draft copy of a book. There was a covering note from John Dupree asking if I would be kind enough to read it and comment on it. He informed me that he had to have it at his publishers for the end of the year but would appreciate any comments I might make on it. Glancing at the first page, I started to read. It had gone eleven when Anne came in and told me that she was going up to bed. I told her I just needed to finish the chapter I was reading and then would be up. It was nearly two when I eventually got up to bed.
Although I was up late Saturday evening reading John's draft, I still woke early Sunday morning. It had only just gone six. I got out of bed, doing my best not to disturb Anne, and made my way to the bathroom for a quick shower and shave. Once dressed, I went down to the kitchen. Having nothing better to do, I set about making a full English breakfast for the boys. With impeccable timing, they arrived in the kitchen just as I was ready to put the eggs on to cook.
"Thanks, Dad," Johnny stated, seating himself at the table. He indicated to the other two that they should take a seat at the table. I told him he could put some toast on while I dished up breakfast. He got up and started putting bread in the toaster.
"What are your plans for today?" I asked.
"Not sure," Johnny replied. "I promised Marc I would take him sailing, and I will, but when I mentioned it to Steve, he pointed out that the dinghy was a bit small for three of us to be in and suggested that we should take the ketch out. Neither Joseph nor I have sailed it, so Steve is going out with us. We have to be back at the yard by one, so I expect we will be back here about two, maybe three."
"Why does he have to be at the yard for one?" I asked. "I thought it was closed on Sundays this time of year."
"It is, but some big customer is coming down and wants to talk to Steve about some changes to their yacht while it is out of the water."
The boys were just finishing their breakfast when Steve pulled into the yard. They quickly helped me to clean up, then left for whatever adventures they had lined up for the day. I went to my study and returned to John Dupree's manuscript. It was an overview of how technology could be used to tackle the issue of climate change. It was good, a comprehensive and well-written overview, though somewhat technical in parts. There was something about it though which struck a chord with me. It could form the basis of a TV series, one that would bring together what I was doing on industrial archaeology with the stuff I was doing on climate change.
The problem was I was not sure whom to talk to about it. After some thought, I decided to send Irene an email to ask her advice. In the meantime, I spent the morning making some notes on how John's manuscript could be converted into a series—only breaking when Anne came through just after ten with a mug of tea for me.
"What are we doing for lunch?" she asked. "I gather the boys are away till late afternoon."
"To be honest, I don't know," I responded. "Bernard is supposed to be arriving sometime but has given no indication of when."
"In that case, I don't see much point in cooking," Anne stated. "How about we go down to the Crooked Man for lunch." It was an idea that I agreed with. Anne had some studies she needed to get on with, and I had to get some commercial writing done, so we decided to have lunch at twelve-thirty. In the next two hours, I managed to knock up an article for one of the popular-science magazines about Gaia theory. To say I knocked it up is a bit of an overstatement. Most of it was copied and pasted from articles that I had written in the past. One thing I do believe in passionately is recycling.
Lunch at the Crooked Man was fairly quiet; in fact, Anne and I were the only people in the place. As Mary pointed out, it was out of season and pretty dull; people were not coming down for sailing. I stated that Johnny and his friends were out with Steve.
"Well, they're locals," she replied. My response was to point out that only Steve and Johnny were local, assuming Johnny could be classed as a local.
Mary filled us in on the latest developments regarding the barn. Matt had been in a couple of days before to discuss things with her. Between them, they had a relatively good idea of how to develop the barn into a function facility for the pub.
"We are fairly lucky," Mary informed us. "The easiest way to make a link from my kitchens to the barn comes out at the Victorian brick extension at the back of the barn. Matt thinks it will be a lot easier to get consent to connect with that than trying to connect to the main barn itself, which he expects to be Grade One listed fairly soon."
"I've no doubt it will be," Anne commented.
After lunch, we walked back up to the Priory. Just as we came to the turn in the road a Range Rover passed us, beeping its horn.
"I wonder who that is?" Anne asked.
"I'll give you one guess," I stated as I saw it turn into the gateway of the Priory a couple of hundred yards ahead."
"Almost certainly," I responded.
When we got to the house, we found Bernard and the boys in the kitchen, with Johnny making some tea.
"New car?" I asked.
"Insurance loan car," Bernard informed me. "Thought I would try out a Range Rover and see if I liked it. Don't want another Bentley."
"How come you've got the boys?" I enquired.
"Picked them up at the yard," Bernard replied. "Had to talk to Steve about the boat. I want to sell it. Not very practical for us, given the number of times we can get up here to use it. Thought I would ask Steve to get it cleaned up and ready for sale, then sell it. Can get a nice sailboat for Joseph with the money I get for it. It seems he likes sailing."
"Really, Dad?" Joseph piped. "Any chance of a 49er?"
"What's a 49er?" Bernard asked.
"I'll be in my study," I stated as Johnny and Joseph started to tell Bernard about different types of boats.
Bernard came through about twenty minutes later, mopping his brow.
"Problems?" I asked.
"Not really, but bloody educational," he responded. "Never knew there were so many types of boats. Any idea where Arthur is?"
"Probably in the flat. Have you tried calling him?"
"No, I thought he was still living in the house," Bernard replied.
"He moved back to the flat now his cast is off," I informed him. "I am fairly certain he will be over there as I know he was expecting you."
"I’d better go over and see him," Bernard stated, leaving the study. It puzzled me why Bernard needed to see Arthur, though I had no doubt I would learn when the time was right.
Johnny put his head around the study door to tell me that they were taking Marc down to Pound Pond to show him the tide mill. Joseph had been telling him all about it while they had been out sailing.
Once, they had left, I went through to the kitchen to make a pot of tea for Anne and myself. She was in the sitting room, reading up for her classes in the morning. As soon as the tea was ready, I poured her a mug and took it through to her.
"Where's Bernard?" she asked as I placed the mug on the table by her chair.
"Talking to Arthur, I presume," I answered. "He went over to the flat looking for him, and as he hasn't come back, I think he must have found him."
"What does Bernard want with Arthur?"
"No idea," I replied. "Arthur has no idea, either. He was just as mystified as to why Bernard was coming up as I am."
I went back to the kitchen to get my mug of tea, then returned to my study to try and do some work. About twenty minutes later, Bernard came into the study and took a seat, looking somewhat relieved.
"You found Arthur?"
"Yes, and he has agreed to what I wanted," Bernard stated.
"What did you want?"
"I needed a package delivered," Bernard replied.
"Come on, Bernie, you need to give me more information than that." I used the diminutive form of his name, knowing full well how it annoyed him.
"And you will nag me till I tell you, won't you?" I nodded. "All right, Mike, but you need to keep this under your hat till JayDee is back.
"You know JayDee is on the crew boat?" I nodded, acknowledging the fact. "Well, the boat is on its way to the British Virgin Islands. It should arrive there on Wednesday. The thing is that JayDee does not have a passport. That bloody church on Trinidad has his passport.
"Well, with the help of a couple of High Court judges and the co-operation of the Minister, I've been able to get JayDee a replacement passport. Not a temporary travel document but a full British passport. That is what Arthur is going to deliver. He will arrive in the British Virgin Islands on Tuesday. Once he is there, a helicopter will fly him out to the crew boat. Arthur will deliver the package and pick up some data disks that he will bring back with him on the helicopter. That is the official reason for the flight — that the data transfer failed and the production unit needs the copies of the data.
"When the boat gets to the British Virgin Islands, JayDee is on board with a perfectly valid British passport, together with all the necessary documentation. By the way, Arthur also has a letter of authority for JayDee to be travelling with him. A week today, the two of them will board the return flight, and JayDee will be back in the UK."
"What happens in the meantime?" I enquired.
"I suspect JayDee is going to have an interesting week relaxing on Necker.”
We chatted a bit more about things, in general, Bernard informed me that he needed to get the boys rounded up and back to London.
"A bit early isn't it?" I asked, looking at the clock.
"Not really," he responded. "I need to get Arthur and Marc to their respective destinations, then Joseph and I are required to attend down in Kent. Aunt Ruth wants a family dinner; even Micah has been summoned."
"What's going on?" I asked."No idea, but I will tell you one thing, Mike, the old bird is up to something."